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Lonah Salpeter shatters Tokyo Marathon course record

Despite small field sizes and hardly any spectators, Tokyo Marathon sees three national records fall and 17 men run under 2:08

Israel’s Lonah Salpeter took more than two minutes off the women’s course record at Sunday’s Tokyo Marathon. She crossed the line in 2:17:45, a two minute personal best and a new national record. On February 17, the Tokyo Marathon cancelled their mass participation race but the elite races remained. Despite small field sizes and a lack of spectators (again, due to the virus), the race saw dozens of personal bests, several national records and a women’s course record.

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Salpeter broke away from the women’s field at the 30K mark and didn’t look back from there. She won the race handily, creating nearly a minute gap between herself and second place finisher Birhane Dibaba of Ethiopia in 2:18:35 (also under the former course record). Third place went to Sutume Asefa Kebede, also of Ethiopia in 2:20:30. Salpeter’s 2:17 is the sixth-fastest women’s marathon of all time.

Ruti Aga of Ethiopia, the 2019 champion, didn’t finish the race.

In the men’s race it was a battle between Birhanu Legese (the eventual winner), Bashir Abdi and Sisay Lemma. The top three men would crack 2:05, with Legese running 2:04:15 and Abdi 2:04:49 and Lemma 2:04:51. Legese was only 18 seconds shy of the course record and Abdi’s time is a Belgian national record.

But fourth place runner, Japan’s Suguru Osako, had a lot riding on Sunday’s performance. The runner set a new national record of 2:05:29, which was exactly what he needed to do to nearly guarantee his spot on the home soil Olympic team. A total of 17 men broke 2:08 (10 of them were Japanese).


The Japanese Olympic Team

Shogo Nakamura and Yuta Hattori finished one-two in the MGC (Marathon Grand Championship) in September to lock down the first two Olympic spots. The MGC, which was Japan’s Olympic Trials, was the only way for Japanese runners to guarantee entry to the upcoming Olympics.

The third spot will likely go to Osako (based on Sunday’s time), unless someone else can run faster within the next week.

The final female runner will be decided on 8 March at the Nagoya Women’s Marathon. Maeda Honami and Suzuki Ayuko placed first and second in the MGC, respectively, to secure their spot at the Games.

Both wheelchair events saw course records as well. In the men’s race, Japan’s Tomoki Suzuki took the title in 1:21:52 and in the women’s race, Japan’s Tsubasa Kina was the victor in 1:40:00.

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