Report29 Jan 2023

Hailu wins Osaka Women's Marathon


Haven Hailu wins the 2023 Osaka Women’s Marathon (© Toshikazu Hirayama/Agence SHOT)

Ethiopia’s Haven Hailu returned to winning ways to triumph at the Osaka Women’s Marathon, this year’s first World Athletics Platinum Label road race, on Sunday (29).

The 24-year-old led an Ethiopian top two, clocking 2:21:13 to win by almost a minute ahead of Meseret Gola (2:22:12). Japan’s Yuka Ando finished third in 2:22:59.

The event, which started at the Nagai Stadium practice track, immediately turned into a race of attrition. At 1km the lead pack featured Hailu, Gola and Kenya’s Maurine Chepkemoi together with Japan’s Ando, Sayaka Sato, Mao Uesugi and Reia Iwade behind the three pacemakers. 

Sato clashed with Iwade and fell after 7km, immediately losing ground on the lead group. She would eventually drop out at 18km, when her coach came out to the course to stop her.

The leaders reached 10km in 32:56 and Iwade lost touch with the pack a short while later.

Uesugi started to drift back at 19km, the chase group eventually catching her and they ran together for the rest of the race.

The second of the pacemakers dropped out at 20km, reached in 1:06:00, and at this stage it was Chepkemoi who was struggling to keep pace.

By the half way point, passed by the leaders in 1:09:45, Chepkemoi was 10 seconds behind and she dropped out after 25km.

Hailu, Gola and Ando forged on when the last pacemaker left the race at 30km, reached in 1:39:34. It was at this point that Hailu made her move, covering the next kilometre in 3:05. Gola was able to stay with Hailu, but Ando fell behind.

Gola couldn’t stick with that pace for long, though, and by 35km Hailu had built a 13-second lead.

She only increased the gap and eventually won by 59 seconds, Gola holding on to second place and Ando finishing third, feeling frustrated as she failed to improve her 2:21:36 PB from Nagoya in 2017.

Hailu, who was unable to finish her last marathon in Chicago in October, adds this latest win to her victory in Rotterdam last April.

Behind the top trio, the chase group had reduced to Uesugi, debutante Yumi Yoshikawa and Sairi Maeda with 5km to go. Uesugi had the strongest finish and held off Yoshikawa by two seconds, 2:25:18 to 2:25:20, with Maeda finishing a further four seconds back in her first marathon since 2019 and following maternity leave.

The race was an opportunity for Japan’s leading contenders to qualify for the Marathon Grand Championship – Japan’s Olympic trial race – in October. Ando and Uesugi had already qualified, and Yoshikawa, Maeda, Chiharu Ikeda and Yuna Daito joined them in achieving the feat in Osaka, Ikeda finishing the race in seventh place in 2:25:59 and Daito running 2:26:09 to place eighth.

With thanks to Ken Nakamura

Leading results

1 Haven Hailu (ETH) 2:21:13
2 Meseret Gola (ETH) 2:22:12
3 Yuka Ando (JPN) 2:22:59
4 Mao Uesugi (JPN) 2:25:18
5 Yumi Yoshikawa (JPN) 2:25:20
6 Sairi Maeda (JPN) 2:25:24
7 Chiharu Ikeda (JPN) 2:25:59
8 Yuna Daito (JPN) 2:26:09
9 Kaena Takeyama (JPN) 2:29:20
10 Honoka Tanaike (JPN) 2:29:45