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Bekele, Kawauchi, Kwambai, Makau and Tsegay Headline Fukuoka Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The Dec. 4 Fukuoka International Marathon released the elite field for this year's 70th running today.  2014-15 winner Patrick Makau (Kenya) returns, looking to follow Frank Shorter and Toshihiko Seko as just the third man to win Fukuoka three years in a row.  Makau's main competition comes from 2015 World Championships silver medalist Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia), James Kwambai (Kenya) and Amanuel Mesel (Eritrea).  An interesting name that could represent an extra challenge if he shows the same renewed focus as his older brother Kenenisa is Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia).  Further back, Reid Coolsaet (Canada) has a shot at breaking the 2:10:09 Canadian national record set in Fukuoka in 1975 by Jerome Drayton.

The large Japan-based African contingent is headed by the debuting Paul Kuira (Kenya/Team Konica Minolta), who won the 2015 Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon in 59:47 in his debut over the distance, 2012 Fukuoka winner Joseph Gitau (Kenya/JFE Steel), 2016 Osaka Marathon winner Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza), and 2016 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) who scored the win in his marathon debut.

Fukuoka factors into Japan's overcomplicated selection algebra for the 2017 Loondon World Championships marathon team.  Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) has the fastest time of 2016 by a Japanese man, 2:09:01 for 2nd at July's Gold Coast Airport Marathon, and comes to Fukuoka as the #1 domestic seed.  The only other Japanese man in the field to have broken 2:10 in the last three years is Tomoya Adachi (Team Asahi Kasei) with a 2:09:59 in Fukuoka 2014.  Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) has gotten closer and closer and could be called Japan's best marathoner to have never broken 2:10, but beyond this trio it's hard to see other potential contenders for the London team.  Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) has run 2:08:00, but his best in the last three years is only 2:11:46.  A promising newcomer is independent Aritaka Kajiwara, a former Hakone Ekiden teammate of Kawauchi's who has run 2:18 marathons twice but shows potential for better with a sub-63 half and sub-hour 20 km to his name this year.

70th Fukuoka International Marathon Elite Field
Fukuoka, 12/4/16
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best within last 3 years except where noted

Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) - 2:06:51 (Daegu 2014)
James Kwambai (Kenya) - 2:07:38 (Seoul 2014)
Patrick Makau (Kenya) - 2:08:18 (Fukuoka Int'l 2015)
Amanuel Mesel (Eritrea) - 2:08:18 (Warsaw 2015)
Henryk Szost (Poland) - 2:08:55 (Warsaw 2014)
Joseph Gitau (Kenya/JFE Steel) - 2:09:00 (Fukuoka Int'l 2013)
Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:09:01 (Gold Coast 2016)
Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza) - 2:09:18 (Tokyo 2015)
Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:09:27 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Yared Asmerom (Eritrea/SEISA) - 2:09:41 (Tokyo 2015)
Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe) - 2:09:52 (Prague 2014)
Tomoya Adachi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:59 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:03 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Reid Coolsaet (Canada) - 2:10:28 (Berlin 2015)
Paulo Paula (Brazil) - 2:11:02 (Fukuoka Int'l 2015)
Yoshiki Otsuka (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 2:11:40 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:11:46 (Biwako 2015)
Noriaki Takahashi (Japan/DeNA) - 2:12:00 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Hiroki Yamagishi (Japan/GMO Athletes) - 2:12:27 (Tokyo 2016)
Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine) - 2:12:40 (Warsaw 2014)
Ryo Ishita (Japan/SDF Academy) - 2:13:52 (Nobeoka 2014)
Bunta Kuroki (Japan/Yasukawa Denki) - 2:14:27 (Warsaw 2014)
Michael Githae (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:14:29 (Shizuoka 2016)
Sho Matsumoto (Japan/Nikkei Business Service) - 2:14:54 (Osaka 2014)
Kenta Iinuma (Japan/SGH Group) - 2:15:05 (Biwako 2014)
Saeki Makino (Japan/DNP Logistics) - 2:15:22 (Seoul 2015)
Tomoya Shirayanagi (Japan/Toyota Boshoku) - 2:15:56 (Shizuoka 2016)

Trying Again
Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia) - 1:01:39 (Great North Run Half Marathon 2014)
Aritaka Kajiwara (Japan/Atsugi T&F Assoc) - 1:02:45 (Takanezawa Half Marathon 2016)

Debut
Paul Kuira (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 59:47 (Marugame Half Marathon 2015)
John Kariuki (Kenya/Hiramatsu Byoin) - 28:38.16 for 10000 m, Hokuren DC Abashiri 2016)

© 2016 Brett Larner
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Mar. 5: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto: 1:03:19 - 3rd
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