World silver medallist Vincent Kipruto will square off against fellow Kenyan Peter Kirui at the 68th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon – an IAAF Gold Label Road Race – in Otsu, Japan, on Sunday (3).
Kipruto has broken 2:06 for the Marathon three times in his career, his fastest being his 2:05:13 in Rotterdam in 2010. But the 25-year-old, who clocked 61:36 at the Egmond Half Marathon last month, hasn’t broken 2:10 for the marathon for nearly two years, so there’s something of a question mark over his current form.
If Kipruto is unable to recapture his form of 2010-2011, it could make fellow Kenyan Peter Kirui the favourite. Kirui has only completed two Marathons to date – 2:06:31 in Frankfurt two years ago and 2:09:15 in Amsterdam last year.
But Kirui has bags of potential and boasts impressive speed. In 2011 he ran 27:32.1 for 10,000m in the altitude of Nairobi before going on to finish sixth in that event at the IAAF World Championships. He also has two sub-60 Half-marathons to his credit, including his 59:39 victory in New York last year, so his current form may be better than Kipruto’s.
If either of the top two Kenyans falter, then Tariku Jufar could steal the show. The Ethiopian recorded three consecutive sub-2:10 Marathons last year, starting with a 2:06:51 win in Houston and rounded out the year with a victory in Beijing.
Viktor Rothlin and Abderrahim Bouramdane both have 2:07 PBs to their credit. With bags of experience, Rothlin and Bouramdane will be ready to pounce if any of the top Africans aren’t at their best.
James Mwangi, who has PBs of 27:49.27 for 10,000m and 60:34 for the Half-marathon, is surely capable of running a faster Marathon than his current PB of 2:08:38. But his DNF in the Fukuoka Marathon in December suggests he might not be ready to improve on his lifetime best this weekend.
Moscow team places up for grabs for Japanese athletes
For Japanese men, the Lake Biwa Marathon is the final qualifying race for the IAAF World Championships marathon team, and the fierce battle will be the main focus of the race in Japanese media.
So far there are now automatic qualifiers as no one ran 2:07 in either Fukuoka or Tokyo. As things stand, Kazuhiro Maeda, who ran 2:08:00 in Tokyo, Yuki Kawauchi, who won the Beppu-Oita Marathon in 2:08:15, Horiyuki Hirobata, second in Fukuoka Marathon in 2:08:24, and Kentaro Nakamoto, second in Beppu-Oita in 2:08:35, are the front runners in the race to make the marathon team for Moscow.
Ryo Yamamoto, Tomoyuki Morita, Takashi Horiguchi and Masashi Hayashi – fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth respectively in this race last year – return to the venue of their personal bests. But they will need to improve on those PBs this Sunday should they wish to impress the selectors.
There is also the chance that new Marathon talents may emerge on Sunday. Shinobu Kubota, who will be making his Marathon debut on Sunday, is one of the best current collegiate runners in Japan. It’s quite rare for Japanese men to make their marathon debut at a young age following the success of national record-holder Toshinari Takaoka, who delayed his marathon debut until in his thirties. But if Kubota is successful this weekend, the tide could shift and more runners may tackle 26.2 miles at a younger age.
Although they aren’t officially among the elite invited runners, former national record-holder (2:06:51) Atsushi Fujita and Masakazu Fujiwara, who boasts the fastest Marathon debut of any Japanese man (2:08:12), should not be counted out.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Vincent Kipruto (KEN) 2:05:13
Peter Kirui (KEN) 2:06:31
Tariku Jufar (ETH) 2:06:51
Viktor Rothlin (SUI) 2:07:23
Abderrahime Bouramdane (MAR) 2:07:33
Alexey Reunkov (RUS) 2:09:54
James Mwangi (KEN) 2:08:38
Ryo Yamamoto (JPN) 2:08:44
Tomoyuki Morita (JPN) 2:09:12
Takashi Horiguchi (JPN) 2:09:16
Masashi Hayashi (JPN) 2:09:55
Paulo Roberto Paula (BRA) 2:10:23
Koji Kobayashi (JPN) 2:10:40
Shinobu Kubota (JPN) debut