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MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier - Naoki Okamoto

Naoki Okamoto

age: 35
sponsor: Chugoku Denryoku
graduated from: Tottori Chuo Ikuei H.S., Meiji University

best time inside MGC window:
2:11:29, 1st, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon

PB: 2:11:29, 1st, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon

other PBs:
5000 m: 13:37.71 (2009) 10000 m: 28:05.84 (2011) half marathon: 1:02:16 (2009)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
DNF, 2019 Beppu-Oita Marathon
1st, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon, 2:11:29 – PB
DNF, 2018 Boston Marathon

other major results:
4th, 2019 Shibetsu Half Marathon, 1:03:53
2nd, 2019 New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage (22.4 km), 1:05:13
1st, 2018 Chugoku Corporate Ekiden Sixth Stage (19.0 km), 56:25 – CR
1st, 2018 Ome 30 km Road Race, 1:33:09
21st, 2017 Tokyo Marathon, 2:13:53

We’re picking Okamoto as our official dark horse of the men’s race. The second-oldest man in a field, Okamoto is a journeyman corporate leaguer who never broke 2:12 and whose PBs all came a decade ago. But, nearing the end of his career, over the last two years he has really come on strong in all the right races. A win at last year’s tough and hilly Ome 30 km scored him an invitation to the Boston Marathon where he DNFd in the cold. Bouncing back from that, he busted a 2:11:29 PB in hot conditions to win last year’s Hokkaido Marathon, the fastest ever in Hokkaido by a Japanese man by a wide margin. In ekiden season he was tough, breaking the course record on his stage at the Chugoku region corporate ekiden and then beating 10 other MGC Race qualifiers for 2nd on the New Year Ekiden national championships’ longest stage, outrun only by 2:06 man Hiroto Inoue (MHPS).

Riding that wave, February’s Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon was going to be Okamoto’s breakthrough to a sub-2:10, but at one of the early water stations he tripped in the confusion of the large lead pack, fell, and broke his elbow. Late in track season he started to make a comeback with some low-level time trials, then at the late July Shibetsu Half Marathon he made a complete return, running 1:03:53 in hot conditions for 4th and beating every MGC Race qualifier except Daiichi Kamino (New Balance). With a month and a half to go from there to the MGC Race you can be sure he’s going to be even sharper on the big day. It’ll be no joke for him to take down some of the younger competition like Inoue, Yuta Shitara (Honda) and Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project), but all the signs are pointing in the right direction for Okamoto to be in it til the end.

Next profile: Daiji Kawai (Toenec).

© 2019 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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