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Weekend Preview - Nobeoka Marathon and More

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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Kawauchi Breaks Nobeyama Ultra Course Record

2018 Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) won the longest race of his career to date Sunday in Nagano, taking over six minutes off the Yatsugatake Nobeyama Kogen 71 km Ultramarathon in 4:41:55.

A training run for next month’s Stockholm Marathon, Kawauchi set off solo at a steady pace around 3:45/km. Climbing from 1355 m to 1908 m as he approached 20 km he naturally slowed, but with over 1000 m of descent over the next 30 km he was soon back on track. Hitting the marathon split around 2:39, he was so far ahead of the 2nd placer that the announcer initially forget Kawauchi had already gone by and announced the next runner as the leader.

At 58 km Kawauchi was on track to clear 4:30:00, but hitting the uphills in the final 10 km and feeling the effects of the unfamiliar distance he slowed to almost 5:00/km. But with so much leeway to work with there was never any danger of the 4:48:13 course record slipping out of reach. Kawauchi stopped the clock in 4:41:55, please…

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
           …

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…