Skip to main content

Beppu-Oita and Marugame Lead Weekend Action

by Brett Larner

Another busy weekend is on the way, with the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon and Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon leading at least five elite road races nationwide. Despite a padding of aging veterans and the withdrawal yesterday of two A-list athletes, Beppu-Oita still sports what may be the best field in its 63-year history, from a domestic standpoint at least as good as what Tokyo has put together this year.  The fastest Japanese marathoner of 2013 with a 2:08:00 in Tokyo and a vocal critic of Beppu-Oita course record holder Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) is back in Beppu for the first time since 2011 looking to eclipse the 2:08:15 record Kawauchi set last year.  His best competition comes form Mongolian national record holder Ser-Od Bat-Ochir, a high-volume marathoner who beat Kawauchi to win the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon in 2:09:00 seven weeks ago.  If things go well and Bat-Ochir is fully recovered from Hofu the race should shake down to a head-to-head between these two.

Kenyan Jason Mbote has run 2:07:37 but has been closer to the just-sub-2:10 level for the last two years, positioning him perfectly for the other two top Japanese contenders, 2:09:55 man Masashi Hayashi (Team Yakult) and former Hakone Ekiden star Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu).  More than a half-dozen others with times under 2:12 are also in the field with another half-dozen making their debuts, so there will be plenty of company in the second group and potential for someone to step up and challenge Maeda and Bat-Ochir in the front.  Worth keeping an eye on among the first-timers are Ryuji Watanabe (Team Toyota Kyushu), winner of this year's New Year Ekiden anchor stage, and 2004 World Junior Championships 10000 m bronze medalist and Athens Olympian Ryuji Ono (Team Asahi Kasei).  Click here for a more detailed field listing.

The Marugame Half has seen explosive growth the last few years, including 24 men sub-1:02 in its 2012 running, as it has grown into the tune-up race of choice for people running the Tokyo Marathon three weeks later.  2013 Fukuoka International Marathon winner Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) is the favorite for Marugame's 68th running, with competition from Amanuel Mesel (Eritrea), Jacob Wanjuki (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko), defending men's champion Collis Birmingham (Australia) and 2:04:48 marathoner Yemane Tsegaye (Ethiopia).

This year Marugame counts toward selection of the Japanese men's team for March's World Half Marathon championships, so there is no shortage of top-level Japanese men either.  All-time Japanese #3 Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) leads the domestic contingent with a best of 1:00:53 as he prepares for a marathon debut in Tokyo at age 22, followed closely by #1 collegiate Kenta Murayama (Komazawa University), who cracked the all-time Japanese top ten last year in Marugame when he ran 1:01:19 at age 19.  Nine other Japanese men with bests under 1:02 are also in the field, including London Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) who is also preparing for Tokyo.  Most notable among the first-timers is Kenyan Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Nihon Univ.), 2nd at October's Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km in 58:00, while Murayama's identical twin brother Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.) will be running his first serious half marathon off a 59:17 for 4th behind Kitonyi at the Yosenkai.

With Marugame not counting toward women's World Half selection and the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships, which does, just two weeks later, the women's race is very thin this year. London Olympics marathon 7th-placer Jessica Augusto (Portugal) looks virtually certain to be set for the win, her best of 1:09:10 far ahead of anyone else in the race.  Of the others, only Berlin World Championships track runner Yukari Sahaku (Team Univ. Ent.) has broken 1:10, but with no quality performances on her record since Berlin Sahaku doesn't seem likely to be a factor.  Four other women have bests under 1:11, Eri Hayakawa (Team Toto) and Misato Horie (Team Noritz) having gotten there last year in Marugame and Yolanda Caballero (Colombia) a month later with a national record 1:10:30 in New York.  Worth a mention is 2012 National University Half Marathon champion Ayame Takaki (Meijo Univ.), whose solo 1:11:10 win to take the 2012 national title suggested she could step up to bigger things if she can find the same magic.  Click here for a deeper listing of the Marugame field.

Two other half marathons on Sunday feature decent numbers of collegiate athletes.  The 36th Kanagawa Half Marathon is the bigger of the two, with top-level Hakone Ekiden schools including Komazawa University, Waseda University and Aoyama Gakuin University typically fielding men each year.  Northeast of Tokyo, the Moriya Half Marathon, a frequent post-ekiden sortie for 2013 Hakone champion Nittai University, celebrates its 30th running.  To the northwest, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) is back in action at the 81st running of the local Saitama Ekiden.  Check back throughout the weekend for coverage of all five races.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Most-Read This Week

1500 m Olympian Assefa Wins Nagoya, 22-Year-Old Sekine 2:23:07 Debut

Two-time 1500 m Olympian Meskerem Assefa (Ethiopia) ran down favorite Valary Jemeli (Kenya) with 4 km to go to win the 2018 Nagoya Women's Marathon, with the home town crowd wowed by the debut of the latest next big thing, 22-year-old Hanami Sekine (Japan Post).

Supported by three pacers, a lead pack of seven including Assefa, Jemeli, Sekine, Ethiopian Bahraini Merima Mohamed, Saitama International Marathon winner Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) and top-ranked Japanese women Reia Iwade (Dome) and Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) went through halfway in a decent 1:11:32. This proved too hot for a few of the past next big things to have run well in Nagoya the last few years, as Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu), 2:22:48 in Nagoya three years ago, and Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), 2:23:47 last year, were off the back of the pack in the first 10 km.

By 25 km Cheyech, Ohara and Iwade joined them off the back, leaving only Sekine in contention with the African trio of Jemeli, Assefa and Mohammed. Sekine, a…

Japan Dominates Asian Cross Country Championships

Japan dominated the 14th Asian Cross Country Championships Thursday in Guiyang, China, winning all four team gold medals to hold the hosts China back to silver in every race.

Japan's only individual gold came in the Junior Women's race, one of its usual areas of strength. Yuna Wada led a Japanese sweep of the top four positions to win the 6 km race in 20:43 with scoring teammates Ririka Hironaka and Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu just behind.

Wada Yuna of Japan wins Junior Women’s 6km cross country race of 14th Asian Cross Country Championship . Japan also won Team championship — Asian Athletics (@asianathletics) March 15, 2018
With the meet also serving as China's National Championships Chinese athletes won the individual gold in the other three races, Dan Li, Cairen Suolong and Jianhua Peng all showing better closing speed to beat their Japanese rivals by 3~4 seconds. Li won the Senior Women's 8 km by 3 seconds over Japan's Yukari Abe, leadi…

Japan Names Asian Games Marathon Team

On Mar. 16 the JAAF announced the Japanese marathon team for this August's Jakarta Asian Games. Hiroto Inoue (MHPS) and Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima) make up the men's squad, with Keiko Nogami (Juhachi Ginko) and Hanae Tanaka (Shiseido) named to the women's team.

A member of the Japanese national team for last summer's London World Championships, Inoue ran an all-time Japanese #4 time of 2:06:54 at February's Tokyo Marathon, the 2nd-placing Japnaese man behind national record setter Yuta Shitara (Honda). Sonoda ran a PB of 2:09:34 to finish in the top Japanese position at 2nd overall earlier in February at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon.

The silver medalist at November's Asian Championships marathon, Nogami was 5th earlier this month at the Nagoya Women's Marathon in a PB of 2:26:33. Tanaka was next behind her in Nagoya in 6th in 2:27:40, the only member of the Asian Games team not to have yet qualified for the MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials race. A meda…