by Brett Larner
Cooler than usual temperatures meant a return to faster times at Sunday's Sendai International Half Marathon, where former Sera H.S. star Charles Ndirangu (Team JFE Steel) led the top six under last year's winning time to take the top spot for the first time in 1:01:44. Ritsumeikan University grad Hanae Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) got her own first-time Sendai title, winning in 1:11:07.
A world record-pace 2:46 opening km shook off most of the Japanese competition, quickly leaving the Kenyan quartet of Ndirangu, Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta), Muthoni Muiru (Soka Univ.) and Joseph Onsarigo (Team Nasu Kensetsu) up front tailed by newlywed Takuya Noguchi (Team Konica Minolta). In the chase pack, defending champ Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) and two members of Japan's London World Championships marathon squad, Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't).
Noguchi and Onsarigo were off the leaders near halfway, and Kawauchi, lining up in Sendai just a week after running 2:10:13 at the Prague Marathon, likewise had trouble hanging onto the Japanese pack. Running just his second half marathon, Muiru did a lot of the pushing against the more experienced Ndirangu and Kuiru, both of whom had PBs almost three minutes faster than Muiru's 1:02:41 debut from February, but in the final kilometers the faster pair slipped away from him. Ndirangu had the stronger kick, taking the win in 1:01:44 with Kuira 4 seconds behind. Muiru took 45 seconds off his debut time for 3rd in 1:01:59, a time that puts him in good position among the best on the Hakone Ekiden circuit.
Noguchi was rewarded for his early aggressiveness, taking 4th in a new PB of 1:02:21. A big surprise came in 5th place as defending champion Imai, a 2:07:39 marathoner, took one second off his 12-year-old PB for a new best of 1:02:36. Further back, Nakamoto cruised in for 10th in 1:03:25, just holding off a fast-charging Kawauchi who came back from far behind to take 11th in 1:03:29. Post-race Kawauchi told JRN, "If I hadn't gone so fast in the first km I think I could have broken 63. I'll be more careful in London."
Running in the midst of a large pack of amateur men, Tanaka, Misaki Kato (Team Kyudenko) and defending women's champ Felista Wanjugu (Team Univ. Ent.) ran the early part of the race together before Tanaka pulled away for the win. Dueling with Wanjugu, Kato got away in the final kilometers to take 2nd in 1:11:42. Wanjugu was 14 seconds faster than her winning time last year but could do no better than 3rd in 1:11:51. Alternate for the women's marathon team in London, Misato Horie (Team Noritz) matched was 11th in 1:14:13.
27th Sendai International Half Marathon
Sendai, Miyagi, 5/14/17
1. Charles Ndirangu (JFE Steel) - 1:01:44
2. Paul Kuira (Konica Minolta) - 1:01:48
3. Muthoni Muiru (Soka Univ.) - 1:01:59 - PB
4. Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta) - 1:02:21 - PB
5. Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:02:36 - PB
6. Joseph Onsarigo (Nasu Kensetsu) - 1:02:49
7. Muryo Takase (Nissin Shokuhin) - 1:02:55
8. Akihiko Tsumurai (Mazda) - 1:03:12
9. Yudai Yamakawa (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:03:17
10. Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) - 1:03:25
11. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:03:29
12. Yusuke Sato (Fujitsu) - 1:03:38
1. Hanae Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 1:11:07
2. Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) - 1:11:42
3. Felista Wanjugu (Univ. Ent.) - 1:11:51
4. Sayo Nomura (Uniqlo) - 1:12:36
5. Yurie Doi (Fujitsu) - 1:13:00
6. Kaho Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 1:13:03
7. Yuko Mizuguchi (Denso) - 1:13:13
8. Chiharu Suzuki (Hitachi) - 1:13:27
9. Asami Kato (Panasonic) - 1:13:36
10. Haruna Takada (Yamada Denki) - 1:13:48
11. Misato Horie (Noritz) - 1:14:13
12. Sachi Tanaka (Sports Yamagata 21) - 1:14:20
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