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Kipruto, Worku, Gitau and Kawauchi - Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

It’s still early in the year, but the Japanese men’s major domestic spring marathon season is already reaching its peak with Sunday’s Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Lake Biwa was Japan’s first IAAF gold label marathon and is one of its oldest continuous races, but with last weekend’s Tokyo Marathon having joined the Fukuoka International Marathon in 2:05 course record territory it is due for an improvement on Wilson Kipsang’s 2:06:13 course record. To get there it has enlisted defending champion and Daegu World Championships silver medalist Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) and former junior world record holder Bazu Worku (Ethiopia), both with 2:05 bests. The pair’s duel, or teamwork, up front should be one of this year’s main story lines.

Another is Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) and his quest for a 2:07. Kawauchi is the lone A-list Japanese man in the field this year, at Lake Biwa for the sole purpose of joining Japan’s sub-2:08 club. Since his world record-setting pair of 2:09 marathons in December he has mostly focused on shorter distances, from 5 km ekiden stages to half marathons, running his best times on some of his regular early-season race courses and a 10-mile PB before scorching an almost laughable 2:10:14 course record completely solo at the amateur-level Kumamoto Castle Marathon three weeks ago, twelve minutes ahead of 2nd place. Everybody seems to think he’s ready to do it, including Kawauchi. “If I can run like I did in Kumamoto,” he told JRN, “then I know 2:07 is achievable.” If Kipruto and Worku go out at 2:05 pace it’s debatable whether Kawauchi will roll with them, but regardless he should have company from at least 2012 Fukuoks winner Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel), holder of a 2:06:58 best.  From there it’s a bit of a gap to a solid pack at the 2:08-2:11 level. Formerly Japan-based Kenyan James Mwangi leads at that level with a 2:08:38 best, followed by Japan’s Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) Moroccan Hafid Chani and Qatari Essa Ismail Rashed.

Which leads to the third main story line, a place on the 2014 Asian Games marathon team at stake for the top Japanese men, Oda, six 2:10 men led by the very promising Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda),  second-time marathoners Tomohiro Tanigawa (Team Konica Minolta) and Muryo Takase (Team Nissin Shokuhin), the debuting Tatsunori Hamasaki (Team Komori Corp.) and Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu) and many more will be gunning to at least equal the five Japanese men who ran between 2:08:09 and 2:09:29 in Tokyo last weekend.  The fastest of the Tokyo men, Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) leads the Asian Games team consideration, followed by Kawauchi’s 2:09:05 from Fukuoka. Federation officials have said that although they hope to see him run 2:06:30 Kawauchi’s result in Lake Biwa will not impact his standing, meaning that there should be a solid group behind him competing for consideration.  If all goes well we’ll see a replay of the historic race in Tokyo.

There are also plenty of interesting darkhorses who could factor into any of the three main plots.  Particularly worth keeping an eye on are Agato Yashin Hassan (Ethiopia/Team Chuo Hatsujo), making his debut off a strong ekiden season, Rio World Half 5th-placer Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), in good shape after an on-target run at the Marugame Half last month, and Vibram-wearing 2011 International Chiba Ekiden Third Stage winner Harry Summers (Australia).

Lake Biwa will be broadcast live and commercial-free nationwide by NHK beginning at 12:15 p.m on Sunday, Mar. 2. The broadcast may be available locally overseas, with online streaming potentially available on a variety of online streaming sites. Keyhole TV is another option, with more reliable streaming available with a premium key.  JRN will also cover the race live on Twitter via the @JRNLive feed.

Lake Biwa is not the only elite-level marathon in Japan this weekend. The long-running Shizuoka Sunpu Half Marathon has switched names and formats this year to become the Shizuoka Marathon, a mass-participation full marathon format with a small elite field. 2:11:15 runner Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), 2nd behind Kawauchi at last summer’s Gold Coast Airport Marathon, leads the men’s field with his teammate Yuki Sakata (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) making her debut in the women's race.

69th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Field Highlights
Otsu, Shiga, Mar. 2, 2014
click here for complete field listing

Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:05:13 (Rotterdam 2010)
Bazu Worku (Ethiopia) - 2:05:25 (Berlin 2010)
Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 2:06:58 (Fukuoka 2012)
Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:08:14 (Seoul 2013)
James Mwangi (Kenya) - 2:08:38 (Fukuoka 2011)
Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 2:09:03 (Tokyo 2011)
Hafid Chani (Morocco) - 2:09:11 (London 2013)
Essa Ismail Rashed (Qatar) - 2:09:22 (Amsterdam 2012)
Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda) - 2:10:29 (Chicago 2013)
Kazuki Ikenaga (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:10:44 (Lake Biwa 2008)
Satoshi Yoshii (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:10:45 (Lake Biwa 2011)
Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - 2:10:51 (Lake Biwa 2010)
Keita Akiba (Team Komori Corp.) - 2:10:53 (Beppu-Oita 2009)
Ryosuke Fukuyama (Team Honda) - 2:10:59 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:28 (Tokyo 2013)
Solonei Da Silva (Brazil) - 2:11:32 (Padova 2011)
Noritaka Fujiyama (Team Sumitomo Denko) - 2:11:34 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:31 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 2:12:37 (Tokyo Int'l 2001)
Tatsunari Hirayama (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:12:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
Wirimai Juwawo (Zimbabwe) - 2:12:38 (Danzhou 2010)
Yoshiki Otsuka (Team Aichi Seiko) - 2:12:51 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Masanori Ishida (Team SGH Group Sagawa) - 2:13:07 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Kohei Ogino (Team Fujitsu) - 2:13:12 (Hofu 2013)
Yoshihiro Yamamoto (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 2:13:22 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Raul Pacheco (Peru) - 2:13:37 (Chunchon 2010)
Takanori Ide (Team Kyudenko) - 2:13:41 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Shingo Igarashi (Team Subaru) - 2:13:46 (Nobeoka 2011)
Noriaki Takahashi (DeNA RC) - 2:14:13 (Gold Coast 2011)
Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:14:23 (Tokyo 2009)
Makoto Harada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:14:40 (Tokyo 2013)
Shigeki Tsuji (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:14:45 (Hokkaido 2013)
Shinji Suzuki (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:15:12 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Yasushi Yamamoto (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:15 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Atsushi Hasegawa (Team Subaru) - 2:15:25 (Paris 2013)
Osamu Ibata (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:15:41 (Tokyo 2011)

Trying to get it right
Tomohiro Tanigawa (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:16:57 (Boston 2013)
Muryo Takase (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:20:49 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Hideto Takamine (Team Fujitsu) - 2:21:26 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Rui Yonezawa (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:24:13 (Beppu-Oita 2013)

Debut
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Team Komori Corp.) - 1:01:45 (Marugame Half 2012)
Masamichi Shinozaki (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 1:01:58 (Marugame Half 2012)
Shuji Yoshikawa (Team Kyudenko) - 1:01:58 (Marugame Half 2012)
Kenta Inuma (Team SGH Group Sagawa) - 1:02:09 (Marugame Half 2012)
Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 1:02:30 (Marugame Half 2014)
Yuki Takamiya (Team Yakult) - 1:02:31 (Marugame Half 2013)
Taichi Takase (Team JFE Steel) - 1:02:32 (Marugame Half 2014)
Takuji Morimoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:02:38 (Corporate Half 2012)
Naohiro Yamada (Team YKK) - 1:02:40 (Marugame Half 2013)
Harry Summers (Australia) - 1:03:34 (Brisbane 2012)
Agato Yashin Hassan (Ethiopia/Team Chuo Hatsujo) - 27:46.35 (Hachioji Distance 2013)

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