Derartu Tulu after her marathon victory in New York (Getty Images) © Copyright

Tulu leads the field in Yokohama - PREVIEW

The second edition of the Yokohama Women’s Marathon, the second of three qualifying races for the Japanese World Championships marathon team, will be held on Sunday 20 February. The date of this IAAF Silver Label Road Race, which usually takes place in November, was moved because the APEC International Conference, required heightened security, was held in Yokohama last November.

The runner with most international honours, and the fastest Marathon personal best, is Ethiopian Derartu Tulu, the 1992 and 2000 Olympic 10,000m champion.  She has a best of 2:23:30 from the 2005 World championships where she finished fourth. Tulu may be almost 39, but she hasn’t slowed down much. Last year Tulu finished second at the Nagoya Women’s Marathon clocking 2:28:13. Four months earlier, she was victorious at the 2009 New York City Marathon.
However, Tulu may not be the favourite. Instead, it may be Yoshimi Ozaki, whose career best is the same as Tulu’s at 2:23:30 from the 2008 Tokyo Women’s Marathon, the predecessor to the Yokohama Women’s Marathon.  Ozaki won silver at the 2009 World Championships, and by finishing first among the Japanese and under 2:26, she’d earn another World Championships berth.
Tulu may be the fastest from abroad, but the most promising may be her 22-year-old compatriot Azalech Masresha. In each of her three marathons after her debut, Masresha has improved. In Paris last year, her last Marathon, she improved by more than six minutes to 2:25:34. Masresha also clocked her 1:09:46 best in the Half Marathon in 2010. Perhaps, Masresha has another improvement in her, which she might realize on Sunday.

Portugal’s Marisa Barros, who finished sixth in the 2009 World Championships and eighth in the 2010 European Championships, is quite a consistent marathon runner. With the exception of the 2008 Olympics, she has never finished worse than eighth. Her personal best, 2:25:44, came at the 2010 Osaka Ladies Marathon, and she won her most recent race, a Half Marathon in Spain in January. 

In the Marugame Half Marathon a week and half ago, Karolina Jarzynska ran a smart race and came from behind to finish second. So even if Jarzynska is not in the lead pack during the early stages on Sunday, she should not be counted out; she may be just running her own race readying to move up.

The Japanese who’ll be challenging Ozaki for a Marathon team berth are Mayumi Fujita, Kaori Yoshida, Remi Nakazato, Kaoru Nagao and Yuka Izumi.  Fujita, Yoshida and Nakazato all recorded their Marathon bests in 2010, while Nagao and Izumi will be making their debut. Among them Nakazato and Nagao could be most promising. The 22-year-old Nakazato recorded personal bests at both 5000m and 10,000m in 2010, while 21-year-old Nagao ran a very promising 1:10:45 Half Marathon last March. 

Since nobody cracked 2:26 in the 2010 Osaka Women’s Marathon, the race to make the World Championships marathon team, is still wide open, and thus even the second Japanese in Yokohama has a good chance of making the team if she produced a very fast time. For a comparison, Yukiko Akaba won in 2:26:29, while Mai Ito was second with 2:26:55.  The second place Japanese must run faster than Ito’s time to have a realistic chance of making the team.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Ed. Note: A statistical reference (PDF, 1 MB), prepared by Nakamura, is attached in the ‘Related Items’ section at right. Nakamura is solely responsible for all content.

Invited Runners:
Name, PB, venue of PB
Derartu Tulu (ETH)  2:23:30  2005 World Championships 
Azalech Masresha (ETH) 2:25:34 2010 Paris
Marisa Barros (POR)  2:25:44 2010 Osaka
Alevtina Ivanova (RUS)  2:26:38 2008 Nagano
Karolina Jarzynska (POL) 2:29:10 2009 Frankfurt

Yoshimi Ozaki   2:23:30 2008 Tokyo Women
Mayumi Fujita   2:29:36 2010 Nagoya Women
Kaori Yoshida   2:29:45 2010 Chicago
Remi Nakazato  2:34:29 2010 Nagoya Women
Kaoru Nagao    Debut  1:10:45 half marathon in 2010
Yuka Izumi   Debut  1:10:58 half marathon in 2008

Pace Makers
Shoko Mori  (JPN)  1:11:41  half marathon 
Silvia Skvortsova (RUS)  2:26:24  2009 Berlin
Albina Mayorova (RUS) 2:25:35 2003 Chicago