The 2013-2016 IAAF Strategic Plan has six Core Values: universality, leadership, unity, excellence, integrity and solidarity, and a Vision Statement: “To lead, govern and develop the sport of athletics in all its forms worldwide, uniting the Athletics Family in a spirit of excellence, integrity and solidarity.”
Cyrus Njui, the 2006 winner, and 2008 winner Yuri Kano took top honours at the Sapporo International Half Marathon on Sunday (4). Both Njui, who clocked 1:01:20 and Kano, who stopped the clock in 1:11:46, pulled away from their final challengers in the last two kilometres over the final uphill portion of the course leading the finish in Sapporo’s Maruyama stadium.
389 runners started the 53rd annual race, the race which doubled as the Japanese selection contest for October’s World Half Marathon Championships in Nanning, China. The strong field included Abel Kirui and Vincent Kipruto but neither turned out to be a factor in the race. Another invited runner, Briton Mara Yamauchi, was forced to pull out due to injury. The hot and humid conditions were not conducive to fast times which was clearly reflected in the results.
Men’s race -
The race began with a relatively slow opening kilometer of 2:42, but even with such a modest pace, by 5Km (14:28) the lead pack consisted almost exclusively of Kenyans. After 5Km, Martin Mathati, who was running his second half marathon, along with Njui, began to push the pace with three time defending champion Mekubo Mogusu in close pursuit. By 8Km, the lead pack was reduced to six Kenyans but the reigning World Marathon champion Abel Kirui was not among them.
Perhaps due to the heat, the lead pack was reduced to four by 10Km (28:50), with Njui, Mathathi, Samuel Ndungu and Mogusu in contention. Soon after the turn around point, however, Mogusu fell behind.
With kilometres Njui pulled away from Ndungu and Mathathi to seal the victory, 12 seconds ahead of Mathathi (1:01:32). Ndungu finished another three second behind. All three run for corporate sponsored track team in Japan.
“The day was hot and humid, I really appreciated the fans lined up along the course and cheered me during the race. It really helped me win,” said Njui, who is now considering a Marathon debut at Hokkaido in August.
Women’s race -
In the women’s race, Kano pulled away from Flomena Cheyech, a Kenyan who runs for the Uniqlo track team, and then Azusa Nojiri, a former cross country skier, to take a convincing victory in 1:11:46.
“I was not sure about Nojiri because I have not run in the same race with her too many times,” Kano said. “In fact, I was quite impressed with her run, but thinking of making my move over the uphill leading up to the stadium.” Which was exactly what Kano, who will contest the Asian Games Marathon in November, did.
The race began with Kenyans Cheyech and Obare Doricah at the front while Kano lagged several metres behind. She caught the leaders before the eighth kilometre, with Nojiri joining the lead pack two kilometres later. Nojiri went to the lead to push the pace, a move which dropped Doricah a kilometre later.
They ran together until the 15Km (50:29) water station, where Nojiru surged ahead and opened few metres gap on Kano and Cheyech. Cheyech and Kano worked their way back to Nojiri’s shoulder before taking turns with the lead.
As in the men’s contest, the real battle began with two kilometres remaining. Nojiri started to push, with Cheyech and Kano drifting back. But Kano closed the gap and took the lead for good at 19.5Km.
Nojiri, who is coached by Sachiko Yamashita, the 1991 World Championships silver medallist in the Marathon, clocked 1:12:02 for second with Cheyech third 1:12:27. Early leader Doricah faded to sixth.
Ken Nakamura assisted by Akihiro Onishi for the IAAF
Leading Results - Weather at the start (1:30PM): Cloudy; temperature 29C; humidity 58%, wind 2.7m/s NNE
Men - 1. Cyrus Njui (KEN) 1:01:20 2. Martin Mathathi (KEN) 1:01:32 3. Samuel Ndungu (KEN) 1:01:35 4. James Mawangi (KEN) 1:02:44 5. Mekubo Job Mogusu (KEN) 1:03:18 6. Vincent Kipruto (KEN) 1:03:42 7. Harun Njoroge (KEN) 1:03:44