More than 300 men lined up to run the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon in Otsu, Japan, on Sunday morning, and like so many other Japanese races, this event saw a staggering number of quick results. Kengo Suzuki took the win in a national record of 2:04:56, becoming the first Japanese man to break 2:05 in the marathon and leading the way as 41 other men ran to sub-2:10 finishes.
New marathon NR holder Kengo Suzuki celebrating becoming first Japanese man to run 2:04. https://t.co/lmW7yWhGvw
— Japan Running News (@JRNLive) February 28, 2021
A running nation
To someone unfamiliar with the Japanese running scene, the results list from the Lake Biwa Marathon might look extraordinary, but the wave of fast times from Sunday is far from an anomaly. At a meet in December 2020, 17 men broke 28 minutes in a 10,000m race. For context, Mohammed Ahmed is the only Canadian to have broken 28 minutes in the past five years.
In November 2019, close to 400 runners ran sub-1:10 at a half-marathon in Ageo, a city just north of Tokyo. A whopping 179 of those runners broke 1:06. In Athletics Canada’s all-time rankings, only 33 men have run a sub-1:06 half-marathon. Deep fields and fast results are now expected at all Japanese races, and with a national record and 42 men under 2:10 at Sunday’s marathon, this event delivered on both counts.
— 日本陸上競技連盟 (@jaaf_official) February 28, 2021
Two Canadian men have run sub-2:10 marathons. Cam Levins owns the national record of 2:09:25 and Trevor Hofbauer has run 2:09:51. The results from Lake Biwa also shatter the American rankings, as just 21 American men have run under 2:10 in the marathon. According to World Athletics, 120 Japanese runners have broken 2:10, and that list has yet to be updated with Sunday’s results.
Suzuki’s Japanese record
On March 1, 2020, Suguru Osako set the Japanese marathon record in Tokyo, running 2:05:29. With this result, Osako became the first Japanese man to run under 2:06 in the marathon. Almost exactly one year later, Suzuki crushed Osako’s time to set a new national record and break 2:05 for the first time in Japanese history.
Going into the race, Suzuki’s marathon PB sat at 2:10:21, and he shaved more than five minutes off that time. “I never imagined such a time was possible, so I am the one most surprised with the record,” Suzuki said after the race.
Suzuki raced aggressively, and at 36K, he ran away from the rest of the leaders. “I was thinking of making a surge at some point, but when I missed my drink at 36K, I thought that this was the right moment to make my move,” he said. At the 2020 Lake Biwa Marathon, he raced with a similar strategy, but he fell apart in the latter stages of the run and finished in 12th in 2:10:37. This year, he took a chance once again, and it paid off.
Yuki Kawauchi, the 2018 Boston Marathon champion, also ran in Otsu, posting a PB of 2:07:27 to beat his previous best by close to a minute. For full results from the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, click here.