Tokyo Marathon 2020 Elite Field has been announced.
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Tokyo Marathon 2020 - Preview of Elite Race
Since the change of the finish location in 2017, new records are brought forth from the flat and fast paced course. I believe through this, we have gained greater recognition as an event reaching the "global standard".
Two years ago, Yuta Shitara (Honda) made a new history, breaking the national record with 2:06:11 for the first time in 16 years. The Japan Industrial Track & Field Association awarded Shitara for this great achievement with 100 million yen through the strengthening program "Project EXCEED", gathering grand focus. Last year, it was a tough condition for the athletes with drastic temperature drop from midway, but despite, Birhanu Legese (ETH) kept the speed finishing strong under 2:05 and showed us the global-standard race.
This year, as being the 14th edition of the Tokyo Marathon, we can expect it to be more exciting.
In the men's line up, our defending champion Legese will be joining. He missed the win at Berlin Marathon in September of last year, but he finished with incredible time of 2:02:48. He rewrote his personal best, and will be returning to Tokyo much stronger. Winner of the last year's Dubai Marathon Getaneh Molla (ETH), and the third finisher of 2019 Berlin Sisay Lemma (ETH) both has the record under 2:04. Dickson Chumba (KEN) as the only athlete with multiple wins at Tokyo will also join, making it total five athletes holding record time under 2:05.
I believe Legese will lead the race to bring record time under 2:03, marking the fastest record achieved within Japan.
In addition, we can expect intense race among the Japanese athletes, fighting for the last ticket to enter the Tokyo 2020 Olympic marathon, for our race serves as the selection trial "Marathon Grand Championship (MGC) Final Challenge". We can greatly look forward to a battle between the current and past national record holders of the same age, Suguru Osako (Nike) and Shitara. And along, we can expect Hiroto Inoue (MHPS) with time record of 2:06:54 in Tokyo Marathon 2018 to keep up.
To win the last ticket to the Tokyo 2020, one must clear the time of 2:05:49 set by Japan Association of Athletics Federation. If no one clears the time, Osako who finished third in MGC race in last September will be appointed. Osako could have chosen not to enter the race and waited for the days to pass by. But instead, he chose to enter the battle. His willpower is something like no other, and perhaps, his pride as the national record holder is what fuels him.
For Shitara, Tokyo is a familiar course, maybe with positive image still lingering from the national record he achieved. He seems carefree, but definitely has strong feeling towards Osako, who he has been competing against since college. We can expect him to go on the race in fast pace from early on, with the mindset in breaking the current national record.
With Inoue, I still remember the great impression I received from him two years ago when he declared his goal time of 2:06:00. It proved that his mindset has always been set to compete in the world-class-level. It was unfortunate outcome for him at the MGC, but in the New Year Ekiden 2020, he set a new record for the fourth leg proving his comeback.
The highlight of the event is observing how they have come to prepare for the race, and witnessing their fight. Depending on the weather, new national record can be expected greatly.
At the moment, I am planning to implement two different paces. The first group featuring Legese and rest of African athletes, will be led in pace to finish under 2:03. The second group will be led targeting finish time between 2:04:40-2:05:30. With the ambition to win the last ticket to Tokyo 2020, we can expect majority of Japanese athletes to keep up. The Pacer will only lead up to 30km, and therefore, athlete must save the strength for the last segment, and from there, I look forward to how the game will shift.
Yuki Sato (Nissin Foods Holdings) and Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei) with great potential will also be joining to add more excitement. In 2016 at the 10th edition of the event, we witnessed Murayama keeping up with the lead group until 22km, and not to mention, he was the only Japanese. Moreover, many athletes lined up at the MGC in last September will also be joining. We will not be able to take our eyes off to see who will finish first.
In recent years, the Japanese marathon has revitalized. Since the unsatisfying results at the Rio 2016, different approach was implemented to strengthen the marathon athletes, and in result, it brought change. The 100-million-yen bonus and the selection trial MGC correspondingly encouraging faster result times, where the national record was rewritten twice by Shitara and Osako, the ambition to break 2:05 or 2:06 has also risen among many athletes. Truly, I hope that Tokyo Marathon that meets global standard will also contribute to this enhancement.
For the women's field, the excitement runs high for the foreign athletes. The defending champion Ruti Aga (ETH) will be racing joined by Birhane Debaba (ETH) with the record of 2:18:46 aiming for the win. Moreover, there are three other athletes who have personal record time within 2:19. The world class battle centering on the African athletes will take place.
Your emotions will run high from watching world class performance of Legese and the others running to achieve 2:02. With Japanese athletes aiming for the last ticket to Tokyo 2020, we can expect them to go for fast split times and the crowds will go wild as the possibility of witnessing the new national record becomes higher. It may be a day with new history. With the course and the athletes that we are proud to present, please enjoy the "global standard" race, the Tokyo Marathon 2020.
Tokyo Marathon Race Director