Kipsang misses WR in brilliant sub 2:04 Tokyo victory


Kenya's Wilson Kipsang answers questions during a press conference for this weekend's Tokyo marathon in ...
Kenya's Wilson Kipsang answers questions during a press conference for this weekend's Tokyo marathon in Tokyo on February 24, 2017. The annual competition will be held on February 26. PHOTO/Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP

Wilson Kipsang and debutant Sarah Chepchirchir produced a majestic Kenyan double at the 2017 Tokyo Marathon in storming to the fastest ever marathons in Japan as the 2017 Abbot World Marathon Majors X Series kicked-off in sensational fashion.

Kipsang, 34, missed the 2:03:50 world record target he had set himself before the start but that took nothing away from his emphatic performance that ended with the first ever sub 2:04 marathon on Japanese soil when he stopped the clock at 2:03:58.

The New York champion and former two-time London winner thus became the first man in history to run a jaw-dropping four sub 2:04 marathons, another testament of his majesty over the ultimate distance.

Not to be overshadowed Chepchirchir completed an almost gun to tape victory by uncorking another sensational Japanese all comers record when she pulled away from her last challenger at 30K for a barnstorming 2:19:47 victory in the corresponding race that elevated her to the 16th fastest female marathoner of all time.

Kipsang and Chepchirchir erased the previous Tokyo route bests of Chumba (2:05:42) who won here in 2014 and last year’s women’s champion, Helah Kiprop (2:21:27).

-Kenyan sweep-

Pre-race favourite Kipsang led a Kenyan sweep of the top six places in the men’s race with Gideon Kipketer (2:05:50) going past the tiring and now deposed Tokyo record holder, Dickson Chumba (2:06:50) to finish second.

Evans Chebet (2:06:42), Alfers Lagat (2:07:39) and the seasoned Bernard Kipyego (2:08:10) trooped home in that order to round off the Kenyan top six.

 

“I was trying for the world record but it was a little windy and that is why I missed the world record. I was feeling good and the race was perfect.

“This is one of the fastest courses and I would like to compete here again. In 2020, we shall have the Olympics here and I would like to come here and compete there as well,” the former world marathon record holder said after being garlanded at the middle step of the podium.

 

With the course made faster and flatter by the organisers who removed some hills, Kipsang had boldly predicted the fall of Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 world record if all conditions were perfect for the race.

From the start, the three pace makers and the leading pack went out at a frenetic pace, chalking splits of 14:14 at 5K, 28:50 at 10K, 43:34 at 15K, 58:02 at 25K before Kipsang led the front running group that had whittled down to Chumba, Kipketer and Eritrea’s Yohanes Ghebregergish through the half marathon at 61:22.

They were still inside Kimetto’s standard when they breezed through the 25K mark in 62:47 with the last rabbit falling off after the 3oK, reached in 1:27:27, the first time they fell off world record pace with a projected finish of 2:02:59 still on the cards.

With Kipsang and Chumba pushing upfront after dropping the rest of the lead pack, a slow 15:00 split between 30K and 35K put paid any hopes they had to bring down the world record.

 

By this time, Chumba was tiring and Kipsang powered away from him to focus chasing down the clock, so much so that he almost missing his drink station at 35K but he quickly darted sideways to pick the fluid and then turned on the afterburners to put distance between him and the 2014 Tokyo winner.

From there, he only had the motorbike outriders and lead vehicle for company as he worked hard, face straining to give the Japanese people a piece of history, achieved at last to great cheers.

At the finish, Kipsang hugged his manager, Gerard van der Veen and sat back to wait for the next man across the line and it was not Chumba, who had ran alongside for most of the race but Kipketer, who charged in the closing kilometres to reel in the 2015 Chicago Marathon winner before going past to catch the bouquet.

-Chepchirchir stunner-

Ethiopian trio, Birhane Dibaba, Amane Gobena and Marta Lema had been listed as the favourites for the women’s race with the debut of US-based Olympics fifth finisher, Betsy Saina also grabbing some attention.

No one had reckoned on Chepchirchir, 32 an IAAF World Half Marathon finalist in 2010 where she finished 11th (71:03) before finishing fifth over the same distance during the 2011 All Africa Games (72:39).

In only her third career marathon having ran 2:30:08 in Hamburg (2015) and 2:24:13 in Lisbon last year, Chepchirchir crowned her Marathon Majors circuit debut with a polished performance that belied her inexperience at the grand stage.

 

Staying with the pacemakers at the front from the very start, Chepchirchir detached herself from the competition from the 30K mark to run all alone to the finish, catching up with struggling male runners and easing past them in the closing stages.

Berhane came in over two minutes in arrears (2:21:19) to finish second with another Ethiopian, Amane (2:23:09) taking the last podium place further back.

Ayaka Fujimoto who finished fourth in 2:27:37 was the first home runner across the line in fourth ahead of Marta (2:27:37) and American Sara Hall (2:28:26) who closed the top six in a lifetime best.

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