by Brett Larner
With heavy snow scheduled to hit most of the country on Saturday four races fill Sunday's calendar. Chief among them is the 52nd edition of the Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon, a developmental race that has seen the debuts of the likes of Moscow World Championships marathon 5th-placer Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) and Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda), the top Japanese man at last year's Chicago Marathon. Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business) leads the way with a 2:13:38 best from last year's Nobeoka, but look for challenges from debuting Hakone Ekiden Sixth Stage course record holder Kenta Chiba (Team Fujitsu) and Team Otsuka Seiyaku's ace rookie Yudai Yamakawa. Click here for a field listing and more info.
The 54th Karatsu 10-miler sees Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) taking on sub-60 minute half marathoner Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin), Hiroyuki Uno formerly of Hakone Ekiden course record setters Toyo University, as he continues to focus on shorter distances in preparation for a serious shot at 2:07 at the Mar. 2 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Another historic 10-miler, the 54th Himejijo 10-miler, takes place on Tuesday's national holiday and features London Olympics marathoner Ryo Yamamoto (Team SGH Group Sagawa) and Toyo University's Norihisa Imai in its final running before switching over to a mass-participation marathon format.
With no World Cross Country Championships this year the Chiba International Cross Country Meet loses a little luster in its 49th edition, typically serving as one of the selection races for the Japanese team for Worlds. Nevetheless there are places at the Feb. 22 Asian Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka and March's World University Cross Country Championships in Uganda at stake, and a fair number of Hakone talents and pros are lining up in pursuit. Along with the likes of sub-13:30 collegiate Genki Yagisawa (Meiji Univ.), 2013 national university 5000 m and 10000 m champion Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Kenya/Nihon Univ.), Ken Yokote (Meiji Univ.) and Masaki Toda (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.), top pros including Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya/Team Hitachi Butsuryu) and Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/JFE Steel) and a handful of elites from overseas fill out the senior men's 12 km. Big names in the senior women's 8 km include Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo), Mai Shoji (Chukyo Univ.), Rosemary Wanjiru (Kenya/Aomori Yamada H.S.) and Felista Wanjugu (Kenya/Team Univ. Ent.).
And just when you thought ekiden season was well and truly done, the Chugoku Women's Ekiden, featuring an assortment of corporate, university and high school teams, sees its 28th running. Check back for coverage and results from all four races and more.
(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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