The Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon is known for its winds, but at today's 68th running they held off until almost the end of the race, setting the stage for Beppu-Oita's deepest-ever field to go hard from the start. A lead pack of around 40 hit 5 km in 15:00, 2:06:36 pace, backing off a bit from there but staying on high-2:07 to low-2:08 pace until the final pacer stepped off at 30 km. As in Osaka last week and Marugame earlier today, one of the favorites fell early in the race and had to drop out, in this case 2018 Hokkaido Marathon winner Naoki Okamoto (Chugoku Denryoku), already qualified for the 2020 Olympic trials but in great shape and going for a fast time. Okamoto broke his left elbow in the fall, which will reportedly take two months to completely heal.
Qualification for the trials event, September's MGC Race, weighed heavily on the minds of the Japanese men, dozens of whom stayed with the pace as long as they could. A short way back 2:16-level American Andrew Epperson held steady, advancing through the field as people fell off and he picked them off one by one, all alone at halfway in 1:04:38 and 1:32:20 at 30 km, 2:09:52 pace with the leaders still in sight.
When the last pacer dropped out at 30 km last year's winner Desmond Mokgobu (South Africa) went on the attack, but he was quickly overtaken and dispatched by top two seeds Hicham Laqouahi (Morocco) and Abdela Godana (Ethiopia). Laqouahi began to effortlessly knock out 2:57 km splits, leaving Godama and everyone else behind and sailing on to take the win in 2:08:35 despite fading slightly after 40 km.
Yuji Iwata (MHPS), a training partner of 2:06:54 man Hiroto Inoue, was the only Japanese man to go after the African chase trio of Mokgobu, Godana and Yihunilign Adane (Ethiopia), but as the other Japanese men regrouped it quickly became a pack of five Japanese men, then just as quickly splintered as Kohei Futaoka (Chudenko) surged to catch Adane. The pair of them overtook Mokgobu and worked together to try to move on Godana, while behind them Iwata and Ryo Hashimoto (GMO) did the same.
And from there all that changed was the distance between the different pairs and the estimate of how many Japanese men would hit the qualifying standards, 2:11:00 for the first of them and 2:10:00 for up to five more. With Laqouahi winning just off his best in 2:08:35 Godana was next in 2:09:04. Adane dropped Futaoka on the track for 3rd in a PB of 2:09:11. Futaoka cleared 2:10 for the time with a 2:09:15 for 4th, Hashimoto and Iwata also joining the sub-2:10 club as they finished almost side-by-side in 2:09:29 and 2:09:30. All three made the list of MGC Race qualifiers, bringing its numbers to 24 with two main chances still to go next month for others to join them.
Shogo Kanezane (Chugoku Denryoku) just missed out at 2:10:19 for 7th but like Futaoka and the others it was a large chunk off his best. Last year's runner up Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima), who hit the MGC standard in that run, took 8th in 2:10:39, but despite not quite bringing the time he was hoping for he had the satisfaction of running Mokgobu down on the last lap of the track to finish 3 seconds ahead this time around. Look for him in Boston come April.
Epperson faded after 30 km, but with plenty of targets ahead he succeeded in taking more than 3 and 1/2 minutes off his best to finish in 2:13:11, the fastest time so far this year by an American. 100 m world record holder Nao Kazami (Aisan Kogyo) also dropped a PB, running 2:16:58. Back from him, last year's women's runner-up Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) missed her goal of breaking the 2:33:00 course record by about the same margin Epperson missed a sub-2:10, but with no real competition she took the win in 2:36:11 by a margin of over ten minutes over 2nd.
68th Beppu-Oita Mainichi MarathonOita, 2/3/19
1. Haruka Yamaguchi (Japan/AC KIta) - 2:36:51
2. Mai Fujisawa (Hokkaido Excel AC) - 2:47:31
3. Mika Nakamura (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:48:23
1. Hicahm Laqouahi (Morocco) - 2:08:35
2. Abdela Godana (Ethiopia) - 2:09:04
3. Yihunilign Adane (Ethiopia) - 2:09:11- PB
4. Kohei Futaoka (Japan/Chudenko) - 2:09:15 - PB
5. Ryo Hashimoto (Japan/GMO) - 2:09:29 - PB
6. Yuji Iwata (Japan/MHPS) - 2:09:30 - PB
7. Shogo Kanezane (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:10:19 - PB
8. Hayato Sonoda (Japan/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:10:39
9. Desmond Mokgobu (South Africa) - 2:10:42
10. Shoya Osaki (Japan/Chudenko) - 2:10:48 - PB
11. Ryoma Takeuchi (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:11:20 - PB
12. Takumi Kiyotani (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:11:24 - PB
13. Takuya Fukatsu (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:33
14. Masato Kikuchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:11:53 - PB
15. Hiroshi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:23 - PB
16. Kento Otsu (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:12:32 - PB
17. Tomoyasu Matsui (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:51
18. Andrew Epperson (U.S.A.) - 2:13:11 - PB
19. Yudai Yamakawa (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:14:23
20. Tadashi Suzuki (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:14:55
21. Masahiro Kawaguchi (Japan/Yakult) - 2:15:26
22. Daisuke Uekado (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:15:49
23. Nao Kazami (Japan/Aisan Kogyo) - 2:16:58 - PB
24. Shuhei Shirota (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:17:15
25. Yuichi Okutani (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:17:16
DNF - Justus Kiprotich (Kenya)
DNF - Saeki Makino (Japan/DNPL)
DNF - Keijiro Mogi (Japan/Asahi Kasei)
DNF - Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/JFE Steel)
DNF - Kohei Ogino (Japan/Fujitsu)
DNF - Naoki Okamoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku)
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