Skip to main content

Abitova Takes Windy Yokohama Women's Marathon

video stills and text by Brett Larner
photos and video by Mika Tokairin



As a high-pressure front swept away a week of cold and rain with cloudless morning temperatures of 20 degrees and variable, gusting winds, 2006 European 10000 m champion Inga Abitova of Russia scored her first important marathon win with a 2:27:18 victory at the inaugural Yokohama International Women's Marathon on Nov. 15.

As predicted, the race was between Abitova and 2009 Hokkaido Marathon winner Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC), who ran down Beijing Olympics silver medalist and 2007 World Champion Catherine Ndereba of Kenya for 2nd place in 2:28:51. Beijing gold medalist Constantina Dita (Romania), who reported injury troubles shortly before the race, was a distant 11th in 2:36:04.

Unseasonably warm conditions at the start played into the hands of Shimahara, an athlete noted for her warm weather skills and her fast finish. Having rehearsed a new fast-starting strategy for winning earlier this season in setting the course record of 2:25:10 at August's Hokkaido Marathon Shimahara did everything she had to do for the win, taking the race out at a respectable pace and clocking 3:23 through the first kilometer covering most of a short loop through Yokohama's famous Chinatown.

Heading into the first iteration of the new course's innovative 13 km+ main loop, Shimahara maintained control and took the pack of around ten through 5 km in 17:11. Dita stayed up front next to Shimahara before dropping back as the second loop began, while Reiko Tosa lookalike Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) kept perfectly even with Shimahara but aloof and alone far to the right of the main pack.

Ndereba ran her typical race strategy in recent years, sitting alone 10-15 seconds behind the lead group. As the first loop passed Yokohama Station to switch from northbound to southbound, the wind began to pick up and hopes of fast times began to fade. Shimahara continued to do all the work as the pack withered and the wind built through the second loop. Passing the starting point to begin the third loop and approaching 30 km there were five remaining up front, with Ndereba in contact a short distance behind.

As the leaders went by Yokohama's famous Akarenga red brick warehouses Abitova, a familiar face on Japan's international ekiden circuit, sprang into action, seizing the lead from Shimahara with a quick surge. The pack immediately strung out, with Ohira the initial closest trailer before Ndereba swiftly moved up to 2nd.

Shimahara remained calm, gradually upping her tempo over the last 10 km and picking off Ohira to move into 3rd. Down 80 m on Ndereba in the aftermath of Abitova's move, Shimahara began to inch back toward the Kenyan after the race again turned southward past Yokohama Station. As the winds built to a steady, furious blast over the final 5 km, Shimahara pulled even with Ndereba, then edged away even as the former world record holder tried to maintain contact for a sprint finish.

Abitova continued to accelerate as she handled the final kilometers with ease to take her first competitive marathon victory. With her last two marathons being her strongest performances to date Abitova is positioning herself near the top of the Russian marathon scene as she continues her transition from the track. Shimahara dispatched Ndereba over the final 2 km to take 2nd by 22 seconds, her second sub-2:30 in just over two months after not having cracked that barrier since 2006. She also picked up the first spot on the Japanese team for next year's Asian Games marathon where she will be the defending silver medalist. Shimahara will line up again in 4 weeks' time to defend her Honolulu Marathon title.

2004 Tokyo International Women's Marathon winner Bruna Genovese of Italy was a surprise 4th, overtaking Ohira shortly before the finish. Dita faded from her place in among the leaders, ending up nearly 10 minutes behind Abitova.

Yokohama's innovative criterion course, the first such for an elite marathon in Japan and the first race in Japan's international marathon circuit not to start and finish on a track, proved a success for the race up front and was popular with spectators who were able to walk between each side of the course to cheer in six or more spots.

Less happy with the course were the amateur women near the bottom of the field, those who barely made the 3:15 qualifying standard. To prevent logjams officials stopped those who were in danger of being overtaken by the leaders, meaning that with a main loop of just over 13 km 150 of the 400 or so in the amateur division were cut off. Nevertheless, with a potentially fast course in an interesting, scenic location and with impeccable organization the Yokohama International Women's Marathon could in time set the new standard for women's marathoning if organizers and sponsors have the desire and resources to make it competitive with the world's biggest, richest big city marathons.

2009 Yokohama International Women's Marathon - Top Finishers
click here for complete results
1. Inga Abitova (Russia) - 2:27:18
2. Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 2:28:51
3. Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) - 2:29:13
4. Bruna Genovese (Italy) - 2:29:57
5. Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:30:22
6. Robe Guta (Ethiopia) - 2:31:49
7. Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:32:09
8. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:32:20 - debut
9. Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) - 2:33:16
10. Naoko Tsuchiya (Shizuoka T&F Assoc.) - 2:35:12
-----
11. Constantina Dita (Romania) - 2:36:06

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Roberto said…
"... Reiko Tosa lookalike Miki Ohira ..."

Like it.

Most-Read This Week

5th-Ranked Koku Gakuin Pulls Off Last Km Upset to Win First-Ever Izumo Ekiden Title

In the modern era of systematic mass-production of quality by dominant teams like Tokai University and Aoyama Gakuin University it has been years since an underdog came through with a surprise win on Japan's university men's ekiden circuit, but that's just what happened at today's Izumo Ekiden to kick off the 2019-20 Big Three University Ekiden season.

The race was expected to be between defending champ Tokai and Buddhist powerhouse Komazawa University, with threats from AGU and fan favorites Toyo University. Like last year Tokai struggled a bit to get on its feet, lagging as a core leading quartet coalesced over the first half of the race's six stages. Running better than expected, #5-ranked Koku Gakuin University was right up in it along with AGU, Komazawa and Toyo, its second and third men Taiga Nakanishi and Yuhei Urano taking 3rd on their stages and Urano one of six men on the Third Stage to break its course record.

The leading quartet broke up into two pairs…

Local Unemployed Man Arrested For Stealing 330,000 Yen of Team's Money at Izumo Ekiden Alternates' Race

On October 14 Shimane prefectural police arrested local unemployed man Yudai Kawai, 32, on suspicion of stealing 329,000 yen [~$3000 USD] from university students' bags at the Izumo Ekiden alternates' race track 5000 m.

The alleged incident took place at approximately 5:10 p.m. on Oct. 14 at Hamayama Park Field in Izumo. Kawai was accused of entering a room off-limits to the general public, opening the bags  of two student managers for a private Tokyo-area university's ekiden team, and taking the money from their wallets.

According to police, Kawai entered the room during the track race when the room was unlocked and unwatched. While putting the empty wallets back in the bags Kawai was caught in the act by one team's head coach who happened to return to the room at that time. Students who were entered in the Izumo Ekiden as alternates but did not run had the option of taking part in the track 5000 m.

source article:
https://www.nikkansports.com/m/general/news/amp/201910…