by Brett Larner
Sammy Korir leads the pack at 30 km. Photo by Christian Sommer.
Nearly gale-force winds throughout the race, including a headwind from 28 km to the finish, kept times slow, but Kenya's Salim Kipsang persevered to take the 2009 Tokyo Marathon in 2:10:27.
Despite a PB of only 2:11:52, little-known Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) made the first big move of the race with an attack after 30 km. Kipsang and Sammy Korir (Kenya) came after Takahashi, and the three ran as a group over the next 5 km. Lost alone in no-man's land between the breakaway trio and the remnants of the lead pack was first-time marathoner Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), a 2007 World Championships 10000 m runner.
Losing ground after a water station mishap at 35 km, Kipsang came back to pass Korir and Takahashi at 37 km, pushing on to the finish. Maeda came on strong in the last stage of the race, likewise passing Korir and Takahashi and closing with a 7:14 split for the final 2.195 km, the fastest of any runner in the field, to finish as the top Japanese runner in 2:11:01. Maeda's performance, spectacular considering the conditions, earns him a spot on the Japanese men's marathon team for this summer's World Championships in Berlin. Takahashi held off Korir for 3rd, clocking a PB despite the conditions and putting himself into position as a possibility for the 5th position on the World Championships team.
In the women's race Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Aruze), running her first marathon in 4 years, ran 2:25:38 to win overall. Her time was a PB by 4 minutes and, like Maeda and Kipsang's, stellar given the conditions, but since the women's race in Tokyo was not a selection for Berlin she will not be named to the World Championships team barring seemingly reasonable inclusion of Tokyo among the races in the 'overseas major marathons' category introduced to this year's World Championships selection process for the first time. Nasukawa's time was 2 seconds faster than that of Osaka International Women's Marathon runner-up Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), the current provisional 5th team member. In interviews after the race Nasukawa said she intends to run the 5000 m in the World Championships. Nasukawa's teammate Yukari Sahaku came 2nd in a PB of 2:28:55, a triumph for both Team Aruze and its head coach Yoshio Koide.
In her final race before retiring, Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) was 3rd in the women's race in 2:29:19 despite a fall early on which left blood streaming down her right leg for the rest of the race. Nevertheless, Tosa held on, even outkicking Russian Alevtina Biktimirova in the final kilometer. Fellow women's veteran Harumi Hiroyama (Team Shiseido) ran her last marathon in 2:35:39. Men's national record holder Toshinari Takaoka (Team Kanebo), also in his last run, dropped out at 32 km with difficulties from a calf injury he sustained in February. Beijing Olympic marathoner Tsuyoshi Ogata (Team Chugoku Denryoku) likewise dropped out after falling behind the lead pack within the first few kilometers. It was a tough day all around for the Japanese veterans as men Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu) and women Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) and Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) finished well down in the field. 2007 Tokyo Marathon winner Daniel Njenga (Team Yakult/Kenya) fell apart after 30 km and ran a dismal 2:21:46. Although he failed to make the World Championships team, half-marathon ace Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) had his first decent result in three attempts at the marathon, running 2:14:43 to break the PB of his father Takayuki, a four-time national record holder in the marathon.
Personally speaking, Tokyo this year was my 23rd marathon. The 2007 Tokyo Marathon had the worst conditions I had previously run in, but today was close. Based on the top runners' splits and my own perception of the conditions, I would estimate that the wind cost at least 3 minutes, particularly over the final 7 km. Kipsang, Maeda, Nasukawa and Takahashi's performances are exceptional given the conditions.
2009 Tokyo Marathon - Top Finishers
1. Salim Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:10:27
2. Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - 2:11:01 - debut
3. Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) - 2:11:25 - PB
4. Sammy Korir (Kenya) - 2:11:57
5. Kenta Oshima (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:12:54 - PB
6. Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:12
7. Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine) - 2:13:27
8. Asnake Roro (Ethiopia) - 2:13:40
9. Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:13:53 - PB
10. Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu) - 2:14:00
1. Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Aruze) - 2:25:38 - PB
2. Yukari Sahaku (Team Aruze) - 2:28:55 - PB
3. Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:29:19
4. Alevtina Biktimirova (Russia) - 2:29:33
5. Shitaye Gemechu (Ethiopia) - 2:29:59
6. Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 2:31:57
7. Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) - 2:32:11
8. Luminita Talpos (Romania) - 2:32:22
9. Pamela Chepchumba (Kenya) - 2:32:40
10. Harumi Hiroyama (Team Shiseido) - 2:35:39
(c) 2009 Brett Larner
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