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Kuira and Robertson Go Sub-60 to Crack Marugame Course Record, Flanagan a No-Show

by Brett Larner
click photo for finish footage


Japan-based Kenyan Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta) and Kenya-based Kiwi Zane Robertson made some history Sunday as they pushed each other just under the 59:48 course record at the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon.

Kuira, along with Samuel Wanjiru and Daniel Njenga a graduate of Sendai Ikuei H.S., and Robertson, both debuting, ran in a lead pack that included favorite Bernard Koech (Kenya), Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico), Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Team Monteroza) and Jacob Wanjuki (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko), Kuira's Konica teammates Masato Kikuchi and Keita Shitara and collegiates Ken Yokote (Meiji Univ.) and Daichi Kamino (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) through a solid 28:10 first 10 km, on track for 59:25.  Kamino, the star of the 2015 Hakone Ekiden with a brilliant course record on its uphill Fifth Stage, was the first to fall off Japanese national record pace, with the rest following by 15 km.

A surge from Ngandu shook up the rest of the lead pack, but after a quick response from Kuira only Robertson could stay in contention.  Kuira surged repeatedly over the last 3 km, but although it looked like Robertson would break he hung on.  Going onto the track Robertson made a surge of his own to take the lead but with 20 m to go Kuira came back to just get it, both men going 1 second under the course record in 59:47, the first-ever sub-60 for each.  Kuira's time was a world lead, and Robertson, just the 4th non-African to ever break the hour mark on a legal course, took 2 1/2 minutes off the New Zealand national record.

Koech easily took 3rd in 1:00:09, with Ngandu 4th in an unexpected PB of 1:00:20.  Kikuchi, the top Japanese man at last year's World Half Marathon Championships, broke 61 for the first time with a 1:00:57 for 7th, while Shitara and Kamino were under 1:01:30.  University runners dominated, taking 11 of the top 15 Japanese spots all 1:02:46 or better.  2015 Hakone Ekiden course record setter Aoyama Gakuin University scored big, with stars Yusuke Ogura and Tadashi Isshiki running bests of 1:02:03 and 1:02:09 alongside Kamino's superb 1:01:21.  Hakone 4th-placer Meiji University also had a big day, Yokote making a 1:01:37 debut and Shuho Dairokuno and Shin Kimura running 1:02:44 and 1:02:45, a PB in Kimura's case.

Robertson's was not the only national record set in Marugame.  Taiwan's Chieh Wen Chiang ran as part of a quintet with top-level Japanese marathoners Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Team Konica Minolta), taking 21 seconds off the Taiwanese half marathon record as he finished 59th in 1:03:46.  The men's race also set new world records with the fastest-ever 78th through 84th-place finishes in a half marathon.

The women's race was less dynamic due in large part to the strangely unannounced DNS of feature athlete Shalane Flanagan (U.S.A.).  In her absence, Australia's Eloise Wellings followed Robertson in making a solid debut, picking it up after a slow first 5 km and accompanied through 10 km by the likewise debuting Kaho Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) before pulling away.  Wellings pushed on alone to win in 1:10:41, the second-slowest winning time in Marugame history, with an 18 second margin over Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), a training partner of last year's winner Eri Makikawa who was 4th by a second behind Yuko Mizuguchi (Team Denso).  Pre-race Japanese favorite Hanae Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) had an off day, only 7th in 1:11:24.  Welcomed back to Japan yet again after her doping suspension, Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) was 25th in 1:17:47.

Elsewhere, much of the rest of the Aoyama Gakuin team lined up an hour later and closer to home at the Kanagawa Half Marathon in Yokohama.  AGU's Hakone Fourth Stage course record setter Kazuki Tamura and anchor stage runner-up Yuya Ando did much of the work in windy conditions, but although AGU runners took six of the top ten spots they fell victim to rival Koki Ido (Waseda University), who dropped Ando late in the race to take the win by 10 seconds in 1:03:27.  Nittai University's Riko Takagi and Maria Tanaka went 1-2 in the women's half marathon, with Kanade Furuya (Hakuho Joshi H.S.) 3rd in an impressive 1:17:48. Kanagawa's Eda H.S. almost completely swept the women's 10 km, Naruha Sato taking the win in 34:05.

Still further north at the Moriya Half Marathon in Ibaraki, Nittai University men took four of the top five spots, Yuta Katsumata getting the win over Chuo Gakuin University's Tsuyoshi Ebisawa in 1:04:45.  Kazusa Yoshinari (Kokushikan Univ.) won the women's race in 1:20:12.

Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon
Marugame, Kagawa, 2/1/15
click here for complete results

Men
1. Paul Kuira (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 59:47 - CR, WL, debut
2. Zane Robertson (New Zealand) - 59:47 - NR, debut
3. Bernard Koech (Kenya) - 1:00:09
4. Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza) - 1:00:20 - PB
5. Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) - 1:00:46
6. Jacob Wanjuki (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko) - 1:00:48
7. Masato Kikuchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:00:57 - PB
8. Keita Shitara (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:01:20 - PB
9. Daichi Kamino (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:21 - PB
10. Ken Yokote (Japan/Meiji Univ.) - 1:01:37 - debut
11. Yusuke Ogura (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:03 - PB
12. Hiroto Inoue (Japan/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:03
13. Tadashi Isshiki (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:09 - PB
14. Masaki Toda (Japan/Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 1:02:14 - PB
15. Gen Hachisuka (Japan/Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:26 - PB
16. Natsuki Terada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:43
17. Shuho Dairokuno (Japan/Meiji Univ.) - 1:02:44
18. Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Arata Project) - 1:02:45
19. Shin Kimura (Japan/Meiji Univ.) - 1:02:45 - PB
20. Shota Kai (Japan/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 1:02:46 - PB
-----
23. Samuel Tsegaye (Eritrea) - 1:02:47
57. Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 1:03:46
58. Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:03:46
59. Chieh Wen Chiang (Taiwan) - 1:03:46 - NR
-----
DNS - Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC)
DNS - Fabiano Joseph (Tanzania)

Women
1. Eloise Wellings (Australia) - 1:10:41 - debut
2. Mao Kiyota (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:10:59 - PB
3. Yuko Mizuguchi (Japan/Denso) - 1:11:03 - PB
4. Eri Makikawa (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:11:04
5. Misato Horie (Japan/Noritz) - 1:11:06
6. Kaho Tanaka (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - 1:11:12 - debut
7. Hanae Tanaka (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - 1:11:24
8. Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) - 1:13:02
9. Kikuyo Tsuzaki (Japan/Noritz) - 1:13:16
10. Mei Matsuyama (Japan/Bukkyo Univ.) - 1:13:21 - PB
-----
25. Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 1:17:47
-----
DNS - Shalane Flanagan (U.S.A.)
DNS - Ehitu Kiros (Ethiopia)

Kanagawa Half Marathon
Yokohama, Kanagawa, 2/1/15
click here for complete results

Men's Half Marathon
1. Koki Ido (Waseda Univ.) - 1:03:27
2. Yuya Ando (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:37
3. Ryunosuke Hayashi (Tokai Univ.) - 1:03:59
4. Kazuki Tamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:16
5. Kokoro Watanabe (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:27
6. Yuki Nakamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:33
7. Toshinori Watanabe (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:39
8. Takuya Maeda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:46
9. Ryusei Yoshinaga (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:54
10. Motoya Niino (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:57

Women's Half Marathon
1. Riko Takagi (Nittai Univ.) - 1:15:53
2. Maria Tanaka (Nittai Univ.) - 1:16:59
3. Kanade Furuya (Hakuho Joshi H.S.) - 1:17:48

Women's 10 km
1. Naruha Sato (Eda H.S.) - 34:05
2. Maki Ashi (Nittai Univ.) - 34:41
3. Mizuki Kubota (Eda H.S.) - 34:45

Moriya Half Marathon
Moriya, Ibaraki, 2/1/15
click here for complete results

Men
1. Yuta Katsumata (Nittai Univ.) - 1:04:45
2. Tsuyoshi Ebisawa (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:05:04
3. Takafumi Ote (Nittai Univ.) - 1:05:32
4. Akira Tomiyasu (Nittai Univ.) - 1:05:34
5. Shunya Suo (Nittai Univ.) - 1:05:44

Women
1. Kazusa Yoshinari (Kokushikan Univ.) - 1:20:12

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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