Kenya’s Nicholas Kosimbei and Ethiopia’s Degitu Azmeraw took the men’s and women’s titles respectively at the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon with the IAAF Gold Label road race being held in unseasonably warm conditions on Sunday (22).
With temperatures of 23C, the winning times of 1:01:12 for Kosimbei and 1:09:53 for Azmeraw didn’t threaten the course records of 1:00:02 and 1:07:44.
In the men’s race, six runners – Kosimbei, Alexander Mutiso, Moses Kurong, James Mwangi, Edward Waweru and Joel Mwaura – were together during the early stages, covering five kilometres in 14:09.
Mwaura was dropped, leaving five runners to pass 10 kilometres in 28:45. By 15 kilometres, reached in 43:35, Waweru had also been left behind, leaving just four runners at the front.
Kosimbei, the 2014 world U20 10,000m bronze medallist, then broke apart the lead pack during the next five kilometres. He reached 20 kilometres in 57:57 and led Mutiso by 13 seconds. Mutiso in turn was followed by Kurong and Mwangi.
Kosimbei went on to win in 1:01:12, taking nine seconds off the personal best he set in Lisbon last month. Kosimbei, who finished 15th at last year’s World Cross Country Championships, was competing in just the second half marathon of his career.
Mutiso, the defending champion, finished second in 1:01:24, 27 seconds slower than his winning time from last year.
Kurong finished third in 1:01:57, while Mwangi was fourth in 1:02:14. Yohei Suzuki was the first Japanese finisher, placing ninth. Patrick Muendo Mwaka, the winner in Gifu in 2016, was 10th in 1:03:40.
Yuki Kawauchi, the newly crowned Boston Marathon champion, admitted before the race that he was extremely tired from his efforts in the USA just six days prior. At one point this week, Kawauchi considered focusing more on interacting with his fans than the race itself. But he confirmed at the pre-race press conference that he would still run tenaciously and he finished a respectable 14th in 1:04:35.
With Eunice Chumba, fourth at the recent World Half Marathon Championships, a late withdrawal, the race became a two-way battle between Degitu Azmeraw of Ethiopia and Valary Jemeli Aiyabei of Kenya.
Azmeraw, Jemeli Aiyabei and Joy Kemuma of Kenya ran together in the first part, passing five kilometres in 16:04 and 10 kilometres in 32:46. Kemuma was dropped a few kilometres later, leaving only Azmeraw and Jemeli Aiyabei in front at 15 kilometres (49:29).
Azmeraw then left Jemeli behind and had a 13-second lead over her rival by 20 kilometres, which she reached in 1:06:12, before going on to win in 1:09:53, three minutes slower than the PB she set in Ras al-Khaimah in February.
Jemeli Aiyabei finished second in 1:10:11, while Kemuma was third in 1:10:47. Canada’s Andrea Seccafien, making her half marathon debut, finished fourth in 1:13:19. Marie Imada was the top Japanese woman, placing seventh in 1:14:20.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
1 Nicholas Kosimbei (KEN) 1:01:12
2 Alexander Mutiso (KEN) 1:01:24
3 Moses Kurong (UGA) 1:01:57
4 James Mwangi (KEN) 1:02:14
5 Edward Waweru (KEN) 1:02:29
6 Joel Mwaura (KEN) 1:02:59
7 Michael Githae (KEN) 1:03:09
8 Danile Muiva Kitonyi (KEN) 1:03:27
1 Degitu Azmeraw (ETH) 1:09:53
2 Valary Jemeli Aiyabei (KEN) 1:10:11
3 Joy Kemuma (KEN) 1:10:47
4 Andrea Seccafien (CAN) 1:13:19
5 Sinead Diver (AUS) 1:13:23
6 Karolina Nadolska (POL) 1:13:56
7 Marie Imada (JPN) 1:14:20
8 Yuko Watanabe (JPN) 1:14:51