Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mekonnen takes Tokyo Marathon

Ken Marantz / Daily Yomiuri Sportswriter

Haile couldn't make it, but Hailu picked up the slack for Ethiopia.

Hailu Mekonnen, who made a late career move to the marathon, captured his first title in four tries, winning Sunday's Tokyo Marathon in a personal-best 2 hours 7 minutes 35 seconds.

Mekonnen broke open a two-man race around 33 kilometers to finish well ahead of Kenya's Paul Biwott, who clocked 2:08:17 in placing second for the third time in 15 career marathons.

"The Tokyo Marathon is a really big marathon and to win such a big race, I'm really happy," said the 30-year-old Mekonnen, who competed in Japan in 2008-09 for Honda.

Unheralded Yuki Kawauchi finished third in 2:08:37, which knocked nearly four minutes off his career best and more importantly earned him a spot on Japan's team to this summer's world championships in Daegu, South Korea.

The Tokyo Marathon is the second of three domestic races serving as a men's qualifier for Daegu, with the top Japanese finishing under 2:09:30 automatically securing a ticket.