Marathon season kicks off this weekend with three races featuring elite-level Japanese marathoners.
Saturday morning the athletics segment of the Jakarta Asian Games gets rolling with the men's marathon. With a 2:06:54 best from February's Tokyo Marathon Japan's Hiroto Inoue is the heavy favorite if he can handle the heat. His nearest competition, Ethiopian Bahraini Abdi Abdo, ran 2:08:32 in Rome this year, and Inoue's teammate Hayato Sonoda is the only other man in the field to have broken 2:10. With Bahrain's second man, the Moroccan El Hassan El Abbassi, ranked 4th at 2:10:57 it's pretty much a Japan-Bahrain dual on the men's side. Should Inoue succeed he'll be the first Japanese man to win Asian Games gold since Takeyuki Nakayama set the still-standing championships record of 2:08:21 at the 1986 Seoul Games. It's unusual to see an A-lister like Inoue run the Asian Games, but considering the weather conditions he'll face if he makes the Tokyo Olympics it seems like a good move for him to get in a test run now.
As of this writing start lists haven't been published yet, but with 2017 World Champion Rose Chelimo and three 2:24 women on the entry lists, whichever two athletes Bahrain fields it looks set to take gold and silver in the women's race on Sunday. The race for bronze should be interesting, with South Korean national record holder Do Yeon Kim ranked #3 at 2:25:41 just ahead of the 2:26 Japanese pair of Hanae Tanaka and Keiko Nogami and the 2:27 North Korean duo Hye Song Kim and Un Ok Jo. Of the four Japanese athletes in the Asian Games marathons only Tanaka hasn't yet qualified for the MGC Race 2020 Olympic Trials. To do that she'll need to medal or break 2:28:20 to qualify under the two-race sub-2:28 average option. Japanese women have medaled in every edition of the Asian Games marathon except the 2010 Guangzhou Games, but Tanaka and Nogami have a tough challenge ahead of them to add to that history. Whoever takes the top spots in Jakarta, the Indonesian all-comers records of 2:17:16 and 2:38:17 are bound to fall.
Other marathoners going for MGC qualification will be lining up Sunday at the Hokkaido Marathon, where they can get in via a sub-2:15 win or sub-2:13 top 6 finish for men, or a sub-2:32 win or sub-2:30 top 6 placing for women. On the women's side the favorites are London World Championships team member Mao Kiyota, Michi Numata, Misaki Kato, all of whom have run sub-2:30 in the relatively recent past, collegiate record holder Sairi Maeda, and debuting track star Ayuko Suzuki. On the men's, sub-2:10 men Takuya Fukatsu, Kentaro Nakamoto, Jo Fukuda and 2:10-level rivals Shohei Otsuka and Taiga Ito. Also of interest is former Aoyama Gakuin University ekiden runner Yuta Shimoda, making a return to the marathon for the first time since his 2:11:34 debut at age 19 at the 2016 Tokyo Marathon. Conditions at the Hokkaido Marathon are usually too hot for time to be much of a consideration, but with a major typhoon set to pass through the area the day before the race all bets are off right now about what exactly they will face come race time.
Also Sunday, Egyptian all-comers record holder Yuki Kawauchi returns to the site of his first-ever race outside Japan to run the New Caledonia International Marathon. The course and New Caledonia all-comers record of 2:14:25 set by Hiroyuki Suzuki in 2000 could be in range, but with another marathon on his schedule next weekend in northern Hokkaido Kawauchi may opt to take New Caledonia a little more conservatively.
Asian Games marathon entry lists are below. Hokkaido Marathon entry lists are here. Look also for Japan's Yuka Hori in the women's 10000 m in Jakarta Saturday evening.
2018 Asian Games Marathon Elite Field HighlightsJakarta, Indonesia, Aug. 25-26, 2018
times listed are best in last three years except where noted
Hiroto Inoue (Japan) - 2:06:54 (Tokyo 2018)
Abdi Abdo (Bahrain) - 2:08:32 (Rome 2018)
Hayato Sonoda (Japan) - 2:09:34 (Beppu-Oita 2018)
El Hassan El Abbassi (Bahrain) - 2:10:57 (Lisbon 2017)
Guojian Dong (China) - 2:11:41 (Chongqing 2016)
Kang Pom Ri (North Korea) - 2:12:53 (Pyongyang 2018)
Bujie Duo (China) - 2:13:15 (Chongqing 2016)
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia) - 2:13:22 (Fukuoka Int'l 2017)
Jae Hoon Kim (South Korea) - 2:13:24 (Seoul 2018)
Kwang Sik Shin (South Korea) - 2:14:05 (Seoul 2018)
Chol Pak (North Korea) - 2:14:11 (Pyongyang 2016)
Andrey Petrov (Uzbekistan) - 2:15:17 (Seoul 2018)
Gantulga Dambadarjaa (Mongolia) - 2:17:19 (Seoul 2018)
Rose Chelimo (Bahrain) - 2:22:51a (Boston 2017)
Desi Mokonin (Bahrain) - 2:24:05 (Dubai 2018)
Do Yeon Kim (South Korea) - 2:25:41 (Seoul 2018)
Hanae Tanaka (Japan) - 2:26:19 (Osaka Int'l 2017)
Keiko Nogami (Japan) - 2:26:33 (Nagoya 2018)
Hye Song Kim (North Korea) - 2:27:31 (Pyongyang 2018)
Un Ok Jo (North Korea) - 2:27:42 (Pyongyang 2018)
Lihua Gong (China) - 2:31:05 (Seoul 2018)
Munkhzaya Bayartsogt (Mongolia) - 2:31:12 (Seoul 2018)
Kyong Sun Choi (South Korea) - 2:32:27 (Daegu 2017)
Meixia Zhang (China) - 2:33:02 (Tokyo 2018)
Viktoriya Polyudina (Kyrgyzstan) - 2:33:25 (Shenzen 2017)
Yuliya Andreyeva (Kyrgyzstan) - 2:34:27 (Dongguan 2017)
Sudha Singh (India) - 2:35:35 (Beijing World Championships 2015)
Khishigsaikhan Galbadrakh (Mongolia) - 2:35:55 (Wuxi 2018)
Sitora Khamidova (Uzbekistan) - 2:39:45 (Rio Olympics 2016)
Eunice Chumba (Bahrain) - 2:24:27 (Rotterdam 2017)
Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) - 2:24:51 (Hamburg 2018)
Mariya Korobitskaya (Kyrgyzstan) - 2:34:50 (Dongguan 2017)
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