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A Record-Breaking Day at the Osaka Marathon

With five 180˚ turnaround points and serious hills in its last 12 km the Osaka Marathon course isn't the fastest around, but that didn't hold back record-breaking runs in both the women's and men's races. Great conditions, 5˚~7˚C, light clouds and very light winds definitely helped.

The women's race went steadily on 2:22 pace, an early group of six shaking down to just four, Japan's Momoko Watanabe (Tenmaya), favorite Vivian Kiplagat (Kenya) and Ethiopian duo Helen Bekele Tola and Beyenu Degefa, by 30 km with Australian a few seconds behind. Bekele made the winning break, pulling away to win in a course record 2:22:16. Watanabe, who came into the race with a best of only 2:30:42 PB, led Degefa in the home straight but lost out in the last kick. Degefa was 2nd in 2:23:07 and Watanabe 2:23:08 for 3rd, clearing the 2:24:00 auto-qualifying standard for MGC Race Olympic marathon trials qualification.

Only getting faster with age, the 43-year-old Weightman ran Kiplagat down for 4th in 2:23:15, beating her PB from last fall's Berlin Marathon by 45 seconds. Weightman is also entered to run next weekend's Tokyo Marathon. Misaki Nishida (Edion) and Yuri Karasawa (Kyudenko) also caught Kiplagat, Nishida taking 5th in a PB 2:25:51 to qualify for the Olympic trials and Karasawa running 2:27:27 in her debut but missing qualification by 27 seconds. The pre-race favorite, Kiplagat fell to 7th in 2:28:44.

The shinkansen effect was in full effect in the equally well-paced men's race, a quartet led by Tomoki Ota (Toyota) running with almost zero variation through 25 km in 1:15:00 and pulling along a pack of almost 50. After Ota stopped at 25 km the pacing over the next 5 km was a bit shakier, but after hitting 30 km in 1:30:13 and the remaining pacers dropping out Eritrean Merhawi Kesete initiated a series of attacks that saw six different athletes take the lead over the hilliest section of the course. Among them was former Toyo University Hakone Ekiden star Kazuya Nishiyama (Toyota), who made moves to the front twice while on 2:06 pace in his debut.

With 5 km to go Ugandan Victor Kiplangat threw off his hat and surged, pulling South African Stephen Mokoka, Tanzanian Alphonce Felix Simbu and #1-ranked Ethiopian Hailemaryam Kiros with him. Behind them a chase trio of Nishiyama and fellow first-timers Charles Kamau (NTN) and Yohei Ikeda (Kao) congealed, all three of them sub-61 half marathoners and on the cusp of hanging on to a 2:06 debut.

Kiplangat, 2:05:09 in Hamburg last fall, did all the work up front, shaking off Mokoka and Simbu but unable to get rid of 2:04:41 man Kiros. With just 200 m to go Kiros surged, taking the win in a 2:06:01 CR with Kiplangat just 2 seconds back. Simbu was 3rd in 2:06:19, but behind him Kamau closed hard to run down Mokoka for 4th, 2:06:37 in his debut to the veteran Mokoka's 2:06:42. Mokoka had a near-miss on the South African NR, finishing just 9 seconds off Gert Thys' 2:06:33 at the 1999 Tokyo International Marathon.

Both only 24 years old, Nishiyama and the Toshinari Takaoka-coached Ikeda were next in 2:06:45 and 2:06:53, each of them well under the old debut marathon NR of 2:07:31 set by last year's Osaka winner Gaku Hoshi. With Nishiyama having dominated Hakone's First Stage at Toyo and Ikeda having been the top Japanese finisher on its most competitive stage his fourth year, the relationship between Hakone success and later marathon performance is clearer than ever. 2021 Olympic team alternate Shohei Otsuka (Kyudenko), another Hakone stage winner, closed hard to take 8th in 2:06:57 and make it three Japanese men under 2:07.

Already qualified for the Olympic marathon trials after a 2:11:41 debut for 2nd at August's Hokkaido Marathon, Yugo Kashiwa (Toyo Univ.) ran the 2nd-fastest collegiate time ever, 2:08:11, for 20th. Like Mokoka, Mongolian Jamsran Olonbayar came painfully short of the Mongolian NR, missing Ser-Od Bat-Ochir's 2:08:50 record by just 8 seconds at 2:08:58 for 29th. Tokyo Olympian Yuma Hattori (Toyota) had his best race since the 2019 trials, finishing 34th in 2:09:47, but will have to try again before the end-of-May deadline to hit a trials qualifier. Further back, visually-impaired T11 WR holder Shinya Wada broke his own best with a new world record of 2:24:29.

Including Nishiyama and Ikeda a total of nine men qualified for October's MGC Race Olympic marathon trials, along with Watanabe and Nishida in the women's race. The top 18 went under 2:08 and top 29 under 2:09, both bettering the numbers at the legendary 2021 Lake Biwa Marathon where 15 men were sub-2:08 and 28 sub-2:09. But this year's Osaka came up short of Lake Biwa's depth further down, with only 35 men sub-2:10 versus 42 at Lake Biwa. But with over 50 men on the entry list at Tokyo next week having run sub-2:10 in the last three years the stage is set for something even wilder there.

Osaka Marathon

Osaka, 26 Feb. 2023

1. Helen Bekele Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:22:16 - CR
2. Beyenu Degefa (Ethiopia) - 2:23:07 (CR)
3. Momoko Watanabe (Tenmaya) - 2:23:08 - PB (CR)
4. Lisa Weightman (Australia) - 2:23:15 - PB (CR)
5. Misaki Nishida (Edion) - 2:25:51 - PB (CR)
6. Yuri Karasawa (Kyudenko) - 2:27:27 - debut
7. Vivian Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:28:44
8. Nanami Aoki (Iwatani Sangyo) - 2:30:01 - PB
9. Miku Hirashima (Uniqlo) - 2:30:49 - debut
10. Ikumi Fukura (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:32:04
11. Marnie Ponton (Australia) - 2:33:48
12. Rie Kawauchi (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:36:33
13. Miharu Shimokado (SID Group) - 2:36:58
14. Yukie Matsumura (Comodi Iida) - 2:37:24 - PB
15. Yurisa Nakao (Universal) - 2:40:20 - PB
16. Mitsuko Ino (Linkstyle) - 2:43:19
17. Shiho Iwane (unattached) - 2:44:06
18. Miyuki Takano (SID Group) - 2:44:10
19. Yoshimi Tanaka (Hiratsuka. City Hall) - 2:44:44 - PB
20. Tomoko Horioka (Bee Sports) - 2:44:58
21. Yumeno Yamazaki (Universal) - 2:45:03 - debut
22. Tomomi Nakajima (GRlab) - 2:45:34
23. Maiko Tani (unattached) - 2:49:44
24. Masa Shimizu (unattached) - 2:51:11
25. Kana Takahashi (Chisato RC) - 2:52:38 - PB
DNF - Bornes Chepkirui (Kenya)
DNF - Letebrhan Hayley Gebreslasea (Ethiopia)
DNF - Soud Kanbouchia (Morocco)

1. Hailemaryam Kiros (Ethiopia) - 2:06:01 - CR
2. Victor Kiplangat (Uganda) - 2:06:03 (CR)
3. Alphonce Felix Simbu (Tanzania) - 2:06:19 - PB (CR)
4. Charles Karanja Kamau (Kenya/NTN) - 2:06:37 - debut (CR)
5. Stephen Mokoka (South Africa) - 2:06:42 - PB (CR)
6. Kazuya Nishiyama (Toyota) - 2:06:45 - debut NR (CR)
7. Yohei Ikeda (Kao) - 2:06:53 (debut NR) (CR)
8. Shohei Otsuka (Kyudenko) - 2:06:57 - PB (CR)
9. Merhawi Kesete (Eritrea) - 2:07:06 (CR)
10. Toshiki Sadakata (Mitsubishi Juko) - 2:07:24 (CR)
11. Koki Yoshioka (Chuo Hatsujo) - 2:07:28 - PB (CR)
12. Yuki Kawauchi (ADS) - 2:07:35
13. Masaki Sakuda (JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:07:49
14. Eyob Ghebrehiwet Faniel (Italy) - 2:07:53
15. Daisuke Doi (Kurosaki Harima) - 2:07:55 - PB
16. Omar Ait Chitachen (Morocco) - 2:07:57 - PB
17. Yuta Koyama (Toenec) - 2:07:57 - PB
18. Takeru Yamaguchi (Nishitetsu) - 2:07:58 - PB
19. Kento Nishi (Osaka Gas) - 2:08:11 - PB
20. Yugo Kashiwa (Toyo Univ.) - 2:08:11 - PB
21. Shunya Kikuchi (Chugoku Danryoku) - PB
22. Abayneh Degu (Ethiopia) - 2:08:28
23. Kazuya Azegami (Toyota) - 2:08:29 - PB
24. Ryo Osaki (Komori Corp.) - 2:08:30 - PB
25. Daiji Kawai (Toenec) - 2:08:32
26. Ayad Lamdassem (Spain) - 2:08:32
27. Yuta Shimoda (GMO) - 2:08:42
28. Ryoma Takeuchi (ND Software) - 2:08:57 - PB
29. Jamsran Olonbayar (Mongolia) - 2:08:58 - PB
30. Bayelign Teshager (Ethiopia) - 2:09:02
31. Simon Kariuki (Kenya/Togami Denki) - 2:09:26
32. Shuho Dairokuno (Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:26
33. Kyoya Tsujino (NTN) - 2:09:39 - PB
34. Yuma Hattori (Toyota) - 2:09:47
35. Takayuki Iida (Fujitsu) - 2:09:57 - PB
36. Chihiro Ono (Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:15 - debut
37. Kei Fujimoto (Kao) - 2:10:31 - PB
38. Tomohiro Fujimura (Suzuki) - 2:10:33 - debut
39. Haruto Ono (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 2:11:17 - debut
40. Masatoshi Sakata (NTN) - 2:11:30 - PB
41. Keisuke Yokota (Comodi Iida) - 2:11:43 - PB
42. Ryosuke Nara (Yakult) - 2:11:48 - debut
43. Naoki Saita (NTN) - 2:12:07 - PB
44. Madoka Tanihara (Osaka Police) - 2:12:37
45. Kenta Fukumura (Sunayama) - 2:13:01- PB
46. Takuya Kumashiro (Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 2:13:41 - PB
47. Hayato Miyashita (Konica Minolta) - 2:13:49 - debut
48. Yusei Tsutsumi (JFE Steel) - 2:14:01
49. Takamitsu Hashimoto (Komori Corp.) - 2:14:01
50. Ryoya Sakurai (JFE Steel) - 2:14:27 - debut
107 - Shinya Wada - 2:24:29 - T11 WR
6630. Moses Kibet (Kenya) - 4:07:49 (1:00:25 at 20 km)
DNF - Gantulga Dambadarjaa (Mongolia) 
DNF - Hiroshi Ichida (Asahi Kasei)
DNF - Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko)

© 2023 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Stefan said…
Very impressive time from Momoko Watanabe. I thought the course was rather tough with a lot of hairpin turns and especially the challenging inclines near the end. I am surprised her time was so fast.

As for the men, what a superb run from Kazuya Nishiyama. He didn't falter at all. Such a high quality field!

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