• Kyodo

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Yoshiko Fujinaga won her debut marathon on Sunday, completing the Nagoya international women’s race in two hours, 28 minutes and 13 seconds.

Fujinaga, 27, came back from behind three times to win the race, earning a place in the women’s team for the world championships in Berlin later this year.

“I felt it would be difficult when I was left behind. But I kept saying to myself ‘I’m all right, I’m all right’ and my coach and spectators also cheered me up,” she said.

“I never thought about the qualification for the world championships. I just tried to cross the finishing line once I started.”

Fujinaga twice fell behind the front group of Caroline Kilel of Kenya, Bai Xue of China and Hitomi Niiya, first when Kilel moved up the pace at the 25-km mark.

She caught up at the 29-km point, falling behind again when Niiya tried to shuffle the group shortly before the 30-km mark to take a sole lead.

But Fujinaga tenaciously and steadily closed the gap and got past Niiya at the 37-km mark, keeping her lead until the end.

Chika Horie and Yuko Machida came in second and third in 2:29:09 and 2:29:35 respectively.

Niiya slowed down to finish eighth in 2:30:58, while Kilel was ninth in 2:31:42.

Sydney Olympic gold-medalist Naoko Takahashi, making a farewell run as a general participant to pay tribute to her fans after retiring last October, placed 21st in 2:52:23.

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