Morocco’s Adil Annani leads Seiji Kobayashi in the 58th Beppu-Oita Marathon (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
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Morocco's Adil Annani wins Beppu-Oita Marathon

Surging away from Seiji Kobayashi, his final challenger with 5Km to go in the race, Morocco’s Adil Annani won the 58th Beppu-Oita Marathon today (1 Feb) in 2:10:15.

The Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.

Japan’s Seiji Kobayashi was second in 2:10:38, a personal best, and another Japanese the marathon debutant Keita Akiba, who attracted lots of attention before the race did not disappoint anyone. He finished a respectable third with 2:10:53.

Kenyan Peter Kiprotich, who stayed with the leaders until 36Km and was still fourth at 40Km, struggled home in eighth place.  Scott Westcott, who finished second in 2005 and third in 2008, was fourth.  He was followed home by Masashi Hayashi and the defending champion Tomoya Adachi. 

How the race unfolded:

The first Kilometre was passed in 3:03.  Twenty-three runners including three pacemakers passed the 5Km checkpoint in 15:19. Akiba was running at the tail end of the lead pack at this time.

Approaching 10Km (30:23) Kenyan John Kemboi was the first to lose contact with the leaders followed by Yusuke Kataoka.  As the course came closer to the bay of Beppu, the strong wind turned against the runners and thus the pace slowed down.  Twenty-one runners passed 15Km checkpoint in 45:56 and 20Km in 1:01:38. At that point Kenta Oshima, one of the pacemakers left the race, and soon Koichi Mitsuyuki, Hiroki Takana and Toru Okada would also fall off the lead pack in succession. 

Soon after the turn-around point at 25.5Km, with the wind now behind the runners, the pace picked up and the lead pack split into three groups.  With another of the pacemakers Chelimo gone, the first group consisted of Peter Kiprotich, Adil Annani and Ryosuke Fukuyama, a debutant, and a pace maker Mbote.  They were followed by Akiba and Seiji Kobayashi.  The defending champion Adachi was in the third group but soon he was dropped too. At 27Km, Takashi Ohta, one of the pre-race favourites started to walk.  

After passing 30Km in 1:32:18, the lead group started to drop Fukuyama, and so it now consisted of Kiprotich, Annani and the last pacemaker Mbote.  At 32Km Mbote, left the race which now turned into a duel between Kiprotich and Annani, while Akiba and Kobayashi were chasing about 16 seconds behind. 

By 35Km (1:45:45), Akiba and Kobayashi cut the gap to eight seconds, and 800m further on Kobayashi caught the leaders and 200m later Akiba also joined them, and thus the lead pack was now a group of four.  

Then Annani picked up the pace and only Kobayashi was able to cover the move. Kiprotich at first fell off slightly (7 to 8 metres behind), while Akiba was struggling to stay close.   By 37.2Km Annani, who was pulling away from Kobayashi, and was running alone, and a few hundred metres later Akiba passed Kiprotich to move up to third.  While Annani’s lead over Kobayashi did not grow very much by the end of the race, Annani was never in danger of losing his lead and won by 23 seconds.

“It was very windy, especially from 13 to 26Km, so I just tried to stay with Kenyans till 35Km.  It was my first race in Japan, so I am happy to win. It was my personal best,” said Annani.

The Moroccan’s previous best was 2:11:05, recorded in the 2008 Marrakech Marathon.  Although he failed to break 2:10 as he had hoped before the race, his victory should be sufficient for making the Moroccan marathon team for the World Championships in Berlin.

“I have not cracked 2:10 yet, so I would like to run faster,” said second placed Kobayashi. His previous best was 2:11:02, recorded in the 2008 Tokyo Marathon. Although the race was one of the qualifying races for the World Championships in Berlin, unlike the Fukuoka Marathon last December and upcoming Lake Biwa Marathon and Tokyo Marathon in March, the winner (or first Japanese) is not guaranteed to be selected for the marathon team for Berlin.  Also since Kobayashi’s time is slower than that of Arata Fujiwara (2:09:47) and Tomoyuki Sato (2:09:59) recorded in Fukuoka Marathon, Kobayashi has a little chance of making the team for Berlin. 

“I was feeling good until 30Km, but felt terrible after I fell behind the leaders. Although I could not crack 2:10, but since it was windy, I guess it was a good time,” said third placed Akiba.

Although Akiba’s debut marathon is not as fast as that of Koichi Morishita, Olympic silver medallist who made his marathon debut in 1991 Beppu-Oita marathon  (2:08:53), his debut is faster than that of Hiromi Taniguchi, World champion who made his marathon debut in 1985 Beppu-Oita marathon (2:13:16).

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Assisted by Akihiro Onishi

Weather:  Cloudy; temperaturee 10.1C, humidity 50% wind North North West 3.4m/s

1. Adil Annani (MAR)   2:10:15   PB
2. Seiji Kobayashi   2:10:38   PB
3. Keita Akiba    2:10:53  debut
4. Scott Westcott  2:12:56
5. Masashi Hayashi  2:13:11
6. Tomoya Adachi  2:13:17
7. Michitane Noda  2:13:30
8. Peter Kiprotich (KEN)  2:13:44
9. Tomonori Onitsuka  2:14:50
10. Yukinobu Nakazaki 2:15:03 

Distance Time  Athletes
5Km  15:19  Kenta Oshima
10Km  30:23 (15:04) Jason Mbote
15Km  45:56 (15:33) Jason Mbote
20Km  1:01:38 (15:42) Jason Mbote
Half  1:05:03
25Km   1:17:24 (15:46) Jason Mbote
30Km  1:32:17 (14:53)  Jason Mbote
  1:32:18  Peter Kiprotich
  1:32:18  Adil Annani
35Km  1:47:44 (15:27) Adil Annani
  1:47:44  Peter Kiprotich
  1:47:52  Keita Akiba
  1:47:52  Seiji Kobayashi
40Km  2:03:17 (15:33) Adil  Annami
  2:03:28  Seiji Kobayashi
  2:03:38  Keita Akiba
  2:03:40  Peter Kiprotich
Finish  2:10:15 (6:58)  Adil Annani