Skip to main content

Daniel and Kawauchi Win Saitama International Marathon

After missing a medal by 3 seconds at August's London World Championships, defending champ Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) made it two in a row as she won a tight battle against Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) to win the Saitama International Marathon in 2:28:39.

With the onus on Japanese women Reia Iwada (Dome) and Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) to break 2:29:00 in order to qualify for Japan's new-format 2020 Olympic trials race, the pair of them did most of the heavy lifting for the first two-thirds of the race. Yoshida led the early kilometers before Iwade took over, and through strong head and tailwinds, over rolling hills and around sharp turns Iwade kept things moving just under target pace, shaking the pack down to just her, Daniel, Habtegebrel and relative unknown Bekelech Daba (Ethiopia) by 15 km.

Little changed up front until after the lead group hit the start of the hilliest 10 km on the course after 25 km. For the first time Iwade slipped to the rear of the pack, and on a long uphill at 29 km she lost contact. Habtegebrel surged at 30 km to open a 10 m lead on Daniel and Daba, but they soon regained contact. Near 35 km Daniel went to the front for the first time, putting Daba out of contention.

From there to the finish it was a battle on an incremental scale, both runners launching brief attacks and alternating the lead, the face of each betraying patches good and bad. Habtegebrel looked the stronger in the last km, but with just over 200 m to go Daniel dropped the kick that gave her the win, opening 3 seconds over her Ethiopian-born rival. Daba hung on for 3rd in 2:30:06.

Further back, Charlotte Purdue (Great Britain), an early casualty of Iwade's aggressive pacing, came back to run her down, passing her at 38 km and opening more than 30 seconds over the last 4 km to take 4th in 2:30:34. Iwade was 7 minutes off her best and over 2 minutes short of the 2:29:00 qualifying standard, taking 5th in 2:31:11. It was a disappointing result for the JAAF, who hoped to have the talented young Iwade's name added to the early list of trials qualifiers. All told the windy conditions made for slower than expected times, 10th-placer Shiori Shimomura (Comody Iida) the only woman in the top 10 to PB at 2:43:51.

Starting 30 minutes after the elite women, the mass-participation field saw local hero and race ambassador Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) line up a week after running 2:15:02 at the Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes Nice-Cannes in France, just the second time in his career that he has tackled back-to-back marathons. With the 2:18:50 course record well within his sights Kawauchi hoped to run 2:13 to 2:15 and break into the elite women's top ten.

An over-enthusiastic start took him through 5 km on high-2:08 pace, and from there to the finish Kawauchi ran almost every 5 km slower than the one before. Just past 40 km he passed 12th-place woman Yoshida, and with a kick he crossed the finish almost three minutes under the course record in 2:15:54. His 75th marathon, Kawauchi's result was the 60th sub-2:16 of his career and put him just two races away from American Doug Kurtis' sub-2:20 career record, a mark he hopes to tie at next month's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and break at January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon in the U.S.A.

In the general division women's race another serial racing local also took the top spot. Just nine days after winning the Gunma Marathon in a 2:40:59 PB and course record, 24-year-old amateur Tomomi Sawahata (Sawahatters) won the general division in 2:41:30, a time that would have put her 10th in the elite division. With both races having had just three runnings it was Sawahata's third year in a row doing the Gunma-Saitama double, all wins and all but one in low-2:40-range times. A sub-2:40 would put her at the very top of Japan's amateur list and normally a woman that level would run in the JAAF-registered division at races, but Sawahata appears to be steadfast in remaining in the general division in every race that she runs. Chalk her up as another unique individualist out of Saitama prefecture.

3rd Saitama International Marathon

Saitama, 11/12/17

1. Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) - 2:28:39*
2. Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) - 2:28:42*
3. Bekelech Daba (Ethiopia) - 2:30:06
4. Charlotte Purdue (Great Britain) - 2:30:34
5. Reia Iwade (Japan/Dome) - 2:31:11
6. Philes Ongori (Kenya) - 2:32:01
7. Sinead Diver (Australia) - 2:33:01
8. Monika Stefanowicz (Poland) - 2:38:31
9. Mayumi Uchiyama (Japan/Nitori) - 2:41:28
10. Shiori Shimomura (Japan/Comody Iida) - 2:43:51 - PB
11. Alice Mason (New Zealand) - 2:44:05 - PB
12. Kaori Yoshida (Japan/RxL) - 2:46:50

*The times run by Daniel and Habtegebrel were later annulled due to the incident on the last corner.

1. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:15:54 - CR

General Division Women
1. Tomomi Sawahata (Sawahatters) - 2:41:30

Kawauchi photo by Ekiden Mania, © 2017 Kazuyuki Sugimatsu, all rights reserved
text © 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved


Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi and Kiyara Live Up to Expectations With Wan Jin Shi Wins

Returning to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon after having first run it in 2016, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:14:12 to score his fourth-straight marathon win in a third-straight wire-to-wire solo performance. Choosing the hilly Wan Jin Shi Marathon as his final main tuneup for next month's Boston Marathon, Kawauchi came out swinging, leading an all-African pack of seven by almost 10 seconds after the tough uphill opening 5 km and stretching that out to over two minutes by the turnaround point at halfway.

On track to break the 2:13:05 course record by more than two minutes. under sunny skies with temperatures climbing to 22C and nearly 80% humidity Kawauchi began to slow incrementally. Behind him, Johnstone Kibet Maiyo (Kenya) and Aredome Tiuyay Degefa (Ethiopia) separated from the chase pack and began to push each other in pursuit of the top spot. With every 5 km split the gap to Kawauchi narrowed. At 40 km Maiyo threw down to get rid of Degefa, blasting the dow…

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 …

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…