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Tokyo Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

In its tenth edition as a mass-participation race Sunday's Tokyo Marathon comes packed with story lines.  With the weather forecast looking good both the men's and women's course records, 2:05:42 and 2:22:23, are in danger.  The Japanese all-comers' records of 2:05:18 and 2:21:18 may not be safe either.  The Abbott World Marathon Majors wraps up the first iteration of its new one year/seven race +1 format in Tokyo; 2014 Tokyo winner Dickson Chumba (Kenya) stands a chance of tying men's series leader Eliud Kipchoge after winning in Chicago last fall, sending the win to a vote, while on the women's side Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia), Helah Kiprop (Kenya) and Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia) all have a chance at taking the AWMM title if the win goes their way.  Even 2nd would get Dibaba into the running.

Along with Chumba, Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya) and Eliud Kiptanui (Kenya) will be pushing the race toward record territory with a first half planned in the 1:02:30-1:03:00 range.  Defending Olympic gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) is also back to a race that has always been kind to him.  Along with the three AWMM title contenders, 2013 World Champion Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) and a support crew of Ethiopians will be leading the women's race through halfway in 1:10:00-1:10:30.

But for the home crowd the highlight will be the domestic men.  Amid swirling controversy surrounding the convoluted Japanese selection process for the Rio Olympics, Japanese men will be contending for a Rio spot in Tokyo, the second of three designated qualifying races.  Nothing they do in Tokyo can guarantee them a place in Rio, but clearing the JAAF's modest standard of sub-2:06:30, something only one Japanese man has ever done, would give them a modicum of priority in the JAAF's all-knowing eyes.  Most of the top men in the field are thinking in terms of 2:07, and with two of them, Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) and Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) having done it in Tokyo before and three others, Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki), Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda) and Koji Gokaya (Team JR Higashi Nihon), having run sub-2:10 in Tokyo in the last two years there's every reason to see it happening again.  And what makes it even more exciting is the tension of change, of a new generation about to drop and wash over everything that came before.

As JRN wrote earlier this year, there has been an incredible explosion in Japanese university men's distance running since 2012-13.  Over the last 20 years the quality of Japanese men's marathoning has tracked closely with the quality at the Hakone Ekiden university men's championships, and given the level university men have hit in the last 4 years it looks like there is something special coming in the marathon.  Sunday will be the first marathon to feature a major contingent of leaders of the collegiate revolution, with Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), the fastest-ever Japanese collegiate half marathoner at 1:00:50, 1:28:52 30 km university national record holder Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.), 2015 World University Games half marathon silver medalist Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.), Japan's fastest-ever 18-year-old half marathoner Yuta Shimoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and at least four others slated to debut.  Murayama, Hattori and Isshiki are all talking very fast times.  The Japanese debut marathon record is 2:08:12.  The university record is likewise 2:08:12.  The fastest under-20 marathon is 2:15:30.  All these could go.

And don't think the older established guys don't know it.  In pre-race comments almost all of them said, "There are a lot of incredibly good young guys coming up.  The marathon is a different story, but even so we can't let them beat us."  The greatest marathon in Japanese history, the 2003 Fukuoka International Marathon, saw six Japanese men race each other under 2:10 in hopes of making the Athens Olympic team, three running 2:07, two 2:08 and the last 2:09.  Could Sunday top that?  Definitely maybe.

The Tokyo Marathon will be broadcast live nationwide on Nippon TV starting at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28.  Alongside Nippon TV announcer Ralph Suzuki, JRN's Brett Larner will be co-hosting Nippon TV's international broadcast to be shown live in China on LeTV, in Asia and Oceania on Eurosport Asia, in Africa on SuperSport, in South America on Claro Sports and ESPN, and in the United States on NBC Sports.  Check local listings for more information.

