Most memorable part of Osaka Women's Marathon today: Leader Mao Ichiyama gets the bell with one lap of the course today, god bless 'em. 10th-placer Shiho Kaneshige said she doesn't think they gave her a ding for her last lap. pic.twitter.com/82cGXYre4F— Japan Running News (@JRNHeadlines) January 31, 2021
Running almost 15 laps of Osaka's Nagai Park behind a pair of male pacers right up to the entrance to the track finish, Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) came up two minutes short of Mizuki Noguchi's 2:19:12 national record but clipped 7 seconds off Noguchi's event record to win Sunday's Osaka International Women's Marathon in a world-leading 2:21:11.
Her Tokyo Olympics marathon teammate Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) was the only other woman to try to go with her, dropping off NR pace before 15 km but hanging on for an 18-second PB of 2:23:30 for 2nd with the help of another male pacer who stayed with her right to the start of the track finish. Ichiyama only made it through halfway on NR pace before she fell off, but she did manage to rally in the last few km to get under Noguchi's event record, even though Osaka organizers announced post-race that Ichiyama's mark would be listed as a mixed race record alongside Noguchi's women-only record in the hereafter.
Next up for both Ichiyama and Maeda marathon-wise is the Tokyo Olympic marathon in Sapporo. In theory, at least.
Coming in with identical 2:28:02 PBs, Yukari Abe (Shimamura) and Mao Uesugi (Starts) ran in the likewise male-paced second group, right together the whole way on low-2:24 pace before taking 3rd and 4th in big PBs of 2:24:41 and 2:24:52. The debuting Ayumi Hagiwara (Toyota Jidoshokki) started in the third group before moving up mid-race to finish 5th in 2:26:15. Reia Iwade (Adidas), who ran a PB of 2:23:52 just under two years ago in Nagoya, dropped out before halfway after starting out with Abe and Uesugi.
Further back, after missing the Osaka qualifying time but making the cut by placing in December's Osaka 30 km 60+ world record holder Mariko Yugeta (Saitama OIG) dropped the performance of a lifetime, going from last place at 5 km in the field of 71 starters to take 4:41 off her own 60+ world record with a 2:52:13 for 48th among the 61 finishers. While Yugeta negative split her previous world record, this time she went through halfway in 1:25:01. Could there be a little more room to go further? Could sub-2:50 be in sight? Either way, she has to be happy with today.
Neither Ichyama nor Maeda seemed especially happy with their results, and despite having an all-star commentary team of Japanese marathon legends including Noguchi, Yoko Shibui, Naoko Takahashi, Masako Chiba, Yuko Arimori and Akemi Masuda, the broadcast seemed to lack energy, amplified by the amount of attention paid to the male pacers. From a broadcast perspective it's hard to see this kind of paced-time-trial-in-a-park marathon taking off, and from another perspective there's cause for worry about the future.
Police in Japan are notoriously difficult about road closure permits. Given the relative success today performance-wise, with an event record, five PBs, and a good debut out of the top eight women, what's to stop the police from questioning why they should issue permits in the future when people can run fast inside a park? We don't know the answer to that, but if it happened, based on today it would be a serious, maybe fatal, blow to the sport's popularity without a serious reworking of how they approach the broadcast.
Nagai Park, Osaka, 31 Jan. 2021
1. Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) - 2:21:11 - MR, WL
2. Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) - 2:23:30 - PB
3. Yukari Abe (Shimamura) - 2:24:41 - PB
4. Mao Uesugi (Starts) - 2:24:52 - PB
5. Ayumi Hagiwara (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 2:26:15 - debut
6. Mirai Waku (Universal Entertainment) - 2:26:42 - PB
7. Ayano Ikemitsu (Kagoshima Ginko) - 2:28:26
8. Anna Matsuda (Kyocera) - 2:29:52 - PB
9. Mizuki Tanimoto (Tenmaya) - 2:31:07
10. Shiho Kaneshige (GRlab Kanto) - 2:31:56
11. Madoka Nakano (Iwatani Sangyo) - 2:32:56
12. Shiho Takechi (Yamada Denki) - 2:35:54
13. Kaoru Nagao (Sunfield AC) - 2:38:37
14. Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) - 2:39:26
15. Tomomi Sawahata (Saitama T&F Assoc.) - 2:40:19
16. Yuko Kawauchi (Nissei) - 2:40:22
17. Maki Nishioka (Wakayama Triathlon Assoc.) - 2:40:53 - PB
18. Tomoko Horioka (unattached) - 2:41:00 - PB
19. Natsuki Ogawa (Kobe Gakuin Univ.) - 2:41:10 - PB
20. Chizuru Oi (Nara-X AC) - 2:41:26 - debut
21. Mai Fujisawa (Sapporo Excel AC) - 2:41:39
22. Yumi Miyanaga (Osaka Geijutsu Univ.) - 2:42:29 - debut
23. Hiroko Miyauchi (Hokuren) - 2:44:09
24. Rui Miike (Osaka Univ.) - 2:44:29 - PB
25. Mikiko Ota (Kyoto Sumiyama AC) - 2:44:53 - PB
48. Mariko Yugeta (Saitama OIG) - 2:52:13 - 60+ WR
DNF - Reia Iwade (Adidas)
DNF - Yumika Nagahama (Osaka Geijutsu Univ.)
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