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Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Preview



Things are buzzing in Japan right now in a way they haven't for a long, long time. Yuta Shitara's 2:06:11 national record last weekend in Tokyo, Hiroto Inoue joining him under 2:07, and a record-breaking group of seven other Japanese men at the 2:08 to 2:09 level have everyone believing. Believing that they can do it too. The first test of that belief comes Sunday at the last main marathon of the Japanese season, the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.

The hoop that made so many Japanese men jump so high last week was qualification for Japan's new 2020 Olympic trials, the MGC Race. Sub-2:08:30 and you're in. Sub-2:11:00 and in the top three Japanese? You're in. Sub-2:10 and in the top six Japanese? You're in too. As Kohei Ogino and Tadashi Isshiki, 7th and 8th Japanese in Tokyo in 2:09:36 and 2:09:43, found out, people are taking qualification seriously. Lake Biwa has had more editions with five Japanese men sub-2:10 than any other marathon, and with the quality of field, MGC qualification and the momentum of Tokyo behind them, it wouldn't be surprising to see other quality performances this Sunday end up with people joining Ogino and Isshiki on the sidelines.

At the front end there's also Project Exceed at work to give major cash bonuses to any Japanese men who go sub-2:08. Defending champ Ezekiel Chebii (Kenya) and fellow 2:06 men Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland) and Abera Kuma (Ethiopia) are there to spur the fastest Japanese men on, with a few wildcards including debut sub-61 half marathoners Jake Robertson (New Zealand) and Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) likely to be a part of the lead group. Warmer than usual temps may make it hard for a 2:06 race to materialize, but the best bet for a Japanese man to be in it at that pace is Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei), twin brother of 10000 m national record holder Kota Murayama  and a sub-61 half marathoner doing his second marathon after an aggressive but ultimately unsuccessful 2:16:58 debut in Tokyo two years ago.

Proven marathoners among the Japanese men include 2:07:39 man Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu), 2017 Gold Coast Marathon winner Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta) and Murayama's teammates Takuya Fukatsu and Fumihiro Maruyama. Yoshiki Takenouchi (NTT Nishi Nihon), the only man in the field to have already qualified for the MGC Race, will be trying to go sub-2:10 after just missing it in Fukuoka. Other potential factors include debuting 61-minute half marathoners Taku Fujimoto (Toyota) and Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu) as well as second-time marathoners Shinobu Kubota (Toyota) and Keita Shitara (Hitachi Butsuryu).

Injuries, personal issues and a team transfer over the last two years have kept Shitara, twin brother of new national record holder Yuta, far back from his best, but while there's almost no chance he's anywhere near in shape to try to duplicate his brother's feat he has to be feeling motivated to cut a major chunk off his 2:28:29 debut in Fukuoka. With Robertson and Murayama also in the field it will be a rare meeting of half each of the world's three best sets of distance running twins.

NHK will broadcast the race live and commercial-free starting at 12:30 p.m. local time Sunday. The race will be streamed live on the NHK site, but as this is likely to only be available domestically it's worth trying mov3.co's NHK stream. JRN will also cover the race live on @JRNLive. Whatever the outcome, it won't take much for Lake Biwa to make 2018 the fastest in Japanese history: if one Japanese man runs 2:08:57 or better, two go under 2:09:20 or three under 2:09:25, the average of the ten fastest Japanese times this year will already be the country's fastest-ever. If the heat wave holds off it may end up another history-making weekend.

73rd Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Elite Field Highlights

Otsu, Shiga, 3/4/18
times listed are best within last 3 years except where noted
click here for complete field listing

Ezekiel Chebii (Kenya) - 2:06:07 (Amsterdam 2016)
Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland) - 2:06:40 (Seoul Int'l 2016)
Abera Kuma (Ethiopia) - 2:06:44 (Valencia 2017)
Albert Korir (Kenya) - 2:08:40 (Vienna 2017)
Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:08:59 (Gold Coast 2017)
Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:09:27 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Takuya Fukatsu (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:31 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Fumihiro Maruyama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:39 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Yoshiki Takenouchi (Japan/NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:10:01 (Fukuoka Int'l 2017)
Michael Githae (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:10:46 (Fukuoka Int'l 2017)
Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:10:52 (Beppu-Oita 2017)
Daniele Meucci (Italy) - 2:10:56 (London World Champs 2017)
Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:11:02 (Tokyo 2017)
Shoya Osaki (Japan/Chudenko) - 2:11:03 (Gold Coast 2017)
Tadashi Suzuki (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:12:09 (Shizuoka 2017)
Yuji Iwata (Japan/MHPS) - 2:12:15 (Beppu-Oita 2017)
Cristhian Pacheco (Peru) - 2:12:16 (Rotterdam 2016)
Keisuke Tanaka (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:12:41 (Nobeoka 2018)
Shohei Kurata (Japan/GMO) - 2:13:16 (Hofu 2017)
Mohammed Zani (Morocco) - 2:13:40 (Guangzhou 2017)
Kenta Iinuma (Japan/SGH Group) - 2:13:43 (Fukuoka Int'l 2016)
Yuki Munakata (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:13:53 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Samson Gebreyohannes (Eritrea) - 2:14:25 (Prague 2017)
Keita Baba (Japan/Honda) - 2:14:36 (Lake Biwa 2017)
Yohei Suzuki (Japan/Aisan Kogyo) - 2:14:56 (Ehime 2017)
Jo Fukuda (Japan/Nishitetsu) - 2:15:11 (Hokkaido 2017)
Junji Katakawa (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:19 (Shizuoka 2016)
Shuji Matsuo (Japan/Chudenko) - 2:15:22 (Lake Biwa 2017)
Takumi Kiyotani (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:15:31 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Ryohei Nishiyama (Japan/Toyota Boshoku) - 2:15:42 (Tokyo 2016)
Hidenori Nagai (Japan/DeNA) - 2:15:49 (Shizuoka 2016)
Sho Matsumoto (Japan/Nikkei Business) - 2:15:50 (Osaka 2016)
Tomoyuki Morita (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:15:57 (Berlin 2015)
Takuji Morimoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:16:22 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Kenta Kitazawa (Japan/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 2:16:52 (Hokkaido 2017)
Ryo Ishita (Japan/SDF Academy) - 2:16:57 (Nagano 2017)
Scott Bauhs (U.S.A.) - 2:23:03 (U.S.A. Olympic Trials 2016)

Second Time Lucky
Ryota Matoba (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:15:00 (Nobeoka 2015)
Shinobu Kubota (Japan/Toyota) - 2:15:48 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Kenta Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:16:58 (Tokyo 2016)
Yuta Oikawa (Japan/YKK) - 2:23:09 (Lake Biwa 2017)
Keita Shitara (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:28:29 (Fukuoka Int'l 2017)

Debut
Jake Robertson (New Zealand) - 1:00:01 (Houston Half 2018)
Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) - 1:00:57 (Gifu Seiryu Half 2017)
Taku Fujimoto (Japan/Toyota) - 1:01:51 (Marugame 2016)
Shogo Nakamura (Japan/Fujitsu) - 1:01:53 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)
Yuta Takahashi (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:02:13 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Kenya Sonota (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:20 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Yuki Matsumura (Japan/Honda) - 1:02:46 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2014)
Daiji Kawai (Japan/Toenec) - 1:02:47 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)
Kyota Yabushita (Japan/Osaka Gas) - 1:02:56 (Marugame 2016)
Wataru Tochigi (Japan/Juntendo Univ.) - 1:03:00 (Marugame 2016)

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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