Mubarak Shami winning the Lake Biwa Marathon (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
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Shami wins Lake Biwa Marathon

Surging away from Eritrean Yared Asmeron at 36Km, Mubarak Shami of Qatar won yesterday’s 63rd annual Lake Biwa Marathon in 2:08:23, eleven seconds ahead of Asmeron.

The event is an IAAF Silver Label Road race.

“All my trainings are very hard. That is why I am very strong,” said Shami (formerly Richard Yatich of Kenya), the 2007 World Championships silver medallist.

Asmeron, who was fourth in Osaka last August, also ran well. He improved his personal best from 2:15:14, recorded in the 2007 Hamburg marathon, to 2:08:34, a whopping six minutes plus improvement. Finishing third with 2:08:36, a PB by ten seconds, was Japan’s Satoshi Osaki, who is likely to have booked his berth to Beijing with the run.

How the race unfolded:

Two sets of pace makers were employed to lead the race. Two Japanese runners, Takashi Matsuyama and Koji Inagaki, did a beautiful job of leading the first part of the race with a steady pace. Each of the first 5Km was passed in 2:59, 2:59, 3:01, 3:00, and 3:01. 

A huge pack of 56 runners passed the 5Km check point in 15:00, which was slightly faster than the original plan, but it was partially explained by the tail wind in the early part of the race.

Mitsuru Kubota was the first casualty among invited runners; he lost contact before 5Km. Kensuke Takahashi fell behind next, apparently suffering from side stitch. Perhaps because of the swirling wind, after 6th Km, the pace became somewhat erratic.  The 6Km to 7Km was covered in 2:56, while 9Km to 10Km took 3:03.  The pack was reduced to 44 runners by 10Km (30:02). At 13.5Km Japanese pace makers left the race leaving three Kenyans – Isaac Macharia, Julius Maina and Solomon Bushendich - in front.  

Around 14Km Pablo Olmedo dropped out. As the pace picked up after 15Km (15 to 16Km was covered in 2:59), Lee Troop also fell off the pack.  The race really began to take shape after passing half way point in 1:03:22, five seconds slower than the record pace. At 21.5Km Dmytro Baranovsky along with 2:08 runner Masakazu Fujiwara and 28 minutes 10,000m runner Tomohiro Seto all fell behind.

Eleven runners – Isaac Macharia, Julius Maina, Yared Asmeron, Mubarak Shami, Jose Rios, Tomoyuki Sato, Satoshi Osaki, Yuki Abe, Takehisa Okino, Koji Watanabe and Yuzo Onishi – passed 25Km in 1:15:01, faster than the record pace.  By 28Km the lead pack was reduced to Macharia, Shami, Asmeron, Rios, Sato, Osaki and Abe. 

After 28.5Km, Sato and then Abe started to fall behind the leaders. While Abe quickly went out of the picture, Sato was persistent. He stayed close to the leaders - Asmeron, Rios, Osaki and Shami and the pace setter Macharia.

At 30Km, after Macharia dropped out of the race, the lead pack of four runners was split into two – Shami and Asmeron in front and Osaki and Rios in rear.  Sato was still keeping close. At 30.4Km Asmeron surged in his attempt to shake off Shami. It was as if a rubber band connected the two. The gap stretched and contracted and then stretched again, but always stayed between 5 to 10m. At 31Km Sato was only 6-7m behind Osaki, who in turn was nine seconds behind Asmeron. But Sato was unable to close the gap, which started to increase after 32Km. At 33Km Shami caught Asmeron, and they run together for the next 3Km.

Then Shami took an intiative and started to pull away. By 37Km the gap had grown to more than 20m, and by 40Km, Shami was 23 seconds ahead of Asmeron, but this shortened to 11 seconds by the finish, the final result being 2:08:23 to Shami and 2:08:34 for second placed Asmeron.

Race for Japanese Olympic berth

The race to the top of the podium was finished, but the race for the first Japanese and the Olympic team continued. 

First, at 36Km, Yuzo Onishi caught and passed Sato to move into fifth. Meanwhile, Osaki was slowing down. After 35Km, he was taking more than 3 minutes and 10 seconds for each Km. In order for Osaki to be considered for the team, he needed to run faster than 2:08:40, the time recorded by Arata Fujiwara in the Tokyo Marathon. With 5Km to go, Osaki realised that he had to run the final 5Km in 15:36. At 38Km, he started to pull away from Rios, with a knowledge that he have to run the final Km faster than 3minutes and 10 second to finish, he pushed hard, and in the end almost caught Asmeron, finishing in 2:08:36, thus fulfilling the time goal

At 39Km, Onishi caught and also passed Rios to move into fourth, but he was unable to close in on Osaki.

“At the end I was thinking about the Beijing (Olympics) and kept on pushing. I was not going to give up,” said Osaki.

Since he was the first Japanese home in the race and was faster than Arata Fujiwara’s time of 2:08:40, recorded in the Tokyo Marathon three weeks ago, Osaki is likely to be selected for the Olympic marathon team. The fact that he was sixth in the World Championships should further strengthen his bid for the team. 

Yuzo Onishi finished fourth with a huge personal best of 2:08:54. “I am frustrated that the first Japanese was less than 20 seconds away,” said Onishi, whose previous personal best was only 2:12:53. Tomoya Shimizu, in his first completed marathon, was fifth in 2:09:23.  He was followed by Jose Rios in 2:09:38 and Tomoyuki Sato in 2:09:59. Sato ran close to his personal best, 2:09:43, but has no chance to make the Olympic team.

In all, seven runners broke 2:10 barrier, tying the record number of sub-2:10 marathon finishers in the Lake Biwa marathon, which was recorded in 2003 and 2004.

The Olympic team will be announced on March 10. “I will wait for the good news,” concluded Osaki.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF  

Weather: partly cloudy; temperature 9.7C; humidity: 51%

Results: JPN unless otherwise noted.

1. Mubarak Shami  (QAT) 2:08:23
2. Yared Asmeron  (ERI) 2:08:34  PB
3. Satoshi Osaki  2:08:36  PB
4. Yuzo Onishi  2:08:54  PB
5. Tomoya Shimizu 2:09:23  PB
6. Jose Rios 2:09:38
7. Tomoyuki Sato 2:09:59
8. Kazuki Ikenaga 2:10:44  Debut
9. Masakazu Fujiwara 2:12:07
10. Toshiya Katayama 2:12:30
11. Toyoshi Ishige 2:12:45
12. Hironori Arai 2:13:04  Debut
13. Peter Kariuki  (KEN) 2:13:38

17) Dmytro Baranovsky (UKR) 2:16:17

5Km 15:00 Takashi Matsuyama
10Km 30:02 (15:02) Takashi Matsuyama
15Km  45:09  (15:07) Isaac Macharia 
20Km 1:00:07  (14;58) Isaac Macharia
Half  1:03:22 Isaac Macharia
25Km 1:15:01 (14:54) Isaac Macharia
30Km 1:30:16(15:15) Isaac Macharia
35Km 1:45:30  (15:14) Mubarak Shami
 1:45:30 Yared Asmeron
 1:45:57 Satoshi Osaki
 1:45:57 Jose Rios
40Km 2:01:16 (15:46) Mubarak Shami
 2:01:39 Yared Asmeron
 2:01:53 Satoshi Osaki
 2:02:06 Yuzo Onishi
Finish  2:08:23  (7:07) Mubarak Shami