Mizuki Matsuda wins the Osaka Marathon (© Agence SHOT)
The Nagoya Women’s Marathon, a World Athletics Platinum Label road race, returns on Sunday (14) with a restricted domestic field because of Covid-19.
Traditionally the largest women-only marathon in the world, this year’s event will be the first mass-participation distance race to be held in Japan since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike the Osaka Women’s Marathon in January, the event this weekend will take place over the traditional city-wide course, with the usual 20,000-strong field set to be reduced to 5000 and a virtual race to be held alongside.
The fastest of the four invited elite runners is Mizuki Matsuda, who ran her 2:21:47 PB at the 2020 Osaka Women’s Marathon. Matsuda has openly stated that she wants to run a national record or at least a sub-2:20 clocking on Sunday. The race plan of her coach is for Matsuda to pick up the pace dramatically in the closing stages like Kengo Suzuki did two weeks ago when setting a Japanese record at the Lake Biwa Marathon.
Rei Ohara, Sayaka Sato and Reia Iwade are also invited. Originally Ayuko Suzuki, selected for Japan’s Olympic marathon team, was one of the invited runners but she pulled out of the race last week citing injury to her left leg.
Ohara set her personal best of 2:23:20 at the 2016 Nagoya Women’s Marathon, when she finished one second behind Tomomi Tanaka and thus missed making the Rio Olympic marathon team. Three years later at the Marathon Grand Championships, the Japanese Olympic Marathon Trials, she finished four seconds behind Ayuko Suzuki, missing making the Olympic team by a slim margin for the second time. Ohara will be running her fourth Nagoya Women’s Marathon on Sunday.
One of the promising upcoming runners is Sato, who finished fifth last year with 2:23:27 on her debut. At the national championships in December she took on a pacemaking role for her teammate Hitomi Niiya who went on to break the Japanese 10,000m record, while Sato improved her 10,000m best by nearly 30 seconds from 31:59.64 to 31:30.19 to finish third. Although Sato states her goal for Sunday as a modest 2:23, her coach thinks a much faster time is possible. With a much improved 10,000m time, she could definitely challenge Matsuda for the top spot on the podium.
Iwade has run every Nagoya Women’s Marathon since 2015 and recorded her personal best of 2:23:52 at the 2019 edition. After recording 2:24 at the 2016 Nagoya Women’s Marathon when she was 21, Iwade was considered one of the promising runners of Japan. Although she improved her personal best in 2019, she has yet to fully realise her potential.
Another notable entry is Haruka Yamaguchi, who recorded her personal best of 2:26:35 at the 2020 Osaka Women’s Marathon. Unlike most of the elite runners in Japan, she does not run for a corporate team and some say she is the fastest amateur runner in Japan. Her goal for the marathon is 2:24.
Ken Nakamura for World Athletics
Mizuki Matsuda, 2:21:47
Rei Ohara, 2:23:20
Sayaka Sato, 2:23:27
Reia Iwade, 2:23:52