Coming from behind to pass local star Kayoko Fukushi with 900m left in the race, Ukraine’s Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko won the Osaka Women’s Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race , in a personal best of 2:23:58 on Sunday (27).
For Gamera-Shmyrko, fifth in the London 2012 Olympic Games Marathon, it was 34 seconds faster than her former personal best set in London last August and her second win in five outings over the classic distance. However, she just fell short of regaining her national record, which still stands at of 2:23:32 by Olena Shurhno in the 2012 Berlin Marathon.
Gamera-Shmyrko, the first Ukraine runner to win in Osaka, is becoming renowned for her speed in the closing stage at the marathon. Last year in Osaka, she covered the final stretch from 40km to the line in 7:06, today she covered the same 2.195km distance almost as quickly in 7:14.
“I almost gave up. I usually speed up after 30Km but I had little left at that point. However, I found a reserve with 2km to go,” said Gamera-Shmyrko.
She was followed home by Fukushi, who clocked 2:24:21. Another Japanese runner, Yuko Watanabe, was third in 2:25:56 as the top three women all recorded personal best times. Japan's Mari Ozaki, now 37, was fourth with 2:26:41.
The pace was erratic at the start, with the first three kilometres covered in 3:36, 3:18 and 3:30. By 5km, passed in 17:09, the leading pack was already reduced to five runners: Fukushi, Ozaki, Watanabe Gamera-Shmyrko and Yoko Shibui, as well as three pace makers.
In the next five kilometres, the pace picked up and the same group passed 10km in 33:59.
Approaching 14km, Gamera-Shmyrko and Watanabe started to fall off the pace as the leaders reached 15km in 50:51, and the pair were four seconds behind, but a few hundred metres after the midway mark, a fast split of 1:11:36 by the leaders, both runners were back at the front again.
At 25km, timed at 1:24:55, pace maker Azusa Nojiri dropped out and soon Shibui and Watanabe started to drift back as well before Gamera-Shmyrko and Ozaki also soon fell off the pace and Fukushi was left alone to run just behind the rabbits.
As 30km was passed in 1:41:45, as two remaining pace makers departed and Fukushi was on her own at the front. She passed 35km in 1:58:44 but approaching 40km Gamera-Shmyrko started to reel the leader back in while, behind them, Watanabe passed Ozaki to move into third.
Fukushi led Gamera-Shmyrko by 19 seconds at 40km, passed in 2:16:24, but then started to faltered badly in the final 2km, not only allowing Gamera-Shmyrko to overtake her but falling outside her 2:24 target time which would have seen her automatically selected for Japan’s 2013 World Championships team.
“I told the winner (Gamera-Shmyrko) I am very disappointed,” reflected Fukushi. “Unlike other marathons, I think I have given it all. I still need to learn to change the pace at the end.”
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
1. Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko (UKR) 2:23:58
2. Kayoko Fukushi (JPN) 2:24:21
3. Yuko Watanabe (JPN) 2:25:56
4. Mari Ozaki (JPN) 2:26:41
5. Lisa Weightman (AUS) 2:29:09
6. Karolina Jarzynska (POL) 2:30:29