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TCS New York City Marathon - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

In a windy and weird race Japan's Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), rare top-level Japanese men at the TCS New York City Marathon, almost perfectly replicated their results from their U.S. debuts in New York last year, both of them among the countless people in the front pack to take the lead before slipping out of contention to finish 7th and 11th.

Like everyone else the cold headwind throughout most of the race meant time goals went out the window as soon as the gun fired.  The pace see-sawing between 3:20 and 2:50/km as course record holder Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya), 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi (U.S.A.), American Nick Arciniaga and two unknown Europeans all took their turns leading, Kawauchi made a move to go out front near 17 km to try to get things moving faster and was promptly nearly run down by an oblivious police motorcycle escort.  Two km later the pack reeled him in, and near 23 km at almost the same place where he lost touch with the leaders last year Kawauchi again fell back along with Americans Ryan Vail and Arciniaga.

Heading over the bridge into Manhattan Imai stayed with the lead pack, but when the group rounded the curve onto 1st Avenue the move that dropped him last year did not come.  Instead the pack slowed, letting Kawauchi, Vail and Arciniaga back into the fold.  Imai then went straight out front, gradually edging away and opening a lead of nearly a block before anyone responded.  For Japanese fans there were images of Brazilian Marilson Dos Santos' first NYC win, but this time the favorites didn't discount Imai's ability and let him run away.  Favorites Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) and Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia) and last year's 3rd-placer Lusapho April (South Africa) set off in chase, quickly reeling Imai in and going straight by.  Others followed, Imai falling to 10th and Kawauchi again losing touch and dropping to 14th.

As the race up front progressed to Kipsang's tight 2:10:59 win over Desisa both Imai and Kawauchi followed the same pattern as last year, picking off casualties over the last few km through Central Park as they finished strong.  6th last year, Imai could only manage 7th this year, his 2:14:36 time further off the winner than his solid 2013 performance.  Kawauchi, 11th in 2013 just under 2 minutes behind Imai after catching Olympic gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) in the last few hundred meters, almost exactly matched that performance, catching April at the 26 mile mark to take 11th in 2:16:41.  Post-race Kawauchi could not move his hands or walk unaided and spent close to an hour in the medical tent, a sign of how much the day took out of him.

Both Imai and Kawauchi's times were on the same level as many of the lackluster performances overseas by other National Team members and corporate runners this season, but the tough course, tougher conditions and their willingness to take a risk at leading, particularly in Imai's case, put them one level up from the rest.  When was the last time a Japanese man made a serious move to try to run away with it in a major overseas marathon?  Toshinari Takaoka's national record run in Chicago back in the day?  Kawauchi's result was his slowest of the year, his slowest-ever overseas and probably one of the worst of his 40 marathons to date, but altogether the pair's races were different from those of any other current Japanese men.  They clearly viewed themselves as part of the race, legitimate competitors with a shot at it against the best, not just there to tag along for "experience."  And that is a major step in the right direction.  Most of the Majors may be hopelessly unrealistic, but with guys like these it looks like New York and Boston are still in reach if they can just get it right.  Maybe next year.

44th TCS New York City Marathon
New York, U.S.A., 11/2/14
click here for complete results

1. Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:10:59
2. Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia) - 2:11:06
3. Gebre Gebremariam (Ethiopia) - 2:12:13
4. Meb Keflezighi (U.S.A.) - 2:13:18
5. Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:13:25
6. Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya) - 2:13:44
7. Masato Imai (Japan/Team Toyota Kyushu) - 2:14:36
8. Peter Kirui (Kenya) - 2:14:51
9. Ryan Vail (U.S.A.) - 2:15:08
10. Nick Arciniaga (U.S.A.) - 2:15:39
11. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:16:41
12. Lusapho April (South Africa) - 2:16:50

1. Mary Keitany (Kenya) - 2:25:07
2. Jemima Sumgong (Kenya) - 2:25:10
3. Sara Moreira (Portugal) - 2:26:04
4. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:26:15
5. Desi Linden (U.S.A.) - 2:28:10
6. Rkia el Moukin (Morocco) - 2:28:12
7. Firehiwot Dado (Ethiopia) - 2:28:35
8. Valeria Straneo (Italy) - 2:29:23
9. Buzunesh Deba (Ethiopia) - 2:31:38
10. Annie Bersagel (U.S.A.) - 2:33:01


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