Good weather and a good field meant great racing at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. Shuji Yamamoto (Asahi Kasei) did a stellar job of ushering the pacing crew and lead pack of around 30 through 25 km, clocking 15:05, 15:10, 15:15, 15:15 and 15:10 for each 5 km before he stepped off. The remaining two pacers Matthew Sang and Alex Kipkorir held steady with a 15:10 through 30 km to deliver up the lead group on 2:08:07 pace, just under the Beppu-Oita course record of 2:08:15.
Mirroring last year's Beppu-Oita winner Hicahm Laqouahi and since-disgraced Fukuoka winner El Mahjoub Dazza, Moroccan Hamza Sahli was quick to make a move to the front right after the pacers stepped off. But where his countrymen made off with their races, Sahli's move served more to shake off some of the pack, leaving a group of about a dozen stretched out behind him that regrouped with a few minutes.
The debuting Kento Kikutani (Toyota Boshoku) was the next to go to the front just in time for the 35 km turnaround, the buzz starting to build as he and others in the lead pack floated around Masakazu Fujiwara's 2:08:12 debut marathon national record pace. After the turnaround Byambajav Tseverrnravdan (Mongolia) made the move that broke the race open, surging to cut the lead group down to five with Sahli, last year's runner-up Abdela Godana (Ethiopia), Ogbe Kibrom Ruesom (Eritrea) and one Japanese man, Yuya Yoshida (Aoyama Gakuin University).
This was something special. Yoshida, a fourth-year at Hakone Ekiden powerhouse AGU, had never been good enough to make its starting roster for Japan's biggest race. This year in his last chance he finally made the cut, and in what he said would be his last race before quitting running when he graduates next month he crushed the course record on Hakone's Fourth Stage to give AGU the margin it needed for the overall win. And here he was, a month to the day later, mixing it up with an all-African lead group on debut and collegiate record pace with 5 km to go in his first, maybe only, stab at the marathon.
Yoshida stayed locked to Sahli and Godana looking relaxed, while the pressure got to Ruesom who quickly fell away. Over the next 2 km he bided his time until he made a surge into the lead with exactly 3 km to go. You had to love it. Sahli quickly picked it up to regain contact while Godana took his time, but when they did they hammered back, and just past 40 km Yoshida lost it.
Godana and Sahli pushed each other right to the track before Sahli kicked away, both going under the course record with Sahli getting the win in 2:08:01 and Godana 2nd again in 2:08:06. Yoshida faded off the leader's pace over the last 2 km but held on for 3rd in 2:08:30, the 2nd-fastest Japanese debut and Japanese collegiate time ever. In his post-race interview he sounded a lot settled about his post-graduation retirement plans next month.
Behind him, Tsukasa Koyama (Subaru) came up from the chasers dropped by Tseverrnravdan's move to take 4th in a PB 2:08:53, something that earned him a special place in Japanese history as the 100th Japanese man ever to go sub-2:10. And more were to come. Tseverrnravdan was 5th in 2:09:03 just off the Mongolian national record, and Takuya Fukatsu (Asahi Kasei) 6th in a PB of 2:09:06 in his final race, with first-timers Kikutani and Haruki Minatoya (DeNA) 7th and 8th in 2:09:07 and 2:09:19, Ruesom 9th in 2:09:45, and 2:08 man Koji Kobayashi (Subaru) making a comeback from years of injury in 2:09:55 for 10th. All told it was one of the deepest years in Beppu-Oita history, one that reinforced its place as the first step for Japan's next generation.
The women's race in Beppu-Oita is still a relatively recent addition, with just 147 finishers this year. 2019 Shizuoka Marathon winner Rochelle Rodgers (Australia) became the first non-Japanese woman to take the spot, running 2:40:02 to outrun top Japanese woman Eriko Yamazaki (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) for the win. The race is also a key one for Japan's IPC runners. 2020 Paralympics marathon team members Tadashi Horikoshi (NTT Nishi Nihon) and Misato Michishita (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) took the top spots, Horikoshi in 2:31:53 in the men's race and Michishita setting a world record 2:54:22.
69th Beppu-Oita Mainichi MarathonBeppu, Oita, 2/2/20
1. Hamza Sahli (Morocco) - 2:08:01 - CR
2. Abdela Godana (Ethiopia) - 2:08:06 (CR)
3. Yuya Yoshida (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:08:30 - debut
4. Tsukasa Koyama (Japan/Subaru) - 2:08:53 - PB
5. Byambajav Tseverrnravdan (Mongolia) - 2:09:03 - PB
6. Takuya Fukatsu (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:06 - PB
7. Kento Kikutani (Japan/Toyota Boshoku) - 2:09:07 - debut
8. Haruki Minatoya (Japan/DeNA) - 2:09:19 - debut
9. Ogbe Kibrom Ruesom (Eritrea) - 2:09:43 - PB
10. Koji Kobayashi (Japan/Subaru) - 2:09:55
11. Kento Otsu (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:10:01 - PB
12. Yuichi Yasui (Japan/Toyota) - 2:10:19 - PB
13. Junichi Tsubouchi (Japan/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:10:19 - PB
14. Satoru Sasaki (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:25
15. Jo Fukuda (Japan/Nishitetsu) - 2:10:32
16. Shota Saito (Japan/JFE Steel) - 2:10:50 - PB
17. Junnosuke Matsuo (Japan/Tokai Univ.) - 2:11:00 - debut
18. Yuichi Okutani (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:11:16 - PB
19. Yuki Nakamura (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) - 2:11:58 - PB
20. Keisuke Hayashi (Japan/GMO) - 2:12:31 - debut
21. Joel Mwaura (Kenya/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:13:05
22. Kentaro Masuda (Japan/NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:15:21
23. Kazuki Noda (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:16:00
24. Matthew Kipsaat (Kenya) - 2:16:11
25. Munkhbayar Narandulum (Mongolia) - 2:16:18
1. Rochelle Rodgers (Australia) - 2:40:02
2. Eriko Yamazaki (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:48:22
3. Sonoka Nakayama (Uchida AC) - 2:51:13
© 2020 Brett Larner, all rights reserved