Skip to main content

University Runners Feature in Rest of March's Races

by Brett Larner

With Japan's fiscal and academic year wrapping up at the end of March the majority of the country's corporate runners are in a holding pattern until track season gets underway in April.  Collegiate runners dominate what's left of the season, with Sunday's National University Women's Half Marathon Championships, held in conjunction with the Matsue Ladies' Half Marathon and 10 km, marking the last major domestic race of the season. Winning times at the National Championships have been in the 71-minute range the last few years.  The lack of a World University Games this year could bring down that leading edge, but if the record-setting depth at last week's National University Men's Half Marathon Championships was any indication the women's race should still be deeply competitive.

2013 Ageo City Half Marathon winner Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka University) and 2013 National University Track and Field Championships 1500 m winner Ikuto Yufu (Komazawa University) represent Japan's university men this weekend at the NYC Half Marathon, the third time top-level Japanese collegiates have run NYC through a relationship set up by JRN between NYC and Ageo.  Ichida hopes to run sub-62 for the first time, with Yufu targeting a time better than his younger Komazawa teammate Kenta Murayama's 1:02:02 at last year's NYC Half.  Look for more on Ichida and Yufu in New York on JRN over the next few days.

Further ahead, Ichida's twin brother Hiroshi Ichida (Daito Bunka University) and Yufu's teammate Shota Baba (Komazawa University) lead the four-man Japanese team for next weekend's World University Cross Country Championships in Entebbe, Uganda, with Daito Bunka's Fuyuka Kimura also featuring prominently on the women's team.

A week later, Murayama, now all-time Japanese #3 over the half marathon with a best of 1:00:50 at age 20, his Komazawa teammate and 2013 World University Games half marathon bronze medalist Shogo Nakamura, and Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin University), with a 1:01:39 best making him the fastest-ever Japanese 21-year-old, make up the lion's share of the Japanese men's team for the Copenhagen World Half Marathon Championships.  Another Komazawa grad, last year's 5000 m national champion Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu), and Masato Kikuchi (Team Konica Minolta), both sub-1:01:30 men, round out the team, but hopes are high throughout Japan that Murayama, freshly 21, will lead the way with a mark well under the current Japanese national record of 1:00:25. The all-corporate women's team is relatively weaker, with only Reia Iwade (Team Noritz) having cleared the 70-minute mark in her career to date, running a best of 1:09:45 at December's Sanyo Women's Half Marathon to make the Copenhagen team.

For those craving their Yuki Kawauchi fix, Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) is lining up in half marathons both this weekend and next, running his home ground Saitama City Half Marathon this weekend and the Ogori Half Marathon a week later.  Kawauchi's rival independent Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) will also line up in Saitama's 3 km race.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Yuta Shitara Breaks Japanese Men's Half Marathon National Record in Berlin Marathon Tuneup at Usti nad Labem Half

A week after his 28:55 at the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10 km and just eight days out from the Berlin Marathon, Yuta Shitara (Honda) made the great leap forward, taking 8 seconds off Atsushi Sato's 2007 half marathon Japanese national record, finishing 8th at the Czech Republic's Usti nad Labem Half Marathon.

Shitara is probably most well-known outside Japan for going through halfway under 62 minutes during his marathon debut at this year's Tokyo Marathon and still ending up with a 2:09:27, but he's been turning heads in Japan since his second year at Toyo University when he broke a stage record at the 2012 Hakone Ekiden and outkicked the U.S.A.'s Dathan Ritzenhein to finish in 1:01:48 at the NYC Half two months later, until this year the fastest time ever by a Japanese man on U.S soil.

Three weeks before Tokyo this year he ran a 1:01:19 PB at the Marugame Half. Many people would call that a solid tuneup three weeks out from a serious marathon, but eight days? In P…

Ayuko Suzuki Leaves for Altitude Training in Boulder Motivated for the Marathon

2017 London World Championships 5000 m and 10000 m runner Ayuko Suzuki (25, Japan Post) left from Narita Airport on Sept. 18 for altitude training in Boulder, Colorado.

Two days earlier at a half marathon in Czech Republic, Yuta Shitara (25, Honda), like Suzuki born in 1991, broke the 10-year-old Japanese men's half marathon national record in a time of 1:00:17. "It's a big motivation to see an athlete the same age as me doing something like that," she said. Showing her determination to be one of her generation's leaders, she added, "I'll be 28 [at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics], right in my prime mentally and physically. I want to run big too."

In the leadup to the Tokyo Olympics Suzuki has the marathon in sight along with the track. "I need to run a half marathon and marathon somewhere once to check [how well they suit me]," she said. "Coach and I will be talking about it." If everything goes according to plan, December's Sanyo …

New Half Marathon NR Holder Yuta Shitara's Twin Brother Keita Joins Hitachi Butsuryu Corporate Team

Having left the Konica Minolta men's corporate team at the end of March this year, Keita Shitara, 25, announced on Sept. 19 that he will join the Hitachi Butsuryu team. The official announcement is scheduled for Sept. 20.

As a member of Toyo University Shitara was part of two Hakone Ekiden-winning teams before joining Konica Minolta following his graduation in 2014. His first year at Konica Minolta Shitara ran New Year Ekiden national championships' toughest stage, but since his second year he has experienced a slump. Saying, "I need to change my environment in order to get my head straight and back on track," Shitara chose to leave the team at the end of March, returning to Toyo as his training base.

The Hitachi Butsuryu team came into being in April, 2012 as the successor to the Hitachi Cable Marathon Team. It is based in Matsudo, Chiba. Under the leadership of head coach Manabu Kitaguchi, 45, it has grown steadily, placing 10th at this year's New Year Ekiden.…