Ruth Chepngetich wins the Nagoya Women's Marathon (© Kazuaki Matsunaga / Agence SHOT)
Ruth Chepngetich spoke confidently at the Nagoya Women’s Marathon press conference, explaining that her main aim for the World Athletics Platinum Label road race on Sunday (12) will be to retain her title and improve on her own course record.
The 2019 world champion smashed the course record last year by more than three minutes, clocking 2:17:18. It was just 10 seconds shy of her PB at the time, but she went on to win the Chicago Marathon later in the year in 2:14:18, the second-fastest performance in history and just 14 seconds adrift of the world record.
The 28-year-old Kenyan didn’t suggest she’ll be taking aim at the world record again on Sunday, but it was clear that she intends to win.
“I’m happy to be back in Nagoya,” she said. “My condition is good, and my target for Sunday is to defend my title with a course record.”
Chepngetich has raced just twice since her victory in Chicago last October. She clocked 1:07:53 to finish third at the Jeddah Half Marathon in December, and then ran 31:39 to place second over 10km in Jaen in January. Both performances may be a bit shy of her PB form for those distances, but whenever Chepngetich takes to the start line for a marathon, more often than not she will be in form to win. Of the nine marathons she has completed to date, she has won seven of them.
But she will be kept on her toes by compatriot Nancy Jelagat, who set a PB of 2:19:31 in her last race, the 2021 Valencia Marathon. Although she hasn’t raced for more than a year, the Kenyan’s PBs of 30:50 for 10km and 1:05:21 for the half marathon underline her calibre.
Japanese hopes rest with Ayuko Suzuki, who represented her country at the Tokyo Olympics. After finishing second at Japan’s Olympic trial race and then placing 19th at the Games, she went on to smash her PB with 2:22:02 at last year’s Berlin Marathon.
“I want to reach my fullest potential and improve my PB,” she said.
Fellow Olympian Honami Maeda, meanwhile, added: “I want to run under 2:24 and qualify for the selection race for Japan’s marathon team for the Paris Olympics.”
Other leading Japanese contenders include Mao Uesugi, Mizuki Tanimoto and Yuka Suzuki.
Australian duo Eloise Wellings and Isobel Batt-Doyle are also among the entries, along with China’s Li Zhixuan and Zhang Xinyan.
The Nagoya Women’s Marathon offers the world’s highest first prize of US$250,000. For the first time in four years, the race will have a mass field as the Japanese government finally lifted its Covid-related border restrictions last year.
The race will be streamed live on the Nagoya Women’s Marathon website.