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James Wainaina & Lidia Simon win the 2001 Sapporo Half Marathon

James Wainaina & Lidia Simon win the 2001 Sapporo Half Marathon
K. Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

1 July 2001 - Led by James Wainaina, Kenyan runners living in Japan dominated the 2001 Sapporo half marathon on Sunday.  Wainaina won with 1:01:52, while Daniel Njenga one time world junior record holder at the 3000mSC was second in 1:03:00, and Laban Kagika was third in 1:03:05.  They all run for Japanese corporate track teams. 

Paul Tergat who should have been a strong favorite finished a disappointing fifth, one minute 23 seconds behind Wainaina.  James Wainaina who has been living in Japan since April of 1997 was a dominant high school runner while he was attending Sendai Ikue high school in the northern city of Sendai.  He won the 5000m twice at the national high school championships.  For three consecutive years Wainaina turned in the best stage performance at 10Km stage one, the most prestigious stage, at the national high school ekiden championships.  

Wainaina took the control of the race by 5Km (14:32) and never looked back.   He led the chase pack by seven seconds at 5Km.  After running the next 5Km in 14:11, his lead over the chase pack which included Paul Tergat increased to 35 seconds.  By 15Km the chase pack was broken up.  Daniel Njenga was alone in the second place 48 seconds back, while the main pack including Tergat was another 12 seconds behind.  By 20Km Wainaina pulled further ahead - 58 seconds ahead of Njenga and 1:23 ahead of the main chase pack.   He increased the lead during the last one plus Km and won by a minute and 8 seconds. 

The women’s race was much closer.  After the leading women’s pack passed the 5Km in 16:03, it turned into a two-woman race by 9Km.  For the next 11Km, Lidia Simon of Romania ran with Mizuki Noguchi who was second and fourth at the world half marathon championships in 1999 and 2000 respectively.  Noguchi surged several times in her attempt to break away from Simon, the course record holder at 1:08:51.  At the 20Km aid station, Noguchi tried to break away once again.  Simon covered the surge without problem and then kicked herself at 20.3Km and finally, the gap opened up between the two runners.  Simon won in 1:09:46, while Noguchi who will be running 10000m in Edmonton finished five seconds behind.  Noguchi’s courageous run was praised by Lidia Simon the Olympic marathon silver medallist. 

After the race, the Japan AAF announced the World Half marathon championships team; they were selected from the top finishers of the Sapporo half marathon along with the top finishers in last March’s Japan corporate half marathon championships.   The men’s team consists of Takayuki Matsumiya, Takashi Ota, Takeshi Hamano, Yuki Mori and Kazuo Ietani.   Mori and Ietani finished first and second at the Japan corporate half marathon championships.  The women’s team consists of Mizuki Noguchi, Sakiyo Kan, Yasuyo Iwamoto, Hiromi Watanabe, and Takako Kotorida.   Takako Kotorida was third in the Japan corporate half marathon championships.

Results  (JPN unless otherwise noted):  


1)   James Wainaina   (KEN)  1:01:52
2)   Daniel Njenga  (KEN)  1:03:00
3)   Laban Kagika  (KEN)  1:03:05 
4)   Hideyuki Obinata  1:03:08 
5)   Paul Tergat  (KEN)   1:03:15 
6)   Takayuki Matsumiya  1:03:19
7)   Shigeru Aburaya  1:03:32 

5Km     14:32 
10Km    28:43   (14:11)
15Km    43:24    (14:41)
20Km    58:36    (15:12)   

1)   Lidia Simon  (ROM)   1:09:46 
2)   Mizuki Noguchi  1:09:51 
3)   Iulia Olteanu  (ROM)   1:11:25 
4)   Sakiyo Kan  1:11:33    
5)   Yasuyo Iwamoto  1:11:36 
6)   Yoshiko Ichikawa  1:11:55 
7)   Hiromi Watanabe  1:12:51     

5Km     16:03 
10Km    32:28       (16:25)
15Km    49:10    (16:42) 
20Km    1:06:14 (17:04)