Skip to main content

36 Views of Fukuoka - A Preview

Sunday's Fukuoka International Marathon has enough going on to make it one of the most exciting races in decades of its 71-year history. Olympic and world champ Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda). Heir apparent to the Wanjiru memory Bedan Karoki (Kenya/DeNA). Norwegian wonder Sondre Moen. Legend Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) against three scions of the next generation, Asian junior half marathon record holder Suguru Osako (NOP), former Hakone Ekiden uphill specialist Daichi Kamino (Konica Minolta), and Keita Shitara (Hitachi Butsuryu), twin brother of new half marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara. The withdrawal of three top-tier runners, 1:00:01 half marathoner Jake Robertson (New Zealand), two-time world XC medalist Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) and sub-2:10 man Fumihiro Maruyama (Asahi Kasei), hurts the depth a bit, but there are still enough story lines going on keep you guessing as to the ultimate plot.

TV Asahi will broadcast the complete race live starting at noon local time on Sunday. If you want to watch this "international" race internationally, you may luck out with an English-language broadcast in your area. You may get TV Asahi to stream properly on mov3.co. You may decide to go with one of the paid options to be found here. You may follow @JRNLive for the detailed play-by-play. From whatever angle you choose to view this monolithic race-in-the-distance, here are bios of the 36 best men in the field in haiku form to help you remember who's who and what's what. Seasonal references are considered met by Fukuoka marking the transition from late fall to early winter.

71st Fukuoka International Marathon

Elite Field Highlights
Fukuoka, 12/3/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:06:33 (2nd, Tokyo 2015)
Japan's always good
to this Ugandan legend.
His chances are too.

Lani Rutto (Kenya) - 2:06:34 (2nd, Frankfurt 2015)
His horse is quite dark.
He ran a fast time just once,
his lone sub-2:10.

Bedan Karoki (Kenya/DeNA) - 2:07:41 (3rd, London 2017)
Let's hope he becomes
the next Sammy Wanjiru,
in all the good ways.

Amanuel Mesel (Eritrea) - 2:08:18 (4th, Warsaw 2015)
Podium last year.
If it goes near 2:08
he should be in it.

Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) - 2:08:48 (1st, Fukuoka Int'l 2016)
The winner last year,
his medal days may be gone
but he can still race.

Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:08:50 (3rd, Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
More of a coach now,
three years ago at this race
he set the NR.

Satoru Sasaki (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:08:56 (3rd, Fukuoka Int'l 2015)
An Olympian,
the fastest Japanese man
in Fukuoka.

Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:09:01 (2nd, Gold Coast 2016)
Here are the young men.
Youth versus experience.
Experience counts.

Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:09:27 (1st, Beppu-Oita 2016)
Winning his debut,
this Japan-based African
has yet to improve.

Takuya Fukatsu (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:31 (5th, Biwako 2016)
National champ team.
He's a Komazawa grad.
Time for a comeback.

Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:03 (7th, Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
A sad claim to fame:
Japan's best marathoner
never sub-2:10.

Sondre Moen (Norway) - 2:10:07 (3rd, Hannover 2017)
A sub-60 half
may suggest a 2:06.
"No way!" you might say.

Suguru Osako (Japan/Nike Oregon Project) - 2:10:28a (3rd, Boston 2017)
The second coming?
That's what the media say.
Boston went OK.

Hayato Sonoda (Japan/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:10:40 (4th, Fukuoka Int'l 2016)
A Texan winner,
his do-or-die race last year
burned both big and bright.

Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:10:52 (5th, Beppu-Oita 2017)
A frequent racer,
he set his PB this spring.
One more for the road?

Paulo Roberto Paula (Brazil) - 2:11:02 (6th, Fukuoka Int'l 2015)
Also races lots.
He has used his gold label
to travel the world.

Michael Githae (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:11:40 (1st, Shizuoka 2017)
A young club runner,
he won his first marathon
at a low-key race.

Kohei Ogino (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:11:42a (3rd, Nagano 2015)
3rd in Nagano
is his biggest claim to fame.
Beat Fukatsu there.

Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:11:46 (4th, Biwako 2015)
A once-proud lion.
Four World Champs never went well.
Now, career's twilight.

Tadashi Suzuki (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:12:09 (2nd, Shizuoka 2017)
Small race specialist.
His two big races to date
were his two slowest.

Yuki Sato (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:12:14 (11th, London 2016)
Promise unfulfilled.
The potential to become
Japan's all-time best.

Kazuya Ishida (Japan/Nishitetsu) - 2:12:25 (4th, Beppu-Oita 2016)
Won Nobeoka
in 2012 debut.
It's still his PB.

Keisuke Kusaka (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:12:42 (9th, Beppu-Oita 2017)
He and Shitara
ran together at Toyo
and once again now.

