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Kipsang Returns to 2018 Tokyo Marathon



A year after running the first-ever 2:03 on Japanese soil, Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) returns to lead the men's field for the 2018 edition of the Tokyo Marathon.

Women's champion Sarah Chepchirchir (Kenya), who likewise pulled off the first 2:19 within Japan at last year's race, is nowhere to be found, but in her place are 2017 runner-up Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia), sub-2:21 women Ruti Aga (Ethiopia) and Purity Cherotich Ronoripo (Kenya), 2016 Tokyo winner Helah Kiprop (Kenya), 2017 World Championships bronze medalist Amy Cragg (U.S.A.) and, in her debut, the great Meseret Defar (Ethiopia).

The restructuring of the Japanese Olympic team selection process opened the door halfway for Japanese women to take part in Tokyo, where they have in the past been barred from national team selection. No top-level women seem to have taken the bait, however, leaving the home crowd, a collection of recently-reitred and developing corporate runners and upper-tier amateurs, one level below the internationals. At the 2:31~32 level Yukiko Okuno (Shiseido) and Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) are the probable favorites for top Japanese, but look also for the last two Osaka Marathon winners Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) and Yoshiko Sakamoto (YWC) to try to break into the top ten.

Before the 2017 race Kipsang said he would tackle the world record on the new and nominally improved Tokyo course, but, mostly alone after 30 km it took all he had to run 2:03:58. He's back as the favorite despite a pair of DNFs in Berlin and his primary tuneup race for it last year, having turned in a 2:10-level runner-up day in NYC in November. On paper his toughest competition are Ethiopians Tesfaye Abera and Tsegaye Mekonnen, both with 2:04 times from Dubai two years ago but right around 2:07 at their best since then. 2014 and 2016 Tokyo winners Dickson Chumba (Kenya) and Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) and the last two years' runners-up Gideon Kipketer (Kenya) and Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) are all back, but a darkhorse contender for KIpsang's toughest competition may be Amos Kipyego (Kenya), 2:05 in both of his marathons last year including a win in Seoul. A wildcard is the talented Simon Kariuki (Kenya/Nihon Yakka Univ.), winner of November's Ageo City Half Marathon and entered in both Beppu-Oita and Tokyo for his debut.

Last year three Japanese men, Yuta Shitara (Honda), Hiroto Inoue (MHPS) and Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei) tried to stay with the lead group, Inoue toughing out a 2:08:22 after going through halfway just under 1:03, Shitara more or less surviving a wild 1:01:55 first half to end up in 2:09:27 in his debut, and Ichida fading in his own debut to 2:19:24. All three are back along with Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Konica Minolta), 10th last year in 2:09:12. Shitara's 2:09 Honda teammates Hiroaki Sano and Suehiro Ishikawa add to the sub-2:10 depth, and further down there are plenty of names like Tadashi Isshiki (GMO), Yuki Sato (Nissin Shokuhin), Daichi Kamino (Konica Minolta), Chihiro Miyawaki (Toyota) and Akinobu Murasawa (Nissin Shokuhin) who millions of fans would love to see make a breakthrough. Hakone Ekiden stars Kengo Suzuki (Kanagawa Univ.), the 2017 National University Half Marathon champion, and Keisuke Hayashi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ), who broke Shitara's Hakone Seventh Stage course record earlier this month, add to the buzz in their debuts.

Since his debut Shitara has been on a roll, improving his marathon best to 2:09:03 in Berlin, running 10000 m and 10 mile PBs, and, most impressively, setting a half marathon national record of 1:00:17. He's won his last three races, December's Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler and the longest stages at both the New Year Ekiden and this past weekend's National Men's Ekiden. The only thing matching the level of his running game is his talk. Shitara is talking national record, under 2:06:16 to be precise, in Tokyo, a mark that would bring a nearly million-dollar bonus independent of Tokyo's prizes and bonuses via the Project Exceed program. There's not much doubt that he could get to at least 2:06 territory with a controlled and disciplined run like Sondre Moen's in Fukuoka in December, but so far it doesn't look like those are two words that Shitara would use to describe his approach to the marathon. No fear, come what may. Come February 25th, we'll all see just what that may may be.

The Tokyo Marathon will be broadcast live on Feb. 25. Foe the third year in a row, JRN's Brett Larner will host the international TV broadcast, this year presented by Fuji TV. You can also follow the race live on @JRNLive. Check back closer to race date for more detailed previews and more info on how to follow all the action live.

