Kentaro Nakamoto, one of Japan’s most reliable marathon runners in recent times, will face last year’s winner Abraham Kiplimo at the Beppu-Oita Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on 1 February.
Nakamoto has finished in the top 10 in the marathon at the past three global championships. After finishing 10th at the 2011 IAAF World Championships, he improved to sixth at the 2012 Olympics and fifth at the 2013 World Championships.
Kiplimo, meanwhile, has only run four marathons to date, one of which was at last year’s Commonwealth Games where he took the bronze medal for Uganda.
Both athletes have set their PBs on the Beppu-Oita course; Kiplimo clocking 2:09:23 when winning last year, and Nakamoto running 2:08:35 to finish second in 2013.
The only time they have raced against each other previously was at the 2013 World Championships, when Kiplimo finished 14 places behind Nakamoto. But the one advantage Kiplimo holds over Nakamoto is that he knows what it feels like to win a marathon; Nakamoto’s best finish to date over the classic distance is second.
If Kiplimo wins again, he will join a select group of seven athletes who have won the Beppu-Oita race more than once.
Yoshinori Oda, who joined Nakamoto on the Japanese team for the 2011 World Championships, is also in the field. He has a PB of 2:09:03, set on his marathon debut four years ago.
The fourth sub-2:10 man in the field is Ethiopia’s Fekadu Lemma. The 30-year-old was out of action in 2014 but had made big strides forward in 2012, reducing his PB by almost five minutes with a 2:09:50 clocking in Hamburg. Beppu-Oita will be his first marathon since that season.
Other internationals in the field include Eritrea’s Tewelde Estifanos and Morocco’s marathon debutant Abdelmajid El Hissouf.
Kenya’s 2:08 man Laban Mutai and Great Birmingham Run winner Joel Kimutai will act as pace makers as the athletes aim to challenge the course record of 2:08:15 set by Yuki Kawauchi in 2013.
Elite field (with PBs)
Kentaro Nakamoto (JPN) 2:08:35
Yoshinori Oda (JPN) 2:09:03
Abraham Kiplimo (UGA) 2:09:23
Fekadu Lemma (ETH) 2:09:50
Taiga Ito (JPN) 2:11:15
Tewelde Estifanos (ERI) 2:11:47
Ryoichi Matsuo (JPN) 2:12:11
Keisuke Wakui (JPN) 2:12:12
Naoki Okamoto (JPN) 2:12:31
Abdelmajid El Hissouf (MAR) debut