Otsu, JapanBreaking away from Deriba Merga after the 38th kilometre, Kenyan Wilson Kipsang won the 66th annual Lake Biwa Marathon on Sunday (6), an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, clocking 2:06:13.
Although it was not the 2:05 performance he had hoped for, it shattered the previous course record of 2:07:34 and was also the fastest marathon in the month of March (previous record was 2:06:49). It was also the third fastest time on Japanese soil behind 2:05:18 and 2:06:10 Tsegaye Kebede recorded in Fukuoka. Kipsang’s move was decisive, covering kilometre 38 to 39 in an incredible 2:48.
“I felt good in the last three kilometres, I felt strong, I believed in myself,” Kipsang said, adding, “I hope to run the world record in the future.”
After finishing third in Paris in 2010 in his debut clocking 2:07:13, Kipsang won in Frankfurt last fall with 2:04:57. After his 2:06:13 today his three race average of 2:06:08 is seventh best behind Haile Gebrselassie, Tsegaye Kebede, Patrick Makau, Sammy Wanjiru, Geffrey Mutai and Vincent Kipruto .
As expected the race did develop into the duel between Kipsang and Merga. After 24 kilometres, Merga pushed the pace several times in an attempt to leave Kipsang behind, and did open a small gap on him on a few occasions. However, each time Kipsang came back on Merga’s shoulder. After not finishing his previous two marathons, Merga did hang on to finish second in 2:09:13.
After 30 kilometres the race for the first Japanese and a possible berth for the World Championships Marathon team was shaping up to be between Hiroyuki Horibata and Masato Imai. With five kilometres left, Horibata left Imai behind and started chasing Moses Kangogo who was in third. Horibata caught and passed the Kenyan before 40Km and finished third with 2:09:25, to make the suqad for Daegu.
“I could not imagine myself running 2:09, Horibata said. “I was not confident about being the first Japanese either.” Because he was recently injured, his coach Takeshi Soh entered Horibata in the race but did not tell him about running the race until two weeks ago. Soh was afraid that Horibata might overtrain. “Seeing that I need to run 80 seconds for the final lap on the track, I just went after the time. I was not concerned with the runners behind me,” said Horibata, who barely broke the required time of 2:09:30. Asked about a collision with Imai in the 31st kilometre, Horibata explained, “After I got tangled up with Imai and fell behind him, I was determined to finish ahead of him. It (tangle up) may have been good thing for me.”
With all the World Championships qualifying races over, three runners have made the team automatically: Yukihiro Kitaoka, who won a silver medal in the Asian Games; Yuki Kawauchi who ran 2:08:37 in Tokyo; and Horibata who ran 2:09:25 today. The two other spots are likely to go to Yoshinori Oda, who ran 2:09:03 in Tokyo and Nakamoto who ran 2:09:31 today.
How the race unfolded:
A huge pack led by five pace makers covered the first kilometre in 3:03, the second in 3:01, and the third in 2:55. After covering five kilometres in 15:03, Iaroslav Musinschi fell behind the leaders. About 40 runners passed 10 kilometres in 30:00 and after passing 15 kilometres in 45:05, the two Japanese pace makers left the race. The next big name casualty was Mohamed El Hachimi of Morocco. Twenty two runners covered reached 20 kilometres in 60:10, and the midway point in 63:30.
Kipsang, who was running in the middle of the pack, moved up just behind the pace makers. Then just before 24Km, Merga started to push the pace and the lead pack was down to five including one pacer Patrick Nthiwa. That kilometre was covered in 2:53. The chase pace of nine was paced by Ndungu. However, after 25Km (1:15:06), the lead and chase packs were merged. But after 26Km, Merga push the pace again and only Kipsang stayed with him with Asmeron and Kangogo falling back. That kilometre (26 to 27Km) was covered in 2:57.
After 2:56 for 27 to 28Km Asmeron was dropped, but Kangogo tried to stay close. The chase pack of five runners, was lead by Ndungu, pacer. After 30Km (1:29:51) Kipsang took the lead but Merga stayed with him. Then it was Merga’s turn to surge one kilometre later, but when he went for the water table, Kipsang caught up. Behind them, Kangogo was eight seconds behind Merga and Kipsang at 30Km.
The race for the first Japanese was shaping up to be between Hiroyuki Horibata (fourth) and Masato Imai (fifth), neither of them an invited runner. Before 32Km, Imai and Horibata got tangled up, and Horibata lost his rhythm and fell behind. However, before 35Km, Horibata moved ahead of Imai. Behind them Kentaro Nakamoto was trying to bridge the gap.
At the front, the duel between Merga and Kipsang continued. The leader passed 35Km in 1:44:50, with Kangogo one minute behind. Then came Kipsng’s decisive move in the 38th kilometre.
The Lake Biwa Marathon’s course record moved up from 23rd best to 12th best in the world.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Leading Results -
Weather: Cloudy; temperature: 11C; Humidy; 57% Wind: South South West 2.5m/s Athletes JPN unless otherwise noted