Martin Mathathi en route to winning the 2013 Fukuoka Marathon (© Takefumi Tsutsui / Agence SHOT)
The Kagawa Marugame Half Marathon course record is a good one, and stands at 59:48 to Kenya’s Mekubo Mogusu, but his compatriot Martin Mathathi will be looking to improve on it at this year’s edition of the IAAF Silver Label Road Race on Sunday (2).
Mogusu posted his record in 2007 and is the only man to have run under an hour on the course but the Japan-based Mathathi, who runs for Suzuki Motor club in Japan, has the credentials to double the number of that elite group.
His fastest half marathon time is 58:56, recorded in the 2011Great North Run and he has another sub-60:00 half marathon to his name, having run 59:48 in the 2010 Sendai Half Marathon. He was third in the 10,000m at 2007 IAAF World Championships as well as third in the long race at the 2006 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
Recently, Mathathi recorded a marathon personal best of 2:07:16 when won 2013 Fukuoka Marathon in Decembe, his last competitive outing.
Another runner with a good possibility of going under the hour is Eritrea’s Amanuel Mesel, the second fastest half marathon man in the field with a best of 1:00:10 recorded in 2013 Prague Half Marathon.
Yemane Adhane Tsegaye has a relatively modest half marathon best of 1:01:37, recorded in 2010 Prague Half Marathon, but the Ethiopian's his marathon best is excellent 2:04:48 from when he won the 2012 Rotterdam Marathon and so he should have much faster time in him over half the classic distance.
The 2013 Marugame Half Marathon champion Collis Birmingham, from Australia, will also return to defend his title at the venue of his 1:00.56 personal best 12 months ago.
Miyawaki eyeing Japanese record
The best Japanese runner is Chihiro Miyawaki, who won 2012 All Japan Corporate Team Half Marathon Championships in Yamaguchi with 1:00:53. He went on to run at the 2012 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, but he was dismal 58th in the Bulgarian town of Karavna, due to stomach problem he picked up there.
Miyawaki has the chance to redeem himself in Marugame as this year’s race also doubles as a selection event for the Japanese team going to the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen on 29 March.
His 10,000m best is a quite respectable 27:41.57 and so he might have a chance to improve on the Japanese national of 1:00:25, set by Atsushi Sato at the 2007 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.
Miyawaki is scheduled to make his marathon debut in Tokyo in three weeks’ time so his Marugame performance will be an indicator of how he might run in the Japanese capital.
The other Japanese names who will be on the start line include Arata Fujiwara and Yusei Nakao.
Fujiwara has the half marathon best of 1:01:34 from 2012 Marugame Half Marathon. More pertinently, his marathon best is 2:07:48 recorded in the 2012 Tokyo Marathon and Fujiwara is also scheduled to run in that race at the end of this month.
Nakao's claim to fame is his fifth place finish at 2008 World Half Marathon Championships, where he recorded 1:02:05, the second fastest time of his career.However, he has not broken 63:00 for the half marathon since 2008.
In the women's race, Portugal’s Jessica Augusto will start as the favourite. She has a best of 1:09:08 from 2009 Great North Run, and is the fastest woman in the field. She has marathon best of 2:24:33 from 2011 London Marathon.
The second fastest half marathon runner in the field is Yukari Sahaku. She was second in 2008 Tokyo Marathon, and her half marathon best is 1:09:36, recorded in 2009 Sapporo Half Marathon. However, to be fair, she has not run a good race since 2009.
Other invited runners from abroad are Colombia’s Yolanda Caballero, who has a best of 1:10:30, and Belarus’s Aliaksandra Duliba, who has the best of 1:11:30.
Both women also have good marathon times to their credit, Duliba ran a national record of 2:23:44 at the 2013 Chicago Marathon and Caballero clocked 2:26:17 at the 2011 Boston Marathon.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF