Ryoko Kizaki celebrates winning the Nagoya Women's Marathon (© Yohei Kamiyama/Agence SHOT)
After breaking away from Ethiopia’s 19-year-old Berhane Dibaba at the 40km water station, Ryoko Kizaki this morning (10) won the Nagoya Women’s Marathon – an IAAF Gold Label Road Race – in 2:23:34, the second-fastest time in the world this year.
Since Kizaki won the race with a sub-2:24 clocking – which was the automatic qualifying requirement set by the Japan AAF – she clinched a spot on the marathon team for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
The race also saw a return to form by Mizuki Noguchi, the 2004 Olympic Marathon champion, while former World cross-country champion Worknesh Kidane – one of the pre-race favourites – was forced to make a last-minute withdrawal from the race due to injury.
In the early stages of the race, the lead pack consisted mainly of Japanese athletes, while the Africans were in a chase pack some 20m behind. Before the 5km mark Eri Okubo, Kaoru Nagao, Sumiko Suzuki, Mestawat Tufa, Yuliya Ruban and Nikki Chapple had all fallen behind the pace. After passing 5km in 17:02, the group of Africans – which included Kenyans Margaret Agai and Georgina Rono and Ethiopians Berhane Dibaba and Genet Getaneh – finally caught up with the leaders and a huge lead pack had formed.
The pace picked up a bit in the next 5km and eighteen runners passed 10km in 33:55. Approaching 15km, reached in 50:48, the Africans started to push the pace, but pace maker Rei Ohara soon regained the lead, followed by Kizaki and Noguchi.
After passing 20km in 67:49, by half way (71:32) Eri Hayakawa and Yoko Miyauchi had drifted back, reducing the lead pack to two Japanese (Noguchi and Kizaki), two Kenyans (Agai and Rono) two Ethiopians (Dibaba and Getaneh) and Mariya Konovalova of Russia.
Soon after 25km (1:24:49) Getaneh also started to drift back and she was followed 5km later by Rono and Agai. Dibaba seized the opportunity to push the pace and opened up a gap on Noguchi, Kizaki and Konovalova.
By 31km Noguchi had caught up with Dibaba, and the pair was joined two kilometres later by Kizaki. Noguchi led for a while, but Dibaba took over the lead as they passed 35km in 1:59:07. Soon after, the teenager increased the pace as Noguchi started to drift back, leaving Kizaki as Dibaba’s sole challenger.
With 5km to go, Dibaba surged in an attempt to break away, but Kizaki didn’t let her go. After the water station at 40km (2:16:23), Kizaki then retaliated with a 3:18 kilometre and was finally alone in the lead.
Kizaki smashed her PB by almost three minutes as she crossed the line in 2:23:34, the third-fastest time ever at the Nagoya Women’s Marathon. Kizaki represented Japan at last year’s Olympics after winning the 2011 Yokohama Marathon, but this will be Kizaki’s first World Championships team berth, having missed out two years ago by finishing fifth in the Osaka Women’s Marathon.
“I was really nervous before the race to the point that I was not able to sleep at all last night. However, I was able to run quite relaxed today,” said Kizaki, who has now won two of the three biggest women’s Marathons in Japan. “I fell behind the bit when Dibaba surged (at 30km), but that was because I try to keep the same pace. But soon I realized I must catch up to the leaders.”
Dibaba finished second with 2:23:51, taking more than five minutes off her PB. Noguchi finished third in 2:24:05, her fastest time since 2007. Since her time was faster than the first Japanese finisher in Yokohama (Mizuho Nasukawa, 2:26:42) and Osaka (Kayoko Fukushi, 2:24:21), she is likely be selected for the World Championships team.
It was a remarkable comeback for the 34-year-old, possibly ending the series of injury problems that had plagued her career over the last five years. After missing the 2008 Olympic Games through injury, Noguchi finished sixth in last year’s Nagoya Marathon in what was her first Marathon for more than four years.
“I was determined to run under 2:24, so the last half of the race was sort of a race against the clock,” said Noguchi, the Asian record-holder at 2:19:12.
Former World Marathon Majors series winner Jelena Prokopcuka, who fell off the pace around 13km and was as low as sixteenth place at 15km, ran strongly in the last half of the race to finish fourth in 2:25:46, her fastest time for more than six years. Mestawet Tufa, silver medallist at the 2008 World Cross and 2001 World Youth Championships, was sixth on her Marathon debut with 2:26:20, while Australia’s Nikki Chapple was 12th in 2:32:31.
1 Ryoko Kizaki (JPN) 2:23:34
2 Berhane Dibaba (ETH) 2:23:51
3 Mizuki Noguchi (JPN) 2:24:05
4 Jelena Prokopcuka (LAT) 2:25:46
5 Eri Hayakawa (JPN) 2:26:17
6 Mestawet Tufa (ETH) 2:26:20
7 Yoko Miyauchi (JPN) 2:27:17
8 Genet Getaneh (ETH) 2:28:08
9 Asami Kato (JPN) 2:30:26
10 Misato Horie (JPN) 2:30:52
11 Asami Furuse (JPN) 2:30:57
12 Nikki Chapple (AUS) 2:32:31
Weather: Cloudy. Temperature: 15.5C. Humidity: 40%. Wind: 1.0m/s.
5km – 17:02 Ohara (pace maker)
10km – 33:56 (16:54) Agai
15km – 50:48 (16:52) Agai
20km – 1:07:49 (17:01) Agai
Half – 1:11:32 Agai
25km – 1:24:49 (17:00) Agai
30km – 1:41:54 (17:05) Dibaba
35km – 1:59:07 (17:13) Kizaki
40km – 2:16:23 (17:16) Dibaba