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Kipsang and Kabuu Headline Tokyo Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

For its 11th running as a mass-participation race the Feb. 26 Tokyo Marathon sports a new and hypothetically faster course.  Gone are both the unpopular last 6 km through the bridge-heavy wastelands of Tokyo Bay and the old course's scenic highlight, the Imperial Palace.  In their places are a flatter course with a finish outside Tokyo Station and an additional 180' turnaround. On net it's likely to be a better course, and to celebrate that Tokyo is bringing in the great Wilson Kipsang to try to better both Dickson Chumba's 2:05:42 course record and Tsegaye Kebede's 2:05:18 Japanese all-comers record.  Both Chumba and Kebede are in the race, and with support from sub-2:06 men Evans Chebet and Tadese Tola, and a half-dozen 2:06-level athletes just behind they may just get there if the always-unpredictable February Tokyo weather cooperates.

Tokyo is one of the main domestic selection races for the 2017 London World Championships men's marathon, about which Japan cares a great deal.  Last year with Olympic team places on the line race director Tad Hayano opted not to put pacers in place for the Japanese men, insisting they go with the front group or else.  Tokyo was duly the only selection race not to be represented in Rio.  The word this year is that the situation is likely to be the same.  It's a good domestic field led by 2:07:39 man Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu), with recent 2:09 runners Hiroaki Sano (Honda), Koji Gokaya (JR Higashi Nihon) and Takuya Fukatsu (Asahi Kasei) also on board along with past greats Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Kazuhiro Maeda (Kyudenko), 2:07:48 and 2:08:00 at their peaks but only at the 2:11 level of late.

Adding excitement to the veterans is a strong next-generation contingent. Yuta Shimoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and Yuma Hattori (Toyota) both ran 2:11 debuts in Tokyo last year as university students and are back for more. Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Konica Minolta) was 4th in November's New York City Marathon, the best-ever placing there by a Japanese man in just his third marathon.  Seven Japanese men with half marathon bests under 1:03 will be debuting, led by sub-1:01 man Masato Kikuchi (Konica Minolta) and 2016 National Cross-Country champion Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei).  American Andrew Bumbalough will also be making his marathon debut.

At its heart the Tokyo Marathon remains the Tokyo International Marathon, an elite men's race.  It doesn't factor into national team selection for women despite having the strongest international women's field on Japanese soil virtually every year, and as a result top-level Japanese women almost universally give it a miss.  Among the internationals Aomori Yamada H.S. graduate Lucy Kabuu leads Ethiopians Amane Beriso, Amane Gobena and Birhane Dibaba.  The 2016 Glasgow Half Marathon winner in a smoking 1:07:22, Betsy Saina will be joining them in her debut.  The top Japanese woman is club runner Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL), who will likely be spending the race dueling with American Sara Hall.

The Tokyo Marathon will be broadcast live on NTV.  For the second year in a row, JRN's Brett Larner will be announcing the international TV broadcast. Check back closer to race date for previews and other coverage.

Tokyo Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Tokyo, 2/26/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Men
Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:03:13 (Berlin 2016)
Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 204:32 (Chicago 2014)
Evans Chebet (Kenya) - 2:05:31 (Berlin 2016)
Tadese Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:05:57 (Tokyo 2014)
Bernard Koech (Kenya) - 2:06:08 (Rotterdam 2014)
Marius Kipserem (Kenya) - 2:06:11 (Rotterdam 2016)
Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:06:19 (Amsterdam 2015)
Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:06:30 (London 2014)
Shumi Dechasa (Bahrain) - 2:06:43 (Hamburg 2014)
Alfers Lagat (Kenya) - 2:06:48 (Frankfurt 2015)
Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:07:39 (Tokyo 2015)
Stephen Mokoka (South Africa) - 2:07:40 (Shanghai 2015)
Gideon Kipketer (Kenya) - 2:08:35 (Mumbai 2016)
Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza) - 2:09:18 (Tokyo 2015)
Koji Gokaya (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:09:21 (Tokyo 2015)
Geoffrey Ronoh (Kenya) - 2:09:29 (Berlin 2016)
Takuya Fukatsu (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:31 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Yohanes Ghebregergish (Eritrea) - 2:09:48 (Berlin 2016)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:03 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Yuki Takamiya (Japan/Yakult) - 2:10:57 (Tokyo 2016)
Ryo Hashimoto (Japan/GMO) - 2:11:20 (Hofu 2016)
Yuta Shimoda (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:11:34 (Tokyo 2016)
Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:11:46 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Yuma Hattori (Japan/Toyota) - 2:11:46 (Tokyo 2016)
Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:11:48 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:11:50 (Hofu 2015)
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:12:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Akiyuki Iwanaga (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:12:24 (Tokyo 2016)
Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:12:29 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Naoki Okamoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:55 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Hiroto Inoue (Japan/MHPS) - 2:12:56 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Keiji Akutsu (Japan/Subaru) - 2:13:26 (Tokyo 2015)
Soji Ikeda (Japan/Yakult) - 2:13:27 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Yasuyuki Nakamura (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:46 (Tokyo 2016)
Tomonori Sakamoto (Japan/Press Kogyo) - 2:13:49 (Nagano 2015)
Yuki Munakata (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:13:53 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Kazuaki Shimizu (Japan/Yakult) - 2:14:16 (Tokyo 2016)
Naoki Inoue (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:15:05 (Katsuta 2016)
Saeki Makino (Japan/DNPL) - 2:15:22 (Seoul 2015)
Kenichi Jiromaru (Japan/Obirin Univ. AC) - 2:15:24 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Sho Matsumoto (Japan/Nikkei Business) - 2:15:50 (Osaka 2016)

Debut
Masato Kikuchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:00:32 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Takashi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:03 (Ageo City Half 2014)
Andrew Bumbalough (U.S.A.) - 1:02:04 (New York Half 2015)
Naoto Uchida (Japan/Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:20 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Yuki Nakamura (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:35 (Marugame Half 2016)
Yuji Serunarudo (Japan/Soka Univ.) - 1:02:48 (Marugame Half 2016)
Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 1:02:52 (Marugame Half 2015)
Akihiko Tsumurai (Japan/Mazda) - 1:03:39 (Boston Half 2016)

Women
Lucy Kabuu (Kenya) - 2:20:21 (Dubai 2015)
Amane Beriso (Ethiopia) - 2:20:48 (Dubai 2016)
Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) - 2:21:51 (Tokyo 2016)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:30 (Tokyo 2014)
Sarah Chepchirchir (Kenya) - 2:24:13 (Lisbon 2016)
Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Team RxL) - 2:28:43 (Saitama 2015)
Sara Hall (U.S.A.) - 2:30:06 (London 2016)
Kaoru Nagao (Japan/Urayasu T&F Assoc.) - 2:30:54 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:33:04 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hitomi Nakamura (Japan/Panasonic) - 2:33:23 (Osaka Int'l 2016)
Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 2:33:39 (Tokyo 2016)
Miya Nishio (Japan/Sapporo T&F Assoc.) - 2:34:18 (Tokyo 2016)
Saki Tabita (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:34:20 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/SWAC) - 2:35:49 (Tokyo 2015)

Debut
Betsy Saina (Kenya) - 1:07:22 (Glasgow Half 2016)
Kotomi Takayama (Japan/Sysmex) - 1:10:47 (Matsue Ladies' Half 2015)

© 2017 Brett Larner
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