News26 Feb 2012

Kipyego wins Tokyo Marathon, Gebrselassie fades to a disappointing fourth


A convincing victory for Michael Kipyego in Tokyo (© Agence SHOT)

Tokyo, JapanBiding his time in the latter stages of the race, Kenyan Michael Kipyego took the lead for good with four kilometres to go to win the sixth edition of Tokyo Marathon on Sunday (26). Meanwhile, Haile Gebrselassie’s hopes of Olympic selection suffered a setback after the Ethiopian finished a distant fourth.

Kipyego's time of 2:07:37 was less than 15 seconds off the 2:07:23 course record recorded at this IAAF Gold Label Road Race by Viktor Rothlin in 2008.

“At 30Km, I did not think I could win,” Kipyego said. “But when I saw Haile (Gebrselassie) coming back to me I thought I had a chance. At 25Km I thought the pace was too fast, so I decided to run with my own pace and let them go. With 6Km to go I started to think that I might be able to catch them.”  

Arata Fujiwara, who broke away from the second group of runners after 25Km and moved up steadily in the final 17Km to pass the staggering runners from the lead pack, was second in 2:07:48.

“I broke away at 25Km, but nobody came with me, so I was not sure if I should keep on going or slow down to let the other runners catch up,” said Fujiwara, who has a good chance to make the Japanese Olympic team.  “At the end I decided to keep on going, but for a while I was uncertain if I am doing the right thing. Fortunately, runners in front of me were slowing down, and I was motivated to pick them off. I was uncertain if I can catch Haile but when I caught up to him, my energy level picked up.  I was hoping to run 2:06 but I had to run too much of the course alone, so 2:07 is good time considering the circumstances.”

Fujiwara finished second for the third time having finished second in both 2008 and 2010.

Behind Fujiwara two more runners – Kazuhiro Maeda and Takayuki Matsumiya - also set personal bests, while Viktor Rothlin recorded his first sub-2:10 since 2008. In all the top three Japanese set personal bests and eight runners broke 2:10, the highest ever in Tokyo Marathon.

Gebrselassie, who looked good during the early and middle part of the race, took the lead at 36Km but then began to falter. He was first caught by Kipyego at 38.1Km, by Stephen Kiprotich at 40Km and by Fujiwara at 41.2Km.

“I was running OK until 35 – 36Km but my back started to hurt at the final downhill of the course. In fact my back felt uncomfortable from the morning,” said Gebrselassie, who finished fourth in 2:08:17. He kept on emphasizing that, “I am not tired. I feel fresh. I can run another marathon in two weeks. No problem.” He could not manage his goal of a 2:05 marathon here in Tokyo. Will he try again in a spring marathon?  That will be very intriguing question.

Until late in the race, the women’s race looked to be one woman show by Eri Okubo who led by as much as 1:45 at the half.  However, Atsede Habtamu had a plan of her own which eventually led to a course record of 2:25:28.

“My plan was to stay behind the other runners until 30Km and then make my move,” said Habtamu. She covered 35Km to 40Km in 16:50 and just before hitting the 40Km check point, Habtamu took over the lead from Okubo and won comfortably.  Yeshi Esayias and Helena Kirop also finished fast taking second and third, respectively.  Okubo who led from the start to almost the finish took 17:51 from 35 to 40Km and finished fourth with 2:26:08, still a personal best.

How the men’s race unfolded:

The first kilometre was covered in 3:00, slightly slower than the planned pace of 2:58.  But then the pace picked up to 2:58 for the next kilometre. By 3Km the lead pack was reduced to six runners – Gebrselassie, Jafred Kipchumba, Hailu Mekonnen, Kiprotich, Kipygo, Masakazu Fujiwara – the only Japanese in the lead pack - and two pace makers. Five kilometres was covered in 14:39, quite fast even considering the downhill. A huge second pack passed 5Km in 14:51, still faster than the course record pace. “The weather is absolutely great,” said Toshihiko Seko, who was commentating for television. After 7Km, Kipchumba fell behind once, but then caught up with the lead pack again by 8Km.  

The lead pack covered the 10Km in 29:35, while the second group passed the same point in 29:54, still course record pace. At 12Km Kipchumba fell behind again and was never again in contention. The lead group was slowing and thus the second group was gaining on them. After 15Km (44:40) Masakazu Fujiwara lost contact with the lead group.

The 20Km split was 59:34 for the leaders, while the second group has passed the same point in 59:59, right at the planned pace. The leaders passed the half marathon point in 1:02:51. After 22Km, the final pace maker fell behind, and Gebrselassie started to push the pace.  In the second group, Yuki Kawauchi, one of the favourites to make the Japanese Olympic team started to drift off the group. Just before 25Km (1:14:15) Kiprotich and Kipyego dropped off the pace and two Ethiopians – Hailu Mekonnen and Gebrselassie – were sharing the lead.  

After 25Km (1:15:11 for second group) Arata Fujiwara started to push the pace and moved ahead of the second pack.  With pace makers out of the race also for the second group, the real race for the Olympic team started.  At 30Km (1:29:06) Gebrselassie and Mekonnen were still running side by side in the lead while all Kenyans are far behind.

Mekonnen and Gebrselassie were still together at 35Km (1:44:41), but by 36Km Mekonnen looked tired. Soon Gebrselassie was alone in the lead.  However, the leaders began to falter, and Kipyego started his come back.

At 41.2Km Fujiwara passed Gebrselassie to move up to third. Six hundred metres later Fujiwara move up to second. Although Kiprotich fought back hard Fujiwara had another gear and finished second.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Weather: Cloudy; temperature: 7.5C; humidity 50%



1) Michael Kipyego (KEN)     2:07:37

2) Arata Fujiwara           2:07:48   Personal Best

3) Stephen Kiprotich         2:07:50

4) Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 2:08:17

5) Vikto Rothlin (SUI)       2:08:32

6) Kazuhiro Maeda           2:08:38   Personal Best

7) Takayuki Matsumiya       2:09:28   Personal Best

8) Hailu Mekonnen (ETH)     2:09:59

9) Takeshi Kumamoto         2:10:13

10) Atsushi Ikawa             2:11:26


1) Atsede Habtamu (ETH)     2:25:28  Course Record

2) Yeshi Esayias (ETH)       2:26:00  Personal best

3) Helena Kirop (KEN)       2:26:02

4) Eri Okubo                 2:26:08  Personal Best

5) Tatiana Arkhipova (RUS)  2:26:46

6) Lishan Dula (BRN)         2:28:22

7) Eyerusalem Kuma (ETH)     2:28:36

8) Kateryna Stetsenko (UKR) 2:28:38

9) Adriana da Silva (BRA)   2:29:17  Personal best

10) Sumiko Suzuki             2:29:25

Leader’s Splits:

Men -

5Km 14:38     Samuel Tsegay (pacer)

10Km 29:35  (14:57)  Mulgeta Wami (pacer)

15Km  44:39  (15:04)  Mulgeta Wami (pacer)

20Km  59:35  (14:56)  Samuel Tsegay (pacer)

Half 1:02:51  Michael Kipyego

25Km 1:14:15 (14:40) Hailu Mekonnen

30Km 1:29:07 (14:52) Haile Gebrselassie

35Km  1:44:41 (15:34) Hailu Mekonnen

40Km 2:00:35 (15:54) Michael Kipyego

Finish  2:07:37 (7:02)  Michael Kipyego  

Women -

5Km 16:54   Eri Okubo

10Km 33:40  (16:46)  Eri Okubo

15Km 50:40  (17:00)  Eri Okubo

20Km 1:07:50 (17:10) Eri Okubo  

Half  1:11:40   Eri Okubo

25Km 1:25:19 (17:39)  Eri Okubo

30Km  1:42:48 (17:29)  Eri Okubo

35Km 2:00:19 (17:31) Eri Okubo

40Km 2:18:02 (17:43) Atsede Habtamu

Finish 2:25:28 (7:26)  Atsede Habtamu

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