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Aga and Legese Back for 2020 Tokyo Marathon - Elite Field Highlights

Ethiopia is pretty far down the road to overtaking Kenya as the world's leading marathon nation, and its presence is heavy in both the women's and men's fields for the Olympic year 2020 Tokyo Marathon. Lacking London's star power the Tokyo fields won't win many nominations for best of 2020, but with loads of World Marathon Majors top three finishers and winners of next-tier gold label marathons they're still fields at a level most other races would love to be able to pull off.

On the women's side, with PBs of 2:18:34 and 2:18:46 defending champ Ruti Aga and past winner Birhane Dibaba lead a main of twelve top-tier invited elites, of which nine were born in Ethiopia. The other three, Valary Jemeli Aiyabei, nationality transfer Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, and Selly Chepyego Kaptich, were all born in Kenya.

With Tokyo not counting in last-chance Olympic qualification for Japanese women the top entrant from outside those two countries is Japan's Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita), an amateur who took 7th in this past weekend's Osaka International Women's Marathon in 2:26:35. Former Canadian national record holder Rachel Cliff and locals Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL), Risa Noguchi (Tokyo T&F Assoc.), Shiho Kaneshige (GRlab Kanto) and Yurie Doi (Chiba T&F Assoc.) fill out the rest of the sub-2:30 set.

On the men's side Ethiopians make up five of the eleven invited internationals including the top four, with last year's winner Birhanu Legese leading the way in 2:02:48. Things are heavily stacked in the 2:04 to low-2:05 range, perfectly designed to set it up for the Japanese men. Their task and its payoff are simple: be the top Japanese guy in 2:05:49 or better and replace national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike) on the Sapporo 2020 Olympic marathon team.

Osako's there to stop them, fresh off a 25 km tempo in Dubai. His main competition is previous national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda), who said last week that 2:05 isn't good enough and that if he doesn't run 2:04 in what he's calling his final marathon in Japan then he'll turn down the Olympic team spot. Shitara's got that crazy edge working, which can count for a lot, but the biggest danger to Osako is probably going to be the ultra-disciplined Hiroto Inoue (MHPS), who ran 2:06:54 in Asics behind Shitara's NR two years ago, then made the switch to the Next% this season and promptly crushed the course record on the New Year Ekiden's longest stage. Put him in the same shoes as Osako and Shitara and they'd better watch out.

Kenta Murayama has the goods to be the other three's equal, but with his sponsor team Asahi Kasei having lost the plot when it comes to marathoning it would be a surprise to see him go much below 2:08. With twelve current sub-2:10 Japanese men in the field it's one of the best domestic races ever assembled, but apart from Murayama and possibly his talented teammate Shuho Dairokuno it's hard to see any darkhorses breaking through to the level of Osako, Shitara and Inoue. Mizuki Matsuda's 2:21:47 win in Osaka last weekend bumped her up into the 3rd Olympic women's spot but left her vulnerable to others in Nagoya, but with all the main men in Tokyo it's even harder to see anyone in Lake Biwa a week later going better than what they might do here.

Check back closer to race date for more coverage and options for following the race from overseas.

2020 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field Highlights

Tokyo, 3/1/20
times listed are best in last 3 years except where noted
complete field listing

Ruti Aga (Ethiopia) - 2:18:34 (2nd, Berlin 2018)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:18:46 (3rd, Valencia 2019)
Valary Jemeli Aiyabei (Kenya) - 2:19:10 (1st, Frankfurt 2019)
Lonah Chemtai Salpeter (Israel) - 2:19:46 (1st, Prague 2019)
Tigist Girma (Ethiopia) - 2:19:52 (2nd, Amsterdam 2019)
Azmera Gebru (Ethiopia) - 2:20:48 (3rd, Amsterdam 2019)
Selly Chepyego Kaptich (Kenya) - 2:21:05 (3rd, Berlin 2019)
Shure Demise (Ethiopia) - 2:21:05 (3rd, Tokyo 2019)
Shitaye Eshete (Bahrain) - 2:21:33 (2nd, Ljubljana 2019)
Marta Lema (Ethiopia) - 2:22:35 (2nd, Toronto Waterfront 2018)
Sutume Asefe Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:23:31 (1st, Beijing 2019)
Senbere Teferi (Ethiopia) - 2:24:11 (9th, Dubai 2018)
Haruka Yamaguchi (Japan/AC Kita) - 2:26:35 (7th, Osaka Women's 2020)
Rachel Cliff (Canada) - 2:26:56 (15th, Nagoya Women's 2019)
Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Team RxL) - 2:28:24 (Nagoya Women's 2017)
Risa Noguchi (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:28:32 (Gold Coast 2017)
Shiho Kaneshige (Japan/GRlab Kanto) - 2:28:51 (16th, Osaka Women's 2020)
Yurie Doi (Japan/Chiba T&F Assoc.) - 2:29:49 (Nagoya 2018)
Andrea Deelstra (Netherlands) - 2:31:29 (11th, Berlin 2019)
Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:34:19 (Osaka Women's 2019)
Nao Isaka (Japan/Runs) - 2:36:48 (Katsuta 2019)
Hisae Yoshimatsu (Japan/Shunan City Hall) - 2:37:01 (Osaka 2018)
Mitsuko Ino (Japan/Link Style) - 2:39:04 (Osaka 2019)
Kasumi Takahama (Japan/Michio T&F Assoc.) - 2:39:49 (Tokyo 2018)

