Skip to main content

Fast High Schoolers, A National Record, and Kawauchi in an Ekiden - Weekend Road Race Roundup

by Brett Larner

The Osaka International Women's Marathon and Osaka Half Marathon were the weekend's main races, but across the country there was plenty of other action on the roads.  Highlights:

  • In Yamagata, Sakata Minami High School 10th-grader Masato Arao ran 29:27 for 2nd at the Yamagata Prefecture Winter Road Race 10 km, one second behind winner Shuhei Moriya.  Arao's time was 21 seconds faster than the best-ever track 10000 m time by a Japanese 10th-grade boy, Keigo Iijima's 29:48.25.
  • Now in semi-retirement and working as an assistant coach for the Hitachi women's corporate team, former high school star Satoru Kitamura won the men's 10 km at Ibaraki's 65th Katsuta Marathon in 30:06.  Hitachi women defended their titles in both the 10 km and marathon, Ryo Koido winning the 10 km in 33:16 and Kana Kurosawa the marathon in 2:43:03 and both slightly faster than last year.  The men's marathon, by contrast, was very slow.  After a 2:13:15 course record by Shingo Igarashi last year, the winning time this year was 2:22:09 by debuting Juntendo University student Hiroki Kai.  Runner-up last year in 2:15:05, Naoki Inoue was again 2nd in 2:23:13.
  • At Tokyo's Shinjuku City Half Marathon, T20-classified runner Ryo Kaneko won overall in the men's race.  His time of 1:09:31 took 5 seconds off his own T20 national record of 1:09:36. Post-race Kaneko said, "My personal goal is to run 1:08.  I'll keep running until I reach my limit."
  • After having been beaten by national champion high school team Sera H.S. last year, the Mazda corporate men's team stepped up its game this year at the 80th running of the Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden to win by more than three minutes.  Mazda's win came in large part thanks to its Ethiopian pair Bekele Shiferaw and Teressa Nyakora.  Shiferaw won the opening stage by 4 seconds over JFE Steel Kenyan Charles Ndirangu, with Nyakora setting a new course record of 34:36 for the 11.9 km Third Stage.  African-born athletes won four of the race's seven stages, a rarity on today's ekiden circuit where restrictions on non-Japanese athletes are common.  The Japanese performance of the day came from Hayato Sonoda of the Kurosaki Harima team who followed up his 2:10:40 breakthrough in Fukuoka by running the 15.9 km Sixth Stage 36 seconds faster than the next-fastest Japanese man on the stage, the biggest margin recorded by any Japanese runner in the ekiden.
  • At the 63rd running of Saitama's Okumusashi Ekiden, Tokyo Kokusai University made up for missing the Hakone Ekiden by downing the Police Department team for the win.  Tokyo Kokusai runners won the third through fifth stages, putting them too far away for the Police to catch even with a new 9.3 km Sixth Stage record of 27:28 by Police anchor Tatsunori Sato.  Running for the Saitama Prefectural Government team, Yuki Kawauchi was only 9th on the 4.3 km Third Stage in 13:16 after coming down with a cold the day before the race.  Post-race Kawauchi told reporters that he plans to try to break his marathon PB of 2:08:14 this spring in preparation for August's London World Championships, for which he is the leading contender for the Japanese team after the first selection race.  "I'm doing everything that needs to be done," he said.  "I am training with the intention of being chosen to represent Japan.  But if other athletes outperform me in terms of results [in the remaining selection races], that would be a good thing."

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Yuta Shitara Breaks Japanese Men's Half Marathon National Record in Berlin Marathon Tuneup at Usti nad Labem Half

A week after his 28:55 at the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10 km and just eight days out from the Berlin Marathon, Yuta Shitara (Honda) made the great leap forward, taking 8 seconds off Atsushi Sato's 2007 half marathon Japanese national record, finishing 8th at the Czech Republic's Usti nad Labem Half Marathon.

Shitara is probably most well-known outside Japan for going through halfway under 62 minutes during his marathon debut at this year's Tokyo Marathon and still ending up with a 2:09:27, but he's been turning heads in Japan since his second year at Toyo University when he broke a stage record at the 2012 Hakone Ekiden and outkicked the U.S.A.'s Dathan Ritzenhein to finish in 1:01:48 at the NYC Half two months later, until this year the fastest time ever by a Japanese man on U.S soil.

Three weeks before Tokyo this year he ran a 1:01:19 PB at the Marugame Half. Many people would call that a solid tuneup three weeks out from a serious marathon, but eight days? In P…

Ayuko Suzuki Leaves for Altitude Training in Boulder Motivated for the Marathon

2017 London World Championships 5000 m and 10000 m runner Ayuko Suzuki (25, Japan Post) left from Narita Airport on Sept. 18 for altitude training in Boulder, Colorado.

Two days earlier at a half marathon in Czech Republic, Yuta Shitara (25, Honda), like Suzuki born in 1991, broke the 10-year-old Japanese men's half marathon national record in a time of 1:00:17. "It's a big motivation to see an athlete the same age as me doing something like that," she said. Showing her determination to be one of her generation's leaders, she added, "I'll be 28 [at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics], right in my prime mentally and physically. I want to run big too."

In the leadup to the Tokyo Olympics Suzuki has the marathon in sight along with the track. "I need to run a half marathon and marathon somewhere once to check [how well they suit me]," she said. "Coach and I will be talking about it." If everything goes according to plan, December's Sanyo …

New Half Marathon NR Holder Yuta Shitara's Twin Brother Keita Joins Hitachi Butsuryu Corporate Team

Having left the Konica Minolta men's corporate team at the end of March this year, Keita Shitara, 25, announced on Sept. 19 that he will join the Hitachi Butsuryu team. The official announcement is scheduled for Sept. 20.

As a member of Toyo University Shitara was part of two Hakone Ekiden-winning teams before joining Konica Minolta following his graduation in 2014. His first year at Konica Minolta Shitara ran New Year Ekiden national championships' toughest stage, but since his second year he has experienced a slump. Saying, "I need to change my environment in order to get my head straight and back on track," Shitara chose to leave the team at the end of March, returning to Toyo as his training base.

The Hitachi Butsuryu team came into being in April, 2012 as the successor to the Hitachi Cable Marathon Team. It is based in Matsudo, Chiba. Under the leadership of head coach Manabu Kitaguchi, 45, it has grown steadily, placing 10th at this year's New Year Ekiden.…