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  Yokohama has always been something of a dinosaur, an attempt to hold on to something outdated as times change, bumped down from Tokyo to Yokohama as the new Tokyo Marathon shouldered aside the historic Tokyo International Women's Marathon, and while it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

One Month Until the Japanese Olympic Marathon Trials

It's one month to go until what's bound to be the best marathon of 2019, Japan's 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon trials, the Sept. 15 Marathon Grand Championship Race. Up to now Japan has typically picked its Olympic and World Championships marathon teams based on performances in a series of specific races, primarily the Fukuoka International Marathon, Tokyo Marathon and Lake Biwa Marathon for men, and the Saitama International Marathon, Osaka International Women's Marathon and Nagoya Women's Marathon for women. This time around they're going with a U.S.-style one-shot trials race, the MGC Race.

People had a nearly two-year window from August, 2017 to April this year to hit tough standards to qualify. Only 34 men and 15 women made it, and after withdrawals for the Doha World Championships the MGC Race's final entry list is just 31 men and 12 women. Swedish Athletics Federation official Lorenzo Nesicalled it "the most difficult marathon race ever to quali…

MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier - Naoki Okamoto

Naoki Okamotoage: 35
sponsor: Chugoku Denryoku
graduated from: Tottori Chuo Ikuei H.S., Meiji University

best time inside MGC window:
2:11:29, 1st, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon

PB: 2:11:29, 1st, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon

other PBs:
5000 m: 13:37.71 (2009) 10000 m: 28:05.84 (2011) half marathon: 1:02:16 (2009)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
DNF, 2019 Beppu-Oita Marathon
1st, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon, 2:11:29 – PB
DNF, 2018 Boston Marathon

other major results:
4th, 2019 Shibetsu Half Marathon, 1:03:53
2nd, 2019 New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage (22.4 km), 1:05:13
1st, 2018 Chugoku Corporate Ekiden Sixth Stage (19.0 km), 56:25 – CR
1st, 2018 Ome 30 km Road Race, 1:33:09
21st, 2017 Tokyo Marathon, 2:13:53

We’re picking Okamoto as our official dark horse of the men’s race. The second-oldest man in a field, Okamoto is a journeyman corporate leaguer who never broke 2:12 and whose PBs all came a decade ago. But, nearing the end of his career, over the last two years he has really come on…

Running the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Marathon Course Part Three - Men's Marathon and Overall Summary

Today marks one year until the men's marathon at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. For the third time in the last week, once last Friday with one year to go to the Olympic women's marathon, once on Monday with a likely competitor in the men's marathon, and again today, I ran most of the Olympic marathon course taking temperature and humidity readings every half an hour to get a handle on what kind of conditions athletes in each race can expect to be facing. Between the three runs I covered about 80 km, and including the two times I did it last summer two years out from the women's marathon and men's marathon about 135 km, on the Olympic course. To get it out of the way off the bat, a couple of days ago a few readers told me that the Buy Me A Coffee button wasn't working. I think the problem has been fixed, so if you're so inclined please feel free to use it. Your support for JRN is always really appreciated.

And now on to the run.


This time out I went to the start …