Previews02 Mar 2024

Kipchoge returns to Tokyo, Hassan targets third marathon major victory


Eliud Kipchoge wins the Tokyo Marathon (© AFP / Getty Images)

Double Olympic gold medallists Eliud Kipchoge and Sifan Hassan will look to open their 2024 season on a high when they line up for the Tokyo Marathon – a World Athletics Platinum Label road race – in the Japanese capital on Sunday (3).

In both races, the two-time Olympic gold medallists will be up against the world champions in their event as well as the defending Tokyo Marathon champions.

Kipchoge is familiar with the race, having won here in 2022 with a course record of 2:02:40. Just six months later, he went on to set a world record of 2:01:09 in Berlin, and he returned to the German capital last year to notch up another victory in 2:02:42.

On that occasion, Vincent Kipkemoi Ngetich ran with Kipchoge until the closing stages and was rewarded with a PB of 2:03:13, one of the fastest debut marathons in history. Now that he’s no longer a total newbie to the distance, Ngetich will line up in Tokyo feeling a bit confident than he did in Berlin.

Uganda’s Victor Kiplangat will be racing for the first time since winning the world marathon title in Budapest last year. The 24-year-old, who also won the Commonwealth title two years ago, has a PB of 2:05:09, set in Hamburg in 2022. He also knows what it’s like to race in Japan at this time of year, having finished second in Osaka in February 2023.

Timothy Kiplagat also competed in Budapest last year, finishing 13th. But just four months prior, he set a PB of 2:03:50, which makes him the third-fastest entrant for Sunday’s race.

Kenya’s Benson Kipruto, the 2022 Chicago Marathon champion who has a PB of 2:04:02, is also a key contender, as is defending Tokyo champion Deso Gelmisa of Ethiopia.

Other athletes who could contend for a podium finish include Kenya’s Bethwel Kibet and Ethiopian trio Hailemaryam Kiros, Andualem Belay and Tsegaye Getachew.

The domestic battle will also be fierce as it’s the final opportunity for Japanese men to make it on to their country’s team for the Olympic Games. If the first Japanese finisher on Sunday crosses the line within 2:05:50, they could knock Suguru Osako off his provisional spot on the team.

Kengo Suzuki, who holds the national record of 2:04:56, is entered. He placed fourth in Tokyo in 2022 with 2:05:28, but since then his only completed race was a 1:02:46 half marathon in Hakodate in June last year. He was a non-starter at the 2022 World Championships in Oregon and failed to finish in Tokyo last year.

Ichitaka Yamashita was in contention at the World Championships in Budapest up until the closing stages, eventually finishing 11th. He contested Japan’s main Olympic Trials race just seven weeks later but finished 32nd. Five months on from that, he should head into Sunday’s race feeling much fresher.

Other Japanese men with the potential to run in the 2:05 range include Kenya Sonota, Kazuya Nishiyama, Kyohei Hosoya or marathon debutant Yusuke Tamura.

The pacemakers have been tasked with guiding the athletes to a finishing time in the region of 2:01, which would be an improvement on Kipchoge’s course record.

Apart from the small handful of runners making their debut at the distance on Sunday, Sifan Hassan maybe one of the most inexperienced marathon runners on the start line. But, as a winner of two World Marathon Majors, she is also one of the most accomplished.

The versatile Dutch runner made her marathon debut in London less than a year ago, winning with a national record of 2:18:33 in a race where it looked as though she was close to withdrawing before the half-way point.

Later in the year, and having contested three track events – earning medals in two – at the World Championships in Budapest, she returned to the roads and won in Chicago in 2:13:44. Had it not been for Tigist Assefa’s 2:11:53 run in Berlin just two weeks prior, Hassan’s time would have been a world record.

Hassan, the Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion, is now targeting her third marathon victory. But, like Kipchoge in the men’s race, she faces stiff opposition.

Amane Beriso won the world title in Budapest last year and has won four of her past five marathons. That streak also includes the 2022 Valencia Marathon, where she clocked a PB of 2:14:58, which at that point made her the third-fastest woman in history.

Rosemary Wanjiru only has three marathons to her name, but has performed well in all of them. She was second in Berlin on her debut in 2022, clocking 2:18:00, then went on to win in Tokyo six months later with 2:16:28. Later in 2023, she finished sixth at the World Championships.

Beriso and Wanjiru raced over 15km at the Montferland Run in the Netherlands in December with Beriso placing third and Wanjiru finishing fourth.

Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter will also be one to watch. A world bronze medallist in 2022, she finished between Beriso and Wanjiru at least year’s World Championships, placing fourth. She also finished third at the Boston Marathon earlier that year, one place behind Beriso. She has fond memories of Tokyo, having won there in 2020 with a PB of 2:17:45.

Sutume Asefa Kebede started her year with intent, winning the Houston Half Marathon with a big PB of 1:04:37. If she’s able to carry that form into the marathon, she could improve on her PB of 2:18:12. Fellow Ethiopian Tigist Abayechew, the third-place finisher in Berlin in 2022, is also one to watch.

Tanzania’s Magdalena Shauri enjoyed a remarkable breakthrough in Berlin last year, returning to the distance for the first time since 2017 to finish third in a national record of 2:18:41. She’ll be keen to show that her performance in the German capital wasn’t a one-off.

The women’s race in Tokyo doesn’t factor into Olympic selection for Japanese runners, so the domestic entries aren’t as deep as the men’s. But Hitomi Niiya, the Japanese record-holder for 10,000m and the half marathon, has her sights set on breaking the national marathon record of 2:18:59.

The pacemakers have been instructed to set up the race for a finishing time inside 2:15, which would represent a significant improvement on Brigid Kosgei’s course record of 2:16:02.

Elite field

Sifan Hassan (NED) 2:13:44
Amane Beriso (ETH) 2:14:58
Rosemary Wanjiru (KEN) 2:16:28
Lonah Chemtai Salpeter (ISR) 2:17:45
Tigist Abayechew (ETH) 2:18:03
Sutume Asefe Kebede (ETH) 2:18:12
Magdalena Shauri (TAN) 2:18:41
Hitomi Niiya (JPN) 2:19:24
Buzunesh Getachew (ETH) 2:19:27
Meseret Abebayahau (ETH) 2:19:50
Yumi Yoshikawa (JPN) 2:25:20
Khishigsaikhan Galbadrakh (MGL) 2:28:33

Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 2:01:09
Vincent Kipkemoi Ngetich (KEN) 2:03:13
Timothy Kiplagat (KEN) 2:03:50
Benson Kipruto (KEN) 2:04:02
Bethwel Kibet (KEN) 2:04:37
Hailemaryam Kiros (ETH) 2:04:41
Andualem Belay (ETH) 2:04:44
Tsegaye Getachew (ETH) 2:04:49
Deso Chalo Gelmisa (ETH) 2:04:53
Kengo Suzuki (JPN) 2:04:56
Bazezew Asmare (ETH) 2:04:57
Victor Kiplangat (UGA) 2:05:09
Ichitaka Yamashita (JPN) 2:05:51
Kenya Sonota (JPN) 2:05:59
Haimro Alame (ISR) 2:06:04
Bedan Karoki (KEN) 2:06:15
Kyohei Hosoya (JPN) 2:06:35
Kazuya Nishiyama (JPN) 2:06:45
Yusuke Ogura (JPN) 2:06:51
Yohei Ikeda (JPN) 2:06:53
Patrick Mosin (KEN) debut
Yusuke Tamura (JPN) debut