2014 is Tokyo’s second year as a World Marathon Major and it's already proving to be a very popular addition to the calendar with over 36,000 runners lining up at the start line on a cool and cloudy day in Japan's capital.
It seems these conditions proved perfect for Kenya’s Dickson Chumba and Ethiopia’s Tirfi Tsegaye as they set the tone for 2014 with emphatic wins at the Tokyo Marathon 2014. Not only are these their first World Marathon Majors titles, but the victories set new course records with Chumba crossing the line in 2:05:42 and Tsegaye in 2:22:23.
The action started when the last two pace makers left the race at 30km and seven runners – Dickson Chumba, Tadesse Tola, Sammy Kitwara, Michael Kipyego, Peter Some, Geoffrey Kipsang, and Deressa Chimsa – were left in the lead pack.
After 35km Chumba took over the lead and pushed the pace, only Tadese Tola was able to stay with him. Chumba covered 35km to 40km in 14:21, the fastest time ever for this 5km segment in the history of Tokyo Marathon.
Chumba later recalled at the press conference, “I did not think it (14:21) was too fast because I was planning to push the pace after 35km.” Chumba continued to push the pace and after 40km (1:59:19), Tola had to let Chumba go. “I knew Tola is a strong runner, having run 2:04 and won a medal in the championships. So I was not sure who would win until 40km when I became confident that I can win the race.”
Chumba covered the final 2.195km in 6:23, the fastest for this distance in the Tokyo Marathon, and won by 15 seconds. “From the start, I felt that I can run a good race today. I am very happy. I hope to come back next year to run the Tokyo Marathon again. I did not have a confidence to run such a fast time today, and I did not realise time will be this fast till very end,” said Chumba in the winner’s press conference.
Chumba bettered the men’s course record by more than a minute (previously 2:06:50 set by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto last year), with Tirfi Tsegaye of Ethiopia winning the women’s race with 2:22:23, improving the course record by more than three minutes.
Speaking after the race, Tsegaye said “Although part of the course was quite tough, it was a good race for me. My future goal includes victory at the major marathon as well as a faster time”. After 35km Tirfi Tsegaye and Birhane Dibaba (both from Ethiopia) broke away leaving two Kenyans, Caroline Rotich and Lucy Kabuu in their wake.
“After 35km I was determined to win the race,” said Tirfi at the winner’s press conference. With 700m from the finish Tirfi Tsegaye surged away to win by seven seconds in 2:22:23.