by Brett Larner
Dark was the night, cold was the ground. With heavy rain shifting to snow overnight and wind and below-freezing temperatures throughout the morning the 2013 Nagano Marathon had the kind of race conditions you would not wish on anybody, but although the course record was never an option civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) did what he had to do to secure his third marathon win in four starts so far this year, crossing the line in 2:14:27 more than a minute ahead of runner-up Alexsey Sokolov (Russia) to become the first Japanese man to win in Nagano's 15-year history. Alone after only 5 km, Natalia Puchkova (Russia) was just off her PB as she soloed a 2:30:40 victory in the women's race almost two km ahead of her closest competition.
Kawauchi ran the early stages of the race in a quartet with last year's runner-up Silas Sang (Kenya), Eritrean Isaias Beyn and Hirokatsu Kurosaki of 2013 New Year Ekiden national champion Team Konica Minolta as Sokolov ran more conversatively with 2:11 man Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon). By 15 km Kawauchi and Beyn were alone up front with Sokolov in pursuit of the fading Sang and Kurosaki. By halfway Sokolov was up to 3rd and 21 seconds behind the lead pair, but by 30 km he had closed the gap.
Beyn soon faded in the cold and left Sokolov to spar with Kawauchi, but by 40 km Kawauchi had pulled 11 seconds ahead and it was all but over. Practicing his last surge, Kawauchi split a superfluous 6:48 for the final 2.195 km to widen his lead to 1:04 by the end of the race, but his 2:14:27 was still the slowest winning time in Nagano history. Sokolov trudged home in 2:15:31, with Kurosaki hanging on for 3rd in 2:17:28. Sang was ultimately a DNF along with former national record holder Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu), who ran Nagano as a retirement race in place of last month's Lake Biwa Mainichi where he DNF'd after breaking a rib days beforehand.
With Kawauchi's nomination to Japan's Moscow World Championships marathon team expected this Wednesday, he will now shift his attention to a series of shorter races before returning to the marathon distance at the June 2 Chitose JAL International Marathon.
The women's race was a relatively straightforward affair, as Puchkova dropped Kenyan Beatrice Jepkemboi by 5 km and Japanese athletes Seika Iwamura (Team Higo Ginko) and Mika Okunaga (Yufuin Hammock AC) sorting themselves out by 15 km. By that point the running order among the top four was established and never changed, only the size of the gaps between them growing.
The only other action coming just behind them as Japan's top two masters runners Chihiro Tanaka (AthleC AC) and Yoshimi Hoshino (eAthletes AC) battled for 5th. Together through 30 km, Hoshino made a move to pull away but fell victim to Tanaka's tenacity and faded after 40 km, Tanaka taking 5th in 2:49:51 with Hoshino over two minutes behind. In just over a month look for Tanaka to shoot for the course record at the 30th anniversary running of the Unive Drenthe Marathon in Holland.
15th Nagano Marathon
click here for complete results
1. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:14:27
2. Alexsey Sokolov (Russia) - 2:15:31
3. Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:17:28
4. Kensuke Ujihara (Isesaki AC) - 2:18:13
5. Jun Matsumoto (Team Aichi Seiko) - 2:19:47
6. Yuta Koyama (Team Kotohira Kogyo) - 2:20:43
7. Takahiro Inoue (Team Komori Corp.) - 2:21:06
8. Shota Yamada (Team Kanebo) - 2:23:16
9. Isaias Beyn (Eritrea) - 2:23:17
10. Hiro Tonegawa (Alps Tool AC) - 2:23:32
William Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:34:11
Atsushi Fujita (Team Konica Minolta) - DNF
Silas Sang (Kenya) - DNF
1. Natalia Puchkova (Russia) - 2:30:40
2. Beatrice Jepkemboi (Kenya) - 2:36:51
3. Seika Iwamura (Team Higo Ginko) - 2:41:19
4. Mika Okunaga (Yufuin Hammock AC) - 2:44:21
5. Chihiro Tanaka (AthleC AC) - 2:49:51
6. Yoshimi Hoshino (eAthletes Shizuoka AC) - 2:52:03
Esther Nganga (Kenya) - DNF
Shoko Shimizu (Team Aichi Denki) - DNF
(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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