by Brett Larner
Two-time National Corporate Half Marathon champion Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) continued her transition to the marathon today, following up on her 2:26:05 debut for 5th in Nagoya in March with a 2:26:57 win over London Olympics gold medalist Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) and others at the final running of the short-lived Yokohama International Women's Marathon.
The race started close to target pace with a 16:56 opening 5 km split, but from there to 10 km the Kenyan pacer Purity Cherotich lost control, running 16:35, sub-2:20 pace, and dropping all but independent Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) and debuting 19-year-old Reia Iwade (Team Noritz). With a 20-second lead over Tanaka and formerly Japan-based Kenyans Philes Ongori and Caroline Rotich both Nojiri and Iwade let go and coasted, returning to a more sensible pace with a 16:57 for the next 5 km. Rotich soon closed the gap and went by the leading Japanese pair, Nojiri letting her go but Iwade throwing caution to the wind again and going with her. Tanaka and Philes took their time regaining contact, catching up to form a pack of five after a slower 17:35 split took the leaders through 20 km.
Halfway came in a solid 1:11:56. Nojiri, who won the Hokkaido Marathon in late August, began to fade despite the gradually slowing pace, 40 seconds behind by 25 km. Little changed over the next 10 km until Rotich made a move at 35 km that dropped Iwade. Side-by-side-by-side at 40 km, Rotich abruptly folded, vomiting and losing touch with Tanaka and Ongori. Still together coming in to Yamashita Park for the finish, Tanaka opened a slight gap on Ongori that grew in the final straight to a 2-second margin of victory, 2:26:57 to 2:26:59. Iwade ran down the stricken Rotich for 3rd, her 2:27:21 the fastest-ever by a Japanese teenager. Olympic champion Gelana, appearing out of shape, was never a factor and finished a distant 6th in 2:29:13.
As the first selection race for the 2015 Beijing World Championships Japanese women's team Tanaka's win in Yokohama puts her name into the hat, but with a time far off the Federation's Beijing standard she is not likely to be picked if times in Osaka and Nagoya next year are several minutes faster. Considering that the fastest time by a Japanese woman this year was only 2:25:26 that may not happen, but either way Tanaka's fate won't be decided for a few months to come.
In the meantime, following its eviction from Tokyo six years ago the Yokohama International Women's Marathon now moves northwest to Saitama. The move may secure it the better budget it needed to achieve more than it did in Yokohama, but it also spells trouble for another long-standing elite race held the same day, the Ageo City Half Marathon in Ageo, Saitama, nearby the future Saitama International Women's Marathon's likely course. With Saitama police among the strictest in the nation when it comes to road closure permits and the Saitama Prefectural Government signing on as co-sponsors of the relocating marathon, Ageo organizers are very concerned that the move will force them to change their traditional date, a major problem for its important role as a key pre-Hakone Ekiden prep event for university men. How the move will play out remains to be seen.
6th Yokohama International Women's Marathon
Yokohama, Kanagawa, 11/16/14
click here for complete results
1. Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:26:57
2. Philes Ongori (Kenya) - 2:26:59
3. Reia Iwade (Team Noritz) - 2:27:21 - debut
4. Caroline Rotich (Kenya) - 2:27:32
5. Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:28:54
6. Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) - 2:29:13
7. Alina Prokopeva (Russia) - 2:29:18
8. Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine) - 2:29:26
9. Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 2:34:13
10. Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:35:36
DNF - Marisa Barros (Portugal)
DNF - Irvette Van Zyl (South Africa)
(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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