How do you follow up a marathon debut that netted you the second fastest time of 2012 over the distance? For Kenya’s Denis Kimetto the aim is to ensure that even if the time is not faster, he moves up from second to first and wins his first marathon at this weekend’s Tokyo Marathon.
Kimetto, who finished second behind mentor and countryman Geoffrey Mutai at last year’s Berlin Marathon, is the headline runner as Tokyo makes its debut as an official World Marathon Major. He came under some criticism for not challenging Mutai for the win at Berlin, however at Tokyo crossing the line first will be his number one focus.
‘After my debut in Berlin, it is time I go on my own and Tokyo is ideal for me. I want to win a marathon and build on it as I start my career in the discipline,’ Kimetto said.
‘It will not be easy because, Mutai will not be running with me. He has been a mentor and father figure to me. I started training under him and we have remained together.
‘I know I have a lot of challenge ahead for me in Tokyo. My time in Berlin last year was great, we were eying the world record (2:03.38) but we were not up to the task.
‘But I have a statement to make in Tokyo and depending on the weather, we will see how fast it will be,” Kimetto added.
Alongside Kipruto, there will be defending men champion Michael Kipkorir Kipyego (2:06:48), 2:04:27 runner James Kwambai and 2:04:56 finisher Jonathan Kiplimo Maiyo.
Other hopefuls include Eric Ndiema (2:06:07), Gilbert Kipruto Kirwa (2:06:14) and Daniel Njenga (2:06:16), Bernard Kiprop Kipyego (2:06:29), Japan based Josephat Ndambiri (2:07:36) and Gideon Kipketer (2:08:14).
The race will also double as a qualification opportunity for many Japanese runners hoping to head to the World Championships in Moscow later this year.
Arata Fujiwara, Kazuhiro Maeda and Takayuki Matsumiya – who finished second, sixth, and seventh respectively last year – return to Tokyo in an attempt to qualify for the IAAF World Championships. Yoshinori Oda, who finished fourth two years ago, will also be in contention for selection, but perhaps the most promising domestic runners are Masato Imai and Yuki Sato.
Imai’s best time is 2:10:32, but his aggressive racing style has attracted a lot of praise, while Sato is the most anticipated Marathon debutante in years. His 10,000m best, 27:38.25 is the fastest among active Japanese runners.
On the women’s front, German Irina Mikitenko boasts the fastest PB of the field with her 2:19:19 from 2008 but the Ethiopian duo Bezunesh Bekele and Aberu Kebede, who both recorded PBs of 2:20:30 last year, are the favourites.
Bekele won the Dubai Marathon back in 2009 but set her PB in last year’s edition of the race when finishing fourth. Kebede finished just three seconds behind her on that occasion, but later in 2012 she matched Bekele’s PB (2:20:30) when winning the Berlin Marathon – her second victory in the German capital, having also won there in 2010.