23 November 2012 - Kenya defended its title at the 2012 International Chiba Ekiden on Friday (23), while Japan finished runner-up for the second consecutive year.
The race was held over a six stage marathon distance (42.195Km) course. The men ran odd number stages of 5Km (first), 10Km (third) and 10Km (fifth) totaling 25Km, while women ran the even number stages of 5Km (second), 5Km (fourth) and 7.195Km (sixth) totaling 17.195Km.
The time of 2:05:06 was the second fastest winning time in the history of Chiba Ekiden, after the race turned into a mixed gender competition with teams of three men and three women team in 2007. The time was not as fast as the record set last year, 2:04:40, but the day was marred with wind and cold rain.
“I am happy to win again, because we are defending champion,” said Kenyan anchor Joyce Chepkurui.
Although Thomas Longosiwa was a lead off runner for Kenya, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist at 5000m faded badly in the closing stage and as a consequence Kenya was only sixth, 28 seconds behind the leader Zane Robertson of New Zealand at the end of first stage.
Then in the 5Km second stage, Gladys Cherono, the 2012 African Champion at 5000m and 10,000m, stormed into the lead after recording a stage best of 14:54 for the 5Km. During the 10Km third stage, Kenya and Japan battled for the lead with only a few seconds separated them throughout the stage. Then is the 5Km fourth stage, Priscah Jeptoo, the Olympic and World Championships marathon silver medalist, seemed to have taken a commanding lead of 30 seconds over her Japanese rivals. However, in the 10Km fifth stage Yuichi Ueno gave Japan an 11 second lead. But then in the sixth and final stage, Chepkurui, fifth in 2010 World Half Marathon Championships, stormed passed Hitomi Niiya to seal the win for Kenya.
Galen Rupp of the U.S., who recorded a stage best of 28:20 in the hilly 10Km fifth stage which helped his team to a third place finish and Kenyan anchor Cherono were selected to the most valuable male and female runners.
How the race unfolded:
Stage 1 – 5Km - Men -
Ryotaro Otani of the Japanese College team immediately took the lead and pushed the pace from the start, followed by Zane Robertson (NZL) and Egor Nikolayev (RUS). Thomas Longosiwa (KEN) who started the race cautiously, caught up to the leader by 1Km (passed around 2:45). By 3Km, Otani fell behind leaving four runners (Suguru Osako of Japan along with Longosiwa, Robertson and Nikolayev) in front. After 4Km, however, when Osako surged, Longosiwa fell back, leaving Osako and Robertson in front. Then in the final metres, Roberton pulled ahead of Osako to take the first stage. Japan was two seconds back, but the favourite Kenya was only sixth about 28 seconds behind.
Stage 2 – 5Km Women (10Km from the start) -
Mika Yoshikawa of Japan took over the lead almost immediately. Meanwhile Gladys Cherono (KEN) also started to move up fast. Less than two kilometres into the stage Cherono moved up to second. By 3.3Km Cherono caught and passed Yoshikawa and began to build a gap. Meanwhile the U.S., ninth at the end of the stage 1, moved up steadily and finished the stage 44 second behind in fourth place.
Stage 3 – 10Km - Men (20Km from the start) -
Edwin Soi, 2008 Olympic bronze medalist at 5000m, started fast, covering the first Km in 2:42. The gap to second place Japan opened initially, but by 4.5Km into the stage, Japan’s Shinobu Kubota, big gun for Komazawa University Ekiden team, caught Soi. They ran together sharing the first place, while Russia and the U.S. were running third and fourth, respectively. With a kilometre to go Kubota started to push the pace in his attempt to run away from Soi. But the Kenyan stayed close and then pushed slightly ahead to finish the stage in front.
Stage 4 – 5Km Women (25Km from the start) -
Priscah Jeptoo, Olympic marathon bronze medalist and Japan’s Misaki Onishi ran together in the lead for a while but then as expected Jeptoo, with a 3:05 second kilometre, pulled aheadi. With each step Jeptoo pulled further away and by the end of the stage built a 30-second gap on Japan.
Stage 5 – 10Km Men (35Km from the start) -
The big name of this hilly stage was Galen Rupp, the Olympic 10,000m silver medallist. Not only TV commentators Toshihiko Seko, Akemi Masuda and Naoko Takahashi, all legendary marathon runners, mentioned Rupp on several occasions, but one of the TV cameras was constantly on Rupp, the second non-African-born runner to break 27 minutes for 10,000m. In a pre-race interview, Rupp said, “I am excited to run this race. The hill at the end of the stage may be an advantage (for me). Strength will be important.” Rupp covered the first 5Km in 13:59, and finished the hilly 10Km stage in 28:20 for a stage best. Ueno of Japan not only closed the gap on Philip Mosima, but 7.7Km into the race he caught him. However, Mosima won’t let Ueno go until the last 400 metres when Ueno finally pulled ahead of the Kenyan to finish the stage in the lead. Kenya was 11 seconds behind while the U.S. was now third just another five seconds behind.
Stage 6 – 7.195Km – Women -
Joyce Chepkurui (KEN) started to close the gap on Japan immediately and by 2.4Km into the stage, caught and passed Hitomi Niiya. Niiya tried to stay within striking distance however Chepkurui gradually pulled away. All other teams were totally out of sight. Chepkurui made a wrong turn before entering the stadium and misjudged the finish – she probably didn’t realise that she had to run 500 metres on the track - but still won comfortably, 10 seconds ahead of Japan. The U.S., anchored by Neely Spence, daughter of 1991 World Championships Marathon bronze medalist Steve Spence, finished third.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Weather: Rain; temperature: 9C; humidity 92%; Wind: 4m/s North East
1) KEN 2:05:06
2) JPN 2:05:16
3) USA 2:06:36
4) RUS 2:09:13
5) JPN College team 2:09:31
6) CAN 2:11:01
7) NZL 2:11:04
8) Chiba Prefecture 2:12:12
9) POL 2:13:02
10) ROU 2:13:41
1 - 5Km 13:29 NZL
2 - 10Km 28:51 KEN
3 - 20Km 57:54 KEN
4 - 25Km 1:13:34 KEN
5 - 35Km 1:42:50 JPN
6 - 42.195 2:05:06 KEN
1 5Km 13:29 Zane Roberton (NZL)
13:31 Suguru Osako (JPN)
2 5Km 14:54 Gladys Cherono (KEN) New stage record
15:22 Mika Yoshikawa (JPN)
3 10Km 28:40 Jake Robertson (NZL)
28:46 Jacob Riley (USA)
4 5Km 15:40 Priscah Jeptoo (KEN)
16:10 Misaki Onishi (JPN)
5 10Km 28:20 Galen Rupp (USA)
28:46 Yuichiro Ueno (JPN)
6 7.195 22:05 Joyce Chepkurui (KEN) New stage record