By surging away from double World Championship Marathon gold medallist Jaouad Gharib of Morocco and defending Fukuoka titlist Dmytro Baranovsky of Ukraine at 39Km, Ethiopian distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie won today’s running of the 60th Fukuoka Marathon, Fukuoka, Japan, in 2:06:52.
The 33-year-old four-time World and two-time Olympic 10,000m champion is already the fastest marathon runner of 2006 having won this year's Berlin Marathon in September in 2:05:56, which was 61 seconds short of his great rival Paul Tergat's World record.
Gebrselassie’s winning time in Fukuoka today was one second short of the course record, 2:06:51, set by Atsushi Fujita in 2000. Fujita was also in the race but only finished eighth with 2:11:50.
'The Emperor' is the second runner having four career sub-2:07 races. The first to do so was Felix Limo (KEN).
The defending champion Baranovsky, who passed Gharib on the final approach to the finish on the track of the Heiwadai stadium, finished second in 2:07:15, a huge improvement on the personal best and national record of 2:08:29 - 7th place all-time European list- which he recorded when winning here last year. Gharib was third with 2:07:19.
How the race unfolded
The starter of today’s marathon was Toshihiko Seko, a four-time (won in 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1983) Fukuoka Marathon champion, and prior to the race the official pace setters - Samson Ramadahni, Isaac Macharia and Fabiano Joseph - were asked to run the first 5Km in 15:10 and then from 5Km to 30Km in 15 minutes for each 5Km. They were also asked to lead the race until the turn-around point at 31.6Km.
In unseasonably cold weather and strong winds, the race started slowly passing the first kilometre in the Heiwadai stadium in 3:06, and a huge pack passed 5Km in 15:44 but the pace quickened immediately after that point, and from then on was steady around 3 minutes for each Km.
A pack of nearly 20 runners passed 10Km in 30:56, 15Km in 45:57, and 20Km in 1:00:59. Haile Gebrselassie, Paul Biwott, Dmytro Baranovsky and Atsushi Fujita are running just behind the pace setters.
The half marathon was passed in 1:04:18. As the pack passed the front of the Japan Rail Hakata station and headed north again, the pace picked up some more, and for the first time in the race, the following 5Km split now dipped under 15 minutes. Yuko Matsumiya, the twin brother of the 30km World record holder Takayuki Matsumiya, was dropped at this point. The pack now down to ten runners passed 25Km in 1:15:54, and soon Tsuyoshi Ogata, the Helsinki World Champs bronze medallist, was no longer able to stay with the leaders. When the nine leaders passed 30Km in 1:30:47, Ogata was nearly 20 seconds behind.
Turn-around point - gang of four break away
The real racing started soon after the turn-around point, which is located at 31.6Km from the start. The pace setters dropped out, while Japan’s Toshinari Suwa and Paul Biwott fell behind, and so by 33Km, the pack of nine runners was down to just four runners – Gebrselassie, Baranovsky, Gharib and Okutani, and soon it was down to a trio. When the 1Km section between 33Km and 34Km was covered in 2:47, Okutani was unable to stay with the lead pack.
A 2:56 split by Gebrselassie from 38Km to 39km indicated the Ethiopian’s resolve to win, and Gharib and Baranovsky were left behind, as he continued to push the pace covering the 1Km segment between 39Km to 40Km in 2:54. Gebrselassie was now six seconds ahead of Gharib, who in turn was another six seconds ahead of Baranovsky, while Okutani in fourth place was over a minute behind.
Gebreselassie kept on adding to the agony of others, covering 40Km to 41Km in 2:51, and with that increasing effort he was peerless, eventually winning in 2:06:52. It was a fine negative split race for Gebrselassie, who covered the last half in 1:02:34, one minute, 44 seconds faster than his first half marathon split. He is the fourth Ethiopian to win the prestigious race, joining Belayneh Dinsimo (1990), Tena Negere (1992), and Gezehegne Abera (1999, 2001 and 2002) on the roll of honour.
Japanese team place for Osaka decided
Wataru Okutani finished fourth in 2:08:49, a personal best, just ahead of Toshinari Suwa who finished in 2:08:52. Suwa, who was 16 seconds behind Okutani at 40Km, run very hard in his attempt to close the gap during the final phase but fell short by three seconds, finishing in fifth. As his time was under 2:09:30, Okutani in fourth, as the first Japanese home gained automatic selection for the marathon team spot for the World Championships team in Osaka.
Tsuyoshi Ogata finished sixth in 2:10:48, followed by Britain’s two-time Olympic fourth placer Jon Brown in 2:11:46.
A marathon debutante and the US 25Km record holder Fernando Cabada closed well in the final stage to finish ninth in 2:12:27.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Assisted by Akihiro Onishi
Weather: temperature 7.3C, humidity 52%, Wind 4.0m/s NNW
Results: JPN unless otherwise noted
1. Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 2:06:52
2. Dmytro Baranovsky (UKR) 2:07:15
3. Jaouad Gharib (MAR) 2:07:19
4. Wataru Okutani 2:08:49
5. Toshinari Suwa 2:08:52
6. Tsuyoshi Ogata 2:10:48
7. Jon Brown (GBR) 2:11:46
8. Atsushi Fujita 2:11:50
9. Fernando Cabada (USA) 2:12:27
10. Tomoyuki Sato 2:12:29
5Km 15:44 Samson Ramadahni (pace)
10Km 30:56 (15:12) Isaac Macharia (pace)
15Km 45:57 (15:01) Fabiano Joseph (pace)
20Km 1:00:59 (15:02) Samson Ramadahni (pace)
Half 1:04:18 Isaac Macahria (pace)
25Km 1:15:54 (14:55) Fabiano Joseph (pace)
30Km 1:30:47 (14:53) Samson Ramadahni (pace)
35Km 1:45:30 (14:43) Dmytro Baranovsky
40Km 2:00:20 (14:50) Haile Gebrselassie
Finish 2:06:52 (6:32) Haile Gebrselassie