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

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Yuta Shitara Breaks Japanese Men's Half Marathon National Record in Berlin Marathon Tuneup at Usti nad Labem Half

A week after his 28:55 at the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10 km and just eight days out from the Berlin Marathon, Yuta Shitara (Honda) made the great leap forward, taking 8 seconds off Atsushi Sato's 2007 half marathon Japanese national record, finishing 8th at the Czech Republic's Usti nad Labem Half Marathon.

Shitara is probably most well-known outside Japan for going through halfway under 62 minutes during his marathon debut at this year's Tokyo Marathon and still ending up with a 2:09:27, but he's been turning heads in Japan since his second year at Toyo University when he broke a stage record at the 2012 Hakone Ekiden and outkicked the U.S.A.'s Dathan Ritzenhein to finish in 1:01:48 at the NYC Half two months later, until this year the fastest time ever by a Japanese man on U.S soil.

Three weeks before Tokyo this year he ran a 1:01:19 PB at the Marugame Half. Many people would call that a solid tuneup three weeks out from a serious marathon, but eight days? In P…

Hattori Becomes Third-Straight Japanese Men's Sydney Marathon Winner

Following within 24 hours of Yuki Kawauchi's win at the BMW Oslo Marathon and Yuta Shitara's national record at the Usti nad Labem Half Marathon, Shota Hattori (Honda) made it an overseas hat trick for men from Japan's Saitama prefecture when he won the Sydney Marathon in 2:15:16. Having debuted at February's Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon with a 2:14:19 for 2nd, Hattori outlasted Ethiopian Werkuneh Seyoum Aboye, Kenyan Sammy Kigen Korir (Kenya) and compatriot Ryoma Takeuchi (Hitachi Butsuryu) to become the third-straight Japanese men's Sydney champ, winning by a margin of 20 seconds over Aboye.

Congratulations to Shota Hattori, male winner of the Blackmores Marathon – with a time of 02:15:16. #SydneyRunningFestivalpic.twitter.com/R47w8TCG2X — SydneyRunFestival (@officialbsrf) September 17, 2017
No Japanese women made the podium in the marathon, but in the accompanying half marathon both the men's and women's races saw Japanese runners-up. In the men's …

Ayuko Suzuki Leaves for Altitude Training in Boulder Motivated for the Marathon

2017 London World Championships 5000 m and 10000 m runner Ayuko Suzuki (25, Japan Post) left from Narita Airport on Sept. 18 for altitude training in Boulder, Colorado.

Two days earlier at a half marathon in Czech Republic, Yuta Shitara (25, Honda), like Suzuki born in 1991, broke the 10-year-old Japanese men's half marathon national record in a time of 1:00:17. "It's a big motivation to see an athlete the same age as me doing something like that," she said. Showing her determination to be one of her generation's leaders, she added, "I'll be 28 [at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics], right in my prime mentally and physically. I want to run big too."

In the leadup to the Tokyo Olympics Suzuki has the marathon in sight along with the track. "I need to run a half marathon and marathon somewhere once to check [how well they suit me]," she said. "Coach and I will be talking about it." If everything goes according to plan, December's Sanyo …