MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier – Brett Larner – Japan Running News
  • Home
  • International
  • MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier – Brett Larner – Japan Running News
23
08
2019

Logo: MARATHON - Grand Championships - Brett Larner - Japan Running News

MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier – Brett Larner – Japan Running News

By GRR 0

MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier – Ryu Takaku

Ryu Takaku

age: 26
sponsor: Yakult
graduated from: Nasu Takuyo H.S., Toyo University

best time inside MGC window:
2:10:03, 7rd, 2019 Hamburg Marathon

PB: 2:10:03, 7rd, 2019 Hamburg Marathon

other PBs:
5000 m: 13:57.89 (2016) 10000 m: 28:36.71 (2015) half marathon: 1:01:58 (2019)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
7th, 2019 Hamburg Marathon, 2:10:03 – PB
9th, 2019 Tokyo Marathon, 2:11:49
30th, 2018 Fukuoka International Marathon, 2:19:51
6th, 2018 Gold Coast Marathon, 2:11:45
7th, 2018 Beppu-Oita Marathon, 2:12:12

other major results:
2nd, 2019 Hakodate Half Marathon, 1:02:43
10th, 2019 Marugame Half Marathon, 1:01:58 – PB
2nd, 2019 New Year Ekiden First Stage (12.3 km), 35:56
13th,, 2018 East Japan Corporate Ekiden Second Stage (15.3 km), 45:53
2nd, 2017 Kumanichi 30 km Road Race, 1:31:18
18th, 2017 Marugame Half Marathon, 1:02:34
5th, 2014 Kumanichi 30 km Road Race, 1:30:32 – PB
1st, 2014 Hakone Ekiden Eighth Stage (21.5 km), 1:04:35

Takaku is one of five graduates of Toyo University in the MGC Race field, more than any other college program. At Toyo he won the Hakone Ekiden’s Eighth Stage in 2014 to help Toyo score the overall win. A month later he helped pace teammate and future Fukuoka International Marathon winner Yuma Hattori to a 30 km collegiate national record at the Kumanichi Road Race.

After joining Yakult, Takaku moved up to the marathon in Beppu-Oita last year, going on to run 2:11:45 at the Gold Coast Marathon. That time meant he needed to run 2:10:15 to qualify for the MGC Race on the two-race sub-2:11 average option. He came up short in Fukuoka, but with an excellent run at the New Year Ekiden and his first sub-62 half marathon in Marugame in February he looked set to do it in Tokyo.

But like a lot of others in this year’s Tokyo he suffered in the cold and rain, running only 2:11:49. Most people would have packed it in there, but less than two months later Takaku gave it one last shot in Hamburg with two days until the qualifying deadline. 2:10:15 was the target, and a 2:10:03 PB was what he pulled out.

Not many people could have pulled off that double, and since it he’s continued to run well, taking 2nd at July’s Hakodate Half Marathon in 1:02:43 over MGC qualifiers Chihiro Miyawaki (Toyota), Tomohiro Tanigawa (Konica Minolta) and Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki). He’ll probably be in a supporting role to Hattori again at the MGC Race, but in bouncing back to qualify in Hamburg Takaku showed something special that sets him apart from the other men his level.

MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier – Shohei Otsuka

Shohei Otsuka

age: 25
sponsor: Kyudenko
graduated from: Oita Tomei H.S., Komazawa University

best time inside MGC window:
2:10:12, 3rd, 2018 Beppu-Oita Marathon

PB: 2:10:12, 3rd, 2018 Beppu-Oita Marathon

other PBs:
5000 m: 13:55.41 (2018) 10000 m: 28:25.42 (2019) half marathon: 1:02:32 (2014)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
11th, 2019 Tokyo Marathon, 2:12:36
4th, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon, 2:12:07
3rd, 2018 Beppu-Oita Marathon, 2:10:12

other major results:
34th, 2019 Marugame Half Marathon, 1:02:53
25th, 2019 New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage (22.4 km), 1:07:05
8th, 2018 Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler, 46:21
1st, 2018 Kyushu Corporate Ekiden Seventh Stage (16.3 km), 46:26
16th, 2017 Lake Biwa Marathon, 2:15:10
1st, 2017 Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage (20.8 km, uphill), 1:12:46
4th, 2015 Kumanichi 30 km Road Race, 1:31:29

Otsuka made an early debut in the marathon while still a student at Komazawa University where he was one of the heavy hitters on its ekiden team, winning the Hakone Ekiden’s famous uphill Fifth Stage his senior year. After joining the Kyudenko corporate team he took almost five minutes off his debut time with a 2:10:12 for 3rd in his hometown Beppu-Oita Marathon, then qualified for the MGC Race with a 2:12:07 for 4th at last August’s Hokkaido Marathon.

Strong during ekiden season, Otsuka struggled a bit at its peak race in January. He seemed to get it back together, just off his PB at the Marugame Half, but at the Tokyo Marathon he wasn’t able to execute the kind of breakthrough to the level of former Komazawa teammate Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu) that he’s been hoping for. Siince then he’s run a PB for 10000 m, combined with his performance in Hokkaido last sumer a definite plus heading into the MGC Race.

MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier – Sairi Maeda

Sairi Maeda

age: 27
sponsor: Daihatsu
graduated from: Kumamoto Shinai Joshi Gakuin H.S., Bukkyo University

best time inside MGC window:
2:25:25, 10th, 2019 Nagoya Women’s Marathon

PB: 2:22:48, 2nd, 2015 Nagoya Women’s Marathon

other PBs:
5000 m: 15:32.22 (2012) 10000 m: 32:03.43 (2014) half marathon: 1:10:24 (2015)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
10th, 2019 Nagoya Women’s Marathon, 2:25:25
2nd, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon, 2:30:56
15th, 2018 Nagoya Women’s Marathon, 2:30:54

other major results:
13th, 2015 Beijing World Championships Marathon, 2:31:46
1st, 2015 Sendai International Half Marathon, 1:10:24 – PB
2nd, 2015 Nagoya Women’s Marathon, 2:22:48 – PB
3rd, 2014 Osaka International Women’s Marathon, 2:26:46 – Univ. NR

One of only two women in the field to have gone to university, Maeda set the collegiate national record of 2:26:46 at the Osaka International Women’s Marathon her senior year at Kyoto’s Bukkyo University. In the same race her mother ran 2:55:24, together setting a world record for fastest mother and daughter in the same race.

After graduating and joining the Daihatsu corporate team, Maeda followed up with a 2:22:48 for 2nd at the 2015 Nagoya Women’s Marathon, finishing bloody and scraped after falling at the 15 km drink tables. That qualified her for the 2015 Beijing World Championships team, but in Beijing she couldn’t match her past performances and finished only 13th in 2:31:46.

A long period of injury kept her off the scene until last year’s Nagoya, where she made a tentative comeback with a 2:30:54, adding to that a 2:30:56 for 2nd in August’s hot Hokkaido Marathon. With one more shot at qualifying for the MGC Race she delivered with a 2:25:25 in Nagoya this March. Unquestionably one of the most talented women in the field, Maeda needs just one more step in that comeback progression to land among the top finishers at the MGC Race.

MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier – Daichi Kamino

Daichi Kamino

age: 26
sponsor: Cell Source
graduated from: Chukyo H.S., Aoyama Gakuin University

best time inside MGC window:
2:10:18, 18th, 2018 Tokyo Marathon

PB: 2:10:18, 18th, 2018 Tokyo Marathon

other PBs:
5000 m: 13:56.05 (2018) 10000 m: 28:17.54 (2016) half marathon: 1:01:04 (2017)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
8th, 2019 Tokyo Marathon, 2:11:05
29th, 2018 Fukuoka International Marathon, 2:19:28
DNF, 2018 Berlin Marathon
18th, 2018 Tokyo Marathon, 2:10:18
13th, 2017 Fukuoka International Marathon, 2:12:50

other major results:
3rd, 2019 Shibetsu Half Marathon, 1:03:46
7th, 2019 Sendai International Half Marathon, 1:03:05
17th, 2018 Marugame Half Marathon, 1:02:35
2nd, 2018 New Year Ekiden Seventh Stage (15.5 km), 48:38
3rd, 2017 Ome 30 km Road Race, 1:31:33
5th, 2017 Marugame Half Marathon, 1:01:04 – PB
2nd, 2016 Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler, 46:38
2nd, 2016 Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage (23.2 km), 1:19:17
9th, 2015 Maugame Half Marathon, 1:01:21
1st, 2015 Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage (23.2 km), 1:16:15 – CR

Kamino is one of the biggest Hakone Ekiden stars in the field, his reputation largely built on one record-breaking run on the uphill Fifth Stage in 2015 for four-time winner Aoyama Gakuin University. After graduating he joined the Konica Minolta corporate team, where his biggest result was a 1:01:04 at the 2017 Marugame Half Marathon to beat future marathon national record holders and MGC Race rivals Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) and Yuta Shitara (Honda).

But after two seasons Kamino quit to go the independent sponsor route. In his marathon debut in Fukuoka later that year he ran only 2:12:50, following that up with a 2:10:18 in Tokyo 2018. Spending blocks of time training in Kenya and Ethiopia didn’t seem to help as he was a DNF in Berlin and ran only 2:19:28 in Fukuoka. In Tokyo this year he needed to run 2:11:42 or better to qualify for the MGC Race on the two-race sub-2:11 option, which he cleared with a 2:11:05.

Kamino is back in Kenya training for the MGC Race, but for all the potential he showed in Hakone and the half marathon he hasn’t really demonstrated the aptitude for marathon yet that he’ll need in order to be a factor. He has said that he plans to quit running after the Tokyo Olympics, and in interviews he has seemed to suggest that he prefers the fame and celebrity side of being an athlete to the actual running. Just making the MGC Race was a pretty big accomplishment, but without some kind of major step up it’s hard to see Kamino going any further than that.

MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier – Kensuke Horio

Kensuke Horio

age: 23
sponsor: Toyota
graduated from: Suma Gakuen H.S., Chuo University

best time inside MGC window:
2:10:21, 5th, 2019 Tokyo Marathon

PB: 2:10:21, 5th, 2019 Tokyo Marathon

other PBs:
5000 m: 13:33.51 (2018) 10000 m: 28:34.54 (2016) half marathon: 1:01:57 (2018)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
5th, 2019 Tokyo Marathon, 2:10:21

other major results:
3rd, 2019 Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), 30:03
25th, 2019 National Men’s Ekiden Seventh Stage (13.0 km), 38:39
5th, 2019 Hakone Ekiden Second Stage (23.1 km), 1:07:44
6th, 2018 Hakone Ekiden Qualifier Half Marathon, 1:01:57

The youngest man in the field, Horio was the only university runner to qualify for the MGC Race. Tall and running in glasses, he arrived on the scene his senior year at Chuo University with a 1:01:57 at last fall’s Hakone Ekiden Qualifier half marathon that broke the Chuo school record held by his coach, collegiate and debut marathon record holder Masakazu Fujiwara. He backed that up at Hakone in January with a sub-68 clocking on the 23.1 Second Stage, the mark of the very best

Fujiwara ran 2:08:12 in his debut at Lake Biwa right before graduating from Chuo. In Tokyo this spring, his own debut and last race before graduation, Horio looked determined to beat that, fearlessly going with the 2:06 group in cold and rainy conditions that were too much for national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) and other top dogs. Although he faded off that pace he was the last Japanese man left standing, never giving up the top Japanese position once he took it, impressively holding off the more experienced Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu) and Takuya Fujikawa (Chugoku Denryoku) over the last 5 km of the race.

After scoring his MGC spot and graduating from Chuo Horio joined the Toyota corporate team to give it a fourth qualifier alongside Yuma Hattori, 2:07:27, Taku Fujimoto, 2:07:57, and Chihiro Miyawaki, 2:08:45. He hasn’t raced much since landing at Toyota and will be facing conditions at the opposite end of the spectrum from the last time he ran in Tokyo. But with a debut behind him that showed grit and potential he could surprise and take down some more of the big names.

MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier – Kengo Suzuki

Kengo Suzuki

age: 24
sponsor: Fujitsu
graduated from: Uwajima Higashi H.S., Kanagawa University

best time inside MGC window:
2:10:21, 19th, 2018 Tokyo Marathon

PB: 2:10:21, 19th, 2018 Tokyo Marathon

other PBs:
5000 m: 13:57.88 (2016) 10000 m: 28:30.16 (2016) half marathon: 1:01:36 (2017)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
13th, 2019 Hamburg Marathon, 2:11:36
DNS, 2019 Tokyo Marathon
19th, 2018 Tokyo Marathon, 2:10:21

other major results:
4th, 2018 Hakone Ekiden Second Stage (23.1 km), 1:07:26
3rd, 2017 Taipei Universiade Half Marathon, 1:06:56
1st, 2017 National University Half Marathon, 1:01:36 – CR
1st, 2017 Hakone Ekiden Second Stage (23.1 km), 1:07:17
3rd, 2016 Hakone Ekiden Qualifier 20 km Road Race, 58:43
3rd, 2016 National University Half Marathon, 1:03:08

Suzuki’s breakthrough to the top level of Japanese distance running came early in 2017 with a win on the Hakone Ekiden’s most competitive stage and two months later with a 1:01:36 to win the National University Half Marathon Championships. He followed up with a bronze medal at the 2017 World University Games and another stellar Hakone run before capping his university career with a 2:10:21 debut at last year’s Tokyo Marathon.

Since graduating and moving to the Fujitsu corporate team he has had his share of setbacks, including a DNS in Tokyo this year, but with two days until the MGC Race qualifying window Suzuki got it done at the Hamburg Marathon. With his 2:10:21 debut falling inside the qualifying window Suzuki needed to run 2:11:39 in Hamburg to hit the two-race 2:11:00 wildcard standard for MGC qualification. He ran 2:11:36. That last kilometer must have been pretty stressful.

From the way he ran his last two years of university Suzuki looks to have a lot of potential in the marathon. Whether he’ll be ready to take things up a level come Sept. 15 is a bit doubtful, which isn’t to say that he’s not preparing. On Aug. 2 JRN saw Suzuki out on the Olympic and MGC marathon course with teammate Kohei Ogino running exactly a year and a week out from the Olympic marathon. But at only age 24 he still has plenty of room to develop for Paris 2024 even if he misses out here.

MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier – Rei Ohara

Rei Ohara

age: 29
sponsor: Tenmaya
graduated from: Kojokan H.S.

best time inside MGC window:
2:25:46, 2nd, 2019 Osaka International Women’s Marathon

PB: 2:23:20, 3rd, 2016 Nagoya Women’s Marathon

other PBs:
5000 m: 15:39.47 (2016) 10000 m: 31:48.31 (2015) half marathon: 1:09:17 (2015)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
2nd, 2019 Osaka International Women’s Marathon, 2:25:46
10th, 2018 Berlin Marathon, 2:27:29
8th, 2018 Nagoya Women’s Marathon, 2:27:44

other major results:
2nd, 2019 Sendai International Half Marathon, 1:10:25
4th, 2018 National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Sixth Stage (6.795 km), 21:54
3rd, 2018 Sanyo Ladies Half Marathon, 1:10:37
5th, 2017 Sanyo Ladies Half Marathon, 1:09:26
1st, 2017 Osaka Half Marathon, 1:10:02
1st, 2016 Sanyo Ladies Half Marathon, 1:10:04
3rd, 2016 Nagoya Women’s Marathon, 2:23:20 – PB
2nd, 2015 Sanyo Ladies Half Marathon, 1:09:17 – PB
22nd, 2015 Beijing World Championships 10000 m, 32:47.74
3rd, 2015 National Championships 10000 m, 32:08.59
124th, 2015 Nagoya Women’s Marathon, 3:05:21

Ohara has been one of the unluckiest women in Japanese marathoning the last four or five years. Part of the powerhouse Tenmaya corporate team, Ohara was expected to be a contender for the 2015 Beijing World Championships team in her debut at the 2015 Nagoya Women’s Marathon. 15 km into the race she and Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu) collided at a water station and fell. Maeda picked herself up and ran on to take 2nd in 2:22:48, but Ohara struggled to get back up and shuffled on to finish 124th in 3:05:21.

Back again in Nagoya a year later she ran 2:23:20 but was outkicked by one second by Tomomi Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) and left off the Rio Olympics team. Tenmaya has had better national team representation than any other corporate women’s team, but equally has a history of its women running around 2:23 in their first couple of marathons and then never matching it. Ohara’s absence from marathoning after Nagoya wasn’t encouraging, and while she ran a pair of 2:27s last year in her return, the rise of her junior teammate Honami Maeda seemed to suggest that she might have missed her window of opportunity.

But a 2:25:46 runner-up finish in Osaka this January was a big step in the right direction, and another runner-up placing at the Sendai Half in May further indicated that she’s going okay. Ohara and Maeda have spent much of the summer training together at altitude in the U.S. Ohara isn’t among the favorites, but with Tenmaya’s track record of success behind her and unfinished business from the last time around she’ll be a threat in a race slower than 2:24.

MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier – Masato Imai

Masato Imai

age: 35
sponsor: Toyota Kyushu
graduated from: Haramachi H.S., Juntendo University

best time inside MGC window:
2:10:30, 6th, 2019 Tokyo Marathon

PB: 2:07:39, 7th, 2015 Tokyo Marathon

other PBs:
5000 m: 13:47.15 (2014) 10000 m: 28:18.15 (2010) half marathon: 1:02:36 (2017)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
6th, 2019 Tokyo Marathon, 2:10:30
9th, 2018 Lake Biwa Marathon, 2:11:38
10th, 2017 Eindhoven Marathon, 2:17:00

other major results:
17th, 2019 Shibetsu Half Marathon, 1:06:05
10th, 2019 Sendai International Half Marathon, 1:03:19
3rd, 2019 New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage (22.4 km), 1:05:30
9th, 2018 Kumamoto Kosa 10-Mile Road Race, 46:22 – PB
14th, 2017 Tokyo Marathon, 2:11:02
2nd, 2017 Shibetsu Half Marathon, 1:03:44
5th, 2017 Sendai International Half Marathon, 1:02:36 – PB
1st, 2016 Sendai International Half Marathon, 1:03:06
7th, 2015 Tokyo Marathon, 2:07:39 – PB
2nd, 2014 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, 2:09:30

Imai is the runner who launched the Hakone Ekiden into the modern era. If you weren’t there to see it it’s hard to explain, but his stage record-smashing run on the uphill Fifth Stage at the 2005 Hakone Ekiden transfixed the nation and made him one of the most respected figures in Japanese long distance. When he graduated from Juntendo University and went to the Toyota Kyushu yeam to train alongside future Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru under the last Japanese man to win an Olympic marathon medal, Barcelona silver medalist Koichi Morishita, it seemed like great things were destined to happen.

When I interviewed Imai and Morishita following Wanjiru’s death in 2011, Imai told me, “I wanted to run a marathon with him. If it had been the Olympics it would have been the best. The next Olympics, or the one after that, I wanted to race him on the Olympic stage.” But Imai came up short of making the 2012 London Olympics marathon team. He worked hard to take things to the next level, tying the best-ever Japanese placing at the time at the NYC Marathon and running a PB 2:09:30 at the 2014 Beppu-Oita Marathon. When he dropped a 2:07:39 a year later it resonated throughout Japan. The first modern Hakone superstar had hit a home run in the marathon. Again, if you weren’t there it’s hard to understand how inspirational it was.

But the Olympics weren’t in the cards. Again, Imai fell short of making the Rio Olympics team. A year later when I was in Barcelona with Morishita for the 25th anniversary of his medal he told me, “I really thought Imai was going to be the one to pick up where I left off, but it wasn’t to be. In terms of his age now he’s past his peak, and I think it’s just too late.” Two months later, Imai dropped a half marathon PB. He wavered a bit in the marathon, then ran a 10-mile PB late last year and in January took 3rd on the New Year Ekiden’s longest stage against most of the top competition at the MGC Race.

In Tokyo Imai went under 2:11 and finished as the second Japanese man, enough to get him into the MGC Race at age 35. Could a miracle happen in September? Could he finally make the Olympic team he’s targeted for over a decade? His performance at July’s hot Shibetsu Half Marathon wasn’t encouraging, but even though it will probably take a miracle there’s no question that Imai is the sentimental favorite in the field, the one who will have people in tears if he makes it. Count us among them.

© 2019 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Brett Larner – Japan Running News

author: GRR