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Wanjiru Wins Fukuoka in Course Record 2:06:39

by Brett Larner

World half-marathon record holder Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya) won his debut marathon at today`s Fukuoka International Marathon, smashing the course record by 12 seconds to finish in 2:06:39. Second place finisher Deriba Merga (Ethiopia) also went under the old course record to finish in a major PB of 2:06:50. Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) had the breakthrough he had been hoping for, running an excellent 2:07:13 PB to seal a place on the Japanese men`s marathon team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The day was sunny and cool with steady breezes, a day made for excellent performances. Wanjiru and Merga`s times were the second and third-fastest ever run in Japan and the first time two 2:06 performances have taken place in the same race in Japan. Sato`s result ranks him as the fourth-fastest Japanese runner of all time. Together, the three runners` marks rank Fukuoka second only to Amsterdam in the world this year.

Other pre-race favorites did not fare as well. Sato`s teammate Shigeru Aburaya was fifth yet again in 2:10:30. Former course record holder Atsushi Fujita was unable to respond to Wanjiru`s move after 30 km and finished eighth in 2:12:29, falling dramatically just meters before the finish. Japanese national record holder Toshinari Takaoka was tenth in 2:13:40, indicating that his days as a top-tier athlete are likely over.

Yuko Matsumiya, who received little pre-race attention compared to the other four invited runners, had a solid run to finish fourth in 2:09:40, just seconds off his PB. Depending upon the results in the remaining two Olympic selection races, the Tokyo Marathon in February and the Biwako Mainichi Marathon in March, Matsumiya has a good chance of being selected for the Olympic team and going to Beijing with his identical twin brother Takayuki, who will run the 10000 m.

Wanjiru indicated in interviews that he will go for a much faster time in London next year to make the Kenyan Olympic team. "It goes without saying that Kenyans are fast. 2:06 isn`t good enough to make the team for certain, so I will be aiming for a 2:05 in London."

IAAF coverage of Fukuoka

(c) 2007 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Stephen Lacey said…
Wanjiru ran a great race. Steady and composed. Even though Merga also still looked fairly comfortable at 40k, when the time to drop him came, Wanjiru did it with ease. A sensational debut. The joy on Sato's face for achieving his breathrough run was also great to see.

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