Tokyo Marathon Results 2020: Men's and Women's Top Finishers

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2020

TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 01: Birhanu Legese of Ethiopia #1 celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the men’s competition during the Tokyo Marathon on March 01, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. The organizer had restricted the entry to elite runners only as the marathon acts as the final domestic qualifying for the Tokyo Olympic Games men's marathon due to the COVID-19 new coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)
Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images

Birhanu Legese and Lonah Chemtai Salpeter were the top finishers in a lightning-fast 2020 Tokyo Marathon on Sunday.

Both the men's and women's races were run at an intense pace, and no less than 17 runners ducked under the 2:08:00 mark, per sportswriter Jonathan Gault:

Jonathan Gault @jgault13

I know everyone is focused on the Trials, but holy shit the Tokyo Marathon results are insane. 17 (!!!) guys under 2:08. Most ever in one race. I mean, could you imagine running 2:07 and finishing SEVENTEENTH? 15 Japanese guys under 2:09! More Vaporflation, @Scienceofsport? https://t.co/d9a7zTvU70

Bashir Abdi ran the second-fastest European time in history, but it wasn't enough to beat Legese to the top spot despite some injury trouble for the Ethiopian.

Salpeter finished nearly a minute before the second-placed runner in the women's race, Ethiopia's Birhane Dibaba.

Here are the podiums for both races:

Men's Elite

1. Birhanu Legese, Ethiopia, 2:04:15

2. Bashir Abdi, Belgium

3. Sisay Lemma, Ethiopia


Women's Elite

1. Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, Israel, 2:17:45

2. Birhane Dibaba, Ethiopia

3. Sutume Asefa Kebede, Ethiopia


The field was reduced to just 300 elite runners and saw a limited amount of volunteers over fears of the coronavirus, leading to remarkably empty streets, per CNN's Will Ripley:

Will Ripley @willripleyCNN

I decided to check out the Tokyo marathon. It’s usually so festive and colorful — with costumed runners & enthusiastic crowds lining the route. This year, the streets are nearly empty. Just 300 elite runners instead of the usual 35K. Only 600 volunteers instead of the usual 10K. https://t.co/vLz75vLi0c

Legese ran his personal best of 2:02:48 during the Berlin Marathon last year and came into the Tokyo Marathon as the defending champion.

He and Lemma were the clear favourites for the title and kept things close until the final three kilometers, when the defending champion kicked on. He later told reporters he did so despite growing pains in his hip:

Tokyo Marathon Foundation @TokyoMarathon_E

#TokyoMarathon2020 ◆ Elite Men's Marathon Champion LEGESE, Birhanu (🇪🇹 Ethiopia) 2:04:15 At first I thought I could do better than 2:03:30, However my left hip began to hurt, and the pain kept getting worse. So I made it my mission to win. I'm happy to finish the winner. https://t.co/MYufAF2KCg

Lemma fell back to third place after a phenomenal late surge from Abdi, who was down in 15th place after 10 kilometers but found tremendous pace in the final quarter of the marathon.

In the women's race, Salpeter made her move after 30 kilometers and finished solo in a new national record. Dibaba was the only runner who could keep pace after the initial move and also finished faster than the previous course record but was still 50 seconds down on the winner.

Salpeter was happy to take the solo win:

Tokyo Marathon Foundation @TokyoMarathon_E

#TokyoMarathon2020 ◆ Elite Women's Marathon Champion CHEMTAI SALPETER, Lonah (🇮🇱 Israel) 2:17:45 I'm happy to set a new personal best. At 35km, there were no other runners around me, so I kept thinking I was battling myself. It was nice to be able to finish at my own pace. https://t.co/7kkgMWlB7M

Both wheelchair races also saw new course records and local winners. Japan's Tomoki Suzuki took the men's race in a blistering 1:21:52, over eight minutes faster than anyone else. Tsubasa Kina was even more dominant, finishing over 13 minutes before anyone else in the women's race.