time defending champion and course record holder Mekubo Mogusu and Yuri Kano were the winners at the 51st annual Sapporo Half marathon on Sunday.
Blazing start for Mogusu
Mogusu reached the finish 1:00:52, the second fastest time in the history of the race. Mogusu, a Kenyan who runs for Yamanashi Gakuin University in Japan, took off from the start taking only Masato Kihara with him. Mogusu started so fast, that by 4Km, he also broke away with from Kihara and ran the rest of the race completely alone.
Mogusu covered the opening 5Km in an incredible 13:43. By then he was twelve second ahead of second place Kihara.
“I was going after the World record,” Mogusu said. Although he gradually slowed, covering 5Km to 10Km in 14:00 and 10Km to 15Km in 14:27 to leave his World record aspirations behind, Mogusu was still running on a course record pace. However, going up the hill leading to the stadium, Mogusu slowed down dramatically. He took 3:22 between kilometres 19 and 20, sending his course record attempt out the window.
He still ran the second fastest time ever on the course. Although Mogusu led by a minute at one time, he only won by 12 seconds from Harun Njoroge, another Kenyan who runs in Japan. In fact the race was almost an entirely Kenyan affair, with the west Africans taking the top four places, and seven of the top eight.
Despite going out extremely fast (he covered the first 5Km in 13:55), Kihara was able to hang on and finished fifth in 1:02:07. After battling with Tsuyoshi Ogata, 2005 World Championships bronze medallist, the 2007 World Championships bronze medalist, Viktor Rothlin finished ninth in 1:02:45. Ogata, who was one place behind with 1:02:46, said, “I was feeling very comfortable, so I challenged Rothlin to see how he would react.” Then he continued, “My training is going well, so I hope to get a medal in Beijing.”
Ogata was not the only Japanese Olympic marathon runners in the race. Satoshi Osaki was eighteenth with 1:03:10 and Atsushi Sato was 35th in 1:04:01.
Big PB for Kano in women’s race
Kano won the women’s division in 1:08:57, a huge personal best. For Kano, it was the first sub-70 minute clocking over the distance.
“Because I was in good shape, I wanted to at least improve my half marathon personal best, especially because I had not broken my half marathon best for a long time,” Kano said.
Chisato Osaki pushed the pace at the beginning of the race and by 5Km, the lead pack was reduced to Osaki, Kano and Julia Mombi, a Kenyan who runs for a Japanese corporate track team.
Nearing 10Km, it was Kano’s turn to push the pace, and Mombi lost contact soon after 10Km. Thus the race turned into two-woman race between Kano and Osaki. They ran together for nearly 10Km.
“I did not want the race to come down to the final kilometre because Osaki is a very good half marathon runner,” Kano said. So Kano continued to push the pace and starting at 19.3Km, began to pull away. By 20Km Kano was nine second ahead and continued increase the gap, eventually winning by 19 seconds. Osaki was second in 1:09:16, while Mombi was third, but more than 1:40 behind.
Two-time World Marathon champion Catherine Ndereba was 11th. But don’t count her out of the race for the gold in Beijing. Last year, eight weeks before she won the second World Championships at the marathon, Ndereba was only tenth at the Sapporo Half Marathon.
Ken Namakura for the IAAF
assisted by Akihiro Onishi
Weather at the start: Sunny; temperature 18C; humidity 49%; wind 2m/s North East
1. Mekubo Mogusu (KEN) 1:00:52
2. Harun Njeroge (KEN) 1:01:04
3. Joseph Gitau (KEN) 1:01:19
4. Joseph Mwaniki (KEN) 1:02:04
5. Masato Kihara 1:02:07
6. John Kariuki (KEN) 1:02:29
7. Ombeche Mokamba (KEN) 1:02:43
8. Micah Njeru (KEN) 1:02:44
9. Viktor Rothlin (SUI) 1:02:45
10. Tsuyoshi Ogata 1:02:46
11. Koichi Sakai 1:02:46
12. Shigeru Aburaya 1:02:53
1. Yuri Kano 1:08:57
2. Chisato Osaki 1:09:16
3. Julia Mombi (KEN) 1:10:39
4. Miki Osaki 1:10:52
5. Yui Sakai 1:11:23
6. Ikuyo Yamashita 1:11:31
7. Hiromi Ominami 1:11:33
8. Kiyoko Shimahara 1:12:10
11. Catherine Ndereba (KEN) 1:12:37
5Km 13:43 Mekubo Mogusu
13:55 Masato Kihara
10Km 27:43 (14:00) Mekubo Mogusu
28:20 Julius Kariuki
15Km 42:10 (14:27) Mekubo Mogusu
43:10 Harun Njoroge
20Km 57:22 (15:12) Mekubo Mogusu
58:01 Harun Njoroge
Finish 1:00:52 Mekubo Mogusu
5Km 15:51 Chisato Osaki
15:51 Julia Mombi
15:51 Yuri Kano
10Km 32:12 (16:21) Yuri Kano
32:12 Chisato Osaki
32:12 Julia Mombi
15Km 48:43 (16:31) Yuri Kano
48:43 Chisato Osaki
49:35 Julia Mombi
20Km 1:05:30 Yuri Kano
1:05:38 Chisato Ohira
1:07:17 Miki Ohira
Finish 1:08:57 Yuri Kano