Kenya's Ruth Chepngetich solo ran her way to victory at the Nagoya Women's Marathon on Sunday, retaining her title at the World Athletics Platinum Label road race in 2:18:08.
The 2019 world marathon champion went into the race aiming to claim back-to-back wins and improve her own course record.
While she was unable to beat the 2:17:18 she ran to win in Nagoya last year - that time being the second-fastest ever women-only marathon behind her compatriot Mary Keitany's 2:17:01 set in London in 2017 - Chepngetich claimed a dominant victory, winning by more than three minutes ahead of Japan's Ayuko Suzuki (2:21:52). Japan's Honami Maeda was third in 2:22:32.
On a warm morning, Chepngetich went straight to the front of the field and was running ahead of the pacemakers. She led by 35 seconds from the 15-strong chase group at 5km, which she passed in 16:19.
By 10km her lead was 76 seconds as she crossed that checkpoint in 32:34, nine seconds ahead of her course record split from last year, but with that record performance having been achieved with a faster second half of her race.
The 28-year-old clocked 49:00 at 15km and picked up the pace over the next 5km, reaching 20km in 1:05:14 and half way in 1:08:47, 16 seconds ahead of her split en route to her 2:17:18 course record.
The chase group, featuring Japan's Yuka Suzuki, Maeda, Mao Uesugi, Ayuko Suzuki, Mirai Waku and Honoka Tanaike plus China's Zhang Deshun and Li Zhixuan, were two-and-a-half minutes back, following the two pacemakers through in 1:11:19.
Chepngetich, who also retained her Chicago Marathon title in 2022 in 2:14:18 for the second-fastest women's performance in history, went on to pass the 25km point in 1:21:32, maintaining her pace. The chase group, now including Ayuko Suzuki, Yuka Suzuki, Uesugi, Maeda, Waku, Zhang and Li behind the one remaining pacemaker, sped up and reached 25km in 1:24:21.
Chepngetich continued to race against the clock and she reached 30km in 1:37:51, three minutes ahead of Ayuko Suzuki and Zhang (1:41:00), who were starting to drop their challengers in the chase pack. Ayuko Suzuki then dropped Zhang, too, as she continued to pick up her pace.
Unlike last year when Chepngetich sped up in the second half, her pace began to slow but she was still on for a sub-2:18 performance as the clock showed 1:54:24 at 35km.