Mizuki Noguchi, the 2004 Olympic marathon champion won today’s Sapporo International Half marathon women’s race in a course record time of 1:08:14.
The Olympic champion eclipsed the course record, 1:08:23, of Kenyan Catherine Ndereba, recorded in 2003. Finishing second in the race, one minute and five seconds behind, was Hiromi Ominami who won the Sapporo race in 2004. Ongori Philes, a Kenyan based in Sapporo, was running her second half marathon of her career. She finished third in 1:10:00.
The men’s race was won by Cyrus Njui, one of the many Kenyan runners based in Japan.
The race was billed as the showdown between Noguchi and Ndereba, gold and silver medalist respectively at the 2004 Athens Olympic Marathon. However, the showdown never materialized, for Ndereba, suffering stomach cramps at around 5km, was left behind by the pace very early on.
Noguchi was in control from start to finish. She covered 1Km to 2Km in 2:58 and both Britain’s Mara Yamauchi and Ndereba were left behind by 2.3Km, leaving only Hiromi Ominami and Kenyan Ongori Philes running with Noguchi. Noguchi passed 5Km in 15:56 with Ominami and Philes just behind her. But soon Philes could not keep up with Noguchi’s pace either. She started to lose contact with the Noguchi and Ominami at 6Km. Noguchi and Ominami passed 10Km in 32:26. At 11Km Ominami temporary took the lead, but 3Km later she had to let go Noguchi.
“When Noguchi surged away from me, she was not even breathing hard,” said Ominami.
Noguchi passed 15Km alone in 48:27, 9 seconds ahead of Ominami. She continued to pull ahead. By 20Km, passed in 1:04:46, Noguchi was 58 seconds ahead of second place, and after twice finishing second in addition to twice finishing third at the Sapporo Half Marathon, she finally won in Sapporo.
“I have finally done it,” said Noguchi. “It was a windy day, so I thought I have no chance for the course record. But since I felt very good I decide run hard. I am surprised with the record.” Noguchi broke the Ndereba’s record by nine seconds. “My next goal is the Berlin Marathon. I will go after the record again, so please cheer for me” concluded Noguchi.
The men’s race was won by Cyrus Njui, a Kenyan running for Nissan Motors, a corporate track team in Japan. It was the twelfth straight year that a Kenyan running for a Japanese corporate track team, has won the Sapporo half marathon. Njui completed the course in 1:01:16, five seconds ahead of Girma Assefa, an Ethiopian who runs for Subaru, another corporate track team in Japan. A further Ethiopian, Tesfaye Girma, who runs for Honda Motors, finished third another three seconds back.
The winning time was mere five seconds behind the record, 1:01:11, recorded by Samuel Kabiru in the 2002 edition of the race. The Africans - seven Kenyans and two Ethiopians - occupied first nine places. The first Japanese was Masayuki Tomura in tenth place. Samuel Wanjiru, a former World record holder at the half marathon, finished in a disappointing 11th place, nearly two minutes behind the winner.
In the men’s race a larger pack stayed intact for the first half of the race. The defending champion Mekubo Mogusu took the initiative, leading 5Km in 14:33 and 10Km in 29:13. By 9Km the lead pack was reduced to 13 runners – 12 Africans and one Japanese, Tomura.
By the turn-around-point, the pack was down to nine runners. By 12km it had reduced further to four Africans – two Kenyans and two Ethiopians. The foursome passed 15Km in 43:27 but when the leaders covered the 1Km segment from 16Km to 17Km in 2:45, the defending champion Mogusu fell behind.
Then at 18Km Njui surged ahead. He passed 20Km in 58:05, eight seconds ahead of the record pace. Njui who was fifth last year, won in near record time of 1:01:16.
“I am very happy to win here. After finishing fifth last year, I decided to train harder. My training partner (Kazuyoshi) Shimozato won the Japanese Corporate team Half Marathon Championships (in March), so I really wanted to win here,” said Njui who conducted part of the interview in Japanese.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
With assistance from Akihiro Onishi
Weather: temperature 25C, humidity 54%, wind 8m/s South East
1) Cyrus Njui (KEN) 1:01:16
2) Girma Assefa (ETH) 1:01:21
3) Tesfaye Girma (ETH) 1:01:24
4) Mekubo Mogusu (KEN) 1:02:05
5) Ombeche Mokamba (KEN) 1:02:12
6) Samuel Muturi (KEN) 1:02:34
7) John Kanyi (KEN) 1:02:35
8) James Getanda (KEN) 1:02:54
9) Augustine Ndirang (KEN) 1:02:56
10) Masayuki Tomura (JPN) 1:02:57
11) Samuel Wanjiru (KEN) 1:03:04
12) Tomonori Michikata 1:03:05
13) Daniel Njenga (KEN) 1:03:09
1) Mizuki Noguchi (JPN) 1:08:14
2) Hiromi Ominami (JPN) 1:09:19
3) Ongori Philes (KEN) 1:10:00
4) Julia Mombi (KEN) 1:10:20
5) Mara Yamauchi (GBR) 1:10:56
6) Masami Sakata (JPN) 1:11:19
7) Ruth Wanjiru (KEN) 1:11:31
8) Catherine Ndereba (KEN) 1:11:50
9) Yuki Saito (JPN) 1:11:54
10) Marie Haga (JPN) 1:12:04
11) Akemi Ozaki (JPN) 1:12:29
12) Ayumi Nakayama (JPN) 1:12:29
13) Kiyoko Shimahara (JPN) 1:12:34
5Km Mekubo Mogusu (KEN) 14:33
10Km Mekubo Mogusu (KEN) 29:13 (14:40)
15Km Mekubo Mogusu (KEN) 43:27 (14:14)
20Km Cyrus Njui (KEN) 58:05 (14:38)
Finish Cyrus Njui (KEN) 1:01:16 (3:11)
5Km Mizuki Noguchi 15:56
10Km Mizuki Noguchi 32:16 (16:20)
15Km Mizuki Noguchi 48:27 (16:11)
20Km Mizuki Noguchi 1:04:46 (16:19)
Finish Mizuki Noguchi 1:08:14 (3:28)