translated and edited by Brett Larner
A total of 1700 men and women of all ages ran in the half marathon, 10 km, 3 km and 2 km divisions at the 63rd running of the Kashima Yutoku Half Marathon on Feb. 23. In the men's open half marathon division, Masaya Taguchi (Toyo University) took 47 seconds off the course record to win in 1:03:05. Taguchi was responsible for getting Toyo off to a good start on the First Stage at last month's Hakone Ekiden, playing a big part in the team's win. Bringing the same intensity to his course record run, he thoroughly dominated the men's half marathon.
Olympian and university 5000 m national record holder Kensuke Takezawa (Team Sumitomo Kaijo) was also in the race. "He has been an inspiration since I was in junior high school," Taguchi said. "I only found out he was running right before the race and was pretty freaked out." Taguchi was aggressive and assertive right from the start, launching a surge at 10 km that got him away from Takezawa and keeping the momentum going all the way to the finish where he crossed the line in 1:03:05. Takezawa took 2nd in 1:03:24, also under the old course record by almost 30 seconds.
The day before the race Taguchi ran the 10 km at the Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet. "I still have some fatigue in me, so it was a little disappointing that I couldn't pick the second half up like I wanted to," he said, showing that he wasn't satisfied with just having set the course record. Looking to the upcoming season he said, "I want to set some good times on the track."
Further north at the 36th Inuyama Half Marathon, Toyo's rival Komazawa University went 1-2 in the men's half marathon, second-years Kenya Sonota and Kohei Futaoka leading the 8114 finishers with Sonota winning in 1:03:44 and Futaoka six seconds back. The independent Hideyuki Ikegami (Kyoto T&F Assoc.) took 3rd in 1:04:04. At this year's Hakone Ekiden, Sonota ran the anchoring Tenth Stage, crossing the finish line in 2nd with the disappointment of not having been able to make up any ground on winner Toyo's Kento Otsu. His run in Inuyama was intended to help give him experience toward a Hakone win, but, he said, "I wasn't able to speed up in the second half at the point that I need to," showing his determination to improve further.
Runners from the Wacoal corporate team took the top three places in the women's half marathon at Inuyama. Ai Migita won in 1:14:05, Satoko Mori next in 1:14:43 and Yuki Kodama 3rd in 1:16:09. Of winning her debut half marathon Migita said, "I just enjoyed myself running it." A young member of a veteran team, Migita said with beaming eyes, "I want to get strong enough to be an athlete who can run with a smile."