By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Feb 26, 2017
Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Sarah Chepchirchir clocked impressive world-leading performances at the Tokyo Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday.
Kipsang, the former world record holder, clocked 2:03:58 to clip nearly two minutes from the previous race record while the unheralded Chepchirchir clocked 2:19:47 to improve the race mark by more than a minute. Both were also the fastest marathons ever run in Japan.
“I was feeling very good," said Kipsang, whose performance was the 12th fastest ever run. "The course is very good, but it was bit windy."
Fast from the gun
Strong winds notwithstanding, the men's race began with a blistering pace to match the pre-race world record assault hype, opening with a 2:46 first kilometre and the clock reading 14:13 through five.
Although the pace slackened when an early downhill portion of the course was run, the first 10 kilometres were still covered in a scintillating 28:50. The fast pace continued with the half-way point reached in 1:01:22, slower than in last September's Berlin Marathon, but faster than the 1:01:30 Kipsang requested.
The leaders reached the 30-kilometre marker in 1:27:27, still, 11 seconds ahead of the pace en route to Dennis Kimetto's world record run at the Berlin Marathon in 2014.
At that point the last pace-setter stepped off the course, leaving Kipsang and Tokyo Marathon record holder Dickson Chumba alone at the front.
At an even 15 minutes, the next five-kilometre stretch was the slowest of the race, but Kipsang still managed to pull away to pursue the world record on his own.
"Had someone stayed close to me, it would have been easier to chase record," Kipsang said
. A sub-2:04 performance appeared to be slipping away when he passed 40 kilometres in 1:59:29, but determined, Kipsang didn’t want to let it go.
"I pushed really hard at the end, because I could see that a 2:03 marathon was still a possibility."
Kipsang covered the final 2.195km in 6:29 to beat the 2:04 barrier for the fourth time in his career.
No other runner has more than two.
More specific to his Tokyo run, Kipsang shattered both the previous race record and Japanese all-comers records of 2:05:42 by Chumba and 2:05:18 by Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede, respectively.
It was also the fastest time ever produced in Asia, eclipsing Tamirat Tola’s 2:04:11 from this year’s Dubai Marathon.
"This is one of the fastest course in the world," said Kipsang, whose 1:53 margin of victory was the widest in the race's history.
"I would like to return here again."
Gideon Kipketer finished second in 2:05:51, a significant drop from his previous best of 2:08:14. Further back, Chumba was third in 2:06:25 with Evans Chebet fourth in 2:06:42.
Chepchirchir joins sub-2:20 club
Sarah Chepchirchir was also impressive.
After covering the first 30 kilometres in 1:46:26 along with Ethiopians Birhane Dibaba and Amane Gobena, Chepchirchir upped the tempo over the next five kilometres to 15:46 to build a cushion of nearly 40 seconds on Dibaba, her nearest rival.
"After 30 kilometres when the pacemakers dropped out," she said, "I was planning to increase the pace." Her strategy worked.
The little-known Chepchirchir, 32, forged on to join the elite sub-2:20 club, her 2:19:47 elevating her to the No. 16 spot among marathoners all-time. It was a remarkable showing for Chepchirchir, who entered the race with a 2:24:13 lifetime best.
Like Kipsang's performance, hers was also a Tokyo race record and a Japanese all-comers record.
"I am convinced that this time is good enough to be selected for the Kenyan World Championships team," Chepchirchir said. Dibaba finished second in 2:21:19 to improve her previous best of 2:22:30 recorded at the 2014 Tokyo Marathon. Gobena finished third clocking 2:23:09.