Martin Mathathi en route to winning at the 2014 Marugame Half Marathon (© Masamichi Makino (Getsuriku))
Four runners who have gone under the elite bench mark of one hour, including the defending champion Martin Mathathi will be on the start line of the 69th edition of Kagawa Marugame Half Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race on Sunday (1).
Mathathi won the last year’s race with 1:00:11, the Kenya’s fastest half marathon since 2011 when recorded his personal best of 58:56 at the Great North Run in the north of England.
However, the fastest half marathon runner in the quality field is Bernard Koech, who recorded 58:41 in the 2013 San Diego Half Marathon. However, the San Diego is downhill and point-to-point in nature so his fastest half marathon on a standard course is 59:10 at the 2012 Lille Half Marathon.
Koech has run total of five half marathons under 60 minutes.
The other sub-60 men are Eritrea’s Samuel Tsegay and Tanzania’s Fabiano Joseph.
Tsegay recorded his best when he finished second with 59:21 at the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. Joseph, 2005 world half marathon champion recorded his best of 59:56 back in and may not be in the same form as the others.
Other contenders will be a contingent of Kenyans living in Japan: Paul Kuira, Edward Waweru, Jacob Wanjuki, Benjamin Gandu, and Enoch Omwamba.
The battle for the top Japanese runner is likely to be between Masato Kikuchi, Keita Shitara, his twin brother Yuta Shitara, and Akinobu Murasawa.
Kikuchi was 18th in the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and has a half marathon best of 1:01:17 from 2014, while the Shitara brothers have half marathon best of 1:01:45 (Keita) and 1:01:48 (Yuta) from 2012.
The Shitara brothers and Murasawa have also run under 28 minutes for 10,000m on the track.
Flanagan the favourite
On the women’s side, Shalane Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic Games bronze medallist is the top name. The American has half marathon best of 1:08:31 from 2013.
Although Flanagan is a prohibitive favourite, Ethiopia’s Ehitu Kiros has the half marathon best of 1:09:38 and may be able to challenge Flanagan.
Australia’s Eloise Wellings, who has the 10,000m best of 31:41.31, is making the half marathon debut and it will be interesting to see whether she can also excel at the half marathon distance.
The fastest Japanese woman in the field is Hanae Tanaka, who has the half marathon best of 1:09:18 from 2013 but there are five other domestic runners who have run under 71 minutes.
Eri Hayakawa has a half marathon best of 1:10:13 from 2013, Misato Horie a best of 1:10:26 from 2013, Eri Makikawa ran 1:10:27 to win at the 2014 Marugame Half Marathon, Rui Aoyama has a the best of 1:10:28 from 2013 and Azusa Nojiri completes the list with a best of 1:10:53.
Several runners, such as Nojiri, will be using the Marugame Half Marathon as a tune-up race for Tokyo Marathon next month. On the men’s side, Arata Fujiwara has the half marathon best of 1:01:34, a marathon best of 2:07:48, and is among the invited runners for the Tokyo Marathon.
The course record in Marugame is 59:48 by Kenya’s Mekubo Mogusu in 2007 and possibly could be broken if the weather and pace is right, while the women’s course record is 1:07:26 by Japan’s Kayoko Fukushi in 2006.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF