Otsu. Japanese-based Kenyan runner Samuel Ndungu made a perfect marathon debut on Sunday by winning the Lake Biwa race.Ndungu, 23, broke away from the eight-man front-running group shortly before the 32-kilometre point to take the lead and never faced a serious challenge afterwards, crossing the line in 2 hr 7 min 4 sec.

Henryk Szost set a new Polish national record of 2:07:39 to finish second, followed by Abdellah Taghrafet of Morocco in 2:08:37."This is my first marathon. I'm really happy to win it," said a jubilant Ndungu, who is a member of an athletics club in Aichi, central Japan.

"It was cold in the beginning. I felt cold in the first 10 kilometres and I was able to run comfortably after the 20 kilometres. I did my best," he added.The race was led by two Kenyan pace-setters until the 25 kilometre mark, when competition hotted up.

Nicholas Manza of Kenya and Bekana Daba of Ethiopia suddenly picked up speed, with Daba taking a solo lead one kilometre later before seven runners caught up with him at the 28km point.

In the Japanese qualification race for the Olympics, Ryo Yamamoto overtook front-running Kentaro Nakamoto in the last 400m to secure fourth place in 2:08:44 and take a big step towards winning a ticket to London.

Nakamoto was fifth in 2:08:53.
"I kept telling to myself 'the Olympics, the Olympics' in my mind and I desperately chased him (Nakamoto), trying to finish top among the Japanese runners," said Yamamoto, 27.

"I'm physically strong. I think that allowed me to run tenaciously in the final stretch. I'm looking forward to the announcement of the selection," he added.The Japan Association of Athletics Federations will announce the men's and women's Olympic marathon runners later this month.(AFP)