by Brett Larner
Alongside the Fukuoka International Marathon, Japan's southernmost main island of Kyushu hosted another major road race on Sunday, the Kumamoto Kosa 10 Mile Road Race. The world's most competitive 10-miler by a wide margin, Kosa plays an important role for the coaches of Japan's corporate teams in helping them refine their lineups for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national corporate men's championships. Kosa has long been dominated by Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), who has won six times since 2003 and holds the course record of 44:51 but opted for a marathon debut in Fukuoka this year. Despite the advantages of having Africans in the race to keep things fast among the predominantly Japanese field Kosa employs a strange format with any non-Japanese entrants segregated together in an "International Division" and given a one-minute head start. The winner of the all-Japanese division is typically reported as the winner by the Japanese media, with only passing mention of any Africans who may have run faster.
This year Yamanashi Gakuin University first-year Enock Omwamba of Kenya, the 2012 national university 5000 and 10000 m champion and unstoppable on the fall ekiden circuit, had the honor. Continuing his winning ways, Omwamba, along with corporate runner Alex Mwangi (Kenya/Team YKK) one of only two non-Japanese in the race, soloed his way to a 46:25. A minute later the Japanese field started. Tomohiro Shiiya (Team Toyota Boshoku), one of the many members of the Tepco corporate team to quit and go elsewhere following last year's Fukushima disasters, was the first Japanese athlete across the line, outrunning freshly-minuted sub-28 man Yusuke Hasegawa (Team S&B) in 46:26 to 46:31.
Shiiya was only 1 second slower than Omwamba, and both Shiiya and Hasegawa were faster than Mwangi's 46:38. The next three Japanese men were all within 10 seconds of Mwangi, raising the question of whether everyone in the front end of the field might have run faster, or whether it might have at least been a more exciting race, if they had all been running head to head. Omwamba and Mwangi were clearly in range ability-wise, so it is difficult to see what Shiiya, Hasegawa and the other Japanese athletes gained by not being allowed to race them even if it is not hard to see what race organizers in the conservative area may have gained.
2012 Kumamoto Kosa 10-Mile Road Race
Kosa, Kumamoto, 12/2/12
click here for complete results
1. Enock Omwamba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 46:25
2. Tomohiro Shiiya (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 46:26
3. Yusuke Hasegawa (Team S&B) - 46:31
4. Alex Mwangi (Kenya/Team YKK) - 46:38
5. Ryo Matsumoto (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 46:40
6. Yuya Konishi (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 46:43
7. Kyohei Nishi (Team Kyudenko) - 46:46
8. Fumihiro Maruyama (Team Asahi Kasei) - 46:53
9. Ryuji Okada (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 46:55
10. Masamichi Yasuda (Team Aichi Seiko) - 47:01
(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved