by Brett Larner
As is his tendency, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) led the way on a busy weekend that saw Japanese athletes in at least four competitive overseas races. Running the second edition of the Saga Sakura Marathon in scenic southwesternmost Kyushu despite having changed his workplace this week, Kawauchi took almost nine minutes off the course record and beat last year's winner Tomonori Onitsuka (Team Kyudenko) by more than ten minutes in 2:13:02 CR, his third marathon of the year and second soloing a massive CR in an amateur-level race. "I haven't been feeling well since the Incheon Half last week and have just been jogging 60 minutes a day, so I'm glad I could at least run passably," he told JRN post-race. "If there hadn't been a strong headwind between 25 and 35 km I would have been a minute faster." Like Onitsuka, women's course record holder Hiroko Yoshitomi (First Dream AC) was knocked back to 2nd as 20-year-old Hua Yang (China) took the win in 2:38:23.
While Kawauchi raced in a far corner of home, three other elite Japanese men ran overseas marathons. 2013 Ohtawara Marathon winner Tadashi Suzuki (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and runner-up Yasuaki Kojima (Team Subaru) ran the Paris Marathon as part of a relationship between the two races, Kojima three minutes off his best in 2:18:46 for 12th and getting screen time as the subject of some racial commentary by Britsh Eurosport announcers Martin Gillingham and Geoff Wightman, and 2:16 man Suzuki sightseeing his way to a 26th-place finish in 2:28:26. Ohtawara's 2nd and 3rd-place women Yumi Sato (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) and Ayano Kondo (Team Noritz) also lined up in Paris, Kondo running a five-minute PB of 2:43:54 and Sato jogging a 2:55:42. Directly across the channel, Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo), all-time #4 on the Japanese debut lists with a 2:09:12 best at Lake Biwa in 2012, failed to make any impression at the Brighton Marathon, the first elite to fall out of the lead pack and shuffling home in 2:22:03 for 7th.
Aspiring indy Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) was not much better at the Prague Half Marathon, almost seven minutes off her best as she ran 1:17:19 for 13th place. On the other side of the Atlantic, 2011 Tokyo Marathon winner Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) had what might have been the best Japanese women's run of the weekend on the roads, making her ten mile debut at Washington D.C.'s Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run in 55:21 as a tuneup for the Boston Marathon two weeks from now.
(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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