Catherine Ndereba (KEN) wins the 2006 Osaka Marathon (Kazutaka Eguchi (Agence SHOT)) © Copyright
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Ndereba wins Osaka Marathon

World and Olympic silver medallist Catherine Ndereba of Kenya cruised to victory this morning in the Osaka International Women's Marathon.

Ndereba, 33, who last year won the Boston Marathon for the fourth time, came from behind to win and clocked a time of 2:25:05, while Kayoko Obata, who led until 33Km, finished second in 2:25:52, just short of her marathon personal best, 2:25:14. The second place was her best finish in her 23 marathons. Finishing third was Kiyoko Shimahara, who recorded 2:26:47, just short of her best, 2:26:14.

How the race unfolded...

Led by two pace setters, Lydia Grigoryeva of Russia and Natalya Berkut of Ukraine, the lead group of six runners – Grigoryeva, Berkut, Terumi Asoshina, Kiyomi Ogawa, Obata and Masami Sakata – was formed before leaving Nagai stadium. 

Ndereba the 2003 World champion and African record holder (2:18:47 - 2001), who was competing in her first full marathon in Japan, did not attempt to follow the pace setters. Perhaps the weather was too cold for her and she wanted to start the race cautiously as she has done so many times before.

The leaders passed 5Km in 16:45 (2:21:21 marathon pace), while Ndereba was running alone 19 seconds behind the leaders.  It had been hoped that Ndereba will break the course record (2:21:18 by Mizuki Noguchi in 2003), but she was well behind the required pace.  A group of seven runners including Lidia Simon and Kiyoko Shimahara followed Ndereba another 9 seconds back at 5Km. 

The front pack passed 10Km in 33:30, 15Km in 50:24, and 20Km in 1:07:01, while Ndereba continued to run alone behind the leading group of six, which was reduced to five by 15Km and four by 20Km.  Ndereba, who was 20 seconds behind at 5Km, fell a further 47 seconds behind by 10Km and 1 minute 7 seconds by 15Km. 

Debutante Asoshina unexpectedly fell behind at 17Km, leaving Ogawa and Obata along with two pacesetters Grigoryeva and Berkut in front. Ndereba was a minute and 15 seconds behind these leaders at 20Km. Ogawa, lost contact with the leaders at 24Km, and so the pack was now down to three, the two pacesetters plus Obata. 

Ndereba then started to close the gap on the leaders.  At 25Km, Ndereba was a minute and 9 seconds behind the leaders in sixth place, and at this point the pace setters dropped out leaving Obata in front. She started to slow down and thus the gap between her and Ndereba shrank fast. Obata took 17:33 from 25Km to 30Km, while Ndereba took 16:58 for the same 5Km. At 30Km, Obata led Ndereba by only 34 seconds, with the Kenyan finally passing her at 33Km. Obata had taked 18:07 from 30Km to 35Km, while Ndereba covered the same 5Km in 17:11.

By 35Km, Ndereba led Obata by 22 seconds, and she continued to extend the lead in the next 5Km to 66 seconds. At the finish the gap had reduced slightly but when Ndereba finished in 2:25:05, she still had a margin of victory of 47 seconds over Obata.

"I did not break the course record, but winning was more important. I can break the record next time," commented Ndereba after the race. 

On her decision to run up front with the pacemakers from the beginning, Obata confirmed, "the pace was fast, but I felt good, so I decided to go as far as I could with this pace." 

Kiyoko Shimahara moved up from eighth by 25Km to fourth by 35Km to finish third, while three-time champion Lidia Simon of Romania finished a disappointing ninth, while the younger sister of Catherine, Anastasia Ndereba finished in eighth. 

The surprise of the race were marathon debutantes Masami Sakata and Tomo Morimoto.  Sakata who finished fourth in 2:27:13 is a teammate of Kiyomi Ogawa and Terumi Asoshina at Kyocera track team.  However, unlike her teammates Ogawa and Asoshina, who have sub 32minutes 10,000m bests, Sakata has not broken 33 minutes for 10,000m nor 16 minutes for 5000m.  Morimoto, who finished fifth with 2:27:46, has not broken the 33 minutes barrier for 10,000m either.  Sakata and Morimoto were not even invited runners.

The Osaka Ladies Marathon was one of the qualifying races for this year’s Asian Games, and with her second place Obata became one of the candidates for the national team.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF   
With assistance from Akihiro Onishi in Osaka 

 Results (JPN unless otherwise noted):  
1)  Catherine Ndereba  (KEN)   2:25:05
2)  Kayoko Obata   2:25:52
3)  Kiyoko Shimahara   2:26:47 
4)  Masami Sakata   2:27:13 
5)  Tomo Morimoto   2:27:46 
6)  Drota Gruca  (POL)   2:29:17
7)  Mika Okunaga   2:29:56 
8)  Anastasia Ndereba (KEN)   2:32:47 
9)  Lidia Simon   (ROM)   2:33:53 
10) Asami Obi   2:34:22
11) Kiyomi Ogawa  2:37:59 

Splits for Ndereba
5Km  17:05
10Km  34:17   (17:12)
15Km  51:31   (17:14)
20Km  1:08:16   (16:45) 
25Km  1:25:18   (17:02) 
30Km  1:42:16    (16:58) 
35Km  1:59:27    (17:11)
40Km  2:17:02    (17:35) 
Finish  2:25:05    (8:03) 

Splits for the Leader  
5Km  16:45   Lydia Grigoryeva
10Km  33:30  (16:45)   Lydia Grigoryeva
15Km  50:24  (16:54)  Lydia Grigoryeva
20Km  1:07:01  (16:37) Lydia Grigoryeva
25Km  1:24:09  (17:08) Natalya Berkut 
30Km  1:41:42  Kayoko Obata
35Km  1:59:27  Catherine Ndereba 
40Km  2:17:02  Catherine Ndereba
Finishi  2:25:05  Catherine Ndereba