Tokyo, Japan – Battling cold and windy conditions, Kenya's Dennis Kimetto and Ethiopia's Aberu Kebede ran out the winners of the Tokyo Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (24).
Kimetto, the runner-up at last September's BMW Berlin Marathon and the World record-holder over 25km, ran a superb second half to set a course record of 2:06:50.
The halfway point was reached in a modest 1:04:22, two minutes slower than expected. The main pack stayed together until 28km when Kenya's diminutive James Kwambai – just 48kg – broke the race open with a 2:55 kilometre, followed by a 2:48 kilometre. His compatriots Kimetto, Michael and Bernard Kipyego, and Gilbert Kirwa followed.
Kimetto then courageously tried to shake off his rivals. He covered 30km to 35km in 14:20, moving clear at 34km, and at the 35km checkpoint he was five seconds ahead of Micheal Kipyego.
The stretch between 35km to 40km was covered by Kimetto in 14:35.
Kipyego was six seconds behind Kimetto at 40km but he was not able to get any closer as the latter took just 6:34 from 40km to the finish, to reduce the course record by 33 seconds.
“At 35km I thought I could win the race. The pace maker was little slow for me and I thought of leaving them behind at times, but I decided to stay with the pace,” commented Kimetto.
“I want to run at the World Championships next, but if that is not possible then I will run Berlin and, if I run Berlin, then I want to go after the World record,” he added.
Kipyego was second with a personal best of 2:06:58 while Bernard Kipyego, completing an all-Kenya podium, was third with 2:07:53.
Kazuhiro Maeda was the first Japanese runner home keeping the huge local audience, both on TV and by the roadside, very happy.
He pushed hard in the last 10km of the race in pursuit of Japan’s automatic World Championships qualifying time of 2:07:59. Although he passed Kirwa and then the flagging Kwambai in the final kilometre to finish fourth, he didn’t hit his target by a frustrating one second, crossing the line in 2:08:00.
“I am disappointed that I did not run 2:07, but I am happy with 2:08 in such a windy condition,” said Maeda.
Kwambai was fifth with 2:08:02 while Ethiopia’s Feyisa Bekele came through for sixth with 2:08:17.
Kebede kicks for home at 37km
Unlike the men’s race which started quite slowly, the women’s race was relatively fast in the beginning. However, by contrast, the women’s race did not close fast.
Three runners – Kebede, Japan’s Azusa Nojiri and Kenya’s Caroline Kilel – covered the first 5km together in 16:48 and then 10km in 33:31.
After 17km, Nojiri fell off the pace and then Kilel fell away while Ethiopia’s Yeshi Esayias, 16 seconds adrift of Kebede at halfway, came through to join Kebede just before 25km. They ran together for more than 10km before Kebede pushed for home and won in 2:25:34, finishing just outside the course record.
“It was too windy to pursue the course record. It was especially tough between 37km and 41km because of both the wind and the hill,” said Kebede.
Esayias had to settle for second in 2:26:01, while 40 seconds back, Germany's 40-year-old Irina Mikitenko was third with 2:26:41.
Albina Mayorova, last year's Nagoya Marathon champion, finished fourth in 2:26:51 while Yoshimi Ozaki, the 2009 IAAF World Championships silver medallist, was the first local runner home in fifth with 2:28:30.
“I could have run faster if there was no wind. I felt a head wind in many part of the course. I passed Nojiri (her former team-mate) after 30km. I didn’t want to lose to her,” explained Ozaki, after what might be her last high-level race as she is planning a long break from competitive running.
A record 36,228 runners entered the race in its first year as part of the World Marathon Majors series.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF