Yukiko Akaba takes the Japanese 10,000m title in Hiroshima (Kishimoto Nobutake Yoneoka) © Copyright

Can Akaba fulfill her marathon potential? - Osaka Ladies Marathon PREVIEW

The 2010 Osaka Ladies Marathon, which doubles as the selection race for the 2010 Asian Games is scheduled to be held on Sunday January 31.  The fastest runner in the field is Lidia Simon, but her marathon personal best, 2:22:54, was recorded back in 2000 Osaka Ladies Marathon when Simon came from behind to win by two seconds. 

However, although Simon is 36 years old, she still can run quite fast.  Last year in Osaka, she was fifth in 2:27:14.  In her latest marathon, 2008 World Championships in Berlin, Simon was 22nd in 2:32:03. For Simon, this will be her tenth Osaka Ladies marathon.   Simon won three Osaka Ladies marathon in a row from 1998 to 2000.

From the Japanese perspective, the most intriguing runner in the field is Yukiko Akaba, because she is considered to be very talented. Akaba was second last year in the Osaka Ladies Marathon, which was her debut marathon, with 2:25:40.  Although she was considered to be a medal prospect in Berlin, at least from those who had followed her career, Akaba was only 31st in the World Championships.

But considering her personal best of 15:06.07 for 5000m, 31:15.34 for 10,000m, and 68:11 for the half marathon, Akaba should have much faster marathons in her.  Osaka will be her third marathon of her career.  Will the third time be a lucky charm?

The best runners from abroad should be Marisa Barros and Amane Gobena.  Barros won the Sevilla marathon in 2:26:03 and then finished sixth in the 2009 World Championships with 2:26:50. 

She made a huge stride in the marathon, improving her personal best by more than eight minutes in 2009.  Amane Gobena started running the marathon in 2009 and she has run three last year.  Although her personal best is only 2:26:53, recorded when she finished second in 2009 Los Angeles Marathon, because she finished well (8th in 2002 and 11th in 2004) in the World Cross Country Championships, Gobena’s marathon potential could be quite good.

Although Olivera Jevtic’s marathon personal best, 2:25:23, was recorded back in 2003 Rotterdam Marathon, and she has not cracked the 2:30 marathon barrier since 2006, because she recorded near personal best at both half marathon and 10,000m in 2009, Jevtic may be able to get close to her personal best again.  Jevtic knows the course, for she was 10th in 2005 Osaka Ladies marathon with 2:31:43. 

Other invited runners from abroad are Dulce Maria Rodriguez, who has the marathon best of 2:28:54 recorded in 2006 Chicago Marathon and Volha Krautsova, who recorded 2:35:55 in the 2009 Roma Marathon. 

Krautsova’s marathon time may be modest but because she has good track credential, having recorded 14:47.75 for 5000m and finished 13th at 5000m in 2007 World Championships, she can dramatically improve her marathon personal best.  Rodriguez is no slouch either for she has 10,000m best of 31:25.33.  Furthermore Rodriguez has run Osaka Ladies marathon twice, so she knows the course.

Two debutantes - Ryoko Kizaki  and Azusa Nojiri – may have high marathon potential . Kizaki credentials at the half marathon include 14th at 2009 World Half Marathon Championships and 2nd in 2005 World University Games half marathon.  Her personal best is 1:10:16, recorded in the 2009 JPN Corporate team half marathon championships.

Azusa Nojiri has unique career, for she was a cross country skier until early in 2008. With less than a year of experience as a runner, Nojiri recorded 1:10:53 half marathon best, also at the 2009 JPN Corporate team half marathon championships.
The second fastest runner in the field is Mari Ozaki, who recorded 2:23:30 at her debut in 2003 Osaka Ladies Marathon.  She has not run a marathon a marathon since the 2007 World Championships, where she was 14th in 2:35:04. 

It should be noted that Ozaki always ran well in Osaka Ladies marathon, for in three starts in Osaka she never run worse than 2:24:39. 
Other invited Japanese are Kayoko Obata, who has the best of 2:25:14 from 2000 Osaka Ladies marathon, Chika Horie, who has the best of 2:26:11 from 2002 Hokkaido marathon, Ayumi Nakayama, who has the best of 2:28:50 from 2008 Osaka Ladies Marathon and Yumi Hirata, who has the personal best of 2:29:23 from 2008 Nagoya Women’s Marathon.  

For 38 years old Obata, who won a bronze medal in 2006 Asian Games, Osaka will be her final marathon of her long career spanning over 16 years and 26 marathons.  Horie’s personal best may be nearly 8 years old, but she has been quite consistent.  Other than 2006 Hokkaido Marathon, where she failed to finish and 2006 Boston marathon where she was 11th, she always finished in top five.  She has broken 2:30 in the last two marathons.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF 

Lidia Simon (ROM)     2:22:54     2000 Osaka
Olivera Jevtic (SRB)     2:25:23    2003 Rotterdam
Marisa Barros (POR)    2:26:03   2009 Sevilla
Amane Gobena (ETH)    2:26:53   2009 Los Angeles
Dulce Maria Rodriguez (MEX)   2:28:54   2006 Chicago
Volha Krautsova (BLR)     2:35:55   2009 Roma

Mari Ozaki        2:23:30    2003 Osaka
Kayoko Obata     2:25:14    2000 Osaka
Yukiko Akaba     2:25:40   2009 Osaka
Chika Horie     2:26:11   2002 Hokkaido
Ayumi Nakayama    2:28:50   2008 Osaka
Yumi Hirata      2:29:23    2008 Nagoya  
Ryoko Kizaki     Debut   1:10:16  half
Azusa Nojiri     Debut    1:10:53  half