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Morii Surprises With Second-Ever Japanese Sub-2:10 at Boston

With three sub-2:09 Japanese men in the race and good weather conditions by Boston standards the chances were decent that somebody was going to follow 1981 winner Toshihiko Seko's 2:09:26 and score a sub-2:10 at the Boston Marathon. But nobody thought it was going to be by a 2:14 amateur.

Paris Olympic team member Suguru Osako had taken 3rd in Boston in 2:10:28 in his debut seven years ago, and both he and 2:08 runners Kento Otsu and Ryoma Takeuchi were aiming for spots in the top 10, Otsu after having run a 1:01:43 half marathon PB in February and Takeuchi of a 2:08:40 marathon PB at Hofu last December. A high-level amateur with a 2:14:15 PB who scored a trip to Boston after winning a local race in Japan, Yuma Morii told JRN minutes before the start of the race, "I'm not thinking about time at all. I'm going to make top 10, whatever time it takes."

Running Boston for the first time Morii took off with a 4:32 on the downhill opening mile, but after that Sisay Lemma made sure it stayed a fast start, leading the first 5 km in 14:21 and splitting an incredibly brave 1:00:19 at halfway with an almost two minute lead. Brave as in that's what they say when you get away with it and keep it together, which he did, more or less, winning in 2:06:17. Osako, Otsu and Takeuchi didn't try to go with that kind of pace, staying back in the second main group in 14:54 at 5 km. But Morii was true to his words, hanging on to the back of the leaders in 14:26. By 10 km Lemma was all alone out front, and Morii was just as alone out back.

Just past 15 km Osaka and Takeuchi had reeled Morii in, but where it would have been natural to see Morii drift away into the sunset behind them he fought back. Morii never let Osako get ahead of him, picking it up again to stay next to him and then really opening up at the start of the four hills just after 25 km. In 15th at 25 km, by the top of Heartbreak Hill he was in 12th and closing on top American CJ Albertson with one of the fastest splits in the field going up Heartbreak itself. After 23 miles he ran down Shura Kitata for 11th, then in the next mile Sondre Moen for 10th, with one mile to go Zouhair Talbi for 9th, and in the last mile Cyprian Kotut to take 8th overall.

Living up to his pre-race statement of intent, Morii also pulled off the extremely impressive feat of running 2:09:59, only the second time a Japanese man has ever gone sub-2:10 in Boston. All smiles immediately post-race, he told JRN, "I thought I was going to catch Albertson at the end, but it took too long to close the gap and he got away from me. But even so I didn't give up, and I ran down Kitata and Moen, maybe someone else? Running people down helped me not give up, and thanks to that I met my goal of making top 10. But I never imagined I'd go all the way to sub-2:10! 8th place and sub-2:10! I score today's run more than 100/100. I'm incredibly happy. Thanks a lot, everyone!"

All-Time Japanese Men Top 10 Times at Boston Marathon
1. 2:09:26 - Toshihiko Seko, 1981 - 1st
2. 2:09:59 - Yuma Morii, 2024 - 8th
3. 2:10:13 - Toshihiko Seko, 1979 - 2nd
4. 2:10:28 - Suguru Osako, 2017 - 3rd
5. 2:11:02 - Hiromi Taniguchi, 1993 - 4th
6. 2:11:32 - Kenjiro Jitsui, 2006 - 6th
7. 2:11:44 - Suguru Osako, 2024 - 13th
8. 2:11:50 - Toshihiko Seko, 1987 - 1st
9. 2:11:53 - Hiroto Inoue, 2019 - 12th
10. 2:12:55 - Yuki Kawauchi, 2022 - 20th

Osako finished 13th in 2:11:44, the 7th-fastest Japanese time in Boston, Takeuchi 22nd in 2:16:43 and Otsu 2:17:57 in 25th. Takeuchi suffered cramping in his left calf and right thigh during the hills and dropped off Morii and Osako's pace. Otsu felt the pace was too fast too early and backed off to try to keep it conservative in hopes of catching back up when people started fading, but ended up struggling to deal with the downhill aspect of the course. "I was catching people on the flats and uphills, but I had a really hard time with the downhills," he said post-race. "It was a really hard course."

No elite-level Japanese women were in the race, where Kenya's Hellen Obiri defended her title with a hard finish 2:22:37 that looked very familiar after an almost identical run last year. Obiri is now three for three in marathons, having won last fall's New York City Marathon in between her Boston titles. Men's wheelchair CR holder Marcel Hug crushed his own record with a 1:15:33 win despite crashing on the right turn near 27 km, with Japan's Sho Watanabe and Kota Hokinoue taking 4th and 6th. Newcomer Eden Cooper took a surprise win in the women's wheelchair race in 1:35:11, a minute and a half up on Manuela Schar.

128th Boston Marathon

Boston, U.S.A., 15 April 2024

1. Sisay Lemma (Ethiopia) - 2:06:17
2. Mohamed Esa (Ethiopia) - 2:06:58
3. Evans Chebet (Kenya) - 2:07:22
4. John Korir (Kenya) - 2:07:40
5. Albert Korir (Kenya) - 2:07:47
6. Isaac Mpofu (Zimbabwe) - 2:08:17
7. CJ Albertson (U.S.A.) - 2:09:53 - PB
8. Yuma Morii (Japan) - 2:09:59 - PB
9. Cyprian Kotut (Kenya) - 2:10:29
10. Zouhair Talbi (Morocco) - 2:10:45
13. Suguru Osako (Japan) - 2:11:44
22. Ryoma Takeuchi (Japan) - 2:16:43
25. Kento Otsu (Japan) - 2:17:57
40. Taiyo Akiyama (Japan) - 2:26:00

1. Hellen Obiri (Kenya) - 2:22:37
2. Sharon Lokedi (Kenya) - 2:22:45
3. Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:23:21
4. Buze Diriba (Ethiopia) - 2:24:04
5. Senbere Tefere (Ethiopia) - 2:24:04
6. Mary Ngugi (Kenya) - 2:24:24
7. Workenesh Edesa (Ethiopia) - 2:24:47
8. Fatima Gardadi (Morocco) - 2:24:53
9. Tiruye Mesfin (Ethiopia) - 2:24:58
10. Dera Dida (Ethiopia) - 2:25:16

Wheelchair Men
1. Marcel Hug (Switzerland) - 1:15:33 - CR
2. Daniel Romanchuk (U.S.A.) - 1:20:37
3. David Weir (Great Britain) - 1:22:12
4. Sho Watanabe (Japan) - 1:26:10
6. Kota Hokinoue (Japan) - 1:26:19

Wheelchair Women
1. Eden Rainbow Cooper (Great Britain) - 1:35:11
2. Manuela Schar (Switzerland) - 1:36:41
3. Madison de Rozario (Australia) - 1:39:20

text and photo © 2024 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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