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Sakamoto and Kawauchi Return to Zurich Marathon

by Brett Larner

Most of the running world will be focused on the London Marathon, where among others Japanese track and ekiden great Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) will be trying again to get the marathon right, but there's at least one other good race this weekend.  Last year Yoshiko Sakamoto (YWC), an unknown amateur runner and mother of three, seemed to come out of nowhere to win Switzerland's Zurich Marathon, with the popular Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) taking 2nd in what ended up being his fastest race of an injury-prone 2015.  This year both Sakamoto and Kawauchi return to Zurich for Sunday's race with support from JRN.

Sakamoto faces at least two strong rivals this year.  It has been a while since Kenyan-born Swede Isabellah Andersson's 2:23:41 PB in Dubai 2011 or even since she broke 2:30, but with a 2:30:02 in Tokyo in February she is still the best in the field.  A stroke against her: Andersson only joined the Zurich field after a DNF in Rotterdam earlier this month.  Katharina Heinig, daughter of German legend Katrin Dorre, is next on the list with a 2:33:56 best from Hamburg 2014 and will be trying to make the German Olympic team.  To do that she will need to beat Anna Hahner's 2:30:35 from Hannover two weeks ago.  Sakamoto, who pulled out of January's Osaka International Women's Marathon when her children came down with the flu and the Tokyo Marathon when she did the same, is seeded third and will have a tough time repeating.

Kawauchi ran Zurich last year still struggling with complications from an ankle sprain, finishing 2nd in 2:12:13.  This year he is fit, well-trained and enthusiastic about going for his first sub-2:10 win outside Japan.  Ethiopian Abere Belay is the only other athlete in the field to have broken 2:10 with a 2:08:18 in Dubai 2014, but since then he hasn't broken 2:12 in four attempts.  Kenyans Edwin Kiprop Korir and Titus Masai form the rest of the small front group, but the race looks like Kawauchi's to lose.  The forecast is not looking ideal for fast times; sometimes it snows in April, but wet or dry there's still a race to be run.

14th Zurich Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Zurich, Switzerland, 4/24/16
times listed are bests in last three years except where indicated

Women
Isabellah Andersson (Sweden) - 2:30:02 (Tokyo 2016)
Katharina Heinig (Germany) - 2:33:56 (Hamburg 2014)
Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/YWC)  2:36:29 (Osaka Women's 2015)
Jane Fardell (Australia) - 2:37:35 (Paris 2013)
Alemitu Bekele Aga (Belgium) - 2:39:26 (Ticino 2011)

Men
Abere Belay (Ethiopia) - 2:08:18 (Dubai 2014)
Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:09:05 (Fukuoka Int'l 2013)
Edwin Kiprop Korir (Kenya) - 2:10:26 (Zurich 2013)
Titus Masai (Kenya) - 2:11:16 (Torino 2014)
Bizuneh Melaku Belachew (Ethiopia) - 2:13:10 (Mainz 2015)
Tesfamariam Solomon (Eritrea) - 2:14:51 (Berlin 2015)
Adrian Lehmann (Switzerland) - 2:15:08 (Berlin 2015)
Mohamednur Hamd (Eritrea) - 2:16:40 (Florence 2015)
Michael Ott (Switzerland) - 2:16:53 (Zurich 2013)
Tewodros Zewdu Asfaw (Ethiopia) - 2:17:02 (Poitiers 2013)
Wissem Hosni (Tunisia) - 2:17:59 (San Sebastian 2014)

text and photo © 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

soycobarde.com said…
Lebo Phalula ?? She ran one week ago in Enschede Marathon (2:33:48, her PB).
Kawauchi Style ;)
Brett Larner said…
My bad. She was the last version of the official entry list but has been taken off the current one.

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Kawauchi Wins 7th-Straight Okinoshima 50 km

Running the Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon on his late father's home island of Oki for the eighth year in a row, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:52:55 to win it for the seventh straight time. Starting strong on the relatively flat first 10 km where he clocked 33:26, low-2:47 pace, Kawauchi slowed to just over 2:50 pace on the course's toughest hills between 10 and 30 km. A sub-2:50 was still in range at that point, but over the last 20 km he faded further to finish in the second-slowest of his Okinoshima wins.



The day before the race Kawauchi paced children in Okinoshima's kids' run. Following that he greeted participants and local supporters at an expo event where he was hailed onstage as the Boston Marathon winner. As per his usual routine, his next race will be the July 1 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Kipchirchir and Chebii Take on Three Gold Coast Winners

The men's race at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon is usually a Kenya-Japan head-to-head, Kenya taking six wins and Japan three in the last ten years. With not a single Ethiopian in the field for this year's 40th edition it looks set for it to happen yet again.

Sub-2:10 Kenyans Victor Kipchirchir, Douglas Chebii, Philip Sanga and the Japan-based Michael Githae will line up to take on three of the race's last four winners, 2017 champ Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), 2015-16 winner and course record holder Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) and 2013 champ and perpetual top three placer Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't). Give the advantage to team Kenya in this bout, but as Noguchi and Kawauchi have proven Gold Coast is a race where Japanese men are legit contenders.

With the window for getting qualifying times for next year's MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials starting to close, the powers that be in Japan have taken note of the success of Noguchi and Kawauchi on the Gold Coast…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …