Kenya Gold, Molly Seidel Bronze in Women’s Marathon

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Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir was late in the race to run for the gold medal in the women’s marathon.

Jepchirchir was among a large pack of runners held together late Saturday morning. She went on to beat world record holder Brigid Kosgei, another Kenyan runner, to US’ Molly Seidel, who took the silver medal and bronze.

Jepchirchir won by 16 seconds, 2 hours 27 minutes 20 seconds.

In a futile attempt to escape the scorching heat and humidity that stifled the Summer Games, authorities moved the race to Sapporo, 500 miles north of Tokyo, in 2019.

Running only his third marathon, Seidel won a surprise bronze medal in 2:27:36. She became the third American woman to win a medal in the Olympic marathon. Joan Benoit Samuelson won the opening race at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and Deena Kastor took the bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Games.

Hours before the start of the marathon, the marathon was moved to 6 a.m. to slightly mitigate the effects of a record heatwave on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, where Sapporo is located. But at 78 degrees Fahrenheit, it was swampy with 82 percent humidity.

The race began with many runners wearing hats and sunglasses and trying to find tight shaded areas at a cautious pace. 15 out of 88 participants left the competition.

The winning time was the second slowest of the 10 women’s Olympic marathons, but on Saturday the time didn’t matter. Survival was important. Winning was important.

As every weekend runner knows, distance runners find it difficult to dissipate body heat in hot and humid conditions.

Ice baths for Olympic runners were set up at the first aid and rescue areas in Sapporo’s Odori Park, where the marathon began and ended. Asahi Shimbun newspaper. Fourteen water supply tables were set up along the course, nine of which were supplied with bags of crushed ice. According to the newspaper’s report, ambulances would follow the runners during the race.

The last time Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics was in 1964, the Games were held in October. But this is a time of year reserved for American football and international football by television networks. An Olympic marathon staged in August can take a heavy toll.

In the first few kilometers on Saturday, Turkey’s Meryem Erdogan limped, then sat on the ground and grabbed her legs. At a water stop four miles away, Israeli Lonah Chemtai Salpeter put an icy towel or a bag of ice under her blue hat. Others wrapped towels around their shoulders. Just before mile seven, Seidel tucked a small pack of ice under his undershirt. Eunice Chebichii Chumba from Bahrain put a bag of ice on her head.

Nine miles or so, the field dispersed, with the leading group reaching 18 runners. At 10½ mph, Ethiopian Zeineba Yimer, considered a contender, walked by the side of the road, her luck running out. The lead group, now split into 11 runners, reached the halfway point at 1:15:14.

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