Kenya’s Jason Mbote will be the fastest man on the start line of the 63rd Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon on 2 February, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, after race organisers announced their elite field on Thursday (16).
Mbote has a best of 2:07:37 but that was from the 2008 Seoul Marathon and he has sustained his form over the years quite well. In his most recent outing over the classic distance, when he returned to Seoul last November, Mbote was fourth in 2:09:48.
He has previously served as a pace maker in Beppu, so Mbote is familiar with the course on which two world bests for the marathon have been set.
Local fans will be hoping that Kazuhiro Maeda can rise to the occasion. The second fastest man in the field, he has a marathon best of 2:08:00 from when he finished fourth at the 2013 Tokyo Marathon. He also finished 17th in the marathon at last year's IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
In his sights, potentially, could be the course record of 2:08:15, which was set in 2013 by Yuki Kawauchi, and that would fall to Maeda if he can fulfil his stated aim of running a personal best in the Beppu-Oita race.
Two other overseas entrants and three more Japanese runners have also run under 2:10.
Mongolia’s prolific Ser-Od Bat-Ochir, who ran six marathons last year, returns to the Beppu-Oita race after his disappointing 17th place last year. He will have better memories of his last Japanese race when he won the Hofu Marathon in December with a national record of 2:09:00, more than a two-minute improvement on his previous best.
Ethiopia’s Fedadu Lema has also gone under 2:10, having run 2:09:50 in the 2012 Hamburg Marathon.
The trio of fast domestic runners ranked just below Maeda in terms of time are Yuko Matsumiya, who recorded 2:09:18 at the 2005 Lake Biwa Marathon, Tomoyuki Sato, with 2:09:43 from the 2004 Tokyo Marathon, and Masashi Hayashi who ran 2:09:55 in the 2012 Lake Biwa Marathon.
However, the best Japanese hope may be Masato Imai, who recorded his best of 2:10:29 in the 2013 Tokyo Marathon.
In his last marathon, the 2013 New York City Marathon in November, Imai was sixth in difficult conditions in 2:10:45.
Organisers and Ken Nakamura for the IAAF