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TRACK and FIELD | Hitomi Niiya Triumphs in the Houston Marathon

Niiya completed the Houston Marathon in 2 hours, 19 minutes, 24 seconds. It was the second-fastest marathon ever run by a Japanese woman.

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Hitomi Niiya wins the Houston Marathon women's title on January 15 in Houston, Texas. (USA TODAY/REUTERS/via KYODO)

Read the full article on SportsLook - Hitomi Niiya Triumphs in the Houston Marathon

Hitomi Niiya captured the Houston Marathon women's title on Sunday, January 15 and nearly set a national record in the process.

Niiya clocked 2 hours, 19 minutes, 24 seconds to cross the finish line before any other woman in the Texas city. It was the second-fastest time ever for a Japanese female in a marathon.

Mizuki Noguchi, the gold medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics, set the national record (2:19:12) at the 2005 Berlin Marathon. 

Incidentally, that's also the fastest time for a women's runner in Houston Marathon history. American Keira D'Amato set the record in 2022.

Houston Marathon
Hitomi Niiya crosses the Houston Marathon finish line. (USA TODAY/REUTERS/via KYODO)

The 34-year-old Niiya, a native of Okayama Prefecture, said she is determined to chase Noguchi's record in September.

"Although I didn't achieve my goal of breaking the Japanese record, I've steadily improved," Niiya said, according to Kyodo News. "I want to give it another try at the next Berlin Marathon."

That race has been an important testing ground for Japanese marathon runners in the 21st century. Naoko Takahashi, gold medalist at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, set a then-world record of 2:19:46 en route to victory at the Berlin Marathon the next year. Takashi defended her title in 2002, finishing in 2:21:49.

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On Sunday, Ethiopia's Muliye Dekeb Haylemariyam was the runner-up, completing the race in 2:25:35.

The Ethiopian was the early frontrunner, but Niiya's speed increased as the race progressed. And she built a sizable lead that no other runner could overcome.

Read the full story on SportsLook.


Author: Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward's [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven, and find him on JAPAN Forward's dedicated sports website, SportsLook.

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