Kenya’s Dickson Chumba and Tirfi Tsegaye smashed the course records at the 2014 Tokyo Marathon on Sunday (23), recording respective times of 2:05:42 and 2:22:23 at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Chumba’s winning time is the fastest ever performance in Tokyo, replacing the course record set last year by Dennis Kimetto as well as the 2:06:33 set by Gert Thys at the old Tokyo International Marathon in 1999.
Chumba also took four seconds off the PB he set at the 2012 Eindhoven Marathon, but fell 24 seconds short of the 2:05:18 Japanese all-comers’ record, set in Fukuoka by Tsegaye Kebede.
Meanwhile, Tsegaye’s winning time took more than three minutes off the women’s course record set two years ago by Atsede Habtamu. While Chumba was the third Kenyan in succession to win the men’s race, Tsegaye was the third consecutive Ethiopian woman to win in Tokyo.
The real action in the men’s race started when the last two pace makers left at 30km. Peter Some surged into the front as Tadesse Tola covered the move. When the dust has settled, seven runners –Chumba, Tola, Sammy Kitwara, Michael Kipyego, Some, Geoffrey Kipsang, and Deressa Chimsa – were left in the lead pack.
As expected the race turned into a duel between Kenya’s five athletes against Ethiopia’s two. At this point, one of the pre-race favourites, two-time world champion Abel Kirui, could not keep up with the leaders, then at 33km Chimsa also started to drift back, leaving six runners in front.
After 35km (1:44:58, last 5km in 14:56) Chumba took over the lead to push the pace, and only Tola was able to stay close to Chumba. Kipsang and Kitwara tried to stay close but slowly drifted back, and 2012 champion Kipyego completely lost the contact with the leaders.
Chumba covered 35km to 40km in 14:21 as he and Tola were completely alone in front. “I did not think it (14:21) was too fast because I was planning to push the pace after 35km,” Chumba said later at the post-race press conference.
He continued to push the pace and after 40km (1:59:19), Tola had to let Chumba go. “I knew Tola is a strong runner, having run 2:04 and won a medal at the World Championships. So I was not sure who would win until 40km when I became confident that I could win the race.”
Chumba went on to win by 15 seconds to secure YEN 11,000,000 (about USD $107,000) in prize money for the win and course record. He said he plans to use part of the money to start up a business.
“From the start, I felt that I can run a good race today,” said Chumba. “I am very happy. I hope to come back next year to run the Tokyo Marathon again. I didn’t have the confidence to run a faster time today, and I did not realise the time would be this fast until the very end.”
Tola, who stayed with Chumba beyond 40km, finished second in 2:05:57, meaning Chumba and Tola recorded the second and third-fastest times ever on Japanese soil. Third place went to Kitwara, whose 2:06:30 was also faster than the previous course record. He was followed by 2012 Tokyo Marathon winner Kipyego, who ran 2:06:58, the same time as his second-place finish from last year.
In all, four runners cracked 2:07 and seven in total dipped below 2:08 in what proved to be one of the highest-quality marathons ever in Japan.
The highest Japanese finisher was Kohei Matsumura in eighth with 2:08:09. It was the third marathon of his career and each time he has improved his personal best, going from 2:11:18 on his debut to 2:10:12 and then to 2:08:09 today.
“I am happy to fulfil my goal of a 2:08 marathon and being the first Japanese in the race,” said Matsumura. “If I’m selected to represent Japan at the Asian Games, I will be delighted to run.”
Two Japanese representatives will be selected from the top finishers in Fukuoka, Tokyo and the Lake Biwa Marathon, and so far Matsumura is the fastest. Behind Matsumura, three other Japanese runners broke 2:10 for the first time in their career.
Ethiopian one-two beats pre-race favourite Kabuu
A seven-woman lead pack at 15km (51:07) was reduced to six runners by half way, reached in 1:11:48. The race of attrition continued as the lead pack was reduced to five by 25km (1:24:45), then to four in 30km (1:41:27), and three by 35km (1:58:30).
Ethiopian duo Tirfi Tsegaye and Birhane Dibaba then broke away, leaving two Kenyans – Caroline Rotich and Lucy Kabuu – in their wake.
After 40km (2:15:02), Dibaba did most of the leading until 700m from the finish when Tsegaye surged away to win by seven seconds in 2:22:23.
In second, 20-year-old Dibaba improved her PB by half a minute to 2:22:30. Kabuu finished third in 2:24:16 and Rotich was fourth in 2:24:35 as the top four all beat the previous course record of 2:25:28.
“Although part of the course was quite tough, it was a good race for me. After 35km, I was determined to win the race,” said Tsegaye. “My future goal includes victory at the major marathon as well as a faster time.”
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
1 Dickson Chumba (KEN) 2:05:42
(14:52, 14:56, 15:09, 15:07, 15:11, 14:56, 14:21, 6:23)
2 Tadese Tola (ETH) 2:05:57
3 Sammy Kitwara (KEN) 2:06:30
4 Michael Kipyego (KEN) 2:06:58
5 Peter Some (KEN) 2:07:05
6 Geoffrey Kipsang (KEN) 2:07:37
7 Deressa Chimsa (KEN) 2:07:40
8 Kohei Matsumura (JPN) 2:08:09
9 Koji Kobayashi (JPN) 2:08:51
10 Abel Kirui (KEN) 2:09:04
11 Hirokatsu Kurosaki (JPN) 2:09:07
12 Masanori Sakai (JPN) 2:09:10
13 Suehiro Ishikawa (JPN) 2:09:29
14 Cyrus Njui (KEN) 2:09:35
15 Chihiro Miaywaki (JPN) 2:11:50
1 Tirfi Tsegaye (ETH) 2:22:23
(17:20, 16:58, 16:50, 16:57, 16:40, 16:42, 17:03, 16:32, 7:21)
2 Birhane Dibaba (ETH) 2:22:30
3 Lucy Kabuu (KEN) 2:24:16
4 Caroline Rotich (KEN) 2:24:35
5 Janet Rono (KEN) 2:26:03
6 Albina Mayorova (RUS) 2:28:18
7 Mai Ito (JPN) 2:28:36
8 Rika Shintaku (JPN) 2:31:15
9 Manami Kamitanida (JPN) 2:31:34
10 Hiroko Yoshitomi (JPN) 2:32:38