Dennis Kimetto won the Tokyo Marathon in a race record Sunday. The world record is next, he says.
Kimetto led a Kenyan sweep of the podium by taking the tape in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 50 seconds, rewriting Viktor Rothlin’s 2008 mark by 33 seconds.
Aberu Kebede of Ethiopia won the women’s race in 2:25:34 as the Tokyo Marathon debuted as part of the World Marathon Majors tour alongside Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York.
The 29-year-old Kimetto won his first marathon in just his second career start. In his stunning marathon debut last year, he cut a time of 2:04:16 at Berlin where Patrick Makau set the world record of 2:03:38 in 2011.
Kimetto holds the world record at 25 km in 1:11:18 — which he also set in Berlin.
“Maybe I can go to the world championships or Berlin,” Kimetto said. “Maybe if I go to Berlin, I can break the world record.”
Defending Tokyo champion Michael Kipyego was runnerup, also finishing under Rothlin’s record at 2:06:58. Bernard Kipyego took third in 2:07:53 in a race that unfolded at a slow pace until the Kenyans turned it up at the 30-km point.
Kazuhiro Maeda came in fourth to lead the home team with a time of 2:08:00. After Maeda, two more Kenyans, James Kwambai and Gilbert Kirwa, came in fifth and sixth, respectively.
Kimetto, who said the wind cut into his chest early on in the race, made his move at 35 km shortly before reaching the bridge, pulling away from his countrymen.
While Michael Kipyego gained on him over the last couple of kilometers, Kimetto never let up, sustaining his pace all the way to the finish.
“The race was very good,” Kimetto said. “After the start, the pace was slow. The pacemaker was slower than me. The wind was very tough.”
“After 35 km, I could go.”
The 31-year-old Maeda finished strong, passing Kwambai and Kirwa after the 40-km mark to clock a new personal best by 38 seconds — but missed the qualifying standard for the 2013 IAAF World Athletics Championships in August in Moscow by just one second.
“I tried to save myself by staying in midfield for most of the race, and it worked,” Maeda said. “I was shooting for a 2:07 but my time wasn’t bad considering how strong the wind was today.”
In the women’s field, London Olympian Yoshimi Ozaki marked the last race of her career with a Japanese-high fifth-place finish in 2:28:30.
“There were some tough times but overall, I’ve been able to enjoy my career,” said the 31-year-old Ozaki, who was 19th at last summer’s Olympics.
Centenarian finishes race
A 101-year-old Sikh believed to be the world’s oldest distance runner retired Sunday after ending his last race in Hong Kong on a high, describing it as one of the “happiest days” of his long life.
Fauja Singh, nicknamed the “Turbaned Tornado”, finished the 10-km run at the Hong Kong Marathon in 1 hour, 32 minutes, 28 seconds — half a minute faster than at the same event last year.
“Today is one of my happiest days,” the Indian-born British national, who only speaks Punjabi, said through his interpreter after he crossed the finish line with a broad smile and waving the Hong Kong flag.
“I felt so fresh and so good. I felt I’m full of power today. I will remember this day and I will miss it, but I will not stop running for charity,” added Singh, who was mobbed by supporters when he completed his final competitive event, weeks before he turns 102 on April 1.
The centenarian, a farmer in his home state of Punjab before settling in England, became an international sensation and made headlines worldwide after he took up the sport at the ripe age of 89.
He has since completed nine 42-km marathons in London, Toronto and New York.