Michael Kipyego finishing second at the 2013 Tokyo Marathon (© Organisers / Victah Sailer)
With exactly a month until the race on 23 February, the 2014 Tokyo Marathon organizers released the elite fields for this year’s IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Thursday (23).
Ethiopia’s consistent Tadese Tola tops the men’s field which consists of seven men who have gone under 2:06 and another six who have gone under 2:08.
Tola, the 2013 IAAF World Championships marathon bronze medallist, can boast of a best of 2:04:49 set when finishing third in last year’s Dubai Marathon and was never out of the top three in his four marathon in 2013, finishing second in Paris before finishing off his year with a win in Beijing last October.
Kenya’s two-time world champion Abel Kirui returns to Tokyo hoping to do better than his last marathon in the Japanese capital when he failed to finish in 2008.
Kirui has a point to prove after a sharp dip in his form since he won the London 2012 Olympic Games silver medal.
He will be accompanied by five other strong Kenyans.
Sammy Kitwara has put together three impressive marathon performances in the last 18 months and improved his best to 2:05:16 when finishing third at the Chicago Marathon last August.
Peter Some took the honours and improved his personal best to 2:05:38 when winning in Paris last April.
Not much slower is the 2012 Eindhoven Marathon winner and course record holder Dickson Chumba, who ran personal best of 2:05:46; although he was not in the same sort of form in 2013 and could not break 2:10 in both his marathons last year.
Former IAAF World Cross Country Championships junior men’s winner Geoffrey Kipsang can boast of similar credentials. Still just 21, he has finished third at the last two Berlin Marathons and can boast of a best of 2:06:12 from when he made his debut over the classic distance at the 2012 race in the German capital.
Former Tokyo marathon winner Michael Kipyego will be out to regain the title he won two years ago before finishing second in 2013 behind his compatriot Dennis Kimetto.
Kimetto has not returned to defend his title but his course record of 2:06:50 is definitely a target for the top men.
Another former winner, Switzerland’s 2008 champion Viktor Rothlin, leads the European challenge.
The London 2012 Olympians Arata Fujiwara and Kentaro Nakamoto lead the domestic runners, with personal bests of 2:07:48 and 2:08:35 respectively.
Fujiwara set his best when finishing second behind Kipyego in the 2012 Tokyo Marathon.
Kenya’s Lucy Kabuu Wangui, who went to high school in Japan, is the clear favourite in the women's race, her best of 2:19:34 set when finishing second in the Dubai Marathon.
Another eight women have run under 2:24 in their careers and Ethiopia’s Tirfi Tsegaye is the best of the rest, having clocked 2:21:19 when finishing second in the 2012 Berlin Marathon.
With Ethiopian runners having won in 2012 and last year, three other women looking to make it a hat-trick are: Atsede Baysa, Birhane Dibaba and Merima Mohammed, who have bests of 2:22:03, 2:23:01 and 2:23:06.
The prolific Baysa, still only 26, will be running her 22nd marathon, having started racing over the distance on her 19th birthday when she finished fifth in the Nagano Marathon. She has wins in Chicago, Istanbul, Paris and Xiamen to her credit and has run under 2:25 on nine occasions.
In addition to the win, the leading women will be aiming for the course record of 2:25:28, set by Ethiopia’s Atsede Habtamu in 2012.
Japan’s 35-year-old Yoko Shibui has a best of 2:19:41 but that dates back almost a decade to the 2004 Berlin Marathon so the contest to be the first Japanese runner home could come down to Azusa Nojiri and Mai Ito who have bests of 2:24:57 and 2:25:26 respectively, which were both run in 2012.
The full list of invited runners can be downloaded from the attached document. The 2014 Tokyo Marathon is a member of the World Marathon Majors series.
Phil Minshull and organisers for the IAAF