Yoshimi Ozaki Wins Tokyo Women's Marathon, by K. Ken Nakamura, note by Larry Eder

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This is the thirtieth version of the Tokyo Women's Marathon. Next year, it becomes the Tokyo Marathon, with a limit of 40,000 marathoners-260,000 applications have come into race management....

The following story is by K. Ken Nakamura, one of the most prolific writers in our sport. His attention to detail is impressive, and his ability to get behind the scenes and put you, the reader in the race, is a real gift. We hope you enjoy and thank Ken for his coverage of the marathon....

Yoshimi Ozaki wins Tokyo Women’s Marathon

Overhauling the pre-race favorite Yoko Shibui at 38.4Km, the steepest part of the hill, Yoshimi Ozaki won the 30th and final edition of the Tokyo Women’s Marathon on Sunday November 16. Her winning time, 2:23:30, was the third fastest time (behind 2:21:37 by Mizuki Noguchi in 2007 and 2:22:12 by Eri Yamaguchi in 1999) over the tough course in Tokyo. For Ozaki, who is coached by Sachiko Yamashita, 1991 World Championships silver medalist at the marathon, it was her second marathon as well as her first win at this classic distance. “I am surprised with my win, but I am happy to be the winner of the final edition of this historic (first annual women only marathon) race. I did not think I was going to win, but I did not want to give yer,” said Ozaki after the race. She did not realize she can win until 40Km after passing both Yuri Kano and Yoko Shibui over the hill. It took quite a bit of time for Ozaki to realize her potential. “Because my training was not consistent, it took a lot of time for me to develop to a good runner. However, my coach always said that my best distance was a marathon,” said Ozaki immediately after the race.

Yuri Kano finished second with 2:24:27, while Mara Yamauchi was third with 2:25:03. “I was only thinking about winning. I knew Shibui was going to push the pace. If it was not over ambitious pace, I was going with her pace. Nearing 10Km I realize it is bit fast, so I held back thinking I can overtake her after 30Km. But when the time to overtake Shibui came, Ozaki was there,” said Kano. Top three finishers all recorded personal bests. “I am happy to have recorded a personal best at such a difficult course,” said Kano. “Previously, my race plan was to run within the lead pack as long as possible. But for today’s race, my race tactics concentrated on winning the race,” explains Kano. Since she was the second Japanese, it is not certain if she will be selected for the marathon team or not. “In the future, I want to run big marathon with world best runners in the field and let people know that I can run with anybody in the world,” said Kano

On the other hand Yamauchi said: “The race condition was quite good. There was no wind and the rain stopped before the start time. I was bit disappointed that I could not win. I thought I could run 2:23, so I went out with such a pace. The lead group was running too fast. I expected them to come back to me. The race went almost as planned. My half marathon split, 1:11:28, was according to my plan. One problem was that I could not pick up the pace near the end.” Although Mara set a personal best, she failed to crack 2:25 barrier by four seconds. “I shoot for 2:24 marathon next time,” concluded Yamauchi

Shibui finished disappointing fourth with 2:25:51. “My problem is the last 5Km. If I train to improve this part of the race, then I can win the marathon,” said Shibui.

For Ozaki, it was her best day of her running career. “When I finished second in Nagoya earlier this year, I realized the difference between being first and second. Yurika Nakamura (who won in Nagoya ahead of Ozaki) was a celebrity, while I was relative unknown. That realization motivated me during my training leading up to this race,” said Ozaki after the race.
Being the first Japanese in the race, Ozaki gained automatic selection to the Japanese marathon team for the 2009 World Championships team in Berlin. “It (making the team) has not sunk in yet,” said Ozaki after the race. “Next step for me is to train hard so I can maintain faster pace. As for Berlin, I don’t want to be another runner in the field. I want to contend for a medal,” concluded Ozaki. On the other hand, Shibui who once again failed to make the marathon team, said: “I might try to run Nagoya Women’s marathon in my attempt to make the World Championships Marathon team.”


How the race unfolded

Although the race organizer did not provide any pace setter, the race still started in the record pace with Yoko Shibui in the lead. Shibui took the lead immediately and passed 400m in approximately 81 seconds and 1Km in 3:18. “I did not have any planned pace in my mind. I just run as I felt,” said Shibui in the post-race interview. Soon the pack of four – Shibui, Ozaki, Kano and Magdaline Chemjor – broke away from the chase pack, which include Mara Yamauchi and Salina Kosgei. “The lead pack was going too fast, I thought. I was sure they were going to come back to me,” said Yamauchi. With three runners in a tow, Shibui went through 5Km in 16:22, seventeen seconds ahead of the chase pack. It was faster than the split Mizuki Noguchi recorded, 16:38, when she set the course record last year. In fact it was even faster than Eri Yamaguchi’s split of 16:24, recorded in the 1999 edition of the race when she set the previous course record. Soon, while Shibui and Chemjor push the pace in front, Kano and Ozaki fell several steps behind. The gap started to grow, and while Shibui and Chemjor passed 10Km in 32:55 (16:33 for 5Km to 10Km), Ozaki and Kano were 12 seconds behind, and Mara Yamauchi and Salina Kosgei were another 28 seconds back.

