Ethiopia’s Abdela Godana and Japan’s Asami Furuse were convincing winners at a wet and windy Nagano Marathon, securing their first ever wins over 26.2 miles at the IAAF Bronze Label road race on Sunday (15).
Not only did Furuse become the first Japanese woman to win in Nagano since 2001, but she also led the first ever Japanese sweep of the women’s podium.
Godana, meanwhile, finally reached the top of the podium following top-three finishes in Barcelona, Beirut (twice) and Milan in recent years.
A large lead pack formed early on in the men’s race, passing through five kilometres in 15:32 and 10 kilometres in 31:10. The pack only started to whittle itself down after 15 kilometres, which was reached in 46:37.
Pacemaker Yeneblo Biyazen led the field to the half-way point in 1:05:22 before dropping out, leaving five men in the lead pack: Godana, Kenya’s Julius Keter and Japanese trio Hiroshi Ichida, Yuki Munakata and marathon debutant Kyota Yabushita.
Munakata was the first of that quintet to lose ground. Keter and Yabushita soon followed and drifted back through the field, while Munakata maintained his 20-second deficit on the lead duo and found himself in third place.
Ichida started to struggle in the closing five kilometres, losing ground on Godana and eventually Munakata.
Godana, however, was never to be challenged and went on to win in 2:13:54. Munakata took second place in 2:14:21, 21 seconds ahead of Ichida.
In the women’s race, the pack of key contenders emerged much earlier in the race.
Five women – 2012 winner Pauline Wangui, 2015 winner Beatrice Toroitich Jepkemboi, Furuse, Yukiko Okuno and Aki Otagiri – covered the first 10 kilometres in 36:09 and were still together at 15 kilometres, reached in 54:14.
Jepkemboi started to lose ground just before the 20-kilometre point and dropped out moments later. The remaining lead quartet passed through half way in 1:16:20 with Okuno being the next to fade, followed by Tokoro.
It left Furuse and Wangui out in front, but not for long as the Kenyan started to fade significantly in the closing stages. Furuse, contesting her third marathon in 12 weeks, showed no such signs of fatigue and opened a 49-second margin between 30 and 35 kilometres.
Her lead grew to two minutes by 40 kilometres, by which point it was clear she was set to take the first marathon victory of her career. Wangui, meanwhile, was caught by Tokoro and Okuno in the final few kilometres.
Furuse went on to win in 2:34:09. Okuno made up some ground in the closing stages but not enough to catch Tokoro, who took second place in 2:36:21, 23 seconds ahead of her compatriot. Wangui crossed the line in fourth place in 2:39:31.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
1 Abdela Godana (ETH) 2:13:54
2 Yuki Munakata (JPN) 2:14:21
3 Hiroshi Ichida (JPN) 2:14:42
4 Kazuya Deguchi (JPN) 2:17:06
5 Ryo Kunimachi (JPN) 2:18:26
1 Asami Furuse (JPN) 2:34:09
2 Saki Tokoro (JPN) 2:36:21
3 Yukiko Okuno (JPN) 2:36:44
4 Pauline Wangui (KEN) 2:39:31
5 Aki Otagiri (JPN) 2:44:16