Skip to main content

Wanjiru Runs World Lead, Deso Wins 3-Way Sprint Finish, Levins Breaks Canadian NR, and More - Tokyo Marathon 2023

The Tokyo Marathon delivered on quality and exciting races, if not the record-breaking depth its entry lists promised. Swiss power duo Manuela Schar and Marcel Hug broke the course records in the wheelchair races, Schar soloing a 1:36:43 CR to win the women's race by more than 6 minutes over Japanese NR holder Tsubasa Kina. Hug worked together with Japanese men's NR holder Tomoki Suzuki for the first 25 km before hammering on the bridge over the Sumida River just before 30 km to put him away. Hug opened more than 3 1/2 minutes on Suzuki from there to the finish, winning in a new CR of 1:20:57.

Based in Japan since 2010, first at Aomori Yamada H.S. and then at the Starts corporate team, Rosemary Wanjiru came to the Tokyo Marathon women's race ranked #2 in the field after a 2:18:00 debut for 2nd in Berlin last fall. Running a lead quartet with Ethiopians Tsehay Gemechu, Worknesh Edesa and last year's runner-up Ashete Bekere, Wanjiru was calm and relaxed until the Sumida bridge, where she pushed ahead of the two pacers and dropped them. The Ethiopian trio went with her, but it was quickly down to just Wanjiru and Tsehay, also running only her 2nd marathon after a 2:18:59 debut in Amsterdam last fall.

Wanjiru kept up the pressure, skillfully winding between amateur men on the course to put physical barriers between herself and Tsehay. The ploy worked, and within just a few km she was on her own. From there then gap only grew as the 2:16:02 CR set last year by WR holder Brigid Kosgei came closer. Wanjiru went all-out in the last km even though the CR looked out of reach, and was as stunned as anyone when she crossed the finish line with a world-leading 2:16:28. Tsehay also made it under 2:17 in 2:16:56, and the two women hugged and laughed in amazement after picking themselves up off the pavement.

In a teary-eyed victory speech in Japanese, Wanjiru said, "Thank you all for supporting me. This is my home. It means so much to me to win here. I just can't believe my time. Maybe, just maybe, next time I'll go for the world record. Thank you all."

Ashete was 3rd in 2:19:11, with Worknesh fading to 4th in 2:20:13. Running most of the race in 5th, top Japanese woman Mizuki Matsuda was run down by American Betsy Saina in the last km, Saina taking 5th in a PB 2:21:40 and Matsuda 6th in 2:21:44. Women-only NR holder Mao Ichiyama, admitting she was undertrained after an injury in December, managed only a 2:31:52 for 14th, caught by 44-year hold Australian Lisa Weightman who ran Tokyo only a week after a 2:23:15 PB in Osaka.

The men's race went out fast just under 2:04 pace, but soon stabilized in the mid-2:04 range. It was mostly a steady whittling down of the massive lead group, even after the pacers stopped at 30 km and the pace slowed into 2:05 territory. In his 3rd marathon, 25-year-old Komazawa University graduate Ichitaka Yamashita surprisingly went to the lead at 30 km, pushing the pace and cutting the leaders down to ten. But another surge from Mohamed Esa and Titus Kipruto after 35 km split that group into two parts, with Ethiopians Mohamed, Deso Gelmisa, Tsegaye Getachew and Deme Tadu Abate, the Kenyan Kipruto, and Canadian NR holder Cam Levins and Japanese trio Yamashita, Suguru Osako and Kenya Sonota drifting behind with Ugandan NR holder Stephen Kissa in tow.

In the last km the front group turned into a three-way sprint battle between Deso, Mohamed and Tsegaye, with Deso having just enough to manage a salute as he crossed the line in 2:05:22 for the win. Mohamed had the same time in 2nd, with Tsegaye 3rd in 2:05:25. Kipruto was just back in a PB of 2:05:32, with Levins outkicking Deme by 2 seconds in a new North American area record of 2:05:36 for 5th. In his victory interview Deso said, "It means much to me to run here where the great Abebe Bikila once ran. I feel that the people of Tokyo are like family."

In the chase quartet, Kissa quickly lost touch, ultimately finishing 11th in 2:07:16. Sonota was the first of the remaining Japanese trio to drop, leaving Osako right on Yamashita's heels at 40 km. But Yamashita took advantage of Osako's lack of finishing speed to drop an extended push that took him all the way to the finish in 2:05:51, only the third Japanese man ever to break 2:06. Osako struggled to keep it going, and Sonota, an established hard-finisher and another Komazawa grad, ran him down in the last km. With a massive last sprint Sonota just made it under 2:06 too, clocking 2:05:59. Osako was 9th in 2:06:13, looking unhappy with his result but enough to get him into October's MGC Race Olympic marathon trials.

Behind him, 2:06:47 marathoner Hiroto Inoue came back after getting dropped by Yamashita's push after 30 km to catch Kissa for 10th in 2:07:09. Altogether 20 men broke 2:10, fewer than expected given the excellent conditions but still something that would have been almost unthinkable a few years ago. The men's race still achieved its objective of pushing top Japanese men to go to the next level, but a lot of them paid the price for trying to get there.

Along with Osako, four other men qualified for the Olympic trials. 6th-place Japanese man Naoki Koyama made it outright with a 2:08:12 PB. Akira Tomiyasu, Koki Takada and Kohei Futaoka all made it in via the two-race 2:10:00 average route, in Tomiyasu's case by only four seconds after a 2:08:55 in Tokyo last year and a 2:11:01 today. Not making the cut were two of the stars of the last Olympic trials, its winner Shogo Nakamura who managed only a 2:12:10 for 36th, and former NR holder Yuta Shitara, who dropped out mid-race after running in the front line in the early going. No women joined the list of qualifiers, but with the Nagoya Women's Marathon happening next Sunday it's likely there will be a few more additions there.

2023 Tokyo Marathon

Tokyo, 5 Mar. 2023

1. Rosemary Wanjiru (Kenya/Starts) - 2:16:28 - WL, PB
2. Tsehay Gemechu (Ethiopia) - 2:16:56 - PB
3. Ashete Bekere (Ethiopia) - 2:19:11
4. Worknesh Edesa (Ethiopia) - 2:20:13
5. Betsy Saina (U.S.A.) - 2:21:40 - PB
6. Mizuki Matsuda (Japan/Daihatsu) - 2:21:44
7. Ai Hosoda (Japan/Edion) - 2:22:08
8. Lindsay Flanagan (U.S.A.). 2:26:08
9. Kaori Morita (Panasonic) - 2:26:31 - PB
10. Yukari Abe (Kyocera) - 2:28:20
11. Hanae Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 2:29:17
12. Natsumi Matsushita (Tenmaya) - 2:30:31
13. Lisa Weightman (Australia) - 2:31:42
14. Mao Ichiyama (Shiseido) - 2:31:52
15. Hitomi Mizuguchi (Uniqlo) - 2:32:14 - PB
16. Bestie Deutsch (Israel) - 2:32:19
17. Yui Okada (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:34:01
18. Rachel Joy Hodgkinson (Great Britain) - 2:36:44
19. Krista Duchene (Canada) - 2:38:53
20. Yuki Mizuseda (Chiba) - 2:39:47
21. Olivia Witney (New Zealand) - 2:40:01
22. Mai Fujisawa (Sapporo Excel AC) - 2:40:38
23. Miho Nakata (Chiba) - 2:40:49
24. Shinobu Ayabe (Tokyo Wings) - 2:41:33
25. Eri Suzuki (Akita) - 2:41:59
26. Chizuru Oi (Nara-X AC) - 2:42:10
27. Nagisa Goda (Tokyo) - 2:42:31
28. Chiaki Morikawa (SBIRC) - 2:42:43
29. Rieko Koshi (unattached) - 2:43:07
30. Mitsuko Hirose (Tokyo Wings) - 2:44:00
DNF - Tigist Abayechew (Ethiopia)
DNF - Antonina Kwambai (Kenya)

1. Deso Gelmisa (Ethiopia) - 2:05:22
2. Mohamed Esa (Ethiopia) - 2:05:22
3. Tsegaye Getachew (Ethiopia) - 2:05:25
4. Titus Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:05:32 - PB
5. Cam Levins (Canada) - 2:05:36 - AR
6. Deme Tadu Abate (Ethiopia) - 2:05:38 - PB
7. Ichitaka Yamashita (Mitsubishi Juko) - 2:05:51 - PB
8. Kenya Sonota (JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:05:59 - PB
9. Suguru Osako (GMO) - 2:06:13
10. Hiroto Inoue (Mitsubishi Juko) - 2:07:09
11. Stephen Kissa (Uganda) - 2:07:16
12. Vincent Raimoi (Kenya/Suzuki) - 2:07:23
13. Brimin Misoi (Kenya) - 2:07:36
14. Kyohei Hosoya (Kurosaki Harima) - 2:08:10
15. Naoki Koyama (Honda) - 2:08:12 - PB
16. Dominic Nyairo (Kenya/NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:08:13 - PB
17. Kohei Futaoka (Chudenko) - 2:09:21
18. Hidekazu Hijikata (Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:32
19. Benard Kimani (Kenya/Comodi Iida) - 2:09:34 - PB
20. Koki Takada (Sumitomo Denko) - 2:09:58
21. Shun Yuzawa (SGH) - 2:10:10
22. Jun Nobuto (Mazda) - 2:10:15
23. Daisuke Hosomori (YKK) - 2:10:22
24. Masashi Nonaka (Osaka Gas) - 2:10:23
25. Junnosuke Matsuo (NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:10:34
26. Kenta Uchida (SID Group) - 2:10:45
27. Yuki Matsumura (Honda) - 2:10:50
28. Akira Tomiyasu (Aisan Kogyo) - 2:11:01
29. Mizuki Higashi (Aisan Kogyo) - 2:11:04
30. Takuya Fujikawa (Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:11:13
DNF - Mohamed Reda El Aaraby (Morocco)
DNF - Mike Kiptum (Kenya)
DNF - Benard Koech (Ethiopia)
DNF - Sisay Lemma (Ethiopia)
DNF - Yuta Shitara (Honda)
DNF - Ryu Takaku (Yakult)

Wheelchair Women
1. Manuela Schar (Switzerland) - 1:36:43 - CR
2. Tsubasa Kina (Ryukyu Sports Support) - 1:42:47
3. Madison de Rosario (Australia) - 1:44:17

Wheelchair Men
1. Marcel Hug (Switzerland) - 1:20:57 - CR
2. Tomoki Suzuki (Toyota) - 1:24:31
3. Sho Watanabe (Toppan) - 1:30:32

photo © 2023 Mika Tokairin, all rights reserved
text © 2023 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Buy Me A Coffee


Stefan said…
Rosemary Wanjiru's run was incredible and you only get the feeling better times and results await her. I am pleased she won on Japanese soil and received a lot of support. Well deserved. Mizuki Matsuda was consistent as always and apart from the MGC race back in 2019 has always delivered. However, I think in terms of times, going under 2:20 will be difficult for her. A very solid run by Ai Hosoda following up from her breakthrough London marathon last year. As for Mao Ichiyama, I had no idea she suffered a stress facture to a rib in December. It explains a lot regarding her inability to train properly and her sub par performance by her own high standards.
I also have to compliment the TV broadcast this year. The coverage was much more balanced than previous years and I thought the top female and wheelchair athletes received good coverage. Still, I would have liked to see, even very briefly, how Ai Hosoda and the lower Japanese female MGC runners were faring throughout key moments in the race. It would be good if they could do what they do so well in their Exiden races and perhaps have a dedicated Youtube or supplementary channel/s broadcasting these athletes so viewers can have the option to watch the main channel or a supplementary channel.
Big congrats to the organizers of the Tokyo marathon and all those involved. Another well run event by the Japanese and it is so wonderful to see the crowds cheering and lining the streets to watch. Wonderful!
Rigajags said…
The post ending lines summed up perfectly what happened: when the big pack came at half marathon in 1:01:48 it was either going to be legendary or many of them were going to pay for It and thats what happened. (And to be honest several runners looked way in trouble back then too)
Maybe for some of them a more reasonable negative split strategy could work nicely.
Still some great racing from Yamashita and the others, would have been interesting to see kengo Suzuki in the mix.

