Tag Archives: tokyo

2020 Olympics could propel Japanese to marathon greatness


A long time popular, Japanese marathon running is now in the midst of a golden age in terms of global competitiveness. The announcement this week that Tokyo was selected as the host city for the 2020 Olympics may see the nation of Ekiden and corporate runners challenge for global dominance.

Japan was extremely consistent in the marathons at the recent IAAF World Championships in Moscow. The Japanese men, although slightly disappointed not to win a medal, had four finishers in the top 20 with the best place fifth. The women also stayed very competitive, finishing third and fourth.

These results come on top of the fact that seven Japanese men have run under 2:10:00 this year alone and 11 women are listed in the fastest 80 marathon times so far this year, all under 2:28:00. There is depth there and although the top Japanese still remain a few minutes of the elites of Africa, the Olympic announcement may be the push they need to bridge that gap.

Studies have shown that hosting an Olympic Games has a significant increase on winning medals. There is a moderate increase in medal numbers for the Games preceeding, in this case Rio de Janeiro, but the real pay day comes when a country hosts the Games, winning 1.5 times the number of medals compared to the Games before or after, both of which are higher than the average medal tally.

Percentage of medals won at host city Games compared to two games pre and post. Source: Plus Magazine

Percentage of medals won at host city Games compared to two games pre and post. Source: Plus Magazine

If this statistic holds true for Tokyo, the marathon will likely be one of the events the Japanese will target to pick up medals. They surely have a good platform from which to launch. If nothing else, the passion and understanding of marathon running that is part of the Japanese psyche and culture will ensure that marathon in 2020 may be the memorable moment from those Olympic Games.


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Kimetto wins Tokyo Marathon

Kenya's Denis Kimetto wins the 2013 Tokyo Marathon in course record 2:06:50.

Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto wins the 2013 Tokyo Marathon in course record 2:06:50.

Berlin runner up and the fastest man to never win a marathon, Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto, can now remove that caveat after winning the 2013 Tokyo Marathon in a new course record 2:06:50.

Kimetto was the strong pre-race favourite in the best field ever assembled for a Tokyo Marathon, a reflection of its upgraded status to a World Marathon Major. Known as a strong finisher, Kimetto hung with the lead pack through halfway in a modest 64:22 until putting in surges of 14:20 for the 5km between 30 and 35km and 14:35 to cover 35km to 40km mark.

He was followed by compatriot Michael Kipyego and had a six second gap at that mark, but Kimetto then kicked to cover the last 2.195km in 6:34 and break the course record by 33 seconds. Kipyego, the 2012 winner, also snuck in the course record finishing in 2:06:58. The Kenyan trifecta was completed when Bernard Kipyego crossed in third (2:07:53).

tokyorace13aKimetto, who will move to the top of the World Marathon Majors leader board with his win, now has his sights set on greater accomplishments.

‘Maybe I can go to the world championships or Berlin,’ Kimetto said.

‘Maybe if I go to Berlin, I can break the world record.’

The course record was even more impressive considering the race was held in blustery headwinds that affected many of the runners.

On the women’s side it was Ethiopia who claimed bragging rights, with Aberu Kebede crossing first in 2:25:34 and compatriot Yeshi Esayias second in 2:26:01. The fastest female in the field, Germany’s Irina Mikitenko crossed third in 2:26:41.


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Tokyo Marathon race preview

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 has run the fastest marathon not to win and aims to change that in Tokyo.

Kimetto has run the fastest marathon not to win and aims to change that in Tokyo.

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.

tokyoexpoImai’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.

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The 2013 elite marathon schedule

Tokyo will launch the 2013 World Marathon Majors

Tokyo will launch the 2013 World Marathon Majors

The year after an Olympics is always hard to follow, but a quick glance at the marathon calendar appears to have plenty to keep the interest flowing. The highlight will be the IAAF World Championships, held in Moscow. The women’s marathon will be on the opening day of the event, Saturday 10 August while the men will be on the penultimate day, Saturday 17 August.

In terms of the first main race of the year, Dubai will unofficially start off the year on 25 January, where it is expected there will be a cluster of super fast times similar to last year. For the formal World Marathon Major schedule however it will be a debut race to start off the year with the addition of Tokyo running on 24 February.

From there the calendar can be planned out as follows:

  • Boston Marathon, 15 April
  • Virgin London Marathon, 21 April
  • Berlin Marathon, 29 September
  • Bank of America Chicago Marathon, 13 October
  • ING New York City Marathon, 3 November

The big question will be which nation will dominate the 2013 marathon year? 2011 was so clearly owned by the Kenyans but 2012 saw Ethiopia claw back some ground.

2013datesThe World Marathon Majors last year still saw a strong Kenyan dominance with Wesley Korir winning Boston, Wilson Kipsang in London and Geoffrey Mutai running the fastest time of the year in winning Berlin while Ethiopia’s Tsegay Kebede won Chicago. There was no winner for New York with the race cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy and Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich scored the upset win at the Olympics.

On the women’s front Ethiopia took three of the five majors; Aberu Kebede winning in Berlin, Atsede Baysa in Chicago and Tiki Gelana running away with the Olympic title. For Kenya it was 2011-12 World Marathon Major winner, Mary Keitany, who won last year’s London Marathon and compatriot Sharon Cherup taking the honours in Boston.

In terms of standings in the 2012-13 World Marathon Majors title, both the men’s and women’s tables are evenly balanced.

For the men Ethiopia’s Kebede and Kenya’s Kipsang lead the men’s title on 35 points each, Korir is third on 26 points and Kiprotich and Mutai round out the top five on 25 points.

On the women’s side it is defending champ Keitany in the lead on 35 points and then five tied in second place on 25 points; Kenya’s Cherop and Priscah Jeptoo and three Ethipioan’s in  Baysa, Gelana and Kebede.

The attention may not be as singularly focused as the London Olympics last year, but 2013 is shaping up to be a great year in elite international marathon running!

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