Skip to main content

Laimoi and Yoshida Break CR, Nilsson Breaks Swedish NR, Shitara, Kamino and Kawauchi Set Up for Fukuoka at Ageo City Half Marathon

Every year it seems like the question is how much further can Ageo go? The answer still seems to be more. More further.

The Ageo City Half Marathon is the world's greatest half marathon, the place where Hakone Ekiden-bound universities line up most of their rosters to help coaches whittle down the contenders for the final sixteen-man Hakone lineup. Perfect conditions at this year's race meant something special.

Four runners from Chuo Gakuin University led by Takumi Yokokawa took it out hard, splitting 5:47 at 2 km, 1:01:00 pace, well ahead of last year's CR with the entire field in tow. A field that included national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda), Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), Hakone uphill hero Daichi Kamino (New Balance), 2017 London World Championships marathoner David Nilsson (Sweden), Kenyans Michael Githae (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), Vincent Laimoi (Kokushikan Univ.) and Paul Gitonga (Kokushikan Univ.) and Ethiopian Workneh Derese (Takushoku Univ.).

5 km went by in 14:32 and 10 km in 29:05 without much loss to the front pack until a move by Laimoi after the 10 km turnaround. Derese and Ken Nakayama (Chuo Univ.) were the only ones to go with him, forming a lead trio that quickly opened on the rest of the leaders. Shitara soon made a move to go after them with Nilsson and Kamino picking it up to stay with him, but Kamino soon dropped back to the rest of the main chase group.

Unlike last year's race, where Simon Kariuki (Nihon Yakka Univ.) dueled with Patrick Mathenge Wambui (Nihon Univ.) to a 1:01:25 course record while the Japanese university men hung back over a minute and a half behind, this year Nakayama was in it to win it, relentlessly attacking on 1:01:30 pace and getting rid of Derese before Laimoi surged heading into the main street past Ageo Station with 2.5 km to go. Laimoi took 30 seconds off his debut at last month's Hakone Ekiden Qualifier to give Ageo its second-straight course record in 1:01:19. Nakayama was next in 1:01:32, the best-ever time at Ageo by a Japanese man, a school record, and the 7th-best time ever by a Japanese-born university student on a record-legal course.

At the 2013 Kazan World University Games half marathon Shitara and Nilsson finished 33 seconds apart. This time Nilsson locked on to Shitara, staying right next to him and even making a few moves to the front as they tried to catch Derese. Nilsson almost made it to 20 km before Shitara surged, pulling away to take 4th in 1:01:59, 9 seconds behind Derese. Nilsson, who came to Ageo with a 1:03:34 best and had hoped only to crack 64 minutes, finished 10 seconds behind the Japanese national record holder in 1:02:09, a Swedish national record by 20 seconds. "I didn't realize that was Yuta," he told JRN after the race. "If I had I would've been too intimidated to try to break him." Within hours Nilsson's NR was already making headlines back home and elsewhere in Scandanavia.

Closing on Nilsson after he lost touch with Shitara, Genki Kaneko (Josai Univ.) took two minutes off his PB to finish 6th in a school record 1:02:16, outkicking Kamino in the process. As the top two Japanese university men Nakayama and Kaneko earned invitations to the 2019 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon, receiving their invitations from Shitara who was the first Japanese university runner invited to the NYC Half back in 2012.

After months of setbacks, Kawauchi had the breakthrough he needed in his last serious race before the Dec. 2 Fukuoka International Marathon. Running in the second pack, Kawauchi closed hard to take 14th in 1:02:49, the third-fastest time of his career and his best time since 2012. In Fukuoka he will face Shitara and Kamino again, hoping to run his first sub-2:10 of what has been a year of extreme highs and lows.

In the women's race, 2017 winner Chun Yu Tsao returned from Taiwan to run a PB 1:13:56, the second-fastest time ever by a Taiwanese woman following Chien Ho Hsieh's 1:12:19 at January's Osaka Half Marathon. But Tsao was left far behind by tough competition as local Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) took the top spot in a course record 1:11:54, the first woman to break 72 minutes in Ageo. Former Universal Entertainment runner Kaoru Nagao (Sunfield AC) was 3rd in 1:15:50, one second faster than Tsao's winning time last year.

