Skip to main content

Ichida and Takada Ready to Take on United Airline NYC Half

by Brett Larner

Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) and Koki Takada (Waseda Univ.) at Riverside State Park, New York, on Mar. 13.

For the fourth year, the top two Japanese collegiate finishers from November's super-deep Ageo City Half Marathon have been invited to run the United Airlines NYC Half as part of a collaboration set up by JRN between the Ageo city government and the New York Road Runners.  At the 2013 Ageo Half Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka University) won a five-way sprint finish in 1:02:36 to pick up his place at the 2014 NYC Half.  A stride behind him, Koki Takada (Waseda University), was the third collegiate finisher, ripping of his bib number in anger at missing out on the chance to run in a big race overseas.

A year later, Ichida and Takada were again head-to-head in Ageo, working together to push the pace and drop their competition one by one.  In another sprint finish Takada got the win this time in a PB 1:02:02 with Ichida right behind in a PB 1:02:03.  Both of them scored the NYC invite, and what made it special was that the two had been high school teammates.  Not just teammates, but members of the 2010 National High School Ekiden champion Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S. team, Ichida leading off on the first stage and Takada running down the competition on the anchor leg to give Kagoshima Jitsugyo its first-ever national title with yet another brilliant sprint finish.

Just over four years later the two are now back together in New York.  For Ichida it is his last race as a student before graduating and joining the powerful Asahi Kasei corporate team.  Takada is a year younger and will head back to his senior year at Waseda, the most prestigious running university in Japan, but for him too there is an element of finality to the race.  Waseda head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe, one of the most revered collegiate runners in Japan's history and still immensely popular as a 40-something coach who developed the Nike Oregon Project's Suguru Osako, is retiring from Waseda at the end of the school year this month, and the United Airlines NYC Half will be his final official appearance as the head of the legendary Waseda.

In the three years so far the Japanese collegiates in NYC have represented, running the two fastest half marathon times and five of the top ten ever by Japanese men on U.S. soil.  #1 on that list is 1:01:48 by Yuta Shitara (Toyo University) at the 2012 NYC Half.  Both Ichida and Takada are gunning for that time, and with a bit of luck from the weather and competition and the kind of teamwork that comes from having bookended a national champion team there's a good chance they could join the growing list of Japanese students running world-class times under 62 minutes.

Even if they don't make it, going home with the kind of experience mostly absent from contemporary Japanese methodology will help put them on the short list for 2020 Olympic marathon hopefuls.  Imagine what it's going to take to make that team.  Running against a top-level international field in their youth and finding out how good they themselves already are can only give Ichida and Takada a leg up in the game.

text and photos (c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Brothers Repeat Father's Day Okinoshima Ultra Sweep

For the second year in a row brothers Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and Yoshiki Kawauchi (unattached) returned to their late father's home island of Okinoshima to dominate the Father's Day Okinoshima Ultramarathon 50 km and 100 km.

Yoshiki, the younger of the two, ran the 100 km for the third time. In his 2015 debut he suffered mightily on the way in to an 11:21:52 finish. Returning with a year's more experience in 2016, he won in a course record 7:20:31. This time he was out fast in search of his first sub-7 clocking, averaging 4:00/km at 40 km through the hilliest part of the course before starting to slow. At 60 km he was still on track for a sub-7, splitting 4:07:10, but when he hit the series of three >100 m elevation gain climbs just after 60 km sub-7 slipped out of reach. Still well under course pace with a 7:12:27 projection at 80 km Yoshiki struggled on the last 100 m climb just over 5 km from the finish, coming in for the win in 7:29:06. Yoshiki has…

Ageo City Half Marathon Leads Weekend Action - Preview

by Brett Larner

Rainy weather lies ahead for a busy weekend of racing across the country.  Track is a part of the calender from April through December, and this weekend features several large time trial meets including the Shizuoka Long Distance Time Trials Meet and, closer to Tokyo, the Nittai University Time Trials Meet.  Men's 5000 m is the focus at Nittai with 37 separate heats in one day, the fastest heat led by 12 Japan-based Africans including Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC), Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.) and Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta).

The main action this weekend, however, happens on the roads, and there's no question that the Ageo City Half Marathon is the main event.  Ageo, the race that university coaches use to thin their rosters ahead of deciding their lineups for January's Hakone Ekiden, is one of two Japanese half marathons vying for the title of world's greatest half, locked in a duel with March's National University Half Marathon to produce the d…

List of Japanese Athletes Qualified for 2017 London World Championships

It's 50 days to go to the 2017 London World Championships and just over a week out from the 101st Japanese National Track and Field Championships in Osaka where the country's best will be trying to earn places on the London team. Athletes will have the chance to chase standards in the weeks after Nationals, but excluding the marathon, walks and combined events, all of which are held separately from the National Championships, the following is a list of Japanese athletes already holding valid qualifying marks for London.

Things are looking very thin right now, with only the men's 100 m, women's 5000 m and women's 10000 m currently capable of fielding complete contingents, although at least the men's 200 m, men's pole vault and conceivably the men's 10000 m could join that short list. With sixteen women currently holding the London standard the women's 10000 m looks to be the toughest to make even if marathon squad members Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu…