Skip to main content

397 Under 70 Minutes: The 20th Ageo City Half Marathon

by Brett Larner

While the NCAA XC Championships were taking place an ocean away, the final qualification race for the de facto Japanese university championships was happening northwest of Tokyo at the Ageo City Half Marathon in Ageo, Saitama.

The Japanese university running world revolves around the legendary Hakone Ekiden, a ten-stage relay race held every year on Jan. 2 and 3rd. The top nineteen university teams in eastern Japan plus a compilation team of ace runners from schools which do not make the top nineteen race from downtown Tokyo to the mountaintop lakeside resort town of Hakone and back in front of hundreds of thousands of courseside spectators and the largest television audience of any event or program in Japan. If you are a young male runner in Japan then getting to run in Hakone is the absolute highlight of your life and something which anyone in Japan, runner or non-runner, will respect for the rest of your life.

The fall university season in Japan is built up of ekidens and qualification races geared to selecting teams and team members for Hakone. The final race in the series is the Ageo City Half Marathon, held each year on the third Sunday of November. Most universities which will be competing in Hakone send squads of ten to fifty runners to Ageo to make final selection for their Hakone A-squads. Ace runners usually don`t participate as they run for one of the Japanese national teams in the Chiba International Ekiden on Nov. 23 and are already assured a space on their schools` Hakone teams, but for the remaining runners it is a make or break situation. Their coaches will use the Ageo results to select the fittest runners for Hakone, so they have to run all-out against teammates and other schools alike. A professional jitsugyodan team or two usually show up, and the race is also open to the general public.

The course is flat and fast. Last year the top two went under 62 minutes, with second place finisher Masato Kihara, a sophomore at Chuo Gakuin University, running the all-time second Japanese university mark of 1:01:50. Team Honda`s Gebretsadik Bekele won in 1:01:26. This year Bekele repeated in a relatively slow 1:02:43. Second place was Shoji Akutsu of Nihon University in 1:03:06. Twenty-one universities sent full squads and another dozen-odd schools sent smaller numbers. The depth of the field was staggering:

10th place: 1:03:36
25th place: 1:04:08
50th place: 1:04:41
100th place: 1:05:23
200th place: 1:06:37
300th place: 1:08:13
400th place: 1:10:06
500th place: 1:14:49

Is there another half-marathon anywhere in the world with this depth?

My training partners and I had decided in the spring to run Ageo so that we could get pulled along to PBs. I came down with a bad cold three days before the race and only ran 1:14:58, good for 501st place. My friend Jason Lawrence ran under 68 for the first time and came in 286th. Full results are here. From the pull-down menu select the entry second from the top, above the 10 km option. Put in how many results you want to see and then click the grey box.

Some videos of this year`s race are also up. Witness the sight of hundreds and hundreds of young guys running around 3 min/km pace:

3 km point --- 10 km point --- 17 km point

The Ageo City Half Marathon is a recommended event for anyone who would like to experience what elite Japanese distance running is about and to run a fast time while doing it. Next month I will post a roundup of the fall university season and a more detailed history and preview of Hakone.


(c) 2007 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Mark said…
absolutely unbelievable half-marathon times, never heard anything like it,

good luck in your upcoming marathon

Most-Read This Week

Dark Side of the Rising Sun

For all the good things that happened this year, just like anywhere else Japan had its share of problems. In sports, speed skater Kei Saito's doping suspension at the Pyeongchang Olympics, the harassment case around coach Kazuhito Sakae and Olympic gold medalist wrestler Kaori Icho, and the Nihon University football scandal involving head coach Masato Uchida directing a player to deliberately take out the opposing team's quarterback were some of the bigger stories, but in athletics as well there was no shortage of problems. From actions ranging from the individual to the systemic and societal, from doping to corruption to abuse and harassment, a quick list of the year's lows two years out from Tokyo 2020.
Drugs and Injections'Top Canoeist Suspended for Framing Rival for Doping'

Why is the Number of Doping Offenders Growing in Once-Upon-a-Time Clean Japan?

National Corporate Women's Ekiden Champion Team to be Stripped of Title After Member Tests Positive

Nakamura …

JAAF Announces Last-Chance Olympic Marathon Standards: 2:05:49 and 2:22:22

We hereby announce the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Marathon Team qualifying standards for the MGC Final Challenge.
men: 2:05:49
women: 2:22:22 These times are one second faster than the fastest times run by Japanese men and women within the MGC Race qualifying period. The fastest athlete under these standards at one of the MGC Final Challenge series races will earn the third and final spot on the Tokyo 2020 team following the two to be decided at September's MGC Race. MGC Final Challenge series races:
Men:73rd Fukuoka International MarathonTokyo Marathon 202075th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Women:5th Saitama International Marathon39th Osaka International Women's MarathonNagoya Women's Marathon 2020 For more information on the overall Tokyo 2020 Olympic team qualification process please click here.
The official MGC site:  http://www.mgc42195.jp/
source press release:
https://www.jaaf.or.jp/news/article/12712/
translated and edited by Brett Larner

10000 m National Championships Lead Weekend Action

It's a busy weekend on the track across the country. In long distance action the main event is Sunday's 10000 m national championships, held this year a month and a half before the rest of the National Track and Field Championships in an effort to help people produce better performances to maximize their world rankings points. The 10000 m will be held in Osaka's Nagai Stadium just after the Golden Grand Prix Osaka meet, which maxes out this time around with the 3000 m steeplechase.

22 women are entered in the 10000 m including 6 of the 7 who have cleared the 31:50.00 Doha World Championships standard and the only one who has cleared the 31:25.00 Tokyo Olympics standard. That would be the currently world-ranked #3 Hitomi Niiya (Nike Tokyo TC), who lapped 2nd place the last time she ran Nationals back in 2013 en route to a still-standing championships record 31:06.67. #16-ranked Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post), jointly #22-ranked Kaori Morita (Panasonic) and Mizuki Matsuda (Daiha…