Julius Gitahi (KEN) (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Defending champion Gitahi well beaten by Takamizawa; Sahaku wins women's race in Hokkaido Marathon

Masaru Takamizawa, who was second last year, won the men’s division of Hokkaido Marathon on Sunday (31) in 2:12:10, while a marathon debutante Yukari Sahaku won the women’s division with 2:31:50.

MEN

The Hokkaido Marathon in Sapporo started relatively fast despite the warm sunny weather. In the men’s race, after a huge pack passed 5km in 15:37 the pace picked up to 15:15 for the next 5km. After passing 15km in a quite ambitious (considering the weather) 46:04, Richard Maiyo of Kenya ran the next Km in 2:53 and broke away from the pack of approximately 15 runners.

Maiyo ran alone until just before 20km, but when the chase pack caught him, Takamizawa, who is now coaching a high school ekiden team, surged away from the field. By half way (1:04:59), Takamizawa was eleven seconds ahead of Maiyo, who in turn was three seconds ahead of the pack that included Eric Wainaina (two-time Olympic marathon medallist) and Julius Gitahi, the defending Hokkaido marathon champion (photo right).

By 25Km Takamizawa was 37 seconds ahead of chase pack of ten runners. Takamizawa continued to pull further and further away, and by 30Km his lead has grown to over a minute, while chase pack was down to three runners – Kentaro Nakamoto, Masaya Shimizu and Julius Gitahi. 

At the end Takamizawa won by more than three minutes with 2:12:10, the third fastest time in Hokkaido Marathon behind 2:10:13 by Ambesse Tolosa of Ethiopia and 2:12:08 by Masahiro Matsumoto.

“I cannot believe it but am happy with my win. I just concentrated on running my own race from the start,” said Takamizawa after the race. “I know I am a good heat runner. So I was hoping to run little faster, but I am happy with my personal best,” concluded Takamizawa. 

WOMEN

The women’s race also started quite ambitiously considering the weather.  The pack of five runners led by Alice Chelangat passed 5km in 17:37, and then the pace picked up.  The next 5km was covered in 16:47.  First, Kaori Yoshida, who won the 2006 edition, lost contact with the leaders at 5.5km. Soon after passing 10Km, Mika Hikichi was the next casualty, thus leaving Hitomi Niiya, Alice Chelangat and Yukari Sahaku in front. They ran together until 20km when Chelangat fell behind, leaving Niiya and Sahaku, both coached by Yoshio Koide, to duel it out.

The race was decided when Niiya fell behind after the 28.7Km turn around point.  Although Sahaku’s pace slowed in the final Km, she won by nearly 30 seconds.

After the race Sahaku said, “First of all, I would like to thank coach Koide for guiding me to this victory.” Sahaku continued,“Because it was my first marathon, I was not sure what to expect, but I ran recalling my 40Km long run.”

Sahaku, who runs for Aruze track team, is coached by legendary Yoshio Koide, who coached Naoko Takahashi to the Olympic marathon gold in Sydney.  Nineteen years old Sahaku (she will turn 20 in November) has a 10,000m best of 32:37.59, recorded in the Hyogo Relays in April. Sahaku, who says her most memorable race was the World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, adores Naoko Takahashi, and hope to emulate her feat of winning Olympic marathon some day.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Assisted by Akihiro Onishi

Weather (at noon):  Sunny; temperature 26.5; humidity 76%;  wind 0.2m/s North North east

Results:

Men
1. Masaru Takamizawa  2:12:10
2. Kentaro Nakamoto  2:15:21
3. Masaya Shimizu  2:15:29
4. Yuzo Onishi  2:15:49
5. Yuki Abe  2:16:21
6. Hisahiko Sahaku  2:16:36
7. Julius Gitahi (KEN)  2:17:53
8. Laban Kagika (KEN)  2:17:54

Women
1. Yukari Sahaku  2:31:50
2. Hitomi Niiya  2:32:19
3. Kaori Yoshida  2:33:37
4. Mai Tagami  2:35:44
5. Yukiko Matsubara  2:36:55
6. Miak Hikita  2:37:06
7. Alice Chelangat  (KEN)  2:39:11
8. Shigeko Yanagida  2:40:33

Split
Men
5Km 15:37  Masaru Takamizawa
10Km 30:52 (15:15) Masaru Takamizawa
15Km 46:04 (15:12) Masaru Takamizawa
20Km 1:01:32 (15:28) Masaru Takamizawa
Half 1:04:59  Masaru Takamizawa
25Km 1:17:22 (15:50) Masaru Takamizawa
30Km 1:33:05  (15:43) Masaru Takamizawa
35Km 1:48:53 (15:48) Masaru Takamizawa
40Km 2:05:05 (16:12) Masaru Takamizawa
Finish   2:12:10 (7:05) Masaru Takamizawa

Women
5Km 17:36  Alice Chelangat
10Km 34:23 (16:47) Hitomi Niiya
15Km 51:15 (16:52) Hitomi Niiya
20Km 1:08:41 (17:26) Hitomi Niiya
Half 1:12:36  Hitomi Niiya
25Km 1:26:31 (17:50) Hitomi Niiya
30Km 1:44:47 (18:16) Yukari Sahaku
35Km 2:03:05 (18:18) Yukari Sahaku
40Km 2:22:44 (19:39) Yukari Sahaku
Finish 2:31:50 (8:06) Yukari Sahaku