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Olympic Champion Gelana Wins Marugame Half Marathon, Birmingham Wins Men's Race in Australian NR

by Brett Larner

Correction: Although Kenta Murayama is 19, his 1:01:19 will apparently not be considered a new Asian Jr. record as age is calculated on Dec. 31 of the year of competition for the purposes of junior records.

After a record-setting edition last year the Marugame Half Marathon was back with exciting races in both the men's and women's divisions.  London Olympics marathon gold medalist and defending Marugame women's winner Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) went out alone with a 15:52 opening split, but the fastest woman in the race, Kim Smith (New Zealand), patiently reeled her back in and by 15 km had a stride-length lead.  At 20 km they were virutally side-by-side, but Gelana still had the kick to put Smith away.  Gelana crossed the finish line 7 seconds ahead of Smith in 1:08:53, just off her best but good enough for a second-straight Marugame title.  3rd-place Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) broke from the Japanese chase pack at 15 km to break 70 minutes for the first time in a 1:09:32 best.  Past Marugame winner Nicole Chapple (Australia) took 8th in 1:10:34, while top-ranked Japanese woman Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), winner of December's Sanyo Ladies' Half Marathon, was only 14th in 1:11:31.

In the men's race 2013 Hakone Ekiden 2nd Stage winner Benjamin Gandu (Kenya/Nihon Univ.) was the one to take things out fast, splitting 14:05 through 5 km as the main body of the pack, including London Olympics marathon silver medalist Abel Kirui (Kenya) and six Japanese collegiates in the first ten, all on sub-60 pace, went through 5 seconds back. Holding back in 27th on a more sensible mid-60 pace was Australia's Collis Birmingham. By 10 km Birmingham, maintaining a steady pace, had made up the gap and was next to Gandu in the lead tailed closely by sub-61 Komazawa University graduate Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta), current Komazawa 19-year-old second-year Kenta Murayama and Kenyans Micah Njeru (Team Toyota Boshoku) and Enock Omwamba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.).  At 15 km Birmingham had a lead of 9 seconds over the other five front-runners, a lead that only grew as he forged on to a 1:00:56 win, an Australian national record for a record-legal course.

At 20 km Omwamba, Ugachi, Murayama and Gandu were left in the chase group, and in the final sprint Omwamba claimed the runner-up position in a solid 1:01:15 debut.  Ugachi was next in 1:01:16, the second-best time of his career, but next to Birmingham the biggest news of the men's race was made by Murayama in 4th, his 1:01:19 the all-time 10th-best mark by a Japanese man and 2nd-best by a Japanese collegiate on an unaided course. Murayama, winner of November's Ageo City Half Marathon, will run March's New York City Half Marathon, where his coach Hiroaki Oyagi told JRN he hopes to see him go sub-61.  Gandu rounded out the top five in his final collegiate race, while Kirui could do no better than 8th in 1:02:04.

The same day as Marugame, another competitive half marathon took place in the docklands of Yokohama.  At the 35th running of the Kanagawa Half Marathon Tokai University's Ryo Nakagawa emerged from a dense pack in the final kilometer to win in 1:03:45, putting an impressive 12 seconds on Waseda University's Koki Takada.  Tokai and Waseda runners took the top five positions, with Takayuki Tsuchiya of 2012 National High School Ekiden champion Toyokawa H.S. 6th overall in 1:04:10, an apparent high school national record.  Another high schooler, Asami Matsuura (Hakuho Joshi H.S.) won the women's half marathon in a solid 1:14:00, while twins Kaori and Shiroi Morita (Eda H.S.) went 1-2 in the high school girls' 10 km, Kaori winning by a stride in 33:48.

2013 Hakone Ekiden champion Nittai University skipped the home-ground Kanagawa Half to go further to the northeast.  In his debut at the distance, Yoshiki Koizumi led a Nittai sweep of the men's race at the 29th running of the Moriya Half Marathon in 1:04:57.  His female teammates Hiromi Hikida and Maki Ashi also took the top spots in the women's race, Hikida winning in 1:15:34.

2013 Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon
Marugame, 2/3/13
click here for complete results

Men
1. Collis Birmingham (Australia) - 1:00:56 - NR
2. Enock Omwamba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:15 - debut
3. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) - 1:01:16
4. Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:01:19 - PB
5. Benjamin Gandu (Kenya/Nihon Univ.) - 1:01:21
6. Micah Njeru (Kenya/Team Toyota Boshoku) - 1:01:33
7. Masaki Ito (Team Konica Minolta) - 1:02:00 - PB
8. Abel Kirui (Kenya) - 1:02:04
9. Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) - 1:02:05
10. Johana Maina (Kenya/Team Fujitsu) - 1:02:14
-----
36. Alistair Cragg (Ireland) - 1:03:14
38. Young Jin Kim (South Korea) - 1:03:22
DNS - Arata Fujiwara (Miki House)

Women
1. Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) - 1:08:53
2. Kim Smith (New Zealand) - 1:09:00
3. Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 1:09:32 - PB
4. Sakiko Matsumi (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:10:10 - PB
5. Eri Hayakawa (Team Toto) - 1:10:13 - PB
6. Misato Horie (Team Noritz) - 1:10:26 - PB
7. Rui Aoyama (Team Univ. Ent.) - 1:10:28 - PB
8. Nicole Chapple (Australia) - 1:10:34
9. Kumi Ogura (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 1:10:51 - PB
10. Misaki Onishi (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 1:11:16
-----
14. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 1:11:31
24. Alomas Gelana (Ethiopia) - 1:13:39

2013 Kanagawa Half Marathon
Isogo, Yokohama, 2/3/13
click here for complete results

Men
1. Ryo Nakagawa (Tokai Univ.) - 1:03:45
2. Koki Takada (Waseda Univ.) - 1:03:57 - PB
3. Toshihiro Usuda (Waseda Univ.) - 1:04:00 - PB
4. Daiki Taguchi (Waseda Univ.) - 1:04:05 - PB
5. Ryo Shirayoshi (Tokai Univ.) - 1:04:07
6. Takayuki Tsuchiya (Toyokawa H.S.) - 1:04:10 - PB
7. Hirotaka Miki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:12 - PB
8. Takashi Mino (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:15 - PB
9. Toshiki Oshita (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:19 - PB
10. Toshiya Suzuki (Asia Univ.) - 1:04:25

Women
1. Asami Matsuura (Hakuho Joshi H.S.) - 1:14:00
2. Ayumi Uehara (Hakuho Joshi H.S.) - 1:17:51
3. Eri Suzuki (Noshiro Yamamoto T&F Assoc.) - 1:18:45

Men's 10 km
1. Yuta Hamano (Eda H.S.) - 31:07
2. Yusaku Kaneko (Komyo Gakuen Sagamihara H.S.) - 31:44
3. Hirofumi Kanebako (Yokohama Wins AC) - 31:46

Women's 10 km
1. Kaori Morita (Eda H.S.) - 33:48
2. Shiori Morita (Eda H.S.) - 33:49
3. Kana Furuya (Hakuho Joshi H.S.) - 34:07

2013 Moriya Half Marathon
Moriya, Ibaraki, 2/3/13
click here for complete results

Men
1. Yoshiki Koizumi (Nittai Univ.) - 1:04:57 - debut
2. Hikaru Kato (Nittai Univ.) - 1:04:59
3. Shota Kai (Nittai Univ.) - 1:05:07

Women
1. Hiromi Hikida (Nittai Univ.) - 1:15:34
2. Maki Ashi (Nittai Univ.) - 1:16:26
3. Yuka Watahiki - 1:21:37

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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