10th Tokyo Marathon Elite Field
Tokyo, 2/28/16
click here for complete field listing
times listed are 2013-2015 best times except where noted

Men
Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya) - 2:03:13 (Berlin 2014)
Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:04:32 (Chicago 2014)
Eliud Kiptanui (Kenya) - 2:05:21 (Berlin 2015)
Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:06:19 (Amsterdam 2015)
Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:06:33 (Tokyo 2015)
Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) - 2:06:35 (Dubai 2015)
Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:07:39 (Tokyo 2015)
Kohei Matsumura (Japan/Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki) - 2:08:09 (Tokyo 2014)
Samuel Ndungu (Kenya) - 2:08:21 (Lisbon 2014)
Abel Kirui (Kenya) - 2:09:04 (Tokyo 2014)
Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza) - 2:09:18 (Tokyo 2015)
Koji Gokaya (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:09:21 (Tokyo 2015)
Javier Guerra (Spain) - 2:09:33 (London 2015)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:03 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:10:50 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Sunbelx) - 2:11:02 (Tokyo 2013)
Takehiro Deki (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:11:14 (Tokyo 2015)
Shun Sato (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:11:39 (Tokyo 2015)
Yoshiki Otsuka (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 2:11:40 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:11:48 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:11:50 (Hofu 2015)
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:12:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Masashi Hayashi (Japan/Yakult) - 2:12:17 (Biwako 2013)
Hiroki Yamagishi (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:12:48 (Sydney 2015)
Kazuaki Shimizu (Japan/Yakult) - 2:12:49 (Nobeoka 2013)
Yasuyuki Nakamura (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:48 (Hofu 2015)
Yasuhiro Ikeda (Japan/NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:13:49 (Tokyo 2014)
Etsu Miyata (Japan/Saitama T&F Assoc.) - 2:14:09 (Nobeoka 2013)
Atsushi Hasegawa (Japan/Kawasaki T&F Assoc.) - 2:14:20 (Kasumigaura 2014)
Takanori Ide (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:14:22 (Biwako 2014)
Shingo Igarashi (Japan/Josai Univ. Coaching Staff) - 2:14:24 (Hofu 2015)
Kazuyoshi Tokumoto (Japan/Monteroza) - 2:14:35 (Berlin 2014)
Makoto Harada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:14:40 (Tokyo 2013)
Ryota Matoba (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:15:00 (Nobeoka 2015)
Saeki Makino (Japan/DNPL Ekiden Club) - 2:15:22 (Seoul 2015)
Kenichi Jiromaru (Japan/Obirin Univ. Coaching Staff) - 2:15:24 (Biwako 2014)
Tomohiko Takenaka (Japan/NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:15:28 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Yuki Takamiya (Japan/Yakult) - 2:15:38 (Biwako 2014)
Satoru Kasuya (Japan/Toyota Boshoku) - 2:16:47 (Biwako 2013)
Yuki Nanba (Japan/Kameoka AC) - 2:20:37 (Beppu-Oita 2015)

Debut
Yuma Hattori (Japan/Toyo Univ.) - 1:28:52 (Kumanichi 30 km 2014)
Kenta Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:00:50 (Marugame Half 2014)
Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) - 1:01:47 (Lisbon Half 2014)
Tadashi Isshiki (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:09 (Marugame Half 2015)
Yuta Shimoda (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:22 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Satoshi Kikuchi (Japan/Josai Univ.) - 1:02:23 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)

Women
Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:20:21 (London 2014)
Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:20:48 (Berlin 2015)
Shure Demise (Ethiopia) - 2:20:59 (Dubai 2015)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:30 (Tokyo 2014)
Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) - 2:23:29 (Paris 2015)
Ashete Bekele Dido (Ethiopia) - 2:23:43 (Dubai 2015)
Helah Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:24:03 (Tokyo 2015)
Isabellah Andersson (Sweden) - 2:26:05 (Dubai 2013)
Maja Neuenschwander (Switzerland) - 2:26:49 (Berlin 2015)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/First Dream AC) - 2:31:28 (Tokyo 2013)
Yukiko Okuno (Japan/Shiseido) - 2:32:41 (Osaka Int'l 2015)
Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/Y.W.C.) - 2:36:29 (Osaka Int'l 2015)
Kana Unno (Japan/Noritz) - 2:36:48 (Paris 2015)
Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 2:37:43 (Izumisano 2015)

text and photos © 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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