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Breaking away from the lead pack at the beginning of the third and final loop, Inga Abitova of Russia won the inaugural running of the Yokohama International Women’s Marathon.
Running in warm and windy conditions Abitova, the 2006 European champion in the 10,000m, won by more than a minute-and-a-half over Kiyoko Shimahara, 2009 Hokkaido Marathon Champion, in 2:27:18.
Shimahara, 2006 Asian Game’s Marathon silver medallist, was second with 2:28:51, while two-time Olympic silver medalist Catherine Ndereba was third with 2:29:13. Ndereba was followed by Italy’s Bruna Genovese, the 2004 Tokyo Women’s Marathon champion, in fourth and Miki Ohira in fifth. Ohira, who finished fourth in her last three marathons, was hoping to finish anything but fourth. The reigning Olympic champion Constantina Dita of Romania, who lost contact soon after the mid way point, finished a disappointing 11th in 2:36:06.
“First, I would like to thank the marathon organizer and fans along the course,” said Abitova, whose break from the pack came with 13 kilometres remaining. When asked what it was like to beat the Beijing Olympic gold and silver medallists, Abitova said, “To me, it was more like winning the inner battle against myself.”
Because of the advent of the Tokyo Marathon, the first big city marathon in Japan, the Tokyo International Women’s Marathon was held for the final time last year and the sponsors moved the race to Yokohama. The course in the inaugural marathon race in Yokohama consists mostly of three 13.18Km loops. It was the first multiple loop marathon race in Japan. How the race unfolded:
The distinct lead pack of ten including all but one invited runner (Takami Ominami) has formed from the outset. In the early stages, Dita and Shimahara pushed the pace, while Ndereba trailed the field. The pace was not very fast, passing 5Km in 17:12 and 10Km in 34:35. However, while Dita, Shimahara, Genovese, Ohira, Zivile Balciunaite, Abitova, Robe Guta, Hiromi Ominami, and debutante Hiroko Miyauchi formed the lead pack, Ndereba ran 10-15m behind them. Around 17Km Ndereba caught up with the lead pack, only to fell behind again.
After passing the half marathon in 1:14:02, when Shimaraha started to push the pace, Dita was the first to fall behind. Soon thereafter, Miyauchi also fell off the pace. Later Shimahara explained the reason for taking the lead: “I didn’t want to run slow, so I decided to run at my own pace.” Shimahra continued to push the pace with forced Hiromi Ominami and then Balciunaite to fall back.
The real racing started when Abitova, sixth in the 2008 Olympic 10,000m, went into the lead with 13Km to go in the race. The pack stretched out almost immediately. Ndereba tried to cover the move by Abitova, and she was able to stay with Abitova for a while, however, by 32Km Ndereba was eight seconds behind. Ndereba was followed by Shimahara, Ohira and then Guta. Although, Abitova was extending her lead over the next pursuer, the position was changing behind her. Soon Genovese passed Guta to move into fifth. Five Km later Shimahara passed Ndereba. Ndereba tried to stay with Shimahara, however, she slowly fell behind. Genovese also passed Ohira to move into fourth.
“Abitova is in total control of the race. She is not running all out, and can go faster anytime if she needs to,” was how Masako Chiba, the 1997 World 10,000m and 2003 World marathon bronze medalist, described Abitova’s run for a radio broadcast.
With every stride Abitova extended her lead over Shimahara. By 40Km Abitova was a minute and 16 seconds ahead of Shimahara, which was extended to a minute and 33 seconds by the finish.
Ken Nakamura Assisted by Akihiro Onishi for the IAAF