Japanese runners have carried out a smash-and-grab raid at the Rotorua Marathon.

Both men's race winner Saeki Makino and women's marathon gold medallist Yuki Ogawa arrived in New Zealand on Friday ahead of Saturday's race.

Makino, who has already won marathons this year in Japan and Taipei and has a personal best of 2hr 15m, set out with the express goal of finishing inside 2hr 20m and ran solo for virtually the whole race.

 Yuki Ogawa took the women's title. Photo/Ben Fraser
Yuki Ogawa took the women's title. Photo/Ben Fraser

"I'm very tired. The course is very hard [with] very strong wind and hills," he said.


"My plan [was] the 2hr 20m cut so I missed my plan, but I am very happy that I won this race."

For much of the race it seemed his target would be met, but he faded slightly late on, suffering from a stomach ache, and finished just inside 2hr 22m, one of the fastest times since 2001.

Palmerston North's Chris Sanson had to settle for the runner-up spot for the second Rotorua Marathon in a row, but sliced almost a minute off his personal best of 2hr 28m 10s set at last year's event.

"At the start [Makino] came up to me and I said 'what do you want to run?' and he said 2hr 20m and I just said 'okay, you go for it, that's too quick for me'.

"I stuck to 2hr 25m pace and I was on form for that, but just blew up a bit in the last 10km."

Sanson was already down by a minute at the 10km mark and the gap grew from there.

"I took my time on the hills and was a little bit cautious because I know what it's like in the second half if you've gone too hard, but it was definitely a good day for me."

Despite less than ideal preparation, Ogawa won in 2hr 54m 14s, pushing Rotorua favourite Johanna Ottosson back into second by 1m 43s.

Ottosson admitted she was disappointed.


"I'm glad I was quicker than last year, but perhaps I was expecting a bit more, but on the day everything has to come together."

She headed Ogawa for a while and the pair then ran together until around the 19km mark when Ogawa made the telling break.

"Towards the end I managed to keep my pace and push myself a little bit more and I knew I was bringing her back again," Ottosson said.

Third places in the men's and women's races went to Aucklanders Jonathan Jackson and Katie Wyrill.

Makino will fly back to Japan tomorrow.

He said the Rotorua Marathon held a lot of prestige in Japan, and, being run on a Saturday, it meant he was able to get home in time for work on Monday.

While Ogawa will stay in New Zealand a little longer, she arrived in Auckland only to find her flight to Rotorua had been cancelled so was forced to make the journey by bus.

Makino was the third Japanese runner to win in Rotorua, and having a runner of his obvious class in the field was exciting for race director Murray Fleming. He said Makino's entry was a little bit of a surprise, although the fact he did enter served to underline the Rotorua marathon's prestige.

"It's good to have surprises, it adds an extra element and a lot of excitement to the event and to have the first male and female from Japan is absolutely spectacular."

One of the pre-race marathon favourites, Melbourne-based Kiwi, Josh Maisey dropped down to, and won, the half marathon, with one eye on the Gold Coast Marathon, while the women's half was won by Auckland's Olivia Burne.