New faces claim victory in Okinawa Marathon

11,612 runners started Sunday’s Okinawa Marathon, and 8,576 made it to the finish.

The “regulars” at the Okinawa Marathon were nowhere to be found Sunday, as winners and other top finishers were all new to the victory podium.

Tomonori Onizuka of Saga Prefecture captured the top prize with a time of 2:23:58, well ahead of Kouki Nakama who finished fifth at 2:29:39.  Nakama, from Chiba, had won both last year’s Okinawa Marathon, and the 2010 event.  Second went to Sho Kazami of Aichi at 2:26:03, third to Tatsushi Ito of Tochigi, 2:29:03, and Yoshinobu Sunaga of Saitama, 3:30:07, was fourth.

Hisako Sasaki of Tokyo took the top women’s spot with a 3:03:35 time, finishing 74th overall.  Bonnie Axman, a 28-year-old American, finished second at 3:05:12, good enough for 85th overall.  Third was Misato Oki with a time of 3:14:56.

The best American finisher was Steve Schmid, with a 22:55:23 time, finishing 44th overall.  Marlin Mullins finished 79th and Brian Porter 154th.

A total of 11,612 started the grueling 42.195 kilometer course through central Okinawa, with 73.85%, 8,576, finishing the race.  Officials say this year’s event marked the largest number of entries ever recorded for the Okinawa Marathon.  Of the total, 2,576 runners were women.

A 20km road race Sunday had 1,175 men and 1,751 women in the race, with 99%, 2,595, finishing.