Previews01 Feb 2013

Kenya's Kirui and Ethiopia's Gelana favourites for the Marugame Half Marathon


Abel Kirui of Kenya wins the Marathon World Championships gold medal in Daegu (© Getty Images)

The Kagawa Marugame Half Marathon usually invites a few great runners every year and 2013 is no exception. Kenya’s Abel Kirui, a two-time IAAF World Championships Marathon gold medallist and London 2012 Olympic Games silver medalist, as well as Ethiopia’s 2012 Olympic Games Marathon champion Tiki Gelana, will be on the start line of the 67th edition of the IAAF Silver Label Road Race on Sunday (3).

Kirui is running the Marugame Half Marathon for the first time and will be hoping that for better luck than in in most of his other Japanese races. He ran the Sapporo Half Marathon in 2010, but finished disappointing 13th with a modest 1:04:17, and also started the 2008 Tokyo Marathon but failed to finish the race.

On paper, the Kenyan is the favorite and has a half marathon best of 1:00:11, albeit from 2007, which is the fastest in the field.  However, other overseas runners could challenge him.

Ireland’s Alistair Cragg has 1:00:49 Half Marathon best from 2011, Australia’s Collis Birmingham ran 1:01:25 last year and best from 2012, and Eritrea’s Kidane Tadese is a 27:06.16 10000m runner. 

Also entered in the race are Daniel Gitau, who won the 2010 Marugame Half Marathon, and Benjamin Gandu, who was fourth in 2012 Marugame Half Marathon. Both men are from Kenya but live in Japan.

Top local runner in the field is Tsuyoshi Ugachi who finished second in this race two years ago with the personal best of 1:00:58. Ugachi is one of the most promising young runners in Japan, and thus his race is awaited with much anticipation. His 10000m personal best is 27:40.69 and so the Japanese national record for the Half Marathon, 1:00:25, should be an achievable goal.

Atsushi Sato, national Half Marathon record holder, is also running the race but he has not run good half marathon since 2009. Arata Fujiwara, who is scheduled to run the Tokyo Marathon in three weeks, will run in Marugame and his result may be a good predictor for the upcoming Marathon. After setting his Half Marathon personal best of 1:01:34 in Marugame last year, Fujiwara went on to run a personal best of 2:07:48 in the Tokyo Marathon.

The course record is 59:48 by Kenya’s Mekubo Moguso in 2007.

Gelana going for course record

The Ethiopian is the defending Marugame Half Marathon women’s champion, having won the last year’s race with 1:08:48.  Since then, she has improved her Marathon best to 2:18:58 in the Rotterdam Marathon last April and then won the Olympic Marathon.

Six weeks after London, Gelana was third behind Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat in Great North Run in North East England but ran a Half Marathon personal best of 1:07:48.

Other invited runners from overseas are New Zealand’s Kim Smith, who has the fastest personal best in the field, Australia’s Nikki Chapple, who won the 2010 Marugame Half marathon in 1:08:37, and Portugal’s Marisa Barros, who set her personal best of 1:09:09 in the 2010 Great North Run.

If anybody can challenge Gelana, it is likely to be Kim Smith, who she has run three three times under sub-68 minutes The New Zealander has won her last two half marathons, and furthermore won eight of her last nine outings over the distance. Chapple has also got an impressive record over the distance and won five out of the six half marathons she has run since 2010.

The best Japanese in the field is Yukiko Akaba, who recorded her half marathon personal best of 1:08:11 in 2008. Akaba won her last half marathon, the Sanyo road race in Okayama, with 1:09:56.  Other Japanese hopeful are Sayo Nomura and Misato Horie, who were third and fourth, respectively, in the 2012 Marugame Half Marathon.

Marugame Half Marathon women’s course record is 1:07:26 by Kayoko Fukushi from 2006, which is also the Asian record. Can Gelana run faster this year than in 2012 and challenge Fukushi’s mark?

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Leading runners:

Overseas Men
Abel Kirui (KEN), 1:00:11, 2007 Rotterdam
Jacob Wanjuki (KEN), 1:00:32, 2010 Nagoya
Alstair Cragg (IRL), 1:00:49, 2011 New York City
Collis Birmingham (AUS), 1:01:25, 2012 Great North Run
Daniel Gitau (KEN), 1:01:01, 2010 Marugame
Benjamin Gandu (KEN), 1:01:06, 2012 Marugame
Kidane Tadese (ERI), 27:06.16 (10000m)               

Japanese men

Atsushi Sato, 1:00:25, 2007 World Half Marathon Championships (Udine)
Tsuyoshi Ugachi, 1:00:58, 2011 Marugame
Arata Fujiwara, 1:01:34, 2012 Marugame
Yuta Igarashi, 1:01:46, 2012 Marugame
Ryo Yamamoto, 1:01:54, 2012 Marugame 
Tomoyuki Morita, 1:01:55, 2012 Marugame

Overseas women

Kim Smith (NZL), 1:07:11, 2011 Philadelphia
Tiki Gelana (ETH), 1:07:48, 2012 Great North Run
Nikki Chapple (AUS), 1:08:37, 2010 Marugame
Marisa Barros (POR), 1:09:09, 2010 Great North Run

Japanese women
Yukiko Akaba, 1:08:11, 2008 Japan Corporate Half (Yamaguchi)
Yumiko Hara, 1:09:28, 2002 Miyazaki 
Hiroko Miyauchi, 1:09:54, 2008 Miyazaki
Eri Hayakawa, 1:10:14, 2005 Sapporo
Kaori Yoshida, 1:10:18, 2001 Chiba Marine
Sayo Nomura, 1:10:34, 2012 Marugame
Misato Horie, 1:10:37, 2012 Marugame
Ayame Takagi, 1:11:10, 2012 Matsue
Chihiro Takatou, 1:11:16, 2012 Okayama
Akiko Matsuyama, 32:27.23 (10000m)