Yokohama International Women’s Marathon - First Japanese Olympic qualifying race - PREVIEW

Yokohama International Women’s Marathon - First Japanese Olympic qualifying race - PREVIEW

Provided by IAAF

The third annual Yokohama International Women’s Marathon, the first of Japanese Olympic team qualifying races for women, will be contested on Sunday November 20. The race, which was moved from the original venue in Tokyo to Yokohama in 2009, will double as the national championships for women’s marathon this year.

In addition to seven invited runners from abroad, seven domestic runners are invited to the race and they will be vying for the coveted Olympic team slots. The qualifying criterion is not specified exactly, but since two more qualifying races – Osaka in January and Nagoya in March – will be contested, the runner not only needs to win the race with fast time, but she also needs to run an impressive race.  The pace makers will be leading the race until 25km; the runners will have last 17.195km to impress the selectors.  

The runner generally believed to have the best shot of making the Olympic team is Yoshimi Ozaki, 2009 World Championships silver medallist. She is the defending Yokohama Women’s Marathon champion, having won the previous edition of this race with the near personal best of 2:23:56. Her original plan for making the Olympic team was to win a medal in 2011 World Championships, which was the qualification requirement for making the Olympic marathon team as specified by the Japan AAF.  

However, she was only 18th with 2:32:31 in Daegu, and thus needs to qualify for the Olympics by running well in Yokohama on Sunday.  Ozaki seems to be ready to run fast time in Yokohama, for in her most recent race, the sixth and final stage of the East JPN Corporate team Women’s Ekiden race, Ozaki came from behind to turn 33 seconds deficit to 3 seconds advantage over the 6.3km course to bring victory to her team.

The most formidable challengers to Ozaki in Yokohama may be Mara Yamauchi (GBR) and Salina Kosgei (KEN); both have faster personal bests than Ozaki.  Yamauchi’s marathon best is 2:23:12 from 2009 London Marathon, while Kosgei’s best is 2:23:22, recorded back in 2006 Berlin Marathon.  However, Kosgei, 2002 Commonwealth Games champion at 10,000m, has broken 2:30 only once since 2008 Olympics; she was third in 2010 Boston marathon with 2:28:35, so she may not be ready to run 2:23 marathon on Sunday. For Mara Yamauchi, along with Louise Damen a fast race could qualify for the British Olympic team. They need to shoot for Jo Pavey’s 2:28:24 from 2011 London marathon, for it is the second fastest (behind Paula Radcliffe’s time) time by British Women.  

Other notable runners from abroad are Alevtina Ivanova, who won the Nagano marathon twice and Robe Guta. Guta was sixth in 2009 Yokohama Women’s marathon, while Ivanova was sixth in the last edition of the Yokohama Women’s marathon.  

Beside Ozaki, Chika Horie, Kaoru Nagao, Mika Okunaga, Ryoko Kizaki, Mayumi Fujita, Kaori Yoshida and Eri Hayakawa all have personal best faster than 2:30, and thus may have a chance to make the Olympic team.  However, none of them have broken 2:26, so they need to improve their personal best substantially on Sunday in order to be considered for the marathon team.  

Among them, the 26 years old Ryoko Kizaki and 22 years old Kaoru Nagao are thought to have best chance to improve their personal best substantially. Kizaki has run two marathons with the best of 2:27:34, however, since her 10,000m best is quite respectable 31:38.71 Kizaki should have much faster marathon in her. Nagao has run only one marathon, 2:26:58 last February in Yokohama, but since she is coached by legendary Yoshio Koide, her second marathon may be much faster.  Under the guidance of Koide, 2000 Olympic marathon champion Naoko Takahashi set Japanese national record at the marathon in her second marathon.  

2011 is the best year for marathon running. On the men’s side, the number of sub-2:05, 2:06, 2:07, 2:08, 2:09, 2:10 and 2:11 runners are all highest ever in history. On the women’s side, the number of sub-2:24, sub-2:26, sub-2:28 and sub-2:30 runners are highest ever in history. However, currently, the number of sub-2:22 runners this year is 5, still three shy of the highest in history, which was recorded back in 2002.  The pace makers for the race will be running the first 25km of the course with 1:11 half marathon pace, and thus sub-2:22 marathon is a distinct possibility on Sunday. However, the weather forecast for Sunday in Yokohama calls for unseasonably warm weather; the temperature may go up as high as 25C. Can three runners crack 2:22 in Yokohama to tie the highest number for the season in history?

Invited runners:


Yoshimi Ozaki 2:23:30   2008 Tokyo

Chika Horie 2:26:11 2002 Hokkaido

Kaoru Nagao 2:26:58 2011 Yokohama (Feb)

Mika Okunaga 2:27:16 2009 Osaka

Ryoko Kizaki 2:27:34 2010 Osaka

Mayumi Fujita 2:29:36 2010 Nagoya

Kaori Yoshida 2:29:45 2010 Chicago


Mara Yamauchi (GBR) 2:23:12 2009 London

Salina Kosgei (KEN) 2:23:22 2006 Berlin

Robe Guta (ETH) 2:24:35 2006 Hamburg

Alevtina Ivanova (RUS) 2:26:38 2008 Nagano  

Kateryna Stetsenko (UKR) 2:27:51 2010 Dublin

Louise Damen (GBR) 2:30:00 2011 London

Rene Kalmer (RSA) 2:34:47 2011 Praha

Other notable runners

Hiroko Miyauchi 2:32:20 2009 Yokohama

Eri Hayakawa 2:28:11 2004 Honolulu

Yuka Izumi   2:33:05 2011 Yokohama

Yoko Miyauchi 2:33:36 2010 Nagoya

Pace makers

Shoko Mori (JPN)

Hiromi Chujo  (JPN)

Volha Krautsova (BLR)

Albina Mayorova  (RUS)

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF