The elite list at one of Japan’s premiere marathons just got a bit deeper. Canadian Simon Bairu will join Haile Gebreselassie and others on Dec. 2 in Japan.
Bairu quickly looked to firm up a spot at Fukuoka after New York was cancelled in the wake of the disastrous superstorm Sandy. The decision to run Fukuoka was a “no brainer,” Bairu told Canadian Running in an email on Tuesday. “It’s a great course and very competitive. It’s also only a month from the New York City Marathon which is enough time to add in a few workouts and not feel flat.”
Bairu has run two marathons after a highly successful collegiate cross-country and track career with the Wisconsin Badgers. He then moved over to the Nike Oregon Project with coach Jerry Schumacher. Bairu has had a more challenging time with the marathon, dropping out of the 2010 New York City Marathon, and then fighting through a difficult 2012 Houston Marathon to a 2:19 finish.
Bairu was looking forward to taking on the course that humbled him two years ago. But the cancellation of the race has given him one more month of preparation for a solid effort. “My taper for NYC was only about eight days so it wasn’t a very difficult turn around once the race was cancelled,” said Bairu.
Bairu will now attempt to readjust in advance of Fukuoka. “We just got back to Portland and started our regular routine,” he said. “The extra month has given us an opportunity to sharpen up and get in a few more key workouts.”
Fukuoka could be seen as a special marathon for Canadian distance running fans. Jerome Drayton won the race three times when it was the informal world championship. His 2:10:09 win in 1975 still stands as the Canadian record.
Bairu isn’t going to allow himself to get distracted by Drayton’s mark. “Honestly, I don’t think about it in those terms. What Jerome did on that course is very impressive and the fact that his record still stands is a testament to that,” Bairu said. “At the same time, the record is not on my mind at all, Fukuoka represents an opportunity for me to show some real progress in the marathon and that’s all I’m focused on.” Bairu told Canadian Running as he prepared for New York that he had planned to go after a 2:14 marathon and looked to make a decent improvement on that Houston time.
Another notable Canadian marathoner will be running in Fukuoka as well. Olympian Reid Coolsaet has indicated on his blog that he will act as a pacer at the event. “I will be pacing a ‘B’ group in the marathon,” Coolsaet posted on Monday. The native of Hamilton, Ont., will be in Japan before Fukuoka representing Canada as a part of a relay team running in the Chiba Ekiden. He decided to stay in the country and offer his services as a pacer for Fukuoka.
Coolsaet also suggested that Bairu can expect more elites to join him in Japan. “It sounds like a lot of elites who were planning on racing NYC are heading to Fukuoka,” Coolsaet hinted in his blog. “Some interesting names indeed but I’m not sure if those names are public yet so I’ll just keep my yapper shut.”
Wilson Kipsang, the second-fastest marathoner in the world and pre-race New York favourite, has already opted for the Honolulu Marathon. Stanley Biwott, another contender left without a race after New York, opted to run the Rock ‘N’ Roll San Antonio half-marathon on Sunday, shattering the course record with a 1:01:11. He could still commit to Fukuoka, however.
Geoffrey Mutai will stay at home. The unofficial fastest marathoner ever will run the Kass Marathon in Kenya. His marathoning career began there seven years ago.