translated and edited with additional background information by Brett Larner
At the 15th Tanigawa Mari Half Marathon, Jan. 12 along the Arakawa River in northern Tokyo, unknown university runner Hideyuki Ikegami (20, 2nd-yr., Kyoto Kyoiku Univ.) ran 1:03:09, opening a massive lead over defending champion Yuki Kawauchi (26, Saitama Pref. Gov't) and 2012 winner Kazuyoshi Tokumoto (Team Monteroza) to take the win. Around 10 km he attacked with a series of surges before pulling away to run the final 10 km alone. Thinking, "What do you know, Kawauchi's mortal after all," Ikegami broke the finish line tape with a lead of 1:08, his time a PB by more than two and a half minutes and a new course record. Tokumoto took 3rd in 1:05:35.
A native of Kameoka, Kyoto, Ikegami graduated from Rakunan H.S., alma mater of 10000 m and marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka and home of sprint sensation Yoshihide Kiryu, before entering Kyoto Kyoiku University. He ran in the National High School Ekiden Championships all three years at Rakunan, but even then he knew he wanted to be a marathoner and had no interest in spending his university years focused on the Hakone Ekiden. As a first-year at Kyoto Kyoiku Univ. he won the Division II 10000 m and half marathon at the Kansai Region University Track and Field Championships, setting the D-II meet record in the 10000 m, but then quit the school's track team to train his own way. At the end of last year he joined independent Olympic marathoner Arata Fujiwara's Team Arata training project.
This was already Ikegami's second road race win of 2014, having won his local Kameoka Yunohana 10 km in 30:55 on New Year's Day. "I lucked out with the win today," he said after the Tanigawa Mari Half. "I'm not that confident, but I hate to lose to anybody so if we ever have the chance to race again I'll be going for the win." His innocent young face couldn't hide the competitor's spirit hiding within.
Kicking off his year, civil servant runner Kawauchi took 2nd in 1:04:17, his fastest time on the Tanigawa Mari Half course and just 7 seconds off the old course record. Running side-by-side, he fell behind when Ikegami made a move near 10 km. He came back on a downhill and they were again head-to-head, but when Ikegami attacked again Kawauchi was suddenly left on his own. "It's still early in the new year, but this was a real smack on the head," Kawauchi said. Having lost to another independent amateur for the first time in ages and by a wide margin he gave due credit to Ikegami, saying, "He crushed me. In terms of time there was nothing wrong with how I ran, but he taught me a valuable lesson. Before the race I was all snug and comfortable in a nice warm hospitality tent, but he was different. A difference of attitude. You can't let yourself get too comfortable and complacent. I have to be more stoic."
Both of Kawauchi's younger brothers also ran, the first time in years that all three brothers have done the same race together. Yuki, the oldest of the three, kept face by taking 2nd in 1:04:17, with his youngest brother Koki (3rd yr., Takasaki Keizai Univ.) 13th in 1:09:18 and 23-year-old middle brother Yoshiki 26th in 1:11:53. Professional Yuki Kawauchi impersonator Takashi M, 29, was 84th in 1:18:26. Akane Mutazaki (Team Edion) won the women's race in 1:15:30 in the absence of five-tiime defending champion Kaori Yoshida (Puma RC).
In March Kawauchi is running the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. "I have to work hard to be able to run a 2:07," he said of his goals for that race. Until then he will race almost every week, running the Okukuma Road Race in Kumamoto on Jan. 19 and the Okumusashi Ekiden in Saitama on Jan. 26.
In other early-season half marathon action across the country over the long weekend, Kenichi Shiraishi (Team Asahi Kasei) delivered one of the fastest winning times in the 54-year history of the Oita City Half Marathon as he won in 1:03:59 by 20 seconds over Kazuya Ishida (Team Nishitetsu). Shiraishi will return to Oita in three weeks to go for another win at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. 19-year-old Wakana Itsuki (Fukuoka Univ.) took the women's division by nearly two minutes in 1:16:37. Hakone Ekiden 5th-placers Aoyama Gakuin University and 13th-place Tokai University turned the 41st Takanezawa Half Marathon into a virtual JV dual meet as their B-teams filled the top ten, giving Takanezawa greater depth than in the weekend's other half marathon. Tokai's Atsunori Higuchi came out on top in a PB 1:04:39, two seconds ahead of Aoyama Gakuin's Takashi Mino.
15th Tanigawa Mari Half Marathon
Arakawa, Tokyo, 1/12/14
click here for complete results
1. Hideyuki Ikegami (Kyoto Kyoiku Univ.) - 1:03:09 - PB, CR
2. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:04:17
3. Kazuyoshi Tokumoto (Team Monteroza) - 1:05:35
4. Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business) - 1:05:37
5. Nao Kazami (Aichi T&F Assoc.) - 1:05:38
6. Yusuke Kodama (Team Comodi Iida) - 1:05:38 - PB
7. Kodai Matsumoto (Puma RC) - 1:05:39
1. Akane Mutazaki (Team Edion) - 1:15:30
2. Yukie Sarada (Team Edion) - 1:16:31
3. Eri Suzuki (Noshiro Yamamoto T&F Assoc.) - 1:16:36
4. Mitsuko Hirose (Tokyo Wings AC) - 1:17:22
5. Naoko Tsuchiya (Shizuoka T&F Assoc.) - 1:18:18
54th Oita City Half Marathon
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1. Kenichi Shiraishi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:03:59
2. Kazuya Ishida (Team Nishitetsu) - 1:04:19
3. Nobuki Hatayama (Nippon Bunri Univ.) - 1:05:11
4. Yuki Nanba (Oita Tomei H.S. Staff) - 1:05:32
5. Ryuichi Tabuki (Hita City Hall) - 1:05:57
1. Wakana Itsuki (Fukuoka Univ.) - 1:16:37
2. Hazuki Kadoyanagi (Fukuoka Univ.) - 1:18:21
41st Takanezawa Half Marathon
Takanezawa, Tochigi, 1/12/14
1. Atsunori Higuchi (Tokai Univ.) - 1:04:39 - PB
2. Takashi Mino (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:41
3. Toshinori Watanabe (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:44
4. Haruka Suzuki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:57
5. Nanami Arai (Tokai Univ.) - 1:05:12