Ryoko Kizaki celebrates winning the Nagoya Women's Marathon (© Yohei Kamiyama/Agence SHOT)
The 2014 Nagoya Women’s Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, can boast of having two sub-2:23 marathon runners and three sub-2:24 marathon runners who will stand on the start line in the Japanese city on Sunday (9).
Two fastest runners, Russia’s Mariya Konovalova and Latvia’s Jelena Prokopcuka, are both in their late 30s, but are still running fast.
Konovalova, now 39, recorded her personal best of 2:22:46 in the 2013 Chicago Marathon. She is also very fast over shorter distances, having recorded 30:31.03 for 10,000m in 2009, and 14:38.09 for 5000m in 2008.
The second fastest runner in the field is the 37-year-old Prokopcuka of Latvia, who recorded her personal best of 2:22:56 at the 2005 Osaka Ladies Marathon back in 2005. She is still fast but has not broken 2:25 since the 2006 Boston Marathon, although her best time since was 2:25:46 recorded in the last year’s Nagoya Women’s Marathon, when she finished fourth.
Three other runners – Helna Loshanyang Kirop, Agnes Kiprop and Agnes Barsosio, all from Kenya – have broken 2:25.
Kirop, 37, recorded her personal best of 2:23:37 in 2011 Venice Marathon and her second fastest time of 2:24:40 in the 2013 Rome Marathon. Kiprop ran her personal best of 2:23:54 in 2011 Frankfurt Marathon and had a good run of 2:25:22 in the 2013 Paris Marathon.
On the other hand, Barsosio has been steadily improving her personal best in her last three marathons.
In 2012, Barsosio improved from 2:25:49 in the Dusseldorf Marathon in April to 2:24:27 in Frankfurt in the autumn; then, at the 2013 Daegu Marathon in April, she recorded her current marathon best of 2:24:03. Can she continue her streak of improving with every successive marathon?
Along with the Yokohama Women’s Marathon and Osaka Women’s Marathon, Nagoya Women’s Marathon doubles as a selection race for the Japanese marathon team for the Asian Games in Inchon, Korea, and so has huge local importance.
The two-woman team will be selected from the top finishers from aforementioned three marathons but the race for the Inchon squad is still wide open.
Kizaki out to clinch Korea trip
Third fastest runner in the Nagoya field, with the personal best of 2:23:34 from when she won last year’s Nagoya Women’s marathon and one of the favourites to make the Asian Games team is Ryoko Kizaki.
Kizaki was 16th in the London 2012 Olympic Games but improved to fourth at the 2013 IAAF World Championships. If Kizaki wins on Sunday, she will be just the second runner in history of Nagoya Women’s Marathon to successfully defend her title, the only other woman to win two consecutive years in Nagoya being China’s Zhao Youfeng in 1988 and in 1989.
Besides the winner Kizaki, and Prokopcuka who finished fourth, Eri Hayakawa in fifth, Yoko Miyauchi in seventh, Asami Kato in ninth and Misato Horie in 10th have returned from the top 10 finishers in 2013; Hayakawa with 2:26:17, Kato with 2:30:26 and Horie with 2:30:52 all recorded their personal bests in this race 12 months ago.
Four top local runners will make their marathon debut on Sunday. The best amongst them is Tomomi Tanaka, who is coached by 1991 World Championships marathon silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita. Tanaka finished eighth in the 2012 World Half Marathon Championships and won the 2014 All Japan Corporate Team Half marathon Championships with the personal best of 69:24.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF