Skip to main content

Sakamoto Wins Zurich Marathon in International Debut, Kawauchi 2nd Behind Kiyeng

by Brett Larner
photos by Chris Godfrey, Martin Yelling and Brett Larner

Making her international marathon debut in excellent conditions on an almost perfectly flat course, Yoshiko Sakamoto (Y.W.C.) won the Zurich Marathon with an evenly-paced solo run that put her more than 8 minutes ahead of runner-up Nicola Spirig (Switzerland), the London Olympics triathlon gold medalist.  A 36-year-old mother of three, Sakamoto was a high school star who quit running completely for 9 years before starting again in her early 30s and set a PB 2:36:29 in January this year. Running in Zurich with support from JRN and targeting a 2:34 PB, Sakamoto was slightly off pace from the beginning but never flagged dramatically, going through halfway in 1:18:18 and facing headwinds on the return trip into town before crossing the finish line first in 2:37:47.

Australia's Jane Fardell, a late addition to the field, ran 2nd throughout the race but with a little over a km to go was run down by Spirig, the fastest in the field over the final quarter of the race.

"I'm so relieved and happy to have run a good time," Sakamoto said post-race.  "I had had some leg pain a couple of weeks ago that cut into my training, but it was no trouble during the race.  Partway through I thought I was going to fade and not break 2:40, but I started overtaking some men and that kept me going.  I can't believe I really did it.  I want to take it easy for a little while now and then race on the track.  My next marathon won't be until the fall."

The men's race was likewise slightly behind pace from the start, a ten-man group led by pacer Boaz Kipyego (Kenya), Edwin Kemboi Kiyeng (Kenya) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) staying right together on a pace hovering around 2:11 through 35 km before Kiyeng threw in a surge that put him in position for the win in 2:11:35.  Kawauchi fell to 7th in the wake of Kiyeng's move, but clawing his way back up he was in 4th by 41 km and outkicked Ethiopian Gebre Mekuant Ayenew by 4 seconds in the final 250 m to take 2nd in 2:12:13, his best time so far in a year in which he has struggled to recover from a bad ankle sprain in late December.

Post-race Kawauchi commented, "I'm disappointed not to win, but this was my first time making the podium in Europe so I'm very happy.  My time was not what I was going for either, but there was absolutely no pain or trouble with my ankle and it was just a case of my fitness not being up to where I thought it was yet.  In terms of level the Zurich Marathon was the perfect race for where I am right now and I'm extremely glad I chose it for my main spring race."

Zurich Marathon
Zurich, Switzerland, 4/19/15
click here for complete results

1. Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/YWC) - 2:37:47
2. Nicola Spirig (Switzerland) - 2:46:09
3. Jane Fardell (Australia) - 2:46:39
4. Daniella Aeschbacher (Switzerland) - 2:47:38
5. Astrid Muller (Switzerland) - 2:53:18

1. Edwin Kemboi Kiyeng (Kenya) - 2:11:35
2. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:12:13
3. Gebre Mekuant Ayenew (Ethiopia) - 2:12:17
4. Richard Kiprono Bett (Kenya) - 2:12:38
5. Boaz Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:12:59
6. Emmanuel Sikuku (Kenya) - 2:13:10
7. Edwin Kiprop Korir (Kenya) - 2:13:34
8. Robert Ndiwa (Kenya) - 2:13:41
9. Aleksey Sokolov (Russia) - 2:14:45
10. Andrey Safronov (Russia) - 2:15:48
11. Martin Fagan (Ireland) - 2:16:09

Sakamoto finish photo (c) 2015 Chris Godfrey, all rights reserved
Sakamoto solo photo (c) 2015 Martin Yelling, all rights reserved
text and Kawauchi photos (c) 2015 Brett Larner, all rights reserved


Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi and Kiyara Headline Wan Jin Shi Marathon

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returns to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon this Sunday for his marathon of the post-Yuta Shitara era. The runner-up in Wan Jin Shi in 2016, Kawauchi is ranked #1 in the field and comes to Wan Jin Shi with wins in his last three marathons but faces a solid field including fellow sub-2:10 man Peter Kiplagat Sitenei, last year's runner-up Tsegaye Debele (Ethiopia), and the only man to beat him last time around, 2016 winner and course record holder William Chebon Chebor (Kenya). Kawauchi plans to use the hilly race as a tune-up for his main marathon of the spring season, April's Boston Marathon.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rael Kiyara Nguriatukei (Kenya), winner of the 2012 Hamburg Marathon before being stripped of her title and suspended for a positive post-race test for norandrosterone, has the fastest recent time in the women's field with a 2:26:22 winning time at last year's Chongqing Marathon. Close behind is Chemtai …

1500 m Olympian Assefa Wins Nagoya, 22-Year-Old Sekine 2:23:07 Debut

Two-time 1500 m Olympian Meskerem Assefa (Ethiopia) ran down favorite Valary Jemeli (Kenya) with 4 km to go to win the 2018 Nagoya Women's Marathon, with the home town crowd wowed by the debut of the latest next big thing, 22-year-old Hanami Sekine (Japan Post).

Supported by three pacers, a lead pack of seven including Assefa, Jemeli, Sekine, Ethiopian Bahraini Merima Mohamed, Saitama International Marathon winner Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) and top-ranked Japanese women Reia Iwade (Dome) and Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) went through halfway in a decent 1:11:32. This proved too hot for a few of the past next big things to have run well in Nagoya the last few years, as Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu), 2:22:48 in Nagoya three years ago, and Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), 2:23:47 last year, were off the back of the pack in the first 10 km.

By 25 km Cheyech, Ohara and Iwade joined them off the back, leaving only Sekine in contention with the African trio of Jemeli, Assefa and Mohammed. Sekine, a…

Japan Dominates Asian Cross Country Championships

Japan dominated the 14th Asian Cross Country Championships Thursday in Guiyang, China, winning all four team gold medals to hold the hosts China back to silver in every race.

Japan's only individual gold came in the Junior Women's race, one of its usual areas of strength. Yuna Wada led a Japanese sweep of the top four positions to win the 6 km race in 20:43 with scoring teammates Ririka Hironaka and Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu just behind.

Wada Yuna of Japan wins Junior Women’s 6km cross country race of 14th Asian Cross Country Championship . Japan also won Team championship — Asian Athletics (@asianathletics) March 15, 2018
With the meet also serving as China's National Championships Chinese athletes won the individual gold in the other three races, Dan Li, Cairen Suolong and Jianhua Peng all showing better closing speed to beat their Japanese rivals by 3~4 seconds. Li won the Senior Women's 8 km by 3 seconds over Japan's Yukari Abe, leadi…