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36 Views of Fukuoka - A Preview

Sunday's Fukuoka International Marathon has enough going on to make it one of the most exciting races in decades of its 71-year history. Olympic and world champ Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda). Heir apparent to the Wanjiru memory Bedan Karoki (Kenya/DeNA). Norwegian wonder Sondre Moen. Legend Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) against three scions of the next generation, Asian junior half marathon record holder Suguru Osako (NOP), former Hakone Ekiden uphill specialist Daichi Kamino (Konica Minolta), and Keita Shitara (Hitachi Butsuryu), twin brother of new half marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara. The withdrawal of three top-tier runners, 1:00:01 half marathoner Jake Robertson (New Zealand), two-time world XC medalist Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) and sub-2:10 man Fumihiro Maruyama (Asahi Kasei), hurts the depth a bit, but there are still enough story lines going on keep you guessing as to the ultimate plot.

TV Asahi will broadcast the complete race live starting at noon local time on Sunday. If you want to watch this "international" race internationally, you may luck out with an English-language broadcast in your area. You may get TV Asahi to stream properly on mov3.co. You may decide to go with one of the paid options to be found here. You may follow @JRNLive for the detailed play-by-play. From whatever angle you choose to view this monolithic race-in-the-distance, here are bios of the 36 best men in the field in haiku form to help you remember who's who and what's what. Seasonal references are considered met by Fukuoka marking the transition from late fall to early winter.

71st Fukuoka International Marathon

Elite Field Highlights
Fukuoka, 12/3/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:06:33 (2nd, Tokyo 2015)
Japan's always good
to this Ugandan legend.
His chances are too.

Lani Rutto (Kenya) - 2:06:34 (2nd, Frankfurt 2015)
His horse is quite dark.
He ran a fast time just once,
his lone sub-2:10.

Bedan Karoki (Kenya/DeNA) - 2:07:41 (3rd, London 2017)
Let's hope he becomes
the next Sammy Wanjiru,
in all the good ways.

Amanuel Mesel (Eritrea) - 2:08:18 (4th, Warsaw 2015)
Podium last year.
If it goes near 2:08
he should be in it.

Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) - 2:08:48 (1st, Fukuoka Int'l 2016)
The winner last year,
his medal days may be gone
but he can still race.

Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:08:50 (3rd, Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
More of a coach now,
three years ago at this race
he set the NR.

Satoru Sasaki (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:08:56 (3rd, Fukuoka Int'l 2015)
An Olympian,
the fastest Japanese man
in Fukuoka.

Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:09:01 (2nd, Gold Coast 2016)
Here are the young men.
Youth versus experience.
Experience counts.

Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:09:27 (1st, Beppu-Oita 2016)
Winning his debut,
this Japan-based African
has yet to improve.

Takuya Fukatsu (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:31 (5th, Biwako 2016)
National champ team.
He's a Komazawa grad.
Time for a comeback.

Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:03 (7th, Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
A sad claim to fame:
Japan's best marathoner
never sub-2:10.

Sondre Moen (Norway) - 2:10:07 (3rd, Hannover 2017)
A sub-60 half
may suggest a 2:06.
"No way!" you might say.

Suguru Osako (Japan/Nike Oregon Project) - 2:10:28a (3rd, Boston 2017)
The second coming?
That's what the media say.
Boston went OK.

Hayato Sonoda (Japan/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:10:40 (4th, Fukuoka Int'l 2016)
A Texan winner,
his do-or-die race last year
burned both big and bright.

Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:10:52 (5th, Beppu-Oita 2017)
A frequent racer,
he set his PB this spring.
One more for the road?

Paulo Roberto Paula (Brazil) - 2:11:02 (6th, Fukuoka Int'l 2015)
Also races lots.
He has used his gold label
to travel the world.

Michael Githae (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:11:40 (1st, Shizuoka 2017)
A young club runner,
he won his first marathon
at a low-key race.

Kohei Ogino (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:11:42a (3rd, Nagano 2015)
3rd in Nagano
is his biggest claim to fame.
Beat Fukatsu there.

Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:11:46 (4th, Biwako 2015)
A once-proud lion.
Four World Champs never went well.
Now, career's twilight.

Tadashi Suzuki (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:12:09 (2nd, Shizuoka 2017)
Small race specialist.
His two big races to date
were his two slowest.

Yuki Sato (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:12:14 (11th, London 2016)
Promise unfulfilled.
The potential to become
Japan's all-time best.

Kazuya Ishida (Japan/Nishitetsu) - 2:12:25 (4th, Beppu-Oita 2016)
Won Nobeoka
in 2012 debut.
It's still his PB.

Keisuke Kusaka (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:12:42 (9th, Beppu-Oita 2017)
He and Shitara
ran together at Toyo
and once again now.

Daisuke Uekado (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:12:58 (10th, Biwako 2017)
From Kansai Region,
he didn't run Hakone.
Two good marathons.

Yoshiki Takenouchi (NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:13:33 (11th, Biwako 2017)
2:13 debut
and strong throughout track season.
He's had a good year.

Yuki Munakata (Kanebo) - 2:13:53 (8th, Beppu-Oita 2016)
When your coach is the
national record holder
and you're 2:13.

Tyler Pennell (U.S.A.) - 2:14:57 (5th, L.A. Olympic Trials 2017)
National Champs? Nope.
His choice was Fukuoka.
The question is why.

Yusuke Tobimatsu (Hioki City Hall) - 2:15:32 (1st, Kagoshima 2017)
Frontran here last year,
then scored PB hometown win.
He's an amateur.

Kazuki Tomaru (Toyota) - 2:18:39 (16th, Fukuoka Int'l 2015)
He once quit running,
then ran 2:11 twice.
Luckless last three years.

Collis Birmingham (Australia) - 1:02:01 (11th, Marugame Half 2016)
"There's no place like home....."
That's how a bad debut feels.
Second time lucky?

Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/JFE Steel) - 1:00:18 (1st, Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Followed Karoki
to run at Sera High School.
Together again.

Daichi Kamino (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:01:04 (5th, Marugame Half 2017)
Can a college star
slip the bonds of early fame
and rise higher still?

Keita Shitara (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 1:01:12 (5th, Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
His brother, a twin,
tore it up in his debut.
Now it's his turn.

Jake Robertson (New Zealand) - 1:00:01 (1st, Lisbon Half 2017) - WITHDRAWN
O bro, where art thou?
DNF in your debut?
I'm not your mirror.

Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) - 2:22:36 (57th, Tokyo 2016) - WITHDRAWN
For his second try,
this World XC medalist
returns to Japan.

Fumihiro Maruyama (Japan/Asaki Kasei) - 2:09:36 (6th, Biwako 2016) - WITHDRAWN
A thrilling debut
lacking only self-control.
Has he got it now?

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Comments

TokyoRacer said…
A haiku preview!
Of the complete elite field.
Has to be a first!
Alexxandr said…
Йемане Тсегай победит с 2.06.50,Сондре Моэн покажет 2.07.30 и Сугуро Осако-2.07.35
Brett Larner said…
Not sure about Yemane but I wouldn't argue with the other two predictions, Alexxandr.
Scosid said…
Do you know if there is live tracking to follow particular runners?
Brett Larner said…
This site usually has live split for the top group of runners: http://www.kbc.co.jp/sports/f-marathon/
Alexxandr said…
Недооценил я Сондре Моэна!
Dave Fujiwara said…
Truth in poetry, well foretold.

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