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2015 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

Last year the Tokyo Marathon expanded on its claim to legitimacy as a World Marathon Major with new course records of 2:05:42 and 2:22:23, alongside the London Marathon one of only two races in the world all year to have 9 men sub-2:09 and its grand total of 14 men sub-2:10 making it far and away the deepest race in the world in 2014.  But the absence of much big-name talent and Tokyo's lack of genuine international orientation meant not many people noticed or cared.

Continuing to expand on its legitimacy, the Tokyo Marathon has partially remedied that by pulling in both quantity and some quality names for this year's race, especially on the men's side.  All told Tokyo features 21 men with bests from 2:03:02 to 2:09:30, the other spring World Marathon Majors Boston having 15 men from 2:03:38 to 2:09:37 and London 13 from 2:02:57 to 2:09:54.  Alongside last year's Tokyo course record-setting winner Dickson Chumba (Kenya) are Boston and New York City Marathon course record holder Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya), former Chicago Marathon course record holder Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia), London Olympics and Moscow World Championships marathon gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda), the debut of London Olympics 10000 m bronze medalist Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia) and a total of six men with bests under 2:06.

Last year's Tokyo was arguably the second-greatest marathon in Japanese men's history, with five Japanese men under 2:10 led by future Asian Games silver medalist Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) in 2:08:09.  Four of those five including Matsumura are back along with the man who pulled them there, the fastest Japanese ever on the Tokyo course, Arata Fujiwara (Miki House), his London Olympics teammate Ryo Yamamoto (Team SGH Group), 2:09 men Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo) and Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), and six more Japanese men with recent 2:10 bests.

The most exciting names to watch are Takehiro Deki (Team Chugoku Denryoku), who ran a 2:10:02 debut his junior year at Aoyama Gakuin University and makes a return to the marathon for the first time since then fresh off a superb anchor stage win at the National Men's Ekiden last weekend, and 30 km collegiate national record holder Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) who like Deki is making his marathon debut as a university third-year and likewise comes in off a big ekiden performance, a win on the Hakone Ekiden's most competitive stage earlier this month.  It's safe to say that none of the Japanese men will hit the Federation's ultra-realistic sub-2:06:30 requirement for automatic selection to the Beijing World Championships team, but the day could surpass the legendary 2003 Fukuoka International Marathon where six Japanese men broke 2:10 including three sub-2:08.

Belying Tokyo's roots as a men-only race, the women's field is significantly smaller, especially on the home front.  Course record holder Tirfi Tsegaye (Ethiopia) is absent, leaving London Olympics gold medalist Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) and last year's runner-up Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) at the top of the list.  Like Gelana a former Japan resident, Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) is another top contender after a solid 2:22:44 win in Paris last spring.  The most exciting part of the women's race looks to be the debut of another Japan-based Kenyan, 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon bronze medalist Sally Chepyego (Team Kyudenko), who comes in off a long string of wins inside Japan.

The structure of the Tokyo Marathon, counted in World Championships and Olympic team selection for men but not for women, prevents the best Japanese women from running against the best international women's field on Japanese soil every year, something that seems counter to what a World Marathon Major should stand for but which the others seem to have signed off on.  The top Japanese women are not what they used to be, but even so there is not a single top-level Japanese woman, not even one from 2014's ten fastest, in the Tokyo field.  The best is Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease), a former pro who quit the corporate leagues to go her own way with a private sponsor in the footsteps of Fujiwara.  Since then she has just dipped into the 2:28 range on her good days, but given the tiny size of the women's field even that could be enough to get her into a decent position.  If she actually runs Tokyo, that is.  Nojiri is also entered for the Jan. 25 Osaka International Women's Marathon, and after finishing third-to-last on her stage at the National Women's Ekiden this month there has to be a question mark after her name.

