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Takeda Follows Osako as Fourth Man to Break 62 Minutes at Ageo City Half, Leading 197 Under 66

by Brett Larner
video by Ekiden News

Waseda University fourth-year Rintaro Takeda became just the fourth man and third Japanese collegiate runner in the 29-year history of the Ageo City Half Marathon to break 62 minutes on the Ageo course, running a PB of over a minute to win in 1:01:59 in a tight sprint finish on the track.

Just about the last major university race before the January 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, Ageo serves to help coaches of the twenty Hakone-bound schools sort out their final rosters for Japan's biggest race.  With most schools fielding around thirty runners apiece this has made Ageo into the deepest half marathon in the world, and over the last five years an invitation for the top two finishers to run March's United Airlines NYC Half Marathon has taken the front end of the race to another level.

Despite predicted hot weather the day dawned with thick fog and temperatures under 10 degrees.  Running his first half marathon, 18-year-old Chuo Gakuin University first-year Takumi Yokokawa made the most of it, hauling off with a measurable lead in the first km and stretching it out from there.  Hitting 5 km around 14:25, well under pace for 1:01, his lead over the main pack was up to 20 seconds.  And what a pack, with runners from Waseda, Toyo University, Tokai University and elsewhere leading a mass that stretched back without breaks as far as the fog made it possible to see.

Yokokawa held on to his lead looking smooth and comfortable, but after 8 km it was clear that the front end of the pack was ready to bring him back. Picking up the pace a group of around 20 broke away in pursuit, and at 11 km they swallowed Yokokawa whole.  He held on until around 16 km when the next move came via Takumi Komatsu of Nittai University, a move that took the leading contenders down to a dozen or so.

And from there it was a fast-paced pack run, the back end falling off one by one as the group worked together at 62-flat pace.  Nine runners, eight of them university men and one a corporate runner, were still together on the last main corner with just under a kilometer to go.  Komatsu made another move coming off the corner, but approaching the curve into the stadium Kenta Ueda, the son of Yamanashi Gakuin University head coach Masahito Ueda, went for it.  Takeda was right behind, with Komatsu and Toyo's debuting first-year Akira Aizawa a few steps back and Tokai first-year Shota Onizuka, likewise running the half for the first time, just behind them.  Ueda looked to have it, but in the same kind of finish seen the last three years in Ageo Takeda overtook him with less than 200 m to go to kick in for the win.

Takeda, who came to Ageo with a PB of 1:03:12, followed course record holder Bekele Gebretsadik (Ethiopia/Team Honda), Masato Kihara (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) and Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) in going under the 62-minute mark, winning in 1:01:59.  Ueda's new PB was even bigger, taking 2nd in 1:02:01.  Right behind him, Onizuka kicked past Komatsu and Aizawa for 3rd in 1:02:03, the #2 all-time Asian junior time and a Tokai University school record.  Komatsu took 4th in 1:02:04, a school record for Nittai, with Aizawa's 1:02:05 for 5th the #3 Asian junior mark.  Early leader Yokokawa faded over the last 5 km but still managed a 1:03:05 for 23rd in his debut.

The list of PBs and incredible debuts went deep into the field.  The top fourteen broke 63 minutes, one of the better years in Ageo history.  66 broke 1:03, 124 going under 1:05 and 197 under 1:06, all new Ageo records.  With only nine men ever having broken 1:02:30 in Ageo's first 28 years the top ten this year all did it, 10th-placer Takaya Sato of Yamanashi Gakuin crossing the line with a PB of 1:02:28.  And even some world records for depth, with the fastest-ever 77th through 81st-place finishes in a half marathon.  All this without Hakone champ Aoyama Gakuin University or most teams' best runners, who will be lining up next weekend at either the Kanto or Hachioji 10000 m time trial meets.  Takeda and Ueda earned the New York invitations, the New York Road Runners' Sam Grotewold on-hand to present them with the invitations. Takeda follows 2014 Ageo winner Koki Takada as the second Waseda runner to make the NYC cut, Ueda the first Yamanashi Gakuin runner to do it.  The NYC invite includes the runners' coaches, meaning a potential father-son trip for the Uedas come March.

In the more immediate future, the massive wave of new half marathon bests reshapes the Hakone landscape a month and a half out.  With wins at the Izumo Ekiden and National Universtiy Ekiden behind it Aoyama Gakuin University, absent from Ageo, is the heavy favorite to win Hakone, its top ten half marathon average of 1:02:47 putting it far head of the field pre-Ageo.  But with Takeda's win, his teammates Kazuma Taira and Yohei Suzuki clearing 1:02:20, and other teammates further down through the top 50 also scoring solid debut and PBs Waseda has passed Aoyama Gakuin by.

