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

Japan's 2020 Tokyo Olympics Marathon Trials Are Here - MGC Race Viewing Guide

It’s almost here. Japan’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon trials. The Marathon Grand Championships Race. All of Japan’s best marathoners. All in one place. All in one race. What the people have always wanted. The first national Olympic trials race to be recognized with Gold Label status by the IAAF. The only one that legitimately met the Gold Label requirements. It was the hardest marathon ever to qualify for. It should be the best marathon of 2019. It could be the most tedious. Maybe both.

If you’re in Japan you can watch the live broadcast of the men’s race on TBS at 8:50 and the women’s race on NHK starting twenty minutes later. If you’re not in Japan your options for being part of it are limited. There is an official live stream of the men's race via Paravi, a paid service with a 30-day free trial. It's not clear if it's available overseas and signup looks to be only in Japanese. NHK's TV broadcast is available in some areas outside Japan. It’s also live streaming b…

Nakamura and Maeda Win Japanese 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials

After an almost two-year qualification period that made it the most difficult marathon in history to get into, Japan's Marathon Grand Championship 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon trials went off perfectly Sunday in warm and sunny conditions. Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu), 4th in Berlin last year, and 2018 Fukuoka winner Yuma Hattori (Toyota) went 1-2 in a 3-way sprint finish against national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) to score places on the Olympic team, with 2017 Hokkaido Marathon winner Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) taking the women's race and 2018 Hokkaido winner Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post) holding off Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) to join Maeda on the Tokyo lineup.

It was a sign of the level of commitment that this generation brought, of what next summer's Olympics are going to be like, that both the women's and men's races went out at national record pace, but the two couldn't have been more different. In the women's race, 9 of the 10 starters went out fas…

Japan Announces Doha World Championships Team

Following the end of the qualification period for the 2019 Doha World Championships, the JAAF announced additions to the initial Japanese National Team roster released earlier in the summer. Along with the additions, the JAAF made public that Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (Univ. of Florida) will not run the 200 m in order to focus on the 100 m and relay, and that Kazuya Shiojiri (Fujitsu), the only Japanese man to have cleared the Doha standard, will not race due to an apparent injury following a fall last week in Zagreb. Final changes to the team roster, if any, are expected to be announced Sept. 17.
Japanese National Team, Doha World Championshipsas of Sept. 11, 2019
times listed are best within qualifying window
WomenHurdles
100 m Hurdles  - Asuka Terada (Pasona Group) - 12.97
100 m Hurdles - Ayako Kimura (Edion) - 13.11

Long Distance
5000 m - Nozomi Tanaka (Toyota Jidoshokki TC) - 15:15.80
5000 m - Tomoka Kimura (Shiseido) - 15:19.99
5000 m / 10000 m - Rina Nabeshima (Japan Post) - 15:21.40 / …