World marathon silver medallist Helah Kiprop sealed her place in Kenya’s team for Rio Olympics when she won Tokyo Marathon in a course record of 2 hours, 21 minutes and 27 seconds on Sunday morning.
Efforts by the 2014 champion Kenya’s Dickson Chumba to reclaim the title fell short when he wound third for the second consecutive time in 2:07:34 behind the winner Feyisa Lilesa from Ethiopia in 2:06:55.
Chumba, the 2015 Chicago Marathon winner, set a course record of 2:05:42 when winning in Tokyo in 2014 but wound third in the same race last year.
Another Kenyan Bernard Kipyego, the 2014 and 2015 Amsterdam Marathon champion, was second in 2:07:33. The 2009 and 2011 World marathon champion Abel Kirui from Kenya settled fifth in 2:08:06 behind Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich from Uganda in 2:07:46.
Kiprop, who had finished second last year to Ethiopian Birhane Dibaba in personal best 2:24:03, had her act this time around to also improve on her time, beating another Ethiopian Amane Gobena to second place in 2:21:51.
Edna Kiplagat, the 2011 and 2013 World champion from Kenya, wrapped up the podium places in 2:22:36 followed by Ethiopian pair of Aberu Kebede (2:23:01) and Birhane (2:25.04).
The women’s race started at record pace, the leaders covering 5km in 16:38, 10km in 33:27, 15km in 50:17, and 20km in 1:07:05 before passing through the halfway point in 1:10.41, 25km in 1:23:39 – a 16:34 5km split which was the fastest of the race and 30km in 1:40:26.
At 35km, which was reached in 1:57:08, four runners, Kiprop and Kiplagat, and Gobena and Kebede – were together in the lead pace while Birhane had fallen off the pace.
Kiprop then steadily surged away from her rivals, covering the next 5km in 16:39 as the rest all took over 17 minutes, before crossing the line in 2:21:27 and taking almost a minute of the old course record of 2:22:23, set by Ethiopia’s Tirfe Tsegaye two years ago.
“I did not know if I could win this race until I actually crossed the finish line. Last year, I was second with a personal best of 2:24:03 so this year’s goal was to set another personal best. I was surprised to run even faster to set the course record,” said the 30-year-old Kiprop.
Kiprop is 2014 winner of the Seoul International Marathon and came fourth at the 2013 Berlin Marathon.
In the men’s race, Lilesa, who is the 2011 World marathon bronze medallist, pulled away from Chumba and with just over a kilometre triumph. Chumba was then over taken just a few metres before the finish by Kipyego.
Others Kenyans Eliud Kiptanui was sixth with 2:08:55 and Emmanuel Mutai was seventh with 2:10:23. The first Japanese runner home, Yuki Takamiya, was eighth with 2:10:57.