Osaka Marathon: Weightman and Pashley chase Olympic selection

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What Sunday means for the Australian women’s team

Sunday’s Osaka Marathon should provide some more pieces of the Australian Olympic women’s marathon team jigsaw puzzle. Australia is spoilt for marathoning talent, with five women under the 2:26:50 qualifying standard. Marathoners have had since November 2022 to post qualifying times, with Australian women gravitating to Valencia and Osaka. Both marathons are, unsurprisingly, extremely flat and fast, with Valencia home to Sinead Diver’s 2:21:34 national record.

Osaka matters because it’s one of the last remaining chances to run a fast qualifying time. That’s in distinction to the Tokyo Marathon, which races the following Sunday. The problem is that Tokyo is at times too fast at the front, without a solid 2:22–23 pack behind. It’s very fast at the front: with Sifan Hassan (2:13:44, Chicago 2023), Amane Beriso (2:14:58, Valencia 2022) and Rosemary Wanjiru (2:16:28, Tokyo 2023) confirmed to race. World majors can prove imperfect for precise qualifying attempts, as the front end shoots for sub-2:14, leaving those in the middle stranded. This is not much help to the Australians, who want to be pushed to run just a little faster than they have already, without navigating the pace chaos of a world major.


So, what might Osaka shed light on?

Australia can only send three female marathoners to Paris. Selection involves considering a variety of factors, yet one is reliably simple: time. Still, the women’s team is complex in this “top three” respect. There is:

  • Sinead Diver (2:21:34, Valencia 2022)
  • Genevieve Gregson (2:23:08, Valencia 2023)
  • Lisa Weightman (2:23:15, Osaka 2023)

Diver and Gregson will not race in Osaka this weekend, with Gregson focused recently on track racing, while Diver is building back from injury niggles.

Weightman raced Valencia in 2023, yet her 2:24:18 placed her behind Gregson (2:23:08) and Izzi Batt-Doyle (2:23:27). Weightman unfortunately fell ill the week of the race, racing on with respiratory difficulties. The dilemma in play in Osaka is that Athletics Australia can consider each athlete’s “competitive record” in the qualifying period. Weightman’s finish behind Batt-Doyle in Valencia may be interpreted as complicating selection slightly, encouraging Weightman to race another marathon, Osaka, to firm up her selection prospects.


Another twist in the Osaka plot line is the return of Tokyo Olympian Ellie Pashley. The Aireys Inlet local holds a 2:26:21 personal best from the 2019 Nagoya Marathon and posted a 2:29:31 London Marathon run in the qualifying period. Since 2019, Pashley has had periods of time away from the marathon as she started a family, but she showed strong half marathon form on the roads throughout 2023, including a 69:26 half-marathon last July. Pashley noted her disappointment with her London Marathon result on social media, and she’s never been one to shy away from attacking a race. Pashley will be looking to dip under the 2:26:50 Olympic qualification standard, pushing toward the 2:23’s.

Weather may be a factor, with an expected temperature of 3°C and “rain with periodic snow showers”.


Regardless, with the Osaka course containing a singular 20-metre incline between the 30th and 35th kilometres, Sunday shapes up as a chance to see two athletes with aggressive racing styles plot their path to Paris. Currently Diver and Gregson are strong favourites to make the team. Between now and 5 May when the qualification window closes, Weightman, Pashley, Eloise Wellings (keep an eye on the Nagoya Marathon the week after Tokyo) and Jess Stenson (who’ll run the Daegu Marathon in April) will all take aim at making the team. Game on.

Adding to the excitement, Osaka is headlined by the return of four of last year’s top-five finishers, including course-record holder Helen Tola Bekele (2:19:44, Berlin) squaring off with Fancy Chemutai (2:18:11, Valencia).

Here are a few more resources to prime you for the Osaka Marathon:

The race is streaming on NHK+ in Japan (geoblocked elsewhere)
Japan Running News will be live posting the whole race on X
And here's their full field listing
Course map
Invited athletes
Entry list

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