Yoshiko Fujinaga, who ran the 5000m in the 1999 World Championships in Seville, now knows she will be running the marathon at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin this summer, as by winning today’s 30th Nagoya Women’s Marathon, in Nagoya, Japan in 2:28:13, she automatically was selected for the Japanese team.
Chika Horie finished second in 2:29:09, while Yuko Machida was third with 2:29:35.
Takahashi says goodbye
2000 Olympic champion Naoko Takahashi, running her farewell marathon in Nagoya (she is from nearby Gifu), was 29th in 2:52:23, thus fulfilling her goal of breaking 3 hours. She was smiling the whole way, waving hands from time to time.
How the race unfolded
Although the course in Nagoya is often plagued with strong winds, the conditions were quite calm today. In a race which had no official pace maker, Caroline Cheptonui Kilel did most of the leading early on. Nineteen runners led by Kilel passed 5Km in 17:40, by which time 2001 World champion Lidia Simon had already lost contact with the lead pack (she ultimately finished 21st in 2:41:12).
Perhaps because the first 5Km split was quite slow, China’s Bai Xue the pre-event favourite took off soon after 5Km checkpoint, opening a gap on the rest of the field. However, the move was short lived as Kilel chipped away Bai’s lead and by 5.8Km, she had caught Xue.
Soon Yoshiko Fujinaga joined this pair upfront, and Hitomi Niiya also chased and joined them.
The kilometre from 5 to 6Km was covered in 3:24, 6 to 7Km in 3:21, and 7 to 8Km in 3:23 and the pack of four –Xue, Kilel, Niiya and Fujinaga – kept on pulling away from the rest of the field. When they passed 10Km in 34:34, they were 35 seconds ahead of chase pack.
Soon after passing 10Km Fujinaga started to drift back, while Kilel kept on pushing the pace with Xue in second, and Niiya in third. Fujinaga in fourth never completely lost contact with the leaders. At 15Km (51:47) she was only 7 seconds behind, and at 18.7Km into the race, Fujinaga rejoined the leaders and this reformed quartet passed the 20Km check point in 1:09:17 and half marathon in 1:13:16.
The chase pack was a minute 25 seconds behind at 15Km and lost another 17 seconds 5Km later.
At around 24.5Km, Fujinaga started to drift off the pace again. And after the 25km check point was reached in 1:27:09 Niiya also lost contact for 600m but fought back. Fujinaga stayed close to the leading three - Kilel, Xue and Niiya - and at 28.5Km she finally rejoined them at the front.
Now the racing really began. Kilel picked up the pace, and it was Xue’s turn to fall behind. Next, Fujinaga started to drift back again, and soon the gap between Niiya and Kilel also started to open up.
But Niiya fought back again, and at 29.7Km into the race, Niiya not only caught Kilel, but she took over the lead. At 30Km (1:44:38), Niiya was four seconds ahead of Kilel, who in turn was eight seconds ahead of Fujinaga.
Niiya covered 30 to 31Km in 3:18, the fastest 1Km interval time of the race.
But Fujinaga was resurgent and at 32.6Km caught fading Kilel. While up ahead Niiya was starting to grimace a lot, and her pace for each kilometre started dropping below 3:30 after 32Km.
Niiya passed 35Km in 2:02:17 with Fujinaga 28 seconds behind, but Niiya was now really slowing down and at 36km the gap closed to 15 seconds, and then 900m later Fujinaga passed Niiya, who could not respond at all to the move.
As such with 3Km to go in the race Fujinaga led Niiya by a minute, and when she passed 40Km in 2:20:28, Niiya was fading fast to the extent that first Chika Horie passed Niiya with 2.4Km to go and at 40Km Machida also went by Niiya.
Fujinaga crossed the line in 2:28.13, with Horie following in second in 2:29:09, and Machida third with 2:29:35.
Although the early pace was not very fast, the early leaders with an exception of Fujinaga all faded badly. Niiya finished a disappointing eighth in 2:30:58, while Caroline Cheptonui Kilel was ninth in 2:31:42 and Bai Xue finished further back in 13th with 2:35:17.
“I did not think about the World Championships during the race,” said Fujinaga. “Once I started the race, I just thought about finishing,” said Fujinaga after the race. “Every time I was left behind, I kept on telling myself it will be OK. The race at times felt very long, but I was able to finish the race thanks to all the fans cheering for me along the course.”
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Assisted by Akihiro Onishi
Weather: Sunny; temperature: 12.7C, humidity: 30% (one hour into the race)
1. Yoshiko Fujinaga 2:28:13
2. Chika Horie 2:29:09
3. Yuko Machida 2:29:35
4. Mayumi Fujita 2:29:56
5. Kiyomi Ogawa 2:29:58
6. Yumi Hirata 2:30:16
7. Ayumi Nakayama 2:30:53
8. Hitomi Niiya 2:30:58
9. Caroline Cheptonui Kilel (KEN) 2:31:42
10. Yoshie Kitomi 2:32;08
11. Aya Manome 2:33:18
12. Yuka Ezaki 2:34:51
13. Bai Xue (CHN) 2:35:17
14. Sumiko Suzuki 2:35:51
15. Mika Hikichi 2:36:35
5Km 17:40 Caroline Cheptonui Kilel (KEN)
10Km 34:34 (16:54) Caroline Cheptonui Kilel
15Km 51:47 (17:13) Caroline Cheptonui Kilel
20Km 1:09:17 (17:30) Caroline Cheptonui Kilel
Half Marathon 1:13:16 Caroline Cheptonui Kilel
25Km 1:27:09 (17:52) Caroline Cheptonui Kilel
30Km 1:44:38 (17:29) Hitomi Niiya
35Km 2:02:17 (17:39) Hitomi Niiya
40Km 2:20:28 (17:11) Yoshiko Fujinaga
Finish 2:28:13 (7:45) Yoshiko Fujinaga