Skip to main content

Deeper and Deeper Goes The Greatest Half Marathon in the World - Ageo 2008

by Brett Larner
photos courtesy of TecNet

Everyone not wearing a hat will run under 70 minutes.

The Ageo City Half Marathon is the best-kept secret in Japanese distance running. On the surface it is nothing more than a local race in a small town, just one of a half dozen half marathons to choose from near Tokyo on the same day. Like most others it has scoring categories for age groups, gender, Rikuren-registered runners, and a category for university student runners. What sets Ageo apart is that the students come. All of them.

Ageo is six weeks before the Hakone Ekiden, a championship event for universities in eastern Japan's Kanto region and the country's most popular and prestigious race. After a grueling ekiden season university coaches know who their star runners are. These athletes' places on their schools' 10-member Hakone teams are secure, but the second-tier runners must still demonstrate that they are worthier of being in Hakone than teammates who may have peaked earlier in the season. Located deep in the heart of Kanto, Ageo and its secret half marathon provide coaches already holding a handful of diamonds with the ideal setting in which to pan through their rosters in search of gold. The result is the most competitive half marathon in the world.

Yuichi Tokuchi of Chuo Univ. wins the 2008 Ageo City Half Marathon.

The conditions at this year's race on Nov. 16 were cool and misty, with light rain until just minutes before the start of the race. Chuo University's Yuichi Tokuchi led from start to finish, running alone to win in a PB of 1:02:50. 2nd placer Yuichi Suematsu of Komazawa University and 3rd placer Yuki Kawauchi of Gakushuin University both clocked 1:03:22. Relatively pedestrian times, especially in Ageo where winning times in recent years have typically been in the 61-minute range, but digging deeper you find something else entirely.

10th place: 1:03:53
25th place: 1:04:20
50th place: 1:04:45
100th place: 1:05:28
200th place: 1:06:43
300th place: 1:08:09
400th place: 1:09:48
500th place: 1:12:59

408 runners under 70 minutes, even without the usual presence of the professional Team Honda's B-squad. This year the women's race, ordinarily at the most amateur of levels, was also competitive, with Juntendo University's Eriko Noguchi winning in 1:12:44 and Yuki Takeshima of Kokushikan University coming 2nd in 1:13:56. Two other women finished under 1:17.

Anyone can enter Ageo. If you have run it and are fast enough to be with or near the university runners it is hard to describe. It's the Wild West. It's Pamplona. Go out hard and you're with the bulls. Start more conservatively and you will be disoriented the entire time, passing dozens of students at a time who, being young student guys, went out too hard and have faded. Results are enigmatic, unpredictable, even laughable. Last year I ran with a cold and finished 501st in 1:14:58. This year, still recovering from injury, I ran 1:13:17 and finished 509th. For any coaches or athletes out there with times under 70 or even 75 minutes, travelling internationally for a half marathon may be a tall order, but if you are ever going to do it this is the race to run. There is nothing else like it, anywhere. Feel free to contact me for any assistance.

Complete results are available here. Select the second option from the pull-down menu and enter the number of results you would like to see. My report on the 2007 Ageo City Half Marathon is available here.

Update: TecNet added net times to the results. 4 more guys made it under 1:10 on net time, for a grand total of 412.

(c) 2008 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

ezmiles said…
Wow, that is an amazingly deep field. Do they have a lot of foreign runners in this race (elite and non-elite)? I would love to try running this race someday. - Steve
electron1661 said…
That is insane. I've never heard of a race with that many people under 70 minutes for a half. Are the university runners still in season for this race?
Brett Larner said…
Hi. An Ethiopian, Gebretsadik Bekele, won Ageo in 2006 and 2007, but he ran for Honda at the time. I was the top foreigner this time. As I wrote, it's a pretty small, local race so they don't have invited foreign elites, but it's certainly possible to enter if you are from outside the country. I can help with that if you like.

University men in the Tokyo area continue until Jan. 2-3, which is when the Hakone Ekiden takes place. Women wrap up in Dec., and as far as I know men in western Japan with the Biwako Univ. Ekiden last month.
runsweeney said…
Hi Brett,

I saw this post on CoolRunning Notice Board in Australia. Found your blog to be really informative - thanks very much. Can you please tell me the M40 / M45 / M50 results?
Cheers
David
Brett Larner said…
Hi David. There are only 10-year age groups at Ageo. The winner in the 40's ran 1:10:30 while the 50's winner did 1:17:44, both net times. However, these categories don't include JAAF-registered athletes who are scored in a separate category, so the actual best times for those ages groups may be faster.

Most-Read This Week

Toyo University Leads Defending Champ Aoyama Gakuin on Hakone Ekiden Day One

The team that brought Japan's greatest race into the modern era with its historic 2012 sub-3 min/km win, Toyo University came out swinging to win Day One of the 2018 Hakone Ekiden.

Intensely popular with fans, Toyo has struggled this season with its entire senior class out with injury. With its fate in the hands of its younger members Toyo 1st-year Kazuya Nishiyama, freshly 19 in November, stepped up and took control of the race with both hands. Midway through the fast First Stage Nishiyama surged hard to go out front alone, 2017 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Kei Katanishi (Komazawa Univ.) and relative unknown Yuhei Urano (Koku Gakuin Univ.) the only ones to try to go with him. Nishiyama covered the 21.3 km stage in 1:02:16, equivalent to a 1:01:40 half marathon, with Urano and Katanishi around 15 seconds back. 3-time defending champ Aoyama Gakuin University was 25 seconds behind in 5th at the first exchange, 2017 Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University another …

Kawauchi Breaks Sub-2:20 World Record in Sub-Zero Temperatures

Battling freezing temperatures and wind chill that took things down to -23C, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran a 2018 world-leading 2:18:59 at the Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, taking 30 minutes off the course record and breaking American Doug Kurtis' historic sub-2:20 world record with his 76th career sub-2:20.

Kawauchi spent Dec. 29 to 31 training on the Boston Marathon course ahead of his upcoming appearance as part of the John Hancock Elite Athlete Team and planned to run Marshfield at the tail end of his trip. The Marshfield Road Runners club, organizers of the marathon, had their longstanding race USATF certified ahead of his appearance.


Wearing full-length tights in a marathon for the first time, in Marshfield Kawauchi planned to run the first of the hilly course's two laps in 1:09 flat to give himself room to work with in breaking 2:20. But in the wind and cold he struggled to stay on pace, ice crystals coating his face as he hit halfway in 1:10:29…

Aoyama Gakuin Runs Down Toyo for Fourth-Straight Hakone Ekiden Title

In a rare reversal of Day One standings, Aoyama Gakuin University ran down Toyo University early in on Day Two to win its fourth-straight Hakone Ekiden title. At both the Izumo Ekiden and National University Men's Ekiden this season, Toyo struggled to cope with the absence of its entire senior class due to injury, running up front much of the way but lacking the depth to keep the lead in the final stages. Hakone played out like an opera-scale version of the same familiar story, its brilliant Day One win backlit by the headlights of rapidly approaching fate.

Second on Day Two's opening stage, the 20.8 km Sixth Stage with around 800 m elevation loss, both of the last two years, AGU 3rd-year Yuji Onoda just missed the course record en route as he ran down Toyo's Shunsuke Imanishi and put AGU almost a minute ahead by the time he handed off. AGU's next two runners Keisuke Hayashi and Yuta Shimoda both won their stages, Hayashi, a relative unknown on the roster, running 1:0…