The Ageo City Half-Marathon in Japan saw an astonishing number of runners break the 1:10 barrier, with 179 also breaking the 66-minute mark. Just under 400 athletes ran under 1:10 on Sunday, according to results posted by Japan Running News, making it one of the world’s deepest races.
Depth at yesterday's Ageo City Half, JPN's biggest and best university half marathon:
— Japan Running News (@JRNHeadlines) November 18, 2019
To make these results even more impressive, almost all of the runners among the top finishers were university athletes, as the race had spots up for grabs at the 2020 United Airlines Half and the 2020 Hakone Ekiden. The Hakone ekiden in Japan showcases teams of 10 male students from different universities in the Tokyo region. Each runner completes just over a half-marathon and the race generally draws more than a million spectators. The level of performance is comparable to the NCAA. The ekiden is seen as a showcase of the values of Japanese culture, as it demonstrates participation within a larger group through individual perseverance, as well as loyalty to tradition and the established institutions of the universities.
The top two Japanese collegiate finishers, Akira Akasaki and Haruka Onodera, earned invitations to the 2020 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon, the first time runners from either Takushoku or Teikyo University will run New York.
For context, only 31 Canadians have broken 70 minutes for the half in 2019, with Evan Esselink holding the fastest mark at 1:02:17 from Houston 2019. Japan undoubtedly has remarkable depth on the roads, but on the men’s side this depth doesn’t seem to translate to the track. For example, there was one Japanese woman, Nozomi Tanaka, in the women’s 5,000m final and two in the 10,000m final at the World Championships in Doha. On the men’s side, not one Japanese man made a distance final–very odd, considering the mass half-marathon results.