Tokyo Marathon Women — No. 3 Performance Ever

Brigid Kosgei negative-split her way to a 2:16:02. (KAZUAKI MATSUNAGA)

TOKYO, JAPAN, March 06 — Brigid is back! World Record holder Brigid Kosgei impressively demonstrated that she has returned to a very high level of fitness as she closed out her course record 2:16:02 win at the Tokyo Marathon with a strong surge over the final 7km. The time ranks No. 3 on the all-time list, trailing only her 2:14:04 World Record (Chicago ’19) and Paula Radcliffe’s longstanding standard of 2:15:25 (London ’03).

“Today I feel good,” the 28-year-old Kenyan exclaimed, “and was very excited to be position one and break the [course] record. I was really, really happy, if not the wind I could run under 2:15.”

The Ethiopian duo of Ashete Bekere (2:17:58) and Goytatom Gebreselassie (2:18:18) stuck with Kosgei’s 2:16:23 pace through 35K, before the Kenyan star blasted away to a huge lead, blitzing the final 7.2K at just under 3:11/kilo pace, spot on her WR clip.

Kenyan Angela Tanui (2:18:42) and Ethiopian Hiwot Gebrekidan (2:19:10) also ducked under 2:20, followed by the Japanese duo of Mao Ichiyama (2:21:02) and Hitomi Niiya (2:21:17), with American Sara Hall finishing 8th in 2:22:56.

For Kosgei, it was a return to something close to her WR form after a bit of a struggle in ’21. Only if you are a WR holder is an Olympic silver and a quick turnaround to a 2:18:40 for 4th in London considered a struggle.

After a year of compromised training, Kosgei was pleased to reveal that “I was preparing well in my training and all of my condition was being good.” Traveling to Japan almost two weeks in advance of the race, she was able to adjust to the time zone and finalize her preparations, noting, “Since I came here from Kenya my training was good all the way, I was feeling happy and hoped I could run my best today.”

Anything close to her best is a very fast pace and a lead group of 5 — Kosgei, Bekere, Gebreslase, Tanui and Gebrekidan — targeted a 2:16 pace. A second group of Hall, Ichiyama, Niiya, and Ethiopian Helen Tola was shooting for 2:19, just under the identical American and Japanese Records of 2:19:12.

Kosgei rode the downhill start to an initial 16:05 split (2:15:44 pace), before settling into an ever-steady 3:13-15 kilometer clip. A second 5K in 16:09 put them at 2:16:01 pace at 10K (32:14). That tempo was maintained through subsequent 5Ks of 16:07 (15K in 48:21) and 16:14 (20K in 64:35).

Running with three pacers and amidst a throng of 2:15–2:20 Japanese men, Kosgei ran point for the women with the other four latched onto her long strides. The quintet remained together through a 16:13 segment to reach 25K in 1:20:48 (2:16:22 pace). Heady running considering Tanui’s PR of 2:17:57, Bekere’s 2:18:18, Gebrekidan’s 2:19:35 and Gebreslase’s 2:20:09.

The second pack also remained intact through 25K, locked onto 16:30 segments after the downhill 16:18 opener. They passed halfway right on schedule in 69:29 and hit 25K in 1:22:24 (2:19:04 pace), before Hall and Tola faltered and fell far behind Ichiyama and Niiya. Hall struggled through a 17:21 interval and by 30K in 1:39:46 (2:20:19 pace) hopes to replicate her American half-marathon record were put to rest.

The sustained high pace also hit the lead pack with Tanui and Gebrekidan falling from contention in the 28th kilometer. Kosgei led the remaining trio through successive 16:11 (30K in 1:36:59) and 16:09 (35K in 1:53:08) checkpoints, with the later leaving paring Bekere who fell 8 seconds back.

Running 2:16:23 pace with just Gebreslase for company, Kosgei was most concerned with battling the freshening wind as she noted it “was pushing us back especially at 32km.”

Taking advantage of a tailwind in the 36th and 37th kilometers, Kosgei accelerated into her WR stride and broke free with a pair of 3:08 kilometers. Reminiscent of her WR romp, she held her left elbow tight to her side, firming up her torso as her long strides covered ground at a rate rarely seen in a women’s marathon.

Remarkably Kosgei kept up the pace as the course U-turned back into the wind for the final 5K. Crossing 40K in 2:08:56 revealed a staggering 15:48 split and a 1:22 lead over Gebreslase and Bekere. Talk about blowing a race open! Then factor in that much of this surge was into a finishing wind that humbled almost all of the top finishers, male and female alike.

Kosgei maintained the high pace to the finish to negative split (1:08:06/1:07:56) her 2:16:02. “The weather is good,” she noted, “but there was a wind on some kilometers, and that led me to reduce the pace a little bit.” Then as if to accentuate that the WR holder is indeed back she added, “I thought I could run 2:14 but it was tough with the wind pushing me back.”


RESULTS

1. Brigid Kosgei (Ken) 2:16:02 (WL) (x, 3 W) (1:08:06/1:07:56);

2. Ashete Bekele (Eth) 2:17:58 PR (=11, x W);

3. Goytatom Gebreselassie (Eth) 2:18:18 PR;

4. Angela Tanui (Ken) 2:18:42;

5. Hiwot Gebrekidan (Eth) 2:19:10 PR;

6. Mao Ichiyama (Jpn) 2:21:02;

7. Hitomi Niiya (Jpn) 2:21:17 PR;

8. Sara Hall (US) 2:22:56;

9. Helen Tola (Eth) 2:24:33;

10. Kaori Morita (Jpn) 2:27:38 PR;

11. Rika Kaseda (Jpn) 2:28:29 PR;

12. Miharu Shimokado (Jpn) 2:29:20;

13. Shiho Kaneshige (Jpn) 2:29:26;

14. Yui Okada (Jpn) 2:30:03 PR;

15. Hitomi Mizuguchi (Jpn) 2:32:47.

(best-ever mark-for-place: =3)

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