Kento Otsu and Yuta Shitara, star members of Toyo University’s record-setting team at the 2012 Hakone Ekiden, have been invited to run the NYC Half Marathon on March 18, it was announced recently by New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg.
At Hakone, Japan’s oldest and greatest road relay (in its 88th year), sophomores Otsu and Shitara helped the Toyo team take an incredible 8 minutes off the record for the 217-km course. Shitara broke the record for the seventh stage, and Otsu fell just seven seconds short of the eighth-stage record. Last year, both men ran sub-1-hour, 3-minute times — both among the 10 fastest times for Japanese men in 2011- to finish second and third at the Ageo Half Marathon in Saitama Prefecture in November.
The invitation to run in New York is unprecedented and groundbreaking for Japanese university men.
Said Otsu, “I’ve never had the chance to mix it up in an international race, so the opportunity to run in an event like the NYC Half that brings together a lot of high-level, highly motivated athletes will be a great chance for me to see how far I can push myself. I have no idea how people overseas train or live, or what the atmosphere at their races is like, so this will be an important experience for my future career as an athlete.”