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Ngochu - Ham
Noguchi - World Championships Paris 2003 Women's Marathon
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Winner and Japan
Japanes Team - World Championships Paris 2003 Women's Marathon
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 Welcome to the Paris 2003 Day 9 - Women's marathon 

Day 9 of the Paris 2003 World Track Championships, saw the running of the Women's marathon along the same route as the Men's and at the same start time..

The race was no different from the Men's when it came to the size of the front pack, and there were spills to talk about, plus the folly of some athletes and the guile of others.

Below the race reports and thoughts as the event unfolded :

Constantina Tomescu [nee Dita], is known for taking the pace out early, and the Paris World Championships Marathon would be no different. All the main contenders were happy to stay in the safe confines of the massive chasing group.

By 5K the Romanian's lead was 32 seconds. It seemed strange that a pack of athletes filled with PB's [Personal Bests] closer to 2:20 would be running a pace closer to 2Hr 30 and allow a 2Hr 23 performer [from 2003] a plus 30 second lead. The leader passed through 5K in 16:45 with the pack following in 17:17 [ 5K split ]

Foolhardy, would be mentioned in some circles. The Japanese runners were undoubtedly the favourites to take the team event, and it was understandable to find two of their less fancied runners doing all the work at the head of the pack in honour of their premier contenders Masako Chiba [PB 2:21:45 - 2003], Naoko Sukamato [PB 2:21:51 -2003] and Mizuki Noguchi [PB 2:21:18 - 2003].

It was certainly strange to see Moroccan athlete, Whabi Kenza with a best of 2:38.36, the first to openly leave the pack to give chase. She soon returned to the pack. 30 minutes into the race and the lead has been chipped away slowly to 20 seconds.

At 10K, Tomescu 34:02 with the pack 34:14 10K split A lead of only 12 seconds.

Watching the lead group go through water points is hair raising. To be scurrying for your own designated bottle can only be described as a nightmare.

At 13K, the pack were a mere 2 to 3 seconds behind, and it was only a matter of time before they caught the lone Romanian frontrunner. 48mins into the race and Tomescu was swallowed by the lead pack, at Avenue des Champs Élysées no less. Now the decision as to who would provide the pace needed to be made. The Romanians where happy to answer the call. Nuta Olaru [PB 2:25:18] was happy to continue the work with Tomescu. The pack thought differently, and an increase in tempo 'spat' Tomescu out the back. The Japanese were intent on consolidating their chances of capturing the Team event and the separation was surgical in its application. Tomescu hung in the background for a while, however the pace never slackened for her to return, she would eventually DNF [Did Not Finish]

15K split was passed in 51:19.

Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, the 2nd fastest women in history [PB 2:18:47] was running a cagey race, not making any demands on the lead, but certainly conserving her energy for when it would be called upon.

21K split was passed in 72:46.

Shortly after half-way, the Kenyan comes to the front and the intention is clear. They are four abreast and the tempo has certainly altered. No sooner had Catherine the Great appeared to spur on the pace, did she with the speed of Greta Garbo hidden behind sunglasses, return to the anonymity of the pack. Was this a tester for future reference ?

Water point .... scatter ... grab ... bounce ... Olivera Jevtic [PB 2:25:23 Rottergam 2003] takes a shower under the provided appliance . Its all happening.

Just before 25K [split] and Japanese longtime pack leader Takami Ominami [PB 2:23:43 Rotterdam 2002] takes a tumble. Running in a large pack/group is risky business, a clip of the heels can be fatal. Anything that interferes with the normal kick and flow of the legs movement can result in a fall. She soon returns to the pack and it will be interesting to see whether this will have an impact on her race the further she travels. [ she would eventually finish 27th in 2:32:31 ] Ethiopian Elfenesh Alemu [PB 2:24:29 London 2001] the offending trip artist. Not 10 minutes later, and Ethiopian Asha Gigi is taken down, with a certain Alemu in directly behind her.

1Hr 35 into the race and Russia's Svetlana Zakharova, the Boston 2003 Winner [PB 2:21:31 Chicago 2001], begins to apply pressure. This is a false dawning, however it does shed the lead bus of a further 4 passengers.

Just after 30K [split] and there were still 13 athletes left in the group. Ndereba expressed her disatisfaction at her heels being clipped [ a sentiment echoed by Noguchi after the race, that Bong-sil Ham had continually clipped her heels ] The Kenyan moved to the side, providing space for the runner to come through and then 1Hr54 into the race, on a slight down gradient, she began edging ahead of the others.

Both Japanese runners, Noguchi and Chiba followed the move immediately. Visually it seemed to be effortless. Turning left and still within a minute of when first applying the pressure, Ndereba had the opportunity to lean forward into a further downhill. On this occasion, the impact it was having on the others could be noted by the gaps that were opening up between the leader and the rest of the scattered pack.

What at first didn't look like anything was now turning into an attack of note. Approaching 1Hr 57 and the damage had been done, only the 3 Japanese runners Noguchi, Chiba and Sakamoto remained with direct striking distance. The gap was 1 second to these 3. The Korean Ham and the Ethiopian Alemu had moved away from the rest of the runners and were within 1 to 2 seconds of the 3 runners from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Ndereba was in complete control. Turning left 1Hr 57 on the clock and the tiny Noguchi was the only runner left within 1 second of the Kenyan leader. She was undoubtedly using her experience from the Boston course to good effect. The field was now spread in single file behind. Within a space of 5 minutes Ndereba was able to apply the correct pressure on a part of the course which was beneficial to her running style, and she had done so with tremendous effect.

At 35K [split] 2:00:47, she had a slender 4 second lead however her composure was that of a person on their way to victory. This is the marathon however and we know anything can happen and often does happen.

Not on this occasion though. 2Hr 12min into the race and the fight was on for the minor places. Ndereba seemed solid in 1st, Noguchi had all but cemented her 2nd spot. Sakamoto had moved into 3rd and enjoyed a 30 - 40m advantage over the 4th placed Chiba. The 4th spot was to change shortly thereafter as Ham [ PRK - People's Republic of Korea - also known as North Korea ] bolted past Chiba. This incredibly seemed to jolt Chiba out of her daze and even though Ham was looking and working quite effectively the Japanese runner fought back with tenacity. She caught Ham and the momentum gained, as well as the fight to rid herself of the Korean, took her to within striking distance of Sakamoto. Passing through 40K [split] she had opened a safe 8 second gap on her rival and had closed to within 1 second of Sakamato.

Ndereba had gone clear by 20 seconds from Noguchi, with the 3rd placed runner a further 43 seconds back. Victory was assured for the Kenyan. For the 2nd placed Noguchi, finishing first out of her country's athletes in a medal position would book her ticket to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, so she was not going to allow any of her compatriots to within striking distance. Chiba would move into 3rd, but couldn't do any damage on the lead Noguchi held over her.

Catherine Ndereba pays homage
Paying homage - World Championships Paris 2003 Women's Marathon
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Ndereba took victory to cement her place in the history books by winning a major Championship Marathon, and in the process she took away the myth that she was unable to race in such company. Added to this was the setting of a new CR with her time of 2:23:55.

The Japanese finished 2nd in 2:24:14 .. 3rd in 2:25:09 and 4th in 2:25:25 ... in the process winning the World Cup team event by a large margin in the process.

Women's Marathon Results - Sunday, August 31, 2003 : click here

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