Deso Gelmisa took his first AbbottWMM win in a desperate sprint for the tape as he claimed the 2023 Tokyo Marathon title.
On a day full of drama, Gelmisa battled his way to victory, earning the same time of 2:05:22 as his fellow Ethiopian Mohamed Esa but just reaching the line in front. Tsegaye Getachew was three seconds behind the pair to complete an all-Ethiopian podium.
The race was tipped to go the way of 2021 London champion Sisay Lemma, but the favorite did not make it to the finish, pulling up after 25km.
As the lead pack began to slim down, it still contained a significant threat from a clutch of Japanese athletes. Chief among them was Ichitaka Yamashita, who did plenty of front running as they approached 40km.
A burst from Kenya’s Titus Kipruto strung the remaining contenders out further along the road as they entered the final cobbled streets on the approach to the last turn, but he couldn’t sustain his attempt to break his rivals, and as they swung into view of the finish on the outskirts of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, the three Ethiopians were left to battle it out.
It was impossible to predict which way the result would go as they negotiated the last turn and fanned out across the road.
Gelmisa made himself as wide as possible to keep the men either side of him at bay, and it paid off as he added Tokyo to his 2022 victory in Paris.
Kipruto claimed fourth, with Canada’s Cameron Levins running a new North American record of 2:05:36 for fifth, taking a record set by Khalid Khannouchi in 2002.
Yamashita ended up seventh in a new PB of 2:05:51.
In the women’s race, Rosemary Wanjiru ran the seventh fastest time in women’s marathon history with victory in 2:16:28.
Her previous PB was 2:18:00 set in Berlin last year.
The Kenyan, who is based in Japan, won by 28 seconds over Tsehay Gemechu, who also slid under the 2:17 barrier, while 2019 Berlin champion Ashete Bekere was third in 2:19:11.
The race had not reached halfway when the high pace resulted in a leading pack of only four women, with Worknesh Edesa keeping the eventual top three company.
Having shaken off the pacemakers, Wanjiru and Gemechu upped the pace after 30km, and it was the Kenyan who kicked on again to pull away before the 40km mark.
She momentarily threatened Brigid Kosgei’s course record but settled for a pace short of that mark, smiling and waving to the crowds as she came home to win what was only her second career marathon.