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

Tokai University Outruns Defending Champ Aoyama Gakuin to Win First Izumo Ekiden Title in Ten Years

Kanagawa's Tokai University outran two-time defending champion Aoyama Gakuin University to win the 2017 Izumo Ekiden, its first win at one of the Big Three university men's ekidens under head coach Hayashi Morozumi and Tokai's first Izumo title since 2007.

Formerly head coach at Nagano's Saku Chosei H.S. where he produced the fastest-ever all-Japanese high school team and standout Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) on a cross-country based training regimen, since taking over at Tokai in 2011 Morozumi has set about systematically developing the Tokai program into one with the greatest depth in Japanese university running. On paper AGU had a slight advantage over Tokai over the first half of Izumo's six stages, but with Tokai's second half runners, including its top two men Shota Onizuka and Hayato Seki, ranked at the top of their stages AGU needed a decent lead by halfway to stand a chance.

From the start it wasn't to be. In hot and sunny conditions Tokai&#…

From Madarao to the World - Tokai University's Hayato Seki

Long-awaited by university ekiden fans, the 2017 ekiden season is underway. The Izumo Ekiden was held Monday, with Tokai University living up to expectations to score the win. The athlete who broke the finish line tape as Tokai's anchor was second-year Hayato Seki. This year Seki has run PBs of 13:35.81 for 5000 m and 28:23.37 for 10000 m, marking his growth into one of the unquestionable stars of the university ekiden scene.

A week earlier, the Madarao Forest Trails race was held on Oct. 1. Flashback to the 2012 edition of the race five years ago. The winner in the 16 km Beginner Class men's race was none other than Seki, then in his third year of junior high school. The picture below is of his win at the 2012 Madarao Forest Trails race. Even though he was only a junior high school student Seki ran brilliantly, opening up a huge lead of well over four minutes over the 2nd-placer.


After that Seki entereed Nagano's ekiden powerhouse Saku Chosei H.S. and has now grown into …

Kawauchi and Kanematsu Win Rainy Shimantogawa 100 km

The 23rd edition of the Shimantogawa Ultramarathon took place Oct. 15 in Shimanto, Kochi. 1822 runners started the 100 km division, where Yoshiki Kawauchi (26, Saitama T&F Assoc.) and Aiko Kanematsu (37, Team RxL) took the men's and women's titles for the first time.

The 100 km division started under a heavy downpour at 5:30 a.m. in front of Warabioka J.H.S. The 576 participants in the 60 km division got off 4 1/2 hours later from Koinobori Park, with both races finishing at Nakamura H.S.

Kawauchi, the younger brother of "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi, ran Shimantogawa for the second time, improving dramatically on last year's run to win in 6:42:06. "Last time I was 21st, a total disaster," Kawauchi said afterward. "My brother told me, 'Don't overdo it on the uphills,' and his advie helped me get through it. The scenery around Iwama Chinkabashi was really beautiful."

Kanematsu began running with her husband around age 30…