The 64th edition of the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon, a IAAF silver label road race, is scheduled to be held on Sunday morning February 7.
It is the only IAAF silver label half marathon in Japan. The course is quite fast. The course record, on the men’s side is 59:48, recorded by Mekubo Mogusu in 2007, and for women it is 1:07:26, recorded by Kayoko Fukushi in 2006. Fukushi’s time is also an Asian half marathon record.
Gitau strongest challenger
Mogusu, who won in 2007 and 2009 is back to defend his title. Last year’s second place finisher Daniel Gitau is also back. Both Mogusu, the favourite, and Gitau, his toughest challenger, are born in Kenya and attended the university in Japan; Mogusu was at Yamanashi Gakuin University and now runs for Japanese corporate sponsored team AiDEM, while Gitau is a senior at Nihon University.
Naturally, they are rivals, but their win/loss record is lopsided. Mogusu wins almost all the time. Mogusu has dropped out of the 2009 Fukuoka Marathon in December, and thus he should be back with vengeance in Marugame Half Marathon. Other Kenyans in the race are Joseph Mwaniki, who finished second in 2008 Marugame half marathon and Cosmas Ondiba. Like Mogusu and Gitau, Mwaniki and Ondiba live in Japan. Mwaniki runs for Konica-Minolta, while Ondiba is a student at Yamanashi Gakuin University.
Other foreign invited runners in the field are Samson Ramadhani of Tanzania and Andrew Lemoncello of Great Britain. Although Ramadhani’s half marathon best is only 1:02:16, he won the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and finished fifth in 2005 World Championships both at the marathon. He has a marathon best of 2:08:01. Lemoncello’s half marathon best is only 1:01:52, but since his 10,000m best is 27:57.23, he ought to have much faster half marathon in him.
Two runners who are scheduled to run Tokyo Marathon at the end of the month will run the half marathon in Marugame as a tune-up race. They are Kensuke Takahashi, who has the half marathon best of 1:01:54, and Kurao Umeki, who has the best of 1:02:05 at the half marathon.
Yamauchi - prohibitive favourite
The women’s field includes the defending Marugame half marathon champion Mara Yamauchi, who was sixth at the marathon in the 2008 Olympics. She also finished third in 2006. Yamauchi is an Oxford graduate and worked in the British Embassy in Tokyo before she took a leave of absence to concentrate on running.
She married a Japanese, hence her Japanese last name. Her marathon personal best is 2:23:12, set at the 2009 London Marathon, while her 10,000m personal best is 31:49.40, recorded when she won a bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. She is a prohibitive favourite.
Other contenders in the women’s race are Bruna Genovese (ITA), Nikki Chapple (AUS) and Lee Eun-Jeong (KOR). Genovse won the 2004 Tokyo Women’s Marathon and recorded a marathon personal best of 2:25:28 in 2006 Boston Marathon. More recently, in November of 2009, she was fourth in the inaugural edition of Yokohama Women’s Marathon.
Although she is 28 years old, Chapple could be considered to be a rising star, for she improved her half marathon best by more than four and half minutes to 1:10:03 in 2009. She also recorded 32:29.92 for 10,000m two months ago. Lee won the half marathon gold medal at the 2005 World University Games and has a half marathon personal best of 1:11:15.
Among the Japanese, Hiromi Ominami’s 1:08:45 is the fastest half marathon personal best. Although she did not run well in 2009, Hiromi recorded the third fastest ekiden leg in recent Inter-Prefectural Women’s Ekiden. However, the most promising young runner may be Akane Wakita. Based on her 10,000m best of 31:39.32 recorded in two years ago, Wakita ought to be able to run much faster than her half marathon personal best of 69:57 indicates.
Wakita recorded 37:53 for 11.6km ekiden leg in December and thus obviously in shape. Other sub 70 minutes half marathon runner in the field are Yuko Manabe, with the best of 69:36 and Hiroko Miyauchi with the best of 69:57. However, based on the recent performances in Ekiden, Kaori Urata, who has the best of 1:11:35, could be a surprise. She has recorded three stage bests in her last three ekidens.
In the last ten years, Kayoko Fukushi and Yasuko Hashimoto have defended their tile. Can Mekubo Mogusu and Mara Yamauchi repeat to join them?
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
List of Invited Runners:
Mara Yamauchi (GBR)
Bruna Genovese (ITA)
Nikki Chapple (AUS)
Lee Eun-Jeong (KOR)
Samson Ramadhani (TAN)
Andrew Lemoncello (GBR)
Mekubo Mogusu (KEN)
Daniel Gitau (KEN)
Joseph Mwaniki (KEN)
Cosmas Ondiba (KEN)