Ethiopia’s Atsede Baysa pulled away from the lead pack around the 30-kilometer mark and ran alone to win the inaugural Saitama International Marathon on Sunday.

Japan’s Kaori Yoshida held her pace over the final 3 kilometers to pass Rebecca Chesir of Kenya and grab second place in the race, which also served as an Olympic qualifier for Japan’s national team heading to the Rio Games.

Baysa finished in 2 hours 25 minutes 44 seconds to set the course standard. The 34-year-old Yoshida finished in a personal-best 2:28:43.

“It’s a real thrill to travel from Africa and win this first race in Saitama,” Baysa said through an interpreter in a TV interview. “I’ll be happy all day about this,” said Baysa, who was fourth at the London Olympics in 2013.

Baysa said she didn’t have expectations about her time because of the obvious unfamiliarity with the 42.195-kilometer course.

“Since today is the first time anyone has run this race, I had no idea how things would play out on the course. I heard the race had a lot of ups and downs, but after actually running it, I don’t feel it was all that difficult.”

She and Yoko Shibui were among a lead group of six that made the halfway turn together. Shibui dropped back around the 30-kilometer point, and Yoshida also fell off the pace near 31 kilometers.

But the Saitama Prefecture native charged back in front of the hometown fans to add her name to the list of Japan’s Olympic marathon candidates.

“I certainly wanted to do well. I thought second place was better than third, and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity, so I pushed until the end,” Yoshida said.

“I’m very satisfied that I was able to do well and run with energy in front of fans,” said Yoshida, who added she won’t obsess about being selected for the Rio Games.

“I’m not sure if I’ll be added to the list or not, but I did all that I could so I would be happy if they choose me,” she said.

Yoshida led a Japanese contingent that included Shibui and Remi Nakazato, who just missed out on making the London Olympics. Shibui was fourth in 2:31:06, while Nakazato finished ninth in 2:40:31.

The Saitama International Marathon succeeded the Yokohama Women’s Marathon, which had replaced the Tokyo International Women’s Marathon.

Source: The Japan Times
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