Second at Nationals earlier this month and only losing midway through the anchor stage there, post-Ageo Waseda now has a top ten average of 1:02:42. Tokai, Yamanashi Gakuin and Komazawa University also zeroed in on a sub-63 average with their Ageo results.  With no school currently holding the kind of uphill specialist who has made Hakone's Fifth Stage the deciding factor for over a decade Hakone now looks like it could be close.  Not wide open, but not the kind of blowout it looked like it would be 24 hours ago.  Only three schools have ever pulled off the Izumo-Nationals-Hakone triple crown. Waseda was the last one to do it, and they may be the ones who stop Aoyama Gakuin from joining the club.

Ageo's women's field doesn't feature the same depth, but in most years one or two good university women will be there to take the top position.  After back-to-back national record wins the last two years from Hong Kong's Kit Ching Yiu, this year the title returned home as 18-year-old Asumi Kato of Keio University narrowly beat Taiwan's Chun Yu Tsao for the win in 1:16:55.  Tsao was part of a large group of elite-level Taiwanese men and women who raced Ageo this year, following national record-breaking runs there by Yiu and Singapore's Mok Ying Ren.  Post-race the Taiwanese contingent met marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), who ran conservatively starting at the very back of the field after sustaining a calf injury a week earlier.

29th Ageo City Half Marathon
Ageo, Saitama, 11/20/16
click here for complete results

1. Rintaro Takeda (Waseda Univ.) - 1:01:59 - PB
2. Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:01 - PB
3. Shota Onizuka (Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:03 - debut
4. Takumi Komatsu (Nittai Univ.) - 1:02:04 - PB
5. Akira Aizawa (Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:05 - debut
6. Shoji Takada (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:02:11 - PB
7. Kazuma Taira (Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:14 - PB
8. Yohei Suzuki (Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:16 - debut
9. Junnosuke Matsuo (Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:17 - debut
10. Takaya Sato (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:28 - PB
11. Shun Sakuraoka (Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:44 - PB
12. Tomoki Ota (Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:48 - debut
13. Tomoya Koda (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:49 - PB
14. Hidaka Hayashi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 1:02:54 - PB
15. Sho Nagato (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:01 - PB
25. Chihaya Kasuga (Tokai Univ.) - 1:03:10 - PB
50. Hirohito Yokoi (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:03:47 - PB
66. Takuma Shibata (Heisei Kokusai Univ.) - 1:03:59
75. Yuto Katayama (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:07 - debut
100. Kenta Asakura (Kanagawa Univ.) - 1:04:42
124. Wataru Hino (Heisei Kokusai Univ.) - 1:04:59
150. Masahiko Shiranaga (Nittai Univ.) - 1:05:28 - debut
197. Taiga Hosobuchi (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:05:59
200. Keiya Arima (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:06:11
250. Takahiro Ishitobi (Asia Univ.) - 1:06:55
260. Takahiro Watanabe (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:06:59
296. Shin Sen To (Taiwan) - 1:07:58
300. Hironari Fujita (Asia Univ.) - 1:08:20
330. Kohei Kawamura (Asia Univ.) - 1:08:59
361. Ryosuke Iwasaki (Tokyo Univ.) - 1:09:57
973. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:34:26

1. Asumi Kato (Keio Univ.) - 1:16:55 - debut
2. Chun Yu Tsao (Taiwan) - 1:17:23
3. Chih Hsuan Chang (Taiwan) - 1:20:59

All-Time Top Ten Marks at Ageo City Half Marathon
1. 1:01:26 - Bekele Gebretsadik (Honda) 2006 (non-university division)
2. 1:01:47 - Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) 2010
3. 1:01:50 - Masato Kihara (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) 2006
4. 1:01:59 - Rintaro Takeda (Waseda Univ.) 2016
5. 1:02:01 - Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) 2016
6. 1:02:02 - Koki Takada (Waseda Univ.) 2014
7. 1:02:03 - Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) 2014
8. 1:02:03 - Shota Onizuka (Tokai Univ.) 2016
9. 1:02:04 - Takumi Komatsu (Nittai Univ.) 2016
10. 1:02:05 - Akira Aizawa (Toyo Univ.) 2016
11. 1:02:08 - Hideaki Date (Tokai Univ.) 2004

text and photos © 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


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