by Brett Larner
Two-time defending champion Tetiana Gamera ran a 2:22:09 Ukrainian national record to win a third-straight Osaka International Women's Marathon in the race's 34-year history. Gamera went to the front heading out of the park around Osaka's Nagai Stadium and onto the roads before 5 km, challenged only by the last woman to win Osaka before her, 2012 champ Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya). In that race Shigetomo ran 2:23:23, more than 30 seconds up on Gamera's 2:23:58 best from her 2013 win, but without a sub-2:30 from Shigetomo since then the odds did not look to be in her favor.
Shigetomo and Gamera pushed the pace to near 2:22-flat while a chase pack of eight led by 38-year-old Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) and 39-year-old Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) ran closer to 2:24-25 pace. With a sub-2:22:30 requirement for auto selection to the 2015 Beijing World Championships team Shigetomo and Gamera hit the half in 1:11:15, but at the 180' turn just after halfway Gamera threw in a 3:16 km that dropped Shigetomo for good.
In her three previous runs at Osaka Gamera dropped negative splits with the fastest second half and final 2.195 km in the field. Despite running the first half 25 seconds faster than her half marathon PB this time she somehow found the drive to do it again, covering the back half in 1:10:54 and the last 2.195 km in 7:18, both the best in the field, for the win. Only Japanese national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) had ever run faster to win Osaka, with a 2:21:18 on the tougher old version of the course back in 2003.
Shigetomo didn't initially slow, simply unable to follow Gamera's sheer power. Behind her, Prokopcuka and Japan's Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu), a training partner of 2014 100 km World Championships silver medalist Chiyuki Mochizuki making her marathon debut as part of Osaka's new Next Heroine development program, worked together to close the gap to Shigetomo. When they pulled within 40 seconds Prokopcuka threw in a surge that got rid of Kido and put her ahead of Shigetomo into 2nd just after 30 km.
Shigetomo, in obvious discomfort, slowed, but Kido stalled as she was hit with the last 10 km of a marathon for the first time and stopped advancing. Prokopcuka pushed on for 2nd in 2:24:07, on at least one list the fastest time ever by a 38-year-old woman, while behind her Shigetomo bit down and hung on to 3rd, her 2:26:39 time not a good marker of how gritty her run really was. Not surprisingly far off the Federation's Beijing standard, Shigetomo was still faster than the 2:26:57 winning time run by Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) at the Yokohama International Women's Marathon selection race in November. Barring a spectacular Nagoya Women's Marathon in March the Federation's selection procedure will likely happen inside a black box, but considering that Shigetomo's coach Yutaka Taketomi is in charge of the Federation's women's marathoning program you have to figure she has a leg up in the process.
Kido looked set for 4th but was overtaken late in the game by Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion), a promising first-timer two years ago in Osaka who has struggled since then. Like Shigetomo's run, Watanabe's 2:28:36 was a semi-comeback. Kido came through in 5th in 2:29:08, the top first-timer and as expected leading the Next Heroine contingent. Ozaki took 7th in 2:29:56, missing the Japanese age 39 record by seconds but happy with a return to sub-2:30 territory.
In the accompanying Osaka Half Marathon, 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon bronze medalist Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) ran together with teammate Misaki Kato, both breaking the course record with Chepyego getting the win over Kato by 6 seconds in 1:09:43. For Chepyego it was a solid tune-up for her marathon debut next month in Tokyo. For Kato it was her first time under 70 minutes after a promising 1:10:44 debut at the 2013 Great North Run with support from JRN. The men's race in the half marathon was also between teammates as 2012 winner Takaaki Koda (Team Asahi Kasei) returned to the top with a 1:04:02 win by 4 seconds over Kenichi Shirashi. Like Chepyego, Shiraishi is also scheduled to run Tokyo.
34th Osaka International Women's Marathon
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1. Tetiana Gamera (Ukraine) - 2:22:09 - NR
2. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:24:07
3. Risa Shigetomo (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:26:39
4. Yuko Watanabe (Japan/Edion) - 2:28:36
5. Chieko Kido (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:29:08 - debut
6. Rika Shintaku (Japan/Shimamura) - 2:29:27 - PB
7. Mari Ozaki (Japan/Noritz) - 2:29:56
8. Yukiko Okuno (Japan/Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) 2:32:41 - debut
9. Shoko Mori (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:34:28 - PB
10. Kanae Shimoyama (Japan/Noritz) - 2:35:26 - debut
11. Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/YWC) - 2:36:29
12. Hisae Yoshimatsu (Japan/Shunan City Hall) - 2:39:48
13. Eri Tayama (Japan/Daito Bunka Univ.) - 2:39:53 - debut
14. Hiroko Miyauchi (Japan/Hokuren) - 2:41:29
15. Bornes Jepkirui (Kenya) - 2:41:47
16. Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:42:16
17. Sakiko Matsumi (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - 2:43:01
DNF - Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC)
DNF - Melkam Gizaw (Ethiopia)
18th Osaka Half Marathon
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1. Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Kyudenko) - 1:09:43 - CR
2. Misaki Kato (Japan/Kyudenko) - 1:09:49 - PB
3. Ai Inoue (Japan/Noritz) - 1:12:26
4. Saki Tabata (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:12:39
5. Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 1:12:49
1. Takaaki Koda (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:02
2. Kenichi Shirashi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:06
3. Shusei Ohashi (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:04:16
4. Naoto Miyagawa (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 1:04:20
5. Shota Atsuchi (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) - 1:04:35
(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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