by Brett Larner
Click here for photos from the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon via M. Kawaguchi.
Mongolia's Serod Bat-Ochir successfully defended his title at the Dec. 18 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon, dropping Japanese amateur Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) in the final kilometers to win in 2:11:56, the fastest time in Hofu since Ethiopian Haile Negussie's 2:08:16 CR in 2002. The race ran at 2:13-flat pace through 25 km, splitting 1:06:31 at halfway, but following the departure of pacer Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) at 25 km things broke up quickly. Kawauchi, who ran 2:09:57 in Fukuoka only 2 weeks ago, surged into the lead at 25 km, clocking under 3:00 for each of the next 2 km to kill off most of his competition. Bat-Ochir was the only runner to follow, and for the next 10 km the pair traded feints. They split 15:02 from 25 to 30 km, and after the pace slowed to 35 km Bat-Ochir made a decisive move away from Kawauchi with 6 km to go. He continued pushing the pace, splitting 6:55 for his final 2.195 km to seal the win in the second-best time of his career, just missing his 2:11:35 PB from this year's London Marathon.
Kawauchi, who in his good races has typically faded after 25 km to return with a strong finish, showed the fatigue of both Fukuoka and his uncharacteristic move at 25 km as he was unable to respond to Bat-Ochir's closing surge. Nevertheless, like Bat-Ochir he ran a negative split to record the third-best time of his career, 2:12:33, also faster than any time run in Hofu since 2002. And only two weeks after a 2:09:57. The top Japanese finisher in Hofu receives a paid trip to run the following year's Berlin Marathon, so it is likely that we will see Kawauchi in Berlin regardless of whether or not he makes the Japanese Olympic team.
Further back in the field, first-year pro Norimasa Nishina (Team Fujitsu) was 3rd in 2:15:12 in his marathon debut, running down Korean Seungho Baek near the end of the race. 2010 Asian Games marathon gold medalist Youngjun Ji (South Korea) faded badly after running in the lead pack through 20 km. Three-time Olympics and World Championships marathon 5th-placer Shigeru Aburuya (Team Chugoku Denryoku), running his final marathon before retiring from competition, also faded after only 3 km. 59+ world record holder Yoshihisa Hosaka (Natural Foods) recovered well from his DNF in Fukuoka to finish in 2:47:41. In the women's race, 2009 Hofu winner Noriko Hirao (F-Dream AC) led through 25 km before being overtaken by 2006 winner Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall), who pulled away to win in 2:44:28.
Update: Federation director of men's marathoning Yasushi Sakaguchi told the Mainichi newspaper, "If you consider that it has only been two weeks [since Fukuoka] this was incredible. He's getting stronger the more he races, and that shows that he's not a fluke." Kawauchi commented, "[The fatigue from Fukuoka] came out in my legs. I couldn't go after him in the race. I'm really disappointed to lose, but that's the difference experience makes." Approaching winner Bat-Ochir after the race, Kawauchi told him, "Congratulations, you were very strong. But I'm not going to lose to you in London."
In post-race comments to Sanspo.com Kawauchi said, "This makes me more confident about aiming for 2:07 at [February's] Tokyo Marathon. It's fuel for [making] the Olympics." Prior to Tokyo he plans to run the Mari Tanigawa Half Marathon, which he won in 2010, and the Okumusashi Ekiden in January, and February's Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon where he ran his PB of 1:02:40 last year.
2011 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon
click here for complete results and splits
1. Serod Bat-Ochir (Mongolia) - 2:11:56
2. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) - 2:12:33
3. Norimasa Nishina (Team Fujitsu) - 2:15:12 - debut
4. Seungho Baek (South Korea) - 2:15:20
5. Jun Matsumoto (Team Aichi Seiko) - 2:16:56
6. Kota Noguchi (Team Toyota) - 2:17:28
7. Tomohiro Seto (Team Kanebo) - 2:20:08
8. Takeshi Tagen (Team Monteroza) - 2:21:30
9. Yoshihiro Yamamoto (Team Tokuyama) - 2:22:37
10. Dishon Karukuwa Maina (Kenya/Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:23:21
59. Youngjun Ji (South Korea) - 2:39:26
163. Yoshihisa Hosaka (Natural Foods) - 2:47:41
DNF - Shigeru Aburuya (Team Chugoku Denryoku)
1. Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) - 2:44:28
2. Noriko Hirao (F-Dream AC) - 2:50:22
3. Nana Higashi (Yamato AC) - 2:52:24
10 km - Men
1. Shinnosuke Ogura (Team Kurosaki Harima) - 30:32
10 km - Women
1. Yurie Fujita (Hagi Kogyo H.S.) - 33:49
(c) 2011 Brett Larner
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