After breaking away from pre-race favourite Bedan Karoki at 36 kilometres, Norway’s Sondre Nordstad Moen went on to win the Fukuoka Marathon on Sunday (3), clocking a European record of 2:05:48 at the IAAF Gold Label road race.
“I was confident that I could run 2:07, and on a good day perhaps even 2:06, but I did not expect 2:05,” said Moen,who set a Norwegian half marathon record of 59:48 in Valencia in October. “Today the weather was good and the pacers did a very good job. I had lots of energy in the closing stages of the race.”
Moen’s performance is the second-fastest time in Fukuoka, just 30 seconds shy of Tsegaye Kebede’s course record. The 26-year-old also became the first European winner of the Fukuoka Marathon since 2005.
With the pre-determined pace of 3:00/km kept well by the pace makers, the race of attrition reduced the lead pack to five runners – Moen, Stephen Kiprotich, Suguru Osako, Bedan Karoki and Amanuel Mesel – by 30 kilometres (1:30:08), at which point the pace makers left the race.
As planned, Karoki then made his move, but to his surprise, Moen went with him. Osako – who was contesting just the second marathon of his career – was making a valiant attempt to stay close to the leaders and was followed by Kiprotich and Mesel.
Unable to keep up with 2:55/km pace for much longer, Mesel fell away between 30 and 31 kilometres. Karoki and Moen ran in front for the next few kilometres, followed by Osako and Kiprotich. Moen then made his move at 36 kilometres, leaving Karoki in his wake. Within the space of a mile, Moen had opened up a 12-second gap over the world half marathon silver medallist and the gap kept on increasing all the way to the finish, eventually winning in 2:05:48.
“I knew that the European record was about 25 seconds faster than three-minutes-per-kilometre pace,” said Moen. “Between 36 and 37 kilometres, I felt some side-stiches and so did not feel very confident, so I tried to keep an even pace. At 40 kilometres (which he reached in 1:59:23), I felt confident that I could break it.
“The marathon is the race against yourself,” he added. “One must control intensity.”
Karoki hit the wall in the closing stages and was passed by Uganda’s 2012 Olympic and 2013 world champion Kiprotich and Osako. Kiprotich took second place in 2:07:10, the second-fastest marathon of his career, while Osako was third with 2:07:19, moving him to fifth on the Japanese all-time list.
“I gave my all to this race,” said Osako after breaking his PB by three minutes. “The first and second place guys are better runners today, but I now know my training is correct. If I continue to train this way, I can continue to improve. I felt that I found a coach I can really trust. In Japan I did not find anyone like that.”
Mesel was fifth in 2:09:22, and two big surprises followed him. Unheralded Daisuke Uekado finished sixth with 2:09:27 and Yoshiki Takenouchi finished seventh with 2:10:01, both improving their personal bests by more than three minutes.
Along with Osako, both Uekano and Takenouchi have now qualified to run in Japan’s marathon trial race for the Tokyo Olympics.
Yuki Kawauchi lost contact with the leaders after 17 kilometres but he worked his way back to finish ninth in 2:10:53. He was followed by Takuya Fukatsu and Hayato Sonoda, the new find at last year’s Fukuoka Marathon. Debutant Daichi Kamino was 13th in 2:12:50, a few minutes shy of his goal of 2:08:59.
As for Moen, he is now looking to the future and a possible return to Japan.
“This was my first marathon at a six-hour time difference from my home,” said Moen, whose next marathon could be at next year’s European Championships in Berlin. “It was a good experience for the upcoming 2020 Olympic Marathon in Tokyo. I do realise that weather will be completely different.”
Portugal’s Antonio Pinto set a European record of 2:06:36 in 2000 and it was tied three years later by Benoit Zwierzchiewski of France. Turkey’s Kaan Kigen Ozbilen clocked 2:06:10 last year, but Moen’s time eclipses all of those marks.
“I ran 2:05 today,” said Moen, “but I am not sure if people back in Norway realise how good a 2:05 marathon is.”
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
1 Sondre Nordstad Moen (NOR) 2:05:48
2 Stephen Kiprotich (UGA) 2:07:10
3 Suguru Osako (JPN) 2:07:19
4 Bedan Karoki (KEN) 2:08:44
5 Ammanuel Mesel (ERI) 2:09:22
6 Daisuke Uekado (JPN) 2:09:27
7 Yoshiki Takenouchi (JPN) 2:10:01
8 Michael Githae (KEN) 2:10:46
9 Yuki Kawauchi (JPN) 2:10:53
10 Takuya Fukatsu (JPN) 2:12:04