By Jonathan Gault
September 20, 2017
We’re four days away from the 2017 BMW Berlin Marathon, and thus far most of the attention has been focused on Eliud Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele, and Wilson Kipsang and their quest to break the world record. That’s all well and good, but did any of them run a 60:17 half marathon last weekend? World, let me introduce you to Yuta Shitara.
Shitara, 25, ran 28:56 at the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10k on September 9. It’s rare for athletes of Shitara’s caliber (2:09 marathon pb) to race two weeks out from a major marathon, but you can rationalize it. Most athletes will do at least one hard workout two weeks out from a marathon, and 10k is short enough that you should be able to recover from a hard effort over that distance by race day.
But it turns out that Prague was just the tuneup for Shitara’s tuneup race, as he raced again last Saturday at the Usti nad Labem Half Marathon, also in the Czech Republic. What Shitara did there was nothing short of incredible, as he sliced over a minute off his personal best to run 60:17 and break Atsushi Sato‘s 10-year-old national record of 60:25. Only two Americans — Ryan Hall (59:43) and Dathan Ritzenhein (60:00) — have ever run faster on record-eligible courses.
Now, just eight days after running the race of his life, Shitara will run his second career marathon on Sunday in Berlin. And don’t expect him to settle for just trying to run a PR. Many Japanese runners will go out hard and try to hold on, but Shitara takes it to extremes. This is a guy who, in his marathon debut in Tokyo in February, came through halfway in 61:55 — just 36 seconds off his half marathon PR at the time. Though Shitara wound up running a massive positive split (61:55-67:32), he still held on for an admirable 2:09:27 final time.
Would Shitara be foolish enough to go out with the leaders in Berlin, who are reportedly targeting 60:50 for the first half? Well he’s already foolish enough to run a marathon just eight days after an all-out half marathon. One fellow Japanese man who knows a thing or two about racing frequently certainly thinks Shitara will be up there.
“The only thing you can say for sure is that he’s definitely, 100%, going to go with the lead group,” Yuki Kawauchi told Japan Running News.
I could use several words to describe Shitara’s Berlin prep (bold, brave, stupid, and fast all come to mind). But guys like Shitara are what make the sport fun. He’s doing things his own way, and whatever you think of him, you can’t deny that his presence makes the race more interesting. I cannot wait to see what he does in Berlin.
More: Talk abut Shitara on the messageboard / fan forum: MB: Meet Yuta Shitara, the Japanese stud who ran a 60:17 last weekend and vows to out with the leaders in Berlin