by Brett Larner
Former Hakone Ekiden uphill specialist Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) had the best results of the day among the three Japanese athletes at the 2013 ING New York City Marathon, running a steady pace to advance to 6th in 2:10:45, the best-ever performance by a Japanese man in New York. The Koichi Morishita-coached Imai and, appearing with support from JRN, independent Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) stayed in the midst of the men's lead pack running into the wind throughout the first half of the race. When defending champion and eventual winner Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya) led a move at 22 km both Imai and Kawauchi fell off the group along with past New York champions Meb Keflezighi (U.S.A.) and Martin Lel (Kenya) and 2013 New York City Half Marathon runner-up Daniele Meucci (Italy).
Imai showed characteristic uphill strength heading onto the Queensboro Bridge just before 25 km, remaining within 10 seconds of the lead group after the turn onto 1st Avenue. Keflezighi and Lel soon vanished from contention, leaving Kawauchi and Meucci together for the next 15 km. As stragglers began to come back following the carnage of New York's characteristic First Avenue surge Imai held onto a steady pace, picking up places one by one and coming just shy of overtaking 2:05 man Stanley Biwott (Kenya) for 5th. His final 6th place finish in 2:10:45 was one step up from the top Japanese showings in Berlin, where Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) was 7th in 2:10:24, and Chicago, where Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda) was 7th in 2:10:29, particularly given that unlike Ishikawa and Sano he ran in the unpaced lead pack rather than a carefully-controlled second pack.
"But, this was my first time racing in the U.S. and in a race of this level. The field here was stronger than either of the World Championships I've run in and I placed better here than I did in either Daegu or Moscow, so it wasn't all bad. And I did better than Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) did in 2010." [laughs]
"I learned a lot too. Before the race Keflezighi told me that he has done marathon-distance training runs in 2:25 at 4000 m elevation, so he said he doesn't think my approach of using marathons as training is strange. Coming from an Olympic medalist that's very encouraging. During the race I was keying off Kiprotich and watching Mutai and Tsegaye Kebede. Mutai spent a lot of time going to the front and dropping back over and over. I think if he had focused on running more steadily he would have had a better result. I have more respect for the way Kebede ran, biding his time and not wasting his energy before making his move, even if he didn't win. But I learned a lot from watching both of them."
"With this behind me I think I could do a lot better next year if they wanted me back. I really liked the focus on racing without pacers. It's much better than the kind of heavily-controlled time trials we have in Japan. The atmosphere was amazing too. The screaming crowds put Tokyo to shame."
In the women's race, London Olympian Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) equalled Kawauchi's 11th place finish in 2:31:54. Running in the lackadaisical second pack far behind early leaders Buzunesh Deba and Tigist Tufa Demisse of Ethiopia, Shigetomo lasted until the Queensboro Bridge when she fell behind on the long uphill. She ran on solo from there to the finish.
2013 ING New York City Marathon
New York, 11/3/13
click here for complete results
1. Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya) - 2:08:24
2. Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:09:16
3. Lusapho April (South Africa) - 2:09:45
4. Julius Arile (Kenya) - 2:10:03 - PB
5. Stanley Biwott (Kenya) - 2:10:41
6. Masato Imai (Japan/Team Toyota Kyushu) - 2:10:45
7. Jackson Kiprop (Uganda) - 2:10:56
8. Peter Kirui (Kenya) - 2:11:23
9. Wesley Korir (Kenya) - 2:11:34
10. Daniele Meucci (Italy) - 2:12:03 - PB
11. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref.) - 2:12:29
12. Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:13:05
1. Priscah Jeptoo (Kenya) - 2:25:07
2. Buzunesh Deba (Ethiopia) - 2:25:56
3. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:27:47
4. Christelle Daunay (France) - 2:28:14
5. Valeria Straneo (Italy) - 2:28:22
6. Kim Smith (New Zealand) - 2:28:49
7. Sabrina Mockenhaupt (Germany) - 2:29:10
8. Tigist Tufa Demisse (Ethiopia) - 2:29:24 - PB
9. Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:30:04
10. Diane Nukuri-Johnson (Burundi) - 2:30:09 - PB
11. Risa Shigetomo (Japan/Team Tenmaya) - 2:31:54
12. Lisa Stublic (Croatia) - 2:34:49
text and photo (c) 2013 Brett Larner
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