Skip to main content

Kanaguri Memorial Meet Kicks Off Japanese Track Season

by Brett Larner

With the start of the Japanese fiscal and academic year this week, outdoor track season gets rolling this Saturday at the Kanaguri Memorial Meet in Kumamoto.  A distance-oriented meet with a focus on 5000 m, Kanaguri is the place where many of the top young talents make their debuts wearing new high school, university and corporate team colors.

Competition in the women's races is thin, with Kenyans Pauline Kamulu (Team Toto) and Susan Wairimu (Team Denso) leading 2014 Marugame Half Marathon winner Eri Makikawa (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and the talented Yukari Abe (Team Shimamura) as the top contenders in Heat 2 of the 5000 m.  The high school girls' 3000 m, featuring a long list of top juniors, may supply the more interesting races.

The big races on the men's side are heats 4 and 5 of the 5000 m.  Heat 5 features three of the very best Japan-based Kenyans, Moscow World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko), two-time 3000 mSC junior world champion Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) and 2011 World Youth 3000 m gold medalist William Malel (Team Honda).  Many of the best Japanese men are on the starting list, including past distance event national champions Yuki Matsuoka (Team Otsuka Seiyaku), Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota), Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), Kensuke Takezawa (Team Sumitomo Denko) and Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC), Hakone aces Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.), Genki Yagisawa (Meiji Univ.) and Hideto Yamanaka (Nittai Univ.), and other big names including Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei), Shota Hattori (Team Honda), Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) and Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei).

Heat 4 features a mostly-African field including many of the top Japan-based Kenyans and Ethiopians including Clement Langat (Team Subaru), Edward Waweru (Team NTN), Jacob Wanjuki (Team Aichi Seiko) and Patrick Muwaka (Team Aisan Kogyo).  Hakone Ekiden stars Shuho Dairokuno (Meiji Univ.), Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.), Keisuke Nakatani (Komazawa Univ.), Yusuke Nishiyama (Komazawa Univ.) and Daichi Kamino (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) are also in Heat 4 looking for early-season PBs, with 2014 Hakone champion Toyo University ace Yuta Shitara making his pro debut with the Honda corporate team.

Shitara's identical twin brother Keita Shitara will likewise make his debut for 2014 New Year Ekiden national corporate champion Konica Minolta on Saturday at the Tokyo-area Setagaya Time Trials meet, where he will run as a pacer for a university 5000 m heat.  Big-name pacers in other heats include talented half marathoners Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo).

The weekend's action is not limited to the track, though.  Kihara's teammate Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo), all-time #4 on the Japanese marathon debut list with a 2:09:12 in heavy rain at the 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, will run Sunday's Brighton Marathon, where he is the #2 seed.  Coached by Toshinari Takaoka, who debuted in 2:09:41 before running the still-standing Japanese national record of 2:06:16 a year later in Chicago, there is plenty of reason to hope that Morita will take another step forward in the Japanese ranks in Brighton.

Back on the home front, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) will run his third marathon of the year at Sunday's amateur-level Saga Sakura Marathon.  Saga is the first of two marathons Kawauchi plans to run in April in preparation for next month's Hamburg Marathon, where he will face greats Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) and Martin Lel (Kenya).  Retired Berlin World Championships women's marathon silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki will also appear at Saga as a special guest runner.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Metts said…
Stanford had a few good races especially the 10,000 this weekend.

Most-Read This Week

Toyo University Leads Defending Champ Aoyama Gakuin on Hakone Ekiden Day One

The team that brought Japan's greatest race into the modern era with its historic 2012 sub-3 min/km win, Toyo University came out swinging to win Day One of the 2018 Hakone Ekiden.

Intensely popular with fans, Toyo has struggled this season with its entire senior class out with injury. With its fate in the hands of its younger members Toyo 1st-year Kazuya Nishiyama, freshly 19 in November, stepped up and took control of the race with both hands. Midway through the fast First Stage Nishiyama surged hard to go out front alone, 2017 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Kei Katanishi (Komazawa Univ.) and relative unknown Yuhei Urano (Koku Gakuin Univ.) the only ones to try to go with him. Nishiyama covered the 21.3 km stage in 1:02:16, equivalent to a 1:01:40 half marathon, with Urano and Katanishi around 15 seconds back. 3-time defending champ Aoyama Gakuin University was 25 seconds behind in 5th at the first exchange, 2017 Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University another …

Nakamoto and Kawauchi to Run Boston

Japan's Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) will run the 2018 Boston Marathon as part of the John Hancock Elite Athlete Team. Kawauchi holds world records for everything from most career sub-2:12 marathons to most sub-2:20, while Nakamoto is Japan's best championships marathoner of modern times with four top 10 finishes at the Olympics and World Championships.

Longtime rivals, their duel at the 2013 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon was one of the classics of Japanese marathoning, both running sub-2:09 PBs as Kawauchi set a still-standing course record of 2:08:15. The pair has a 3-3 record in the marathon so far, their most recent meeting coming at last summer's London World Championships where Kawauchi ran Nakamoto down in the last kilometer to take 9th. Boston will be their 7th and likely final face-off.

Our 2018 #BostonMarathon International Elite Field includes 46 of the world’s best marathoners from 13 countries. Watch to see the …

Kawauchi Breaks Sub-2:20 World Record in Sub-Zero Temperatures

Battling freezing temperatures and wind chill that took things down to -23C, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran a 2018 world-leading 2:18:59 at the Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, taking 30 minutes off the course record and breaking American Doug Kurtis' historic sub-2:20 world record with his 76th career sub-2:20.

Kawauchi spent Dec. 29 to 31 training on the Boston Marathon course ahead of his upcoming appearance as part of the John Hancock Elite Athlete Team and planned to run Marshfield at the tail end of his trip. The Marshfield Road Runners club, organizers of the marathon, had their longstanding race USATF certified ahead of his appearance.


Wearing full-length tights in a marathon for the first time, in Marshfield Kawauchi planned to run the first of the hilly course's two laps in 1:09 flat to give himself room to work with in breaking 2:20. But in the wind and cold he struggled to stay on pace, ice crystals coating his face as he hit halfway in 1:10:29…