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Edesa Wins Osaka Women's Marathon, Maeda 2:18:59 NR

Workenesh Edesa and Honami Maeda made history at the Osaka International Women's Marathon, both going under 2:19 and Maeda breaking the 2005-era Japanese women's national record.

Five pacers took the lead group of Edesa, Maeda, Stella Chesang, Mizuki Matsuda and Sayaka Sato through halfway in 1:09:46, well under pace for the 2:21:41 time the top Japanese woman would need to replace Olympic marathon trials 3rd-placer Ai Hosoda on the Paris team but 10 seconds behind pace to hit Mizuki Noguchi's 2:19:12 NR from the 2005 Berlin Marathon when the three Japanese women up front were still in elementary school. Right at halfway Maeda, the 30 km NR holder, threw in a brash 3:11 km to open up on the pacers and rest of the pack, and it was pretty clear she had something special in mind.

As the rest of the pack tried to change gears and catch back up Matsuda lost touch. Maeda went through 25 km with a projected finish time of 2:19:08, but the pack still regained ground. Then at 27 km she attacked again, and this time opened significant ground. The fastest woman in the race at 2:18:51, Edesa recognized that Maeda was for real and pulled away from the pack to try to close the gap, no joke as it meant she had to run well under her PB pace to do it.

Maeda went through 30 km on 2:18:41 pace with Edesa 5 sec behind, and 2 km later Edesa made the pass. From there to the end it was a battle of strength of will, Maeda closing, Edesa pulling away again, Maeda closing again, always with 5 to 11 seconds of each other. All the greats of the golden years of Japanese women's marathoning were part of the commentary team, and Naoko Takahashi gave great insight into the race: "What Maeda is doing is totally different from what we did. We were running time trials. She's racing her way to the record."

In the end Edesa held on to win, exactly tying her PB in 2:18:51. With a 33-second negative split Maeda came in in 2:18:59, bettering Noguchi's NR and Asian AR by 13 seconds to turn a page in history. "I'm very happy to win and get the course record," said Edesa post-race. "I'm running the Boston Marathon next and will go for the win there too." Maeda had been evasive about her plans for the race beforehand, but post-race she admitted, "My goal had been to break the national record." Mission accomplished.

The first one to drop from the pack, Osaka native Matsuda was characteristically tough as she ground out a 2:23:07 for 3rd, but said post race that this was probably her last marathon. "I'm glad I could end it in Osaka. I definitely won't run Nagoya." At the Tokyo Olympics Matsuda was the alternate and was in great shape, but Maeda had been injured and ran without any solid training instead of throwing her spot to her former Osaka Kunei Joshi H.S. teammate. That had to have added to the sting of missing out on the Paris team too.

Chesang was 4th in 2:23:36 and Sato a distant 5th in 2:24:43. Katharina Steinruck, daughter of two-time Osaka Women's winner Katrin Dorre, ran a PB 2:24:56 for 6th, making her the 6th German woman to clear the Paris standard but putting her at only 5th in the rankings.

With her new NR Maeda, winner of the Tokyo Olympics marathon trials but only 7th in October's Paris trials, takes over Hosoda's spot on the Olympic team. With a 2:21:41 target to beat you could realistically see people like Hitomi Niiya, Yuka Ando, Mao Uesugi or Hosoda herself hit it in Nagoya to take the 3rd spot. But with the bar raised now to beating 2:18:59 it'll be almost impossible. Only Niiya has that kind of potential, but even for her 2:18 is unknown territory. It'll probably take the Adidas Adizero Pro Evo 1 for her to get there, and Maeda knows exactly what that means. "I don't know what's going to happen," she said, "but I did the absolute best I could today. For now, I can be happy." Thanks to her brilliant run, the women who do line up in Nagoya will have to aim high, and the higher they have to go the higher the risk of falling.

43rd Osaka International Women's Marathon

Osaka, 28 Jan. 2024

1. Workenesh Edesa (Ethiopia) - 2:18:51 - PB tie
2. Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) - 2:18:59 - AR
3. Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) - 2:23:07
4. Stella Chesang (Uganda) - 2:23:36
5. Sayaka Sato (Sekisui Kagaku) - 2:24:43
6. Katharina Steinruck (Germany) - 2:24:56 - PB
7. Natsumi Matsushita (Tenmaya) - 2:25:10
8. Yuna Daito (Tenmaya) - 2:25:16 - PB
9. Madoka Nakano (Iwatani Sangyo) - 2:26:50 - PB
10. Mayu Nishikawa (Starts) - 2:26:50 - PB
11. Rie Kawauchi (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:28:28
12. Kana Kobayashi (Waseda Univ.) - 2:29:44 - PB
13. Daeun Jeong (South Korea) - 2:30:49
14. Militsa Mircheva (Bulgaria) - 2:32:03
15. Nanami Aoki (Iwatani Sangyo) - 2:32:06
16. Kaena Takeyama (Senko) - 2:33:43
17. Miku Hirashima (Uniqlo) - 2:34:08
18. Hikaru Kitagawa (Osaka Geijutsu Univ.) - 2:34:11 - debut
19. Ayano Ikemitsu (Kagoshima Ginko) - 2:37:36
20. Natsune Kohara (Osaka Geijutsu Univ.) - 2:39:13 - debut
21. Ayumi Yokota (Miki T&F Assoc.) - 2:39:23 - PB
22. Anna Suzuki (Osaka Geijutsu Univ.) - 2:39:29 - debut
23. Natsuki Ogawa (Suzuki) - 2:39:30 - PB
24. Sachie Matsumura (Comodi Iida) - 2:40:56
25. Meari Obuchi (United Athletes) - 2:41:27 - PB

© 2024 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Stefan said…
The race was everything I hoped for and more. Honami Maeda and Mao Ichiyama in recent years are proactive and make brave moves to win races. It's exciting and I'm glad they are being rewarded. I am in awe of what an incredible run that was by Honami Maeda. When you consider the injuries and setbacks after qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, to think she would get back to her best and be even better. Honestly, I didn't think she would. More especially, after her last run at the MGC qualifying race in Tokyo. I was moved by her effort and resolve. If I could have asked for more, it would have been that she won the race. Credit to Workenesh Edesa for doing that.
4 years ago, when Mizuki Matsuda put down a 2:21:47 at the Osaka Marathon to temporarily secure the 3rd Olympic spot I thought then no one would better that time at Nagoya. And along came Mao Ichiyama to prove me wrong! I wonder what is in store in Nagoya this time?
Brett, thank you for that translation of Naoko Takahashi's comment. It summed up what Maeda did to a T.
Interestingly, Hitomi Niiya ran in the Adidas Adizero Pro Evo 1 at Berlin and ran her slowest marathon. Yuka Ando ran an excellent Osaka Half marathon yesterday, 1:08:18. The stage is set for Nagoya. MGC organizers would be loving what just happened!
The official broadcast of the race is now available on Youtube.
Brett Larner said…
I know what you mean, but Niiya has actually run three marathons slower than Berlin. She was injured going into Berlin at any rate, and while she hasn't been fantastic since then it's pretty reasonable to think there's a chance of a kind of miracle performance like we've seen with some of the women's WR set in them and by the AGU runners on Hakone's 2nd and especially 3rd stages.

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