Kenyan Harun Njoroge won the 61st Beppu-Oita Marathon on Sunday (5) in 2:09:38, the first sub-2:10 performance of his career.
The Beppu-Oita Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
“I am very happy to crack 2:10,” said Njoroge, who runs for Komori Corporation located in Ibaragi prefecture north of Tokyo. It was second straight Marathon victory for Njoroge who won the Hokkaido Marathon last August. Furthermore, in his fifth marathon, Njoroge improved his personal best by more than two minutes. Although his run wasn’t a Beppu-Oita race record, Njoroge’s time was a record for the course which was modified two years ago.
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir of Mongolia closed fast to finish second in 2:11:05, a 30-second improvement on his personal best recorded in the 2011 London Marathon. A prolific marathon runner, this was Bat-Ochir’s fifth Marathon in the last 10 months after London, World Championships in Daegu, Beijing and Hofu.
Marathon debutant Yakob Jarso of Ethiopia finished third with 2:11:13. He ran aggressively after 27 kilometres taking the lead several times in his attempt to break away. However at the end, Jarso failed not only to shake off Njoroge, but was unable to keep up with when the Kenyan made a surge of his own.
As Beppu-Oita is popular with Marathon debutants, several runners beside Jarso made this race the venue for their debuts. The first Japanese in the race was Kohei Matsumura who came from behind strongly in the final 5Km to finish fourth with 2:11:52 in his debut.
“It was really tough after 30Km and I could not pick up the pace. I am disappointed that I was not able to finish in top three,” Matsumura said. Yuki Moriwaki finished fifth with 2:11:52, a personal best. In all, the first five finishers either set personal best or made a successful marathon debut.
Desta Gebrehiwet who finished sixth with 2:12:22, was the first runner who failed to set a personal best today. Seventh place finisher Hiroki Kadota and tenth place finisher Takehiro Arakawa also ran their debuts. Jeffrey Hunt, a former steeplechaser, did come from behind as expected, but was only ninth with 2:13:19, his slowest time and lowest placing in his three appearances in Beppu.
How the race unfolded:
The weather was excellent with very low wind and thus fast time was expected. The pace makers led by Takuya Fukatsu did excellent pace making job in the first two-thirds of the race.
The leading pack of approximately 25 runners passed 5Km in 15:15, slightly faster than the scheduled pace of 15:20 for each 5Km organisers had requested. Australian Hunt, as usual, was running in the chase pack. Among the elites Adam Draczynski of Poland began to drift back after 9Km. The pace makers continued their excellent job as the 10Km split was 30:33 (15:18 for the last 5Km), and 22 runners passed 15Km in 45:47 (15:14 for the last 5Km). Several runners, including 2003 champion Ramadhani, started to drift back before 20K (1:01:15) although the pace slowed a bit between 15K and 20Km. Sixteen runners covered the half marathon in 1:04:36.
At 25Km (1:16:40), pacesetter Takuya Fukatsu dropped out leaving two Kenyans with pace making duty. The race of attrition continued and Wakui and Takeuchi, two domestic invited runners, lost contact. After 27Km Jarso moved to the front and started to push the pace. One kilometre segment, from 27 to 28Km, was covered in 2:59, and a few runners dropped off the pace but the lead pack did not totally break up. Past 30Km (1:31:52) Jarso surged hard once again and only Arakawa tried to stay with him. However, soon Njoroge bridged the gap and actually took the lead from Jarso; by 33Km eight runners are back in the pack.
Before 34Km, Moriwaki made his move and pack has reduced to six runners. “None of the surges last very long,” said Shigeru Soh, the first Japanese to crack 2:10 (in Beppu back in 1978), from the TV commentating booth. Soon Arakawa and Gebrehewit started to drift back. Falil and Bat-Ochir also fell back, leaving Jarso, Njoroge and Moriwaki in front by 36Km. Njoroge pushed the pace in the uphill before 37K and Moriwaki was left behind. In the downhill that followed Jarso was also left behind. With every step from then on Njoroge began moving away. Meanwhile Matsumura was gaining on the staggering runners. With two kilometres to go, Matsumura moved up to fourth,. In the final kilometre Bat-Ochir passed Jarso to move into second.
Ken Nakamura with assistance from Akihiro Onishi for the IAAF
Leading Results (All athletes JPN unless otherwise indicated):
Weather: Cloudy; temperature: 7.2C; humidity: 45%
1. Harun Njoroge (KEN) 2:09:38 PB
2. Bat-Ochir (MGL) 2:11:05 PB
3. Yakob Jarso (ETH) 2:11:13 Debut
4. Kohei Matsumura 2:11:17 Debut
5. Yuki Moriwaki 2:11:52 PB
6. Desta Gebrehiwet (ETH) 2:12:22
7. Hiroki Kadota 2:12:27 Debut
8. Keisuke Wakui 2:12:55
9. Jeff Hunt (AUS) 2:13:19
10. Takehiro Arakawa 2:13:39 Debut
5Km - 15:15
10Km - 30:33 (15:18)
15Km - 45:47 (15:14)
20Km - 1:01:15 (15:28)
Half - 1:04:36
25Km - 1:16:40 (15:25)
30Km - 1:31:52 (15:12)
35Km - 1:47:22 (15:30)
40Km - 2:02:50 (15:28)
Finish - 2:09:38 (6:48)