Defending champion Abraham Kiplimo, of Uganda, will start as the favourite for the 64th edition of the Beppu-Oita Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (1).
Last year, Kiplimo had the race of his life on Japan’s roads and won the 2014 Beppu-Oita Marathon title with 2:09:23, a prelude to him taking the bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
If Kiplimo win on Sunday, he will be the eighth runner in the history of the race to become a multiple winner.
Two other runners in the elite field have sub-2:10 personal bests and, at least on paper, they appear to be Kiplimo’s main competition.
Ethiopia’s Fekadu Lemma recorded 2:09:50 in the 2012 Hamburg Marathon and Japan’s Yoshinori Oda ran 2:09:03 in the 2011 Tokyo Marathon.
However, neither Lemma nor Oda have not run a good marathon lately. Oda’s latest marathon was 2:15:46 in the 2014 Lake Biwa Marathon, while Lemma was injured in 2014 and did not race internationally all year.
The main rival to Kiplimo could be Eritrea’s Tewelde Estifanos, who is a runner on the rise.
He ran in the 2013 Beppu-Oita Marathon on his debut over the classic distance and finished 11th with 2:16:13. Since then he has run two more marathons, both in Australia, and each time improved his personal best.
In his next marathon, the 2013 Gold Coast Maratho, he improved his best to 2:13:10. A year later, in October 2014, he finished second at the Melbourne Marathon with 2:11:47.
If this trend continues, Estifanos could even go under 2:10 range, which may be enough to challenge Kiplimo.
He also excels at the shorter distance. His half marathon personal best is 1:01:39 from 2011 and he finished ninth at the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.
Another invited overseas runner, Morocco’s Abdelmajid El Hissouf, is making a marathon debut. He has a half marathon best of 1:02:47 in the 2014 Marrakech Half Marathon.
Besides Oda, four other domestic runners have been invited.
The quartet are: Taiga Ito, who has a best of 2:11:15 from 2013 Tokyo Marathon; Ryoichi Matsuo, who’s best is 2:12:11 from 2014 Nobeoka Marathon; Keisuke Wakui, who ran 2:12:12 in the 2014 Tokyo Marathon; and Naoki Okamoto, who has the best of 2:12:31 from the 2012 Lake Biwa Marathon.
Obviously, all these runners will need to improve if they are theoretically to challenge Kiplimo but it should be noted that Matsuo and Wakui both recorded their personal bests in 2014 and may be on the rise as well.
Although, not among the invited runners, Kenya’s Daniel Njenga and the Japanese trio of, Yusei Nakao, Yuko Matsumiya and Yusuke Takabayashi also deserve a mention.
Now 38, Njenga has the marathon best of 2:06:16 while Nakao was fifth at the 2008 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. Matsumiya has the marathon best of 2:09:18, albeit recorded back in 2005, and Takabayashi has a 10,000m best of 27:56.46 and half marathon best of 1:01:31.
The course record is 2:08:15 and was set by Japan's Yuki Kawauchi in 2013.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF