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Yuta Shitara Breaks Japanese Men's Half Marathon National Record in Berlin Marathon Tuneup at Usti nad Labem Half

A week after his 28:55 at the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10 km and just eight days out from the Berlin Marathon, Yuta Shitara (Honda) made the great leap forward, taking 8 seconds off Atsushi Sato's 2007 half marathon Japanese national record, finishing 8th at the Czech Republic's Usti nad Labem Half Marathon.

Shitara is probably most well-known outside Japan for going through halfway under 62 minutes during his marathon debut at this year's Tokyo Marathon and still ending up with a 2:09:27, but he's been turning heads in Japan since his second year at Toyo University when he broke a stage record at the 2012 Hakone Ekiden and outkicked the U.S.A.'s Dathan Ritzenhein to finish in 1:01:48 at the NYC Half two months later, until this year the fastest time ever by a Japanese man on U.S soil.

Three weeks before Tokyo this year he ran a 1:01:19 PB at the Marugame Half. Many people would call that a solid tuneup three weeks out from a serious marathon, but eight days? In Prague both Shitara and his coach Satoshi Ogawa told JRN that he planned to run "marathon pace," 3:00/km, ahead of a planned shot at 2:07 in Berlin. Finding himself right behind eventual women's winner Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya), Shitara ratcheted up the pace and ended up as the top Japanese finisher in 28:55.

A week later and he was way faster, going through 10 km just off the Japanese NR in 28:10 and rocking steady to beat all the other next-generation Hakone stars transitioning to life in the longer distances, Suguru Osako (NOP), Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei), his twin brother Keita Shitara (Saitama T&F Assoc.) and others, to Sato's antique 1:00:25 mark.

Surely that's faster than his planned pace in Berlin. It has to be a confidence builder, but it''s almost equally surely too much a week and a day out from a hard marathon. After Tokyo Shitara said he would definitely go with the leaders next time. Ogawa told JRN in Prague that compared to Tokyo Shitara's stamina is far improved now. As wiser people have said, it's such a fine line between brilliant and stupid. If he gets away with it in Berlin, Shitara and his coach are geniuses. If not....well, he still set the half marathon national record, so it's not exactly stupid.

Considering the possible outcomes, Shitara's fellow Saitama native Yuki Kawauchi told JRN, "The only thing you can say for sure is that he's definitely, 100%, going to go with the lead group." If Shitara does and makes it to 30 km alongside Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia), Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) and Wilson Kipsang (Kenya), one way or the other he'll be in for a hell of a last 12 km.

Usti nad Labem Half Marathon

Czech Republic, 9/16/17
click here for complete results

1. Barselius Kipyego (Kenya) - 59:14
2. Josphat Tanui (Kenya) - 59:22
3. Ismail Juma (Tanzania) - 59:30 - NR
4. Wilfred Kimitei (Kenya) - 1:00:12
5. Philip Tarbei (Kenya) - 1:00:13
6. Aziz Lahbabi (Morocco) - 1:00:15
7. Solomon Yego (Kenya) - 1:00:16
8. Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 1:00:17 - NR
9. Isaac Langat (Kenya) - 1:00:25
10. Kenneth Keter (Kenya) - 1:01:05

1. Violah Jepchumba (Bahrain) - 1:06:06 - NR
2. Nancy Kiprop (Kenya) - 1:07:22
3. Lucy Cheruiyot (Kenya) - 1:07:23
4. Stacy Ndiwa (Kenya) - 1:09:09
5. Yvonne Jelagat (Kenya) - 1:10:25

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved


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The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd