Skip to main content

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 deepest fields ever seen.  27 university men broke 1:03 at this year's Nationals, and 19 of them are on the entry list for Ageo along with another 12 who have broken 1:03 elsewhere, 20 more with sub-29 10000 m bests, and at least one sub 1:03 man, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) in the general division.  Ageo will be hard-pressed to top the world record 265 runners sub-1:06 set at Nationals this year, but with the added motivation of an invite to the 2016 New York City Half Marathon available to the top two Japanese collegiate finishers the front end could surpass the Nationals numbers.  JRN will be on-hand to cover the race live.

It's well into ekiden season, and in four central corporate league regions, Chubu, Hokuriku, Chugoku and Kansai, corporate men's teams will be competing to qualify for the January 1 New Year Ekiden national championships.  But overshadowing them are two large marathons.  With 17,213 finishers last year the Kobe Marathon is inside the top 15 largest marathons worldwide, and this year's fifth anniversary running is bound to be even bigger.  Defending men's champion Haron Malel (Kenya) returns to lead the men's field, with last year's 4th-placer Mildred Kiminiy (Uganda) topping the women's list.

More women will line up nearby Ageo at the first edition of the Saitama International Marathon, the descendant of both the Yokohama International Women's Marathon and Tokyo International Women's Marathon.  A mass-participation race with an elite women's field up front, Saitama is the first domestic selection race for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic women's marathon team.  With one place on the team already gone to Beijing World Championships 7th-placer Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and two more selection races to come Japanese women have almost entirely skipped Saitama, not a single one who has broken 2:30 since 2012 on the entry list.  The promising Aki Odagiri (Team Tenmaya), 2:30:24 in a 5-minute PB in Nagoya this spring, leads the home team followed by former national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), Japan's lone public EPO positive Kaori Yoshida (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) and comeback cancer survivor Remi Nakazato (Team Nitori).

Recent 2:25 Africans Atsede Baysa (Ethiopia), Rebecca Kangogo Chesir (Kenya) and Meselech Melkamu (Ethiopia) lead the international entries, an indication of how fast the race will likely go.  The field also includes London Olympics marathon bronze medalist Tatyana Arkhipova (Russia), rejected from this year's New York City Marathon and represented by Andrey Baranov, the same agent who handled high-profile banned Russians Liliya Shobuknova, Mariya Konovalova and Tatyana Aryasova, and another athlete to have previously served a drug suspension, Rasa Drasdauskaite (Lithuania).  It's a troubling start that can't do much to establish Saitama's reputation given current events worldwide.

Look for coverage of these events and more over the next few days on JRN.

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi and Kiyara Live Up to Expectations With Wan Jin Shi Wins

Returning to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon after having first run it in 2016, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:14:12 to score his fourth-straight marathon win in a third-straight wire-to-wire solo performance. Choosing the hilly Wan Jin Shi Marathon as his final main tuneup for next month's Boston Marathon, Kawauchi came out swinging, leading an all-African pack of seven by almost 10 seconds after the tough uphill opening 5 km and stretching that out to over two minutes by the turnaround point at halfway.

On track to break the 2:13:05 course record by more than two minutes. under sunny skies with temperatures climbing to 22C and nearly 80% humidity Kawauchi began to slow incrementally. Behind him, Johnstone Kibet Maiyo (Kenya) and Aredome Tiuyay Degefa (Ethiopia) separated from the chase pack and began to push each other in pursuit of the top spot. With every 5 km split the gap to Kawauchi narrowed. At 40 km Maiyo threw down to get rid of Degefa, blasting the dow…

Kawauchi and Kiyara Headline Wan Jin Shi Marathon

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returns to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon this Sunday for his marathon of the post-Yuta Shitara era. The runner-up in Wan Jin Shi in 2016, Kawauchi is ranked #1 in the field and comes to Wan Jin Shi with wins in his last three marathons but faces a solid field including fellow sub-2:10 man Peter Kiplagat Sitenei, last year's runner-up Tsegaye Debele (Ethiopia), and the only man to beat him last time around, 2016 winner and course record holder William Chebon Chebor (Kenya). Kawauchi plans to use the hilly race as a tune-up for his main marathon of the spring season, April's Boston Marathon.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rael Kiyara Nguriatukei (Kenya), winner of the 2012 Hamburg Marathon before being stripped of her title and suspended for a positive post-race test for norandrosterone, has the fastest recent time in the women's field with a 2:26:22 winning time at last year's Chongqing Marathon. Close behind is Chemtai …

Katanishi Scores Best-Ever Japanese Collegiate Placing at United Airlines NYC Half

Wearing bib #21 on his 21st birthday, 2017 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Kei Katanishi (Komazawa University) turned in the best-ever Japanese collegiate placing at the United Airlines NYC Half, taking 7th in 1:03:05 just 26 seconds off the win.

Katanishi and his Komazawa teammate Shogo Ise earned invites to the NYC Half by taking the top two Japanese collegiate spots at last November's Ageo City Half Marathon. Off the tougher new New York course both Katanishi and Ise ran in the lead group for the first two-thirds of the race, Ise near the front and Katanishi biding his time at the back of the pack. When the first real move came on the uphill approaching Times Square Katanishi was quick to reposition himself into the top three just off the shoulder of leader Dathan Ritzenhein (U.S.A.), staying in the action and looking smooth through the first set of Central Park hills. "I just took the early part easy and watched the others and what was going," Kat…