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Tokyo Marathon Preview

Riding the wave of the massive results at last weekend’s Osaka Marathon, the Tokyo Marathon is back this Sunday with what looks set to be the deepest-ever men’s marathon and strong women’s and wheelchair races in the works. Conditions are looking ideal, with the current forecast predicting temperatures of 8˚C at the start rising to 9˚C by the finish, cloud cover, and gentle 2 m/s winds. Fuji TV’s international broadcast will be available worldwide, with leaderboard and athlete tracking here.

In the men’s race, an incredible 56 men on the entry list have run sub-2:10 since 2020. The deepest-ever marathon, the 2021 Lake Biwa Marathon, produced 42 sub-2:10 performances. Given that Osaka last week had 32 recent sub-2:10 runners on its list and produced 35 sub-2:10s on a tougher course than Tokyo’s, expect things to go big.

With a 2:03:36 in 2019 in Berlin, 2021 London winner Sisay Lemma is the only one in the field to have run sub-2:04. But after a sub-par year in 2022 he’s vulnerable to the five 2:04 runners set to start. Benard Koech is the fastest of those at 2:04:09, but people like Tsegaye Getachew, Deso Gelmisa and Titus Kipruto all ran much faster last fall. Tsegaye in particular comes in with momentum, going from a 2:05:11 for 7th in Paris ’21 to a 2:06:27 win in Riyadh ‘22 to a 2:04:49 win over Kipruto in Amsterdam last fall.

The Arata Fujiwara-coached Vincent Raimoi is a dark horse, 2:07:01 in his debut for 2nd in Fukuoka while only acting as training partner for its defending champ Michael Githae. This is his first marathon with really focused training. Canadian record holder Cam Levins, 4th in last summer’s World Championships in a 2:07:09 NR, comes in off a completely solo 1:00:18 half marathon NR in February hoping for something even bigger than Oregon.

For a brief and shining moment Tokyo had the last three Japanese men’s NR holders, Kengo Suzuki, Suguru Osako and Yuta Shitara, lined up, but a withdrawal from Suzuki last month leaves Osako the fastest Japanese man in the field with a 2:05:29 in Tokyo three years ago. Hidekazu Hijikata, Kyohei Hosoya, Ryu Takaku and Hiroto Inoue have all run 2:06, and another nine Japanese men on the list have run 2:07. At the pre-race press conference Hosoya, Japan's most consistently good marathoner over the last few years, said he is in great shape and will be going for the Japanese NR, and at a minimum the top Japanese spot.

There are also high-profile debuts from sub-61 half marathoners Ken Nakayama and Chikara Yamano, the latter a member of Komazawa University’s 2023 Hakone Ekiden winning team. Sub-61 half marathoners Kazuya Nishiyama and Yohei Ikeda debuted in 2:06 in Osaka last weekend, so you know fans' expectations for Nakayama and Yamano are at record highs.

Osako, Shitara and Tokyo Olympics marathon trials winner Shogo Nakamura have yet to qualify for October’s MGC race Paris Olympic marathon trials. To get there Osako will have to run 2:08:29, be in the first six Japanese finishers and 2:09:00 or better, or in the top three Japanese finishers and 2:10:00 or better. Shitara, Nakamura and others have to clear 2:08:00, hit the other criteria, or have two marathons in the qualifying window averaging 2:10:00. With Tokyo being the last chance on home ground for Japanese men to qualify for the trials expect a massive number of them to go out under 2:08:00 pace. And to see a lot of them in Ottawa in May for one last chance at qualifying before the May 31 deadline.

2021 Tokyo runner-up Ashete Bekere is the only woman in the field under 2:18:00, but with Rosemary Wanjiru and Tigist Abayechew having run 2:18:00 and 2:18:03 for 2nd and 3rd in Berlin last fall it’s an extremely tight race. Worknesh Edesa was also under 2:19 in Berlin in 4th, and Tsehay Gemechu’s 2:18:59 debut for 3rd in Amsterdam last fall puts her in the ring too. Wanjiru has a bit of a local advantage having been based in Japan for years, but not enough to make her a clear favorite.

All the top-tier Japanese women in the race have already qualified for the trials, so they’re in Tokyo to run fast. Women-only NR holder Mao Ichiyama and Mizuki Matsuda have been at the top of the domestic game the last few years, Matsuda winning 4 out of 7 marathon starts to date and both having cleared 2:21. Ai Hosoda and Natsumi Matsushita have come up to the 2:21 and 2:23 level, so expect to see them out on sub-2:20 pace. One cause for concern: at the pre-race press conference Ichiyama started crying as she revealed she had fractured a rib in December and wasn't confident about her fitness.

Betsy Saina is back from time off to have a child, running a promising 1:08:25 for the win at the Seville Half earlier this year. 2022 Toronto winner Antonina Kwambai, Australia’s Lisa Weightman and 2022 Gold Coast winner Lindsay Flanagan are all at the 2:22-2:24 level and should form a good core of a group for any Japanese women who don’t go for sub-2:20. The 44-year-old Weightman ran her PB of 2:23:15 only last week in Osaka, so if she actually starts in Tokyo it'll be an impressive double to say the least.

The few Japanese women in the race who haven’t already made the trials will need to run 2:24:00, run 2:27:00 and be in the top six Japanese placers, 2:28:00 and be top three Japanese, or have two races in the qualifying window averaging 2:28:00. Nagoya next weekend will be the last domestic chance to qualify, but as with the men expect to see some people taking one last shot overseas in April and May.

World record holder and Tokyo Paralympics gold medalist Marcel Hug leads the men’s wheelchair race as its defending champ, his closest competition being Japanese NR holder and last year's runner-up Tomoki Suzuki. Hug and Suzuki are the only men in the race to have cleared 1:20 in the last three years, making it pretty much a rematch of last year's race, but with three 180˚ turns and a cobblestone last km the Tokyo course has technical elements that can play to the strengths of other proven racers.

Tokyo Paralympics women’s marathon gold and silver medalists Madison de Rosario and Manuela Schar are back to cover some of the same ground, facing Japanese NR holder and 2022 winner Tsubasa Kina among others.

Tokyo Marathon Elite Field Highlights

Tokyo, 5 Mar. 2023
times listed are best in last 3 years except where noted

Sisay Lemma (Ethiopia) - 2:04:01 (1st, London 2021)
Bernard Koech (Kenya) - 2:04:09 (2nd, Amsterdam 2021)
Stephen Kissa (Uganda) - 2:04:48 (2nd, Hamburg 2022)
Tsegaye Getachew (Ethiopia) - 2:04:49 (1st, Amsterdam 2022)
Deso Gelmisa (Ethiopia) - 2:04:53 (6th, Valencia 2020)
Titus Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:04:54 (2nd, Amsterdam 2022)
Mohamed Esa (Ethiopia) - 2:05:05 (5th, Amsterdam 2022)
Suguru Osako (GMO) - 2:05:29 (4th, Tokyo 2020)
Mike Kiptum Boit (Kenya) - 2:06:08 (4th, Barcelona 2022)
Brimin Misoi (Kenya) - 2:06:11 (1st, Frankfurt 2022)
Hidekazu Hijikata (Asahi Kasei) - 2:06:26 (2nd, Lake Biwa 2021)
Deme Tadu Abate (Ethiopia) - 2:06:28 (3rd, Berlin 2022)
Kyohei Hosoya (Kurosaki Harima) - 2:06:35 (3rd, Lake Biwa 2021)
Ryu Takaku (Yakult) - 2:06:45 (8th, Tokyo 2020)
Hiroto Inoue (Mitsubishi Juko) - 2:06:47 (4th, Lake Biwa 2021)
Mohamed Reda El Aaraby (Morocco) - 2:06:55 (7th, Paris 2022)
Vincent Raimoi (Kenya/Suzuki) - 2:07:01 (2nd, Fukuoka Int'l 2022)
Yuya Yoshida (GMO) - 2:07:05 (1st, Fukuoka Int'l 2020)
Cam Levins (Canada) - 2:07:09 (4th, Oregon Worlds 2022)
Kenya Sonota (JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:07:14 (7th, Berlin 2022)
Shun Yuzawa (SGH) - 2:07:31 (8th, Tokyo 2022)
Ichitaka Yamashita (Mitsubishi Juko) - 2:07:42 (2nd, Osaka 2022)
Yuta Shitara (Honda) - 2:07:45 (16th, Tokyo 2020)
Atsumi Ashiwa (Honda) - 2:07:54 (15th, Lake Biwa 2021)

Ken Nakayama (Honda) - 1:00:38 (2nd, Nat'l Corp. Half 2022)
Chikara Yamano (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:00:40 (4th, Nat'l Corp. Half 2022)
Tatsuya Oike (Toyota Boshoku) - 1:01:23 (18th, Nat'l Corp. Half 2021)
Yudai Okamoto (Sunbelx) - 27:50.64 (3rd, Hachioji Long Distance 2022)
Paul Onyiego (Kenya/FSNM) - 27:51.59 (10th, Nittai Univ. Time Trials 2021)
Yudai Shimazu (Soka Univ.) - 1:03:18 (12th, Sendai Half 2022)

Ashete Bekere (Ethiopia) - 2:17:58 (2nd, Tokyo 2021)
Rosemary Wanjiru (Kenya/Starts) - 2:18:00 (2nd, Berlin 2022)
Tigist Abayechew (Ethiopia) - 2:18:03 (3rd, Berlin 2022)
Worknesh Edesa (Ethiopia) - 2:18:51 (4th, Berlin 2022)
Tsehay Gemechu (Ethiopia) - 2:18:59 (3rd, Amsterdam 2022)
Mao Ichiyama (Shiseido) - 2:20:29 (1st, Nagoya 2020)
Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) - 2:20:52 (1st, Osaka Int'l 2022)
Ai Hosoda (Edion) - 2:21:42 (9th, London 2022)
Natsumi Matsushita (Tenmaya) - 2:23:05 (3rd, Osaka Int'l 2022)
Lisa Weightman (Australia) - 2:23:15 (4th, Osaka 2023)
Antonina Kwambai (Kenya) - 2:23:20 (1st, Toronto Waterfront 2022)
Yukari Abe (Kyocera) - 2:24:02 (5th, Osaka Int'l 2022)
Lindsay Flanagan (U.S.A.) - 2:24:35 (1st, Gold Coast 2022)
Hanae Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 2:26:49 (5th, Nagoya Women's 2021)
Kaori Morita (Panasonic) - 2:27:38 (10th, Tokyo 2022)
Betsy Saina (U.S.A.) - 1:08:25 (1st, Seville Half 2023)

Wheelchair Men
Marcel Hug (Switzerland) - 1:17:41 WR (1st, Oita 2021)
Tomoki Suzuki (Japan) - 1:18:37 NR (2nd, Oita 2021)
Kota Hokinoue (Japan) - 1:26:48 (Oita 2020)
Hiroki Nishida (Japan) - 1:27:19 (3rd, Oita 2021)
Sho Watanabe (Japan) - 1:29:23 (4th, Oita 2021)
Masazumi Soejima (Japan) - 1:29:23 (5th, Oita 2021)
Takashi Yoshida (Japan) - 1:29:42 (Oita 2021)
Ryota Yoshida (Japan) - 1:30:07 (Tokyo 2022)
Masayuki Higuchi (Japan) - 1:31:02 (Tokyo 2020)
Johnny Smith (Great Britain) - 1:31:05 (6th, Tokyo 2022)
Jake Lappin (Australia) - 1:32:50 (7th, Berlin 2022)
Jun Hiromichi (Japan) - 1:33:12 (Grandma's 2022)

Wheelchair Women
Manuel Schar (Switzerland) - 1:35:21 (1st, Boston 2021)
Tsubasa Kina (Japan) - 1:38:11 (3rd, Oita 2022)
Madison de Rosario (Australia) - 1:38:11 (gold, Tokyo Paralympics 2021)
Christie Dawes (Australia) - 1:46:44 (8th, Tokyo Paralympics 2021)
Jenna Fesemeyer (U.S.A.) - 1:49:52 (3rd, Chicago 2022)

© 2023 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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