Yoko Shibui wins the 2009 Osaka International Ladies Marathon (Yohei KAMIYAMA/AgenceSHOT) © Copyright
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Shibui breaks her four year victory drought with 2:23 win at Osaka Ladies Marathon

Breaking away from the lead pack at 28.5Km and covering 30 to 35Km in 16:11, Japan’s Yoko Shibui convincingly won today’s 2009 Osaka International Ladies Marathon (25 Jan), in Osaka, Japan with 2:23:42.

The Osaka International Ladies Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.

Slow start… Shibui bides her time

The organizers decided to do away with pacesetting this year, and the race started at a mediocre speed, with the first kilometre passed in 3:25, and the second even slower - 3:35.

With Romania’s 2001 World champion Lidia Simon leading most of the time, the first 5Km was covered in 17:25, at which point 17 runners were in the lead pack.  The pace picked up in the second 5Km to 17:07, which led to  two runners being dropped from the lead pack, one of which was Kaori Yoshida, who was second in the December’s Honolulu Marathon.

At 11.5Km, another of the leading group Aki Fujikawa was dropped this time after she tripped and fell down. She eventually finished 16th with 2:41:02. 

At around 14km, Yukiko Akaba started to push the pace, and Akemi Ozaki, a sister of Yoshimi Ozaki, who clinched a spot on the marathon team for the World Championships by winning the 2008 Tokyo Women’s Marathon, was dropped by the lead pack. 

With Simon at the front, the half marathon was passed in 1:13:00.

Around 24Km Dulce Maria Rodriguez of Mexico fell behind, and with a dozen runners left in the lead pack, Akaba picked the pace up and two notable marathon debutantes, Peninah Arusei and Akane Wakita also fell behind.  Arusei eventually dropped out of the race completely.

Shibui pounces at 28.5km

The real racing started at 28.5Km when Shibui went to the front and really started to push the pace which stretched out the lead group, and Hiromi Ominami and Worknesh Tola were soon dropped. Shibui covered 29 to 30Km in 3:21.

After passing the water station at 30km, only Akaba was able to stay close to Shibui, and soon after 3:13 for the kilometre between 30 and 31, Akaba was also left behind and Shibui was running alone.  

Shibui continued to push the pace and covered the next two kilometres in 3:16 and 3:09, and was nine seconds ahead of Akaba.

Shibui was now powering away, and covered 30 to 35Km in 16:11, faster than 16:21 Mizuki Noguchi recorded for the same 5Km segment when she won Osaka with the course record time of 2:21:18. 

At 35Km, Shibui was 25 seconds ahead of Akaba who in turn was 52 seconds ahead of Miki Ohira, Yumiko Hara and Madoka Ogi, and by 40km the gap between Shibui and Akaba had stretched to a minute and 25 seconds, while the gap between Akaba and Ohira had increased to a minute and 20 secnds.  

Shibui covered the final 2.195Km in 7:02, and won by nearly two minutes. Despite a slow early pace (none of the 5Km lap time was under 17 minutes until 30 to 35Km) the winning time was quite respectable. It was the twelfth fastest time on the course.  It was also the fourth fastest in Shibui’s eleven marathon career.

Akaba, a marathon debutante, finished second with 2:25:40. She was followed by Hara in 2:26:57.

In fourth came another Japanese, Ohira with 2:27:08. Simon, was fifth in 2:27:14, just edging Mika Okunaga, who improved her marathon best from 2:27:52 to 2:27:16 for sixth place.

Ruth Wanjiru, a Kenyan, who lives in Japan and runs for Second Wind AC was seventh in 2:27:38. Madoka Ogi, was eighth in 2:27:56, thus eclipsing the best ever time for the eighth place in Osaka, which was 2:28:06, recorded last year. 

Another debutante, Akane Wakita, a protégé of Yoshio Koide, was ninth in 2:31:16. Incidentally, her time is slightly faster than Naoko Takahashi’s marathon debut time, which was 2:31:32, recorded in the 1997 Osaka Ladies marathon.

Berlin bound

“I was not consciously picking up the pace, but I just run faster and faster,” said Shibui after the race. “I was never able to pick up the pace at the end of the race. I think I have figured out how to win the marathon," whose win broke a four years drought since her last marathon victory.

For Shibui, who said “I will continue to run the marathon until I win one” after her fourth place finish in the 2008 Tokyo Women’s marathon, it was her third marathon victory of her marathon career, having won her debut at 2001 Osaka Ladies Marathon with the world marathon debut record (at the time) and then the 2004 Berlin Marathon with the national record (2:19:41).

As a winner of the World Championships qualifying race, Shibui clinched a spot on the Japanese marathon team for the World Championships in Berlin; she finished fourth in Edmonton eight years ago. 

Shibui was visibly happy after the race, perhaps happiest she had been seen by the fans in her running career. “I want to be a faster runner. My goal is to run a 2:15 marathon,” laughed Shibui at the end of the post race interview.

“The marathon felt shorter than what I have expected, so I was able to enjoy the race.  But I was bit disappointed because I could not win it,” said second placed Akaba after the race.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Assisted by Akihiro Onishi

Weather: Sunny; temperature 6.5C; humidity 73%; wind 1.6m/s South West


1. Yoko Shibui 2:23:42  (17:25, 34:32, 51:50, 1:09:11, 1:26:40, 1:43:56, 2:00:07, 2:16:40)
2. Yukiko Akaba 2:25:40
3. Yumiko Hara 2:26:57
4. Miki Ohira   2:27:08
5. Lidia Simon (ROU) 2:27:14
6. Mika Okunaga 2:27:16
7. Ruth Wanjiru (KEN) 2:27:38
8. Madoka Ogi  2:27:56
9. Akane Wakita 2:31:16
10. Akemi Ozaki 2:32:09
11. Hiromi Ominami 2:32:30
12. Worknesh Tola (ETH) 2:33:51
13. Satoko Uetani  2:34:39
14. Mai Tagami  2:34:42

24) Gulnara Vygovskaya (RUS) 2:47:58

44) Dulce Maria Rodriguez (MEX) 2:56:18

DNF  Peninah Arusei (1:26:45 at 25Km)

5Km 17:25  Lidia Simon 
10Km 34:32 (17:07) Lidia Simon
15Km 51:49 (17:17) Yukiko Akaba
20Km 1:09:10 (17:21) Lidia Simon
25Km 1:26:39 (17:29) Yukiko Akaba
30Km 1:43:56 (17:17) Yoko Shibui
 1:43:56 Yukiko Akaba
35Km 2:00:07 (16:11) Yoko Shibui
 2:00:32 (16:36) Yukiko Akaba
40Km 2:16:40 (16:33) Yoko shibui
 2:18:05 (17:33) Yukiko Akaba
Finish  2:23:42 (7:02) Yoko Shibui
 2:25:40 (7:35) Yukiko Akaba