The 2013 Nagoya Women’s Marathon will be on Sunday (10) and the big question in many people’s minds is: can Ethiopia’s Werknesh Kidane finally fulfil her potential over the classic distance at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race?
Her Marathon personal best may be quite modest at 2:26:15 but Kidane, now 31, is the fastest track runner in the field, having run the 10000m in 30:07.15, the eighth fastest in history, and she won a silver medal at the 2003 IAAF World Championships; in addition to her many medals at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
In fact, one curious fact is that Kidane is the fastest women’s 10000m runner to run over 26.2 miles in marathon-mad Japan.
Nearly ten years after her Paris success, it also appears Kidane has not lost hardly any of her speed as she was fourth in the London 2012 Olympic Games 10000m with 30:39.38.
Her Marathon debut in 2011 was awaited with much anticipation but in her three marathons so far, all in 2011, Kidane has not cracked 2:26. However, there would appear to be no reason why Kidane cannot run 2:20 or even faster.
The fastest overseas runner in the field is Georgina Rono, who recorded 2:21:39 in the 2012 Frankfurt Marathon. Her Half Marathon best of 1:07:58, in the 2012 Udine Half Marathon, indicates that the Kenyan may even have faster Marathon in her legs.
Rono’s strength is her consistency. Since 2010, Rono has never finished worse than third in her five marathons and in 2011 she won both the Hannover and Eindhoven Marathons.
Her compatriot Margaret Agai doesn’t have the same profile internationally but can boast of a best of 2:24:17 in 2012 Shanghai Marathon.
Jelena Prokopcuka, with 2:22:56 from 2005 Osaka Ladies Marathon, is the third fastest runner in the field and although the Latvian is now 36-years-old, Prokopcuka ran 2:26:55 last year in Yokohama and could still be a contender if the race happens to be slow.
Australia’s Nikki Chapple and Ethiopia’s Mestawet Tufa will be making the Marathon debuts in Nagoya and the pair have good credential at the Half Marathon distance.
Chapple won the 2010 Marugame Half Marathon with 1:08:37 while Tufa was sixth at the 2010 New Delhi Half Marathon with 1:08:48 and the latter was also fifth at the 2009 World Half Marathon Championships.
In this context, it’s worth noting that the fastest marathon debut on the Japanese soil is 2:21:51 by Japan’s Naoko Sakamoto at the 2003 Osaka Ladies Marathon.
Other contenders potentially could be the Ethiopian pair of Berhane Dibaba, whose marathon best is 2:29:22 in the 2012 Valencia Marathon, and Genet Getaneh, who ran 2:25:38 in the 2012 Amsterdam Marathon.
Moscow 2013 places on the line
This year’s Nagoya Women’s Marathon is also the final domestic qualifying race for the 2013 World Championships, and thus the competition will be fierce.
Ryoko Kizaki, who was 16th in the London 2012 Olympic Games, could be the favourite to finish as the top Japanese runner.
Kizaki was second at in the 2005 World University Games Half Marathon and was also second over 10000m in 2007 World University Games and although her marathon best is quite modest 2:26:32, Kizaki's 5000m best of 15:22.87 and 10000m best of 31:38.71 suggests she can go faster.
The field also features Mizuki Noguchi, the 2004 Olympic Marathon champion, is the favorite. Now 34, she was originally scheduled to run in the Osaka Women’s Marathon in January but had to pull out due to injury.
After Noguchi was sixth last year in Nagoya with 2:25:33, the race where she made her marathon debut in 2002, everyone is wondering whether she can return to the form that captured gold in Athens and silver in the 2003 IAAF World Championships Marathon.
Other contenders for a place on Japan’s team going to Moscow include Kaoru Nagao, Eri Okubo, and Yoko Miyauchi.
Nagao is coached by legendary Yoshio Koide, who coached Naoko Takahashi to Olympic gold in 2000. Although Nagao’s Marathon best is only 2:26:58, Nagoya could be her breakthrough race, just it was for Takahashi in 1998.
Eri Okubo is a runner on a roll. Her Marathon best improved from 2:35:24 in 2010 to 2:26:08 in 2012.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Invited overseas runners
Georgina Rono (KEN), 2:21:39, 2012 Frankfurt
Jelena Prokopcuka (LAT), 2:22:56, 2005 Osaka
Margaret Agai (KEN), 2:24:17, 2012 Shanghai
Genet Getaneh (ETH), 2:25:38, 2012 Amsterdam
Werknesh Kidane (ETH) , 2:26:15, 2011 Boston
Yuliya Ruban (UKR), 2:27:10, 2011 Torino
Berhane Dibaba (ETH), 2:29:22, 2012 Valencia
Nikki Chapple (AUS), debut, 1:08:37 Half Marathon
Mestawet Tufa (ETH), debut, 1:08:48 Half Marathon
Leading domestic runners
Mizuki Noguchi, 2:19:12, 2005 Berlin
Eri Okubo, 2:26:08, 2012 Tokyo
Yoko Miyauchi, 2:26:23, 2012 Nagoya
Ryoko Kizaki, 2:26:32, 2011 Yokohama
Kaoru Nagao, 2:26:58, 2011 Yokohama
Eri Hayakawa, 2:28:11, 2004 Honolulu
Sumiko Suzuki, 2:29:25, 2012 Tokyo