Tokyo 2015: Negesse and Dibaba Get First Major Marathon Wins, Stephen Kiprotich Shows Olympic Spirit in Second

February 21, 2015

Ethiopians Endeshaw Negesse and Birhane Dibaba kicked off the 2015 Abbott World Marathon Majors season by both winning their first majors in Tokyo.

On the men’s side the leading contenders stayed together until 35k, when defending champ Dickson Chumba made his move. Soon it was a two man race between Chumba and Negesse, but Negesse had more in the tank and pulled away from Chumba the final 3km, as Olympic champ Stephen Kiprotich rallied back to pass Chumba for second just before the line. Tariku Bekele dropped out in his debut as he was off the pace by 20km.

On the women’s side, Birhane Dibaba made her move after 30km, running the fastest 5km of the day from 30k to 35k, separating from the pack and Olympic champ Tiki Gelana and Helah Kiprop. Kiprop was only 4 seconds back at 35k, but would fall further back on some of the overpasses the next 5k. Dibaba got the win in a 2:23:15 with Kiprop 2nd in 2:24:03 and Gelana third in her best marathon since the Olympics in 2:24:26.

Chumba running away from everyone but Negesse Chumba running away from everyone but Negesse at 36km

Men’s Race and Analysis
The men’s race was very evenly paced on a colder (but ok running weather) and damp day in Tokyo (low 40s for temperature, very humid, with possibly a slight drizzle at times). The first 5k was 14:56 (2:06:01) and the field stayed on that pace nearly the entire way.

The drama early on centered mainly on how long and how many of the Japanese runners could stay with the pace. The Japanese depth is impressive as at 10k, there were still at least 10 Japanese on 2:06 pace. Now considering the Japanese record in the marathon is 2:06:16, no one made it the whole way, but the depth is much better than America.

The field would hit halfway in approximately 1:03:10, but before then there was one casualty, Tariku Bekele, brother of Kenenisa Bekele. Tariku was making his marathon debut and fell off the pace before 20k, and would drop out. He clearly was not ready for this one.

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After half-way, the world’s most consistent marathoner, Tsegaye Kebede did some of the leading, as the pace stayed fairly even. Once the field hit 35km, defending champ Dickson Chumba had had enough. He hit the accelerator and immediately the lead pack was decimated. Kebede fell off entirely and would finish 8th. Three men (Negesse, Kiprotich, and Shumi Dechasa of Bahrain) did their best to stay with Chumba, but soon Kiprotich and Dechasa were off the back and it was a two man race between the defending champ, Chumba, and Negesse, who had run 2:04:52 two years ago in Dubai, but had not run under 2:08:32 since.

Negesse pulling away from Chuma Negesse pulling away from Chuma

Negesse was soon the one in front doing the pushing, looking really relaxed. He opened a slight gap on Chumba but Chumba hung on him. At 39k Negesse made one more push for the finish and it was enough to crack Chumba. Negesse had covered 35k to 40k in 14:36, the fastest 5k segment of the day.

Chumba would pay the price for trying to stay with Negesse. Chumba was 27 seconds ahead of Kiprotich at 40k, but he would give it all up as Kiprotich stayed strong and was able to run 2:06 pace over the final 1.25 miles. Chumba hit the wall and lost over 20 seconds a mile the final 1.25 to Kiprotich. Chumba still led in the final 100m after the final turn, but a smiling Kiprotich was able to pass Chumba just before the finish and pump his fist and put his arms out in a very gritty second place finish.

Shumi Dechasa held off Peter Some for 4th, and Markos Geneti was 6th, but the man capturing much of the attention on the Japanese broadcast was Masato Imai. Imai had passed Kebede and kept going strong to the finish to cross in 2:07:39 in 7th. Imai who has been 6th and 7th in New York the last two years was rewarded with a nearly 2 minute pr (previous best 2:09:30 from last year).

Men’s Analysis
QT #1: Endeshaw Negesse Delivers
Negesse had run 2:04:52 in Dubai two years ago, but this win was a huge step up in class for him. With his 2:04:52 in Dubai, Negesse had only been 4th, and last year he was 4th in the Shanghai Marathon and second in Dusseldorf in 2:08:32, not the stuff you think would win this race. Negesse was clearly best today. He shadowed Chumba’s move and then when he made one of his own it was all over. He looked relaxed at the end and took a deserved victory.

Stephen Kiprotich did not win but he still got to break the tape in 2nd and celebrate (we're not sure why) Stephen Kiprotich did not win but he still got to break the tape in 2nd and celebrate (we’re not sure why)

QT #2: Stephen Kiprotich Deserves to Celebrate Second
Kiprotich, showed the Olympic spirit, as he fought hard the entire way and was rewarded by passing Chumba just before the line for second. When Kiprotich overtook Chumba he smiled, pumped his fist, and had time to put his hands out to break the second place finishing tape (we’re not sure why they had a tape for second place but they did). If anyone deserved to break the tape and smile for second place it was Kiprotich. Kiprotich not only comes across as a humble, grateful, and likable guy in press conferences, but he was dealing with a tremendous tragedy. His 19 month old, ‘Olympic’ baby, Elizabeth Chelanga, had died on January 2nd of this year.

Thousands had attended her funeral in Uganda, where Kiprotich is a national hero. Running well in Tokyo was the last thing on people’s minds. Ugandan Athletics VP Lawrence Kavuma said at the time, “He needs so much counseling. Losing a child is so hard but we are going to continuously advise him not to give up on life.” Kiprotich definitely did not give up on life, and the fighting spirit, and smile, showed he appreciates how precious life is. Kiprotich is the World and Olympic champ, but this was his highest finish in a major city marathon.

QT #3: Bekele Barely Shows
Tariku Bekele’s marathon debut was way worse than his brothers. He was off the pace by 20k, and out of the race by 30k. Barring and injury or illness, he was not ready for this one.

QT #4: Kebede Runs Sub 2:08 Again
The days of Tsegaye being the top marathoner in the world are likely behind him, but his consistency is amazing. Japanese running expert Brett Larner points out:

America has 16 sub 2:09s ever. Japan now has 62. Kebede has 15 himself.

QT #5 Imai Impresses Marathon Mad Japan
The Japanese love distance running, in particular, Japanese runners trying to hang with the world’s best.  Don’t believe us? Brett Larner pointed out 4 of the top 10 things on twitter in Japan were related to the marathon.

Masato Imai was the big Japanese winner with the nearly two minute pr in 2:07:39. Japan also had a college runner Shun Sato run 2:11:39. Larner recaps all the Japanese action here.


1) Endeshaw Negesse (Ethiopia) – 2:06:00
2) Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) – 2:06:33
3) Dickson Chumba (Kenya) – 2:06:34
4) Shumi Dechasa (Bahrain) – 2:07:20
5) Peter Some (Kenya) – 2:07:22
6) Markos Geneti (Ethiopia) – 2:07:25
7) Masato Imai (Japan) – 2:07:39
8) Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) – 2:07:58
9) Hiroaki Sano (Japan) – 2:09:12
10) Benjamin NGandu (Kenya) – 2:09:18
***Tariku Bekele fell off the pace before 20k, and did not make any checkpoints past 25k.


Dibaba Was Too Good Dibaba Was Too Good

Race and Analysis
We can’t give as much of a women’s race play by play because not a lot of it was shown on tv. So we’ll repeat what we said above and give some analysis: On the women’s side, Birhane Dibaba made her move after 30km, running the fastest 5km of the day from 30k to 35k, separating from the pack and Olympic champ Tiki Gelana and Helah Kiprop. Kiprop was only 4 seconds back at 35k, but would fall further back on some of the overpasses the next 5k. Dibaba got the win in a 2:23:15 with Kiprop 2nd in 2:24:03 and Gelana third in her best marathon since the Olympics in 2:24:26.

QT #1: Nice Win for Dibaba
Dibaba (no relation to the famed Dibaba sisters) has been climbing up the marathon ranks even though she is just 21. She was second here last year, and fourth in Chicago. This was a big win, even though it wasn’t against the strongest field. She was at least the co-favorite on paper and she ran like it. Well done.

QT #2: Helah Kiprop Nice PR
Helah Kiprop came in with only a 2:26:27 pr from 8 years ago. She left with a 2:24:03 second place finish. Tremendous run and breakthrough. A lot of the Kenyan breakthroughs get over looked but this one deserves a mention.

QT #3: Tiki Gelana Takes a Step in the Right Direction
Tiki Gelana dominated the marathon world in 2012. She ran 2:18:58 in April and then won the Olympics in August. Since then she hadn’t run faster than 2:26:58. She was better today in 2:24:26 and hopefully she can resurrect her career which hasn’t been the same since she was hit by the wheelchair racer at the 2013 London Marathon. If she never regains her form, we will always wonder if her career dovetailed because of the accident.

QT #3 Lauren Kleppin Keeps Learning

The American Kleppin finished in 2:37:13. Last March, in her first serious attempt at the marathon, Kleppin ran 2:28:48 for third in LA. Obviously today’s run is not what she wanted, but she experimented going out faster and paid the price as relayed in the tweet below.

Kleppin went out the first 5k in 17:10 which is 2:24:51 pace. At 10k she was still on 2:26:00 pace. As the men in London in 2014 learned, you can ruin a marathon the first 5k if you go out too fast.


Kleppin has the right attitude as she shows in the tweet below. No risk = no reward. It didn’t workout for Kleppin today but it did for a guy like Imai. Failure is not trying in the first place.


1) Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) – 2:23:15
2) Helah Kiprop (Kenya) – 2:24:03
3) Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) – 2:24:26
4) Sally Chepyego (Kenya) 2:26:43
5) Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) – 2:26:54
6) Yeshi Esayias (Ethiopia) – 2:30:15
7) Madoka Ogi (Japan) – 2:30:25
8) Albina Mayorova (Russia) – 2:34:21
9) Yukari Abe (Japan) – 2:34:43
10) Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan) 2:35:49
***Lauren Kleppin  (USA) 2:37:13


Dibaba’s Splits:

スプリット (ネットタイム)
Split (Net Time)
5km 00:16:53 (0:16:52) 0:16:52
10km 00:33:44 (0:33:43) 0:16:51
15km 00:50:48 (0:50:47) 0:17:04
20km 01:07:59 (1:07:58) 0:17:11
25km 01:25:09 (1:25:08) 0:17:10
30km 01:42:08 (1:42:07) 0:16:59
35km 01:58:43 (1:58:42) 0:16:35
40km 02:15:24 (2:15:23) 0:16:41
Finish 02:23:15 (2:23:14) 0:07:51


Men’s Splits

Negesse’s Splits (Halfway was around 63:10)

Point スプリット (ネットタイム)
Split (Net Time)
5km 00:14:56 (0:14:55) 0:14:55
10km 00:29:54 (0:29:53) 0:14:58
15km 00:44:50 (0:44:49) 0:14:56
20km 00:59:52 (0:59:51) 0:15:02
25km 01:14:45 (1:14:44) 0:14:53
30km 01:29:50 (1:29:49) 0:15:05
35km 01:44:45 (1:44:44) 0:14:55
40km 01:59:21 (1:59:20) 0:14:36
Finish 02:06:00 (2:05:59) 0:06:39


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