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Paul Tergat Headlines Biwako Mainichi Marathon Elite Field (updated)

by Brett Larner

On Feb. 18 the Biwako Mainichi Marathon released the elite field for this year's running to be held on Sun., Mar. 1. Headlining the field is former marathon world record holder Paul Tergat of Kenya. The 39 year old Tergat was scheduled to run the 2007 Fukuoka International Marathon but withdrew at the last moment citing required military service, meaning that Biwako, also known as Lake Biwa and Otsu, will be his first time appearing in a marathon in Japan.

Among the foreign competition facing Tergat are last year's runner-up Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) and past champion Jose Rios (Spain). Both Asmerom and Rios recorded their personal bests on the Biwako course. Also on the bill are Abderrahime Bouramdane (Morocco), Abiyot Guta (Ethiopia), Vitaliy Shafar (Ukraine) and Pawel Ochal (Poland).

Biwako is a selection race for the Japanese men's marathon team for the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. The top Japanese finisher will earn a spot on the team, and other runners have a chance of making the team if they record sub-2:10 times. The two most likely contenders are last year's 4th and 5th place overall finishers, Yuzo Onishi (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Tomoya Shimizu (Team Sagawa Express), both of whom ran their personal bests while trying to qualify for the Beijing Olympics at last year's Biwako. Takashi Ota (Team Konica Minolta) could also factor into the action, having another go after dropping out at the 27 km point of the Feb. 1 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. Rounding out the invited domestic field are 2:08:56 runner Kazutoshi Takatsuka (Team Komori Corp.) and 2006 Biwako 7th place finisher Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei).

Several dozen other professional Japanese runners and university students are entered in the general division, including at least ten debut marathoners with strong half marathon times. The depth of Japanese running being what it is, an unexpected general division runner could well be up front challenging for a World Championships spot. Kazuyoshi Shimozato (Team Nissan), Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) and Noriaki Takahashi (Team Subaru) are the best bets for strong debuts, and with Biwako having a history of university students making major debuts we could see Hakone Ekiden runners Yoshiki Otsuka (Jobu Univ.), Yuto Shoji (Takushoku Univ.) or Ryo Waseda (Kokushikan Univ.) make a mark.

The complete lineup of the 2009 Biwako Mainichi Marathon field is available here. Biwako is Japan's only IAAF Gold Label road race. It will be broadcast live and commercial-free on NHK television on Mar. 1 beginning at 12:00 noon.

2009 Biwako Mainichi Marathon Elite Field
Paul Tergat (Kenya) - 2:04:55 (Berlin 2003)
Jose Rios (Spain) - 2:07:42 (Biwako 2004)
Abderrahime Bouramdane (Morocco) - 2:08:20 (Seoul 2007)
Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) - 2:08:34 (Biwako 2008)
Yuzo Onishi (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:08:54 (Biwako 2008)
Kazutoshi Takatsuka (Team Komori Corp.) - 2:08:56 (Biwako 2004)
Tomoya Shimizu (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:09:23 (Biwako 2008)
Abiyot Guta (Ethiopia) - 2:10:38 (Cologne 2004)
Vitaliy Shafar (Ukraine) - 2:12:07 (Eindhoven 2007)
Takashi Ota (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:12:10 (Tokyo 2008)
Pawel Ochal (Poland) - 2:12:20 (Warsaw 2007)
Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:31 (Biwako 2006)
Kazuyoshi Shimozato (Team Nissan) - 1:02:00 (half marathon)
Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:27 (half marathon)
Noriaki Takahashi (Team Subaru) - 1:02:41 (half marathon)

Update: Invited domestic elite Kazuki Ikenaga (Team Konica Minolta) has withdrawn from the race. Ikenaga was 8th at the 2008 Biwako Mainichi Marathon.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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