By Brett Larner
The 2012 Sapporo International Half Marathon will take place this Sunday, July 1. The 1:30 p.m. start time in recent years has meant slower times, but Sapporo remains Japan's deepest summer road race and always delivers. Nihon TV will broadcast the race live, and international viewers should be able to pick up the broadcast via Keyhole TV. JRN will do additional live race coverage as usual via Twitter @JRNLive.
At the top of the men's field is Kenyan great Martin Mathathi (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), who set a searing course record of 58.56 on the aided Great North Run course last fall. Sapporo will be Mathathi's next step along a course to a planned marathon debut at this December's Fukuoka International Marathon. Alongside him are 2011 Fukuoka winner Josphat Ndambiri (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.), national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku), and London Olympic marathoners Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express), both of whom set half marathon bests at February's Marugame International Half Marathon. While Yamamoto's recent results, including a 29:16.55 for 23rd in the Olympic Trials 10000 m earlier this month, have been somewhat lackluster, Fujiwara appears to be in good shape after two solid track performances in the last week, including a 2 x 10000 m workout with less than six minutes recovery, both within 30 seconds of his PB.
London Olympics women's marathon alternate Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) tops the women's list, where she will face the likes of 2012 National University Half Marathon champion Ayame Takagi (Meijo Univ.), 2012 Sendai International Half Marathon winner Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) and 2011 Ichinoseki International Half Marathon winner Eri Okubo (Second Wind AC). Kato, on the team for this fall's World Half Marathon Championships after her Sendai win, ran poorly in the 5000 m at the first Hokuren Distance Challenge meet last weekend in Shibetsu, Hokkaido. Look for additional noteworthy names to surface unexpectedly in both the men's and women's general elite field.
55th Sapporo International Half Marathon
Sapporo, Hokkaido, 7/1/12
Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 58:56a (Great North Run 2011)
Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:00:25 (World Half 2007)
Josphat Ndambiri (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) - 1:01:07 (Ras Al Khaimah 2010)
Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) - 1:01:34 (Marugame 2012)
Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 1:01:41 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2009)
Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) - 1:01:54 (Marugame 2012)
Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - 1:02:17 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2009)
Takashi Horiguchi (Team Honda) - 1:02:32 (Marugame 2002)
Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 1:08:11 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2008)
Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 1:09:23 (Sanyo Women's 2011)
Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:10:03 (Sanyo Women's 2011)
Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) - 1:10:50 (Marugame 2011)
Ayame Takagi (Meijo Univ.) - 1:11:10 (Nat'l Univ. Women's Half 2012)
Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) - 1:11:21 (Sendai 2012)
Eri Okubo (Second Wind AC) - 1:11:22 (Ichinoseki 2011)
Aki Odagiri (Meijo Univ.) - 1:11:43 (Miyazaki Women's 2010)
(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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