Martin Mathathi en route to winning the 2013 Fukuoka Marathon (© Takefumi Tsutsui / Agence SHOT)
Kenya’s Martin Mathathi will defend his Fukuoka Marathon title on Sunday 7 December but a lot of eyes will be on the performance of his compatriot and former marathon world record-holder Patrick Makau following the announcement of the elite field for the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Mathathi won the 2013 edition of the famous Japanese race in 2:07:16, his only completed marathon to date, and then clocked 1:00:11 to win the Marugame Half Marathon in February but he has kept a low profile since and not had a single outing.
He is one of three previous Fukuoka winners who will stand on the start line this year.
Also returning are Kenya’s surprise 2012 champion Joseph Gitau – who was well-beaten into second place last year by Mathathi – and, of a slightly earlier vintage, Ukraine’s 2005 winner Dmytro Baranovskyy.
Makau, who set a world record of 2:03:38 when winning the 2011 Berlin Marathon, has struggled for form in the past two years and not broken 2:10 since the 2012 Frankfurt Marathon.
He will be looking to resurrect his career over the classic distance at the 68th edition of the Fukuoka race but will have to put behind him a disappointing half marathon outing in Valencia earlier this month where he finished a modest 23rd in 1:04:48.
Fukuoka is one of four races being used to decide the Japanese team for the 2015 IAAF World Championships, and with places in Beijing at stake, there is considerable domestic interest as well.
The best Japanese man in the field on current form is Kentaro Nakamoto, who was sixth at the London 2012 Olympic Games and fifth at the 2013 IAAF World Championships.
Nakamoto clocked his best of 2:08:35 at the 2013 Beppu-Oita Marathon but his Moscow team-mate Masakazu Fujiwara, who can actually boast of a slightly faster personal best of 2:08:12 from 2003, is also in the field.
The race will also see former 1500m and 5000m national champion Yuichiro Ueno make his debut over the classic distance.
In total, organisers announced eight runners with personal bests faster than 2:08 and 13 better than 2:10.
Ken Nakamura and organisers for the IAAF
Elite field (with PBs):
Patrick Makau (KEN) 2:03:38
Raji Assefa (ETH) 2:06:24
Joseph Gitau (KEN) 2:06:58
Dmytro Baranovskyy (UKR) 2:07:15
Isaac Macharia (KEN) 2:07:16
Martin Mathathi (KEN) 2:07:16
Yared Asmerom (ERI) 2:07:27
Henryk Szost (POL) 2:07:39
Masakazu Fujiwara (JPN) 2:08:12
Kentaro Nakamoto (JPN) 2:08:35
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (MGL) 2:09:00
Yoshinori Oda (JPN) 2:09:03
Cuthbert Nyasango (ZIM) 2:09:52
Jeffrey Eggleston (USA) 2:10:52
Tomoya Adachi (JPN) 2:10:22
Chiharu Takada (JPN) 2:10:39
Mekubo Mogusu (KEN) 2:11:02
Takaaki Koda (JPN) 2:11:08
Taiga Ito (JPN) 2:11:15
Tsuyoshi Ugachi (JPN) 2:12:18
Yuichiro Ueno (JPN) debut
Johana Maina (KEN) debut