by Brett Larner
Little-known Abraham Kiplimo became the first Ugandan winner in the 63-year history of the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, taking four minutes off his best to outrun two of Japan's best marathoners of 2013 for the win in 2:09:23. Tokyo-area club runner Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) joined him in the books with the women's win in 2:41:56.
In the almost complete absence of Beppu-Oita's usual wind, thick fog blanketed the course for most of the race. After irregular pacing for the first 10 km things settled down near the mid-2:08 target pace with a large pack of over twenty men up front. With a 2:08:00 at last year's Tokyo Marathon making him Japan's fastest marathoner last year, Moscow World Championships marathon team member Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) was the favorite, but at 25 km he became the race's first major casualty as he gradually lost touch with the pack. Top-ranked first-timers Ryo Kiname (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) and Ryuji Watanabe (Team Toyota Kyushu) were next at 28 km before a surge at 30 km from Watanabe's teammate, 2:10:29 man and former Hakone Ekiden star Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), broke things apart.
Taking things down to a 2:55 km, Imai went out front with only Mongolian national record holder Ser-Od Bat-Ochir and Kiplimo in pursuit. Ethiopian Gezahegn Abera closed the gap to make it a quartet by 32 km, with teammates Kenichi Shiraishi and Takaaki Koda (both Team Asahi Kasei) and the great Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Team Yakult) making up a chase trio. The lead group sparred for the next 2 km before a hard surge from Kiplimo got rid of Abera and opened a gap on Bat-Ochir and Imai. Imai took his time passing Bat-Ochir and moving forward, alternately closing the gap to leader Kiplimo and falling back. At 38 km he was 15 seconds back, but from there he began to close for good, 8 seconds down at 41 km and 5 seconds back with 500 m to go. The gap proved too far to close and Kiplimo got the win in 2:09:23, Imai taking 59 seconds off his best for 2nd in 2:09:30.
In the race for 3rd, Shiraishi and Koda dropped Njenga and passed Abera in short order. Closing on Bat-Ochir, Shiraishi, who won last month's Oita City Half Marathon ahead of his marathon debut on much of the same course, surged hard to go past Bat-Ochir into 3rd. He held on to that position to cross the line a great debut time of 2:10:36, Bat-Ochir 4th in 2:10:59, just his second time under 2:11:00 after winning December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon in 2:09:00. Koda looked set for 5th, but in the last kilometer he was run down by former Komazawa University star Soji Ikeda (Team Yakult), who had fallen off the pack mid-race but kept pushing on and running down casualties to outrun Koda 2:11:12 to 2:11:21. All told it was a good start to the year for Japanese men's marathoning, with three more competitive marathons due up in the next four weeks.
Back in the masses, Koki Kawauchi (Takasaki Keizai Univ.), the youngest brother of Beppu-Oita course record holder Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't.), ran a large PB of 2:21:48 for 32nd, almost tying middle brother Yoshiki Kawauchi's best and bringing him closer to joining his oldest brother sub-2:20. 59+ world record holder Yoshihisa Hosaka (Natural Foods AC) had a good debut as a 65-year-old as he ran 2:49:01, the fifth-fastest time ever by a 65-year-old.
63rd Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
click here for complete results
1. Abraham Kiplimo (Uganda) - 2:09:23 - PB
2. Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 2:09:30 - PB
3. Kenichi Shiraishi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:36 - debut
4. Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia) - 2:10:59
5. Soji Ikeda (Team Yakult) - 2:11:12
6. Takaaki Koda (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:21
7. Jason Mbote (Kenya) - 2:12:44
8. Ryo Kiname (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:12:46 - debut
9. Gezahegn Abera (Ethiopia) - 2:13:08
10. Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Team Yakult) - 2:13:50
11. Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - 2:14:28
12. Yu Chiba (Team Honda) - 2:14:36
13. Kazuaki Shimizu (Team Yakult) - 2:14:57
14. Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:15:27
15. Tomohiko Takenaka (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:15:28 - PB
32. Koki Kawauchi (Takasaki Keizai Univ.) - 2:21:48 - PB
427. Yoshihisa Hosaka (Natural Foods AC) - 2:49:01
1. Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) - 2:41:56
2. Miyuki Kaneko (AC Kita) - 2:53:35
3. Tomoka Oba (Kasumigaoka AC) - 2:55:42
(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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