On Mar. 6 the JAAF announced the Japanese women's and men's teams for the 2018 World Half Marathon Championships scheduled for Mar. 24 in Valencia, Spain. The women's team has few surprises, made up of the top two Japanese women from December's Sanyo Ladies Half Marathon, Miyuki Uehara (Daiichi Seimei) and Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal), the top Japanese women at February's Marugame Half and National Corporate Half Marathon, Kaori Morita (Panasonic) and Yuka Hori (Panasonic), and high-potential marathoner Honami Maeda (Tenmaya), winner of August's Hokkaido Marathon and 2nd at January's Osaka International Women's Marathon in 2:23:46.
Maeda's inclusion is clearly geared to give one of the people the JAAF views as potential 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon team material some international championships racing experience, and that decision making process is even more clearly at work in the men's team selection. #1-ranked man Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei), holder of a 1:00:50 best and 1:00:57 for 5th in New York last year, just ran the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon on Sunday, 20 days before the World Half. 5000 m national record holder Suguru Osako (NOP) has a 1:01:13 best and ran 2:07:19 in Fukuoka in December to qualify for the MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials.
Neither Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima) nor Daisuke Uekado (Otsuka Seiyaku) has ever broken 1:03, making their selection baffling at first glance in light of Japan's incredible depth at the half marathon. But as recent 2:09 marathoners who have likewise qualified for the MGC Race, Sonoda in Beppu-Oita a month ago and Uekado is Fukuoka, the JAAF is correctly viewing the Valencia World Half as the only chance for either to get the opportunity to run in an international championships should they make the Tokyo Olympic team.
The only non-marathoner in the group is Kenta's twin brother, 10000 m national record holder Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei). Kota's only serious half marathon to date was a conservative 1:02:00 at the National Corporate Half last month, but between that, his track credentials and the stellar sub-63 pacing job he did in Tokyo to take Yuta Shitara (Honda) to the marathon national record it's obvious Kota has room to improve. A lot of room.
Team rosters below. Times listed are the athlete's best in the last three years except where noted.
Miyuki Uehara (Daiichi Seimei) - 1:09:13 (Sanyo Ladies Half 2017)
Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) - 1:09:14 (Sanyo Ladies Half 2017)
Kaori Morita (Panasonic) - 1:10:10 (Marugame Half 2018)
Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) - 1:10:22 (Sanyo Ladies Half 2017)
Yuka Hori (Panasonic) - 1:11:05 (National Corporate Half 2018)
Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei) - 1:00:57 (NYC Half 2017)
Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) - 1:01:13 (Marugame Half 2017)
Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei0 - 1:02:00 (National Corporate Half 2018)
Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima) - 1:03:00 (Marugame Half 2016)
Daisuke Uekado (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:03:28 (Marugame Half 2016)
© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved