Skip to main content

Imai and Kawauchi Ready for TCS New York City Marathon

by Brett Larner

The TCS New York City Marathon is a major draw for amateur Japanese marathon tourists, but due to conflicts with the fall regional qualifiers for the year-ending national corporate ekiden championships it rarely sees top-level Japanese elites in its field.  Last year was an exception, with London Olympian Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya), former Hakone Ekiden star Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) and rebel government clerk Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) all lining up.  Shigetomo and Kawauchi ran only decently, each finishing 11th, but Imai, famous in Japan as a hill specialist, finished 6th in 2:10:45, a solid time on the NYC course and the best-ever there by a Japanese man.  This year both Imai and Kawauchi are back for more and better.

Since last year both Imai and Kawauchi were named to the JAAF's new National Team development program.  After hovering at the 2:10 level for the last three years Imai, coached by Barcelona Olympics silver medalist Koichi Morishita and a former training partner of Beijing gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru, took a step
forward with his first sub-2:10, running 2:09:30 for second at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon.  Over the summer he was reasonably strong, winning the late-July Shibetsu Half Marathon for the second year in a row in 1:04:07, 43 seconds slower that his 2013 win.  On Sept. 9 both he and Kawauchi ran the JAAF-mandated National Team 40 km time trial, jointly dropping the rest of Japan's best men at 35 km and racing each other to the finish.  In the final kilometer Imai outkicked Kawauchi for the win, a rare sight diminished only by the fact that Kawauchi had won the City to Surf Perth Marathon just 9 days earlier.  Three weeks later the only real crack in Imai's year appeared in his final tuneup race for New York when he finished 3rd in the Fukuoka Prefecture 10-Mile Championships in 49:29, the slowest of his four times running there by nearly a minute and a half.

After going sub-2:10 twice in two weeks last December Kawauchi, returning to New York with support from JRN, has had another busy year, with five course record marathon wins, a bronze medal at October's Asian Games marathon, a 50 km national record, and a 2:09:36 at May's Hamburg Marathon to become the first Japanese man to go sub-2:10 seven times in his career.  The TCS New York City Marathon will be his tenth of thirteen planned marathons this year and his fortieth career marathon.  In accepting an offer from the New York Road Runners to come back this year Kawauchi specifically asked that they also bring Imai back, and he has set beating Imai's time from last year as his minimum goal.

Sub-2:10 marathons are uncommon in New York, with no more than two or three men running that fast there most years, and even less so for Japanese men abroad.  Of the 146 sub-2:10 marathons so far in Japanese men's history only 22 have been done on foreign soil.  The forecast for strong headwinds on Sunday don't look encouraging for fast times, putting a question mark on the joint attack on the incredible 2:05:06 course record by its holder Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya) and training partner Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) but a smile on the faces of both Imai and Kawauchi.  By career PB Kawauchi is ranked 10th in the field and Imai 15th.  By fastest performance in the last two years Kawauchi ranks 6th and Imai 10th.  By 2014 times Imai climbs to 5th with Kawauchi holding at 6th.  Both are strong on hills and undulations, and with Imai having proved himself in New York last year and Kawauchi having gone to Hamburg specifically to work out the problems he has experienced racing with jet lag both look like solid contenders for top five.  If the wind holds things back for a slower race or the later stages turn into a bloodbath from a large group of the best going at CR pace early with Kipsang and Mutai, who knows what might happen?

text and photo (c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Nikkan Sports Reports Olympic Ticket Lottery Success Rate of 2.95% Within Company

The Nikkan Sports newspaper company conducted a survey of its employees' success rate at scoring tickets to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the ticket lottery drawing following the announcement of the lottery's results on June 20. Including the opening and closing ceremonies, track and field, gymnastics, tennis, badminton, baseball, softball and medal sessions in other major sports, out of the 1288 sessions for which Nikkan employees applied they won tickets to a total of 38 sessions. The success rate among survey respondents was just 2.95%, an indication of how hard it was to get tickets to Japan's home soil Olympics.

Translator's note: Of the 28 sessions I applied for I won tickets to three, two in athletics and one in archery. Including only medal sessions, I got tickets to two of the 22 to which I applied, both in athletics. Interestingly, one of the ones I didn't get was stadium seating for the men's marathon finish, showing what a hot ticket that is going be.

A…

17-Year-Old Ryuji Miura Breaks 3000 m Steeplechase High School Record in World-Leading Time

At the Kinki Region High School Track and Field Championships Saturday in Osaka’s Nagai Stadium, 17-year-old Ryuji Miura of Rakunan H.S. took down one of the oldest records in Japanese athletics, breaking the 30-year-old 3000 m steeplechase high school record by 5 seconds to win in 8:39.49.

Running in heavy rain after clocking the fastest time in the qualifying rounds, Miura went straight to the front in the final and was on his own within 200 m. From the start the record was in reach as he went through 1000 m in 2:49 and 2000 m in 5:43, building up a lead of about 200 m over the rest of the field.

Miura’s final time of 8:39.49 was the fastest in the world this year by an U18 athlete and 6th-best among U20 men, a new Japanese U18 record and all-time #2 for the U20 category. He came short of the outright Japanese high school record of 8:19.21 held by future marathon great Daniel Njenga, but took 5 seconds off the Japanese citizen high school record of 8:44.77 set back in 1989 by futu…

National Track and Field Championships Preview - Jumps

Japan's National Track and Field Championships kick off this Thursday in Fukuoka. It's the start of an important cycle for Japan, with national representation at this fall's Doha World Championships on the line in the lead-up to next year's Tokyo Olympics. Anyone who has cleared the Doha standard in their event will make the team if they win at Nationals, with other qualifiers and hgh-ranked athletes having to wait until mid-September to learn their fates. Over the next four days JRN will break down the favorites in each event.

In the jumps, not a single athlete in any event on the women's side looks to have a realistic chance of making it to Doha without a big PB in the next couple of months. All four of last year's women's national champions, Haruka Nakano (Nippatsu) in the high jump, Juri Nanbu (Chukyo Univ.) in the pole vault, Ayaka Kora (Tsukuba Univ.) in the long jump and Eri Sakamoto (Nihon Shitsunai TC) in the triple jump, return. Of them only Kora…