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Bekele and Aga on start list for Tokyo Marathon

Will Bekele come through with a strong performance this year? And will Japanese record-holder Suguru Osako challenge his own record in his first appearance at Tokyo? We'll find out March 3

The first elites have been announced for this year’s Tokyo Marathon, to be held on Sunday, March 3, and they include 2:03 marathoner Kenenisa Bekele and Berlin Marathon runner-up Ruti Aga, both of Ethiopia.

RELATED: What happened to Kenenisa Bekele in Amsterdam?

Defending champion Dickson Chumba, the only man to win the Tokyo Marathon twice (he won in 2014 also) will also race, as will Suguru Osako, who, with his 2:05:50 third-place finish at the 2018 Chicago Marathon, broke the Japanese national marathon record set just last year in Tokyo by Yuta Shitara. (Each was awarded 100 million yen for breaking the Japanese record.) This will be Osako’s first time racing Tokyo, and race director Tad Hayano predicts that he could be angling to break his own record this year.


Aga, who has a 2:18 personal best, will be joined at the start line this year by Florence Kiplagat of Kenya. (Kiplagat has not run close to her 2:19 PB in recent years. She finished fourth at the 2018 Chicago Marathon, in 2:26.) Tokyo will also feature the marathon debut of Joan Chelimo, whose half-marathon PB is 65:04. Chelimo finished third at the 2018 Copenhagen half-marathon.

The current men’s and women’s course records were both set in 2017, by former marathon world record-holder Wilson Kipsang (2:03:58) and Sarah Chepchirchir (2:19:47).

Bekele, who holds the world records in the 5,000m and 10,000m and who is considered Eliud Kipchoge’s nearest rival in the marathon, has given some head-scratching performances in recent years. At the 2018 Amsterdam Marathon, he suddenly walked off the course less than a mile from the finish line. At the previous year’s Dubai Marathon, where he was expected to challenge Wilson Kipsang’s world record, he was injured in a fall at the start of the race and dropped out at the halfway mark.