Mathathi and Ito win Sapporo Half

Mathathi and Ito win Sapporo Half

Provided by IAAF

The 55th annual Sapporo International Half marathon, which doubles as the selection race for the Japanese team for the World Half Marathon Championships, was held in Sapporo, northern metropolis, on Sunday 1 July. Leading from wire to wire, Martin Mathathi, the 2007 World Championships bronze medalist at 10,000m, won the men’s division of the race in 1:01:35. The time was quite respectable considering the warm (25C) and windy weather less than ideal for distance running.

Arata Fujiwara, who used this race as an Olympic tune up, and Naoki Okamoto battled hard for the top Japanese position. Although Okamoto pulled away from Fujiwara in the uphill 20th kilometre, Fujiwara came back strongly and passed Okamoto on the track little more than 100 metres from the finish to win the battle for the first Japanese.

"It was quite hard race, but I was able to simulate the end of the Olympic marathon in the last 1Km," said Fujiwara who finished sixth overall. This was the fourth race in eight days for Fujiwara, having run two 10,000m races with less than five minutes break between the race on 23 June and a 5000m race on 27 June 27. He capped it off with the Half Marathon today.

Mai Ito, who broke away from the Miyauchi twins at 14Km, won the women’s edition with 1:10:52.

"I am happy to win," she said. "I stayed behind in the early going, but I decided to go for the win since I felt good in the second half. If I am selected to the World Half Marathon Championships, I like to run well."

Yukiko Akaba, alternate for the Olympic Marathon team, fell off the lead pack early, but she was tenacious and picked off the staggering runners in the last half of the race to finish respectable fifth.

How the race unfolded -

The men started 13 minutes after the women, and Kenyans led by Mathathi moved intothe front immediately and led the pack out of the stadium. Soon, the lead pack consisted exclusively of Kenyans. Before 5Km, Mathathi, a sub-60 Half Marathon runner, started to pull away. Downhill 5Km was covered in fast 14:13. By 10Km (covered in fast 28:46 despite head wind) Mathathi was completely alone. He passed 15Km in 43:31 and 20km in 58:28 despite warm weather and won comfortably. Biding his time behind the Kenyans Fujiwara started to pick off staggering runners in the last half of the race and eventually caught Naoki Okamoto who was the first Japanese during the most of the race. Although Okamoto pulled away again, Fujiwara caught and passed Okamoto on the track for the position of first Japanese.

Women -

Seventy-two women started first under windy conditions. Akaba went to the lead immediately and pushed the pace. But soon the Miyauchi twins and Asami Kato moved into front. 5Km split was relatively modest 16:43. After 6Km Akaba started to drift back. However, she did not completely fall apart. By 7Km the pack was reduced to nine runners. After 11Km Yoko Miyauchi tried to break away which broke up the lead pack. Nearing 14Km Ito went into the lead followed by the Miyauchi twins. By 15Km (50:19) Ito was all alone in front, some 30m ahead of Yoko Miyauchi, and held on for the win.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Leading Results:

Weather: temperature: 25C; windy

Men -

1) Martin Mathathi (KEN) 1:01:35

2) Mekubo Mogusu (KEN)1:01:51

3) Joseph Gitau (KEN) 1:02:00

4) James Mwangi (KEN) 1:02:09

5) Alex Mwangi (KEN) 1:02:18

6) Arata Fujirawa 1:02:48

7) Naoki Okamoto 1:02:50

Women -

1) Mai Ito 1:10:52

2) Yoko Miyauchi 1:11:04

3) Hiroko Miyauchi 1:11:26

4) Asami Kato 1:11:39

5) Yukiko Akaba 1:12:07



5Km 14:13

10Km 28:46 (14:33)

15Km 43:31 (14:45)

20Km 58:28 (14:57)

Finish: 61:35 (3:08)


5Km 16:43

10Km 33:43 (17:00)

15Km 50:19 (16:36)

20Km 67:14 (16:55)

Finish: 70:52 (3:38)