by Brett Larner
With temperatures in the high-mid teens on the first truly warm day of the year Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), Japan's top woman at the London Olympics, became the first athlete male or female to break the Japanese Federation's tough sub-2:08 and sub-2:24 standards for the Moscow World Championships, blasting a PB of almost exactly 3 minutes to win the Nagoya Women's Marathon in 2:23:34.
After a passable comeback from over 4 years of injury in Nagoya last year, national record holder and Athens Olympics marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) brought much of the fury, refusing to settle for less as she ran even with the pacers and pushed them to go ahead of the scheduled 3:24/km target pace after an on-point 33:56 first 10 km. A 3:17 split between 13 and 14 km took them to 15 km in 50:48 and dropped a handful of competitors from the pack including debuting Ome 30 km winner Asami Kato (Team Panasonic).
At halfway the lead group of Noguchi, Kizaki, Georgina Rono (Kenya), Margaret Agai (Kenya), Genet Getaneh (Ethiopia), Berhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) went through in a fine 1:11:32 with Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) and Eri Hayakawa (Team Toto) a stride or two behind. Agai and Dibaba went to the front for the first time, taking the leaders through 25 km in 1:24:49 and opening a gap on Getaneh. Favorite Rono joined them up front briefly but just before 30 km slipped backwards after a move by Dibaba and lost touch with the leaders, followed shortly by Agai. At 30 km, hit in 1:41:54, it was down to Dibaba, Noguchi and Kizaki running single-file.
At an uphill at 33 km Noguchi made a move to go ahead, but Dibaba and Kizaki were right with her. 35 km came in 1:59:07, well on track for the sub-2:24 Federation standard. Then a step at a time Noguchi began to lose touch, 2 seconds behind Dibaba and Kizaki at 36 km, 6 seconds at 37 km and on. With 5 km Dibaba attacked, Kizaki slipping behind but quickly regaining her footing. At 39 km it was Kizaki's turn for a move, then Dibaba again as they hit 40 km in 2:16:23. Noguchi was 10 seconds behind.
With 2 km to go Kizaki attacked again, and this time it was for good. As in her 2011 Yokohama win she showed superlative closing speed, a 3:18 from 40 to 41 km creating a 5 second gap over Dibaba that grew all the way to her 2:23:34 finish a full 17 seconds ahead, splitting 7:11 from 40k to the end. Dibaba was likewise under 2:24 in a big new PB of 2:23:51. 14 seconds further back, Noguchi just missed the sub-2:24 standard but took 3rd in a solid 2:24:05, the fourth-best time of her career (!) and faster than Osaka runner-up Kyoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), heretofore the leading candidate for the Moscow team. She's back. Prokopcuka improved on her performance in Yokohama with a 2:25:46 for 4th, while Eri Hayakawa (Team Toto) followed up on the promise of her PB at last month's Marugame Half Marathon by smashing her 8 1/2-year-old best by 2 minutes to round out the top five in 2:26:17.
Although Nagoya was the final domestic selection race for Moscow, the London Marathon also factors into the calculations, and with at least three top-flight Japanese women, Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) due to run there the team lineup is far from clear. Kizaki is in, and Noguchi, who pre-race was vocal in her criticism of the current state of Japanese women's marathoning and its typical ignore-the-race-and-go-for-top-Japanese mentality best exemplified by top Yokohama Japanese finisher Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.), has a good chance after making the race and finishing with a strong time and placing 10 years after her silver at the Paris World Championships. The top two Japanese women in Osaka, Fukushi and the young Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion) are also in the fold for the team after strong runs. If one or two of the women in London run 2:25 or faster the Federation will have plenty of choices in putting together a team without having to resort to including Nasukawa. Presumably the sub-2:24 time standard was an indication that they expect more than just shooting to be the top Japanese. The exclusion of the Yoshio Koide-coached Nasukawa would send the clear and necessary message that that kind of mindset is not going to be tolerated or rewarded any more. But regardless of their final decision, it was refreshing to see Japanese women running like their reputation of old, up front, in control and ambitious.
2013 Nagoya Women's Marathon
click here for complete results
1. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 2:23:34 - PB
2. Berhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:23:51 - PB
3. Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) - 2:24:05
4. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:25:46
5. Eri Hayakawa (Team Toto) - 2:26:17 - PB
6. Mestawet Tufa (Ethiopia) - 2:26:20 - debut
7. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:27:17
8. Genet Getaneh (Ethiopia) - 2:28:08
9. Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) - 2:30:26 - debut
10. Misato Horie (Team Noritz) - 2:30:52 - PB
11. Asami Furuse (Team Kyocera) - 2:30:57
12. Nicole Chapple (Australia) - 2:32:31 - debut
13. Hiroko Yoshitomi (First Dream AC) - 2:32:43
14. Chizuru Ideta (Team Daihatsu) - 2:32:50
15. Kumi Ogura (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 2:34:01 - PB
16. Shino Saito (Team Shimamura) - 2:35:47 - debut
17. Akane Mutazaki (Team Edion) - 2:37:14
18. Sumiko Suzuki (Team Hokuren) - 2:38:06
19. Tomomi Higuchi (Team Daihatsu) - 2:39:22
20. Mai Tanabe (Team Aichi Denki) - 2:40:21
21. Megumi Kanetomo (Team Yamada Denki) - 2:41:26
22. Miki Oka (Team Kojima Press) - 2:42:23
23. Mariko Asato (Okinawa T&F Assoc.) - 2:44:11
24. Sayaka Yamaguchi (Team Aichi Denki) - 2:45:54
25. Saori Kawai (Team Nihon ChemiCon) - 2:47:33
DNF - Georgina Rono (Kenya)
(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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