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30th Anniversary Hokkaido Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

Always the signal that the fall marathon season is about to begin, the Hokkaido Marathon celebrates its 30th anniversary running this Sunday. The men's field features Masanori Sakai (Team Kyudenko), a 2:09:10 performer at the 2014 Tokyo Marathon but with little success since then, and Ryo Yamamoto (Team SGH Group), a member of the 2012 London Olympics marathon squad with a 2:08:37 best from 2012. An interesting dark horse is the Barcelona Olympics silver medalist Koichi Morishita-coached 2:13 man Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu), winner of February's tough Ome 30 km and 2nd at last month's Shibetsu Half Marathon.  Something of an eyebrow raiser is Kenyan Cyrus Njui (SEV Sports), who underwent a six-month suspension after testing positive at last year's Hokkaido Marathon when he took cold medicine from a local pharmacist a few days before the race.  In today's environment it's hard to imagine many races inviting back someone who tested positive at the same race a year earlier, but Hokkaido's policy seems to be forgive and forget.

Underlining that policy is the number one seed in the women's race, Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL), Japan's sole public EPO bust after testing positive at the 2012 Honolulu Marathon.  The 2006 Hokkaido winner, Yoshida returned from her suspension stronger than ever, running a PB of 2:28:43 at last fall's inaugural Saitama International Marathon that positions her as the only sub-2:30 woman in the field.  Her best domestic competition is Aki Otagiri (Team Tenmaya) with a 2:30:24 best at last year's Nagoya Women's Marathon.  Japan-based Kenyan Winfridah Kebaso (Team Nitori) also looks to have potential to improve on her 2:32:08 best behind Yoshida in Saitama.  A late withdrawal with injury is Sakiko Matsumi (Team Daiichi Seimei), a training partner of Rio Olympians Miyuki Uehara and Tomomi Tanaka and coached by 1991 World Championships silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita.  Beyond its invited elite field Hokkaido always features good talent in its general division, so watch for other men and women not listed below to factor into the action.

30th Hokkaido Marathon Elite Field
Sapporo, Hokkaido, 8/28/16
click here for complete field listing
all times listed are best in last three years

Men
Masanori Sakai (Kyudenko) - 2:09:10 (Tokyo 2014)
Cyrus Njui (Kenya/SEV Sports) - 2:09:35 (Tokyo 2014)
Ryo Yamamoto (SGH Group) - 2:10:59 (Vienna 2014)
Ryoichi Matsuo (Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:11 (Nobeoka 2014)
Ryo Kiname (Mitsubishi HPS) - 2:12:48 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu) - 2:13:24 (Biwako 2014)
Kyohei Nishi (Kyudenko) - 2:18:37 (Nobeoka 2014)
Kazuya Deguchi (Asahi Kasei) - 2:19:28 (Biwako 2016)

Women
Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) - 2:28:43 (Saitama International 2015)
Aki Otagiri (Tenmaya) - 2:30:24 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:31:02 (Kitakyushu 2014)
Yuko Mizuguchi (Denso) - 2:31:39 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Winfridah Kebaso (Kenya/Nitori) - 2:32:08 (Saitama International 2015)
Megumi Amako (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:34:28 (Seoul International 2015)

© 2016 Brett Larner
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