After breaking away from her competitors after just 5km at the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon, Eunice Kirwa set a course record of 1:08:55 to successfully defend her title at the IAAF Silver Label Road Race on Sunday (14).
The world marathon bronze medallist took 42 seconds off the course record she set last year to achieve her fifth consecutive victory in Japan. Along with her back-to-back victories in Gifu, the Asian Games champion has twice won the Nagoya Marathon and earlier this year won the Marugame Half Marathon.
Kirwa and Rebecca Kangogo Chesir went out fast, passing 5km together in 15:49, 22 seconds quicker than Kirwa managed at the same checkpoint in last year’s race when she set a course record. Just like last year, Kirwa then broke away from her final challenger and by 10km, reached in 32:03, she was 10 seconds ahead of Chesir.
Japan’s Kayoko Fukushi, the Asian half marathon record-holder, was expected to challenge Kirwa, but such a clash never materialised. Fukushi was in third place at 10km, nearly a minute behind Kirwa.
Kirwa continued to pull away from her competitors. By 15km, Kirwa was nearly a minute ahead of second-placed Chesir, and by 20km her lead had grown to two minutes.
The 31-year-old went on to win by more than two minutes, clocking 1:08:55 for her sixth sub-69-minute performance.
Betelhem Moges, who moved into third place before 15km, caught Chesir just before the finish line to finish second in 1:11:09. Chesir in third was credited with the same time as Moges.
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Visiline Jepkesho, the 2014 Gifu Seiryu champion, was fourth in 1:11:33, while Veronica Nyaruai Wanjiru finished fifth in a huge personal best of 1:11:59.
Fukushi not only continued to lose ground against Kirwa and Chesir, but she was also passed by Moges, Jepkesho and Wanjiru in the second half and finished sixth in 1:12:04. She was followed three seconds later by Yuka Ando, who recorded her first loss against a Japanese woman this year.