by Brett Larner
video by Ekiden News
The record-setting 2014 National University Half Marathon finish.
Thanks to an average stage length of 21.7 km at the ten-stage Hakone Ekiden every Jan. 2-3 the half marathon is the distance Japan's collegiate men focus on and the one at which they excel more than any other. Sub-63 half marathon bests have become commonplace on the Kanto university circuit and sub-62, even sub-61, the new standard for the top Hakone stars. This Sunday's National University Half Marathon is no exception, with at least 25 men on the entry list having sub-63 PBs led by Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage course record setter Daichi Kamino (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin University) in 1:01:21 and National University Men's Ekiden Fifth Stage course record setter Ken Yokote (3rd yr., Meiji Univ.) in 1:01:37.
Last year's National University Half, held as always in conjunction with Tokyo's Tachikawa City Half Marathon, saw both a new course record of 1:02:09 from Hideto Yamanaka (2nd yr., Nittai Univ.) and a world record for depth, with 207 men breaking 66 minutes to overtake even November's Ageo City Half Marathon in sheer numbers. This year the National University Half serves as the qualifying race for the Japanese half marathon team for July's Gwangju Universiade in South Korea, aka the World University Games, where Japanese collegiate men have won individual medals for the last five-straight Games. Most 4th-years sit Nationals out and some top younger runners like Hazuma Hattori (2nd yr., Toyo Univ.) and Koki Takada (3rd yr., Waseda Univ.) chose to race elsewhere, but even with only one 4th-year, Hiroshi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) and one 1st-year, Naoki Kudo (Komazawa Univ.) in the top-ranked 25 there is a good chance that the race for national representation will push the field past even last year's incredible results.
Hakone winner Aoyama Gakuin University is stacking the field with most of its A-list, AGU runners led by Kamino making up three of the four entries with bests better than or equal to Yamanaka's year-old 1:02:09 course record, and with another star AGU 3rd-year Kazuma Kubota making his serious half marathon debut AGU could completely fill the Universiade team. 18-year-old Komazawa University 1st-year Kudo, 3rd in Ageo last November in a stunning 1:02:18 debut, leads four Komazawa men in the top 25-ranked. At the last Universiade Komazawa's Shogo Nakamura won the individual bronze medal, and after another great run earlier this month at the Karatsu 10-miler Kudo looks like its best bet to follow Nakamura. Waseda University, led by last year's 3rd-placer Koki Ido, also has four men in top 25-ranked and could also get some representation if the front group does not go at course record pace.
The National University Women's Half Marathon will be held a week later together with the Matsue Ladies' Half Marathon. The team for the Universiade women's half marathon, where Japanese women have won individual medals in every Games since their 2nd edition including a sweep of the podium in 2009, will be decided there with the same criteria as in the men's race.
18th National University Men's Half Marathon
Entry List Highlights
Tachikawa, Tokyo, 3/1/15
click here for complete entry list
Daichi Kamino (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:21
Ken Yokote (3rd yr., Meiji Univ.) - 1:01:37
Yusuke Ogura (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:03
Tadashi Isshiki (2nd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:09
Masaki Toda (3rd yr., Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 1:02:14
Naoki Kudo (1st yr., Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:18
Gen Hachisuka (2nd yr., Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:26
Shinichiro Nakamura (3rd yr., Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:30
Koki Ido (2nd yr., Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:33
Shota Baba (3rd yr., Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:37
Yuta Katsumata (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 1:02:39
Shohei Yamaguchi (3rd yr., Soka Univ.) - 1:02:41*
Ryo Shirayoshi (3rd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:44
Kazuma Kubota (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:44*
Shin Kimura (3rd yr., Meiji Univ.) - 1:02:45
Kazuma Ganaha (3rd yr., Kanagawa Univ.) - 1:02:45*
Shoya Okuno (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 1:02:46
Soma Ishikawa (2nd yr., Nihon Univ.) - 1:02:46
Yusuke Nishiyama (2nd yr., Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:47
Jun Sato (2nd yr., Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:49
Masahiro Miura (3rd yr., Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:52
Shun Sakuraoka (2nd yr, Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:53
Hiroshi Ichida (4th yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 1:02:56*
Keita Shioya (3rd yr., Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:57
Shota Miyakami (3rd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:58
*extrapolated from 20 km time
(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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