Yukiko Akaba of Japan brings home the victory in Chiba (Kazutaka Eguchi/Agence SHOT) © Copyright
General News

Akaba, Gebretsadik take All-Japan Corporate Half Marathon titles

Yukiko Akaba won the 2008 All Japan Corporate team Half Marathon Championships on Sunday with 1:08:11, thus breaking the course record time of 1:08:29, established by the defending Olympic Marathon champion Mizuki Noguchi in 2003.

Noguchi was actually invited to run this Half Marathon race in Yamaguchi. However, she had to curtail her training due to a skin rash recently, thus forcing her to change her race plan. With Noguchi out, the race was expected to be fought between two Hokuren track team teammates, Philes Ongori and Akaba. Ongori won the 2008 Marugame Half Marathon with a personal best of 1:07:57 on 3 February, while Akaba recorded a 10,000m best of 31:23.27 last December. 

The actual race turned into a one-woman show very early in its stage. After the first Km was covered in 3:12, by 1.5Km into the race the lead pack was reduced to six runners – Akaba, Philes Ongori, Yoko Shibui, Birha Kamau, Flomena Cheyech and Mika Okunaga.

Nearing the end of 4th Km, which was covered in 3:14, Akaba picked up the pace and broke away from the lead pack. She continued to push the pace covering 4-5Km in 3:11. By 5Km (16:06) Akaba was five seconds ahead of the second place Ongori.  The race broke open in the next 5Km where Akaba covered in 15:45. At 10Km (31:58) Akaba was 20 seconds ahead of the second place runner, Cheyech, who passed Ongori around 9Km. Cheyech covered the first 10Km in 32:18, faster than her 10,000m personal best, 32:47.98. Akaba continued to push the pace and moved farther and farther ahead of her competitions. She was 40 seconds ahead of second place by 15Km, which was extended to 50 seconds 5Km later. Akaba finished in 1:08:11, thus breaking her Half Marathon best by more than three minutes.

“My goal was to crack 1:08 for the Half Marathon. I was on the good pace for much of the race, so I am bit disappointed with my time,” said Akaba. She will be trying to make the Olympic 10,000m team later in the year. “A good Half Marathon gives me a confidence for half the distance.” 

A Half Marathon debutante Cheyech of Kenya and UniQlo track team finished second with 1:09:06. Although the defending champion Ongori of Kenya finished the race with 1:09:43, faster than her winning time in last year’s race, 1:09:50, she was only third. Shibui, the national 10,000m record holder, finished fourth in 1:10:27. “This is an auspicious sign for the upcoming track season,” Shibui said.

Gebretsadik runs away with men's contest

The men’s race, unlike women’s counterpart, started with a huge pack passing 5Km in 14:45. Although the pace was not quick, the lead pack dwindled quickly. Only 15 runners were found in the lead pack by 10Km (29:26), which was further reduced to five runners – Bekele Gebretsadik, Yukihiro Kitaoka, Tetsuo Nishimura, Ryosuke Fukuyama and Steven Njenga – by 15Km (44:05).

Soon after 15Km checkpoint Gebretsakik, an Ethiopian who runs for the Honda track team, broke away from the pack.  By 20Km, Gebretsadik was 43 seconds ahead of second place Nishimura and Njenga. He won in 1:01:40, fourteen seconds short of his personal best established in 2006. Finishing second 48 seconds behind was Steven Njenga of Kenya and Mazda track team. Tetsuo Nishimura, who was 54th in the 2007 World Road Running Championships, was the first Japanese with 1:02:35.

“Last year I ran poorly in the World Road Running Championships, so I need to redeem myself in October,” said Nishimura after the race. Because the top finishers from this Half Marathon are considered for the World Half Marathon championships, Nishimura has a good chance to redeem himself in the 2008 World Road Running championships in Rio de Janeiro. 

Ken Nakamura assisted by Akihiro Onishi for the IAAF

Weather: Sunny; temperature: 8C, humidity 59%; wind 0.5m/s East North East
Men -
1. Bekele Gebretsadik (ETH)  1:01:40
2. Steven Njenga (KEN)  1:02:28
3. Tetsuo Nishikawa  1:02:35
4. Yukihiro Kitaoka  1:02:40
5. Michinori Takano  1:02:48
6. Ryosuke Fukuyama  1:02:49
7. Kazuyuki Maeda  1:02:50
8. Takaaki Koda  1:02:52
9. Koichi Mitsuyuki 1:02:55
10. Makoto Harada 1:02:57
11. Suehiro Ishikawa  1:03:12
12. Masaki Shimojyu  1:03:20
13. Shoji Tsukamoto 1:03:21
14. Naoki Okamoto  1:03:21
15. Naoto Yoneda 1:03:21

Splits -
5Km - 14:45 - Shijiro Nakayama
10Km - 29:26 (14:41) - Makoto Harada
 - 29:26 - Bekele Gebretsadik
15Km - 44:05 (14:39) - Bekele Gebretsadik
 - 44:06 - Yukihiro Kitaoka
20Km - 58:30 (14:25) - Bekele Gebretsadik
 - 59:13 - Tetsuo Nishikawa
 - 59:13 - Steven Njenga
Finishi - 1:01:40 (3:10) - Bekele Gebretsadik

Women -
1. Yukiko Akaba  1:08:11   New course record
2. Flomena Cheyech (KEN) 1:09:06
3. Philes Ongori (KEN) 1:09:43
4. Yoko Shibui  1:10:27
5. Ayumi Fujita  1:11:38
6. Mai Ito  1:11:48
7. Kei Terada  1:12:11
8. Yuko Shoi  1:12:22
9. Megumi Seike  1:12:25
10. Birha Kamau  1:12:26
11. Saori Nejyo  1:12:35
12. Yoko Nishimi  1:12:40
13. Mika Okunaga  1:12:49
14. Sayaka Morikawa  1:13:17
15. Miho Notagashira 1:13:26
16. Hiroko Miyauchi 1:13:32

Splits
5Km - 16:06 - Yukiko Akaba
 - 16:11 - Philes Ongori
 - 16:13 - Flomena Cheyech
10Km - 31:58 (15:45) - Yukiko Akaba
 - 32:18 (16:05) - Flomena Cheyech
 - 32:19 (16:08) - Philes Ongori
15Km - 48:05 (16:07) - Yukiko Akaba
 - 48:45 (16:27) - Flomena Cheyech
 - 48:48 (16:29) - Philes Ongori
20Km - 1:04:42 (16:37) - Yukiko Akaba
 - 1:05:32 (16:47) - Flomena Cheyech
 - 1:05:59 (17:11) - Philes Ongori
Finish - 1:08:11 (3:29) - Yukiko Akaba
 - 1:09:06 (3:34) - Flomena Cheyech
 - 1:09:43 (3:44) - Philes Ongori