Kenya’s Michael Kipyego upstaged former world record holder Haile Gebrselassie to win the Tokyo Marathon ahead of Arata Fujiwara in 2 hours, 7 minutes and 37 seconds on Sunday.
The 38-year-old Gebrselassie, who holds the third-fastest time ever at 2:03.59, was fourth in 2:08.17, his first completed marathon in two years.
Gebrselassie pulled away from last year’s winner, Hailu Mekonnen, just before the 36-km mark to take the lead, but surrendered it to Kipyego at 38 km.
Fujiwara, now a strong bet to make Japan’s London Olympic team, cut a time of 2:07.48 as the highest finisher from his country, passing Stephen Kiprotich with less than 20 meters to edge the Ugandan for second.
Suffering from dehydration, amateur sensation Yuki Kawauchi slumped to 14th in 2:12.51.
Kipyego’s winning time fell 14 seconds short of the race record set by Viktor Rothlin in 2008. Rothlin came in fifth at 2:08.32 on this day in ideal marathon conditions.
“I am so happy that I won,” the 28-year-old Kipyego said. “At 25 km, I realized the pace was too fast for me and I just decided to drop out and go at my own pace.
“At 30 km, I realized I was closing the gap and with 6 km left, I gained confidence.”
Kipyego, however, humbly played down his victory over Gebrselassie, who ran his first Tokyo Marathon.
“Today I won, but you can never compare anyone with Haile,” Kipyego said of the Ethiopian legend. “He is the champion of the marathon. I salute him so much.”
Gebrselassie, who owns two Olympic golds and four world titles, said he was aiming for 2:05, driving up the pace from 25 km with Mekonnen.
Gebrselassie, however, said a bad back had been bothering him since the morning and he faded over the course’s downhill after the 35 km point.