Skip to main content

First-Time Winner Mara Yamauchi Takes Osaka in 2:25:10 PB, Kayoko Fukushi 19th in Debut

by Brett Larner

Mara Yamauchi (GBR, Second Wind AC) took a surprise win in cold, windless, intermittently snowy conditions at the Osaka International Marathon, running a PB of 2:25:10 for her first marathon victory. Taking the lead at 34.63 km from struggling first-time marathoner Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), Yamauchi powered her way to the win, holding off a late charge from top Japanese finisher Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya). Morimoto finished 2nd in 2:25:34, a good time but not strong enough to seal her a spot on the Beijing Olympic team. Her fate is left up to the runners in March's Nagoya International Marathon, including Naoko Takahashi, Naoko Sakamoto, and possibly defending Osaka champion Yumiko Hara who dropped out shortly before today's race with a cold. Yamauchi's teammate Yuri Kano, one of the pre-race favorites, dropped out of the race with leg pain after only 17 km.

Osaka's other major pre-race favorite, Japanese national 3000 m, 5000 m and half marathon record holder Fukushi, had a disastrous but courageous debut. Fukushi took the lead from the first km, going out completely alone at an aggressive sub-2:20 pace while the large pack settled around 2:23 pace. Fukushi held roughly to 3:20/km for the first 25 km, looking relaxed, smooth and powerful, laughing at teammates' messages written on her drink bottles, gargling with her special drink, and repeatedly waving off camera bikes that came too close. Naoko Takahashi's Sydney-era coach Yoshio Koide commented on-screen that he thinks Fukushi has the potential to run 2:16 in the future, but that the truth of her debut would come in the final 10 km.

After 30 km she began to show signs of strain, slowing to 3:42 during the 32nd km versus a 3:21 by the chase pack of Yamauchi, Morimoto, Julia Mombi (Team Aruze), and fellow 1st-time marathoner Madoka Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko). During the 33rd km Yamauchi broke away from the other runners with a 3:18 km. Fukushi rapidly lost her lead of over 500 m, surrendering 1st place to Yamauchi at 34.63 km and to the others shortly before 35 km. She continued to slow to 6 minutes per km and beyond.

Her final km was a replay of that of Hiroyuki Ono in the final km of this year's Hakone Ekiden 5th stage. Fukushi staggered, almost falling several times before finally going down in the last 800 m. She got up and continued, but after entering the stadium she abruptly fell flat on her face. After struggling to stand and pausing to regain her bearings, Fukushi resumed running. With less than 200 m to go she fell again, laughing as she got up and continued on only to fall a final time 10 m from the finish. She once more forced herself up, laughing and bleeding, and crossed the finish line in 19th place with a time of 2:40:54, a humbling demonstration of the marathon's power.

Among the many PBs in the top 10, Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) deserves special mention. Unable to stay with the chase pack of 4 runners, Ohira had fallen back and was running alone in the final 10 km. After overtaking Fukushi, Ohira was able to run hard enough to catch up to debutante Ogi and finish 4th in 2:26:09, a PB by 3 1/2 minutes.

In her post-race victory interview, Yamauchi, speaking in Japanese, said that she had learned from running the Osaka course during last summer's World Championships marathon. In that race Yamauchi had attacked during the course's hilly pass through the Osaka Castle grounds, a move which she admitted had taken too much out of her. She told interviewers that this time she was resolved to save some energy for the end. Race announcers noted the obvious effects in this regard of Yamauchi's first-ever 45 km training run. "Today was only a 3 second PB; I hoped to run faster but a win is a win!" Yamauchi enthusiastically smiled during the interview, thanking spectators for their warm support in the midst of the snowy conditions.

1. Mara Yamauchi (GBR, Second Wind AC): 2:25:10 (PB)
2. Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya): 2:25:34
3. Julia Mombi (Kenya, Team Aruze): 2:26:00 (PB)
4. Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo): 2:26:09 (PB)
5. Madoka Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko): 2:26:55 (debut)
6. Lidia Simon (Romania): 2:27:17
7. Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko): 2:27:52 (PB)
8. Aki Fujikawa (Team Shiseido): 2:28:06
9. Constantina Tomescu (Romania): 2:28:15
10. Christelle Daunay (France): 2:28:23 (PB)

19. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal): 2:40:54

Complete results are available here.
Click here for the IAAF's coverage.

(c) 2008 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Scott Dunlap said…
Thanks for the great synopsis, Brett. It sounds like quite a race!

SD

Most-Read This Week

Takushoku Teammates Lemeteki and Akasaki Sub-62 For 1-2 at Ageo City Half Marathon

Takushoku University teammates Joseph Razini Lemeteki and Akira Akasaki dominated the 2019 Ageo City Half Marathon, alternating the lead throughout almost the entire race to go 1-2 in school record times.

With invitations to the 2019 United Airlines NYC Half up for grabs to the top two Japanese collegiate finishers in the unofficial intramural tryout for Japan's most prestigious race, the 2020 Hakone Ekiden, things went out very conservatively by Ageo standards at just 3:00/km for the first 2 km. Not content with that, Akasaki, 3rd on his stage at both the Izumo Ekiden in October and the National University Ekiden earlier this month, picked up the race and carried it until 15 km. From 3 km to 8 km Akasaki split 14:33, pace for 1:01:24, condensing the pack behind him down to eight.


After the 10 km turnaround Akasaki's teammate Lemeteki made a bold move to gain contact with the lead group, and when he did it shaved things down to seven serious contenders. The front group stayed …

Japanese Amateur Yamaguchi and Ugandan Kusuro Break Kobe Course Records

Amateur Japanese club runner Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) and Ugandan Geoffrey Kusuro had dominant wins at the 9th running of the Kobe Marathon Sunday, both running PBs and winning by almost 4 minutes in course record time.

Yamaguchi, who ran a PB 2:33:06 in Sydney in September and dropped a surprise 31:58 at last weekend's East Japan Women's Ekiden, slipped away early, never challenged by the pack of invited African elites or by friend and rival club runner Shiho Kaneshige (GRlab Kanto). Going through halfway faster than her half marathon PB in 1:13:08. She slowed slightly in the second half, especially on the large bridge out to the island finish line, but her win was never in doubt as she broke the tape in 2:27:39. Previously, the fastest pure amateur Japanese women's marathon performance was Chihiro Tanaka's 2:29:30 in Nagoya in 2002. Breaking that by almost two minutes, Yamaguchi staked her claim as Japan's best-ever amateur.


2nd through 5th were close together…

800 m High School National Record Holder Clay to Attend Texas A&M

2019 men's 800 m national champion and Soyo H.S. 3rd-year Aaron Tatsunami Clay will enroll in America's Texas A&M University next September, it was learned on Nov. 14. Until then he plans to remain based at Soyo in preparation to go for the win at next year's National Championships and to clear the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifying standard.

The prestigious Texas A&M is where Donovan Brazier (U.S.A.), winner of the gold medal in the men's 800 m at this fall's Doha World Championships, is enrolled. Soyo H.S. head coach Mitsuru Zeniya, 53, who accompanied Clay on a visit to see the university, was supportive of Clay's decision and goals, saying, "He just barely missed the World Championships qualifying standard. If he trains with athletes who are stronger than him he'll grow more."

Last year at the October Niigata Autumn Time Trials meet Clay set a national high school record of 1:47.51 for 800 m. At the National Championships in June this yea…