2015 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Tokyo, Feb. 22, 2015
click here for complete field listing

Men
Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya) - 2:04:15 (Berlin 2012) - 2:03:02a (Boston 2012)
Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:04:32 (Chicago 2014)
Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:04:38 (Chicago 2012)
Endeshaw Negesse (Ethiopia) - 2:04:52 (Dubai 2013)
Markos Geneti (Ethiopia) - 2:04:54 (Dubai 2012)
Peter Some (Kenya) - 2:05:38 (Paris 2013)
Shumi Dechasa (Bahrain) - 2:06:43 (Hamburg 2014)
Michael Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:06:48 (Eindhoven 2011)
Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 2:06:58 (Fukuoka 2012)
Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:07:20 (Enschede 2011)
Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) - 2:07:27 (Chuncheon 2011)
Adil Annani (Morocco) - 2:07:43 (London 2012)
Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:07:48 (Tokyo 2012)
Kohei Matsumura (Japan/Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:08:09 (Tokyo 2014)
Ryo Yamamoto (Japan/Sagawa Express) - 2:08:44 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Koji Kobayashi (Japan/Subaru) - 2:08:51 (Tokyo 2014)
Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:09:07 (Tokyo 2014)
Masanori Sakai (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:09:10 (Tokyo 2014)
Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Arata Project) - 2:09:10 (Tokyo 2011)
Tomoyuki Morita (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:09:12 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:09:30 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Takehiro Deki (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:10:02 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:03 (Fukuoka 2014)
Takeshi Kumamoto (Japan/Toyota) - 2:10:13 (Tokyo 2012)
Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:10:29 (Chicago 2013)
Kenichi Shiraishi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:36 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Hideaki Tamura (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:54 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Atsushi Ikawa (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:11:04 (Beppu-Oita 2010)
Koji Gokaya (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:11:43 (Frankfurt 2014)
Josphat Boit (U.S.A.) - 2:13:14 (Twin Cities 2013) - 2:12:52a (Boston 2014)
Yuki Sato (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:16:31 (Tokyo 2013)

Debut
Yuma Hattori (Japan/Toyo University) - 1:28:52 for 30 km (Kumanichi 2014)
Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia) - 1:02:11 half-marathon (Chicago 2014) - 1:01:39a (GNR 2014)

Women
Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) - 2:18:58 (Rotterdam 2012)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:30 (Tokyo 2014)
Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) - 2:22:44 (Paris 2014)
Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:23:52 (Nagoya Women's 2012)
Yeshi Esayias (Ethiopia) - 2:24:06 (Frankfurt 2013)
Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:24:57 (Osaka Women's 2012)
Yoshiko Fujinaga (Japan/Isahaya T&F Assoc.) - 2:25:40 (London 2011)
Madoka Ogi (Japan/Juhachi Ginko) - 2:26:55 (Osaka Women's 2008) 
Helah Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:27:14 (Frankfurt 2014)
Kaori Oyama (Japan/Noritz) - 2:32:51 (Tokyo 2012)
Maki Inami (Japan/AC Kita) - 2:37:34 (Tokyo 2011)
Noriko Sato (Japan/First Dream AC) - 2:38:50 (Tokyo 2013)
Lauren Kleppin (U.S.A.) 2:39:13 (New York 2014) - 2:28:48a (Los Angeles 2014)
Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/Second Wind AC) - 2:39:38 (Nagano 2014)

Debut
Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Kyudenko) - 1:07:52 half-marathon (World Half 2014)
Yukari Abe (Japan/Panasonic) - 1:13:19 half-marathon (Marugame 2011)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

TokyoRacer said…
Wow, that's quite a men's field, both foreigners and Japanese. Even Yuki Sato got in there. And isn't Sano on your list of up-and-comers?
Brett Larner said…
Sano's got potential, but I've got a very good feeling about Deki and a good one about Hattori as well. Fujiwara seems in good spirits too.
Sergio_CR said…
Hey Brett,

Just a minor correction - Tariku Bekele did 61:39 at Bupa Great North Run last year

http://www.greatrun.org/results/437/3

Sergio
Brett Larner said…
Sergio--I didn't bother listing an aided time for the half-marathon for Bekele, but okay, I will add it.
Unknown said…
Any thoughts as to what's behind the dearth of top (of the top) womens' performances in recent years?
-Anna

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