Kengo Suzuki breaks the Japanese marathon record at the Lake Biwa Marathon (© Rikujyokyogisya)
Surging away from Simon Kariuki and Hidkazu Hijikata at 36 kilometres, Kengo Suzuki won the Lake Biwa Marathon in Otsu, Japan, on Sunday (28), clocking 2:04:56 at this World Athletics Elite Label race to break the Japanese national record.
The 25-year-old took more than half a minute from the previous mark of 2:05:29 set by Suguru Osako one year ago, shattered the previous course record of 2:06:13 set by Wilson Kipsang in 2011 and chopped more than five minutes from his previous personal best of 2:10:21 set in 2018.
“I never imagined such a time was possible, so, I am the one most surprised with the record,” Suzuki said. "The big factor of my success was that I was able to train for a year without any injury. My training since the new year went great."
The gun sounded at 9:15, three hours earlier than the usual start time, with 369 runners setting off under ideal marathon conditions. The first five kilometres were covered in 14:52, with a pack of 28 runners at the front. The leaders then covered 10km in 29:44, 15km in 44:31, 20km in 59:20 and the half way point in 1:02:35. At 25 kilometres, two pace makers stepped off the course with Hiroto Inoue then making the first move. The Asian Games champion pulled ahead briefly, covering the next two kilometres in 2:54 and 2:53. However, by 28.2km the chase pack reeled him in.
When the final pace maker left the race at 30km (1:28:59), Kariuki began to up the tempo, pulling five other runners along in well under course record pace. At 33km, the six-man lead pack was split into two with Kariuki, Suzuki and Hijikata at the front. Suzuki missed his drink at the 36 kilometre drinks station, but then decided surged ahead.
“I was thinking of making a surge at some point, but when I missed my drink at 36km, I thought that this was the right moment to make my move,” Suzuki said.
He covered the next three kilometres in 2:53, 2:52, and 2:51, completely alone at the front. He covered the 35-to-40 kilometre section in 14:39, the fastest split of the race, putting the Japanese record well within range. He finished strongly, covering the last 2.195km in 6:16 to secure the record. The new Japanese record is now the sixth fastest national record in the world.
Suzuki picked a most opportune moment to make his mark. This year's edition, the race's 76th running, was the last for Japan's oldest marathon. In 2022, it will merge with the Osaka Marathon.
“I am very proud of setting the national record at the last edition of the race," he said. "I still have a lot left in my tank, perhaps most among all my previous marathons.” His performance was a marked contrast with his appearance here last year. In 2020 he also ran an aggressive race, but fell apart in the waning stages and finished 12th.
Hijikata finished second with 2:06:26, and Kyohei Hosoya third with 2:06:35, both running for the second time over the distance. Inoue held on for fourth in 2:06:47, with Yusuke Ogura, the national record holder for the half marathon, finishing fifth with 2:06:51.
In a race of exceptional depth, five runners cracked the 2:07 barrier with personal bests. Fifteen ran under 2:08 (the record for a race is 17 from the 2020 Tokyo Marathon) and a record 28 runners cracked 2:09, breaking the previous record of 24, also set at last year's Tokyo Marathon. A record 42 runners finishind in under 2:10, smashing the previous best of 30 from last year's Valencia Marathon. And finally, Masaki Sakuda, who finished 14th in 2:07:42, produced the fastest debut by a Japanese.
Ken Nakamura for World Athletics
Weather: Cloudy; temperature: 7C, humidity: 57%; wind: ENE 1.2m/s
1. Kengo Suzuki 2:04:56 NR
(14:53, 29:46, 44:32, 59:21, 62:36, 1:14:09, 1:28:59, 1:44:01, 1:58:40)
2. Hidekazu Hijikata 2:06:26 PB
3. Kyohei Hosoya 2:06:35 PB
4. Hiroto Inoue 2:06:47 PB
5. Yusuke Ogura 2:06:51 PB
6. Shuho Dairokuno 2:07:12 PB
7. Simon Kariuki (KEN) 2:07:18 PB
8. Masato Kikuchi 2:07:20 PB
9. Kento Kikutani 2:07:26 PB
10. Yuki Kawauchi 2:07:27 PB
11. Kazuki Muramoto 2:07:36 PB
12. Masaru Aoki 2:07:40 PB
13. Tsubasa Ichiyama 2:07:41 PB
14. Masaki Sakuda 2:07:42 Debut
15. Atsumi Ashiwa 2:07:54 Debut
Splits for the leader:
5Km - 14:51
10km - 29:44 (14:53)
15km - 44:31 (14:47)
20km - 59:20 (14:49)
Half - 62:35
25km - 1:14:07 (14:47)
30km - 1:28:59 (14:52)
35km - 1:44:01 (15:02)
40km - 1:58:40 (14:39)
Finish - 2:04:56 (6:16)