Cragg fails to finish in Japan


ATHLETICS: IT WAS a case of another unfulfilled challenge for Alistair Cragg when the Irishman ran out of steam in his quest for honours and failed to finish the Fukuoka marathon in Japan yesterday.

Cragg was attracted to the event for a couple of reasons, including a belief he could break John Treacy’s Irish record, put behind him his experience of having to drop out of the Boston marathon last April as well as qualify for the London Olympics. However, instead he suffered another sobering experience of failing to finish.

Conditions were ideal on a relatively flat course and when he hit the half-way stage with the leaders in 1:03.29 it looked very much as if Treacy’s ’88 record of 2:09.15 was about to become history as he tagged along in the midst of the leaders.

It was looking better again at 25 K (just under 16 miles) when the leading group was reduced to just six runners, Cragg, two Kenyans, Josephat Ndambiri and James Mwangi, two Japanese, Yuki Kawsauchi and Masato Imai, and Dmytro Baranovsky of the Ukraine.

At that stage Barsnovsky began to wilt and 800 metres down the road it became clear Cragg was in trouble and he soon disappeared from the race, simply unable to continue, calling it a day again as he has done far too often in the past, including a few high profile track races.

Now where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, although he has the Olympic 5,000 metres to fall back on for London, the distance in which he holds the Irish record along with that of the 10,000m. But this seems to be a case where he bit off more than he could chew and just did not have the strength or the stamina to see it out.

It was at 26k that Ndambiri changed gears, ran the next 5km in 14:32 and began to open up a lead at the head of the field before going on to record an impressive victory in 2:07.36, to make for a most exciting debut in the event.

“This was my first marathon and I was not sure how to run the race, but now I hope to make the Kenyan team for the London Olympics,” said Ndambiri, who is based in Japan along with Mwangi, the runner-up in 2:08.33.

Cragg’s failure will be a blow to him after expressing such satisfaction with his training and preparations in California and expressing so much optimism. Now one wonders if he can come back from this latest failure.