Former Olympic champion Naoko Takahashi was beaten by fellow Japanese Reiko Tosa in the Tokyo International Women's Marathon on Sunday.
The 2000 Sydney Olympic gold medallist won the Tokyo race last year on her return to the sport after almost two years away but she faded badly after the 30km mark to finish third.
Tosa won in two hours 26 minutes 15 seconds with compatriot Akemi Ozaki runner-up in a personal best of 2:28:51 and Takahashi two and a half minutes further off the pace.
Athens Olympic champion Mizuki Noguchi did not run.
Takahashi blamed a sore calf muscle for her inability to finish the race strongly.
"Since I got back from America on November 9, my left calf muscle has been hurting," the 34-year-old told reporters.
"I was fine up until 30km but then my legs cramped up."
Takahashi denied that she was considering retirement, however, adding: "I won't let this defeat get me down. I want to race at the 2008 Beijing Olympics."
Tosa paid tribute to Russian pace-setter Alevtina Iwanowa after he momentous victory over Takahashi.
"I'm delighted," the 2001 world silver medallist said.
"She set a perfect pace for me. The conditions were tough and the wind made it cold but I tried to stay aggressive."
Tosa added: "I wasn't worrying about Takahashi.
"The cold made it hard to move at the end. I put on a spurt after 31-km and suddenly I was on my own."
With Iwanowa setting a good tempo in the first half of the race, the leading group was reduced to seven early on.
However, last year's runner-up Zivile Balciunaite of Lithuania and Olivera Jevtic of Serbia soon fell behind, along with American Jen Rhines.
Ethiopia's Asha Gigi kept pace with the main pack until just before the halfway stage, but then fell away and was overtaken by Ozaki.
Iwanowa dropped out just before the 27-km mark, leaving the two Japanese favorites to battle to the line but the anticipated showdown between Tosa and Takahashi failed to materialise.
Tosa left Takahashi for dead at the 31-km mark and the Sydney Olympic champion was already 42 seconds behind and was passed by Ozaki four kilometres further on.
Takahashi dramatically won last year's race on her return after a shock defeat in 2003, which cost her a place on Japan's team for the 2004 Athens Olympics.