by Brett Larner
Photo via komagusan. Click for more from Hofu.
two-week 2:09:57 / 2:12:33 double at the Fukuoka International Marathon and Hofu Yomiuri Marathon last year, but for reasons known only to himself, two weeks after a failed bid for a sub-2:08 in Fukuoka this year resulted in a disappointing 2:10:29 Kawauchi was back for a negative-split 2:10:46 win in Hofu, an apparent world record for the shortest-ever time between sub-2:11 performances, the 4th-fastest winning time in Hofu's 43-year history and the 4th-best of his own career. Fukuoka was his 3rd-best.
Pacers Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) and James Mwangi (Kenya/Team NTN), both of whom were in Fukuoka, took things out just sub-2:12 pace through 5 km and then proceeded to gradually ratchet things down ever so slightly. By Ueno's departure at 20 km the lead group of eight was down to 2:11:33 pace, Kawauchi never leaving his place in the front row. Kawauchi pressed Mwangi past halfway, and by 25 km the group had cleared sub-2:11 pace and was down to four, Kawauchi, 2011 Ohtawara Marathon winner Dishon Karukuwa Maina (Kenya/Team Aisan Kogyo), 2:13 man Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and first-timer Shingo Mishima (Team Toyota), plus pacer Mwangi. Kawauchi started getting punchy, throwing in a surge at the 28.5 km water station, and when Mwangi stopped at 30 km it was only a question of how fast Kawauchi could close.
He steadily pulled away from his competition, approaching 2:10:30 pace on track to tie or break his two-week old Fukuoka mark, but after 35 km he ran into some trouble and slipped back toward 2:11. Rallying with his characteristically fast finish, he closed the final 2.195 km in 6:47 to take the win by 1:39 over Maina. Nowhere in Kawauchi's performance was an answer to the question of why, but despite falling short of his time goals this year his Hofu run caps a 2012 which saw him search for another meaning to his running, a way, in his own words, "to find out whether the common sense of the running world is really any kind of sense at all." Post-race he told JRN, "This year I ran sub-2:13 five times. If I can get just a little stronger then I think I'll be able run sub-2:10 many times in one year." With five marathon wins in nine starts and an almost endless list of baffling feats he seemed to touch other values than just the fastest time and the biggest prize purse. And the people loved him for it.
Maina in 2nd recorded a three-minute best of 2:12:25, a time that would normally win Hofu easily. Ito took 3rd in 2:14:00, just off his best. Mishima faded badly and finished back among the amateurs, but coming in a surprise 4th was two-time 5000 m national champion Kazuyoshi Tokumoto (Monteroza AC), who ran a PB 2:14:48 after retiring from ekiden national champion Team Nissin Shokuhin earlier this year to take a coaching position and run semi-professionally with the bar-sponsored Monteroza club team. Shota Yamada (Team Kanebo), coached by national record holder Toshinari Takaoka, rounded out the top five with a slim personal best of 2:15:46. 2009 Copenhagen Marathon winner Toyokazu Yoshimura (Osaka T&F Assoc.) made a comeback from a long injury, 7th in 2:19:08 in his first sub-2:20 in nearly three years.
Further back in the field, 59+ world record holder Yoshihisa Hosaka (Natural Foods AC) made his own comeback after missing the age 62 record last year, knocking 20 seconds off Manuel Rosales' longstanding age 63 world record of 2:46:50 with a new mark of 2:46:30. Five years to go until he starts going up against Ed Whitlock's records.
Unusual among Japan's higher-level marathons but part of an accelerating trend, Hofu also featured a women's race. Emiko Hirai (Hirakata Masters AC) sat back behind defending champion Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall AC) and 2009 Hofu winner Noriko Hirao (First Dream AC) throughout the first half of the race before throwing down and opening a lead of over 30 seconds by 25 km. She widened her lead to nearly a minute before fading and losing ground to Hirao but was never in danger as she took her first Hofu title in 2:45:44. Hirao was 30 seconds back in 3rd, while Yoshimatsu dropped to a distant 3rd in 2:52:37.
In the men's 10 km, Yuki Fujii (Tokuyama AC) won a close race by 1 second in 30:38. Sakie Arai (Nakamura Joshi H.S.) won the women's 10 km in 35:11 by a margin of over 30 seconds.
43rd Hofu Yomiuri Marathon
Hofu, Yamaguchi, 12/16/12
click here for complete results
1. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) - 2:10:46
2. Dishon Karukuwa Maina (Kenya/Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:12:25 - PB
3. Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:14:00
4. Kazuyoshi Tokumoto (Monteroza AC) - 2:14:48 - PB
5. Shota Yamada (Team Kanebo) - 2:15:46 - PB
6. Yasushi Yamamoto (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:18:46 - PB
7. Toyokazu Yoshimura (Osaka T&F Assoc.) - 2:19:08
8. Koji Hara (Mazda AC) - 2:21:54
146. Yoshihisa Hosaka (Natural Foods AC) - 2:46:30 - WR
1. Emiko Hirai (Hirakata Masters AC) - 2:45:44
2. Noriko Hirao (First Dream AC) - 2:46:14
3. Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall AC) - 2:52:37
4. Natsuko Muramatsu (Natural Foods AC) - 2:53:00
5. Chie Yamada (Fun-Run AC) - 2:53:15
Men's 10 km
1. Yuki Fujii (Tokuyama AC) - 30:38
2. Naoki Kimura (Showa Hakko Bio AC) - 30:39
3. Yosuke Ouchi (Mazda AC) - 30:39
Women's 10 km
1. Sakie Arai (Nakamura Joshi H.S.) - 35:11
2. Yurina Yamasaki (Nakamura Joshi H.S.) - 35:48
3. Miho Kawana (Toa Univ.) - 36:28
(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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