Catherine Ndereba with the Boston winner's trophy (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Ndereba and Wainaina fare badly in Sapporo

year old James Mwangi, a Kenyan who attended Aomori Yamada high school in Japan and now runs for Japanese corporate team, NTN, won the men’s race, while women’s marathon runner Hiromi Ominami topped the women’s division in today’s Sapporo Half Marathon. 

Olympic bound runners – women’s World Marathon champion Catherine Ndereba (KEN) and double men’s Olympic Marathon medallist Eric Wainaina (KEN), and Shigeru Aburaya (JPN) did not fare well. 

Men's race 

Jackson Gachiuri, another Kenyan who lives in Japan and runs for a Japanese corporate team, did most of the initial pace work. The first big casualty was two-time Olympic medallist Eric Wainaina, who fell behind one kilometre after the huge leading pack passed 5Km in 14:29. In fact twenty-eight runners were still together at 10Km (29:13)! 

At 14Km, another Olympic bound runner Shigeru Aburaya (Japan) fell behind the lead pack.

13 runners were still up-front as the race passed 15Km (43:46), and then the lead pack really started to break up and by 15.5Km, only four Africans – James Mwangi, G Assefa, T Girma and Julius Maina – were left in front.

Then at the start of the uphill leading to the stadium, at 19.3Km, Mwangi, who was waiting for his moment surged away. Nobody could keep up with Mwangi who won by 6 seconds in 1:01:28. The time was 17 seconds short of the course record. Mwangi said, “It was good condition to run,” also thanked his coach after the race.

Wainaina finished a disappointing 35th in 1:04:09. 

Women’s race - Ndereba in trouble

In the women’s race, Asian Games’ marathon bronze medalist Hiromi Ominami led all the way to win easily in 1:08:45.  Although her time was 22 seconds short of the course record, it was a personal best by 55 seconds. Ominami had failed to make the Olympic marathon team when she finished third in the Osaka Ladies Marathon in January. 

The World Marathon champion and two-time defending champion Catherine Ndereba of Kenya was never in contention for the victory.  She finished two minutes and seven seconds behind the winner Ominami in fifth place. 

Ndereba was out of contention early.  By 2.7Km she was already 10m behind the leading pack; the gap grew to 12 seconds by 5 Km (16:05).  The early fast pace generally took its toll and by 6.8Km, the lead pack was reduced to five runners – Hiromi Ominami, Yuki Saito, Miki Oyama, Yasuko Hashimoto and Tomoko Hatori, which was further reduced to four runners –Oyama, Saito Hashimoto and Ominami by 10Km.

Although Ndereba moved up in place from 11th at 5Km to 7th at 10Km, she was 33 seconds behind Ominami by 10Km. 

Soon after Hashimoto fell behind the leaders at 10.2Km, Ominami, who later said “After the turn around point, I felt really easy, so I decided to go for the win,” surged away at 11.5Km.  The stretch between 10Km to 15Km was covered in 16:17 and Ominami led Saito by 20 seconds at 15Km, while Oyama was another 12 seconds behind. By then Ndereba was totally out of it, having fallen behind the leader by 57 seconds.

Ominami continued to increase her lead and by 20Km she led Yuki Saito by 53 seconds, while Ndereba was a minute and 55 seconds behind. Ominami won easily by 58 seconds.

“I really wanted to run this race, so I am happy with the win. Using this victory as a stepping stone, I would like to start training for the fall marathon,” concluded Ominami. 

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
With assistance from Akihiro Onishi

Weather at the start:  cloudy 20C, 73% humidity

Results: 

Men
1)  James Mwangi  (KEN)   1:01:28
2)  G Assefa   1:01:34
3)  Simon Maina  (KEN) 1:01:36
4)  T Girma  1:01:37
5)  John Kanyi  (KEN) 1:01:58
6)  Tsuyoshi Ogata  1:01:59
7)  Jackson Gachiuri   (KEN)  1:02:07
8)  Atsushi Fujita  1:02:13
9)  Philip Mosima  (KEN) 1:02:21
10) Daniel Njenga (KEN)  1:02:26
11) Yu Mitsuya  1:02:26
12) Kazuo Ietani  1:02:29
13) Shigeru Aburaya  1:02:31
14) Julius Maina  (KEN) 1:02:34
15) David Kariuki  (KEN) 1:02:35

Splits
5Km  Jackson Gachiuri  14:29 
10Km   Jackson Gachiuri  29:13
15Km  Simon Maina  43:46 
20Km   James Mwangi  58:18 


Women 
1) Hiromi Ominami  1:08:45
2) Yuki Saito  1:09:43
3) Miki Oyama  1:09:54
4) Fumi Murata   1:10:48
5) Catherine Ndereba (KEN)  1:10:52
6) Eri Hayakawa  1:11:19
7) Yasuko Hashimoto  1:11:33
8) Esther Wanjiru (KEN) 1:11:55

Splits
5Km  Hiromi Ominami  16:05 
10Km  Hiromi Ominami  32:22
15Km  Hiromi Ominami  48:55
20Km  Hiromi Ominami  1:05:19