Eunice Kirwa wins the Nagoya Marathon (© Agence SHOT)
Surging away from Mariya Konovalova and Sairi Maeda after 31km, Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa of Bahrain won the 2015 Nagoya Women’s Marathon on Sunday (8) in 2:22:08, the fastest time in the history of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
The course was changed in 2010 when the race went from being an elite-only to a mass-participation event, but Kirwa’s winning time was faster than the previous course record of 2:22:19, recorded 15 years ago by 2000 Olympic champion Naoko Takahashi.
“I did not expect to run such a fast time,” said Kirwa after recording the second-fastest performance of her career and extending her winning streak to four marathons. “I was thinking of a time around 2:23, so I am satisfied with my time. I always wanted to run the Nagoya Women’s Marathon, so I am happy to win the race today.”
Finishing second in 2:22:27 was 40-year-old Mariya Konovalova of Russia. Before today, the fastest marathon by a woman older than 40 was 2:24:54 by Irina Mikitenko at the 2013 Berlin Marathon. Konovalova improved on that mark by more than two minutes. Konovalova, a world finalist over 5000m 20 years ago, had a previous PB of 2:22:46.
Placing third overall – and, more importantly, finishing as the top Japanese woman – was Sairi Maeda. Running just the second marathon of her career, Maeda improved her personal best by nearly four minutes from 2:26:46 to 2:22:48, moving to eighth on the national all-time list with the fastest performance by a Japanese woman since 2007.
Japan has a new marathon star, but Maeda’s real test may be her next marathon, which is likely to be at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.
Maeda collided with Rei Ohara at the 15km water station and bruised her left knee, but she got up and quickly caught up with the lead pack. When Kirwa surged ahead at 31km, Maeda was left behind. She slowed and her next two 5km segments took more than 17 minutes, but she kept the deceleration to a minimum.
The 23-year-old saved a bit of speed for the end, though, and covered the final 2.195km in 7:17, the fastest for that segment among the top finishers. Incidentally, her 52-year-old mother Junko Maeda ran in the mass race.
In fourth place, Mai Ito also improved her personal best from 2:25:26 to 2:24:42, while Risa Takenaka ran 2:28:09 in her debut marathon to finish fifth.
The pace makers did a good job of keeping the race fast by covering the first 5km in 16:49, the second 5km in 16:43, the third 5km in 16:59 and the fourth 5km in 16:58. The early lead group of 20 was reduced to about 11 runners by 15km, the point at which Ohara and Maeda collided.
Five runners – Kirwa, Konovalova, Maeda, Ito and Ohara – passed the half marathon point in 1:11:08, and anticipation for a fast time started to build.
After the pace-makers left the race at 30km, only Kirwa, Konovalova and Maeda were in the lead pack. Then at the turn-around point at 31km, Kirwa made her move.
“I knew the pace makers would leave the race at 30km, so I was planning to make my move at that point,” said Kirwa. She covered 30km to 35km in 16:37, while Konovalova and Maeda covered the same segment in 16:56 and 17:07 respectively, leaving Kirwa alone in front.
The Asian Games champion continued to push the pace. Konovalova and Maeda made up a bit of ground in the final few kilometres, but it was too little too late and Kirwa won by 19 seconds from Konovalova.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
1 Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa (BRN) 2:22:08
2 Mariya Konovalova (RUS) 2:22:27
3 Sairi Maeda (JPN) 2:22:48
4 Mai Ito (JPN) 2:24:42
5 Risa Takenaka (JPN) 2:28:09
6 Keiko Nogami (JPN) 2:28:19
7 Anna Incerti (ITA) 2:29:10
8 Reia Iwade (JPN) 2:29:16
9 Olena Burkovska (UKR) 2:29:45
10 Eri Hayakawa (JPN) 2:30:21