Skip to main content

Gobena and Cheyech Top Field for Nov. 13 Saitama International Marathon

by Brett Larner

In its first running last year the Saitama International Marathon tagged a small elite women's race, the descendant of the defunct Yokohama International Women's Marathon and Tokyo International Women's Marathon, onto a new 3500-runner amateur race.  Tokyo International was a high-profile, high-prestige elite event that served an important role in both the development of women's marathoning worldwide and Japanese national team selection.  The profile and prestige dipped with the move to Yokohama, its 2014 winner Tomomi Tanaka controversially left off the 2015 Beijing World Championships team, and both dropped again last year with the move out to Tokyo's northwestern suburbs in Saitama.

Its legacy as the inheritor of Japan's premier women's race and nominal current role as a women's event are obscured by the co-ed mass marathon, local boy Yuki Kawauchi proudly splashed across the Saitama website's top page for this year's Nov. 13 race, and with the National Corporate Women's Ekiden moving from mid-December to Nov. 27 this year Saitama is in an even more dire situation than the Fukuoka International Marathon for recruiting elite Japanese marathoners good enough to belong on a national team.  The Tokyo Marathon or even October's Osaka Marathon would make way, way more sense as high-profile selection events, but the powers that be are bound and determined to keep a selection race, however unnecessary, in November, logic, quality and outcome be damned.

Which is not to sound too negative about it.  The elite field is better than last year's, solidly silver label with eight internationals and all of four Japanese women on board.  Five of the overseas elites are familiar faces in Japan with big wins behind them, Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) the 2010 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner and runner-up in Tokyo this year, former Uniqlo corporate team runner Filomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) the 2010 National Corporate Half Marathon champion, Monica Jepkoech (Kenya) the 2013 Osaka Marathon winner, Atsede Habtamu (Ethiopia) the 2012 Tokyo Marathon winner, and Maryna Damantsevich (Belarus) the 2014 and 2015 Osaka Marathon winner.  The other three internationals, Deborah Toniolo (Italy), Japan-based Winfridah Kebaso (Kenya/Team Nittori) and Cassie Fien (Australia) have all raced in Japan before too, Kebaso taking 5th in Saitama in her debut last year.

The Japanese field is predictably small, led by Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) who returned from Japan's only public EPO suspension to set a PB 2:28:43 for 2nd in Saitama last year.  Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Universal Entertainment) was 2nd in Yokohama once upon a time but hasn't run a quality marathon in many a long year.  With a 1:11:43 half marathon best Aki Otagiri (Team Tenmaya) looks to have potential, but in seven marathons to date she has yet to crack 2:30:00, finishing 8th in Saitama behind Yoshida and Kebaso last year in 2:36:29.  Akane Sekino (Imabari Zosen) is a borderline amateur whose first marathon finish was a 2:38:00 in Nagoya last spring, but like Otagiri her 1:11:17 half marathon PB in February this year suggests the potential to go better than that.

With January's Osaka International Women's Marathon and March's Nagoya Women's Marathon still to come, realistically there is almost no scenario in which one of these Japanese women would be picked for the London World Championships marathon team barring a legendary breakthrough.  Yoshida won August's Hokkaido Marathon, hypothetically included in consideration for the London team, and one source connected with Saitama told JRN that if Yoshida were to win Saitama too it would force the JAAF to put her on the team after all the bad press around Tanaka's omission last time around. That's a real Hail Mary plan if true.  Short of Yoshida or another Japanese woman running an improbably great time, say 2:23 or better, having Saitama as a national team selection race looks like a lose for the JAAF whether they put her on the team or not.  And that's a hole the JAAF has dug for itself.  Let's hope for something dramatic.

2nd Saitama International Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Saitama, 11/13/16
click here for detailed field listing
times listed are best within last three years

Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) - 2:21:51 (Tokyo 2016)
Filomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) - 2:22:44 (Paris 2014)
Monica Jepkoech (Kenya) - 2:27:26 (Toronto 2015)
Kaori Yoshida (Japan/RxL) - 2:28:43 (Saitama 2015)
Atsede Habtamu (Ethiopia) - 2:29:40 (Toronto 2015)
Maryna Damantsevich (Belarus) - 2:30:07 (Warsaw 2015)
Aki Otagiri (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:30:24 (Nagoya 2015)
Mizuho Nasukawa (Japan/Universal Entertainment) - 2:30:27 (Yokohama Women's 2013)
Deborah Toniolo (Italy) - 2:31:28 (Berlin 2015)
Winfridah Kebaso (Kenya/Nitori) - 2:32:08 (Saitama 2015)
Cassie Fien (Australia) - 2:33:36 (London 2016)
Akane Sekino (Japan/Imabari Zosen) - 2:38:00 (Nagoya Women's 2016)

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawabata Over Kawauchi at Takashimadaira 20 km

Like a distant echo of the thunder of yesterday's Yosenkai 20 km reverberating across the city, Tokyo's other major 20 km road race took place this morning in the northwestern suburb of Takashimadaira. Narrowly surviving the loss of its main sponsor last year, the Takashimadaira Road Race offers a unique 5 km loop course that delivers fast times. Now in its 42nd year, Takashimadaira is a favorite for upper-tier universities that don't have to run the Yosenkai to requalify for the Hakone Ekiden, for other schools' second-stringers, and for top-level independents and amateurs.

This year's race was fronted by a group of runners from Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University who didn't make Tokai's final Izumo roster, by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and others from yesterday's Yosenkai winner Teikyo University and the Hakone-qualified Juntendo University and Komazawa University. In the same cool and lightly rainy…

Kawauchi and Kanematsu Win Rainy Shimantogawa 100 km

The 23rd edition of the Shimantogawa Ultramarathon took place Oct. 15 in Shimanto, Kochi. 1822 runners started the 100 km division, where Yoshiki Kawauchi (26, Saitama T&F Assoc.) and Aiko Kanematsu (37, Team RxL) took the men's and women's titles for the first time.

The 100 km division started under a heavy downpour at 5:30 a.m. in front of Warabioka J.H.S. The 576 participants in the 60 km division got off 4 1/2 hours later from Koinobori Park, with both races finishing at Nakamura H.S.

Kawauchi, the younger brother of "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi, ran Shimantogawa for the second time, improving dramatically on last year's run to win in 6:42:06. "Last time I was 21st, a total disaster," Kawauchi said afterward. "My brother told me, 'Don't overdo it on the uphills,' and his advie helped me get through it. The scenery around Iwama Chinkabashi was really beautiful."

Kanematsu began running with her husband around age 30…

Osaka Marathon Elite Field

One of the world's ten biggest marathons, in its six runnings to date the Osaka Marathon has continued to avoid the addition of a world-class elite field of the same caliber as at equivalently-sized races like Tokyo, Berlin and Boston. In place of doling out cash to pros, Osaka's women's field has developed into a sort of national championship race for amateur women.

In the field this year are six, probably all six, of the amateur Japan women to have broken 2:40 in the last three years. Last year's top three, Yoshiko Sakamoto (F.O.R.), Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) and Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) lead the way at the 2:36 +/- level, with a second trio of Marie Imada (Iwatani Sangyo), Mitsuko Ino (R2 Nishin Nihon) and Chika Tawara (RxL) all around the 2:39 level.

Last year's winner Sakamoto and 3rd placer Yoshimatsu squared off in September at Germany's Volksbank Muenster Marathon, Yoshimatsu tying Sakamoto's Osaka winning time of 2:36:02 to take 3rd over …