In its fourth edition the Saitama International Marathon has taken a step up in quality thanks mostly to a move from mid-November to mid-December. Its previous timing meant that no top-level corporate league women could take part due to scheduling conflicts with the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships, but with Saitama now coming afterward there's a noticeable increase in the quantity of domestic talent.
The international field is fronted by current Ethiopian Workneh Debele, 2:19:53 in Dubai earlier this year, and former Ethiopian Shitaye Habtegebrel of Bahrain, winner of this year's Hamburg Marathon in 2:24:51 and last year's Saitama runner-up. 20-year-old Dalila Gosa of Bahrain and Celia Sullohern of Australia add numbers to the sub-2:30 contingent, with Sylvia Jebiwot Kibet the lone Kenyan in the field.
The home crew will be looking to key off the internationals to pull them through Saitama's challenging course full of rolling hills and turnarounds to a qualifying mark for the MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials. Only eight women have met the qualifying standards so far, and with a March deadline to qualify its getting into the final countdown for others to join the list. In Saitama the first three Japanese women under 2:29 will score places, with up to three more doing the same if under 2:28.
Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu) is the #1-ranked Japanese woman with a best of 2:23:47 from last year's Nagoya Women's Marathon, but with her coach abruptly leaving the Suzuki team shortly after that race she has struggled to live up to that level, her best within the MGC qualifying window only 2:28:58. Independent Miharu Shimokado (Brooks) is doubling back after a failed run at last month's Amsterdam Marathon, her third marathon of the season. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) is #3 among the Japanese women in Saitama with a 2:30:16 PB earlier this year in Tokyo, and Rio Olympics marathon team member Mai Ito (Otsuka Seiyaku) will be looking to get back into the top level of the sport domestically alongside younger teammates Ayaka Inoue and Yui Okada.
Check back closer to race date for info on NTV's live broadcast and other live coverage options.
4th Saitama International Marathon Elite Field HighlightsSaitama, 12/9/18
official field listing
times listed are best within last 3 years except where noted
Workneh Debele (Ethiopia) - 2:19:53 (4th, Dubai 2018) - withdrawn
Mao Kiyota (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:23:47 (3rd, Nagoya 2017)
Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) - 2:24:51 (1st, Hamburg 2018)
Fatuma Sado (Ethiopia) - 2:26:41 (1st, Xiamen 2018)
Dalila Gosa (Bahrain) - 2:26:46 (2nd, Rome 2018)
Maryna Damantsevich (Belarus) - 2:27:44 (4th, Berlin Euro Champs 2018)
Miharu Shimokado (Japan/Brooks) - 2:27:54 (6th, Nagoya 2017)
Celia Sullohern (Australia) - 2:29:27 (1st, Melbourne 2017) - withdrawn
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:30:16 (6th, Tokyo 2018)
Sylvia Jebiwot Kibet (Kenya) - 2:30:27 (4th, Hamburg 2018)
Ayaka Inoue (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:30:43 (13th, Nagoya 2018) - withdrawn
Asami Furuse (Japan/Kyocera) - 2:30:44 (9th, Osaka Int'l 2017)
Marie Imada (Japan/Iwatani Sangyo) - 2:32:00 (9th, Tokyo 2018)
Mai Ito (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:32:15 (11th, Osaka Int'l 2017)
Yui Okada (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:32:45 (15th, Nagoya 2017)
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