, FUKUOKA , Dec 4 – Josphat Ndambiri led Kenya’s one-two finish in the Fukuoka men’s marathon in Japan on Sunday in his first full marathon, underlining his country’s wealth of long-distance runners.
The 26-year-old, who has been based in Japan since his teenage years, broke away from the front-running pack at the 25-kilometre mark with fellow Kenyan and Japan resident James Mwangi trailing him.
Ndambiri’s lead over Mwangi widened to 36 seconds after 35km and he went on to win the 42.195km race in 2hrs 7mins and 36secs.
Mwangi, 27, followed home about one minute behind at 2:08:38 with Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi crossing the finish line in third place at 2:09:57.
“I pulled ahead as I saw nobody coming up front,” Ndambiri said, recalling his spurt after 25km when the pacemakers pulled out.
“I guess the time is good for my first marathon,” he said, adding that he needed to watch how he paced himself.
“I don’t know where I should pick up my pace or restrain myself. I will try to correct it in my next marathon,” the Kenyan said, adding he might compete in Rotterdam or Paris.
The prestigious 64-year-old Fukuoka race was used by some countries including Japan as trials for next year’s London Olympics.
But competition for Olympic marathon berths is fierce among Kenyans, and the country continues to dominate the sport.
Patrick Makau set the marathon world record of 2:03:38 in the Berlin marathon in September and Abel Kirui retained his world title in Daegu, South Korea, also in September.
Samuel Wanjiru, who also studied and trained in Japan, won the 2008 Beijing Olympic marathon but died last May at the age of 24 when he fell from the balcony of his home. In 2007 he also won Fukuoka in his first full marathon.
“It will be tough to be selected for the Olympics but I believe I can go if I work hard,” said Ndambiri, who competed in the 10,000m in the 2007 world championships in Osaka. “I want to follow in Wanjiru’s footsteps.”