It’s less than five hours until the start of the Fukuoka Marathon so just enough time to have a quick look at the field and see if we can make any predictions. The race has a number of notable names, none more so than legend and former world record holder Haile Gebreselassie.
With a marathon best of 2:03:59, on paper Gebreselassie has a PB minutes faster than any other competitors. Kenyan Martin Lel was next fastest with a 2:05:15 prior to him withdrawing earlier this week with an injured right thigh.
There has been a lot of water under the bridge since Gebreselassie ran that time. His recent best was a 2:08:17 in this year’s Tokyo Marathon, finishing fourth behind Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich which, if ran in Fukuoka, should still be very competitive for the win.
There are a number of other international entrants worth keeping an eye on; Ukraine’s Dmytro Baranovskyy and Kenya’s Isaac Macharia have both run low 2:07’s (2:07:15 and 2:07:16) but neither since 2008. In my opinion the international to keep an eye on and best placed to win the race is Poland’s Henryk Szost. The 30 year old has had a wonderful 2012, recording his PB of 2:07:39 (a national record) in March while finishing second in the Lake Biwa Marathon and then running 2:12:28 in the challenging conditions of the London Olympics to finish ninth.
Other internationals of note include Canadian record holder and London Olympic 26th place getter Reid Coolsaet (2:10:55, 2011) and the UK’s Scott Overall (2:10:55, 2011) and Andrew Lemoncello (2:13:40, 2010).
The local field though is just as likely to take the win, with the charge led by fan favourite Yuki Kawauchi. The 25 year old who also works full time has a personal best of 2:08:37 when he finished third in the 2011 Tokyo Marathon. Another Japanese runner not aligned to a club and in fact is self-trained is Arata Fujiwara. With a personal best of 2:07:48 (2nd, 2012 Tokyo Marathon), Fujiwara also ran in the London Olympics and finished 45th in 2:19:11.
There are numerous other local runners with PBs in the 2:08/2:09 area that could also challenge if everything goes to plan on the day; James Mwangi (2:08:38), Yoshinori Oda (2:09:03), Cyrus Njui (2:09:10), Hiroyuki Horibata (:2:09:25) and Harun Njoroge (2:09:38).
The Fukoka Marathon is reasonably unique in that it has very strict entry standards. For ‘Group A’ marathoners the time required is 2:27 with cut-offs throughout the race at 95 minutes for the first 30km and 65 minutes for halfway. The more ‘relaxed’ ‘Group B’ times are 2:42 for the race with 110 minutes for 30km and 70 minutes for halfway.
What this all should mean is a fast and highly competitive race. The temperature won’t be a factor, with a maximum of 12C/54F but there is rain expected. Marathon Intervals prediction is Kawauchi, Fujiwara and Gebreselassie to battle out the podium with a finish time of 2:08.