Otsu, Japan – Deriba Merga of Ethiopia and Paul Kipsang of Kenya will headline a strong team at the 66th edition of Lake Biwa Marathon here on Sunday.
The Lake Biwa contest is the oldest continuous Marathon in Japan and the first in Japan to earn anÃ‚Â IAAF Gold Label. However, the course record of 2:07:34 set in 2001, is the slowest among the three Gold Label Road Race marathons in Japan.
The Fukuoka Marathon has the fastest course record at 2:05:18, while the Tokyo MarathonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s record is 2:07:23. This situation might change on Sunday as Kipsang, who clocked 2:04:57 in Frankfurt last year and Merga, with a 2:06:38 best from the 2008 London Marathon, have a good chance to run 2:06 or faster her on Sunday.
Merga, who has clocked 2:06 twice, most recently won the RAK Half Marathon with a near personal best of 59:24 so he is obviously in good form. Kipsang is even faster. After recording sub-one hour Half Marathons four times and a fourth place finish in the 2009 World Half Marathon Championships, Kipsang made his marathon debut in 2010, finishing third in Paris Marathon with 2:07:13. Six-and-a-half months later, he improved he improved by more than two minutes and became the eighth man to crack 2:05. Kipsang not only has a chance to break the course record, but perhaps even take a shot at the Japanese All-Comers record of 2:05:18 set by Tsegaye Kebede in Fukuoka in 2009. And while on the topic of records, he can also go after the fastest marathon run in the month of March, 2:06:49 by Sylvester Teimet from the 2010 Seoul Marathon. It should be noted that only Haile Gebrselassie has recorded multiple sub-2:05 marathons. Can Kipsang join the exclusive club?
All invited runners from abroad have a career best under 2:09 and furthermore, except for Yared Asmeron and Merga, they have all recorded their personal bests in 2010. So if for any reason both Kipsang and Merga falter, Mohamed El Hachimi, Iaroslav Musinschi, Asmerom and Moses Kangogo could fill the void. For Asmeron, this is his third Lake Biwa marathon. He was second in 2008 with 2:08:34 (personal best) and third in 2009 with 2:10:49. For El Hachimi and Kangogo, Lake Biwa is their first marathon since they first cracked 2:09. So the race will be the test to see if they have became truly elite Marathon runners.
List of Invited runners:
Wilson Kipsang (KEN), 2:04:57, 2010 Frankfurt
Deriba Merga (ETH), 2:06:38, 2008 London
Mohamed El Hachimi (MAR), 2:08:17, 2010 Seoul
Iaroslav Musinschi (MDA), 2:08:32, 2010 Dusseldorf
Yared Asmerom (ERI), 2:08:34, 2008 Lake Biwa
Moses Kangogo (KEN), 2:08:58, 2010 Dublin