by Brett Larner
Shut out of inclusion in the selection races for the Rio Olympics men's team the 65th running of the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon was largely a developmental race, the small international field and large field of second-tier and debuting Japanese men setting out in hopes of sub-2:10 times. #1 seed Evans Ruto (Kenya), the only athlete in the field to have broken 2:09, was an early casualty, dropping out just past 15 km as the pace accelerated from high 2:09 to low 2:08 territory. Over a dozen were still in touch at halfway in 1:04:22, including #2 and #3-ranked Shume Hailu (Ethiopia) and Anthony Maritim (Kenya), Japanese men Naohiro Yamada (YKK), Kenichi Shiraishi (Asahi Kasei) and Shogo Kanezane (Chugoku Denryoku), 22-year-old Myeung Jun Son (South Korea) and debuting Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima), Yuki Munakata (Kanebo) and Keisuke Kusaka (Hitachi Butsuryu).
Past the halfway point Kiflom Sium (Eritrea) was the next main casualty, and just after 25 km a surge on a corner from remaining pacer Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Sunbelx) dropped everyone but Haile, Maritim and Abera. Yamada was quick to catch up, Son leading Munakata and Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) back into contact a kilometer or two later. When Mogusu stepped off at 30 km the lead group was on 2:08:53 pace, with Maritim, Abera and Shume side-by-side, Yamada a few strides back and Son slipping away.
The Japan-based Abera, making his marathon debut at age 21 after setting the course record at last year's Oita City Half Marathon, pushed the pace to crack first Shume and then Maritim. By 35 km he was free and clear in the lead, smiling, blowing kisses and talking to the camera, waving and giving peace signs. That lasted all of about 3 km before the marathon caught up with him. Still on sub-2:09 pace at 40 km, his stride shortened dramatically and he began to look back with gritted teeth. Luckily for him Maritim and Shume were nowhere to be seen, and Abera held on for the win in 2:09:27. Maritim was next, almost two minutes back in 2:11:17, with Shume rounding out the top 3 in 2:11:41.
More dramatic action was happening further back. Yamada, looking strong at 30 km, slowed almost to a jog after 32 km and was overtaken by both Munakata and Son. At 38 km Son dropped Munakata to move into 4th, but with 1.5 km he was caught by former Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage runner Kazuya Ishida (Nishitetsu), off the lead pace early but closing hard to advance through the field and take a surprise 4th in 2:12:25 as the top Japanese man. In just his third marathon Son was 5th in a PB 2:12:34, the best Korean men's time since 2012.
In the women's race Japan's #1-ranked amateur Hiroko Yoshitomi (First Dream AC) scored her fourth-straight marathon win in the last three months, outrunning Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) and Hisayo Matsumoto (unattached) for the win in 2:45:07. Yoshitomi's season goal is a sub-2:30 PB at the Tokyo Marathon later this month where she is again the #1-ranked Japanese woman.
Beppu-Oita did count in qualification for the Rio Paralympics team visually impaired division. Masahiro Okamura (Runweb) secured himself a place with a 2:27:24 win at age 45. Misato Michishita (JBMA), already on the Rio team, set out in search of a world record but fell off pace late in the race, winning 3:03:42.
A much faster time than Yoshitomi's came at the 54th Ehime Marathon, where 21-year-old Yuka Akutsu (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) ran 2:35:31 to take over a minute and a half of the course record. Defending men's winner Sohei Wada (Tokushima T&F Assoc.) made it two in a row, bettering last year's winning time by 42 seconds in 2:21:00.
65th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
click here for complete results
1. Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:09:27 - debut
2. Anthony Maritim (Kenya) - 2:11:17
3. Hailu Shume (Ethiopia) - 2:11:41
4. Kazuya Ishida (Nishitetsu) - 2:12:25
5. Myeong Jun Son (South Korea) - 2:12:34 - PB
6. Kenichi Shiraishi (Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:07
7. Ihor Olefirenko (Ukraine) - 2:13:33
8. Yuki Munakata (Kanebo) - 2:13:53 - debut
9. Keisuke Kusaka (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:14:11 - debut
10. Shogo Kanezane (Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:14:15 - PB
DNF - Evans Ruto (Kenya)
DNF - Kiflom Sium (Eritrea)
1. Hiroko Yoshitomi (First Dream AC) - 2:45:07
2. Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) - 2:48:27
3. Hisayo Matsumoto (unattached) - 2:48:51
Visually Impaired - Men
1. Masahiro Okamura (Runweb) - 2:27:24
2. Shinya Wada (JBMA) - 2:33:46
3. Yutaka Kumagai (AC Kita) - 2:34:06
Visually Impaired - Women
1. Misato Michishita (JBMA) - 3:03:42
2. Hiroko Kondo (JBMA) - 3:18:05
3. Yumiko Fujii (Biwako Timers) - 3:24:06
54th Ehime Marathon
Matsuyama, Ehime, 2/7/16
complete results coming shortly
1. Shohei Wada (Tokushima T&F Assoc.) - 2:21:00
1. Yuka Akutsu (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:35:31 - CR
© 2016 Brett Larner
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