31st Ageo City Half Marathon

Ageo, Saitama, 11/18/18
complete results

1. Vincent Laimoi (Kokushikan Univ.) - 1:01:19 - CR, PB
2. Ken Nakayama (Chuo Univ.) - 1:01:32 - PB
3. Workneh Derese (Takushoku Univ.) - 1:01:50 - PB
4. Yuta Shitara (Honda) - 1:01:59
5. David Nilsson (Sweden) - 1:02:09 - NR
6. Genki Kaneko (Josai Univ.) - 1:02:16 - PB
7. Daichi Kamino (New Balance) - 1:02:19
8. Gaku Hoshi (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:20 - PB
9. Reiri Nakashima (Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:28 - PB
10. Michael Githae (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:02:28
11. Ryohei Sakaguchi (Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:32 - debut
12. Ryota Komori (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:34 - PB
13. Kaito Ojima (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:41 - PB
14. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:02:49
15. Yusuke Baba (Takushoku Univ.) - 1:02:53 - PB
16. Takumi Obara (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:54 - PB
17. Paul Gitonga (Kokushikan Univ.) - 1:02:55 - debut
18. Munetaka Suzuki (Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:56 - debut
19. Katsutoshi Monoe (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:03:02 - PB
20. Akira Akasaki (Takushoku Univ.) - 1:03:07 - debut
21. Yohei Komatsu (Tokai Univ.) - 1:03:07 - PB
22. Kansuke Morihashi (Raffine) - 1:03:13 - PB
23. Yuta Azuma (Tokai Univ.) - 1:03:19 - debut
24. Yuki Torikai (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:03:26 - PB
25. Kota Fujiki (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:27 - PB
55. Ritsuya Yoshida (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:03:59
114. Kei Sugiura (Keio Univ.) - 1:04:58
180. Kosaku Tanabe (Josai Univ.) - 1:05:59
249. Yuto Kida (Josai Univ.) - 1:06:59

1. Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) - 1:11:54 - CR
2. Chun Yu Tsao (Taiwan) - 1:13:56 - PB
3. Kaoru Nagao (Sunfield AC) -1:15:50

text and photos © 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Buy Me A Coffee


Most-Read This Week

Niiya to Make 10000 m Return at Zatopek:10

All-time Japanese #3 for 10000 m, Hitomi Niiya (Nike Tokyo TC) makes a return to the distance at Australia's Zatopek:10 next week with support from JRN after five years away from the sport. Niiya's history at the distance is short with only four track 10000 m races to her name, but good ones they were, one and all:
31:28.26, 2012 Hyogo Relay Carnival - 1st30:59.19, 2012 London Olympics - 9th31:06.67 MR, 2013 Japanese National Championships - 1st30:56.70, 2013 Moscow World Championships - 5th Following her crushing defeat over the last lap in Moscow after leading the entire race Niiya quit running and everything to do with it. But in the spring this year, now 30, she decided to try to make a comeback in hope of making the 2020 Olympic team in the 10000 m, telling the media, "I still totally hate running, but unfortunately it seems like this is where I belong." 
After three track races from 3000 m to 5000 m between June and October she made a definitive statement of in…

Fukuoka Winner Yuma Hattori: "Running Isn't Fun"

At the Dec. 2 Fukuoka International MarathonYuma Hattori (25, Toyota) ran 2:07:27 to win and become the eighth-fastest Japanese man ever. It was the first time since 2004 that a Japanese man became the Fukuoka champion. Hattori now stands among the leading competitors in the fierce battle to make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon team.

Hattori and his younger brother Hazuma Hattori (23, Toenec) were star members of Toyo University's 2014 Hakone Ekiden winning team. They rank among the most famous brothers in Japanese athletics, but neither of them actually wanted to be a runner. "I wanted to play soccer," Hattori said. "Hazuma wanted to play table tennis. We're from the sticks out in Niigata and my junior high school didn't have a soccer team. I thought about joining a club team, but it was too far away."

"My dad had been a decathlete," Hattori continued, "so I started doing track and field as well. My mom was a cross-country skier, so bo…

Iron Injections Remain an Issue in Japanese High School Girls Distance Running

To treat anemia some of the country's top high school ekiden teams inappropriately utilize iron injections that could have a harmful effect on athletes' health.

Iron injections are primarily used to treat serious anemia arising from iron deficiency, but according to experts they also improve endurance. As a result their use has spread across the country over the last 20 years, primarily among female athletes who are more prone to anemia.

Following a 2015 case in which an athlete was confirmed to have suffered liver damage as a result of excess iron levels, in April, 2016 the JAAF issued a warning for coaches to stop the practice of injections, saying, "The accumulation of iron in the internal organs has deleterious effects on the body." In an interview two women who graduated prior to the JAAF's warning talked about their firsthand experience in high school. Under their coaches' direction both used iron injections throughout their high school careers and pro…