Van Dyk bags second spot in Tokyo Marathon | SASCOC - SASCOC

Van Dyk bags second spot in Tokyo Marathon


By Mark Etheridge

Ten-time Boston Marathon winner and six-time Paralympian, Ernst van Dyk took silver in Sunday’s Tokyo Marathon.
It was the 10th running of the Japanese event but this year was just that bit more prestigious as, for the first time, the race invited international athletes as next year it will be part of the Abbot Wheelchair Marathon Majors.
But of the five champions only Van Dyk (winner of the last New York Marathon), Kurt Fearnley (Chicago) and Josh George (London) took up the invitations.
And then George also pulled out after arriving in the Eastern nation upon learning of the death of his 90-year-old grandfather. That left Paarl’s Van Dyk and Australia’s Fearnley to deal with the Japanese.
And after 42.2 kilometre of top notch racing it was Australian Fearnley who took the win as Van Dyk just caught the host nation’s Kota Hokinoue in the final few metres. All the podium finishers were credited with the same time of 1hr 26min.
Van Dyk told Road to Rio 2016 that the race took on added importance in this, the year of the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
‘This was the last time for the Japanese to qualify for Rio and the criteria was a top three in under 1:28.20 so the pressure was on them to perform.
‘The course is mostly flat with a lot turns, potentially very cold and windy. But race day conditions were perfect with temps around 14 degrees and low winds.’
Van Dyk lined up feeling the effects of a pretty bad cold and an uncomfortable trip eastwards.
’But it was all forgotten after the gun fired. The pace was furious and it took me a while to calm down and settle. There were a group of eight of us till the half way mark. We went through the halfway mark in under 41min which was hectic for a flat course with this many corners.
‘We dropped two and then it was down to six.’
At 30km Kota and Fearnley put in a big surge and Van Dyk was caught off guard siting in the back.
‘They quickly opened a gap of around 80m. But I saw the other three guys with me weren’t looking great so it was up to me to close the gap and reel them in.
‘After 35km we hit a few pretty tough and steep hills. I took the lead and forced the pace, doing my best to take some sting out of the sprinters. We dropped two more so then we were down to four.’
Then came the crucial final stages and the finish had to be approached with caution. ‘It’s very technical with an off-camber 90degree turn 80m before the line.
‘With 200m to go I was sitting in fourth just up to third but Kurt was putting the hammer down. With just 80m to go I swung wide to carry as much speed and in the end was able to pass Kota right before the line!
‘We all crossed in 1:26min, I was a second behind Kurt and it was my best time since Boston 2014.
‘By the look of things with the marathon majors kicking off with Boston in under two months this is going to be one helluva  season.’
Next up for Van Dyk? ‘Well, tomorrow (Monday) I go to Honda R&D to start the design process of a new fully custom carbon racing chair which I should receive by around the end of May.
‘And then the next stop for me will be the New York half-marathon which I won last year by setting a new course record.’

Picture of the frenetic finish in Tokyo courtesy of Junji Takado. Van Dyk is far right in the black race gear