The top five spots in the men’s and women’s races belonged to Kenyans and Ethiopians, but Japanese fans had plenty of reasons for national pride after the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday, February 23.
It was an especially noteworthy day for the Japanese men, who couldn’t stay with Kenyan winner Dickson Chumba but combined for “either the second- or third-greatest marathon in [Japanese] history, depending on your metric,” as the website Japanese Running News reports.
Although none came within two minutes of Chumba, whose personal-best 2:05:42 is a new Tokyo Marathon course record, five Japanese men broke 2:10, and four of them notched new personal records.
Leading the way for the host country was Kohei Matsumura, who finished in eighth place with a time of 2:08:09. He was followed by Koji Kobayashi (ninth, 2:08:51), Hirokatsu Kurosaki (11th, 2:09:07), Masanori Sakai (12th, 2:09:10), and Suehiro Ishikawa (13th, 2:09:29).
The race is the fourth ever in which five or more Japanese men have run faster than 2:10, and the average time for the top five is the second-fastest in national history.
Still, no one could challenge Chumba in the final stages. He “attacked the hills” during the most challenging section of the race, kilometers 36 through 41, Japanese Running News reports. A strong finish gave him the second-fastest marathon time ever recorded on Japanese soil. Chumba also broke countryman Dennis Kimetto’s previous course record—set last year—by more than a minute.
Runner-up Tadesse Tola of Ethiopia and third-place finisher Sammy Kitwara of Kenya also surpassed Kimetto’s 2013 mark, finishing in 2:05:57 and 2:06:30, respectively.
There was also a new course record on the women’s end: Tirfi Tsegaye of Ethiopia won in a time of 2:22:23—more than three minutes faster than the previous mark.
Following seven seconds behind was Birhane Dibaba, who hung with Tsegaye until the very end. She and the next two finishers, Kenyans Lucy Kabuu and Caroline Rotich, also beat the previous course record.
“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