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Weekend Preview - Sendai Half, Golden Games in Nobeoka and Golden Grand Prix Tokyo

by Brett Larner

With track season well under way there's a shortage of domestic road action this month.  Formerly Japan's main May half marathon, the Sendai International Half Marathon's stock has fallen in recent years against the rise of the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon a week later but still features a good men's field including marathoners Arata Fujiwara (Miki House), Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), Japan-based Kenyans Joseph Gitau (Team JFE Steel), Johana Maina (Team Fujitsu) and Mekubo Mogusu (Team Nissin Shokuhin), former Hakone Ekiden stars Kenta Chiba (Team Fujitsu), Takehiro Deki (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Ryuji Kashiwabara (Team Fujitsu) and more.  The women's field is thinner, with veterans Yuri Kano (Team Shiseido), Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) and Yukari Sahaku (Team Univ. Ent.) going up against young talents Ayaka Hitomi (Team Shimamura) and Misato Horie (Team Nortiz).  Click here for a complete field listing.

On the track, a smattering of regional corporate league track championship meets get underway ahead of next weekend's full-on deluge, but the big meet of the weekend for distance runners is Saturday's Golden Games in Nobeoka, always one of the highlights of the Japanese season.  The main focus of the day is 5000 m, with 2014 National Corporate Half Marathon runner-up Masato Kikuchi (Team Konica Minolta) lining up against 2013 World XC junior silver medalist Leonard Barsoton (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and most of the other top Japan-based Africans in one heat and top young Japanese talent including Akinobu Murasawa (Team Nissin Shokuhin), Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.), Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.), Keisuke Nakatani (Komazawa Univ.), Keita Shitara (Team Konica Minolta), Kensuke Takezawa (Team Sumitomo Denko) and Ikuto Yufu (Team Fujitsu) scheduled to slug it out in another.  The women's 5000 m features 2014 World Half Marathon Championships team member Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido), 2014 Marugame Half Marathon winner Eri Makikawa (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and Japan-based Kenyan Pauline Kamulu (Team Toto).

Women's talent in Nobeoka is also split between 1500 m and 3000 m heats, but the other main draw for men is the 10000 m, where 2014 Lisbon Half Marathon winner Bedan Karoki (Kenya/DeNA RC) leads 2013 national 5000 m champion Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu) and his 2014 World Half Marathon teammate Shogo Nakamura (Komazawa Univ.) along with corporate league talents Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei), Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), Tomoya Onishi (Team Asahi Kasei) and Yuta Shitara (Team Honda).  Click here for complete entry lists.

The other big meet of the weekend takes place Sunday as Tokyo's National Stadium hosts its final major track event before being rebuilt, the Seiko Golden Grand Prix Tokyo meet.  Teen sprint star Yoshihide Kiryu (Toyo Univ.) is the main domestic draw in the 100 m where he faces France's sub-10 man Christophe Lemaitre and American Justin Gatlin, who returned from a four-year drug ban to win medals at the London Olympics and Moscow World Championships.  Other men's medalists on the entry lists include London Olympics 400 m gold medalist Kirani James (Grenada), Moscow World Championships 800 m silver medalist Nick Symmonds (U.S.A.), and Moscow high jump gold medalist Bohdan Bondarenko (Ukraine) in a great matchup against London high jump gold medalist Ivan Ukhov (Russia).

The women's field includes Moscow 1500 m silver medalist Jennifer Simpson (U.S.A.) and 100mH gold medalist Brianna Rollins (U.S.A.), and London hammer throw gold and bronze medalists Tatiana Lyseko (Russia) and Betty Heidler (Germany).  Tokyo-area fans shouldn't miss their last chance to catch some of the atmosphere of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics before the historic National Stadium is rebuilt for the the upcoming 2020 Olympics.  Click here for entry list highlights and ticket info.

(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
           …