SAPPORO, Hokkaido — Peres Jepchirchir led a 1-2 Kenyan finish in the women’s marathon, withstanding the heat and humidity while running through the streets of Sapporo.
Jepchirchir crossed the line in a winning time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, 20 seconds Saturday in a race moved up an hour to avoid the heat. A smattering of fans lining the course applauded as the Tokyo Games went north for the marathons and race walks. Her teammate Brigid Kosgei was second and American Molly Seidel, a relative newcomer to the marathon stage, took home the bronze.
A race that was moved to Sapporo to avoid the extreme heat and humidity in Tokyo found little relief on a winding course through the city. The starter’s gun went off a minute after 6 a.m. local time under sunny skies and with a temperature reading of 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Celsius). It climbed to nearly 86 degrees (30) near the finish, with a humidity of around 65%.
There were 88 runners entered in the field and more than a dozen recorded a did not finish. That included world champion Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya. The weather appeared to take its toll on Lonah Salpeter of Israel late in the race. Among the final four with around four kilometers to go, she suddenly stopped and walked to the side of the road. She still finished.
Seidel pretty much forecasted this day since she was a kid. On Instagram, she wrote: “Other kids wanted to be astronauts or firefighters; I wanted to be a runner. Even on the hardest days I try to remember how blessed I am to do the thing my 10-yr-old self only dreamed about."
She screamed when she crossed the finish line and said “Hi, mom and dad,” into the camera.
Her bronze Saturday morning in Japan came in just her third marathon ever. The first one she ever ran was at the Olympic trials.
Volunteers wearing yellow shirts stood along the course with signs that loosely translated into: “Refrain from watching here.” But spectators lined the course anyway, sneaking a rare glimpse of the action at these Olympics where fans have been shut out due to coronavirus restrictions.
The runners tried to stay cool any way possible. Aleksandra Liswoska of Poland grabbed an entire bag filled with water at one stop, quickly drinking one and then pouring another over her head. Andrea Deelstra of the Netherlands had a bag of ice perched on top of her head.
Aliphine Tuliamuk of the United States was returning after giving birth to her daughter in January. She didn't finish.
Some of these competitors got a taste of the furnace-type heat and humidity at the 2019 world championships in Doha. That race was run at midnight and the temperature still hit 88 degrees (31 C). It led to nearly 30 runners not getting to the finish line as Chepngetich captured gold.
Chepngetich was in the mix until late in the race when she began walking.