More Sports / Track & Field

Suguru Osako aiming for form, not time, in Tokyo Marathon

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Suguru Osako isn’t a big talker. So he doesn’t try to entertain with his words.

But he’s certainly determined to put on a good effort in the trial race for the Tokyo Olympics and the 2020 Summer Games.

“I’ve had good training and want to do the best I can the day after tomorrow,” Osako said at a Tokyo news conference on Friday, two days ahead of the 13th edition of the Tokyo Marathon.

The 27-year-old stunned his home country by posting a national record of 2 hours, 5 minutes, 50 seconds at the Chicago Marathon last October.

While fans will expect another superb mark from him in Tokyo, Osako refused to state a specific time when the participating athletes at the news conference were asked to write it on boards.

“I have not been aware of my times too much in my career,” said Osako, who will be competing in his fourth marathon.

“Of course it’s better to come up with a good mark. But it’ll be depending on things like the weather and how the race proceeds. I feel like I’m not going to have my race if I stick to it too much.”

Osako has already qualified for September’s Marathon Grand Championship in Tokyo, the Olympic trial event that will determine the representatives for the 2020 Games.

He said that he decided to take part in Sunday’s race in order to get the feeling of competing in Japan’s capital city.

“I think that there’s going to be a unique atmosphere and tense in September, so I wanted to prepare for it,” said Osako, an athlete for the Oregon Project team.

Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, who possesses the world’s third-best time of 2:03.03, was originally slated to compete in the Tokyo Marathon roster but later withdrew due to an injury.

The race, however, still features other elite runners from around the world. Kenya’s Dickson Chumba, who will be hitting the roads in Tokyo for the fourth consecutive year, triumphed in 2:05:30 last year.

The 32-year-old Chumba holds a personal best of 2:04:32, which he notched at the 2014 Chicago Marathon.

Ethiopian Birhanu Legese, whose personal best is 2:04.15, and Bahrain’s El Hassan El Abbassi, who has run in 2:04.43 and captured the silver medal at last year’s Asian Games in Jakarta, are other elite overseas invitees.

Besides Osako, top marathoners like Shogo Nakamura, Yuki Sato, Ryo Kiname and former Hakone Ekiden star Daichi Kamino will represent Japan for the competition.

In the women’s event, Ethiopia’s Ruti Aga is the favorite to win. The 25-year-old Aga finished second with a top personal time of 2:18:34 at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

Top local athletes Honami Maeda and Yuka Takashima said they aim to run under 2:22.00, while Asian Games silver medalist Keiko Nogami is seeking to set a personal-best time.

Tokyo Marathon race director Tadaaki Hayano said that the first set of pacemakers will lead the top male group to finish in around 2:04.30 to 2:05.10.

The course record for men is 2:03.58, which was set by Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, while his compatriot Sarah Chepchirchir holds it for women at 2:19.47, both of which were achieved in the 2017.

The elite competitions are set to start at 9:10 a.m. at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. The runners will pass several Tokyo landmark sites, including Asakusa, Ginza and Zojoji Temple before finishing at the Tokyo Station.

“You don’t know who’s going to win,” Hayano said. “Hopefully, the weather holds. I assure that they’ll put up heated battles.”