MARUGAME, Japan, Feb 4 – Betsy Saina pulled away from Ayuko Suzuki in the final kilometre of the Marugame Half Marathon to successfully defend her title at the IAAF Silver Label road race in 1:07:49 on Sunday.
Abdi Nageeye, meanwhile, caught front-running Simon Kariuki just before the 20-kilometre point and went on to win in 1:00:24, taking 46 seconds off the Dutch record set 20 years ago by Greg van Hest.
Saina and Suzuki ran together, passing five kilometres in 16:02, 10 kilometres in 32:06 and 15 kilometres in 48:15. They were still together at 20 kilometres, reached in 1:04:25, but Saina then made her move and pulled away from Suzuki to win in 1:07:49, smashing her previous best of 1:09:17 set in Marugame last year.
The Kenyan became the fifth woman to win back-to-back Marugame Half Marathon titles, joining Eunice Kirwa (2016 and 2017), Tiki Gelana (2012 and 2013), Kayoko Fukushi (2006, 2007 and 2011) and Yasuko Hashimoto (2003 and 2004). Her time is also the third fastest time in Marugame.
Despite missing out on victory, Suzuki was still pleased with her 1:07:55 half marathon debut.
“I am bit disappointed to be outkicked at the end of the race, but it was good that I was able to keep the steady pace all the way,” said Suzuki.
Australian 41-year-old Sinead Diver finished third in 1:08:55, improving her own world W40 best by 25 seconds. Charlotte Purdue was fourth in 1:09:46, her first sub-70-minute performance.
Mao Ichiyama, who will be running the Tokyo Marathon in four weeks, was sixth in 1:10:49, about a minute shy of her PB.
The lead group in the men’s race went through five kilometres in 14:16 and then Japan-based Kenyan Kariuki pulled away from the pack.
He went through 10 kilometres in 28:24, about 20 seconds ahead of the chase pack, and managed to maintain that lead up to 15 kilometres, which he reached in 42:46.
Nageeye then started to reel in Kariuki and took the lead just before 20 kilometres, which he passed in 57:18. The 29-year-old continued to pull away from his competitors in the closing stages to win in 1:00:24, improving his PB by one minute and 44 seconds.
Kariuki finished second in 1:00:43, a PB by 42 seconds. Australia’s Jack Rayner was third in 1:01:36, while fourth-placed Takato Suzuki was the first Japanese finisher, just ahead of Masao Kizu, both credited with PBs of 1:01:45.
Yuki Sato and Kenta Murayama, who will both be contesting the Tokyo Marathon in four weeks, fell during the early stages and withdrew from the race.
1 Abdi Nageeye (NED) 1:00:24
2 Simon Kariuki (KEN) 1:00:43
3 Jack Rayner (AUS) 1:01:36
1 Betsy Saina (KEN) 1:07:49
2 Ayuko Suzuki (JPN) 1:07:55
3 Sinead Diver (AUS) 1:08:55