Start of the 2007 Tokyo Marathon (Kazutaka Eguchi/Agence SHOT) © Copyright
General News

Njenga wins Tokyo Marathon’s first ever mass-entry race

Surging away from the lead pack at 25Km, Daniel Njenga of Kenya, who runs for the Japanese corporate team Yakult, won today’s 2007 Tokyo Marathon, in Tokyo, Japan, with 2:09:45. The event was run on a new course, and had for the first time a mass-entry field of 25,000 runners.

“More than anything, I am very happy that I won,” said an emotional Njenga who had won the old Tokyo marathon in 2004, which was an elite runners only race over a different course.

Japan’s Tomoyuki Sato finished second with 2:11:22, while third place was taken by another home runner, Satoshi Irifune. Marathon debutante Kazuyoshi Tokumoto hung on for the fifth place with 2:15:15, while Olympic bronze medallist Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil finished sixth in 2:16:08.

Race opens fast; Korir is dropped early-on

The pace setters, Lee Troop, Ben Kimondiu and Luis Jesus were asked to pace at 15:10 for each 5Km until 30Km.  The race started relatively fast, covering the first Km in 2:55, perhaps because the elite runners were trying to get away from the mass in the early stage.  Incidentally, it took about 20 minutes for the last of the 25,000 runners to cross the start line.

The pace slowed from the second kilometre and all subsequent kilometres up to the 25th took over 3 minutes each.  After Jesus passed 5Km in 15:03, the pace slowed even more.  The 10Km point was covered in 30:16, while the next 5Km took 15:30, followed by 15:34 for the fourth 5Km. A major casualty from the lead pack was Kenya’s Sammy Korir, the second fastest marathon runner in history, who fell away from the action at 16Km. The pack passed the half marathon point in 1:04:49, a split barely on course to crack the 2:10 barrier. 

Njenga surges away after 25km
Immediately after the 25Km checkpoint, the last pace setter, Lee Troop, dropped out of the race. Seizing the opportunity Njenga surged away from the lead pack of ten runners which included Shigeru Aburaya, Kazuyoshi Tokumoto, Satoshi Irifune, Masashi Hayashi, Vanderlei de Lima and Tomoyuki Sato.  However, Aburaya immediately fell behind as the pack quickly disintegrated, and soon the principal chasing group was down to just four runners – Sato, Irifune, Hayashi and the debutant Tokumoto.

Njenga covered the kilometre from 25Km to 26Km in 2:58, the next Km in 2:58 and soon he was running alone in the front.  By 27.5Km, he was 10 seconds ahead of the chase pack of four, and he relentlessly kept on running sub 3 minute Kilometres.  Njenga covered 25Km to 30Km in 14:51, the first and the only sub 15 minutes 5Km split of the race. 

At 30Km, Njenga was 45 seconds ahead of the now threesome – Tokumoto, Irifune and Sato – Hayashi having fallen behind at 29Km. And then there were two – as Tokumoto, who said “even if I have to crawl to the finish line, I will finish the race,” also fell off the pace at 33.5Km. 

Njenga continued to pull further and further ahead, and at 35Km Sato and Irifune were a minute and 21 seconds behind him. Sato was soon running alone in pursuit and surging on an uphill part of the course he was able to break away from Irifune. 

But Njenga who with each step was running further and further away from Sato, ultimately finished first with 2:09:45, one minute and 37 seconds ahead of Sato, who in turn was minute and 22 seconds ahead of Irifune in third. 

Osaka waiting game

It was a big improvement from last December’s Fukuoka Marathon for runner-up Sato who had finished tenth with 2:12:29. “I felt cold at the beginning of the race. Then just when I thought my body was warming up, I felt tight because of the cold rain,” said Sato.

Although Sato was the first Japanese home, because he did not crack 2:09:30 he was not selected automatically for the national marathon team for the World Championships in Osaka, and must wait after the Lake Biwa Marathon in March to see if he gains selection.

And yes, there was a woman's race winner too!

Although no elite woman was invited by the race organizer, Hitomi Niiya, who was 13th in the junior division of the 2006 World Cross Country Championships, ran the race along with thousands of women.  Niiya, a marathon debutante (in fact she has never run the half marathon or track 10,000m), won the women's division in 2:31:02.  After graduating from high school last year, Niiya has been coached by Yoshio Koide, who coached Naoko Takahashi to the Olympic gold in 2000. 

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
with assistance from Akihiro Onishi

Weather:  Rain; temperature 5.1C, humidity 94%; Wind 1.0m/s North 

Results (JPN unless otherwise noted)

1)  Daniel Njenga (KEN)    2:09:45
2)  Tomoyuki Sato  2:11:22
3)  Satoshi Irifune  2:12:44
4)  Masashi Hayashi 2:15:28
5)  Kazuyoshi Tokumoto 2:15:55
6)  Vanderlei de Lima (BRA) 2:16:08
7)  Seiji Kobayashi  2:17:13
8)  Manabu Itayama  2:17:29
9)  Koji Kannan 2:18:03
10) Moges Taye (ETH) 2:18:20

1) Hitomi Niiya  2:31:02  (18:41, 36:00, 53:10, 1:10:36, 1:27:42, 1:45:01, 2:03:19, 2:22:26)

5Km 15:03   Jesus
10Km 30:16   (15:13) Jesus
15Km 45:46 (15:30) Jesus
20Km 1:01:20 (15:34)  Jesus
Half 1:04:49
25Km 1:17:13 (15:53) Njenga
30Km 1:32:04 (14:51) Njenga
35Km 1:47:11 (15:07) Njenga
40Km 2:02:43 (15:32) Njenga
Finish  2:09:45  (7:02) Njenga