A Japanese woman has become the first woman in the world over 60 to run a sub-3-hour marathon. Mariko Yugeta ran 2:59:15 at the Shimonoseki Kaikyo Marathon on November 3, 45 seconds under 3:00, and a full three minutes and 35 seconds faster than the previous record set by Claudine Marchadier of France in 2007. Yugeta’s record is pending ratification.
According to Japan Running News, it was Yugeta’s 99th marathon, and only a minute and 10 seconds slower than her personal best of 2:58:05. The report says she thinks she can run 2:57, and that she makes a habit of standing on an inclined board (to stretch the calves and Achilles tendons) for three minutes a day while she brushes her teeth. When the above video was filmed, Yugeta was running hard intervals with some high school students on the track. (Check out her splits.)
Joan Benoit Samuelson, who is 62, has come close, running 3:02 at Berlin and 3:04 at Boston this year, after trying for it at Chicago last year (and ending up with a 3:12 in the rain), which shows you just how big an accomplishment Yugeta’s record is.
We should hardly be surprised to see a Japanese woman be the first in history to break three hours in the marathon–road running is massively popular in Japan, and Japanese marathoners are killing it this year. At 2:25:10, Japanese women have the third-fastest average top 10 marathon times of any country (behind Kenya and Ethiopia) and Japanese men have the sixth-fastest (2:09:22) . And at the recent Ageo City Half-Marathon, almost 400 runners finished in 70 minutes or under and 179 going under 66 minutes, most of them university athletes. (For context, only 31 Canadians have broken 70 minutes for the half in 2019, with Evan Esselink holding the fastest mark at 1:02:17 from Houston 2019.)
Avg of 10 fastest women's marathon times by country so far this year:
— Japan Running News (@JRNHeadlines) November 25, 2019
Also not surprising: Yugeta wore the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% to set her record.