OITA – Unheralded Kohei Futaoka, along with two other Japanese men, earned berths for the Marathon Grand Championship, Japan’s new 2020 Olympic trials event, after meeting the qualifying standards at Sunday’s Beppu-Oita Marathon.
In the race won by Morocco’s Hicham Laqouahi in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 35 seconds, Futaoka slashed over four minutes off his personal best when he crossed the Oita Athletic Stadium finish line in 2:09:15, the best time among the Japanese runners.
Futaoka’s result was a huge surprise for a runner who could only race after applying as a member of the general public.
Two Ethiopians, Abdela Godana and Yihunilign Adane, finished second and third, respectively. Ryo Hashimoto beat Yuji Iwata just before the finish line to place fifth in 2:09:29 and Iwata followed one second later, with both runners securing MGC entry slots.
In order to qualify for the MGC through the Beppu-Oita Marathon, a runner had to either be the top Japanese finisher with a time of 2:11:00 or better, or a Japanese national among the top six with a time under 2:10:00.
“All the hard work has been worth it,” said Futaoka. “The hard training allowed me to be tenacious at the very end.”
“I didn’t achieve my goal of going under 2:08:30 but I did remember all the tough training I went through. I don’t like running in warm weather. Because the (MGC) race is in September and the heat is going to be a challenge, I’ll have to prepare myself,” he said.
A total of 24 men have qualified so far for the MGC Race to be held Sept. 15 in Tokyo. The MGC will determine two of the three members for both the men’s and women’s marathon teams for the Tokyo Olympics.