Yurika Nakamura wins 29th Nagoya Women’s Marathon (IAAF.org) © Copyright
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Ngatuny and Nakamura take Sapporo Half Marathon titles

Surging over the hill leading up to the stadium, Gideon Ngatuny (1:00:39) and Yurika Nakamura (1:09:20) won the men’s and women’s races of the Sapporo International Half Marathon respectively, on Sunday (5).

“After the half way, I was bit tired, so I am happy that I was able to stay in contact with the leader,” Nakamura said. When asked about her breakaway over the final hill, she explained, “I have been training on a hilly course in June, so I pushed the pace while thinking about the hard work I have done.” 

The men’s race started very fast and for much of the proceedings the pace was ahead of the course record, 59:54 by Mogusu, but any chance of the record went out of the window after 15Km.

Coincidentally, both Ngatuny and Nakamura will be running in the World Championships in Berlin, so this contest was an auspicious final tune-up for their upcoming important appearances. Ngatuny was second in the recent Kenyan World Championships 10,000m trial race, while Nakamura won the 5000m in the national championships, so they will be running on the track in Berlin. 

Originaly, Samuel Wanjiru, the Olympic Marathon champion and Half Marathon World record holder was one of the invited runners of the race, but he cancelled 10 days before the race citing fatigue from the London Marathon.

How the races unfolded -

Men:

Three Kenyans – Mekubo Mogusu, Ngatuny and Daniel Gitau - led from the start. By 2Km, they were nearly 10 seconds ahead of the chase pack which also consisted mostly of Kenyans. Atsushi Sato, the national Half Marathon record holder, was the lone Japanese in the chase pack.  Last month Gitau was in superb shape, as attested by grand slam (winning 800m, 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m) at the Kanto district Collegiate championships.

Starting around 3.5Km, however, Gitau was left behind and thus the race turned into a duel between the defending champion Mogusu and Ngatuny. They passed 5Km in an incredible 13:38, faster than the World record split. They slowed a bit but still passed 10Km in 27:49 (14:11), and 15Km in 42:17.  Around 19.5Km, in the middle of an uphill stretch leading up to the stadium, Ngatuny pushed hard and thus surged away from Mogusu. The gap opened immediately, but Ngatuny kept on looking back. After the race he confirmed that he was concerned about Mogusu catching up. Ngatuny passed 20Km in 57:21, while Mogusu was 12 seconds behind.  Ngatuny continued to stretch his lead over Mogusu and won by 19 seconds. 

Mogusu, a three-time champion here, failed to win a record fourth time. He was involved in the auto accident in Kenya earlier this year, and was not able to train properly for a few months after the accident. Thus it was remarkable that he was able to run so well. The Kenyans occupied the top eight spots while Sato, who will be running the Marathon at the world championships, was ninth, closely followed by Kensuke Takahashi, an alternate for the marathon team for Berlin.

Women:

Azusa Nojiri led the women’s race in the early going, but when the pace slowed, Mari Ozaki took over the lead. Ozaki passed 5Km in 16:17, followed by 11 other runners within two second.  Ozaki continued to push the pace, while Yoko Shibui, who will be running the marathon in Berlin, was the first to lose contact with the leaders. 

The lead pack started to stretch out, and six runners, with Flomena Cheyech of Kenya in front, passed 10Km in 32:49.  Nearing 13Km, three runners broke away. Yukari Sahaku took the lead and 500m later, while only Julia Mombi and Nakamura were able to stay close.  Nakamura, Sahaku and Mombi passed 15Km in 49:14.  Like Ngatuny in the men’s race, Nakamura also surged away from her competitions in the uphill part of the course. Nakamura passed 20Km in 1:05:56, while Mombi was six seconds and Sahaku seven seconds behind.  Like Ngatuny, Nakamura too continued to stretch her lead and won by 10 seconds from Mombi.

Sahaku, who finished second at 10,000m in the national championships and thus selected to run in Berlin, was third another six seconds behind.  She and Mombi are both coached by legendary Yoshio Koide. Three members of the World Championships marathon team ran the race on Sunday. Yuri Kano had the best result with her fifth place finish while Yoshiko Fujinaga was ninth but Yoko Shibui was disappointing 23rd. 

Ken Nakamura Assisted by Akihiro Onishi for the IAAF

Weather: Cloudy; temperature: 22.5C; humidity: 82%; Wind: 1.0m/s South West

Results:
Men:
1) Gideon Ngatuny (KEN)  1:00:39
2) Mokubo Mogusu (KEN)  1:00:58
3) Cyrus Njui (KEN)  1:01:03
4) Samuel Ndungu (KEN)  1:01:29
5) Joseph Gitau (KEN) 1:02:39
6) James Mwangi (KEN) 1:02:43
7) Kiragu Njugna  (KEN)  1:02:44
8) Harun Njoroge (KEN)  1:02:51
9) Atsushi Sato   1:02:54
10) Kensuke Takahashi 1:02:54

Splits:
5Km 13:38  Gideon Ngatuny 
10Km 27:48  (14:10) Mekubo Mogusu
15Km 42:17  (14:29)  Mekubo Mogusu
20Km 57:21 (15:04)   Gideon Ngatuny 

Women:
1) Yurika Nakamura  1:09:20
2) Julia Mombi (KEN)  1:09:30
3) Yukari Sahaku 1:09:36
4) Ryoko Kizaki  1:10:59
5) Yuri Kano  1:11:19
6) Kiyoko Shimahara 1:11:32
7) Flomena Cheyech (KEN)  1:11:35
8) Azusa Nojiri  1:11:57
9) Yoshiko Fujinaga 1:11:58
10) Miki Ohira 1:12:13

Splits:
5Km 16:17  Mari Ozaki
10Km 32:49 (16:32) Flomena Cheyech
15Km   49:14 (16:25)  Yurika Nakamura
20Km   1:05:56 (16:42) Yurika Nakamura