The conditions were much less than ideal for the Tokyo Marathon, the first of the World Marathon Majors races for 2019. It rained throughout, with occasional wind gusts, but that did not deter two excellent races by Ethiopians Berhanu Legese and Ruti Aga.
The favorite coming into the race was Kenyan Dickson Chumba, already a two-time winner, and he, Legese and Kenyan Bedan Karoki had dropped everyone else by 25 km. But Legese got stronger as the race progressed and Chumba dropped back by the 29 km mark, although Karoki was still close.
Legese continued to lead and apply pressure to Karoki and by 35 km, the race was essentially over … if Legese didn’t falter.
He didn’t and had a 1:16 lead by the 40 km mark and cruised in for a win in 2:04:48 – impressive considering the weather – and exactly 2:00 faster than Karoki. Chumba held onto third at 2:08:44.
“It is a good course,” said Legese. “Had the weather been better, I could have run 2:03.” Just 24, this was Legese’s third career marathon and first win; he had previously been sixth at Dubai and 10th at Chicago last year. This was Karoki’s best finish ever in a marathon; he was third at London in 2017.
The women’s race was focused on Aga, who came in as the eighth-fastest marathoner in history (2:18:34 ‘18), but had never won a marathon, in seven tries. But the eighth time was a charm.
Seven runners passed the half in a speedy 1:09:44, but Aga pulled away after 35 km and won by 21 seconds in 2:20:40. Countrywoman Helen Tola got a lifetime best of 2:21:01 for second and Shure Demise completed the Ethiopian sweep in 2:21:05. Summaries:
World Marathon Majors/Tokyo Marathon
Tokyo (JPN) ~ 3 March 2019
(Fulll results here)
Men: 1. Berhanu Legese (ETH), 2:04:48; 2. Bedan Karoki (KEN), 2:06:48; 3. Dickson Chumba (KEN), 2:08:44; 4. Simon Kariuki (KEN), 2:09:41; 5. Kensuke Horio (JPN), 2:10:21; 6. Masato Imai (JPN), 2:10:30; 7. Takuya Fujikawa (JPN), 2:10:35; 8. Daichi Kamino (JPN), 2:11:05; 9. Ryu Takaku (JPN), 2:11:49; 10. Tadashi Isshiki (JPN), 2:12:21.
Women: 1. Ruti Aga (KEN), 2:20:40; 2. Helen Tola (ETH), 2:21:01; 3. Shure Demise (ETH), 2:21:05; 4. Florence Kipkagat (KEN), 2:21:50; 5. Bedatu Hirpa (ETH) 2:23:43; 6. Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH), 2:24:02; 7. Mao Ichiyama (JPN), 2:24:33; 8. Joan Chelimo Melly (KEN), 2:26:24; 9. Rose Chelimo (KEN), 2:30:35; 10. Ruth Chebitok (KEN), 2:31:19.