Gebregziabher Gebremariam, the 2009 World cross-country champion, is the fastest man in the field for the Fukuoka Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on 1 December.
The Ethiopian, who won the New York Marathon on his debut over the distance in 2010, has a best of 2:04:53, set when finishing third at the 2011 Boston Marathon. He achieved the same position in this year’s edition of the race, clocking 2:10:28.
Gebremariam is also a member of an elite group, having broken 13 minutes for 5000m, 27 minutes for 10,000m and 2:05 for the Marathon; an achievement shared by just four other men – Haile Gebrselassie, Paul Tergat, Eliud Kipchoge and Moses Mosop.
Also in the field is defending champion Joseph Gitau. The Japan-based Kenyan triumphed in Fukuoka last year in a personal best of 2:06:58.
At 39, Switzerland’s Viktor Rothlin boasts a faster season’s best than Gebremariam and Gitau. The 2010 European champion has never raced the Fukuoka Marathon before, but three of his five fastest times have been set on Japanese soil, including his 2:07:23 national record from the 2008 Tokyo Marathon.
Poland’s Henryk Szost is another who excels in Japan. He set a national record of 2:07:39 at the Lake Biwa Marathon last year before finishing third in Fukuoka nine months later. In between those races, he finished ninth at the Olympic Games.
But based on season’s bests, the fastest European man in the field for this year’s race is Spain’s Ayad Lamdassem. Twice a silver medallist at the European Cross Country Championships, the 32-year-old set a PB of 2:09:28 in London earlier this year and recently clocked his second-fastest time for the Half-marathon with 1:01:59 in Glasgow.
Canadian Olympian Reid Coolsaet will be looking to get close to his 2:10:55 personal best, having failed to finish in Fukuoka last year. Similarly, Ireland’s Alistair Cragg did not finish in Fukuoka two years ago, but he will hope to complete his first Marathon this time.
The host nation’s athletes will be among the toughest challengers, and they come no tougher than Yuki Kawauchi. Fukuoka will be his 10th Marathon of 2013 and the 28th of his career, but his 2:08:14 personal best from Seoul makes him the fastest man in the field this year. And with five victories to his name, the 26-year-old will be keen to add another to that list.
Hiroyuki Horibata finished second in Fukuoka last year in a personal best of 2:08:24. Fellow Japanese runner Arata Fujiwara finished two places below Horibata last year, but has a faster personal best with 2:07:48.
The pacemakers will be the Australian duo of Collis Birmingham and Ben St Lawrence.
Ken Nakamura and Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
ELITE FIELD (with PBs)
Gebregziabher Gebremariam (ETH) 2:04:53
Joseph Gitau (KEN) 2:06:58
Viktor Rothlin (SUI) 2:07:23
Henryk Szost (POL) 2:07:39
Arata Fujiwara (JPN) 2:07:48
Yuki Kawauchi (JPN) 2:08:14
Hiroyuki Horibata (JPN) 2:08:24
Ayad Lamdassem (ESP) 2:09:28
Reid Coolsaet (CAN) 2:10:55
Alistair Cragg (IRL)