Monday, November 16, 2009

Hot Times at the Ageo City Half Marathon

by Brett Larner



Waseda University first-year Shota Hiraga, a star member of 2008 high school national champion Saku Chosei H.S.'s winning team, continued his excellent season with a 1:03:44 win at the Ageo City Half Marathon on Nov. 15. As the unofficial selection race in which Hakone Ekiden-qualified university teams' rank-and-file runners prove to their coaches that they are worthy of joining their squads' stars in the prestigious January Hakone race, Ageo consistently features the deepest, toughest field of any half marathon in the world. For proof, take a look at JRN's 2008 and 2007 Ageo reports.

This year a passing front brought cloudless skies and freak temperatures well over 20 degrees without any of the wind which both cooled and battered the women later in the day at the Yokohama International Women's Marathon. The unseasonal heat affected times across the board. Hiraga's strong 1:03:44 performance was the slowest winning time in Ageo history and only one other runner broke 1:04. In normal years between 150 and 200 men clear 66 minutes, but with this year's weather only 56 achieved the mark. The breakdown on this year's numbers shows how the heat and sun held things back relative to the last nine years (click for full-sized version):


Even though the top 25 were the slowest in the last ten years with the largest number of men were coming in around a minute behind usual, Ageo's now-famous depth was still there, if diminished, with 286 clearing the 70 minute mark. Former Butler University standout Thomas Frazer of Ireland was the top foreign finisher, starting out among the leaders but likewise fading in the heat to finish just under 71 minutes.

Hiraga's win was another mark in Waseda's favor as the Hakone schools enter their final period of preparation for the 2010 Hakone Ekiden. Along with fellow Saku Chosei alum and first-year Waseda recruit Hiroyuki Sasaki, Hiraga should be one of Waseda's biggest strengths in overcoming the deficit caused by star Kensuke Takezawa's graduation this past spring. Whether Hiraga and Sasaki can help bridge to gap to Toyo University or fend off Izumo and Nationals winner Nihon University this year remains to be seen on January 2-3.

2009 Ageo City Half Marathon - Top Finishers
click here for complete results
1. Shota Hiraga - 1:03:44
2. Yuki Munakata - 1:03:58
3. Yohei Yamamoto - 1:04:02
4. Yuki Marubayashi - 1:04:05
5. Naohiro Domoto - 1:04:26
6. Tomoya Mizukoshi - 1:04:28
7. Daichi Yamazaki - 1:04:31
8. Sho Matsueda - 1:04:36
9. Kohei Okamoto - 1:04:39
10. Daisuke Koyama - 1:04:41

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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