Yukiko Akaba of Japan brings home the victory in Chiba (Kazutaka Eguchi/Agence SHOT) © Copyright
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Berlin-bound Akaba clocks 1:08:50 at Sendai Half Marathon

Yukiko Akaba, who was recently selected for the Japanese World Championships Marathon team, won the 19th annual Sendai Half Marathon in 1:08:50 on Sunday.

It was a memorable Mother’s Day for Akaba, a mother of a two-year-old, whose performance was the fourth fastest time in the race’s history, following 1:07:59 by (2000) Olympic marathon fourth placer Esther Wanjiru, 1:08:25 by Olympic Marathon champion Mizuki Noguchi and 1:08:31 by Julia Mombi.

Mombi, who was second a year before, tried to stay with Akaba. They passed 5Km together in 16:21, but after 7Km Akaba broke away and by 10Km, Akaba (32:35) was 16 seconds ahead. Mombi stayed close though through 15Km (48:49 for Akaba), running 12 seconds behind. However, in the next 5Km, Mombi lost ground as Akaba covered 15Km to 20Km in 16:30, compared to her 17:36 over the same stretch. At the end Akaba won by more than two and a half minutes while her 1:08:50 winning time was well within her goal of breaking 1:10 at minimum.  Akaba, most likely, will be selected for the World Half Marathon Championships team.  But before that she will run the marathon at the World Championships in Berlin and hopes to work on her speed before then.

In the men’s race, the defending champion Harun Njoroge of Kenya and Komori Corporation retained his crown.  Unlike the women’s race, a pack of 10 stayed together beyond 10Km, which was reduced to six – Njoroge, Julius Gitahi, Yukihiro Kitaoka, Joseph Mwaniki, Ryosuke Fukuyama, and Minoru Okuda – by 15Km (44:08). Njoroge broke away from the pack before 20Km (58:54) and won by more than 30 seconds in 1:02:02.  It was fifth fastest time in history of the race, but far away from Samuel Wanjiru’s race record time of 59:43.  Njoroge himself ran 1:01:55 last year. The first Japanese in the race was Yukihiro Kitaoka with 1:02:34, one second behind Julius Gitahi. Kitaoka most likely will be selected to represent Japan at the World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham later this year.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Leading Results –

1)  Harun Njoroge (KEN)  1:02:02  (14:36, 29:25, 44:08, 58:54)
2)  Julius Gitahi (KEN)  1:02:33 (14:37, 29:25, 44:08, 59:14)
3)  Yukihiro Kitaoka  1:02:34 (14:36, 29:25, 44:09, 59:15)
4)  Joseph Mwaniki (KEN)  1:02:52
5)   Ryosuke Fukuyama  1:02:58
6)  Minoru Okuda  1:02:58
7)  Michinori Takano  1:03:20
8)  Masatosh Oike  1:03:21 
1)  Yukiko Akaba  1:08:50  (16:21, 32:35, 48:49, 1:05:19)
2)  Julia Mombi (KEN)  1:11:21 (16:21, 32:51, 50:01, 1:07:37)
3)  Hiroko Shoi   1:11:27
4)  Mai Ito  1:12:08
5)  Miyuki Ando 1:13:05
6)  Yuko Machida  1:13:38
7)  Sumiko Suzuki  1:14:09
8)  Kiyoko Shimahara  1:14:12