by Brett Larner
Having left Japan's corporate team system, 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon winner Samuel Ndungu (Kenya) was back to take the top spot again in Biwako's cold and rainy 70th edition. With a target pace of 3:00/km for the front group including last year's winner Bazu Worku (Ethiopia), 2014 European champion Daniele Meucci (Italy), Mongolian national record holder Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Team NTN) and Japanese World Championships hopefuls Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) and Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta), Kenyan pacers Kimutai Kiplimo and Silas Kimutai were not even close, going through 2 km in 6:19 and hitting 5 km in 15:30, well over 2:10 marathon pace.
Collegiate runner Atsuya Hiraiwa (Meijo Univ.) pulled in front of the pacers to try to get the race moving, but although the next 10 km were decent, by 20 km they were back to another 15:30 split. Halfway came in 1:04:39 with a pack of 40 still together, but a few meters later at the turnaround point pacer Silas Kimutai somehow didn't notice the giant cone marking the turnaround, the road ahead being blocked, or the lead vehicles making a 180' turn as he continued to run straight. Bazu followed him as the rest of the pack made the turn, Ndungu showing a moment of hesitation before turning.
Impatient with the halfway split, Bat-Ochir took off into the lead, quickly joined by Ndungu as at least a half dozen people went by remaining pacer Kimutai Kiplimo before he reacted. Silas Kimutai hauled it get back in front, but for most of the rest of the way it was Bat-Ochir and Ndungu doing the pacing, going in front when the pacers repeatedly slowed, gesturing and talking to them. After another slow 15:21 split from 20 to 25 km Maeda came up and made the hand gesture for three, i.e. the target pace, to Silas Kimutai several times, but Kimutai ignored him until Ndungu again did the job himself.
Over that 5 km the lead pack lost about a third of its members, favorite Ugachi among those unable to keep up. Silas Kimutai also couldn't keep up, off the back of the lead pack before 29 km with his colleague stepping out at 30 km. Bat-Ochir immediately turned on, Ndungu and Maeda going with him and shortly joined by Meucci. Just after the 31 km drink table, at exactly the spot where he made his race-winning move in similar conditions three years ago, Ndungu put a long surge into play that dropped the competition and led him all the way to the win in a slight negative split of 2:09:08. In his post-race comments Ndungu showed some frustration with the pacers but, in still quite smooth Japanese, shared his happiness at making a successful comeback.
Bat-Ochir, Meucci and Maeda took turns leading in the chase trio, but a rush from Bat-Ochir at 36.5 km was too much for Maeda to handle. Meucci tailed Bat-Ochir all the way back to the track, dropping him with 400 m to go but misjudging his timing and coming up 2 seconds short of his PB in 2:11:10 for 2nd. Bat-Ochir kept 3rd in 2:11:18, as in Fukuoka beating the top Japanese man as Maeda came in far back in 4th in 2:11:46. Last year's top Japanese man Sasaki was 9th in 2:14:27. The other domestic favorite Ugachi, running his fourth marathon since debuting in January, 2014 in Dubai, staggered around the last lap of the track just outside the top 25.
With five Japanese men having run sub-2:10 times in the selection races in Fukuoka and Tokyo and the top Japanese man in the other selection race in Beppu-Oita, Hiroki Kadota (Team Kanebo), having run 2:10:46 for 2nd overall, Maeda's performance means Maeda would have almost no chance of making a third World Championships team if it weren't for his National Team program membership. Kadota and Tokyo's second Japanese man Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda), 9th overall in 2:09:12, look like the two contenders for the last spot alongside Fukuoka's top Japanese man Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda), 4th in 2:09:06, and Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), 7th in Tokyo in a strong 2:07:39. However, Kadota, Sano and Fujiwara were not named to the the 2014-15 National Team program, meaning nothing but question marks until the team lineup announcement due up after next weekend's final women's selection race at the Nagoya Women's Marathon.
70th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
Otsu, Shiga, 3/1/15
click here for complete results
1. Samuel Ndungu (Kenya) - 2:09:08
2. Daniele Meucci (Italy) - 2:11:10
3. Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:11:18
4. Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:11:46
5. Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:12:29 - debut
6. Eric Ndiema (Kenya) - 2:13:28
7. Bazu Worku (Ethiopia) - 2:13:32
8. Rui Yonezawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:14:13
9. Satoru Sasaki (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:14:27
10. Kenji Higashino (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:14:48
11. Bunta Kuroki (Japan/Sagawa Express) - 2:15:18
12. Ryoichi Matsuo (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:15:20
13. Shingo Igarashi (Japan/Subaru) - 2:15:28
14. Yusuke Sato (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:15:30 - debut
15. Takumi Kiyotani (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:15:31
16. Yuko Matsumiya (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:15:40
17. Takayuki Matsumiya (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:15:41
18. Keita Akiba (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:16:10
19. Takuji Morimoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:16:22
20. Takuya Ishikawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:16:30
21. Koji Matsuoka (Japan/Mazda) - 2:16:50
22. Noriaki Takahashi (Japan/DeNA RC) - 2:16:53
23. Masatoshi Kikuchi (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:17:14
24. Masaki Matsui (Japan/Tokyo Kogyo Univ.) - 2:17:16
25. Chin Ping Ho (Taiwan) - 2:17:42
DNF - Fikadu Girma (Ethiopia)
DNF - Agato Yashin Hassan (Ethiopia/Chuo Hatsujo)
DNF - Wirimai Juwawo (Zimbabwe)
DNF - Stepan Kiselev (Russia)
DNF - Daisuke Shimizu (Japan/Kanebo)
DNF - Jose Antonio Uribe (Mexico)
(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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