by Brett Larner
In his third-straight appearance on a World Championships or Olympic team, Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) confirmed his position as Japan's best marathoner, building on his 10th-place finish at the 2011 Daegu World Championships and 6th-place finish last summer at the London Olympics with a characteristically steady and relentless race for 5th in 2:10:50 in the Moscow World Championships marathon after spending most of the race in the leading pack with eventual medalists Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda), Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia) and Tadese Tola (Ethiopia) and defending Chicago and London Marathon champion Tsegay Kebede (Ethiopia).
After a slow first 10 km the leading group settled onto a mid-2:10 pace where it stayed for the remainder of the day. Nakamoto and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) were quick to position themselves near the front of the pack, with Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) and Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) hanging back at the rear. With only two months of running in his legs after a stress fracture kept him out of training this spring, Daegu 7th-place finisher Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) lagged behind early, slipping back by 10 km and dropping out at 13 km. By 20 km Kawauchi, who pre-race expressed fear about his ability in warm weather, was in trouble, already gritting his teeth as he faded back from Nakamoto. Nakamoto went through halfway in 1:05:13 among the leaders, but Kawauchi had slipped 8 seconds and been overtaken by Maeda. A short distance later Fujiwara caught up, but though Kawauchi tried to tuck in behind him by 25 km he was more than 15 seconds behind.
Around 25 km Nakamoto appeared to be itching to make a move, pulling to the front for the first time slightly wide of the pack and turning to look them up and down. A series of feints by Tola, Kenyan Peter Some, Ugandan Jackson Kiprop and others shook many free of the leaders, but Nakamoto tenaciously stayed in contact through it all. As he continued to run strong up front Maeda, who lost substantial training time this spring due to ankle surgery that required extensive rehabilitation, picked up places, advancing to 19th by 30 km. Fujiwara was 12 second back in 21st, Kawauchi another 39 seconds behind in 23rd.
When the real move came just past 30 km with a hard surge from teammates Kiprotich and Kiprop the pack immediately splintered. Nakamoto found himself in the third sub-group with 2:04 Ethiopian Yemane Tsegay and 2:06 Kenyan Bernard Kipyego. Keeping his head, he gradually picked up his pace to make ground back up as the leaders settled down into something sustainable. Nakamoto's gradually increasing pressure first broke Kipyego, then Tsegay. Kiprop, fading from the lead group, was next at 34 km, and at 35.5 km Nakamoto rejoined the leaders to make it a pack of six. Kiprotich's big move 700 m later was decisive, dropping Nakamoto and Kebede from contention and shortly putting Some to rest. Nakamoto continued to push, and at 38.5 km he sailed past sinking 2:05 man Some into 5th. Kebede came back into range, only 3 seconds ahead as they came onto the stadium grounds.
Olympic champion Kiprotich outgunned Boston marathon champion Desisa for the win in 2:09:51, both men recording modest negative splits. Tola, who did much of the hard work to keep the pace throughout the race, was dead even at 2:10:23 after a 1:05:12 first half. Nakamoto, whose biggest weakness has been a lack of finishing speed in at least three key races, looked as though he would get Kebede on the track as he closed to within 1 second on the final curve, but the great Ethiopian had enough left to squeeze out what he needed in the last 100 m for 4th in 2:10:47. Nakamoto was right behind in 2:10:50, achieving his minimum goal of improving on his London result. "I placed better than in London last year, so I'm satisfied," he said teary-eyed post-race. "I really wanted to catch one more person, though. It was the hotter than I expected, so that played in my favor, but while I think my result was good I could tell that there is still a big gap to becoming a medalist or world-class. I didn't have enough after 35 km and that's something I still need to work on. Thanks to everyone who came to cheer for me here and to the people back home, and I'll try to do better next time."
Fujiwara, having overtaken Maeda just before 35 km, was the next Japanese man in, running down Spain's Javier Guerra and Eritrea's Samuel Tsegay for 14th in 2:14:29, bringing to a close ten years of unfinished business since his DNS at the 2003 Paris World Championships. "We were all shooting for top 8, so I'm so sorry about only finishing 14th," he said. "I lost touch with the pack earlier than I thought, so I had to keep going by myself for a lot of it. I would have liked to do better, but this was what I could do with what I have now. Ten years was a long time to get to this finish line, but I'll try to improve on this result two years from now."
2:08:00 man Maeda, with insufficient training in his legs post-surgery, was heavy and slow-moving as he came to the line in 17th in 2:15:25, but he had the satisfaction of being within the sight of his fast-closing bitter rival Kawauchi, a disappointing 18th in 2:15:35 and was taken straight to receive medical assistance. "I couldn't really run like myself," Maeda said. "I lost touch early and felt like I was just plodding along. I couldn't hang on in the second half either. I was hoping for top 8 too, but I didn't have the strength."
After receiving medical treatment Kawauchi told reporters, "I did a lot of different things to get ready for this, but I couldn't cope at all. I have to rethink many things." Pre-race Kawauchi had said that he would quit running summer marathons if Moscow did not go well. "Next year at the Asian Games [Incheon, South Korea, Sept. 2014] I'll give it one last chance. Maybe I can get the gold medal there. If not....."
Moscow World Championships Men's Marathon
click here for complete results
1. Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:09:51
2. Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia) - 2:10:12
3. Tadese Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:10:23
4. Tsegay Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:10:47
5. Kentaro Nakamoto (Japan) - 2:10:50
6. Solonei Da Silva (Brazil) - 2:11:40
7. Paulo Roberto Paulo (Brazil) - 2:11:40
8. Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) - 2:11:43
9. Peter Kimeli Some (Kenya) - 2:11:47
10. Jackson Kiprop (Uganda) - 2:12:12
14. Masakazu Fujiwara (Japan) - 2:14:29
17. Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan) - 2:15:25
18. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan) - 2:15:35
DNF - Hiroyuki Horibata
(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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