Ichiyama and Kipkoech Win Sapporo Olympic Test Event Half Marathon – The Foreigners magazine In tokyo
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Ichiyama and Kipkoech Win Sapporo Olympic Test Event Half Marathon

Written by on May 5, 2021

The test event for the Tokyo Olympics marathon went off as planned May 5 in Sapporo on a course more or less mirroring the first half of this summer’s Olympic course. Strong winds from the south meant a slow start over the first 8 km, super fast splits from the turn to the north just before 10 km until after 15 km, and a technical finish into the wind over the narrow and winding last few km through the Hokkaido University campus.

After a slow first km, Olympic marathon women’s team members Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post) and Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) plus alternate Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) took it out hard with pacing courtesy of one of Ichiyama’s male coaches. They stayed together on 1:08 pace until almost 18 km before Suzuki slipped away, Ichiyama kicking to win in a 1:08:28 PB and Matsuda closing hard in 1:08:32 for 2nd, likewise a PB. Ichiyama’s time moved her up to all-time Japanese #6, with Matsuda picking up the #7 spot and knocking her coach Miwako Yamanaka out of the top ten in the process. Suzuki, already all-time #4, hung on for 3rd in 1:08:53, almost a minute off her best but a huge sigh of relief after over a year of injuries. 

Olympic trials winner Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) spent most of the race alone in 4th before getting caught just before the finish by Germany’s Katharina Steinruck. Steinruck took 4th in a PB 1:10:43, impressive considering she ran a marathon PB just two weeks ago in Enschede and had to deal with international travel and COVID-era immigration restrictions in between. Maeda was 5th in 1:10:50, seeming happy with her run after a disappointing 10000 m last week.

Fresh off a 27:35 road 10 km best last month, Kenyan Hillary Kipkoech had no trouble pulling away over the second half after taking advantage of the course’s main uphill at 8 km to break free. Kipkoech ran most of the race solo to win in 1:00:46, with Japan-based Kenyan Simon Kariuki (Togami Denki), a past winner of the Ageo City Half Marathon, also mostly alone for 2nd in 1:01:11. Shin Kimura (Honda) emerged from a Japanese chase group of eight to take 3rd in 1:01:46, 10 seconds up on Olympic marathon team alternate Shohei Otsuka (Kyudenko). 

The only member of the Tokyo Olympics men’s marathon team to run, Yuma Hattori (Toyota) was pleased with a 1:02:59 for 24th after saying pre-race he planned to run in the 1:04 to 1:05 range. “The course was faster than I expected, so I was able to run faster than planned,” he said post-race. “This gave me a lot of confidence.” 

The top women said the same thing, saying the course was faster than expected and that it meant speed would be more of an issue at the Olympics than on the original course in Tokyo. The hill at 8 km is early enough that it shouldn’t be much of an issue, but the series of sharp turns on narrow paths through Hokkaido University near the end of the main loop and two following short loops could end up being one of the key tactical parts of the Olympic course.

Sapporo Challenge Half Marathon

Tokyo Olympics Marathon Test Event

Sapporo, Hokkaido, 5 May 2021


1. Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) – 1:08:28 – PB

2. Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) – 1:08:32 – PB

3. Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post) – 1:08:53

4. Katharina Steinruck (Germany) – 1:10:43 – PB

5. Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) – 1:10:50

6. Reia Iwade (Adidas) – 1:10:59

7. Yuri Nozoe (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) – 1:15:21

8. Miho Shimizu (Hokuren) – 1:15:24

9. Mai Fujisawa (Sapporo Excel AC) – 1:15:57 – PB


DNF – Betsy Saina (Kenya)

DNF – Loh-Choi Dern (Malaysia)


1. Hillary Kipkoech (Kenya) – 1:00:46 – PB

2. Simon Kariuki (Kenya/Togami Denki) – 1:01:11

3. Shin Kimura (Honda) – 1:01:46

4. Daisuke Uekado (Otsuka Seiyaku) – 1:01:49

5. Shun Yuzawa (SGH Group) – 1:01:51

6. Naoki Okamoto (Chugoku Denryoku) – 1:01:55

7. Shohei Otsuka (Kyudenko) – 1:01:56

8. Ryo Matsumoto (Toyota) – 1:02:03

9. Tomohiro Fujimura (Suzuki) – 1:02:12

10. Michael Githae (Kenya/Suzuki) – 1:02:13

11. Daisuke Hosomori (YKK) – 1:02:17

12. Akira Tomiyasu (Raffine Group) – 1:02:18

13. Bart Van Nunen (Netherlands) – 1:02:18

14. Yuta Shitara (Honda) – 1:02:20

15. Yuki Oshikawa (NTN) – 1:02:22

16. Takayasu Hashizume (SGH Group) – 1:02:31

17. Atsumi Ashiwa (Honda) – 1:02:32

18. Hidekazu Hijikata (Honda) – 1:02:44

19. Chihiro Miyawaki (Toyota) – 1:02:53

20. Yuki Matsumura (Honda) – 1:02:55

21. Ryo Hashimoto (GMO) – 1:02:56

22. Tomoki Yasuda (Kyudenko) – 1:02:57

23. Hirokaze Suzuki (SDF Academy) – 1:02:59

24. Yuma Hattori (Toyota) – 1:02:59

25. Hideto Yamanaka (Honda) – 1:03:02


49. Prabudass Krishnan (Malaysia) – 1:07:00 – NR

© 2021 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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