Skip to main content

Five Years of Japanese University Runners at the NYC Half in Review


Yuta Shitara, Kento Otsu and Coach Sakai at the 2012 NYC Half


Sunday's United Airlines NYC Half marked the fifth year that the NYRR has invited the top two Japanese university finishers from November's Ageo City Half Marathon to run against top international competition in New York, a concept JRN proposed in 2011 and continues to help oversee.  For decades Japan's corporate leagues have sent runners to races like Philadelphia, San Diego and Virginia Beach, but relative to their pro elders the eight university men who have run a total of ten times in New York so far have represented themselves well with consistently serious and fast performances on a course with a challenging first half.

Otsu, Bernard Lagat and Kenta Murayama in 2013


The ten fastest times ever run in the United States by Japanese corporate league runners to date:

1:02:28 - Yasuaki Yamamoto (Tokyo Metro) - Philadelphia 1999
1:02:50 - Yoshinori Oda (Toyota) - Virginia Beach 2007
1:02:59 - Yoichiro Akiyama (Honda) - Virginia Beach 2005
1:03:50 - Noritaka Fujiyama (Sumco) - Virginia Beach 2009
1:03:57 - Kazuhiro Matsuda (Sagawa Express) - San Diego 2003
1:03:57 - Takayuki Matsumiya (Konica Minolta) - Virginia Beach 2010
1:04:24 - Yuko Matsumiya (Konica Minolta) - Virginia Beach 2009
1:04:32 - Tetsuo Nishimura (YKK) - Virginia Beach 2006
1:04:32 - Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA) - San Diego 2015
1:04:33 - Hironori Arai (Chugoku Denryoku) - Virginia Beach 2011

average: 1:03:48

The ten Japanese university runner results in New York to date:

1:01:48 - Yuta Shitara (Toyo Univ.) - 2012
1:02:02 - Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) - 2013
1:02:50 - Ikuto Yufu (Komazawa Univ.) - 2014
1:03:11 - Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 2014
1:03:15 - Kento Otsu (Toyo Univ.) - 2012
1:03:21 - Koki Takada (Waseda Univ.) - 2015
1:03:21 - Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 2015
1:03:37 - Yusuke Nishiyama (Komazawa Univ.) - 2016
1:03:40 - Haruki Minatoya (Tokai Univ.) - 2016
1:04:03 - Kento Otsu (Toyo Univ.) - 2013

average: 1:03:07

Ikuto Yufu and Takashi Ichida in 2014


With the NYC Half invite serving primarily as a developmental program, most of its alumni have already gone on to upper levels of the corporate leagues in their fledgling pro careers.  In both 2015 and 2016 Shitara broke the course record on the longest stage at the New Year Ekiden corporate national championship.  Murayama ran 1:00:50 to qualify for the World Half Marathon Championships the year after running in NYC, getting some notice in his marathon debut this year as the only Japanese man to go with the lead pack at the Tokyo Marathon.

Ichida and Koki Takada in 2015


Both he and Shitara made the 10000 m at last year's Beijing World Championships, although both ran poorly.  Ichida became the first of them to win a national title when he won the 2016 Japanese National Cross-Country Championships.  Yufu struggled to make the transition to the corporate leagues but finally got it right with a win at the high-level Karatsu 10-Miler in February. Otsu has made steady progress, finishing 2nd in his 30 km debut at this year's Kumanichi Road Race, the world's most competitive race at that distance.

Haruki Minatoya, Yusuke Nishiyama and Coach Fujita in 2016


With all them of prime age to be on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic team, the opportunity to have met, talked to and run against the best in the world when they were still at the peak of their Hakone fitness, to see things from an angle they would otherwise never experience in the Japanese system, is bound to prove invaluable in changing their thinking, and maybe someday that system, for the better.

42nd Street photo © 2012 Victah Sailer, Photo Run, all rights reserved
Lagat photo © 2013 Chris Lotsbom, all rights reserved
Revlon photo © 2015 Takashi Ichida, all rights reserved
text and other photos © 2012-2016 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

60-Year-Old Hiromi Nakata Wins Tottori Marathon Overall Women's Race

The Tottori Marathon held its 12th running on March 10. In light rain and 11˚C temperatures 3717 people ran Tottori's one-way course that passes local historic sites such as the Tottori Sand Dunes and the Tottori Castle ruins. Running 3:12:44 for the overall women's win was 60-year-old Hiromi Nakata.
"I was as surprised as anyone that I won," said Tanaka. "I had to stop at the toilets early on and lost some time, but I tried using the double inhale, double exhale breathing method that the actor Kankuro Nakamura uses on the Idaten TV show and got into a good rhythm. Thanks to that I could just keep going and going. I had no idea I was in 1st, and when they put up the finish tape as I was coming in I thought, 'No way!'""
Nakata is a resident of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka. In 2017 she ran the fastest time of the year in Japan by a 58-year-old, 3:05:02. In the mornings she does housework and works in her garden for an hour, fitting in 30 to 60-minute run…

Japan's Oldest-Ever Olympic Marathoner Suehiro Ishikawa Retires at 39

At a press conference in Sayama, Saitama on Mar. 20, 2016 Rio Olympics marathoner Suehiro Ishikawa, 39, announced that he will retire from competition at the end of the month. At the time of the Rio Olympics Ishikawa was 36 years and 11 months old, surpassing 1996 Atlanta Olympics marathoner Hiromi Taniguchi's record of 36 years and 3 months to become Japan's oldest-ever Olympic marathoner. He finished 36th.

"Since I started running high school it's been 24 years," said Ishikawa at the press conference. "I've been with Honda for 17 years, and I made it all the way to the top, the Olympics. I'm glad that I've kept going this long. I thank you all."

Ishikawa ran the Mar. 10 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon but dropped out after only 10 km. It was to be the last race of his career. "It was the first time in my career that I'd ever DNFd, and I thought, 'OK, this is where it ends,'" said Ishikawa. Shortly after the race he made …

Yoshitomi Survives Four Marathons in Four Weeks to Win Saga Sakura Marathon

Arguably the highest-volume elite-level marathoner in the world, Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) survived four straight weekends of marathons to win her hometown Saga Sakura Marathon yesterday.

Starting the month off at the Mar. 3 Tokyo Marathon Yoshitomi ran 2:32:30 for 13th. A week later at the Mar. 10 Nagoya Women's Marathon it was 2:34:49 for 31st. Last weekend she headed overseas in a bid to win the Mar. 17 New Taipei City Wan Jin Shi Marathon in Taiwan, but in a rare off day she finished 6th in only 2:48:45. Heading back home she rallied to win the Mar. 24 Saga Sakura Marathon in 2:42:02.

At an expo talk show appearance the Wan Jin Shi organizers billed Yoshitomi as "the female Kawauchi," but not even he has come close to the kind of volume of racing Yoshitomi has been turning out over the years while working at her parents' botanical farm. Expect to see more, and more, and more from her in the months to come.



photos courtesy of Wan Jin Shi Marathon organizers
text …