Surging away from Spaniard Jose Rios, his final challenger, with 1300m to go, Paul Tergat won the 64th Lake Biwa Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, with a relatively slow winning time by his illustrious standards of 2:10:22.
It was the third career marathon victory for Tergat, the former World record breaker, after his wins in the 2003 Berlin Marathon and 2005 New York City Marathon.
Rios, the two-time defending champion, who won in 2004 and 2006, finished second in 2:10:36, while Eritrea’s Yared Asmeron, who was fourth in the World Championships and eighth in the Olympics, was third (2:10:49), followed by Japan’s Masaya Shimizu who did most of the pace making after 30Km finished fourth (2:10:50).
How the race unfolded:
A total of 162 runners started under a sunny sky. A group of 39 runners passed 5Km in 15:10. Shin-ichi Watanabe, a 2:09:32 marathon runner, was the first major casualty; losing contact with the leaders just before 10Km, a point at which, led by four pace-makers, aq group of 33 runners passed in 30:13 (15:03).
By 15km (45:22) the head of the race was down to 25 runners, at which point Naosato Yoshimura, a pace maker who had been leading left the race, leaving three other pace makers on the duty.
With the wind against them, the pace was now slowing and the 20Km split was 1:00:52, and the half marathon was passed in 1:04:18.
The pace picked up after halfway as the wind was now in the leaders favour. The 1Km between 22Km and 23Km dipped under 3 minutes (2:58), and several runners including Kazutoshi Takatsuka and Yuzo Onishi started to fall behind. Just before passing 25Km in 1:16:02, Takeshi Ohta also lost contact with the pack of eleven runners which still included three pace setters.
Tomoya Shimizu fell off the pace just before 27Km and five hundred metres later Abderrahim Bouramdane of Morocco also fell behind (dropped out after 30km). The lead pack was now down to Paul Tergat, Jose Rios, Yared Asmeron, Abiyote Guta, Masaya Shimizu, Takeshi Makabe plus three pace setters.
After 29Km, Makabe also fell behind, leaving eight runners in front. With the three pace makers leaving the race at 30Km (1:31:17), Masaya Shimizu took the lead pulling Asmeron, Rios, Guta and Tergat along with him. Soon Asmeron took the lead, but 500m later Shimizu took it back.
At the water station at 31.5Km Rios took over the lead momentarily, but it was Shimizu who led most of the time.
After 30Km, with the weather turning cloudy and the temperature dropping to 11.6C the pace was slowing down (each Km taking more than three minutes and 10 seconds) due to head wind and the pack of five – Shimizu, Asmeron, Rios, Tergat and Guta – continued to run together. The 5Km interval from 30Km to 35Km took 16:10, and all the hope of a fast time was evaporating away.
At the 36Km aid station, Tergat and Guta momentarily fell behind the top three (Shimizu, Rios and Asmeron) runners, but soon they were back making up a group of five. Shimizu was leading most of the time, but each kilometre was taking over 3:10.
The real racing started when Rios took the lead at 39.3Km and the pace picked up. Asmeron covered the move immediately with Tergat moving comfortably into third just behind Rios and Asmeron, while Shimizu and Guta fell behind.
Then just before 40Km, Tergat took the lead further increasing the pace and Asmeron fell away turning the race it into a duel between Tergat and Rios. With about 1300m left Tergat surged and left Rios behind definitively for the win.
Behind Tergat and Rios, Asmeron and Shimizu were fighting hard for third place, and when the race came on to the track of Ojiyama track and field stadium Asmeron pulled ahead of Shimizu to finish third.
Shimizu the future of the marathon?
Since he was the first Japanese in the race, Masaya Shimizu is assured of a spot on the World Championships marathon team. With Satoshi Irifune who was the first Japanese in the Fukuoka Marathon also with a spot on the team, three spots are still left. One more slot will be decided after the Tokyo Marathon in three weeks, while the other two slots are left to the Japan AAF selectors.
After the race, when asked about the slow winning time, Tergat explained: “This is my first marathon of the year. I also had jet lag problem and there was lot of wind.” He was happy with his first marathon win in Japan, and said “I hope to run good time next time.”
Tergat complimented to Shimizu: “I think the Japanese young man who was pushing the pace (Masaya Shimizu) could be the future of the marathon.”
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Weather at the start: Sunny; temperature: 14.3C; humidity: 53%
1. Paul Tergat (KEN) 2:10:22
2. Jose Rios (ESP) 2:10:36
3. Yared Asmeron (ERI) 2:10:49
4. Masaya Shimizu 2:10:50
5. Abiyote Guta (ETH) 2:11:18
6. Tomoya Shimizu 2:12:30
7. Satoru Sasaki 2:14:00 debut
8. Takeshi Makabe 2:14:34 first completed marathon (second marathon)
5Km 15:10 Naosato Yoshimura
10Km 30:13 (15:03) Yoshimura
15Km 45:21 (15:08) Yoshimura
20Km 1:00:52 (15:31) Cutbert Nyasango
25Km 1:16:02 (15:10) Nicolas Chelimo
30Km 1:31:17 (15:15) Nyasango
35Km 1:47:27 (16:10) Yared Asmeron
2:03:34 (16:07) Paul Tergat
2:03:35 Jose Rios
2:03:37 Yared Asmeron
2:03:40 Masaya Shimizu
2:03:46 Abiyote Guta
Finish 2:10:22 (6:48) Paul Tergat