Yuki Kawauchi of Japan (© Yohei Kamiyama/Agence SHOT)
The 62nd annual Beppu-Oita Marathon (also known as Betsudai Marathon) will be staged on Sunday (3) and the IAAF Silver Label Road Race can boast of a proud history as the third oldest marathon in Japan, after Lake Biwa Marathon and Fukuoka Marathon.
A world marathon best of 2:15:15.8 was set in the 1963 edition by Toru Terasawa and 15 years later, in 1978, Shigeru Soh finished in 2:09:06, then the second fastest time behind Derek Clayton’s 2:08:34.
Sunday is unlikely to see such era-defining times but since Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi will be on the start line, public and media attention is guaranteed.
Kawauchi is a prolific marathon runner, but also one that can boast of elite times. In 2012, he ran no less than nine marathons plus a 50km road race, including two sub-2:10 marathons within the space of two weeks in December, when he was sixth in 2:10:29 in the Fukuoka Marathon and then won the Hofu Marathon in 2:10:46 two weeks later.
He has already run and won one marathon this year, at the Egyptian International Marathon in Luxor on 18 January in a course record 2:12:24, despite some rather difficult circumstances surrounding his trip from East Asia to North Africa.
At the Narita airport in Tokyo, Kawauchi realized that he left his passport at home and thus missed his original flight. After his mother delivered his passport to the airport, Kawauchi was able to book another flight but had to pay $9000 to buy another ticket on the spot.
Kawauchi still works full time as a civil servant and can boast of a best of 2:08:37, when finishing third at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon, but he fits training and racing around his other professional commitments.
Nakamoto, with a Marathon best of 2:08:53 from last year's Lake Biwa race, is the second fastest runner after Kawauchi in the field. He is also a good championship runner, and was 10th in the 2011 IAAF World Championships as well as sixth in the London 2912 Olympic Games Marathon.
“My goal is to win my first Marathon here in (my home town of) Kyushu,” said Nakamoto, who has never cross the line first in any of his nine Marathon outings.
Five overseas runners have been invited with the fastest being Poland’s Adam Draczynski, who was fifth in the 2010 Vienna Marathon with 2:10:49. He ran the Beppu-Oita Marathon last year but finished a modest 12th in 2:15:01.
Among the other invited runners from abroad are Mongolia’s Ser-Od Bat-Ochir, who was second in Beppu-Oita Marathon last year with a national record of of 2:11:05.
However, perhaps the most intriguing runner from abroad is Eritrea’s Tewelde Estifanos. The Beppu-Oita Marathon Betsudai will be his debut marathon but he is a good half marathon runner with good international experience. He was 11th in 2010 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, and then ninth in 2012 edition of the race in Bulgaria.
The Beppu-Oita course record is 2:08:30, which has stood since 1996 to South Africa's Gert Thys.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Adam Draczynski (POL), 2:10:49, 2010 Vienna
Ser-Od Bat Ochir (MGL), 2:11:05, 2012 Beppu-Oita
Abdelkrim Boubker (MAR), 2:11:18, 2012 Ottawa
Michael Shelly (AUS), 2:11:23, 2011 Amsterdam
Tewelde Estifanos (ERI), debut
Yuki Kawauchi, 2:08:37, 2011 Tokyo
Kentaro Nakamoto, 208:53, 2012 Lake Biwa
Tomoyuki Sato, 2:09:43, 2004 Tokyo
Kazuya Ishida, 2:11:57, 2012 Nobeoka
Masaki Shimoju, 2:12:18, 2010 Nobeoka