Skip to main content

Ageo and Yokohama Lead a Busy Weekend Across Japan

by Brett Larner

It's one of the busiest weekends of the year across Japan, with three major road races, regional championship corporate ekiden action, two big track meets and even some overseas collegiates.



The biggest race on the schedule is Sunday's Ageo City Half Marathon in Ageo, Saitama, a local race used by coaches of university teams bound for Japan's most prestigious sporting event, January's Hakone Ekiden, to pare down their rosters to the final candidates for their Hakone lineups.  As a result Ageo regularly features jaw-dropping numbers, with close to 200 going under 1:06 and 4~500 under 1:10.  In a program put together by JRN, for the last three years the NYC Half Marathon has invited the top two Japanese collegiates in Ageo to its race in March, and in 2013 the invite had a measurable impact.  In its first 25 years Ageo saw 36 people break 1:03.  At last year's 26th running 18 more runners, all Japanese collegiates, broke 1:03.

Defending champion Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) will be back in pursuit of another shot in New York, and 2012 winner Kenta Murayama and 2013 National University Half Marathon champion Shogo Nakamura, both members of four-time National University Ekiden winner Komazawa University and of the Japanese National Team at the 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon Championships, are also on the entry list.  There's no telling who will actually start, but given the steady stream of record-breaking depth and quality in Japan since Tokyo won the 2020 Olympic bid it's safe to say that it's going to be another incredible day in Ageo no matter who ends up on the podium.  Local hero Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) will also make a return to competition in Ageo for the first time since running the TCS New York City Marathon two weeks ago.  JRN will be onhand to cover the race live.  Follow @JRNHeadlines and @JRNLive for more.

Next on the list is the Yokohama International Women's Marathon, going out with a bang after just six runnings by welcoming 2012 London Olympics gold medalist Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) back to Japan.  Yokohama has always been something of a dinosaur, an attempt to hold on to something outdated as times change, bumped down from Tokyo to Yokohama as the new Tokyo Marathon shouldered aside the historic Tokyo International Women's Marathon, and while it is disappointing it's not really surprising that it never caught on and will be sent down again to Saitama next year, where it is due to be subsumed into a mass-participation race in 2016.

The formerly Japan-based Gelana makes for a good last hurrah along with fellow former Japan residents Philes Ongori (Kenya) and Caroline Rotich (Kenya), both of whom enigmatically have PBs of 2:23:22.  Joining them are the Euro cadre of Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine), Marisa Barros (Portugal), Zivile Balciunaitie (Lithuania) and Alina Prokopeva (Russia), and Irvette Van Zyl (South Africa).  Japanese hopes lie primarily in former teammates Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease), an independent who won August's Hokkaido Marathon, and two-time National Corporate Half Marathon champion Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), running her second marathon after debuting in 2:26:05 in Nagoya this year.  The most interesting Japanese woman may be Reia Iwade (Team Noritz), maing her debut at age 19 after a 1:09:45 half marathon at the Sanyo Ladies Half last December just after her birthday.  Follow @JRNLive for live coverage throughout the race.

Speaking of Sanyo, traditionally a year-end highlight producing many of the year's top Japanese women's times, this year it has moved to mid-November and now sits opposite Yokohama.  As a consequence its half marathon has taken a serious hit in quality.  Mattie Suver (U.S.A.) and Charlotte Purdue (Great Britain) face a weak domestic field with only two Japanese women, Shoko Mori (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and Asami Furuse (Team Kyocera), holding bests under 1:15.  Better quality is to be found in Sanyo's 10 km division, where Japan-based Kenyans Grace Kimanzi (Team Starts) and Felista Wanjugu (Team Univ. Ent.) lead 2011 Tokyo Marathon winner Noriko Higuchi and her Wacoal teammates Yuka Hakoyama, Mao Kuroda and Ai Migita and others.

Japanese women are also to be found abroad this weekend as once again members of the Meijo University women's ekiden team will run the Netherlands' Zevenheuvelenloop road race.  Road action is rounded out by regional qualifying ekidens for the corporate men's New Year Ekiden national championships.  Across Japan, men's corporate teams in the Chubu, Chugoku, Hokuriku and Kansai regions will be racing to make the New Year cut, following last weekend's East Japan regional qualifier.  And for those not running in any of the races above, major track time trials will also happen at Nittai University in Yokohama and Ecopa Stadium further west in Shizuoka.  JRN will bring you results and coverage of all these events through the weekend and into next week.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Berlin Marathon - Japanese Results

Fresh off a 1:00:17 half marathon national record last weekend and a 28:55 road 10 km the one before, Yuta Shitara (Honda) lived up to expectations at today's Berlin Marathon, trying to go with the lead group and running the first part of the race alone between the first and second groups.

Whatever his plan, Shitara was swallowed up by the second pack, a good turn of events as it was travelling ahead of Japanese national record pace on track for just sub-2:06. Shitara hung with that group through 25 km before his projected time started to creep away, drifting to high-2:06 pace by 30 km, high-2:07 by 35 km, and high-2:08 by 40 km. In the end he was well short of Toshinari Takaoka's 2:06:16 national record, but with a 2:09:03 for 6th Shitara took 24 seconds off his best with the fastest Japanese men's performance in Berlin since Takayuki Inubushi's then-NR 2:06:57 in 1999. And just 8 days after the greatest half marathon performance in Japanese history.

『ベルリンマラソン動画 設楽悠太…

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.…

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…