Former world record-holder Wilson Kipsang breezed to victory at the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday, but the Kenyan was well outside the world-record time he was targeting after adjustments to the course.
Kipsang, the London Olympic bronze medalist, posted a time of 2 hours, 3 minutes, 58 seconds, the fastest time on a Japanese course but over a minute off the current world record of 2:02:57 set by compatriot Dennis Kipruto Kimetto at the 2014 Berlin Marathon.
Kenyans took the top three spots, with Gideon Kipketer finishing in second place in 2:05:51 and Dickson Chumba finishing third in 2:06:25.
The women’s race was also won by a Kenyan, with Sarah Chepchirchir coming home in 2:19.47, ahead of Ethiopia’s Birhane Dibaba (2:21:19) and Amane Gobena (2:23:09).
“I think today I was really feeling good and the course was very nice,” said Kipsang, who was aiming for a time of 2:02:50.
“I was trying to go for the world record but I think it was a little bit windy and that is why I couldn’t run that time.”
With the finish line being moved to in front of Tokyo Station, the course in the Japanese capital is flatter this year and that had raised the possibility of faster times in Sunday’s race.
“I like the course so much and this is one of the fastest,” said Kipsang, who pulled away around the 34-km mark before going on to claim his first Tokyo victory.
“The 2020 Olympics will be here (in Tokyo) and I am looking forward to coming back to compete. I wish the Japanese team well for the Olympics.”
The previous fastest time in Japan was set by Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede when he won the Fukuoka International Marathon in 2:05:18 in 2009.
Kipsang set the world record of 2:03:23 at the Berlin Marathon in 2013 before it was rewritten by Kimetto.
Sunday’s race also served as a qualifier for Japanese men for the athletics world championships being held in London in August.
Hiroto Inoue had the best time among the Japanese men, clocking 2:08:22 to finish in eighth place.
“The African runners set a high pace early on and I tried to keep up but couldn’t,” said Inoue. “I felt the difference in power but just tried to maintain my own pace and I am happy that I finished top out of the Japanese runners.”