Dennis Kimetto breaks the 25km World record in Berlin, clocking 1:11:18 (© organisers)
With one month to go until race day (February 24), the Tokyo Marathon Foundation announced the elite field for this year’s race.
The Tokyo Marathon – an IAAF Gold Label Race – is the latest addition to the World Marathon Majors (WMM) series, and the best ever elite field has been assembled for the 2013 edition. The course records (2:07:23 and 2:25:28) and even the Japanese all-comers records (2:05:18 and 2:21:18) could be under threat.
“After gaining the IAAF Gold Label in 2010, with joining the WMM as a goal, I have been trying to recruit better quality elite runners,” explained race director Tadaaki Hayano. “For this year, as a new member of WMM, I aimed for an even higher qualify field.
“Of course I want the Japanese athletes to do well, but for that to happen I think it is important to hold a truly world-class marathon domestically with the opportunity to race against the best in the world,” he added.
Four runners with sub-2:05 PBs – Dennis Kimetto, James Kwambai, Dino Sefir, and Jonathan Maiyo – have been invited. Kimetto, the 25km World record-holder, boasts the fastest debut Marathon in history (on a standard course) with his 2:04:16 from the 2012 Berlin marathon.
Kwambai, after the titanic battle with Duncan Kibet, set his personal best of 2:04:27 at the 2009 Rotterdam Marathon. Until Kimetto ran 2:04:16, Kwambai’s time was the fastest non-winning performance in history.
Sefir, who recorded his lifetime best of 2:04:50 at the 2012 Dubai Marathon, represented Ethiopia at the London 2012 Olympics but failed to finish. Like Sefir, Maiyo also set his PB (2:04:56) at last year’s Dubai Marathon.
Interestingly, Kimetto, Sefir and Maiyo are the three fastest runners in history never to actually win a Marathon race.
Also in the field is Eric Ndiema, who broke the World junior best with 2:06:07 on his debut at the distance at the 2011 Amsterdam Marathon. He has since gone on to record two more sub-2:07 clockings in the Marathon – can he extend that streak to four in Tokyo?
To date, no one has won the Tokyo Marathon more than once. Defending champion Michael Kipyego, whose marathon best is 2:06:48, will try to change that. His namesake, Bernard Kipyego, is also one to look out for and is one of just five men in history to have broken 27 minutes for 10,000m (26:59.61), 60 minutes for the Half-marathon (59:10) and 2:07 for the Marathon (2:06:29).
Arata Fujiwara, Kazuhiro Maeda and Takayuki Matsumiya – who finished second, sixth, and seventh respectively last year – return to Tokyo in an attempt to qualify for the IAAF World Championships. Yoshinori Oda, who finished fourth two years ago, will also be in contention for selection, but perhaps the most promising domestic runners are Masato Imai and Yuki Sato.
Imai’s best time is 2:10:32, but his aggressive racing style has attracted a lot of praise, while Sato is the most anticipated Marathon debutante in years. His 10,000m best, 27:38.25 is the fastest among active Japanese runners.
Other elites include Josphat Ndambiri, who won the 2011 Fukuoka Marathon on his debut, and Mekubo Mogusu, a 59:48 Half-marathon runner who is yet to fulfil his Marathon promise.
Veteran Mikitenko takes on talented Ethiopians
The women’s field is also much stronger than in previous years. Although Irina Mikitenko boasts the fastest PB of the field with her 2:19:19 from 2008, Ethiopian duo Bezunesh Bekele and Aberu Kebede, who both recorded PBs of 2:20:30 last year, are the favourites.
Mikitenko finished 14th at last year’s London Olympics, just a few weeks before turning 40. As recently as 2011 she finished second at the Berlin Marathon in a time of 2:22:18.
Bekele won the Dubai Marathon back in 2009 but set her PB in last year’s edition of the race when finishing fourth. Kebede finished just three seconds behind her on that occasion, but later in 2012 she matched Bekele’s PB (2:20:30) when winning the Berlin Marathon – her second victory in the German capital, having also won there in 2010.
Also entered is Kenya’s Caroline Kilel, who set her lifetime best of 2:22:36 when winning the 2011 Boston Marathon, and Ukraine’s Olena Shurkhno, who set a national record of 2:23:32 to finish third in Berlin last year.
Of the domestic entrants, 2009 World silver medallist Yoshimi Ozaki and 2011 World Championships representative Azusa Nojiri are the strongest.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Invited runners (including PBs)
Dennis Kimetto (KEN) 2:04:16
James Kwambai (KEN) 2:04:27
Dino Sefir (ETH) 2:04:50
Jonathan Maiyo (KEN) 2:04:56
Eric Ndiema (KEN) 2:06:07
Gilbert Kirwa (KEN) 2:06:14
Bekele Feyisa (ETH) 2:06:26
Bernard Kipyego (KEN) 2:06:29
Michael Kipyego (KEN) 2:06:48
Josphat Ndambiri (KEN) 2:07:36
Arata Fujiwara (JPN) 2:07:48
Gideon Kipketer (KEN) 2:08:14
Kazuhiro Maeda (JPN) 2:08:38
Yoshinori Oda (JPN) 2:09:03
Ahmed Baday (MAR) 2:09:16
Essa Isamael Rashed (QAT) 2:09:22
Takayuki Matsumiya (JPN) 2:09.28
Dmitry Safronov (RUS) 2:09:35
Masato Imai (JPN) 2:10:32
Mekubo Mogusu (KEN) 2:14:44
Masato Kihara (JPN) debut
Yuki Sato (JPN) debut
Irina Mikitenko (GER) 2:19:19
Bezunesh Bekele (ETH) 2:20:30
Aberu Kebede (ETH) 2:20:30
Caroline Kilel (KEN) 2:22:36
Yoshimi Ozaki (JPN) 2:23:30
Olena Shurkhno (UKR) 2:23:32
Albina Mayorova (RUS) 2:23:52
Atsede Habtamu (ETH) 2:24:25
Azusa Nojiri (JPN) 2:24:57
Yeshi Esaiyias (ETH) 2:26:00
Helalia Johannes (NAM) 2:26:09
Noriko Matsuoka (JPN) 2:26:54
Nastassia Staravoitava (BLR) 2:27:24
Hiroko Shoi (JPN) debut
Mika Yoshikawa (JPN) debut