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Surging away from Marisa Barros with less than 4Km to go, Amane Gobena of Ethiopia won the Osaka Ladies Marathon this morning in 2:25:14.
It was first victory for an Ethiopian in the Osaka Ladies Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, which started in 1982.
“First of all thank you for inviting me to this wonderful city,” Gobena said. “It was very tough and the race was very competitive. I am very glad to win the race.” It was a personal best for Gobena, whose previous best was 2:26:53 from the 2009 Los Angeles Marathon.
Barros of Portugal, who was sixth in the World Championships in Berlin last year, finished second in 2:25:45 while Mari Ozaki, running for the fourth time in this race, was third with 2:26:27. Barros also recorded a personal best, improving on her 2:26:03 from Sevilla in February of 2009. Ozaki never run a bad race in Osaka and today was no exception.
“It was very fast from the start. I felt like running an ekiden,” Ozaki said. “I was not watching the time though. It was intentional. If the pace was fast and I saw the split, I might get scared and slow down. If the pace was slow and I realize how bad I feel despite being so slow, it would be psychologically devastating. Perhaps because of high pace at the beginning, I felt really cold in the later part of the race. I think third place finish was good.”
Lidia Simon of Romania fell behind the at 22Km, but then she ran her own race and started to pick off runners to finish a very respectable fourth in 2:27:11.
Kayoko Obata, running the final marathon of her long career (26 starts with no DNFs) was fifth in 2:27:19. “It would have been nice if I could record my personal best in my last race,” Obata said. But it was not to be – this was the fourth fastest time of her career.
Debutante Ryoko Kizaki finished fifth in 2:27:34 which did not suffice for a top ten debut time though. “It felt really long in the last part of the race when I was running alone,” Kizaki said. “I was able to relax in the beginning but in the later part of the race, it was really cold. I was hoping for time around 2:26 but since I was able to run through the race without much trouble I am satisfied.” Another debutante, former cross country skier Azusa Noriji, was eighth in 2:29:12.
How the race unfolded:
In cold conditions with and an occasional drizzle, the race started at 12:10 from Nagai stadium, the venue of 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka. Pre-race favorite Yukiko Akaba started the race despite pain in back of her knee. The first kilometre was passed in a relatively fast 3:22, immediately reducing the lead group to about 13 runners. Soon Akaba took the lead and started to push the pace. The first casualty was Chika Horie who started to drift back just before 5Km (17:05).
With the relatively fast pace, the race of attrition continued, with Ayumi Nakayama next to lose contact. By nine kilometres the lead pack was reduced to nine. With Akaba still in the lead, 10 kilometres were passed in 33:46. Nearing the 14 kilometre marker, Azusa Nojiri and Saori Nejyo began to fall behind. A kilometre later, the lead pack started to stretch out. Akaba passed kilometre 15 in 50:22 with Gobena just behind her. Then there was a gap to Kizaki, Barros, Ozaki and Simon when the drizzle turned to rain. Just past the 15 kilometre aid-station Shuhei Akaba, Akaba’s coach and husband, passed along some instruction, and was happy to see his wife running without pain. By 16Km Kizaki, Barros, Ozaki and eventually Simon closed the gap, with six runners reformed in the lead pack.
With Akaba still in front, the six reached 20 kilometres in 1:07:01 and the half marathon in 1:10:44, just 20 seconds behind record pace. Two kilometres later, Simon started to lose contact and a kilometre after that, Kizaki, who has done three 40 kilometre runs for this marathon, also bagan to lag. Approaching 24.5 kilometres, Barros began to drift behind. On the steep downhill nearing the 26th kilometre, Barros went to the front followed by Gobena and Ozaki, while Akaba dropped to fourth. The gap gradually widen between Akaba and the three leaders.
With Barros leading, three runners passed 30Km in 1:40:57. Soon after the 30Km aid station, Ozaki fell back. At 30.6 kilometres Kizaki caught Akaba to move into fourth. Television commentator Yuko Arimori suggested that at this point Akaba was probably in pain, and if that was the case, that someone ought to stop her since it is hard for a runner to stop on her own. Just before the 39th kilometre marker, Akaba coach pulled her out of the race.
Under steady rain, the pace continued to slow. Barros and Gobena passed 35 kilometres in 1:58:08, followed by Ozaki 26 seconds later. After 38.5Km Gobena moved took the lead at 38.5 kilometres, and the gap between her and Barros gradually widened. With an eight-second lead at 40 kilometres, the Ethiopian slowed considerably in the waning stages but still took a convincing victory.
Ken Nakamura assisted by Akihiro Onishi for the IAAF
Weather: cloudy with occasional drizzle; temperature: 5.8C, humidity: 70%, wind: NNW1.5m/s Results: (JPN unless otherwise denoted) 1. Amane Gobena, ETH 2:25:14 2. Marisa Barros, POR 2:25:45 3. Mari Ozaki 2:26:27 4. Lidia Simon, ROU 2:27:11 5. Kyoko Obata 2:27:19 final marathon of her elite career 6. Ryoko Kizaki 2:27:34 debut 7. Chika Horie 2:28:29 8. Azusa Nojiri 2:29:12 debut 9. Ayumi Nakayama 2:32:43 10. Seika Iwamura 2:33:15