27 Feb

Tokyo's Million Dollar Marathon Man

Yuta Shitara

Crowd favourite Yuta Shitara was the undoubted the star of Sunday's (25 February) Tokyo Marathon. He may have finished 41 seconds behind Dickson Chumba of Kenya, the clear winner in  2:05:30 but Shitara still managed to claim the Japanese marathon record set in 2002 and bonus prizes thought to be in excess of $1,000,000. The bonuses came via Project Exceed, a Japanese initiative aimed at creating new marathon national records ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

There was early disappointment for spectators when defending champion and pre-race favourite, Wilson Kipsang dropped out complaining of stomach problems. This left Dickson Chumba with a great chance to repeat his 2015 Tokyo success and he ran prominently throughout.

The midway point was reached in 1:02:44 and 30 kilometres in 1:29:20. With the pacesetters’ duties completed, Chumba began to force the pace. The Kenyan, along with compatriots Amos Kipruto and Gideon Kipketer, covered the next five kilometres in 14:51. But when Chumba further increased the tempo he was left alone in front. Despite this lead he kept up the pressure and covered the 35-40 kilometre segment in 14:44 before reaching the finish for a convincing win.

Meanwhile Shitara had moved into second and finished in 2:06:11, a new Japanese record. Amos Kipruto was third in 2:06:33.

In the women’s race, Ethiopia’s Berhane Dibaba reached halfway in a group of four which included her compatriots Ruti Aga and Shure Demise, and Amy Cragg of the United States. Demise dropped back, leaving a trio in contention 10 kilometres later with Cragg the next to falter as Dibaba’s 16:26 split between kilometres 30 and 35 took its toll. The next five kilometres were even faster at 16:22 and Dibaba went clear of Aga.

Dibaba joined the sub-2:20 club with her 2:19:51 while Aga held on for second in 2:21:19 with Cragg crossing the line third in 2:21:42, slicing more than five minutes from her previous personal best.

A large party of UK runners travelled to Tokyo with runABC's travel partner Sports Tours International - check out their website for details of 2019 Tokyo Marathon packages.