Dennis Kimetto helped make the Tokyo Marathon’s debut in the World Marathon Majors one for the history books, winning the race in 2:06:50 to smash the course record by 33 seconds on a cold and blustery day.
The 28-year-old Kenyan, running only his second marathon, took over from compatriot James Kwambai—who had broken the race open with a surge only moments before—at the 18-mile-mark to blast uncontested to the finish, bettering the previous mark of 2:07:23 set by Viktor Röthlin of Switzerland in 2008.
On the women’s side, Ethiopia’s Aberu Kebede took the title in 2:25:34. Kebede, 23, also won the BMW Berlin Marathon last fall.
A record 36,201 runners entered the seventh-annual race—out of 300,000 applicants—in its first year as part of the six-member World Marathon Majors, which also includes the Boston Marathon, Virgin London Marathon, BMW Berlin Marathon, Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and ING New York City Marathon.
In conjunction with Sunday’s race, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation and New York Road Runners announced a donation of $50,000 to the Mayor’s Fund for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Staten Island, where the ING New York City Marathon begins, was hard-hit by the storm, and the donation will support relief efforts there.
“Some of us visited New York City in last November for the ING New York City Marathon, and saw Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath with our own eyes. After coming back to Japan, we immediately set up the Sandy relief fund and raised the fund through our website,” said Tad Hayano, race director of the Tokyo Marathon. “Since we have suffered so much from the Great East Japan Earthquake, we deeply understand the situation in New York and hope this donation will help the people in New York.”
Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of NYRR, expressed gratitude, saying, “Still recovering from a devastating nuclear disaster, the people of Japan have shown incredible generosity and compassion for New York and we thank them for this incredible gift.”
"We are so grateful for the support of the Tokyo Marathon and its runners," said Megan Sheekey, president of the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. "Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Mayor's Fund collected donations from concerned New York City residents and neighbors to support relief efforts there. Now in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there is comfort in our shared resolve to recover and strengthen our communities following such a disaster."
Kimetto was the runner-up last September in Berlin, where his time of 2:04:16 was the fastest marathon debut in history on a standard course. The world record-holder at 25K (1:11:18), Kimetto ran an outstanding second half of the race in Berlin, reaching halfway in 1:04:22 but blasting the last 13.1 miles 2:28 faster.
“I want to run the World Championships next, but if that is not possible then I will run Berlin and, if I run Berlin, then I want to go after the world record,” said Kimetto.
The runner-up, defending champion Michael Kipyego, was second with a personal best time of 2:06:58, which was also under the previous course record. Third was Bernard Kipyego in 2:07:53, completing a Kenyan sweep.
The first Japanese finisher was Kazuhiro Maeda, in 2:08:00. Although missing the automatic qualifying time to be named to Japan’s team for the IAAF World Championships this summer, his finish nonetheless makes him the leading contender for the squad.
Finishing second to Kebede in the women’s race was compatriot Yeshi Esayias, 16 seconds back in 2:26:01, with Germany’s Irina Mikitenko, 40, third in 2:26:41. Kebede’s winning time of 2:25:34 was just five seconds off the course record set last year by Atsede Habtamu.
“It was too windy to pursue the course record,” said Kebede. “It was especially tough between 37K and 41K because of both wind and hill.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg