Skip to main content

Breaking Down the Best-Ever Japanese Marathon Times By Country

Japanese marathoners these days have the reputation of rarely racing abroad, and of rarely racing well when they do. Back in the day that wasn't true; Japanese marathoners have won all the World Marathon Majors-to-be except New York, and two of the three Japanese men to have run 2:06 and all three women to have run 2:19 did it outside Japan. Whatever the extent to which things did turn inward along the way, the last few years have seen an uptick in Japanese runners going farther afield and running better there than any others before them.

The lists above and below show the fastest times run by Japanese athletes in different countries to 2:20:00 for men and 2:45:00 for women. Japanese men have run sub-2:20 marathons in 37 countries around the world including Japan, with Japanese women having cleared 2:45 in 33 countries including at home. Breaking it down by IAAF label times, more Japanese men have run label standard times abroad, but women have typically performed at a higher label standard:
Men
Gold Label (sub-2:10): 10 countries     
Silver Label (sub-2:12): 15 countries     
Bronze Label (sub-2:16): 31 countries

Women
Gold Label (sub-2:28): 15 countries
Silver Label (sub-2:32): 22 countries
Bronze Label (sub-2:38): 27 countries

Of the 36 countries outside Japan where Japanese men have run under 2:20, Yuki Kawauchi holds the fastest-ever Japanese times in nine of them on three continents. In July he lost a tenth mark on another continent to Takuya Noguchi whose 2:08:59 win on the Gold Coast beat Kawauchi's Australian best by 2 seconds. Shigeru Aburuya is the only other man to hold the fastest Japanese mark in more than one country, France and Greece, impressively having done both while finishing 5th in international championship races.

On the women's side, national record holder and Olympic gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi holds the most top Japanese times at four countries including Japan, with Naoko Takahashi, Reiko Tosa and Kayoko Fukushi, all Olympic or World Championships marathon medalists, holding two each. Despite the large number of twins throughout the history of Japanese men's running, the only set of twins to each hold a top time abroad are sisters Takami and Hiromi Ominami, Takami with the fastest Japanese women's time ever in the Netherlands and Hiromi in India.

Japan will have the home soil at the next Olympics, and you'd better believe that they're going to try to maximize that advantage. Only the 1% will end up on that team. For the rank and file, there's a whole world of meaningful potential achievements and accomplishments waiting for them out there if they only knew about them.

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Comments

Anonymous said…
You did not count Takeyuki Nakayama's 2:08:21 run achieved at 1986 Asian Games in Seoul. Why?
Brett Larner said…
Because this is a list of the fastest times run by Japanese athletes in different countries. Nakayama's time is not the fastest by a Japanese athlete in South Korea, so there is no reason it would be included.
yuza said…
Looking at the lists Q-chan's Bangkok run looks the most impressive. I have no idea what the conditions were like, but I am assuming hot and humid. It boggles the mind she ran that fast.

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Ties Sub-2:20 World Record, Kato Crushes Course Record In Hofu Yomiuri Marathon Wins

Two weeks to the day after running 2:10:53 at the Fukuoka International Marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) wrapped his 2017 with a win, running one of the few negative splits of his career to win the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon for the third time in 2:10:03. Women's winner Misako Kato (Kyudenko), a 1:09:49 half marathon, soloed an almost perfectly paced 2:28:12 to take 3 minutes off her PB and 7 1/2 minutes off the course record. Further back, Rio Paralympics T12 marathon silver medalist Misato Michishita broke the own world record in her category with a time of 2:56:14.

Watch a complete replay of the race here.


Pacers Taiga Ito and Melaku Abera, both of whom ran Fukuoka alongside Kawauchi, were tasked with taking the field out in 3:06/km, 2:10:48 pace. Pre-race Kawauchi told JRN, "If they'd run 3:04 I ccoul definitely, 100%, go faster than I did in Fukuoka. In cold and windy conditions things went in his favor in the early going with 5 and 10 km splits of 15:19 …

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2017 race results: Jan. 8: Ikinoshima Half Marathon, Nagasaki: 1:06:35 - 1st
Jan. 15: Okukuma Half Marathon, Kumamoto: 1:04:17 - 6th
Jan. 29: Okumusashi Ekiden Third Stage (4.3 km), Saitama: 13:16 - 9th
Feb. 5: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama: 36:59 - 3rd
Feb. 12: Ehime Marathon, Ehime: 2:09:54 - 1st - CR
Feb. 26: Soja Kibiji Half Marathon,  Okayama: 1:04:52 - 2nd
Mar. 5: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto: 1:03:19 - 3rd
Mar. 12: Tanegashima Rocket Half Marathon, Kagoshima: 1:04:43 - 1st - CR
Mar. 19: Kuki Half Marathon, Saitama: 1:05:03 - 1st - CR
Mar. 26: Kamisato Machi Kenmu Half Marathon, Saitama: 1:05:33 - 1st - CR
Apr. 2: Daegu International Marathon, South Korea: 2:13:04 - 6th
Apr. 23: Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon, Gifu: 1:04:06 - 15th
Apr. 30: Kawauchi no Sato Kaeru Half Marathon, Fukushima: 1:05:31 - 1st - CR
May 7: Prague Marathon, Czech Republic: 2:10:13 - 6th
May 14: Sendai International Half Marathon, Miyagi: 1:03:29 - 11th
May 28:…

Tokyo Marathon to Move to March Date Beginning in 2019

At a press conference in Tokyo on Dec. 12, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation announced that beginning in 2019, the Tokyo Marathon will move from its current date on the last Sunday of February to the first Sunday of March. The next Imperial succession is set to take place in 2019, meaning that February 23 will become the Emperor's Birthday national holiday starting in 2020. The race date is being preemptively moved to avoid any potential overlap.

According to the Foundation, setting up and breaking down the facilities necessary to hold the Tokyo Marathon takes several days. With the finish area being positioned in front of the Imperial Palace there were concerns that problems would arise due to the large number of people who would gather in the area to celebrate the Emperor's birthday.

Translator's note: The Tokyo Marathon previously experimented with a March race date in 2009 but abandoned it to return to February the next year. Since 1994 the first Sunday of March has been t…