by Brett Larner
Japan's late-June and early-July Hokkaido-based Hokuren Distance Challenge time trial series gets underway tomorrow in Shibetsu. Formerly a six-part series, the Distance Challenge now includes only four meets, June 26 in Shibetsu, June 29 in Fukagawa, July 3 in Abashiri and wrapping up July 6 in Kitami. Given the series' timing its focus is often on improving marks ahead of international championships and Japanese athletes often produce their best track times of the year at one of the four races.
Shibetsu features mens' and womens' 1500 m, 3000 m and 5000 m distances. On the women's side where the most notable names are 2013 London Marathon 7th-place finisher Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and 2013 National Championships 5000 m 3rd-placer Riko Matsuzaki (Team Sekisui Kagaku) in the women's 3000 m A-heat, with Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo), 3rd in this year's Payton Jordan 10000 m, looking like the favorite in the 5000 m A-heat.
5000 m national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica-Minolta) and 2:09:12 debut marathoner Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo) are the top Japanese entries in the men's 5000 m, but most of the action there is bound to come from the eight-strong African contingent led by 2011 World Cross Country Championships silver medalist Paul Tanui (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) and the current #1-ranked Japan-based African, Patrick Mutunga (Kenya/Team Toyota Boshoku).
Click here for complete starts lists for the Hokuren Distance Challenge Shibetsu Meet.
(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved