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Nakamoto Wins Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in 2:09:32

by Brett Larner


There's a good case to be made that from 2011 to 2013 Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) was Japan's best marathoner.  9th at the 2011 World Championships, 6th at the 2012 London Olympics, 5th at the 2013 Moscow World Championships, a PB every year from his 2:13:54 debut in 2008 to his 2:08:35 in 2013 and twice under 2:09.  That 2:08:35 came at the 2013 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, one of the classic races in Japanese marathon history, a brutal smackdown duel as Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) dropped a very large stone into the tranquil pond of Nakamoto's plans for his first marathon win.  After Moscow Nakamoto looked to be on the decline, with a 2:11:58 for 12th at the 2014 Fukuoka International Marathon marking his first-ever marathon finish outside the top ten, no marathons in 2015, and just a 2:12:06 last year.  Now 34, he returned to today's 66th edition of the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in hopes of scoring a return trip to London this summer.

Japan has four selection races for the three places on the London World Championships, December's Fukuoka International Marathon, Beppu-Oita, the Tokyo Marathon and the following week's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  Kawauchi set the standard with an aggressive run for 3rd in 2:09:11 in Fukuoka, and there was no doubt that everyone had that time in mind in Beppu-Oita.  All the favorites, Nakamoto, sub-2:10 local Fumihiro Maruyama (Team Asahi Kasei), the Toshinari Takaoka-coached Hiroki Kadota (Team Kanebo) and others talked about their plans in terms of Kawauchi's performance pre-race, and throughout the live broadcast announcer's couldn't stop talking about the need to win in a time faster than his 2:09:11.

Pacer Taiki Yoshimura (Team Asahi Kasei) did an outstanding job, running 5 km splits of 15:17, 15:17 and 15:14 to take the sizable lead pack through 15 km on 2:08:50 pace before bowing out.  From there the remaining two pacers started to struggle, slowing to 15:26 and 15:35 for the next two 5 km segments. Halfway came in 1:04:36, almost dead even with Kawauchi's time, but early in the second half the pacers dropped out in quick succession ahead of schedule. The African trio of Khalil Lemiciyeh (Morocco), Felix Keny (Kenya) and Dereje Debele (Ethiopia) responded with a surge that opened a gap over the lead pack, only Maruyama staying with them and Yuji Iwata (Team MHPS) and Kohei Ogino (Team Fujitsu) trying to hang one.

Nakamoto, who had spent the first half of the race near the back of the lead pack, showed his experience by taking his time to respond, slowly moving up and bringing high-volume marathoner Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and the debuting Minato Oishi (Team Toyota) with him.  The two groups briefly coagulated before Debele began to pull away.  At 30 km he had a slim three-second lead at 2:09:18 pace, but Nakamoto and Ito soon reeled him in while Keny and Oishi strayed a few meters behind.  Ito, an experienced 2:11-level runner, soon dropped back, leaving Nakamoto and Debele to go head-to-head over the last 7 km of the race.

Debele worked the bridges, opening small leads on the downhills and forcing Nakamoto to catch up.  Side-by-side at 35 km on 2:09:14 pace, Nakamoto returned fire with a push on an uphill that got him a stride ahead.  Debele remained tucked in behind him, looking to believe in his chances of winning in a last sprint, but just before 39 km Nakamoto had had enough and went for it. In a blink he was away, and away for good as Debele receded into the background.  His first marathon win assured, all that was left for Nakamoto was the time.

Kawauchi's time, 2:09:11.  In range throughout most of the race, two slower kilometers just before his move put Nakamoto behind, and as he came onto the track it was clear that he was going to miss it.  Nakamoto broke the finish tape in 2:09:32, a brilliantly-executed win that got his name trending nationally on Twitter but a time that, with two more selection races to come, raises more questions than it answers.  Does a 2:09:32 win outweigh a 2:09:11 for 3rd against tougher competition?  Only the JAAF knows the answer.  But whatever the outcome, Nakamoto's win marked a welcome comeback for one of Japan's greatest.

Behind him, Debele held on to 2nd in 2:10:23.  Kicking from the third pack at 30 km, Ryo Kiname (Team MHPS) came up all the way to 3rd in a PB of 2:10:30 just ahead of Oishi, who overcame a series of ups and downs mid-race for 4th in a quality debut time of 2:10:39.  Ito was the surprise of the day, taking 5th in a PB of 2:10:52 after a decline in his performances in recent years.  The next four runners behind him likewise all set new bests, an indication of the quality of the conditions and race.

In the women's race, 2014 winner Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) ran almost even splits to win in a PB 2:40:31, just over 30 seconds off the course record. Club runner Chika Tawara (Team RxL) was 2nd in 2:49:00.  Four-time winner and course record holder Chiyuki Mochizuki, now retired from the local Canon AC Kyushu team, was 4th in 2:53:29.

66th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
Oita, 2/5/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) - 2:09:32
2. Dereje Debele (Ethiopia) - 2:10:23
3. Ryo Kiname (MHPS) - 2:10:30 - PB
4. Minato Oishi (Toyota) - 2:10:39 - debut
5. Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:10:52 - PB
6. Khalil Lemiciyeh (Morocco) - 2:11:58 - PB
7. Takuya Suzuki (Aisan Kogyo) - 2:12:08 - PB
8. Yuji Iwata (MHPS) - 2:12:15 - PB
9. Keisuke Kusaka (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:12:42 - PB
10. Felix Keny (Kenya) - 2:13:33
11. Fumihiro Maruyama (Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:49
12. Junichi Tsubouchi (Kurosaki Harima) - 2:13:51 - PB
13. Kenta Chiba (Fujitsu) - 2:13:53 - PB
14. Ryoma Takeuchi (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:14:28 - PB
15. Kei Goto (Nishitetsu) - 2:14:38 - PB
16. Kohei Ogino (Fujitsu) - 2:15:10
17. Kazuya Ishida (Nishitetsu) - 2:15:26
18. Paul Pollock (Ireland) - 2:15:30 - PB
19. Toshinori Watanabe (GMO) - 2:15:48
20. Jo Fukuda (Nishitetsu) - 2:16:16
21. Hiroki Kadota (Kanebo) - 2:16:57
22. Shota Saito (JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:17:21
23. Tomoya Adachi (Asahi Kasei) - 2:17:30
24. Yoshiki Otsuka (Aichi Seiko) - 2:17:58
25. Keita Akiba (Komori Corp.) - 2:18:07
26. Kento Otsu (Toyota Kyushu) - 2:18:13 - PB
27. Jeffrey Eggleston (U.S.A.) - 2:18:42
28. Go Nakagawa (NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:19:26
29. Yuki Maeda (Honda) - 2:19:38 - PB
30. Yuji Hayasaka (Ishinomaki RC) - 2:19:53

Women
1. Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) - 2:40:31 - PB
2. Chika Tawara (Team RxL) - 2:49:00
3. Mai Fujisawa (Sapporo Excel AC) - 2:52:33
4. Chiyuki Mochizuki (Nagasaki T&F Assoc.) - 2:53:29
5. Junko Ishikawa (Restart) - 2:55:15

© 2017 Brett Larner
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