Tokyo, JapanBreaking away from Paul Biwott after 33 kilometres, Hailu Mekonnen of Ethiopia won the fifth edition of the Tokyo Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (27), clocking 2:07:35.
“I just slightly picked up the tempo at 33 kilometres, which was enough for me to break away,” said the 30-year-old Mekonnen. It was third fastest time of the year behind Bekana Daba’s 2:07:04 by from Houston and 2:07:18 by David Barmasai from Dubai. “I am very happy to win the Tokyo Marathon, because it’s a very big race.”
Although he well ahead of course record pace for most of the race, he missed the mark by 12 seconds but still improved his own personal best by two seconds, the third straight race in which he’s done so.
Paul Biwott was second with 2:08:17, while Yuki Kawauchi finished third with 2:08:37, and thus qualified for the Japanese World Championships team.
“I was shooting for a top eight position and sub-2:10 time. I never even imagined myself running 2:08,” said Kawauchi, who was fourth here last year with 2:12:36, which was his personal best before this year’s race. Kawauchi does not belong to a corporate track team like most of other professional runner in Japan. With a full-time job away from running, he trains in his spare time, usually in the morning and then works from the afternoon to around 9PM.
Yoshinori Oda, a Marathon debutante, was fourth with 2:09:03, the third fastest debut clocking ever by a Japanese. Masakazu Fujiwara, who pulled out of the race two days ago, holds the Japanese debut record of 2:08:12. “My plan was to stay with the leader until 30 kilometres. It was fast but I told myself that this is the world class speed. But my legs were shot in the final 5K,” said Oda. He was on pace to break Fujiwara’s Japanese debut record until around 35 kilometres, but then slowed and was passed by Kawauchi with a little over two kilometres left. Kawauchi was the fastest in the final 2.195 kilometres, covering the closing distance in 6:52 while Mekonnen took 6:54.
Arysova takes women’s title
Tatyana Arysova of Russia came from behind to win the women’s race with 2:27:29. She passed Japan’s Yoko Shibui, the leader at the time, at 39.5 kilometres.
“Although I did not set a personal best (2:26:13 from the 2010 Dublin Marathon), I am happy today because I won the race,” Arysova said.
Noriko Higuchi, a Marathon debutante, also passed Shibui in the waning stages to to finish second with 2:28:49. “I wanted to finish under 2:30, so I am very happy,” Higuchi said. Higuchi was a pace maker in the recent Osaka Woman’s marathon. “The experience as a pace maker was very valuable for my success today. In Osaka, I was able to experience the atmosphere of the Marathon.”
Shibui dropped to fourth (2:29:03) as Russian Tatyana Petrova also passed her to finish third with 2:28:56. Although not a course record (2:25:38 by Nasukawa), Arysova’s time is the second fastest time in the Tokyo Marathon history, while Higuchi’s time is the race’s third fastest.
How the race unfolded: Men: The leaders covered the first kilometre in 3:01 and second in 2:56, thus the race of attrition started early. Keita Akiba was the first big name to lose contact with the leaders. He later rejoined them but then lost contact again. The pack of 27 runners passed five kilometres in 14:56, 10 kilometres was reached in 29:56, while 19 runners passed the 15th kilometre marker in 44:50.
After 19 kilometres Naoki Okamoto and after 20 (59:54) Keita Akiba lost contact with the leaders for good. After half way (63:13), Tadese started to fall off from the lead pack, and after 25Km (1:14:59), Arata Fujiwara fell behind very quickly. Next to lose contact is Satotshi Irifune.
At around 27 kilometres the real racing started, as three runners (Mekonnen, Biwott and pace maker Henry Sugut) broke away from the lead pack, with Mekubo Mogusu, Yoshinori Oda, Yuki Kawauchi, Takaaki Koda and Cyrus Njui forming the chase pack. At 30 kilometres (1:29:56), the final pace maker (Sugut) dropped out leaving Mekonnen and Biwott in front. Out of the chase pack, Mogusu, Njui and debutante Oda broke away and began to chase the leaders. After 33 kilometres Mekonnen broke away from Biwott and in the second pack Njui and Oda broke away from Mogusu. But then Kawauchi came from behind and at 38.95 Kilometres he passed both Oda and Njui to move into third. Njui stayed with Kawauchi for a while but Oda was immediately left behind, but soon Kawauchi left Njui behind as well. Mekonnen missed the course record on the hilly part of the course.
Women: Misaki Katsumata and Yoko Shibui passed five kilometres together in 17:20, but then Shibui was left behind leaving Katsumata, a marathon debutante, alone in front. Katsumata run in front until 27.1 kilometres, at which point Shibui reclaimed the lead. She ran at the front until 39.5 kilometres when Tatyana Aryasova, Noriko Higuchi and Tatyana Petrova all passed her in that order. Shibui had nothing left and unable to respond.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Leading Results: Weather: Sunny; temperature: 7.2C; humidity: 43%; wind: 1.9m/s West South West