Birhanu Legese (Ethiopia) - 2:02:48 (2nd, Berlin 2019)
Getaneh Molla (Ethiopia) - 2:03:34 (1st, Dubai 2019)
Sisay Lemma (Ethiopia) - 2:03:36 (3rd, Berlin 2019)
Asefa Mengstu (Ethiopia) - 2:04:06 (4th, Dubai 2018)
El Hassan El Abbassi (Bahrain) - 2:04:43 (2nd, Valencia 2018)
Titus Ekiru (Kenya) - 2:04:46 (1st, Milano 2019)
Hayle Lemi (Ethiopia) - 2:05:09 (2nd, Toronto Waterfront 2019)
Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:05:30 (1st, Tokyo 2018)
Amos Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:05:43 (5th, Amsterdam 2017)
Suguru Osako (Japan/Nike) - 2:05:50 (3rd, Chicago 2018)
Bedan Karoki (Kenya/DeNA) - 2:05:53 (4th, Chicago 2019)
Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 2:06:11 (2nd, Tokyo 2018)
Bashir Abdi (Belgium) - 2:06:14 (5th, Chicago 2019)
Hiroto Inoue (Japan/MHPS) - 2:06:54 (5th, Tokyo 2018)
Kenji Yamamoto (Japan/Mazda) - 2:08:42 (7th, Lake Biwa 2019)
Chihiro Miyawaki (Japan/Toyota) - 2:08:45 (Tokyo 2018)
Kenta Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:08:56 (9th, Berlin 2019)
Yuki Sato (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:08:58 (10th, Tokyo 2018)
Daisuke Uekado (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:09:27 (Fukuoka Int'l 2017)
Ryo Hashimoto (Japan/GMO) - 2:09:29 (Beppu-Oita 2019)
Yuji Iwata (Japan/MHPS) - 2:09:30 (Beppu-Oita 2019)
Hayato Sonoda (Japan/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:09:34 (2nd, Beppu-Oita 2018)
Simon Kariuki (Kenya/Togami) - 2:09:41 (Tokyo 2019)
Tadashi Isshiki (Japan/GMO) - 2:09:43 (Tokyo 2018)
Ryu Takaku (Japan/Yakult) - 2:10:02 (Hamburg 2019)
Asuka Tanaka (Japan/Hiramatsu Byoin) - 2:10:13 (Tokyo 2018)
Hiroki Yamagishi (Japan/GMO) - 2:10:14 (Tokyo 2018)
Daichi Kamino (Japan/Cell Source) - 2:10:18 (18th, Tokyo 2018)
Kensuke Horio (Japan/Toyota) - 2:10:21 (5th, Tokyo 2019)
Takuya Fujikawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:10:35 (Tokyo 2019)
Daiji Kawai (Japan/Toenec) - 2:10:50 (11th, Lake Biwa 2019)
Minato Oishi (Japan/Toyota) - 2:11:02 (Chicago 2019)
Yuki Takamiya (Japan/Yakult) - 2:11:05 (Tokyo 2017)
Ryoma Takeuchi (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:11:20 (Beppu-Oita 2019)
Takumi Kiyotani (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:11:24 (Beppu-Oita 2019)
Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:11:24 (Berlin 2017)
Yuta Takahashi (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:11:25 (Lake Biwa 2019)
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Nanji AC) - 2:11:26 (Hofu 2017)
Naoki Okamoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:11:29 (Hokkaido 2018)
Masato Kikuchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:11:53 (Beppu-Oita 2019)
Shuho Dairokuno (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:21:47 (37th, Beppu-Oita 2019)

Hidekazu Hijikata (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:02 (half)
Ryota Komori (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:34 (half)
Takayuki Iida (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:10 (half)

© 2020 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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TokyoRacer said…
That's going to be a huge lead pack for the first 10k...or more.
juddy said…
Random sleeper pick for sub 2:10, Gen Hachisuka (Konica Minolta), has a sub 62 half PB, a 28:05 10000m PB, was 2nd Japanese at Kosa 10 mile, debut was at Hokkaido, ingredients are all there

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