Last year the Hokkaido Marathon saw the first pair of Japanese athletes qualify for the new MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials event, with winners Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) and Akinobu Murasawa (Nissin Shokuhin) winning under the time standards they needed for MGC qualification. Since then the numbers have grown to 13 men and 6 women on the qualifier list with another 16 women and 34 men halfway there thanks to an option for qualifying via a two-race average time standard. As an August event Hokkaido is always on the hot side, but success there might predict success in Tokyo 2020 and easier time standards than any of the other domestic options for MGC qualification there's no shortage of top-level Japanese talent lining up to give it a go this year.
The winning Japanese woman in Hokkaido will qualify for the MGC race if under 2:32:00, with up to 5 more qualifying if under 2:30:00. London World Championships team member Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) leads the women's list with a 2:23:47 in Nagoya last year. Kiyota and training partner Yuka Ando have struggled since London due to the abrupt departure of their coach from the Suzuki organization, but even so she is far beyond anyone else on the list in ability. Michi Numata (Toyota Jidoshokki) and Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) are the only other women on the list who have broken 2:30 in the last three years and together form Kiyota's most likely competition. All three have already scored one race within the MGC qualifying window, Kato the fastest with a 2:28:12 in Hofu last year.
Another possible contender is collegiate national record holder Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu) with a 2:22:48 best from Nagoya 2015. Maeda returned from a long injury this spring with a tentative 2:30:54 in Nagoya this year and won't need much of a jump from there to be competitive in Hokkaido. Past 10000 m national champ Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post) was previously announced as making her marathon debut in Hokkaido. Both Maeda and Suzuki can take encouragement from their teammates' successful debuts this year though, Maeda from Mizuki Matsuda's 2:22:44 win in Osaka and Suzuki from Hanami Sekine's 2:23:07 in Nagoya.
Three current sub-2:10 men top the other half of the entry list, where a 2:15:00 win or sub-2:13:00 finish inside the top 6 will land you inside the MGC fold. Takuya Fukatsu (Asahi Kasei) has the fastest current mark with a 2:09:31 in Lake Biwa two year ago but a DNF in the same race this spring. Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) is Japan's best contemporary championships marathoner and ran a half marathon PB in January in prep for the Boston Marathon only to suffer a stress fracture and sit Boston out. What a different race that would have been had he been there. Jo Fukuda (Nishitetsu) was the unknown sensation of the Gold Coast Marathon earlier this month with a dramatic if unsuccessful come-from-behind near-miss on the win at 2:09:52 for 3rd. Incredibly, he is doubling back from that to try to nail down his MGC qualification before ekiden season takes off.
Outside the three favorites Shohei Otsuka (Kyudenko) leads the list of people with one solid run to their names inside the MGC window, a 2:10:12 on his resume at Beppu-Oita in February. Hakone Ekiden fans will be most excited about under-20 Japanese marathon record holder Yuta Shimoda (GMO), running his first marathon since his graduation from Hakone heavyweight Aoyama Gakuin University this spring.
2018 Hokkaido Marathon Elite Field HighlightsSapporo, Hokkaido, 8/26/18
times listed are best within last three years except where noted
complete elite field listing
Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:23:47 (Nagoya Women's 2017)
Michi Numata (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 2:27:27 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) - 2:28:12 (Hofu 2017)
Ayaka Inoue (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:30:43 (Nagoya Women's 2018)
Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu) - 2:30:54 (Nagoya Women's 2018)
Yukiko Okuno (Shiseido) - 2:31:17 (Tokyo 2016)
Ayano Ikemitsu (Kagoshima Ginko) - 2:31:21 (Nagoya Women's 2018)
Kikuyo Tsuzaki (Noritz) - 2:31:33 (Riga 2017)
Saki Tokoro (Kyocera) - 2:33:41 (Kagoshima 2018)
Sakie Arai (Higo Ginko) - 2:34:40 (Osaka Women's 2017)
Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post) - 31:18.16 (Stanford 10000m 2016)
Takuya Fukatsu (Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:31 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) - 2:09:32 (Beppu-OIta 2017)
Jo Fukuda (Nishitetsu) - 2:09:52 (Gold Coast 2018)
Shohei Otsuka (Kyudenko) - 2:10:12 (Beppu-Oita 2018)
Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:10:52 (Beppu-Oita 2017)
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Nanyo City Hall) - 2:11:26 (Hofu 2017)
Yuta Shimoda (GMO) - 2:11:34 (Tokyo 2016)
Tadashi Suzuki (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:12:09 (Shizuoka 2017)
Tomohiro Tanigawa (Konica Minolta) - 2:12:13 (Sydney 2016)
Yuji Iwata (MHPS) - 2:12:15 (Beppu-Oita 2017)
Ryoichi Matsuo (Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:19 (Nobeoka 2018)
Yasuyuki Nakamura (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:12:36 (Hofu 2017)
Shogo Kanezane (Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:58 (Hofu 2017)
Shingo Igarashi (Josai Univ. Staff) - 2:13:15 (Katsuta 2016)
Soji Ikeda (Yakult) - 2:13:27 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Yoshiki Koizumi (Raffine) - 2:13:50 (Tokyo 2018)
© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved