by Brett Larner
Past greats returned to the top of the 23rd Sendai International Half Marathon on May 11, as Moscow World Championships marathon team member Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) won the women's race in a virtually solo 1:10:36 and sub-60 Kenyan Mekubo Mogusu (Team Nissin Shokuhin) took a hard-earned 1:01:54 win over 2012 Fukuoka International Marathon winner Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) and defending Sendai champion Johana Maina (Kenya/Team Fujitsu).
Noguchi easily outdistanced 2011 Tokyo Marathon winner Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) for her third Sendai title and first win since 2008, one of her last races before the injury that knocked her out of the Beijing Olympics and far beyond. Coming on the heels of her strong 2:24:05 for 3rd at March's Nagoya Women's Marathon her win suggests that Noguchi is still on the way back up to her former greatness leading on to Moscow.
For Mogusu, winner of most of Japan's other top-level half marathons during his college career including Marugame, Sapporo International and Ichinoseki, Sendai was an elusive goal, a race where he had never managed to finish better than 2nd. The title marked the first of his pro career, his last half marathon victory coming at the 2009 Marugame International Half Marathon just before his graduation from Yamanashi Gakuin University. Having beaten Gitau and Maina to get there the likeable Mogusu may also be on the way back to living up to his own past.
Further back in the men's race, Koji Kobayashi (Team Subaru), one of the most promising new Japanese marathoners of 2012 with a 2:10:40 PB in Chicago at age 23 in only his second marathon, took the top Japanese men's position at 4th overall in 1:03:13 ahead of a dense pack. Moscow World Championships marathon team member Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) was near the tail of that pack, taking 10th overall in 1:03:30. Kawauchi will double up at next week's Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon before continuing his World Championships preparations at the June 2 Chitose JAL International Marathon.
Update, 5/14/13: JRN reader Jeff Cate, who ran Sendai as part of its sister city relationship with Riverside, CA, U.S.A., wrote with his impressions of his experience:
The race was amazing. The weather was cool and breezy which was perfect... really glad low misty clouds rolled in from the ocean because it was sunny & warm when we loaded the bus about 7:30am.
The race was great. Loved the course. I had run parts of it for 3 days prior to get a feel of the inclines, turns, and sights. The crowds were fantastic... very thick the entire way... it was like running a parade route. I've run races for years in the US and the only race that I've run that has similar crowds is the Boston Marathon. And I loved how they would spot my jersey which read "Riverside" in Japanese (which the city of Sendai provided) and cheer for me... and I'd wave... and they loved it.
And I loved being in such a competitive race... I ran a slight PR by only 9 seconds so I was surprised (due to my training interruptions) and pleased... PR's are harder to come by at age 45... :-) I didn't want to run a disappointing race in such a big event for both our cities. I still only finished 269th of the 811 seeded men. Sheesh, 1:10 was only 48th place. Very deep field. I don't know of a half marathon in the US that is half this competitive and deep. But I love a competitive race... makes you want to dig deeper and run faster.
And the city of Sendai has treated us sister-cities delegates like royalty. We are all very grateful for such generous hospitality with the transportation, the Koyo Grand Hotel, the meals, the excursion to Matsushima, the tour of the course, meeting madame mayor at city hall, the accommodations at the track pre-race... everything.
I wanted to mention all this to you so you could hear first hand how great all this is. I've thoroughly enjoyed Sendai and the good people here. We toured the tsunami devastation yesterday. It's heart-breaking to see, but the resiliency of these people to never give up is so inspiring.
23rd Sendai International Half Marathon
Sendai, Miyagi, 5/12/13
click here for complete results
1. Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) - 1:10:36
2. Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) - 1:11:28
3. Yuka Hakoyama (Team Wacoal) - 1:12:05
4. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 1:12:25
5. Misato Horie (Team Noritz) - 1:12:36
6. Asami Furuse (Team Kyocera) - 1:13:13
7. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 1:13:34
8. Aiko Sakata (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 1:13:49
9. Saki Tabata (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:14:03
10. Chihiro Takato (Team Wacoal) - 1:14:19
1. Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 1:01:54
2. Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 1:02:07
3. Johana Maina (Kenya/Team Fujitsu) - 1:02:53
4. Koji Kobayashi (Team Subaru) - 1:03:13
5. Kenya Sonota (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:03:19 - debut
6. Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:03:23
7. Masaki Shimoju (Team Konica Minolta) - 1:03:23
8. Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda) - 1:03:24
9. Masanori Ishida (Team Sagawa Express) - 1:03:26
10. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:03:30
(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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