Although Kano fell behind Ozaki around 11Km, she fought back and went to the front of Ozaki by 13Km. Meanwhile, torrid pace set by Shibui was too much for Chemjor, and she started to fall behind Shibui by 12Km. By 14Km Kano and Ozaki caught Chemjor, who could not keep up with them. Chemjor eventually finished 14th with 2:46:18. Soon Kano moved significantly ahead of Ozaki. Shibui passed 15Km in 49:40 (16:45) and 20Km in 1:06:26(16:46). By half way (1:10:07) Shibui was in commanding lead with Kano 36 seconds behind followed by Yoshimi Ozaki 61seconds behind Shibui. Mara Yamauchi was another 20seconds behind. At 24.6Km, Yamauchi moved into third, just ahead of Chemjor. “When I passed Ozaki, she was breathing hard. So I can leave her behind,” said Yamauchi. However Ozaki stuck on. “I was in a bad patch, but I realize that if I stuck on bad patch will eventually go away. That is how it was in training,” said Ozaki.

Shibui’s pace was dropping, but she still covered 20Km to 25Km in 16:49. However, Shibui was slowing down. For the first time in the race, Shibui needed over 17 minutes (17:06 (1:40:21)) to cover 5Km (from 25Km to 30Km). Just before 35Km checkpoint, Yamauchi fell behind Ozaki to 4th place. Shibui continued to slow down. She took 17:44 for 5Km between 30Km and 35Km, and thus the gap between Kano and Shibui has shrunk from 53 second to 41 seconds in this 5Km. Ozaki who was 39 seconds behind Kano at 30Km caught Kano at 37.8Km. Over the steepest part of the hill, Ozaki was on the roll. She then caught faltering Shibui at 38.4Km to take over the lead. “When I passed other runners, I zipped by them. But I was bit scared that they much tag along just behind me,” said Ozaki. Next, at 38.9Km Kano also caught Shibui. Ozaki passed 40Km in 2:16:17 (17:14 from 35Km to 40Km). At 40.9Km Mara Yamauchi caught Shibui to move up to third. Ozaki kept on extending her lead over the rest of the field and won by 56 seconds with 2:23:30. Kano finished second in 2:24:27, while Yamauchi was third with 2:25:03, all personal bests. Shibui who led most of the race finished fourth. She has not given up though. “I will definitely continue to run the marathon until I win one. Of course I will continue to run afterward too,” concluded Shibui, still the second fastest Japanese marathon runner.


Weather at the start: temperature 15.5C; humidity 90%; wind 1.0m/s East South East
Results: (JPN unless otherwise noted)


1) Yoshimi Ozaki 2:23:30 (16:23, 33:07, 50:03,1:07:17, 1:24:47, 1:41:53, 1:59:03, 2:16:17)
2) Yuri Kano 2:24: 27 (16:23, 33:07, 50:03, 1:06:59, 1:23:59, 1:41:14, 1:58:46, 2:16:43)
3) Mara Yamauchi (GBR) 2:25:03 (16:39, 33:35, 50:40, 1:07:42, 1:24:47, 1:41:53,1:59:09, 2:17:29)
4) Yoko Shibui 2:25:51 (16:22, 32:55, 49:40, 1:06:26, 1:23:15, 1:40:21, 1:58:05, 2:17:07)
5) Salina Kosgei (KEN) 2:30:34
6) Svetlana Zakharova (RUS) 2:30:42
7) Yukiko Matsubara 2:34:39
8) Ayumi Hayashi 2:35:04
9) Derartu Tulu (ETH) 2:36:47
10) Chihiro Tanaka 2:37:03
11) Yuka Aikawa 2:40:43
12) Maki Kono 2:40:54
13) Yoshiko Watanabe 2:41.34
14) Magdaline Chemjor (KEN) 2:46:18
15) Yumiko Daigo 2:48:04
16) Fumie Tsuru 2:48:12
17) Yumiko Minato 2:48:20
18) Shigeko Yanagita 2:48:40
19) Yukie Tamura 2:48:47
20) Makiko Shimamura 2:49:21

Special thanks to K. Ken Nakamura. For more information on our sport, please check out http://www.iaaf.org

For more information on our sport, please check http://www.american-trackandfield.com

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