World half marathon record-holder Joyciline Jepkosgei won the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon on Sunday (23), taking more than a minute off the course record at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Her winning time of 1:07:44 bettered the course record of 1:08:55 set last year by Olympic marathon silver medallist Eunice Kirwa, while second-placed Belaynesh Oljira of Ethiopia also finished inside the previous record, clocking 1:08:19.
Jepkosgei took off fast with an ambitious pace from the start, covering the first five kilometres in 15:08 with Oljira already 49 seconds behind. Jepkosgei kept on pushing the pace, and although she slowed in the subsequent kilometres, the Kenyan continued to pull ahead of Oljira until 10km, which she reached in 31:10, 66 seconds ahead of Oljira.
From 10km onwards, however, Oljira started to close the gap on Jepkosgei and by 20km the gap was down to 40 seconds. The gap was too big to close before the finish, but Oljira ultimately finished just 35 seconds behind Jepkosgei.
Yuka Ando, the fastest Japanese marathon debutante in history, finished third in 1:12:12. Ando started conservatively, covering the first five kilometres in a modest 17:22 alongside teammate Mao Kiyota. She then ran progressively faster with each five kilometre section and eventually left Kiyota in her wake after 15 kilometres, passing Bahrain’s Mimi Belete in the final kilometre.
Ando, however, wasn’t happy with her performance as she couldn’t speed up as much as she had hoped. Belete finished fourth in 1:12:22, 10 seconds behind Ando, while Kiyota finished fifth in 1:12:41. USA’s Sara Hall finished seventh in 1:14:40 while Britain’s Lily Partridge was 12th in 1:18:14.
The men’s race was much closer as Alexander Mutiso and Macharia Ndirangu, both Kenyans who live in Japan and run for Japanese corporate-sponsored track teams, were neck and neck all the way from the start to the finish line.
They were together at 10km in 29:06, 15km in 43:39 and 20km in 58:00. Ndirangu entered the stadium a few meters ahead of Mutiso, but in the final 100 metres of the race Mutiso came from behind to pass Ndirangu and finished one stride ahead of him as the pair were given the same time, 1:00:57, making it the closest ever finish at the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon.
Kenya’s Paul Kuira, Bernard Kipyego and Kenneth Keter finished third, fourth and fifth respectively ahead of Eritreans Tekelemariam Medhin and Goitom Kifle. In all, Kenyans took the first five spots while east Africans took the first 13 spots.
Takafumi Kikuchi was the first Japanese finisher in 14th place, while popular runner Yuki Kawauchi finished 15th in 1:04:06, 16 seconds behind Kikuchi. Roman Fosti of Estonia was 23rd in 1:04:52.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
1 Alexander Mutiso (KEN) 1:00:57
2 Macharia Ndirangu (KEN) 1:00:57
3 Paul Kuira (KEN) 1:01:19
4 Bernard Kipyego (KEN) 1:01:27
5 Kenneth Keter (KEN) 1:01:48
6 Teklemariam Medhin (ERI) 1:02:26
7 Goitom Kifle (ERI) 1:02:27
8 Joel Mwaura (KEN) 1:02:32
1 Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) 1:07:44
2 Belaynesh Oljira (ETH) 1:08:19
3 Tomoka Ando (JPN) 1:12:12
4 Mimi Belete (BRN) 1:12:22
5 Mao Kiyota (JPN) 1:12:41
6 Sayo Nomura (JPN) 1:12:51
7 Sara Hall (USA) 1:14:40
8 Marie Imada (JPN) 1:15:03