Skip to main content

Kizaki Silver in Asian Games Marathon

by Brett Larner

The Incheon Asian Games women's marathon played out almost to script, with the four fastest women in its field finishing almost perfectly in PB order.  After a very slow first 5 km of 18:49, 2:38:48 pace, Kenyan-born Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa (Bahrain), the #1-ranked woman in the race, began a series of small surges to cover the next 5 km in 17:27 and open a gap over a chase pack of eight led by her teammate, #4-ranked Ethiopian-born Lishan Dula Gemechu (Bahrain), and #2-ranked Japanese favorite Ryoko Kizaki, the 4th-place finisher in last year's Moscow World Championships marathon.

From there Kirwa simply exploded, covering the distance from 10 to 15 km in 16:28, 2:18:58 pace, with Kizaki and Gemechu close behind.  As Kirwa relaxed slightly Kizaki picked it up to get into contact, leaving Gemechu to run the rest of the race alone.  Once Kizaki was next to Kirwa they stayed side-by-side virtually until 37 km, their splits constant and hovering around 17 minutes flat per 5 km the entire way, just barely faster than Kizaki's 2:23:34 PB pace and not exactly an easy cruise for Kirwa.

At 32 km Kirwa began to throw in surges on corners, but Kizaki stayed calm and focused and each time closed the gap without wasting her strength.  Near 37 km, however, Kirwa put in a decisive move that opened a few meters on Kizaki, who for the first time began to look strained.  After a drink station Kizaki began to push to try to get back into contact, but at 40 km she was down 22 seconds on Kirwa.

Summoning up her strong kick Kizaki closed 9 seconds in the final 2.195 km but could not challenge for the gold as Kirwa crossed the finish line in 2:25:37, Kizaki claiming silver in 2:25:50.  Considering that their first 5 km was 1:45 slower than they ran the rest of the race the leading pair's times were more impressive than they looked, Kirwa running 2:23:50 pace from 5 km to the finish and Kizaki 2:24:04.  Props to Kizaki for bringing her A-game even if it wasn't enough to beat Kirwa and pick up the guaranteed place on the Japanese 2015 World Championships marathon team available to a gold medalist in Incheon. 

Back in the field, Japan's other contender, #3-ranked Eri Hayakawa, was among the first serious competitors to drop off the chase pack.  As the pack fragmented she began to pick up other athletes, forming third group with Seongeun Kim (South Korea), Chao Yue (China) and Yinli He (China) as, farther ahead, North Korean twins Hye-Gyong and Hye-Song Kim worked together to overtake the flagging Gemechu.  Then, nearing 30 km, the marathon happened.

The Kim twins split up, and even as Hye-Gyong began to lose ground on Gemechu Hye-Song fell further back and was overtaken by Yue, then Hayakawa, then He, and finally by the South Korean Kim.  Next it was Hye-Gyong's turn to be run down.  By 35 km Gemechu had slowed almost to a walk, Yue almost a minute faster between 30 and 35, and despite recovering Gemechu was still slower over the next 5 km to 40.  Hayakawa was not out of it, though, throwing it down hard after 40 km to close with the fastest final 2.195 km outside of medalists Kizaki and Kirwa.

Gemechu came onto the track for a final lap with Hayakawa just 50 m back and Yue right behind her.  Hayakawa bore down to catch her, and it looked set to be a thrilling final 100 m sprint finish.  But the biggest excitement, what this race will be remembered for, was still to come.  At the end of the back straight, the exhausted Gemechu abruptly stopped, for whatever reason thinking it was the finish line.  Two seconds later Hayakawa flew by in full stride.  Gemechu watched her go by in puzzlement without reacting until Yue was next to her.  Realizing her mistake she exploded into a sprint.

