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Kawauchi and Iwade Racing Sunday's BMW Berlin Marathon

by Brett Larner

Japan's Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and Reia Iwade (Team Noritz) will be in the field for Sunday's BMW Berlin Marathon.  Berlin has been good to Japan in the past, with the country's first 2:06 men's national record and the last three women's national records all happening on the ultra-flat Berlin course.  But in the last decade Berlin has seen fewer and fewer quality runs from Japanese athletes.  Kurao Umeki placed 3rd in 2006, but the fastest time over the decade was only 2:10:24 in 2013 by future Rio Olympian Suehiro Ishikawa.  For women too, Tomo Morimoto placed 3rd in 2010, her 2:26:10 also the fastest time in the last ten years but far off the quality of the 2:19 marks set  in Berlin by Naoko Takahashi, Yoko Shibui and Mizuki Noguchi.  The ten-year average times and places for Japanese athletes in the top ten in Berlin are 2:12:00 for 8th for men and 2:29:26 for 7th for women. Can Kawauchi and Iwade beat those averages?

Running in Berlin with support from JRN, Kawauchi has been on a solid comeback trail this year after losing pretty much all of 2015 to a lingering ankle injury initially caused by slipping on ice.  In April he won the Zurich Marathon in 2:12:04 in freezing rain and sleet, following up with a 2:44:07 national record for 50 km in June and a 2:09:01 for 2nd at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon two weeks later, his first sub-2:10 since pre-injury.  Since then he has taken a different approach to his Berlin prep, uncharacteristically not racing a single marathon in the 12 weeks since Gold Coast, the longest he has gone without racing that kind of distance since he started running world-class times, and only raced two half marathons and a 30 km.  "I've been doing a lot of long trail runs, 6 to 7 hour runs, to get ready for Berlin," he said at the pre-race press conference.  "My goal in Berlin is a 2:07 PB.  I get a lot of pressure to try racing a marathon without doing so many races in training, so that's what I've done this time.  If it works then yes, I will have to re-examine my approach."

If he succeeds Kawauchi will be the first Japanese man since 2004 to run under 2:08 outside Japan.  At least 22 men have run ten or more sub-2:10 times in their career, and both Kawauchi and Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) stand to join the club in Berlin with nine each so far.  Kawauchi would also pick up his fifteenth career sub-2:11 and sixtieth sub-2:20.  The JAAF has set sub-2:07:00 as the standard for the 2017 London World Championships team, and a 2:07 in Berlin would help his chances of making the cut, his intended last time going for a Japanese national team.  To help him get there Berlin is providing the 2:07 group, expected to be pack #3, with two pacers and a lead car with the same timing display system designed for the lead pack by Dr. Helmut Winter.  Kawauchi will likely never get a better chance to run a permanent lifetime PB.

Also in Berlin is the fastest ever Japanese woman under age 20, Reia Iwade with a 2:27:21 in Yokohama in 2014 two weeks before her 20th birthday.  In Nagoya in March this year Iwade was part of one of the greatest marathons in Japanese women's history, running a 2:24:38 PB at age 21.  With only one serious race since then, a 32:28.60 track 10000 m in July, there's not much to go on, but given her ability if she is fit she stands a good chance of beating both Morimoto's time and teammate Misato Horie's 2:26:40 course record win at Gold Coast in July, currently the fastest of the year by a Japanese woman outside Japan.  Ranked third in the field on PB, at the very least Iwade should be able to beat the ten-year Japanese women's average and the best Abbott World Marathon Majors mark by a Japanese woman this year, 2:31:17 for 10th in Tokyo by Yukiko Okuno (Team Shiseido).  After a mostly disappointing Olympics for Japan a strong run by a young talent would be a welcome change.

JRN is on-site supporting Kawauchi and covering the race live.  Follow his splits and projected finish time live here:

43rd Berlin Marathon Start List Highlights
Berlin, Germany, 9/25/16
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya) - 2:03:13 (Berlin 2014)
Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:03:23 (Berlin 2013)
Tsegaye Mekonnen (Ethiopia) - 2:04:32 (Dubai 2014)
Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) - 2:05:04 (Paris 2014)
Sisay Lemma (Ethiopia) - 2:05:16 (Dubai 2016)
Eliud Kiptanui (Kenya) - 2:05:21 (Berlin 2015)
Evans Chebet (Kenya) - 2:05:33 (Seoul 2016)
Mark Kiptoo (Kenya) - 2:06:00 (Eindhoven 2015)
Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:06:15 (Frankfurt 2013)
Alfers Lagat (Kenya) - 2:06:48 (Frankfurt 2015)
Suleiman Simotwo (Kenya) - 2:08:49 (Frankfurt 2015)
Jacob Kandagor (Kenya) - 2:08:56 (Seoul 2016)
Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:09:01 (Gold Coast 2016)
Geoffrey Ronoh (Kenya) - 2:10:09 (Valencia 2015)
Yohanes Gebregergish (Eritrea) - 2:10:44 (Prague 2016)
Nick Arciniaga (U.S.A.) - 2:11:47 (Boston 2014)
Chalachew Tiruneh (Ethiopia) - 2:11:54 (Berlin 2015)

Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:20:48 (Berlin 2015)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:40 (Tokyo 2014)
Reia Iwade (Japan/Noritz) - 2:24:38 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Ruti Aga (Ethiopia) - 2:25:27 (Vienna 2016)
Janet Ronoh (Kenya) - 2:26:03 (Tokyo 2014)
Charlotte Purdue (Great Britain) - 2:32:48 (London 2016)
Cassie Fien (Australia) - 2:33:36 (London 2016)
Mone Stockhecke (Germany) - 2:33:43 (Hamburg 2016)
Katharina Heinig (Germany)  - 2:33:56 (Hamburg 2014)
Gladys Ganiel (Ireland) - 2:38:53 (Seville 2016)
Claire McCarthy (Ireland) - 2:39:27 (Dublin 2013)
Sara Bird (Great Britain) - 2:39:55 (London 2014)
Lonah Chemtai (Israel) - 2:40:17 (Tel Aviv 2016)

text and photos © 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


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