Ethiopian marathon runner Haven Hailu (© AFP / Getty Images)
A new name will be added to the Osaka Women’s Marathon list of winners on Sunday (29) as none of the past champions will be in attendance at the World Athletics Platinum Label road race.
Japanese women have dominated the race in recent years, winning six of the past seven editions. But the presence of Maurine Chepkemoi, Haven Hailu and Meseret Gola means there’s a high probability of an overseas visitor winning this year’s race.
Chepkemoi and Hailu have raced before, at the 2021 Amsterdam Marathon, where both women set their lifetime bests. Kenya’s Chepkemoi finished just one second ahead of Hailu on that occasion, 2:20:18 to 2:20:19, so the Ethiopian will he highly motivated for revenge.
Both women went on to contest two marathons in 2022. Chepkemoi won in Enschede in 2:21:10 and then ran 2:25:12 in Berlin, but finished outside the top 10. Hailu, meanwhile, won in Rotterdam in 2:22:01 but then failed to finish in Chicago.
So this race will be a chance for redemption after both women had somewhat frustrating performances in their big city races at the end of last year. If Chepkemoi wins, she will be the first Kenyan winner of this race since Catherine Ndereba claimed victory back in 2006.
But Gola, Hailu’s fellow Ethiopian, should also be in contention for victory. A consistent performer, she has finished runner-up in four of her past six marathons. She set a PB of 2:20:50 when finishing second in Seville last year, and came close to matching that in Berlin seven months later with a 2:20:58 clocking to place fifth, comfortably ahead of Chepkemoi.
There is, as always, a strong contingent of Japanese runners in the field. For many, the focus will be on qualifying for the Marathon Grand Championship – Japan’s Olympic trial race – in October later this year. To earn a place in that race, the top three Japanese women must finish inside 2:28. Alternatively, if the first six Japanese women finish inside 2:27, they will qualify. Or if anyone places outside the top six Japanese finishers but still runs inside 2:24, they too will qualify.
Yuka Ando is the fastest Japanese woman in the field with her 2:21:36 PB from her marathon debut in 2017. A former third-place finisher in Osaka (2018), Ando achieved podium finishes in Nagoya in 2022 and 2020, finishing inside 2:23 on both occasions.
Sayaka Sato and Mao Uesugi should also be among the leading Japanese contenders. Sato finished sixth in Osaka last year, then went on to achieve a top-10 finish in Berlin, setting a PB of 2:22:13.
Uesugi, meanwhile, will be aiming to continue her progression in Osaka. She just missed the podium in 2021 but set a PB of 2:24:52. She then improved to runner-up last year, setting another lifetime best (2:22:29).
Organisers have made a few changes to the course for this year, which they say is just as fast as the old one, although there appears to be a few more inclines than before. The existing course record is 2:20:52, set last year by Mizuki Matsuda.
Maurine Chepkemoi (KEN) 2:20:18
Haven Hailu (ETH) 2:20:19
Meseret Gola (ETH) 2:20:50
Yuka Ando (JPN) 2:21:36
Sayaka Sato (JPN) 2:22:13
Mao Uesugi (JPN) 2:22:29
Reia Iwade (JPN) 2:23:52
Sairi Maeda (JPN) 2:25:25
Haruka Yamaguchi (JPN) 2:26:35
Chiharu Ikeda (JPN) 2:26:50
Risper Gesabwa (MEX) 2:26:55
Munkhzaya Bayartsogt (MGL) 2:28:03
Shiho Kaneshige (JPN) 2:28:51
Alice Wright (GBR) 2:29:08
Sakiho Tsutsui (JPN) debut
Yumi Yoshikawa (JPN) debut