The Tokyo Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race and one of the six races that make up the World Marathon Majors series, announced on Thursday (22) its strongest ever men’s elite field for the race on 22 February.
In addition to the previously announced Olympic champions Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich and Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana, no fewer than five men with personal best times faster than 2:05 have been added to the race.
Among them is Geoffrey Mutai, now 33. The Kenyan is the fastest in the field with a 2:04:15 clocking from the Berlin Marathon three years ago, although he posted an even faster 2:03:02 performance at the 2011 Boston Marathon which couldn’t be ratified as a world record due to the downhill and point-to-point profile of the course.
Mutai will be racing the Tokyo Marathon for the first time.
Another prolific winner in the men's line-up is Ethiopia's Tsegay Kebede, who will also be making his Tokyo debut.
The diminutive Kebede won the Chicago Marathon three years ago in a personal best of 2:04:38 and is also a past winner in London, Fukuoka and Paris.
Reigning champion Dickson Chumba from Kenya ran 2:04:32 in Chicago last autumn and he will be looking for back-to-back wins in the Japanese capital while the other sub-2:05 men in the elite field are the Ethiopian pair of Endeshaw Negesse and Markos Geneti.
Another four men have run faster than 2:07 in their careers but a lot of interest will also focus on the debut of Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist Tariku Bekele, remembering that his famous older brother Kenenisa ran 2:05:04 on his winning debut in Paris last year.
On the women’s side, three runners with sub-2:23 marathon bests have been invited.
Olympic champion Gelana is the quickest with a 2:18:58 clocking from 2012. However, the Ethiopian has struggled to come close to this form in recent years, since colliding with a wheelchair racer and injuring herself at the 2013 London Marathon.
Gelana, who used to live and train in Japan, was more than 10 minutes outside her Ethiopian record in her last outing at the Yokohama Marathon in November and hasn’t broken the 2:25-barrier since winning the Olympic title.
With Gelana’s form being rather questionable, the role of being the pre-race favourites falls to her compatriot and 2014 Tokyo Marathon runner-up Berhane Dibaba and Kenya's Commonwealth champion Flomena Cheyech, who has won her past four marathons.
World half-marathon bronze medallist Selly Chepyego will be making her marathon debut.
Organisers for the IAAF
Elite fields (with personal best times)
Geoffrey Mutai (KEN) 2:03:02
Dickson Chumba (KEN) 2:04:32
Tsegay Kebede (ETH) 2:04:38
Endeshaw Negesse (ETH) 2:04:52
Markos Geneti (ETH) 2:04:54
Peter Some (KEN) 2:05:38
Shumi Dechasa (BRN) 2:06:43
Michael Kipyego (KEN) 2:06:48
Joseph Gitau (KEN) 2:06:58
Stephen Kiprotich (UGA) 2:07:20
Yared Asmerom (ERI) 2:07:27
Adil Annani (MAR) 2:07:43
Josphat Boit (USA) 2:12:52
Tariku Bekele (ETH) debut
Arata Fujiwara 2:07:48
Kohei Matsumura 2:08:09
Ryo Yamamoto 2:08:44
Koji Kobayashi 2:08:51
Hirokatsu Kurosaki 2:09:07
Masanori Sakai 2:09:10
Masato Imai 2:09:30
Yuki Sato 2:16:31
Yuma Hattori debut
Tiki Gelana (ETH) 2:18:58
Berhane Dibaba (ETH) 2:22:30
Flomena Cheyech (KEN) 2:22:44
Albina Mayorova (RUS) 2:23:52
Yeshi Esayias (ETH) 2:24:06
Azusa Nojiri (JPN) 2:24:57
Madoka Ogi (JPN) 2:26:55
Helah Kiprop (KEN) 2:27:14
Lauren Kleppin (USA) 2:28:48
Selly Kaptich Chepyego (KEN) debut