Fumihiro Maruyama won the men’s race at the 41st annual All-Japan Corporate Team Half Marathon Championships in Yamaguchi with 1:01:15, while Yukiko Akaba, who also won this race in 2008 with the course record of 1:08:11, took the women’s honours in 1:08:59.
In the men’s race, with overcast conditions but no rain and the temperatures in the 10-12 degrees range, Kenya’s Gideon Ngatuny led the pack in the early stages of the race but he was soon joined by his compatriot Johana Maina at the front.
After 4km, the pair started to put daylight between themselves and the leading pack, taking Maruyama with them.
After passing 5km together in 14:24, Ngatuny then broke away just before 7km. At 10km, passed in 28:41, Ngatuny led Maruyama and Maina by three seconds before the trio quickly came together again.
After passing 14km, Maruyama decided it was the right moment to push the pace and by 15km, reached in 43:28, Maina had been left behind.
Ngatuny stayed with Maruyama until 19km before the Japanese runner moved away. Maruyama passed 20km in 58:06 and won in 1:01:15. Maina got his second wind and passed Ngatuny in the final kilometre to finish second in 1:01:28, with his flagging countryman coming home third in 1:01:45.
“This is my final road race of the season. My goal for the track season is to run the World Championships qualifying time at 10000m,” said the 22-year-old Maruyama, who improved his Half Marathon best by more than two minutes.
The women’s race also turned into three-woman battle very early.
Rei Ohara, Yukiko Akaba, and Half Marathon debutante Hanae Tanaka passed 10km together in 32:50. After 14km, Ohara was left behind, leaving Akaba and Tanaka duel it out at the front
The leading pair passed 15km together in 49:15 but over the next five kilometres Akaba gradually exerted her authority. By 20km, which was passed in 1:05:29, Akaba, was alone in front.
The fifth-place finisher in the 2011 IAAF World Championships Marathon pushed hard in the closing stage to finish in 1:08:59, the third fastest time of her career. Akaba is planning to run next month’s London Marathon with the goal of making Japan’s 2013 IAAF World Championships marathon team.
Tanaka, the 2011 World University Games 10000m silver medalist, made a very respectable Half Marathon debut with 1:09:18 in second place while Ohara, held onto third place with 1:09:45, a personal best by more than a minute.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF