The annual Fukuoka Marathon was held as usual on the first Sunday in December. Conditions were favourable and commentators were hoping for a fast race.
A group of Japanese and international runners, mostly invitational, went through the 5k in 15:07.
15k passed at a relatively slow 45:25, with still about 15 runners in the leading pack. The runners reached the half-marathon mark in 1:04:01, with commentators speculating that the slow pace would favour Japanese runners. At this point, all six Japanese invitational runners were still in the leading group.
Due to a shift in pace the leading group was reduced to five at about 29k, among them three Japanese. At 30k, which passed in1:30:41, the last pace-maker dropped out, and 21-year old Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede (49kg/157cm) picked up the pace to shake his Japanese competitors. The second-place group now had Matsumiya, Irifune and Sato. They were followed by Tokyo Marathon second place finisher Arata Fujiwara in 5th, about 16sec. behind. Matsumiya fell behind at about 33k, with Kebede opening the gap on now second-placed Sato and Irifune. Kebede opened up an even wider lead with a tremendous 14:17 5k from 30 to 35. The competiotion among the Japanese now focussed on the ability of fifth-placed Fujiwara to catch his compatriots. Kebede continued at his blistering pace, running 14:47 for the next 5k.
Kebede won the race in 2:06:10, beating the course record by 30sec.!
Among Japanese, Fujiwara was catching up and managed to catch Matsumiya and Sato, but Irifune escaped to finish second in 2:09:23, holding off hard-charging Fujiwara, who finished in 2:09:46.
For official times and result, see the organizers website: