Kenenisa Bekele in action at the London Marathon (© Getty Images)
Organisers of the Tokyo Marathon have revealed the elite fields for the IAAF Gold Label road race in the Japanese capital on 3 March.
Multiple world and Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele heads the men’s field. The Ethiopian set a national record of 2:03:03 when winning the 2016 Berlin Marathon, but he has struggled in some of his races since then. He failed in finish in Dubai in 2017 but rebounded to finish second in London in 2:05:57 three months later.
He then withdrew from the Berlin Marathon later that year before returning to action at the 2018 London Marathon, where he finished sixth in 2:08:53, but recorded another 'DNF' at the Amsterdam Marathon in October 2018.
Bekele’s last race in Japan was at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka, where he won the 10,000m – one of his six global titles at the distance.
He is one of five men in the field with PBs faster than 2:05. Fellow Ethiopian Birhanu Legesse ran 2:04:15 in Dubai on his debut at the distance last year and will contest his third career marathon in Tokyo.
Dickson Chumba, the Tokyo Marathon winner in 2014 and 2018, will defend his title. The Kenyan, who has a lifetime best of 2:04:32, finished inside 2:05 in both of his Tokyo victories. He also finished third at the 2015, 2016 and 2017 editions of the race.
Bahrain’s Asian record-holder El Hassan El Abbassi and Ethiopia’s Seifu Tura, both of whom recorded their sub-2:05 lifetime bests last year, are also in the field.
Most of the local fans, however, will be focused on Suguru Osako, who broke the Japanese record when finishing third at the Chicago Marathon last year in 2:05:50.
Two sets of pacemakers are planned for the men’s race. The first set will aim for 2:57-2:58/km pace until 30 kilometres, targeting a finishing time in the region of 2:04:30 to 2:05:10. The second set will run at 3:00/km pace with a target finishing time of about 2:06:35.
Ruti Aga is the fastest runner in the women’s field. The Ethiopian, who has achieved podium finishes at the Berlin Marathon for the past three years, set a lifetime best of 2:18:34 in the German capital last year to move to sixth on the world all-time list.
Three other women in the Tokyo field have sub-2:20 PBs: Ethiopian duo Feyse Boru Tadese and Yebrgual Melese plus Kenya’s former world half marathon record-holder Florence Kiplagat.
World marathon champion Rose Chelimo is also in the line-up, but such is the quality of the field, her PB of 2:22:51 makes her just the ninth fastest woman on the start list.
Kenya’s Joan Melly Chelimo, who last year went to fourth on the world all-time list with her 1:05:04 run at the Prague Half Marathon, will make her marathon debut in Tokyo.
“With the Tokyo Olympics just around the corner, elite runners are gathering in Tokyo to experience the Olympic course,” said race director Tad Hayano. “It is exciting to see the world-class competitions. If Osako and his Japanese rivals come close to the national record, it will add to the excitement.”
Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 2:03:03
Birhanu Legese (ETH) 2:04:15
Dickson Chumba (KEN) 2:04:32
El Hassan El Abbassi (BRN) 2:04:43
Seifu Tura (ETH) 2:04:44
Nobert Kigen (KEN) 2:05:13
Suguru Osako (JPN) 2:05:50
Gideon Kipketer (KEN) 2:05:51
Marius Kipserem (KEN) 2:06:11
Deme Tadu Abate (ETH) 2:06:47
Bedan Karoki (KEN) 2:07:41
Ryo Kiname (JPN) 2:08:08
Shogo Nakamura (JPN) 2:08:16
Yuki Sato (JPN) 2:08:58
Kenta Murayama (JPN) 2:09:50
Jo Fukuda (JPN) 2:09:52
Shohei Otsuka (JPN) 2:10:12
Daichi Kamino (JPN) 2:10:18
Ruti Aga (ETH) 2:18:34
Feyse Boru Tadese (ETH) 2:19:30
Yebrgual Melese (ETH) 2:19:36
Florence Kiplagat (KEN) 2:19:44
Shure Demise (ETH) 2:20:59
Bedatu Hirpa (ETH) 2:21:32
Mimi Belete (BRN) 2:22:29
Helen Tola (ETH) 2:22:48
Rose Chelimo (BRN) 2:22:51
Ruth Chebitok (KEN) 2:23:29
Honami Maeda (JPN) 2:23:48
Yuka Takashima (JPN) 2:26:13
Keiko Nogami (JPN) 2:26:33
Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH) 2:33:10
Joan Chelimo Melly (KEN) debut
Mao Ichiyama (JPN) debut