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Makau, Mathathi, Gitau and Nakamoto Headline Fukuoka International Marathon

by Brett Larner

For its first running following the launch of the new mass-participation Fukuoka Marathon on Nov. 9, the hallowed Fukuoka International Marathon has pulled in former world record holder Patrick Makau (Kenya) to make a go at a comeback against 2013 winner Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and surprise 2012 winner Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) in its 68th edition on Dec. 7.  Until this summer Makau hadn't run at quality over any distance since 2012, but a sub-28 road 10k in the U.S.A. in August suggests he has been getting back toward full fitness, something he'll need to bring to compete against Mathathi and Gitau.  2:06:24 Ethiopian Raji Assefa is a potential darkhorse, #2 on paper but without a good marathon to his name since running his PB in 2012.

Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki), 6th in the London Olympics and 5th in the Moscow World Championships, leads the domestic hopes alongside 2:08 Moscow teammate Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda), track and half marathon star Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) making his domestic debut after running 2:13 and 2:12 overseas earlier this year, and former 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) and college indy Hideyuki Ikegami (Kyoto Kyoiku Univ.) in their marathon debuts.

A solid overseas second pack is also in place to boost Japanese chances.  The aging internationals include 2005 Fukuoka winner Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine), perpetual pacemaker Isaac Macharia (Kenya) and national record holders Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) and Henryk Szost (Poland).  Fresher blood includes Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/Team NTN), Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe), Jeffrey Eggleston (U.S.A,), Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Team Monteroza).

Fukuoka is one of the four races used to set up the three-person team for the 2015 Beijing World Championships, with Federation bigwigs calling for Japan's corporate runners to step up and run sub-2:06:30 to get there.  Considering that only one Japanese man has ever done that it seems like they might as well call for a 2:05 or 2:04, but the sub-2:08 standard for the Moscow World Championships team was at least partially responsible for all five team members clearing 2:09 and the fastest getting down to 2:08:00 and Fukuoka has seen a sub-2:07 by a Japanese man in older times, so who knows?  With a decent pack of overseas competition staging things at mid-2:06 pace maybe fans will be treated to something special.

68th Fukuoka International Marathon
Elite Field and Open Division Highlights
Fukuoka, Dec. 7, 2014

Patrick Makau (Kenya) - 2:03:38 (Berlin 2011)
Raji Assefa (Ethiopia) - 2:06:24 (Paris 2012)
Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 2:06:58 (Fukuoka 2012)
Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine) - 2:07:15 (Fukuoka 2006)
Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:07:16 (Fukuoka 2013)
Isaac Macharia (Kenya) - 2:07:16 (Dubai 2008)
Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) - 2:07:27 (Chuncheon 2011)
Henryk Szost (Poland) - 2:07:39 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) - 2:08:12 (Lake Biwa 2003)
Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:08:35 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/Team NTN) - 2:09:00 (Hofu Yomiuri 2013)
Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 2:09:03 (Tokyo 2011)
Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe) - 2:09:52 (Prague 2014)
Tomoya Adachi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:22 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:39 (Fukuoka 2013)
Jeffrey Eggleston (U.S.A,) - 2:10:52 (Gold Coast 2014)
Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:11:02 (Tokyo 2013)
Takaaki Koda (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:08 (Tokyo 2011)
Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:11:15 (Tokyo 2013)
Noriaki Takahashi (DeNA RC) - 2:12:04 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:12:18 (Sydney 2014)
Makoto Fukui (Team Fujitsu) - 2:13:57 (Muenster 2012)
Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Team Monteroza) - 1:01:06 (Marugame 2012)
Hideyuki Ikegami (Kyoto Kyoiku Univ.) - debut - 1:03:09 (Tanigawa Mari 2014)
Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) - debut - 28:01.71 for 10000 m (Kobe 2014)

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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