The Ethiopian long-distance runner Birhanu Legese won the Tokyo marathon for the second time straight on Sunday. The 25-year-old racer took two hours, four minutes and 15 seconds to complete the victory along the almost empty streets of the Japanese capital.
The locals were discouraged to line the route due to the coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak and the race got restricted to a few hundred athletes who were elite, without the usual trend of 30,000 amateur runners for limiting the risk of infections.
Japan recorded more than 940 cases of COVID-19
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. 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
Sarah Chepchirchir owned the previous women's record of 2:19:47 from the 2017 race. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Saturday that the country was still planning to go ahead with hosting the Olympics in Tokyo in July and August despite the coronavirus outbreak.
In addition to cancelling the mass race on Sunday, organisers said they had restricted the number of volunteers and provided surgical masks and hand sanitizers for event staff and competitors. The Olympic marathons have been moved to the northern island of Hokkaido to avoid the searing heat of the Tokyo summer.
(With agency inputs)