The All JPN Corporate team Half Marathon Championships, which doubled as a selection race for the 18th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham, UK on 11 October, was held on Sunday 15 March in Yamaguchi, Japan.
Kenyans won both contests, with Joseph Gitau taking the men’s race in 1:01:23, and Flomena Cheyech the women’s race in 1:08:44.
Although the intermediate times indicated a possibility of course records, especially in the men’s race, at the end both Gitau and Cheyech fell short of the existing marks: 1:01:07 by Toshinari Takaoka for men and 1:08:11 by Yukiko Akaba for women.
How the race unfolded:
The first kilometre was passed in 2:49. The course gains 30m of elevation in the first 5Km (most of the elevation gain is from 3Km to 5Km), but the last 10Km is mostly downhill. Compared to previous years, the pace was quite fast, and thus the lead pack was strung out and approximately eleven runners led by Joseph Gitau passed the 5Km in 14:31. However, after 5Km, the pace slackened somewhat and the chase pack grew to 13 runners.
The 10Km split of 29:07 when the race was led by Harun Njoroge of Kenya and Komori Corporation, was still ahead of the course record pace.
Gitau, who broke away around 13Km, passed 15Km in 43:34, while Njoroge, Atsushi Sato and Yoshinori Oda were approximately 11 seconds behind. Approaching 19Km, Njoroge was in second, while Sato was in third. Oda was falling behind.
The 20km split for Gitau was 58:06. Running alone for the most of the last half of the race, Gitau won in 1:01:23, four seconds short of his personal best. Sato outkicked Njoroge on the track for the second place.
After the race Sato said “I could see the leader in front, so it would have been nice if I won the race. But since I won the battle for the second place on the track, it was a good race for me.”
Gitau graduated from Sera High School in Hiroshima, before joining JFE track team in 2007. His personal best at the half marathon is 1:01:19, which was recorded in the 2008 Sapporo Half Marathon, thus he just fell short of personal best.
Forty six women started their race five minutes after the start of the men. After the leaders passed the first Km in 3:12, two Kenyans – Winfridah Kebaso of Toyota Industries and Flomena Cheyech of Uniqlo - broke away around 3Km. They passed 5Km in 16:17, at which point the Kenyans led the chase pack by more than 20 seconds, and they continued to pull away.
Approaching 10Km, Cheyech, who was second last year, began her break from Kebaso. The 10Km split for Cheyech was 32:19, when she led Kebaso by three seconds, while the chase pack was more than a minute behind. Cheyech and Kebaso continued to run strongly, passing faltering men, who started five minutes before the women.
The 15Km split for Cheyech was 48:34, and she continued to run alone, and passed 20Km in 1:05:11.
Cheyech won with a new personal best of 1:08:44. Cheyech, who runs for Uniqlo, on the other hand set a personal best. Her previous best was 1:09:06, recorded in Yamaguchi last year, when she finished second.
Approaching the stadium, Yurika Nakamura, 13th at the marathon in the Beijing Olympics, broke away from the chase pack. She closed fast on Kebaso on the track, but fell short of the runners-up spot by one second.
After the race, Nakamura said, “Least I was hoping for was to be the first Japanese in the race and make the World Half Marathon team, so I met the minimum. From April, I would like to improve my speed on the track.” Nakamura finished third with 1:10:00, three seconds personal best.
Selection for Birmingham
Atsushi Sato, national half marathon record holder, by out-sprinting Harun Njoroge on the track to finish second in the men’s race, and Yurika Nakamura by finishing third in the women’s race, as the first Japanese home were selected for the team for the World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham. Yoshinori Oda, who was second Japanese in the men’s race, and Remi Nakazato, who was second Japanese in the women’s race, will be alternates for the World Half Marathon Championships. Other members of the World Half Marathon Championships team will be selected after Sapporo Half Marathon.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Assisted by Akihiro Onishi
Weather: Sunny; temperature 6C; humidity 61%; wind: 0.7m/s South
1. Joseph Gitau (KEN) 1:01:23 (14:31, 29:07, 43:34, 58:06)
2. Atsushi Sato 1:01:29
3. Harun Njoroge (KEN) 1:01:31
4. Yoshinori Oda 1:01:41
5. Yuko Matsumiya 1:02:13
6. Bene Zama 1:02:15
7. Naoki Okamoto 1:02:16
8. Yukihiro Kitaoka 1:02:17
1. Flomena Cheyech (KEN) 1:08:44 (16:17, 32:19, 48:34, 1:05:11)
2. Winfridah Kebaso (KEN) 1:09:59
3. Yurika Nakamura 1:10:00
4. Rei Nakazato 1:10:03
5. Yukako Eto 1:10:06
6. Megumi Seike 1:10:08
7. Ryoko Kizaki 1:10:16
8. Maki Suzawa 1:10:23
9. Hiroko Miyauchi 1:10:33
10. Azusa Nojiri 1:10:53