Skip to main content

Karemi Breaks Okukuma Half Marathon Course Record

As championship ekiden season wraps up Japan’s athletes have started the transition to the winter road season, with four decently competitive half marathons highlighting the first half of January.

At the hilly Okukuma Half Marathon, locally-based Africans Jeremiah Thuku Karemi (Toyota Kyushu) and Melaku Abera (Kurosaki Harima) duked it out one-on-one, Karemi through in a series of surges in the last 5 km before breaking away decisively with 1 km to go. Crossing the finish line in 1:01:48, Karemi took nearly two minutes off the course record with Abera just under 62 for 2nd.

2nd on the Hakone Ekiden’s Seventh Stage less than two weeks ago, Masanori Sumida (Nittai Univ.) outran corporate league competition Taku Fujimoto (Toyota) and Shohei Kurata (GMO) to take the top Japanese spot at 4th in 1:03:11. Spending most of the race behind a pack led by 2015 National Univeristy Half Marathon champion Tadashi Isshiki (GMO) and 2:07:39 marathoner Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu), Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) outkicked the entire group to take 7th overall in 1:03:28, his fastest time in five straight years racing Okukuma.

In the past Okukuma has only had a 5 km on offer for women, won this time in 16:35 by Tokai Prep Fukuoka high schooler Miyaka Sugata. This year the race added a women’s half marathon, Yomogi Akasaka of 2017 National University Women’s Ekiden champ Meijo University taking the inaugural title in 1:13:36. 42-year-old Mari Ozaki (Noritz) showed no signs of slowing down, taking 3rd in 1:14:43.

The women’s race was the highlight at the Oita City Half Marathon, where 22-year-old Seina Yamanaka (Ehime Ginko) took 1st in 1:14:45. Local high schoolers Rika Ichihara (Nippon Bunri Prep H.S.) and Shunsuke Sato (Tsurusaki Kogyo H.S.) topped the 10 km, Ichihara winning the girls’ race in 34:41 and Saito cracking 30 minutes to win the boys’ race in 29:59.

Usually held a week before Okukuma, the Takanezawa Half Marathon was hurt by windy conditions and the absence of 2018 Hakone Ekiden winner Aoyama Gakuin University, whose B-team has made up most of Takanezawa’s elite field in recent years. Shun Yuzawa of 2017 Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University took the top spot in 1:04:30, the only runner to break 66 minutes.

Better depth was to be found at Tokyo’s Hi-Tech Half Marathon, where independent Hideyuki Ikegami followed up his breakthrough 2:13:41 PB at November’s Osaka Marathon with a win in 1:04:39, his second time winning after outrunning Yuki Kawauchi in 2014. Another independent, Kaoru Nagao won the women’s race in 1:16:56. Osaka women’s winner Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) was 8th in only 1:20:46.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half …

Kenyans Kabuu, Jemeli and Cheyech Lead Nagoya Women's Marathon Field

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, one with a long history as an elite race and adapting to the times with a mass-participation field of 20,000. The last few years it has seen a series of dynamic, high-level performances by top Japanese women, from Sairi Maeda's 2:22:48 in 2015 to the 2:23:19 to 2:23:20 sprint finish battle between Tomomi Tanaka and Rei Ohara in 2016 to Yuka Ando's stellar 2:21:36 debut and teammate Mao Kiyota's 2:23:47 breakthrough last year.

Maeda, Ohara and Kiyota all return this year to face the Kenyan trio of Lucy Kabuu, Valary Jemeli and Flomena Cheyech Daniel. Kabuu went to high school in Japan before moving on to the big leagues, but she hasn't finished a marathon since her 2:20:21 in Dubai 2015. Cheyech also used to be based in Japan as is a familiar face here, winning the last two Saitama International Marathons. Jemeli is making her Japanese debut, and with a 2:21:57 win in Prague and a 2:20:53 …

Kipsang Talking Loud and Aga Mumbling Bold - Tokyo Marathon Preview

After stepping up to the big leagues last year with course records in the 2:03 and 2:19 range, the Tokyo Marathon hopes to go one better this year. Men's course record setter Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) is back, stepping up from a 2:03:50 prediction for Tokyo in January to a 2:02:50 world record prediction at Friday's pre-race press conference. In the unmentioned absence of women's course record breaker Sarah Chepchirchir the top-ranked woman is Ruti Aga (Ethiopia), coming in hot off a 1:06:39 win last month in Houston and turning heads at the press conference with a boldly mumbled 2:18:00 prediction.

Management for both Kipsang and Aga were skeptical to JRN of their athletes' predictions, people from each camp saying times two minutes slower would be more likely, one minute slower in a best-case scenario. But whatever the prediction, Kipsang was clear to fellow past champs Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) and Dickson Chumba (Kenya) about one thing: he wants a more conservative fi…