Ethiopia’s Legese wins virus-hit Tokyo Marathon

DM Monitoring

TOKYO: Ethiopian Birhanu Legese won the Tokyo Marathon for the second year in a row on Sunday, racing to victory in two hours, four minutes and 15 seconds along often empty streets in the Japanese capital.
Locals were strongly discouraged from lining the route because of the coronavirus outbreak, and the race was restricted to a few hundred elite athletes, without the usual retinue of more than 30,000 amateur runners to limit the risk of infection.
Japan has recorded more than 940 cases of coronavirus, including 705 from the Diamond Princess cruise liner which was quarantined near Tokyo this month. There have been 11 deaths, including six from the cruise ship.
Legese, wearing Nike’s much-discussed carbon-plated shoes, hit the front before the 40 kilometre mark, winning by more than half a minute but missing out on Wilson Kipsang’s 2017 record of 2:03.58.
“I’m very happy,” said Legese, who crossed the line 33 seconds quicker than when winning last year. “The time is good, although I’d thought I would be able to run faster. But today was a bit windy and my pace in the early stage of the race was not very good, so I accept it.”
Somali-born Belgian Bashir Abdi (2:04.49) pipped Ethiopian Sisay Lemma (2:04.51) to second place in a race for the line.
Japan’s Suguru Osako finished fourth in 2:05.29, improving his own national record by 21 seconds and locking up Japan’s third and final spot in the men’s field for the Tokyo Olympics later this year.
Lonah Korlima Chemtai Salpeter, who runs for Israel, won the women’s race in a record time of 2:17.45, 50 seconds ahead of Birhane Dibaba with her fellow Ethiopian Sutume Asefa Kebede a distant third two minutes back.
Sarah Chepchirchir owned the previous women’s record of 2:19:47 from the 2017 race.
The Tokyo marathon is one of the biggest sporting events to be affected by the coronavirus. Authorities in Japan have cancelled or postponed various other sporting events over concerns of spreading the virus.