Tokyo Marathon Men — No. 4 Performance Ever

WR holder Eliud Kipchoge crossed the line victorious in 2:02:40. (KAZUAKI MATSUNAGA)

TOKYO, JAPAN, March 06 — Eliud Kipchoge made good on his promise to return to Japan after winning last year‘s Olympic race and came away with a course record 2:02:40 win in the Tokyo Marathon.

After the race he exclaimed “I’m excited again to be in Japan especially after winning the Olympic Marathon last year in Sapporo. I really appreciated the crowd, and I’m happy to run a course record in Tokyo and win my fourth Abbott World Major Marathon. I am feeling very good because I said to the press in the last couple days that I wanted to run strong and that is what I was able to do today.”

Kipchoge‘s winning time ranks No. 4 on the all-time list, trailing only his 2:01:39 (Berlin’18), Kenenisa Bekele‘s 2:01:41 (Berlin ’19) and his 2:02:37 (London ’19).

In many ways this race was reminiscent of that London competition. The field originally included Birhanu Legese (2:02:48) and Mosinet Geremew (2:02:55), the two Ethiopians who chased Kipchoge home in Britain. The course was similar to London, featuring a steep downhill over the opening 5K, and relatively flat thereafter. The weather was also quite favorable as in London, with 45-50° (c10C) temperatures, light winds at the start, and a 25-degree dew point, optimal for endurance racing.

Seizing the near perfect day, Kipchoge and a trio of Kenyan pacers got right after it, blitzing the downhill opening 5K in 14:17, 2:00:32 pace. The high tempo was maintained on the flat through a subsequent 14:20 segment to cross 10K in 28:37, 2:00:45 pace and 14 seconds ahead of Kipchoge’s split in his WR.

The 8-man lead pack formed the Flying V of a record assault with Kipchoge tucked behind the three pacers, and Mosinet running in his shadow surrounded by Amos Kipruto, Tamirat Tola, and Jonathan Korir.

Shura Kitata, who in London ’20 dealt Kipchoge his only defeat since ’13, had already eschewed the WR pace and dropped 8 seconds back when calamity struck just past 10K as the runners followed a TV truck off course approaching one of the three U-turns on the course. Recognizing their error after about 30m the runners turned around and rejoined the course having lost 10–12 seconds in the process.

With some consternation, Kipchoge went to the front to make up for lost time but a handicapped 14:39 split squandered the WR cushion as they crossed 15K in 43:16 (2:01:43 pace).

Undaunted, Kipchoge & Co. kept up a high tempo, passing 20K in 57:53 (2:02:07 pace) and reached halfway in 61:03, 2 seconds up on his WR split In Berlin.

After completing the second U-turn at 24K, the effort proved too much for Geremew and he retired to the side of the road. With just one pacer still up to the challenge the lead pack of 5 crossed 25K in 1:12:26 (2:02:15 pace).

The final pacer gave out at 27K, and as is his custom Kipchoge went to the front and lifted the pace through a 14:25 segment that first dropped Korir and then Tola at 29K. Crossing 30K in 1:26:51 the pace had sagged to 2:02:09 as Kipruto looked full of run.

Running alongside Kipchoge, the 29-year old Kipruto — who was a Sapporo DNF — was making the most of his third go at the Tokyo race after finishing 3rd in ’18 and 18th in ’20. The two Kenyans remained side-by-side through a 14:39 segment as the course turned in and out of a freshening wind to cross 35K in 1:41:30 (2:02:22 pace).

Exiting the 35K fluid station Kipchoge surged to the front and Kipruto was relegated to giving chase. Riding a tailwind Kipchoge threw down a 2:52 for kilo 36 that opened up a 3m gap. That lead grew to 30m after a subsequent 2:49, a move that brought victory smiles to the favorite’s face.

Unfortunately for Kipchoge after one final U-turn the final 5K was run into a headwind and there was no WR push as he cruised home at a 3:00 kilometer clip to close out his course record effort.

Kipruto finished 2nd in a PR 2:03:13 (good for =No. 9 on the all-time performers list) and Tola filled out the podium crossing in 2:04:14. Kengo Suzuki came home fourth in 2:05:28 after threatening to take his Japanese Record well under 2:05. Surging away from the second pack at 20K, Suzuki hit 30K in 1:28:42 (2:04:45) before slowing into the headwinds.

After extending his improbable dominance of the marathon over the past eight years, Kipchoge offered “what made me jump out of the group at 35K was to run strong, to run a good time and make my friends happy. That will inspire more people in this world to love running and love unity.”

RESULTS

1. Eliud Kipchoge (Ken) 2:02:40 (WL) (x, 4 W) (1:01:03/1:01:37);

2. Amos Kipruto (Ken) 2:03:13 PR (=9, x W);

3. Tamirat Tola (Eth) 2:04:14;

4. Kengo Suzuki (Jpn) 2:05:28;

5. Shura Kitata (Eth) 2:06:12;

6. Laban Korir (Ken) 2:06:37;

7. Kenya Sonota (Jpn) 2:07:23 PR;

8. Shun Yuzawa (Jpn) 2:07:31 PR;

9. Kento Kikutani (Jpn) 2:07:55;

10. Michael Githae (Ken) 2:07:55;

11. Hidekazu Hijikata (Jpn) 2:08:02;

12. Jonathan Kipleting (Ken) 2:08:04;

13. Yuki Sato (Jpn) 2:08:17 PR;

14. Keisuke Hayashi (Jpn) 2:08:21 PR;

15. Kensuke Horio (Jpn) 2:08:25 PR;

16. Daiji Kawai (Jpn) 2:08:31 PR;

17. Hirohito Inoue (Jpn) 2:08:33;

18. Toshiki Sadakata (Jpn) 2:08:33;

19. Yuta Shimoda (Jpn) 2:08:35;

20. Kazuma Kubo (Jpn) 2:08:48 PR.

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