The final sprint for the win was awesome and great finish to a very competitive marathon.

In the leading sub 62 at half marathon there was also chikara yamano from komazawa at his marathon debut: he finished with a 75 minutes second half and said that at 30km he started feeling pain at the leg he injured before and had to walk in some parts towards the end.
Stefan said…
Wanjiru's run was all the more impressive as she actually had a fall between the 4th and 5th km as seen in this video from the RUN MAX channel on Youtube.

Here is the link:

It happens at approximately 15:09 on the video. Mao Ichiyama did well to avoid her as did a number of other runners. It is amazing how quickly she got up and recovered her pace!

Most-Read This Week

National Cross Country Championships and Osaka Marathon Story Lines

The Inuyama Half Marathon and National Cross Country Championships are happening Sunday, with Japan's team for March's Belgrade World Cross Country Championships to be mostly drawn from top placers in the different divisions at Nationals. It's being streamed above starting at 10:20 local time, with fields including Takuya Hanyu , Ryuto Igawa , Hazuma Hattori , Yuta Bando , Tomonori Yamaguchi and Masato Imai in the senior men's 10 km, Momoka Kawaguchi , Nana Kuraoka and Chika Kosakai in the senior women's 8 km, Sota Orita , Ryuto Kawahara , Tetsu Sasaki , Shunsuke Kuwata and Soma Nagahara in the junior men's 8 km, and Narumi Okumoto and Nodoka Ashida in the junior women's 6 km. But the main race Sunday is the Osaka Marathon . One of the world's biggest mass-participation marathons, Osaka has deep elite fields especially on the men's side. That's not surprising since for Japanese men it's one of the designated races where they have a

Masato Imai to Retire After Sunday's National XC Championships

  On Feb. 21 the Toyota Kyushu corporate team announced that its longtime member Masato Imai , 39, known throughout Japan as the original God of the Mountain for his spectacular runs on the Hakone Ekiden's uphill Fifth Stage in college, will retire from competition. His final race will be Sunday's National Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka. After retirement Imai will remain with Toyota Kyushu and become part of its coaching staff. At Juntendo University , Imai won the Fifth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden in new course records in 2005, 2006 and 2007, taking the top spot in both 2006 and 2007. When he did it during his final Hakone his senior year in 2007, the late Nippon TV announcer Ryo Kawamura shouted the now-legendary words, "Right now, right here, the god of the mountain has descended! His name is Masato Imai!" Imai has been known by that moniker ever since, and the title has become a part of Hakone lore. Since his time it has been given to two other runners w

Osaka Marathon Elite Field (updated)

Four of last year's top five women will be back at the Osaka Marathon , with 2023 winner and CR breaker Helen Tola Bekele returning to face runner-up Beyenu Degefa , Lisa Weightman , and new additions Fancy Chemutai , 2:18:11 in Valencia 2022, and Viola Jelgata Kibiwot , 2:22:57 in Frankfurt last fall. Misaki Ichida was the 2nd Japanese woman last year in 2:25:51 for 5th, and she's the top-ranked domestic name this year at 8th in the field. You wouldn't know Osaka is the third of four big men's marathons in Japan in the course of four months, as 49 sub-2:10 men are entered. It's a completely different field from last year, with the top returning runner being Shohei Otsuka , 8th last year in 2:06:57. Japanese men have to run 2:05:50 to have a chance of taking the third Olympic team spot away from Suguru Osako , and top three-ranked Stephen Kissa , Adeladlew Mamo and Yihunilign Adane are all positioned from 2:04:48 to 2:05:53 to help enable that. Realistically, ev