Endeshaw Negesse of Ethiopia leads of field of seven sub-2:10 runners at the Lake Biwa Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, in Otsu, Japan, on Sunday (5).
Negesse, 28, has a 2:04:52 personal best set at the 2013 Dubai Marathon where he finished fourth. Two years ago Negesse won the Tokyo Marathon with 2:06:00, the second fastest time of his career, but hasn’t run a race since his fourth place showing at the 2015 Shanghai Marathon. Negesse cited injury for his recent absence from the circuit, but said he’s arrived prepared. “I came to win,” he said, adding that he plans to make his move after 30 kilometres.
Vincent Kipruto is the second fastest in the field with a 2:05:13 lifetime best set at the 2010 Rotterdam Marathon. Kipruto took silver at the 2011 World Championships marathon and has run well in Otsu, winning the Lake Biwa title in 2013 and finishing third in 2014.
However, Kipruto has not cracked 2:10 since that third place finish in 2014 when he ran 2:09:54 and hasn’t approached the form that brought him to three sub-2:06 runs between 2009 and 2011. Despite that inconsistency, the 29-year-old said he hasn’t adjusted his training during the various phases of his career.
“I did the same training as before, I never change my training,” he said. “The last lap on the track just before the finish is the most interesting part of the race.”
The runner who may surprise on Sunday is Ezekiel Chebii, whose lifetime best of 2:06:07 came more recently, at the 2016 Amsterdam Marathon last October. Although it wasn’t a steady progression, the Kenyan has improved his best from 2:09:15 to 2:07:18 and then to 2:06:07. “I came here to run a good time,” said Chebii, who tuned up for the race with one long run and some speed work sessions on Tuesday and Saturday. “If everything goes well, I would like to run a personal best.”
Others to watch include Munyo Solomon Maiyo of Uganda who is piecing together a solid championships resumé. Although he hasn’t yet cracked 2:10, he won bronze at the 2015 World Championships and was fourth at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. In his four starts he’s finished either third or fourth.
Other invited runners from abroad include Yihunilgn Amsalu Adane of Ethiopia, Eritrean Tewelde Estifanos, Mourad Marofit of Morocco, Bayron Piedra of Ecuador and El Hassan Elabbassi of Bahrain. Among them, the standout may be Marofit who clocked 59:33 for the half marathon in October.
For Japanese men, last chance to qualify for London 2017
The 72nd edition of the race also serves as the final men’s qualifying race for the IAAF World Championships London 2017. Last year, two of the three Olympic marathon team members qualified through this race. This year, however, after four runners produced sub-2:10 runs in Tokyo and another, Yuki Kawauchi, clocked 2:09:11 in Fukuoka, it will be difficult to make the team on Sunday with a low 2:09 performance required.
The field includes three Japanese with sub-2:11 credentials: Satoru Sasaki, a 2016 Olympian, who has a 2:08:56 personal best; Suehiro Ishikawa, has set his 2:09:10 personal best in the 2013 Lake Biwa Marathon and qualified for Rio here last year; and Hayato Sonoda, who improved to 2:09:10 in Fukuoka behind Kawauchi. He said he’ll be tailing the pacesetters towards a 2:06:35 run.
Attracting the most attention locally is Tadashi Isshiki, who clocked 2:11:45 in Tokyo last year in his debut over the distance. Considered Japan’s best collegiate runner at the moment, the 22-year-old has excelled in ekiden competition, and is targeting a sub-2:10 run on Sunday.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF