Abraham Kiplimo on his way to victory at the 2014 Beppu-Oita Marathon (© Toshihide Higuchi (Getsuriku))
Uganda’s Abraham Kiplimo won the 63rd annual Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in 2:09:23, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, in Japan on Sunday (2).
It was a big breakthrough for the 24-year-old Kiplimo, the first Ugandan to win the Beppu-Oita Marathon and his first ever win outside his native Uganda despite regularly running in Europe and elsewhere since 2010.
It was a personal best by more than four minutes and although he had run two marathons before, including finishing 19th at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, he had not finished even in the top 10 before.
“After 35km, I found myself in the front by accident so I just decided to continue pushing. I know the Japanese are very strong so I had to keep pushing and not give up," said Kiplimo.
"I learned from my training partner Stephen Kiprotich, the current Olympic and World Champion, he is assisting me with advice," added the winner. "Maybe my next marathon I can run 2.07 or faster depending on weather conditions and course, I am confident"
The race started in a very foggy weather with the temperature around 13 degrees Celsius but with no wind and a huge pack of approximately 30 runners passed 5km in 15:19, nine seconds slower than the organizer’s instruction to the pacemakers.
However, the pace picked up a bit over the following five kilometres and 10km was reached in 30:23.
After passing 15km in 45:27, however, the pace slackened again and the 20km split was 60:54, with the half marathon point reached in 1:04:12, although the course record of 2:08:15 set last year by Yuki Kawauchi was still obtainable.
At 24km, Kazuhiro Maeda, a 2:08 runner and one of pre-race favorite, started to drift back and at the same time the big leading pack started to break apart. By 28km, nine runners were left in the lead pack.
After 30km, passed in 1:31:34, the last pace makers dropped out and Japan’s Masato Imai moved to the front and surged.
Mongolia’s Ser-Od Bat-Ochir was the first to cover the move, followed by Kiplimo and Ethiopia’s Gezahegne Abera and by 32km, the lead pack was reduced to these four runners.
After 33km, Imai relinquished his place at the front and left Abera and Kiplimo to share the lead before the latter made his move just after 34km.
He quickly built up a commanding lead. At 35km, with a split of 1:46:54, Kiplimo was five seconds ahead of Imai while Bat-Ochir and Abera were starting to drift back.
At 37.5km, Japan’s Ken-ichi Shiraishi, a making his marathon debut, passed Bat-Ochir to move up into third but ahead of them Kiplimo kept on pulling away from Imai. By 39km, he was 15 seconds ahead of Imai.
On the uphill part of the course after 40km, Imai started to close the gap, but fell short by seven seconds at the finish. and came home second in a personal best of 2:09:30, the first sub-2:10 marathon of his career and almost a minute faster than he had ever run before.
"I noticed that Imai was close as the spectators where clapping and cheering all the time," reflected Kiplimo, after a tense final two kilometres.
Shiraishi, who was not even an invited runner finished third, with 2:10:36 on his marathon debut while Bat-Ochir finished fourth in 2:10:59, the second fastest marathon time of his career.
Kenya’s ile Jason Mbote, the fastest runner in the field with two sub-2:08 times to his name and another three under 2:09, finished a disappointing seventh with 2:12:44.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF