by Brett Larner
Athens Olympic marathon gold medalist and Japanese marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) successfully defended her title at the Sendai International Half Marathon on May 11, running 1:08:25 to beat her time from last year`s race by 29 seconds and erase doubts about her fitness level after a spring filled with minor setbacks. The Sendai course, which features a 35 m elevation gain over the final 9 km, played to Noguchi`s strengths as she employed a similar strategy to that she used in winning last November`s Tokyo International Women`s Marathon.
Noguchi went out hard, running course record pace through 15 km despite the cold, rainy conditions which blanketed most of Japan over the weekend. Despited dropping off record pace, she applied pressure on rival Julia Mombi (Team Aruze) of Kenya over the length of the uphill, finally breaking away with an attack around 20 km. Mombi held on to finish 2nd in 1:08:31, a sizeable PB over her previous best mark of 1:09:34 from this past January. The rest of the field was far behind, with 3rd place finisher Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon) coming to the goal in 1:11:44.
Noguchi told reporters after the race that she was very pleased with her result and what it means for Beijing. She said her body felt strong and that she is now highly confident for the Olympics.
In the men`s race, Team Komori Corp.`s young ringer Harun Njoroge captured a tight competition, winning in 1:01:55 while rookie Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) ran a massive 3:34 personal best to take 2nd in 1:02:00. It was a near-replay of Njoroge`s victory in February`s Marugame Half Marathon, where he won by a narrow margin in cold and rainy conditions despite moving to Japan only days before.
Half marathon ace Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokusho Seiko) and Osamu Ibata (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) was close behind Njoroge and Nakao, finishing in 1:02:05 and 1:02:08 respectively. 12 more runners recorded times under 1:03 including marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka who was 9th in 1:02:32. Defending champion Onbeche Mokamba was 32nd with a time of 1:04:44.
1. Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex): 1:08:25
2. Julia Mombi (Team Aruze): 1:08:31 PB
3. Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon): 1:11:44
4. Mikiko Hara (Team Nihon ChemiCon): 1:12:38
5. Hiroko Shoi (Team Nihon ChemiCon): 1:13:26
6. Mai Tagami (Team Aruze): 1:14:47
7. Mizuho Kishi (Team Yamada Denki): 1:15:02 PB
8. Tomomi Higuchi (Team Daihatsu): 1:15:06
9. Miki Oka (Team Daihatsu): 1:15:55
10. Saki Matsumoto (Ritsumeikan University): 1:17:30
1. Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.): 1:01:55
2. Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku): 1:02:00 PB
3. Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokusho Seiko): 1:02:05
4. Osamu Ibata (Team Otsuka Seiyaku): 1:02:08 PB
5. Joseph Mwaniki (Team Konica-Minolta): 1:02:23
6. Kiyokatsu Hasegawa (Team JR East): 1:02:26 PB
7. Takahiro Kitagawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku): 1:02:28 PB
8. Yuki Abe (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki): 1:02:28 PB
9. Toshinari Takaoka (Team Kanebo): 1:02:32
10. Masaki Shimoju (Team Konica-Minolta): 1:02:39
Complete men`s and women`s results are available from the Sendai International Half Marathon website.
The IAAF`s report on Sendai is here.
(c) 2008 Brett Larner
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