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The Greatest Day in Japanese Men's Marathoning History

This isn't going to be a race recap. Past Tokyo Marathon champs Dickson Chumba of Kenya and Birhane Dibaba of Ethiopia running smart races, working hard after 30 km to each score a second Tokyo title, Dibaba negative splitting her way to a 2:19:51 PB just 4 seconds off the course record and Chumba running away to win in 2:05:30. London World Championships bronze medalist Amy Cragg living up to her pre-race vow to make the top three in PB time, taking 3rd in 2:21:42. Cancer survivor Satoru Kasuya delivering his best performance since almost dying five years ago, an emotional 2:14:37 for 30th.

What this is about is today, the day, the one that's been coming. Yuta Shitara getting it right, strong, unafraid, in control when he needed to be, finding what he needed when it counted, breaking the 16-year-old Japanese national record in 2:06:11 and winning a million dollar bonus for it. But not just him. Hiroto Inoue, just as strong, just as in control, never giving up even when Shitara got away, only the 5th Japanese man to break 2:07 at 2:06:54 for 5th. But not just him. Four more Japanese men under 2:09 and another three under 2:10, all of them for the first time. Nine Japanese men under 2:10, evaporating the old record of six from the classic 2003 Fukuoka International Marathon. But not just them. Amateur club runner Asuka Tanaka leading another four Japanese men under 2:11, all for the first time. And on and on.

This was the day. The greatest in Japanese men's marathoning history. The day today's Hakone Ekiden stars truly stepped up to the marathon and ran it the way that made them national celebrities in college at Hakone. The day that's always seemed frustratingly around the corner somewhere. The day that all the pent-up talent and potential broke through everything holding it back and swept away all the doubts and timidity. Is Hakone destroying Japan's future marathoners? NO. Is all the progress at the university level just maxing them out younger with nowhere to go? NO. Are today's Japanese men just a bunch of timid cosplayers who can't really compete at the international level? NO. This was the Japan that's been waiting to break through, the one that's brash, confident and strong. The one that's going to welcome the world to race them in Tokyo in 2 1/2 years. The one that knows who it is. I knew it was coming. It's about time.

Tokyo Marathon

Tokyo, 2/25/18
top 500 women's results and splits
top 500 men's results and splits

1. Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:19:51 - PB
2. Ruti Aga (Ethiopia) - 2:21:19
3. Amy Cragg (U.S.A.) - 2:21:42 - PB
4. Shure Demise (Ethiopia) - 2:22:07
5. Helah Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:28:58
6. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:30:16 - PB
7. Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 2:31:41 - PB
8. Mao Uesugi ('Japan/Starts) - 2:31:49 - PB
9. Marie Imada (Japan/Iwatani Zosen) - 2:32:00 - PB
10. Meixia Zhang (China) - 2:33:02 - PB
11. Asuka Yamamoto (Japan/Osaka Gakugei Univ.) - 2:34:26 - debut
12. Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/YWC) - 2:35:40 - PB
13. Nana Sato (Japan/Starts) - 2:37:34 - debut
14. Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/SWAC) - 2:38:51
15. Haruka Yamaguchi (Japan/AC Kita) - 2:39:42
DNF - Purity Cherotich Rionoripo (Kenya)
DNF - Anna Hahner (Germany)

1. Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:05:30
2. Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 2:06:11 - NR
3. Amos Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:06:33
4. Gideon Kipketer (Kenya) - 2:06:47
5. Hiroto Inoue (Japan/MHPS) - 2:06:54 - PB
6. Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) - 2:07:30
7. Ryo Kiname (Japan/MHPS) - 2:08:08 - PB
8. Chihiro Miyawaki (Japan/Toyota) - 2:08:45 - PB
9. Kenji Yamamoto (Japan/Mazda) - 2:08:48 - PB
10. Yuki Sato (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:08:58 - PB
11. Mohamed El Aaraby (Morocco) - 2:09:18 - PB
12. Kohei Ogino (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:09:36 - PB
13. Tadashi Isshiki (Japan/GMO) - 2:09:43 - PB
14. Akinobu Murasawa (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:09:47 - PB
15. Simon Kariuki (Kenya/Nihon Yakka Univ.) - 2:10:00 - debut
16. Asuka Tanaka (Japan/Yutori RC) - 2:10:13 - PB
17. Hiroki Yamagishi (Japan/GMO) - 2:10:14 - PB
18. Daichi Kamino (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:10:18 - PB
19. Kengo Suzuki (Japan/Kanagawa Univ.) - 2:10:21 - debut
20. Tsegaye Mekonnen (Ethiopia) - 2:10:26
21. Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) - 2:10:55 - PB
22. Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:12:17
23. Masanori Sakai (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:13:31
24. Kazuya Ishida (Japan/Nishitetsu) - 2:13:50
25. Yoshiki Koizumi (Japan/Raffine) - 2:13:50 - PB
30. Satoru Kasuya (Japan/Toyota Bosshoku) - 2:14:37
42. Yoshiki Kawauchi (Japan/Jaybird) - 2:17:27 - PB
DNF - Vincent Kipruto (Kenya)
DNF - Wilson Kipsang (Kenya)
DNF - Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Nanjo City Hall)
DNF - Minato Oishi (Japan/Toyota)
DNF - Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Japan/Konica Minolta)

photos © 2018 kanon, all rights reserved
text © 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved


I'm looking forward to your longread about this incredible day for Japanse marathon running.
jzstiner said…
Thx you for your write up..!
Metts said…
You might say the "hardcore amateur" is alive and well in Japan compared to other countries,and the only country where they might still exist today. A 2:42 for top 500 reminds me of Boston in the late 70's and early 80's. Excellent! And the women's results too! I was watching as they were doing interviews just past the finish line, just before the 3:00 mark, and the finishers just kept streaming in. Might we say running is a part of the Japanese "lifestyle".
Geoff B said…
That’s a good day for Yoshiki Kawauchi. Was he selected for the 2018 IAU 100km squad this year (or pursuing qualification)?
Brett Larner said…
Yes, it was a PB by a minute for Yoshik just a week after running 2:22 in Kitakyushu, his third sub-2:20 in 2 1/2 months. 100k selection will be based on Saromako in June.

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