by Brett Larner
The Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon leads this weekend’s Japanese road action, in just its fourth year already surpassing the long-running Sendai International Half Marathon as Japan’s leading late-spring half. With the withdrawal of 2011-2012 Gifu winner Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), who sat out the London Marathon with an injury following his 1:00:11 win at February’s Marugame Half, last year’s winner and world record holder Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea), 4th at this year’s World Half Marathon Championships in 59:38, returns to face #1-ranked Japan-based Kenyan Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC), winner of March’s Lisbon Half in 59:58 in his half marathon debut. With the aggressive Karoki in the race and good weather the lead pack should have a good shot at bettering Tadese’s course record of 1:00:31.
Making up that lead pack are last year’s 3rd, 5th and 6th-placers Jacob Wanjuki (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko), Abayneh Ayele (Ethiopia/Team Mazda) and Patrick Muwaka (Kenya/Team Aisan Kogyo). #2-ranked Japan-based Kenyan Edward Waweru (Team NTN), a 27:13.94 track runner, will be running the half marathon distance for the first time and should also be a part of the action.
Sub-60 Kenyan Mekubo Mogusu (Team Nissin Shokuhin), indie Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) and Mongolian national record holder Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Team NTN) took 3rd through 5th in Sendai last weekend and will be returning for the double, as will London Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House). Other top Japanese competition includes sub-62 men Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo), Masamichi Shinozaki (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) and Takahiro Yamanaka (Team Honda) along with 2008 World Half Marathon Championships 5th-placer Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC).
In the women’s race, with a best of 1:08:48 two-time marathon world champion Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) should have no trouble taking down the year-old course record of 1:10:03 for the win, the only sub-70 woman in the field. 2012 3rd-place Eri Okubo (Miki House) and last year’s 4th-placer Yuko Mizuguchi (Team Denso) are the top domestic contenders along with 73-minute women Yuki Sakata (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and Shoko Shimizu (Team Aichi Denki). Look for them to race for 2nd against international competitors Katie McGregor (U.S.A.), Visiline Jepkesho (Kenya) and Miranda Boonstra (Netherlands).
4th Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon Elite Field Highlights
click here for complete elite field
Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea) - 58:23 (Lisbon 2010)
Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) -59:48 (Marugame 2007)
Bedan Karoki (Kenya/DeNA RC) - 59:58 (Lisbon 2014)
Jacob Wanjuki (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko) - 1:00:32 (Nagoya 2010)
Abayneh Ayele (Ethiopia/Team Mazda) - 1:00:51 (Delhi Half 2010)
Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) - 1:01:15 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2012)
Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) - 1:01:34 (Marugame 2012)
Patrick Muendo Muwaka (Kenya/Team Aisan Kogyo) - 1:01:57 (Gifu Seiryu 2013)
Takahiro Yamanaka (Team Honda) - 1:01:57 (Marugame 2012)
Masamichi Shinozaki (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 1:01:58 (Marugame 2012)
Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:02:00 (Sendai 2008)
Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:02:18 (Marugame 2012)
Edward Waweru (Kenya/Team NTN) - debut - 27:13.94 (Fukuroi 2010)
Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko) - debut - 27:59.11 (Fukagawa 2013)
Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 1:08:48 (Lisbon 2013)
Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 1:10:16 (Miyazaki Women's 2006)
Hiroko Shoi (Team Denso) - 1:10:48 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2010)
Eri Okubo (Miki House) - 1:11:22 (Ichinoseki 2011)
Katie McGregor (U.S.A.) - 1:11:45 (Las Vegas 2011)
Visiline Jepkesho (Kenya) - 1:11:50 (Darica 2013)
Miranda Boonstra (Netherlands) - 1:13:04 (Venlo 2010)
Yuki Sakata (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:13:14 (Marugame 2013)
Yuko Mizuguchi (Team Denso) - 1:13:27 (Nat'l Univ. Women's Half 2008)
Shoko Shimizu (Team Aichi Denki) - 1:13:43 (Marugame 2013)
(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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