Kenyan Sarah Chepchirchir Announces Herself As a Marathon Star, Wins 2017 Tokyo Marathon in 2:19:47; American Sara Hall Runs Big PR of 2:28:26

February 26, 2017

Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Sarah Chepchirchir put on a show Sunday morning as both smashed the Japanese all-comers records on the redesigned course at the 2017 Tokyo Marathon. Chepchirchir, running in just her third career marathon and first major, made a hard move at 30 kilometers and went on to crush the field in 2:19:47, a personal best of over four minutes. Both runners took advantage of terrific marathoning conditions, with winds under 10 miles per hour and a starting temperature of 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

American Sara Hall ran a terrific race to take sixth in a big personal best of 2:28:26, while Andrew Bumbalough finished 25th in his debut in 2:13:58. Bumbalough’s Bowerman Track Club teammate Betsy Saina was on 2:20:53 pace at 20km but blew up big-time in the second half and dropped out before 40km.

Chepchirchir en route to victory Chepchirchir en route to victory

We’ve got a full recap and analysis of the women’s race below. We discuss the men’s race in a separate article here.

The women’s lead pack ran aggressively from the start as 7 women at 5k were on 2:20:30 pace, showing that they intended to challenge the Japanese all-comers record of 2:21:18 (Mizuki Noguchi, Osaka 2003).

The Race

Six of them were still together at halfway: Chepchirchir and Betsy Saina (30:07 in Olympic 10,000m) from Kenya plus 4 Ethiopians — Amane Gobena (2nd last year), Amane Beriso (2:20:48 pr), Marta Lema (2:24 pr), and Birhane Dibaba (winner in 2015). There was a 2:29 gap back to Sara Hall, who was on 2:26:02 pace.

Saina was the first to crack as she fell off the next 5km, and would continue to slow and drop out between 35km and 40km. Chepchirchir, Gobena and Dibaba were still together at 30km as the women had been running with a big pack of male pacers and male racers throughout. Chepchirchir in the next kilometer then hit the turbo button and soon the race was all hers. She ran an astounding 15:46 from 30km to 35km (2:13:03 pace). Birhane Dibaba was having a tremendous race and ran her fastest 5k of the race from 30km to 35km, but there was nothing she could do but hope Chepchirchir blew up as Chepchirchir was 39 seconds in front of her at 35km. Chepchirchir was now racing history and the clock. She’d slow a little off of her incredible pace from 30 to 35km, but she was rewarded with a sub-2:20 clocking, an event record and the Japanese all-comers record.

Chepchirchir celebrates Chepchirchir celebrates

Dibaba would finish in 2:21:19, one second off the old Japanese all-comers record. Gobena held on easily for third (2:23:09) as Lema totally faded to fifth as Ayaka Fujimoto of Japan, who is only 19 or 20 years old, like Chepchirchir ran a negative split (1:13:43 halfway) and crossed in 4th in 2:27:08 in her marathon debut. Sara Hall ran a huge PR (2:28:26, previous best 2:30:06) to finish 6th.

Women’s Top 10 (More results here)

1 Sarah Chepchirchir KEN 2:19:47
2 Birhane Dibaba ETH 2:21:19
3 Amane Gobena ETH 2:23:09
4 Ayaka Fujimoto JPN 2:27:08
5 Marta Lema ETH 2:27:37
6 Sara Hall USA 2:28:26
7 Madoka Nakano JPN 2:33:00
8 Kotomi Takayama JPN 2:34:44
9 Hiroko Yoshitomi JPN 2:35:11
10 Mitsuko Ino JPN 2:39:33

QT #1: Chepchirchir’s Training Group Is On Fire

Chepchirchir is the training partner and sister-in-law of Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong and they share the same agent, Federico Rosa. Their group is firing on all cylinders. The 32-year-old Chepchirchir has been a sub-1:10 half marathoner since 2010. She didn’t finish a marathon until last year where she first ran 2:30:08 in Hamburg. She then improved to 2:24:13 and the win in Lisbon in October, but this is another stratosphere.

Skeptics might note that Rosa was also the manager of Rita Jeptoo, the World Marathon Majors champion who was busted for EPO. Kenyan officials charged Rosa with abetting the EPO doping of Rosa but then withdrew the charges after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Jeptoo “hid the visits to the doctor in question from her manager and coach.”

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There is no questioning this is the top female marathoning group in the world right now.

Chepchirchir’s splits:

Distance Time 5k split
5km 0:16:39 0:16:39
10km 0:33:20 0:16:41
15km 0:50:06 0:16:46
20km 1:06:46 0:16:40
Half 1:10:31
25km 1:23:35 0:16:49
30km 1:40:26 0:16:51
35km 1:56:12 0:15:46
40km 2:12:35 0:16:23
Finish 2:19:47 16:24 pace

QT #2: Great Run by Sara Hall

Not a lot of people would have taken the bet a couple years ago that Sara Hall would be faster than her husband Ryan in the marathon in 2017 but that is the case. Hall at the age of 33 not only ran a marathon PR but she ran a PR when she ran aggressively from the start. Pretty impressive for someone who used to be viewed as a miler/steeplechaser.

QT #3: The Japanese All-Comers Record Falls in Both Races
Kenya produces faster marathoners, but no country loves the marathon more than Japan so it is pretty cool that the Japanese all-comers record for both men and women fell in the same race. Considering Japan has had 3 women run sub-2:20 in the marathon (Mizuki Noguchi, Yoku Shibui, and Naoki Takahashi) and that Fukuoka at one point was one of the premier marathons in the world, it’s hard to believe no one had run under 2:21 (women) or sub-2:05 (men) ever in Japan, but that was the case until today. Fortunately for the Japanese, the 2:20s and 2:04s were skipped in their entirety.

For more on the men’s race: LRC Wilson Kipsang Enters All Time Great Status with 2:03:58 Japanese All-Comers Record at Tokyo Marathon


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