2018 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field Highlights

Tokyo, 2/25/18
click here for complete elite field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Women
Ruti Aga (Ethiopia) - 2:20:41 (Berlin 2017)
Purity Cherotich Rionoripo (Kenya) - 2:20:55 (Paris 2017)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:21:19 (Tokyo 2017)
Helah Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:21:27 (Tokyo 2016)
Shure Demise (Ethiopia) - 2:22:57 (Dubai 2017)
Amy Cragg (U.S.A.) - 2:27:18 (London World Championships 2017)
Anna Hahner (Germany) - 2:28:32 (Berlin 2017)
Kaoru Nagao (Japan/Sunfield AC) - 2:30:54 (Toyama 2016)
Yukiko Okuno (Japan/Shiseido) - 2:31:17 (Tokyo 2016)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:32:12 (Nagoya Women's 2017)
Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 2:33:00 (Osaka Int'l 2017)
Eri Hayakawa (Japan/J-Beat) - 2:34:27 (Nagoya Women's 2017)
Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/SWAC) - 2:34:38 (Osaka 2017)
Mitsuko Ino (Japan/Team R2) - 2:34:39 (Osaka 2017)
Marie Imada (Japan/Iwatani Sangyo) - 2:35:13 (Osaka 2017)
Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Raffine) - 2:35:53 (Osaka 2017)
Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/YWC) - 2:36:02 (Osaka 2016)

Debut
Meseret Defar (Ethiopia) - 1:08:46 (Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half 2017)

Men
Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:03:13 (Berlin 2016)
Tesfaye Abera (Ethiopia) - 2:04:24 (Dubai 2016)
Tsegaye Mekonnen (Ethiopia) - 2:04:46 (Dubai 2016)
Amos Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:05:43 (Amsterdam 2017)
Gideon Kipketer (Kenya) - 2:05:51 (Tokyo 2017)
Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:06:14 (Berlin 2017)
Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:06:19 (Amsterdam 2015)
Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:06:25 (Tokyo 2017)
Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) - 2:06:56 (Tokyo 2016)
Hiroto Inoue (Japan/MHPS) - 2:08:22 (Tokyo 2017)
Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:03 (Berlin 2017)
Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:09:12 (Tokyo 2017)
Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Suehiro Ishikawa (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:25 (Biwako 2016)
Kibrom Ghebrezgiabhier (Eritrea) - 2:09:36 (London 2015)
Mohamed El Araby (Morocco) - 2:09:50 (Daegu 2017)
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:10:15 (Hambrug 2015)
Ryo Kiname (Japan/MHPS) - 2:10:30 (Beppu-Oita 2017)
Minato Oishi (Japan/Toyota) - 2:10:39 (Beppu-Oita 2017)
Kohei Ogino (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:11:42 (Nagano 2015)
Tadashi Isshiki (Japan/GMO) - 2:11:45 (Tokyo 2016)
Yuki Sato (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:12:14 (London 2016)
Asuka Tanaka (Yutori RC) - 2:12:17 (Hofu 2017)
Kazuya Ishida (Japan/Nishitetsu) - 2:12:25 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Hiroki Yamagishi (Japan/GMO) - 2:12:27 (Tokyo 2016)
Daichi Kamino (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:12:50 (Fukuoka Int'l 2017)
Chihiro Miyawaki (Japan/Toyota) - 2:13:23 (Chicago 2017)
Keiji Akutsu (Japan/Subaru) - 2:13:26 (Tokyo 2015)
Shuichi Kondo (Japan/Tokyo Univ.) - 2:14:13 (Tokyo 2017)
Takafumi Kikuchi (Japan/SGH Group) - 2:14:34 (Gold Coast 2017)
Akinobu Murasawa (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:14:48 (Hokkaido 2017)
Naoki Inoue (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:1505 (Katsuta 2016)
Masaki Matsui (Japan/Tokyo Kogyo Univ.) - 2:15:18 (Tokyo 2017)
Kenji Yamamoto (Japan/Mazda) - 2:15:19 (Biwako 2017)
Ryohei Nishiyama (Japan/Toyota Boshoku) - 2:15:42 (Tokyo 2016)
Kazuya Namera (Japan/Subaru) - 2:15:45 (Biwako 2017)
Tomonori Sakamoto (Japan/Press Kogyo) - 2:15:56 (Tokyo 2017)
Kansuke Morihashi (Japan/Raffine) - 2:15:59 (Tokyo 2017)
Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) - 2:18:06 (New York 2015)
Takashi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:19:24 (Tokyo 2017)

Debut
Simon Kariuki (Kenya/Nihon Yakka Univ.) - 1:01:25 (Ageo City Half 2017)
Kengo Suzuki (Japan/Kanagawa Univ.) - 1:01:36 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2017)
Fuminori Shimo (Japan/Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:36 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2017)
Keisuke Hayashi (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:28 (Setagaya 246 Half 2017)

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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