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Olympic Medalist Kirwa Over Fastest-Ever Japanese First-Timer Ando at Nagoya Women's Marathon

by Brett Larner

Rio Olympics silver medalist, two-time defending champion and course record holder Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) brought the race of her career to the Nagoya Women's Marathon.  And she needed to in order to win.

Despite a fall at the start Kirwa was out strong, accompanied by the star first-timer of last year's Nagoya, Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), her debuting teammate Yuka Ando, and the likewise debuting Hisami Ishii (Team Yamada Denki).  The 5 km split of 16:51 put them on track for 2:22:12, just under the JAAF's London World Championships auto-selection standard of 2:22:30, but when the pacers took it up to 16:25 for the next 5 km the pace got too hot for Kiyota and Ishii.

Kiyota made a few brave attempts to get back on board but quickly lost touch for good.  Ando, 10th at last year's Cardiff World Half Marathon Championships, stayed right with Kirwa, both looking strong as they went through halfway in 1:10:21 exactly 30 seconds off Ando's half marathon best. As the kilometers went by it was clear something big was on the way. A surge from Kirwa before 28 km but still together at 30 km in 1:40:41, 2:21:37 pace, PB and CR pace for Kirwa and a time only three Japanese women had ever cleared in the cards for Ando.

Kirwa surged again near 33 km and opened a small gap that grew to 7 seconds by 35 km and 18 seconds at 40 km.  Sailing in to the finish, Kirwa took almost 30 seconds off her best and nearly a minute off her own course record as she crossed the line in 2:21:17.  In 33 years of Nagoya history she became the first woman to win it three times, her 2015-2017 sweep including two course records a very tough challenge for any future winners to ever top.

Ando couldn't match Kirwa over the closing kilometers but never faltered, coming in to incredible home ground fanfare as she broke Kirwa's old course record in 2:21:36.  The fastest-ever debut by a Japanese woman and one of the fastest in world history, Ando's time put her at all-time Japanese #4, the first time since 2007 a Japanese woman has run under 2:22, setting her atop modern Japanese women's marathoning like a beacon shining out to show the rest of the women the way back.

Kiyota spent almost the entire race alone but stayed focused and cut almost a minute off her debut time from last year, taking 3rd in 2:23:47.  With Ando a lock for the London team and Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) having run 2:24:22 there's a very good chance Kiyota will make it to London too, a major coup for the non-corporate league Suzuki Hamamatsu AC club team if it comes true.

Early lead group fellow traveller Ishii faded back into the second group, overtaken by Sayaka Kuwahara (Team Sekisui Kagaku) for 4th but holding on for a quality 2:27:35 debut in 5th.  Kuwahara was one of only two top ten finishers not to have a banner day.  Besides the top three and Ishii, both 6th and 7th placers Miharu Shimokado (Team Shimamura) and Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) ran new bests and 2017 National Corporate Half Marathon champion Ai Utsunomiya (Team Miyazaki Ginko) showed potential with a 2:28:52 debut.  40-year-old Australian Sinead Diver took over 2 1/2 minutes off her best with a 2:21:37 for 10th.  All told it was another big day for Nagoya, the top elite women's marathon in the world last year, and a sign that things are going in the right direction for Japanese women's long distance three years out from the big day.

Nagoya Women's Marathon
Nagoya, 3/12/19
click here for complete results

1. Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) - 2:21:17 - PB
2. Yuka Ando (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:21:36 - debut
3. Mao Kiyota (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:23:47 - PB
4. Sayaka Kuwahara (Japan/Sekisui Kagaku) - 2:26:09
5. Hisami Ishii (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 2:27:35 - debut
6. Miharu Shimokado (Japan/Shimamura) - 2:27:54 - PB
7. Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Team RxL) - 2:28:24 - PB
8. Ai Utsunomiya (Japan/Miyazaki Ginko) - 2:28:52 - debut
9. Shiho Takechi (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 2:30:10
10. Sinead Diver (Australia) - 2:31:37 - PB
11. Fatuma Sado (Ethiopia) - 2:32:00
12. Keiko Nogami (Japan/Juhachi Ginko) - 2:32:01
13. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:32:12
14. Asami Kato (Japan/Panasonic) - 2:32:36
15. Yui Okada (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:32:45
16. Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) - 2:34:27
17. Alessandra Aguilar (Spain) - 2:34:42
18. Cassie Fien (Australia) - 2:36:11
19. Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/Y.W.C.) - 2:36:44
20. Mei Matsuyama (Japan/Noritz) - 2:37:04
21. Eriko Kushima (Japan/Noritz) - 2:37:21
22. Kikuyo Tsuzaki (Japan/Noritz) - 2:39:15
23. Sakie Arai (Japan/Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 2:40:52
24. Ruka Nakamura (Japan/Kojima Press) - 2:40:54
25. Yurie Doi (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:41:27
DNF - Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (U.S.A.)
DNF - Kate Coburn (Australia)
DNF - Reia Iwade (Japan/Noritz)
DNF - Monica Jepkoech (Kenya)
DNF - Yoko Miyauchi (Japan/Hokuren)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Anonymous said…
Brett, I love the way Ando runs and I remember some years ago, you made a comment, 'She's so economical I love to see her running a marathon.' There we have it and she sets the Japanese women's running scene on fire. Fantastic! I remember the last Japanese lady to have run 2:21 was no other than Noguchi ten years ago.
TokyoRacer said…
She's economical, all right - hardly any arm swing at all. And Kiyota is almost the same. That coach is doing something right - he has the two best women marathoners in Japan.
Kakaroto said…
Strong japanese debut, very good, big potencial future sub-20 in marathon, break national record Mizuki Noguchi 2:19'12 in Berlim marathon!!!
Hello, I 'm very interesting in japanese training methods. I have studied Renato Canova philosophy, and I have seen training plans like takayuki inubushi training. where can I find training plans of Japanese Women marathoners as Yuka Ando and others Japanese marathoners?.Thank you.
Kakaroto said…
Japanese woman top marathon training is secret!!!

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