THE WORLD MARATHON MAJORS season got underway in Tokyo, but there was significant action at shorter distances as the big 26-milers of April draw close:
Tokyo Marathon: When 2nd Is Good Enough
Dickson Chumba may have won the big race, becoming the first man to ever successfully defend at the Tokyo Marathon, but runner-up Yuta Shitara won the big money.
The Japanese star won the biggest headlines, because his 2:06:11 broke the Japanese record by 5 seconds, thus earning him a bonus of ¥100 million (c$1.18M).
Favored Wilson Kipsang had World Record hopes but fell off the pace early and dropped out.
Chumba broke away from Kenyan compatriots Gideon Kipketer and Amos Kipruto after 35K and went unchallenged in the final miles en route to a 2:05:30 victory.
Ethiopia’s Berhane Dibaba also managed to defend her title, clocking 2:19:51, a big PR that missed the race record by 4 seconds.
American Amy Cragg (read interview here) stayed with Dibaba and 2nd-placer Ruti Aga (2:21:19) for 33K, then hung on to finish in 2:21:42, a PR by 5:21 that made her the No. 5 American ever.
“I focused on the task at hand,” Cragg said. “It was really hard when I got dropped, but when I crossed the finish line I was so excited. Just absolutely thrilled.”
USATF 15K Champs: Titles To Huddle & Korir
Not surprisingly, veteran Molly Huddle, now 33, dominated the Gate River Run, which also served as the USATF 15K championship.
Chasing after an “equalizer” bonus and with a 6:00 headstart over the men, Huddle led Jordan Hasay and Molly Seidel in a quick breakaway from the pack.
After 5K, it was all Huddle, who won in 47:50, a PR by more than 2:00 over the 9.32M route and fast enough to snare the $5000 bonus.
Hasay topped Seidel, 48:40–49:20.
“I was just thinking they could catch me in the end,” Huddle said of her relentless charge from the front. “You go in there with a mile to go and you still have to push.”
On the men’s side, it was a U.S. Army display of strength as Leonard Korir, Emmanuel Bor, Sam Chelanga and Elkanah Kibet led, hitting 10K in 28:45.
In the final 2M, Chelanga tried to break away and only Korir could match strides. In the final mile, Korir was stronger, winning in 43:06 to Chelanga’s 43:15. Martin Hehir claimed 3rd at 43:19.
NYC Half-Marathon: Not A Day For Fast Times
by Rich Sands
Chilly temperatures just below freezing and strong winds turned the 13th edition of the NYC Half into a tactical affair, with Ben True and Buze Diriba unleashing last-minute kicks to take the titles on a redesigned course through Brooklyn and Manhattan.
For Dartmouth grad True, it was his first time finishing the 13.1M distance (following a DNF at Houston in ’13), and the track specialist benefited from a leisurely pace of 15:31 at 5K, 30:19 at 10K and 45:13 at 15K.
In addition to bucking the frigid winds, the leaders held back in anticipation of the closing 4M segment through the hilly roadways of Central Park.
Dathan Ritzenhein hovered near the front before forcing a breakaway in the 11th mile with True, Brit Chris Thompson and Ethiopian Teshome Mekonen.
By 20K (59:40) the two Americans were clear, and True sprinted clear in the final 200 for a 3-second margin of victory in 1:02:39.
Thompson (1:02:43) pulled away from Mekonen (1:02:44) for 3rd, while Scott Fauble (1:02:58) made it a trio of Americans in the Top 5.
“I was very willing to allow it to be as slow as possible, because being a shorter distance runner I knew I could have a little bit more leg speed than the guys who were training for marathons,” said True, who holds the American Record for the road 5K (13:20) and is the only American ever to win a Diamond League 5000.
The women’s race featured a similar muted pace (18:10, 35:30, 52:39). American Emily Sisson lead the charge into the park and whittled the field with 3M to go to Diriba and fellow Ethiopian Mamitu Daska plus Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal of Norway.
“I felt really good going into the park, better than I thought I would, and I felt really good going up the hills, so I thought maybe I can do this,” the Providence grad said.
Alas, Diriba finally moved to the front in the final 100 to clock 1:12:23, a single second ahead of Sisson.
Grøvdal (1:12:43), Daksa (1:12:50) and American Serena Burla (1:13:15) completed the Top 5.
Olympic 5000 champ Vivian Cheruiyot fell off the pace early and dropped out in the 10th mile, the Kenyan’s breathing affected by the cold weather.
Rome–Ostia Half: Rupp Cracks Hour Barrier
In a tuneup race to break up his training for the Boston Marathon, Galen Rupp (see sidebar) won Italy’s Rome-Ostia Half-Marathon, where his winning 59:47 was not only a PR but also raised him to No. 2 on the U.S. all-time list.
Only two other Americans—AR holder Ryan Hall (59:43 AR in ’07) and Leonard Korir (59:52 last fall)—have run under an hour. Dathan Ritzenhein turned a 60:00 in ’09.
On a course with just-legal drop, Rupp stormed his first 5K in 13:50, passed 10K in 28:09 and 15K in 42:44, and won from Kenyan Moses Kemei by 57 seconds.
“I felt pretty good in that race,” Rupp told T&FN. “I took it a little easy the week of the race but the week before that I was doing a lot of miles, probably more than I’ve ever done before, and as soon as I finished I got in a good cool down and then ran again that day.”