Stephen Mokoka © Gallo Images
All set for his World Marathon Majors debut, Stephen Mokoka says he is ready to put up a fight at the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday.
After arriving in the Japanese capital on Wednesday, the 32-year-old athlete opted not to take a tour of the 42.2km route ahead of the event, as the road was open to traffic until race day and it could take up to four hours in a vehicle.
He had seen a video of the course, however, and Mokoka was pleased to be tackling a new route, which has been redesigned to promote faster times from the elite field.
"It's a good course. They have removed the hills towards the finish, and it looks fast," Mokoka said.
The three-time Shanghai Marathon winner was included in a strong line-up released by the Tokyo organisers in the build-up to the race, which featured 11 men who had run faster than Mokoka's 2:07:40 Personal Best.
The field will be led by Kenyan athletes Wilson Kipsang, a former world record holder, and Dickson Chumba, who won the Tokyo race three years ago, as well as Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede, a two-time winner of the London Marathon.
Should he take advantage of the quick pace expected up front, Mokoka will need to take 68 seconds off his career best to better the national marathon record of 2:06:33 set by Gert Thys when he won the Tokyo title in 1999.
"I am excited to run with a fast field and I hope I have a good one," Mokoka said.
Veteran wheelchair racer Ernst van Dyk, who finished second in Tokyo last year, was also included in the elite line-up for the annual race.