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Fujiwara and Kawauchi Go 1-2 at Hofu Yomiuri Marathon

by Brett Larner
photos by @rikujolove

The race for the Rio Olympic team just got a little more interesting.  Down for the count in the marathon with no successful performances since his 2:09:31 at the 2012 Fukuoka International Marathon, 2:07:48 Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) came to the Dec. 20 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon off an unexpected pair of low-key marathon wins this fall saying that he hoped to run 2:10 to 2:11 as a step toward a shot at the Rio team at February's Tokyo Marathon.  Defending champion Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) was also back, two weeks after an exhausting 2:12:48 in his own unsuccessful bid for Rio in Fukuoka and saying that he would only be going for a time better than his year-best 2:12:13 from Zurich in April.  Longtime rivals and friends who have had an enormous impact on Japanese marathoning from outside the corporate leagues, Fujiwara and Kawauchi stood on the starting line 3-3 against each other in the marathon.

2013 Hofu winner Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/Team NTN) was back as a pacer along with Japan-based Kenyan Mitchell Gizae (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), and together they took the pack through 30 km just under 2:12 pace, slower than Fujiwara's plans but right on what Kawauchi wanted.  With their departure at 30 km a pack of ten remained, and Kawauchi wasted no time in surging into the lead to break up the competition.  Atsushi Hasegawa (Kawasaki T&F Assoc.), an assistant coach at Senshu University, was the only one to go with him initially, but Fujiwara, Tadashi Suzuki (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and Alphonce Simbu (Tanzania), who beat Kawauchi at July's Gold Coast Airport Marathon, were quick to follow.  At 35 km Fujiwara attacked, opening a 7-second gap and never looking back.

Fujiwara sailed on to the win in 2:11:50, his best time in over three years.  Not including his 2:17:05 win at last month's Toyama Marathon, a training run effort at an amateur-level race in his wife's hometown, Fujiwara's progression since bottoming out with DNFs in both of his 2013 marathons is now 2:30:58 - 2:25:11 - 2:19:40 - 2:16:49 - 2:11:50.  Follow that progression one step further and it puts him right where he needs to be in Tokyo to have a chance for Rio.

Showing the strain of the effort Kawauchi dropped Simbu and Suzuki in pursuit of Fujiwara but fell off his target pace, on track for 2:12:28 at 40 km.  His closing split of 6:50 after 40 km exactly tied Fujiwara's as he crossed the finish line in 2:12:24, short of his Zurich time goal but faster than he ran in Fukuoka two weeks ago.  His 28th sub-2:13, Kawauchi's run was also the 50th sub-2:18 of his career.  Small comfort, though, for not ending his 2015 marathon campaign the way he hoped or for winding up on the wrong side of a 4-3 record against Fujiwara.

Suzuki shook free of Simbu for 3rd in a PB of 2:13:10, almost overtaken by first-year pro Daiki Yoshimura (Team Asahi Kasei) who likewise finished with a new PB in 2:13:12.  Suzuki's teammate Yasuyuki Nakamura (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) rounded out the top five, also PBing in 2:13:48.  Simbu fell to 7th in the final stretch, overtaken by countryman Fabiano Joseph.  2:15:22 Amateur Saeki Makino (DNPL Ekiden Team), running at the rear of the lead pack in hopes of a 2:12 PB, was struck by an official race vehicle going around the 30 km turnaround point and was knocked down, dropping out a few km later due to the injuries he sustained.

In the women's race, four-time winner Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall), like Kawauchi an amateur runner and civil servant, ran a solo race to make it five with her third-straight course record.  Going through halfway on high-2:36 pace well under the 2:37:55 course record she set last year, Yoshimatsu progressively picked up her pace, dipping into 2:35 territory as she neared the finish.  With a solid negative split she won in a new record of 2:35:46, more then eight minutes ahead of her closest competition.  Improving on that time, one of the best by current Japanese amateur runners, will be a challenge next year, but win #6 awaits.

Hofu Yomiuri Marathon
Hofu, Yamaguchi, 12/20/15
click here for complete results

1. Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) - 2:11:50
2. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:12:24
3. Tadashi Suzuki (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:10 - PB
4. Daiki Yoshimura (Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:12 - PB
5. Yasuyuki Nakamura (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:48 - PB
6. Fabiano Joseph (Tanzania) - 2:13:57
7. Alphonce Simbu (Tanzania) - 2:14:15
8. Shingo Igarashi (Josai Univ. Staff) - 2:14:24
9. Kassa Mekashaw (Ethiopia/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 2:16:38 - PB
10. Atsushi Hasegawa (Kawasaki T&F Assoc.) - 2:18:00

1. Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) - 2:35:46 - CR
2. Chika Tawara (Team RxL) - 2:43:48
3. Maiko Tani (unattached) - 2:47:01
4. Hisayo Matsumoto (unattached) - 2:47:51
5. Mika Yoshimura (Yu-Yake Tai) - 2:52:34

text © 2015 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
photos © 2015 M. Kawaguchi, all rights reserved


Master Po said…
Brett -- As always, your coverage & analysis of these events is much appreciated! Question about Hisae Yoshimatsu -- I have looked her up on Tilastopaja & -- is this the same athlete (now 36yo) who was a World Junior Championships finalist at 1500m in 1998, and who also made her marathon debut (2:28) at Sapporo in 2002? Looks like she was selected for WXC in 2003 -- but didn't run -- and then no results again until 2008. If so, I wonder if you could post some more info about here -- perhaps a brief profile or something else that gives an overview of her career. I know she is 'just' an amateur now, and at 2:35, she is not a Rio contender, by a long shot, but I am interested to know more about how her career has gone -- especially (assuming I'm looking at the right information, as mentioned here), for her to come back to this level, after this long a career in the sport.
Thank you!
Brett Larner said…
At your service. Yes, she is the same athlete. I don't know much about her but it is interesting that both she and Yoshiko Sakamoto have made a comeback to that level this year at the same age. I'll try to find out more.

The ARRS database has results for her up to 2006 and then nothing until 2009:

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