Skip to main content

Murayama, Otsu Take Advantage of NYC Half Opportunity

By Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (14-Mar) -- Running Sunday's NYC Half feels like the opportunity of a lifetime for Kenta Murayama and Kento Otsu. For the tandem from Japan, the 21.1 kilometer race through Manhattan represents much more than a typical competition; it is a chance for the student-athletes to gain experience against some of the sport's best, including their idol, Bernard Lagat.

Back home in Japan, Murayama and Otsu are rivals on the collegiate circuit, representing Komazawa University and Toyo University, respectively. Having finished first and second at the Ageo City Half-Marathon last November, the pair earned invitations into Sunday's race as part of a program between the New York Road Runners and the Ageo City organizers.

"As a university student, to be invited to run abroad is a very important chance for me," said Otsu, 21, through a translator. "I am very happy about that. In terms of furthering my training, I think it will be a really valuable experience to have the chance to run with top ranked runners from all across the world."

Competing outside of the Japanese domestic circuit is rare for collegiate competitors from the island nation, making their trip to America even more special. The program between the NYRR and Ageo aims to provide athletes the opportunity to learn from the best, hoping they will continue to develop as distance runners through world competition.

"The chance to run together with world class runners has definitely added to my confidence level," said Otsu.

For Murayama and Otsu, Sunday's race provides them the opportunity to rub elbows with their idol, American Bernard Lagat. A four-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medalist, Lagat will be making his half-marathon debut here.

"He is very much famous," said Murayama, 20, who has a personal best of 1:01:19 for the half-marathon distance.

In Japan, Lagat is known for his ferocious finishing speed, something Murayama hopes to learn a thing or two from on Sunday.

"For me to be able to run together with him, this is something I really wanted to do," he said. "I think it is an opportunity to learn a lot from him."

Competing with Lagat and the world's best does come with its challenges, though. Seen as celebrities back home in Japan --where collegiate running is an extremely popular sport-- the pair come into Sunday's race with a bit of pressure, knowing that the nation's attention will be on them.

"It does, it makes me feel like I have to produce good results, so that does add a little bit of pressure," said Murayama. "I don't want to have any regrets. It's OK if I fail, but I want to push ahead as much as possible."

To Brett Larner, publisher of the popular Japan Running News blog, the chance for Japanese collegians to compete in America is key for their development.

"It is really unique," Larner said, talking exclusively to Race Results Weekly. "Overseas experience generally doesn't come easy for Japanese athletes. You don't get many opportunities to race overseas because the domestic circuit is so well developed. It never happens for University guys.

"Getting into a top level world class race like this is very unique and getting a lot of attention in Japan," added Larner.

On Sunday, Murayama could very well challenge for a top-five spot. Coming into the race, he is tied with the seventh fastest personal best among entrants. Otsu, who finished 25th last year, looks to better his 1:02:43 time from Ageo City last year.

PHOTO: Kento Otsu, Bernard Lagat and Kenta Murayama before the 2013 NYC Half (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Japanese National Track and Field Championships Preview

The 101st edition of Japan's National Track and Field Championships takes place Friday through Sunday at Osaka's Yanmar Stadium Nagai. It's a strange time in some ways. Despite the overall upward trend spurred on by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the count of athletes who might make the London World Championships off their performances at Nationals is low. The marathon, walks, combined events and relays aside, based on current qualifying times only the men's 100 m, women's 5000 m and women's 10000 m could field full three-member squads, and not many events look set to join that list. The progress over the last few years in men's distance on the track seems to have stalled, with nobody qualified for London in the 5000 m and the only man qualified in the 10000 m already a scratch. Is it a just a hiccup or a sign of problems in the buildup to 2020?

Visit the JAAF's National Track and Field Championships website for entry and start lists, live results, photos an…

New Balance Nationals and Record-Breaking Times Nationwide at Japanese High School Regionals

The New Balance Nationals Outdoor was the weekend's big high school meet in the U.S.A., but from Thursday through Monday regions across Japan also held their qualifying meets for the July 29 - Aug. 2 National High School Track and Field Championships in Yamagata. Performances were at a high level across the board, with at least eight meet records nationwide in distance events.

Five girls broke 4:20 in the 1500 m, with Helen Ekarare (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) leading the way with a 4:09.67 meet record to win the Tohoku Region. Nozomi Tanaka (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) was the fastest Japanese girl, winning the Kinki Region title in 4:18.32. On the boys' side, four broke 3:50 in the 1500 m, three of them in the Kinki Region meet. Yusuke Takahashi (Hyogo H.S.) took the Kinki title in 3:46.86.



In the girls' 3000 m, five girls including both Ekarare and Tanaka were under 9:05 nationwide. Ekarare and Tanaka both doubled with 3000 m wins, but the fastest time came from Tabitha Kamau (Kamimu…

Ageo City Half Marathon Leads Weekend Action - Preview

by Brett Larner

Rainy weather lies ahead for a busy weekend of racing across the country.  Track is a part of the calender from April through December, and this weekend features several large time trial meets including the Shizuoka Long Distance Time Trials Meet and, closer to Tokyo, the Nittai University Time Trials Meet.  Men's 5000 m is the focus at Nittai with 37 separate heats in one day, the fastest heat led by 12 Japan-based Africans including Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC), Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.) and Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta).

The main action this weekend, however, happens on the roads, and there's no question that the Ageo City Half Marathon is the main event.  Ageo, the race that university coaches use to thin their rosters ahead of deciding their lineups for January's Hakone Ekiden, is one of two Japanese half marathons vying for the title of world's greatest half, locked in a duel with March's National University Half Marathon to produce the d…