by Brett Larner
With a new 1:30 p.m. start time due no doubt to the exigencies of live television broadcast, sunny, humid and windy conditions with temperatures of 29 degrees greeted runners at the start of the 53rd Sapporo International Half Marathon on July 4. 2006 men's champion Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Cable) and 2008 women's winner Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) came out on top again, winning over the likes of 2009 World Championships marathon gold medalist Abel Kirui (Kenya), 2:05 marathoner Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) and course record holder Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem) in Njui's case and defending champion Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) in Kano's.
Njui ran a race both controlled and aggressive, at the head of the pack from start to finish but gradually building his win. A conservative 14:28 split over the downhill first 5 km gave way to a 14:22 on the flat from 5 to 10 km. Njui remained at the head of the pack as the group whittled down to four Kenyans, and when Mogusu lost touch just after 15 km it was Njui who did all the leading work for the rest of the race, accompanied by 2010 Sendai Half Marathon winner Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and 2010 National Corporate Half Marathon winner Samuel Ndungu (Kenya/Team Aichi Tokushu Seiko). Njui took the trio through the flat next 5 km in 14:28, then attacked on the uphill with 2 km to go, dropping first Mathathi and then Ndungu and running unchallenged to the finish to take his second Sapporo win, clocking 1:01:20. In his post-race interview Njui said he plans to run his debut marathon later this summer at the Hokkaido Marathon.
Mathathi, who broke one hour in his half marathon debut at Sendai earlier this season, overtook Ndungu for 2nd with Ndungu safely in 3rd ahead of Mogusu. Hakone Ekiden uphill great Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), a former teammate of Samuel Wanjiru, came up front behind in the uphill latter stages of the race to take 10th and finish as the top Japanese runner, picking up a likely spot on the Japanese national team for October's World Half Marathon Championships.
Kenyans Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) and Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo) went out in the lead in the women's race, pursued only by Kano as they went through 5 km in 16:25. Accompanied by national duathlon champion Yuya Fukaura (Harriers AC), former pro XC skiier Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) made contact with the lead trio just before 10 km, which the group passed in 33:18. Obare surprisingly drifted back shortly after 10 km, and from there it was a race between Nojiri and Kano, with Cheyech remaining passively behind as the two Japanese runners traded surges. Nojiri did most of the work, with a bold move just past 15 km after passing the mark in 50:29 and a series of attacks to follow. Kano managed to close the gap each time, and at the top the last uphill with just over 1 km to go she pulled away to take the top spot in 1:11:47, with Nojiri holding on to 2nd in 1:12:02. Like Ndungu in the men's race, National Corporate Half Marathon Championships winner Cheyech was 3rd. Defending champion Yurika Nakamura was never a factor in the race, finishing in 1:17:03. For her win Kano adds the option of a World Half Marathon Championships national team spot to her place on the Japanese team for November's Asian Games marathon.
For a detailed play-by-play, click here to read JRNLive's Twitter commentary on the race.
2010 Sapporo International Half Marathon - Top Finishers
click here for complete results
1. Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Cable) - 1:01:20
2. Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:01:32
3. Samuel Ndungu (Kenya/Team Aichi Tokushu Seiko) - 1:01:35
4. James Mwangi (Kenya/Tean NTN) - 1:02:44
5. Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem) - 1:03:18
6. Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) - 1:03:42
7. Harun Njoroge (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) - 1:03:44
8. James Maina (Kenya/Takushoku Univ.) - 1:03:55 - debut
9. James Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 1:04:02
10. Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 1:04:04
13. Abel Kirui (Kenya) - 1:04:17
52. Antonio Vega (U.S.A.) - 1:07:15
1. Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) - 1:11:47
2. Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:12:02
3. Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Kenya/Team Uniqlo) - 1:12:27
4. Noriko Matsuoka (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:12:34
5. Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:12:42
6. Doricah Obare (Kenya/Team Hitachi) - 1:13:18
7. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 1:13:30
8. Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) - 1:13:31
9. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 1:13:33
10. Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 1:13:42
(c) 2010 Brett Larner
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