Daisuke Uekado (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:12:58 (10th, Biwako 2017)
From Kansai Region,
he didn't run Hakone.
Two good marathons.

Yoshiki Takenouchi (NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:13:33 (11th, Biwako 2017)
2:13 debut
and strong throughout track season.
He's had a good year.

Yuki Munakata (Kanebo) - 2:13:53 (8th, Beppu-Oita 2016)
When your coach is the
national record holder
and you're 2:13.

Tyler Pennell (U.S.A.) - 2:14:57 (5th, L.A. Olympic Trials 2017)
National Champs? Nope.
His choice was Fukuoka.
The question is why.

Yusuke Tobimatsu (Hioki City Hall) - 2:15:32 (1st, Kagoshima 2017)
Frontran here last year,
then scored PB hometown win.
He's an amateur.

Kazuki Tomaru (Toyota) - 2:18:39 (16th, Fukuoka Int'l 2015)
He once quit running,
then ran 2:11 twice.
Luckless last three years.

Collis Birmingham (Australia) - 1:02:01 (11th, Marugame Half 2016)
"There's no place like home....."
That's how a bad debut feels.
Second time lucky?

Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/JFE Steel) - 1:00:18 (1st, Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Followed Karoki
to run at Sera High School.
Together again.

Daichi Kamino (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:01:04 (5th, Marugame Half 2017)
Can a college star
slip the bonds of early fame
and rise higher still?

Keita Shitara (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 1:01:12 (5th, Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
His brother, a twin,
tore it up in his debut.
Now it's his turn.

Jake Robertson (New Zealand) - 1:00:01 (1st, Lisbon Half 2017) - WITHDRAWN
O bro, where art thou?
DNF in your debut?
I'm not your mirror.

Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) - 2:22:36 (57th, Tokyo 2016) - WITHDRAWN
For his second try,
this World XC medalist
returns to Japan.

Fumihiro Maruyama (Japan/Asaki Kasei) - 2:09:36 (6th, Biwako 2016) - WITHDRAWN
A thrilling debut
lacking only self-control.
Has he got it now?

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Comments

TokyoRacer said…
A haiku preview!
Of the complete elite field.
Has to be a first!
Alexxandr said…
Йемане Тсегай победит с 2.06.50,Сондре Моэн покажет 2.07.30 и Сугуро Осако-2.07.35
Brett Larner said…
Not sure about Yemane but I wouldn't argue with the other two predictions, Alexxandr.
Scott Stacey said…
Do you know if there is live tracking to follow particular runners?
Brett Larner said…
This site usually has live split for the top group of runners: http://www.kbc.co.jp/sports/f-marathon/
Alexxandr said…
Недооценил я Сондре Моэна!
Dave Fujiwara said…
Truth in poetry, well foretold.

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half …

Kenyans Kabuu, Jemeli and Cheyech Lead Nagoya Women's Marathon Field

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, one with a long history as an elite race and adapting to the times with a mass-participation field of 20,000. The last few years it has seen a series of dynamic, high-level performances by top Japanese women, from Sairi Maeda's 2:22:48 in 2015 to the 2:23:19 to 2:23:20 sprint finish battle between Tomomi Tanaka and Rei Ohara in 2016 to Yuka Ando's stellar 2:21:36 debut and teammate Mao Kiyota's 2:23:47 breakthrough last year.

Maeda, Ohara and Kiyota all return this year to face the Kenyan trio of Lucy Kabuu, Valary Jemeli and Flomena Cheyech Daniel. Kabuu went to high school in Japan before moving on to the big leagues, but she hasn't finished a marathon since her 2:20:21 in Dubai 2015. Cheyech also used to be based in Japan as is a familiar face here, winning the last two Saitama International Marathons. Jemeli is making her Japanese debut, and with a 2:21:57 win in Prague and a 2:20:53 …

Kipsang Talking Loud and Aga Mumbling Bold - Tokyo Marathon Preview

After stepping up to the big leagues last year with course records in the 2:03 and 2:19 range, the Tokyo Marathon hopes to go one better this year. Men's course record setter Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) is back, stepping up from a 2:03:50 prediction for Tokyo in January to a 2:02:50 world record prediction at Friday's pre-race press conference. In the unmentioned absence of women's course record breaker Sarah Chepchirchir the top-ranked woman is Ruti Aga (Ethiopia), coming in hot off a 1:06:39 win last month in Houston and turning heads at the press conference with a boldly mumbled 2:18:00 prediction.

Management for both Kipsang and Aga were skeptical to JRN of their athletes' predictions, people from each camp saying times two minutes slower would be more likely, one minute slower in a best-case scenario. But whatever the prediction, Kipsang was clear to fellow past champs Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) and Dickson Chumba (Kenya) about one thing: he wants a more conservative fi…