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Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The proving ground marathon in Japan's Eugene, Athlete Town Nobeoka's Nishi Nippon Marathon hosts its 54th running on Feb. 14.  Proving among other things that change can come even to the most conservative parts of Japan, for the second year in a row Nobeoka will feature a women's field, small and entry-level but still a sign of positive change.  Like the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon a week earlier, Nobeoka's men's field suffers a bit in the face of the Olympic selection races at Tokyo and Lake Biwa just a few weeks later, but it does feature a large lineup of promising first-timers who should help fulfill Nobeoka's original purpose as the race where future marathoners are made.

The local Asahi Kasei team fields the top three entrants.  Its Ryoichi Matsuo and Taiki Yoshimura lead the way with recent bests of 2:12:11 and 2:13:12, but the most exciting on the list is Asahi Kasei's Fumihiro Maruyama, 1:29:34 at the 2013 Kumanichi 30 km and 1:01:15 for the half marathon just a few weeks later and coming in strong off a win at the Oita City Half a few weeks ago.

The Asahi Kasei trio's toughest competition comes from two first-timers from the team that rivals them for the claim of being the best Japanese marathon team, Honda.  Former Komazawa University captain Wataru Ueno will be debuting for Honda with a 1:02:39 half marathon best in 2014, joined by teammate Yuki Maeda.  With weaker credentials Honda's Hiroaki Sano popped a 2:12:14 debut for the win in Nobeoka two years ago, going on to run 2:09:12 in Tokyo last year.

Having run 1:02:27 at last year's National Corporate Half Marathon Shusei Ohashi of the JR Higashi Nihon Team, another team producing good numbers of 2:09-2:10 marathoners, stands as another top contender for a breakthrough debut.  Four other runners on the entry list have recent half marathon times under 1:03:00, suggesting sub-2:12 potential.  Times in Nobeoka have been getting consistently faster over the last six years, and with any luck someone may get close to the 2:11:05 course record.

54th Noboeka Nishi Nippon Marathon 
Elite Field Highlights
Nobeoka, Miyazaki, 2/14/16
click here for complete field listing
all times listed are 2013-2015 bests except where noted

Men
Ryoichi Matsuo (Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:11 (Nobeoka 2014)
Taiki Yoshimura (Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:12 (Hofu 2015)
Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business) - 2:13:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
Shoji Takada (Suzuki Hamamatsu) - 2:17:05 (Shizuoka 2015)
Sora Tsukada (SGH Group) - 2:17:52 (Izumisano 2015)
Wataru Yamaguchi (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:18:25 (Tokyo 2015)
Masaki Hori (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:18:55 (Nagano 2014)
Yuya Ito (Toyota) - 2:18:58 (Hokkaido 2015)
Fumihiro Maruyama (Asahi Kasei) - 1:29:34 (Kumanichi 30 km 2013)
Shusei Ohashi (JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:27 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Wataru Ueno (Honda) - 1:02:39 (Marugame 2014)
Shuji Yoshikawa (Kyudenko) - 1:02:43 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2013)
Kenta Matsubara (Toyota) - 1:02:50 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Shinichiro Tai (Fujitsu) - 1:02:54 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2013)
Shogo Sekiguchi (Subaru) - 1:02:57 (Ageo 2013)
Daichi Kato (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:03:01 (Tamana 2013)
Kazuya Namera (Subaru) - 1:03:10 (Marugame 2015)
Naoki Nishio (Chudenko) - 1:03:23 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Tetsuya Sasaki (Chudenko) - 1:03:25 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Takahiro Gunji (Komori Corp.) - 1:03:25 (Ageo 2013)
Yuki Maeda (Honda) - 1:03:31 (Marugame 2015)

Women
Misato Hokama (Starts) - 1:17:15 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Misaki Yoshida (Shoin Univ.) - 1:23:12 (Tachikawa 2015)
Yurika Sakai (Saitama T&F Assoc.)

© 2016 Brett Larner
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