There is a busy weekend ahead domestically and abroad, on the roads and on the track for Japan's distance athletes. At Sunday's Nagano Marathon, civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) will seek to become the first Japanese man to win in Nagano's fifteen-year history in his fourth marathon of the year. His main competition comes in the form of Kenyan Silas Sang, who set his 2:09:10 best in finishing 2nd last year. Also of note is former national record holder Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu), running his final race before retiring. Kenyans Beatrice Jepkemboi and Esther Nganga are the favorites in the women's race, with Mika Okunaga (Yufuin Hammock AC) leading the domestic contingent.
Overseas, the unfortunate withdrawal this week of the promising Bunta Kuroki (Team Yasukawa Denki) from the London Marathon men's field means that Japan's Moscow World Championships marathon team is all but finalized with five 2:08 men. Five women in the London field will be taking a shot at the one or conceivably two spots left on the Japanese women's team. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) is the favorite to hit the top Japanese and sub-2:24 criteria for a place on the Worlds team, having twice set PBs in London and fresh off the second-best half marathon of her career last month with a 1:08:59 win at the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) also looks ready to go, having run a 1:10:00 best for 3rd at the Berlin Half Marathon just two weeks ago. Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) holds a 2:24:28 best and is a training partner of 2013 Nagoya Women's Marathon winner Ryoko Kizaki, but with few quality results in the last year she is something of a question mark. In the longshot department are former national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) and 2002 Hokkaido Marathon winner Chika Horie (Team Univ. Ent.), a training partner of 2012 Yokohama International Women's Marathon runner-up and Moscow team contender Mizuho Nasukawa.
Currently the Japanese women's team for Moscow shapes up as such, in rough order of their chances:
- Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 2:23:34 - PB - 1st, 2013 Nagoya Women's Marathon
- Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 2:24:21 - PB - 2nd, 2013 Osaka Int'l Women's Marathon
- Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) - 2:24:05 - 3rd, 2013 Nagoya Women's Marathon
- Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:26:42 - 2nd, 2012 Yokohama Int'l Women's Marathon
- Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion) - 2:25:56 - PB - 3rd, 2013 Osaka Int'l Women's Marathon
Kizaki is guaranteed a spot thanks to her sub-2:24 clocking, and Fukushi and Noguchi are all but certain. Nasukawa and Watanabe are on shaky ground given the quality of the women running London, and while it's very likely that one of them will not make the team it's also possible that both could be superseded. The men's and women's marathon teams are scheduled to be announced on Wednesday the 24th following the outcome of London.
Back in Japan on the track, the Hyogo Relay Carnival is the main meet of the weekend. The men's and women's Grand Prix 10000 m are the highlights of the meet, the first high-level 10000 m of the Japanese season and featuring top-level Kenyans Sally Chepyego (Team Kyudenko), Martin Mathathi (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), Patick Mutunga (Team Toyota Boshoku) and Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko), World Championships marathon team hopefuls Watanabe and Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), 5000 m national champion Kazuya Deguchi (Team Asahi Kasei), collegiate champions Haruka Kyuma (Tsukuba Univ.) and Shogo Nakamura (Komazawa Univ.) and many, many more. Of particular note, two pairs of identical twins, Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) and Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.) and Keita and Yuta Shitara (both Toyo Univ.), will seek to make history by having both brothers go sub-28. The Asics Challenge 10000 m also counts as a selection race for the Japanese team for this summer's World University Games, so expect to see reams of top collegiate talent in that heat as well.
A number of Japan's top track runners have opted to skip Hyogo in favor of getting ready for Stanford University's Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at other U.S. meets. Mt. SAC will feature three of the best current men, 2012 Japanese man of the year Daisuke Shimizu (Team Kanebo), 2012 10000 m national champion Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and #1 collegiate runner Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) in the 5000 m. The women's 5000 m includes now-U.S.-based 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) and teammates including Aya Nagata and Michi Numata. All-time Japanese top ten over both 10000 m and half marathon, Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) opted to go further north and is scheduled to run the 5000 m at the Oregon Relays.
Check back over the weekend for coverage of all these events and more.
(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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