MAMI RECLAIMS WOMEN'S MARATHON TITLE
Saipan bet Mamiko Oshima-Berger was in tears after cutting the tape in the 2011 Saipan Marathon, but last Saturday, a big smile was plastered all over her face even if she was still a few steps away from the finish line.
Oshima-Berger had all the reasons to be happy, as she went on to reclaim the women's division crown in the marathon and also set the new course record in the 42.195-kilometer race. She timed in at three hours, nine minutes, and 49 seconds in last weekend's race to crush the 2010 record of (3:10:03) Mayu Mochizuki of Japan and more importantly regain the women's crown the veteran runner lost for two straight years. Oshima-Berger notched back-to-back championship in 2008 and 2009, before bowing to Mochizuki in 2010 and to Noriko Hirao last year.
“It was a great feeling to win again. I had a very good race, as I felt stronger coming into the last five kilometers of the race,” said Oshima-Berger, who led from start to finish with good friend and running partner Mieko Carey announcing her arrival and cheering hard for her at the finish line at Micro Beach.
Oshima-Berger, who lost to Hirao in less than three minutes last year, crossed the finish line only more than a minute ahead of Japanese Natsuko Muramatsu (3:11:01). She also met her target, which she set at 3:10:00.
“I was in the lead group heading to Banzai and when we went down it was too windy and I am thankful for this group of Chinese runners who had me in the middle of their group so they were blocking the wind,” the 42-year-old runner said.
Oshima-Berger was talking of Skechers Go Run where overall marathon finisher and men' champion Shuai Yang belonged. Yang completed the race under three hours, clocking in at 2:50:28 and beating 2011 runner-up Hidekatsu Kuroda of Japan (2:57:10). Three other Chinese runners rounded out the Top 6 of the men's division-Xialong Yin (3:05:30), Zichen Wang (3:07:38), and Changming Liu (3:18:05). Completing the list was Sean Smith (3:19:57).
“It was my first time to race on Saipan and I had a good run. Hopefully, I can return next year,” said the 25-year-old student from Shanghai, who also competed in China and Japan races.
In the women's division, joining Oshima-Berger and Muramatsu in the Top 6 were Japanese Mina Nagaoka (3:21:40), Ami Mizuno (3:31:50), and Junko Kobayashi (3:49:03), and Chinese Chen Siyuan (3:25:36).
The full marathon, which drew over 100 runners, started at 4:30am under cold and windy weather. Full marathon racers headed to Banzai Cliff before returning to Micro Beach.
In the longest race of the day, the 50K ultra marathon-former Olympian Eric Wainaina Wahinya topped the field with a blistering time of 3:32:19.
The 38-year-old runner, who represented Kenya in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia, but is now based in Japan, was the lone competitor to finish the 50K race under four hours. Runner-up Akihiko Futaki of Japan came in at the 4:08:20 mark, followed by Taku Jyuuda (4:10:15), Shinichiro Marui (4:22:47), Yoshihiro Narui (4:29:35), and Ippei Asai (4:45:17).
Runners in the 50K also went to Banzai, but had to take extra climb at Capital Hill (just before heading up the Mt. Tapochao road) before returning to Micro Beach.
“It was nice, fun race. The weather was good and a lot of people were on the road greeting you,” said Wahinya, who was a guest runner in last year's half marathon race.
In the women's division, Yoko Yamazawa was the runaway winner with her time of 4:19:21, more than 30 minutes ahead of Kimie Yamashita. Completing the Top 6 were Shiori Honda (4:57:51), Eiko Kimura (5:07:17), Yui Asao (5:22:51), and Sachiko Suzuki (5:22:59).