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Race news Osaka Women’s Marathon

01 February 2021, 10am

New course record and five runners make personal bests

Ichiyama triumphs in Osaka

by Brett Larner

Osaka Women’s Marathon
Sun 31 January 2021

Mao Ichiyama ran 15 laps of Osaka’s Nagai Park behind a pair of male pacers, right up to the entrance to the track finish, to cross the line in a world-leading 2:21:11. Her time was two minutes short of Mizuki Noguchi’s 2:19:12 national record but clipped 7 seconds off Noguchi’s event record.

Her Tokyo Olympics marathon teammate Honami Maeda was the only other woman to try to go with her, dropping off NR pace before 15km but hanging on for an 18-second PB of 2:23:30 for 2nd with the help of another male pacer who stayed with her right to the start of the track finish. Ichiyama only made it through halfway on NR pace but she did manage to rally in the last few km to get under Noguchi’s event record. Osaka organisers announced that Ichiyama’s mark would be listed as a mixed race record alongside Noguchi’s women-only record.

Next up for both Ichiyama and Maeda marathon-wise is the Tokyo Olympic marathon in Sapporo. In theory, at least.

Yukari Abe and Mao Uesugi ran in the likewise male-paced second group sticking together the whole way on low-2:24 pace before taking 3rd and 4th in big PBs of 2:24:41 and 2:24:52. The debuting Ayumi Hagiwara started in the third group before moving up mid-race to finish 5th in 2:26:15. Reia Iwade (Adidas), who ran a PB of 2:23:52 just under two years ago in Nagoya, dropped out before halfway after starting out with Abe and Uesugi.

Further back, after missing the Osaka qualifying time but making the cut by placing in December’s Osaka 30km 60+ world record holder Mariko Yugeta put in the performance of a lifetime, going from last place at 5km in the field of 71 starters to take 4:41 off her own 60+ world record with a 2:52:13 for 48th among the 61 finishers. Yugeta ran negative splits in her previous world record but this time went through halfway in 1:25:01. Could sub-2:50 be within sight?

Neither Ichiyama nor Maeda seemed especially happy with their results, and despite having an all-star commentary team of Japanese marathon legends including Noguchi, Yoko Shibui, Naoko Takahashi, Masako Chiba, Yuko Arimori and Akemi Masuda, the broadcast seemed to lack energy, amplified by the amount of attention paid to the male pacers. From a broadcast perspective it’s hard to see this kind of paced-time-trial-in-a-park marathon taking off, and from another perspective there’s cause for worry about the future.

Police in Japan are notoriously difficult about road closure permits. Given the relative success today performance-wise – with an event record, five PBs, and a good debut out of the top eight women, what’s to stop the police from questioning why they should issue permits in the future when people can run fast inside a park? If that was to happen, based on today’s showing, it would be a serious blow to the sport’s popularity without a serious reworking of how they approach the broadcast.


1 Mao ICHIYAMA JPN 2:21:11
2 Honami MAEDA JPN 2:23:30
3 Yukari ABE JPN 2:24:41
4 Mao UESUGI JPN 2:24:52
5 Ayumi HAGIWARA JPN 2:26:15

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