Former marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara (27, Honda) returned to Narita Airport on July 8 a day after scoring his first-ever marathon win at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon. Shitara won in an excellent course record time of 2:07:50, lending momentum to his buildup for the MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials just over two months away.
During the race Shitara suffered a mishap, bleeding from both nipples early on. "It rained right before the start," he said, "and once I started running it started chafing. I was a little worried about it, but if you want to compete at the top of the game then there are no excuses." Shrugging it off, even as his uniform soaked up the blood Shitara kept up his fast pace. "My training paid off in this result," he said with obvious satisfaction. "Winning gives me confidence, and I want to make good use of that after this."
Up to now Shitara has followed his own training program, never running longer t…
Japan pulled off three medal sweeps in the last two days of track and field competition at the 2019 Napoli Universiade, taking all three individual medals and the team gold medals in the men's 20 km race walk and both the women's and men's half marathons.
Koki Ikeda kicked off the medal rush Friday with a 1:22:49 win in the men's 20 km race walk, opening more than 30 seconds on teammates Masatora Kawano and Yuta Koga. The next morning the Japanese women followed the walkers' lead, waiting until the third time around the three-lap course to drop the competition. Just 19, 2019 National University Half Marathon champion Yuka Suzuki (Daito Bunka Univ.) was really impressive over the last two kilometers, seeming to be going at an all-out sprint and opening more than 20 seconds on Rika Kaseda (Meijo Univ.) and Yuki Tagawa (Matsuyama Univ.) for the win in 1:14:10.
Wednesday afternoon and evening saw the fourth meet in this year's five-part Hokuren Distance Challenge series, this time in the town of Kitami. The program included the little-raced 2000 m steeplechase as a tuneup for Monday's series-closing Abashiri meet, and in both the women's and men's races the national records went down. A top collegiate steepler while at Kyoto Sangyo University, Yui Yabuta (Otsuka Seiyaku) ran 6:27.74 to break the women's record. In the men's race 1500 m specialist Yasunari Kusu (Ami AC) surprised many by breaking the Japanese national record with a world-leading 5:31.82 despite little experience in the steeple.
The women's 3000 m in Kitami was more explicitly set up as a national record attempt, with four of the ten fastest Japanese women ever over the distance lined up to gun for the great Kayoko Fukushi's 8:44.40 record dating back to 2002. From the gun it was out at NR pace, with pacers Hellen Ekalale (Toyota Jidoshokki) an…