Kenya's Michael Kipyego wins Tokyo Marathon

February 26, 2012 - 1:16 PM
Japan Tokyo Marathon

Michael Kipyego of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the men's race of the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo, on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

TOKYO (AP) — Michael Kipyego of Kenya surged ahead of Haile Gebrselassie with 2½ miles left Sunday to win the Tokyo Marathon for his first career victory.

Kipyego completed the 26.2 miles 2 hours, 7 minutes, 37 seconds.

"I was able to close the gap on Haile," Kipyego said. "I thought I should hang back for a bit but changed my mind and pushed because there were other runners coming from behind."

Ethiopia's Atsede Habtamu won the women's race in 2:25:28. She was 32 seconds ahead of compatriot Yeshi Esayias. Kenya's Helena Kirop was third in 2:26:02.

Gebrselassie finished fourth in 2:08:17. He was trying to secure a place on the Ethiopian team for the Olympics but needed to run under 2:04 to boost his chances. Still, the 38-year-old long distance great wasn't about to give up on going to London.

"I could run another marathon in two weeks," Gebrselassie said. "I felt fantastic here for the first 30 kilometers then had some problems at the end of the race."

Japan's Arata Fujiwara was second in 2:07:48, followed by Uganda's Stephen Kiprotich in 2:07:50.

Gebrselassie has struggled in recent marathons, unable to finish the 2010 New York City Marathon and unable to race in last year's Tokyo Marathon because of an injury during training.

Gebrselassie and defending champion Hailu Mekonnen, who finished eighth in 2:09:59, broke from the pack after 16 miles, but the two Ethiopians couldn't maintain the quick pace.

"Sometimes you are too ambitious," Gebrselassie said. "This can happen. My target was 2:05 today, but it didn't work out that way. On the last downhill, I started to get some pain in my back."

Switzerland's Viktor Rothlin, who won this race with a course-record time of 2:07:23 in 2008, was fifth in 2:08:32.