She immediately dropped Yue and got even with Hayakawa coming into the straight.  Gemechu opened a few meters, and although Hayakawa dug even deeper and closed on her again it proved enough for Gemechu to take bronze in 2:33:13, Hayakawa a step and a second behind in 2:33:14.  Although there had been no markings to indicate that where she stopped was the finish line Gemechu was furious with race officials after she finished, but in post-race interviews Hayakawa laughed about the whole thing and shook her head.  Chalk it up to experience.

2014 Asian Games Women's Marathon
Incheon, South Korea, 10/2/14
click here for complete results

1. Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa (Bahrain) - 2:25:37
2. Ryoko Kizaki (Japan) - 2:25:50
3. Lishan Dula Gemechu (Bahrain) - 2:33:13
4. Eri Hayakawa (Japan) - 2:33:14
5. Chao Yue (China) - 2:33:20
6. Yinli He (China) - 2:33:46
7. Hye-Gyong Kim (North Korea) - 2:36:38
8. Seongeun Kim (South Korea) - 2:38:16
9. Hye-Song Kim (North Korea) - 2:38:55
10. Iuliia Andreeva (Kyrgyzstan) - 2:39:25

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi and Kiyara Headline Wan Jin Shi Marathon

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returns to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon this Sunday for his marathon of the post-Yuta Shitara era. The runner-up in Wan Jin Shi in 2016, Kawauchi is ranked #1 in the field and comes to Wan Jin Shi with wins in his last three marathons but faces a solid field including fellow sub-2:10 man Peter Kiplagat Sitenei, last year's runner-up Tsegaye Debele (Ethiopia), and the only man to beat him last time around, 2016 winner and course record holder William Chebon Chebor (Kenya). Kawauchi plans to use the hilly race as a tune-up for his main marathon of the spring season, April's Boston Marathon.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rael Kiyara Nguriatukei (Kenya), winner of the 2012 Hamburg Marathon before being stripped of her title and suspended for a positive post-race test for norandrosterone, has the fastest recent time in the women's field with a 2:26:22 winning time at last year's Chongqing Marathon. Close behind is Chemtai …

1500 m Olympian Assefa Wins Nagoya, 22-Year-Old Sekine 2:23:07 Debut

Two-time 1500 m Olympian Meskerem Assefa (Ethiopia) ran down favorite Valary Jemeli (Kenya) with 4 km to go to win the 2018 Nagoya Women's Marathon, with the home town crowd wowed by the debut of the latest next big thing, 22-year-old Hanami Sekine (Japan Post).

Supported by three pacers, a lead pack of seven including Assefa, Jemeli, Sekine, Ethiopian Bahraini Merima Mohamed, Saitama International Marathon winner Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) and top-ranked Japanese women Reia Iwade (Dome) and Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) went through halfway in a decent 1:11:32. This proved too hot for a few of the past next big things to have run well in Nagoya the last few years, as Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu), 2:22:48 in Nagoya three years ago, and Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), 2:23:47 last year, were off the back of the pack in the first 10 km.

By 25 km Cheyech, Ohara and Iwade joined them off the back, leaving only Sekine in contention with the African trio of Jemeli, Assefa and Mohammed. Sekine, a…

Japan Dominates Asian Cross Country Championships

Japan dominated the 14th Asian Cross Country Championships Thursday in Guiyang, China, winning all four team gold medals to hold the hosts China back to silver in every race.

Japan's only individual gold came in the Junior Women's race, one of its usual areas of strength. Yuna Wada led a Japanese sweep of the top four positions to win the 6 km race in 20:43 with scoring teammates Ririka Hironaka and Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu just behind.

Wada Yuna of Japan wins Junior Women’s 6km cross country race of 14th Asian Cross Country Championship . Japan also won Team championship — Asian Athletics (@asianathletics) March 15, 2018
With the meet also serving as China's National Championships Chinese athletes won the individual gold in the other three races, Dan Li, Cairen Suolong and Jianhua Peng all showing better closing speed to beat their Japanese rivals by 3~4 seconds. Li won the Senior Women's 8 km by 3 seconds over Japan's Yukari Abe, leadi…