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National Corporate Half Marathon Championships, a National Record Shot, Kawauchi's 2014 Marathon Debut and More - Weekend Preview

by Brett Larner

Three races fill out a busy weekend across Japan.  The biggest is the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships, bumped from its regular home in mid-March by this year's World Half Marathon Championships and serving as the last selection race for the men's and women's teams in Copenhagen.  Corporate-league Kenyans Jacob Wanjuki (Team Aichi Seiko) and Daniel Gitau (Team Fujitsu) for the top group of some of Japan's best current half-marathoners, including sub-62 men Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei), Yuki Iwai (Team Asahi Kasei), Tomoya Onishi (Team Asahi Kasei).  For the last few years it has taken a run into the all-time Japanese top ten to be the first Japanese man across the line at the Corporate Championships, and with Komazawa University junior Kenta Murayama having run an all-time #3 1:00:50 to make the Copenhagen team two weeks ago in Marugame it's a good bet that the best of the corporate system will be looking to go one better.  Click here for a complete men's entry list.

For the fourth year the women's race is split between a 10 km and half marathon.  Leading the half are two sub-70 women, last year's 3rd-placer Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) and 2012 winner Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), but there is plenty of competition just behind.  Kenyan Grace Kimanzi (Team Starts) and up-and-coming women Sakiko Matsumi (Team Daiichi Seimei), Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu), Misaki Kato (Team Kyudenko), Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido) and Shiho Takechi (Team Yamada Denki) all have solid shots at both the win and the World Half team.  Takechi's teammate Kasumi Nishihara (Team Yamada Denki), the road 10 km collegiate national record holder, is the favorite to win the 10 km division.  Click here for women's half marathon and 10 km entry lists.

Speaking of collegiate national records, the Kumanichi 30 km Road Race hosts what should end up being the weekend's most exciting race.  Last year Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University's captain Keita Shitara set the 30 km collegiate record of 1:29:55 in a thrilling four-way battle won by Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) in 1:29:31.  This year nine of the best university runners are lining up at Kumanichi to try to better that.  Toyo's Yuma Hattori and Ryu Takaku go up against Komazawa University captain Shinobu Kubota and his 2013 National University Half Marathon champion teammate Shogo Nakamura, 2012 National University Half Marathon winner Toshikatsu Ebina (Teikyo Univ.), 2012 Hakone Ekiden winner Nittai University ace Takumi Honda and others, with another half dozen or so corporate league runners there as sparring partners.  Kawauchi will also be there but rather than defending his Kumanichi title has opted to open his 2014 marathon season in the event's accompanying amateur-level marathon where he will be looking to better the 2:19:30 course record set last year by fellow civil servant runner Shota Jige (Kumamoto Pref. Gov't).

West of Tokyo there's one other elite-level 30 km race on the schedule, one of Japan's most popular road races, the Ome 30 km and 10 km Road Race.  With heavy snow currently falling in Tokyo and scheduled to last into Saturday it's a question mark whether Ome will go off, but if so it will see the 30 km debut of 5000 m collegiate record holder Kensuke Takezawa (Team Sumitomo Denko), finally taking long-awaited steps toward a marathon debut.  The Fujitsu and Konica Minolta corporate teams are again sending several of their top young members to run Ome in pursuit of the invitation to run April's Boston Marathon available to the Ome winner, with Komazawa University graduate Hiromitsu Kakuage and teammate Takuya Noguchi (both Team Konica Minolta) looking like the favorites to challenge Takezawa.  Independent Eri Okubo (Miki House) leads the small women's 30 km division.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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Kawauchi Wins 7th-Straight Okinoshima 50 km

Running the Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon on his late father's home island of Oki for the eighth year in a row, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:52:55 to win it for the seventh straight time. Starting strong on the relatively flat first 10 km where he clocked 33:26, low-2:47 pace, Kawauchi slowed to just over 2:50 pace on the course's toughest hills between 10 and 30 km. A sub-2:50 was still in range at that point, but over the last 20 km he faded further to finish in the second-slowest of his Okinoshima wins.



The day before the race Kawauchi paced children in Okinoshima's kids' run. Following that he greeted participants and local supporters at an expo event where he was hailed onstage as the Boston Marathon winner. As per his usual routine, his next race will be the July 1 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Kipchirchir and Chebii Take on Three Gold Coast Winners

The men's race at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon is usually a Kenya-Japan head-to-head, Kenya taking six wins and Japan three in the last ten years. With not a single Ethiopian in the field for this year's 40th edition it looks set for it to happen yet again.

Sub-2:10 Kenyans Victor Kipchirchir, Douglas Chebii, Philip Sanga and the Japan-based Michael Githae will line up to take on three of the race's last four winners, 2017 champ Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), 2015-16 winner and course record holder Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) and 2013 champ and perpetual top three placer Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't). Give the advantage to team Kenya in this bout, but as Noguchi and Kawauchi have proven Gold Coast is a race where Japanese men are legit contenders.

With the window for getting qualifying times for next year's MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials starting to close, the powers that be in Japan have taken note of the success of Noguchi and Kawauchi on the Gold Coast…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …