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Nojiri and Tsuji Win Hokkaido Marathon

by Brett Larner

Taking on increased importance as the Japanese Federation focuses on hot weather racing in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics men's and women's marathons, the Hokkaido Marathon featured one of its deepest men's fields in memory.  The women's field was smaller but featured at least three good up-and-coming talents.  Getting the better of them all in the mid-20s temperatures was former pro-XC skier and mountain running champion Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease), a 2:24:57 marathoner while at the Sachiko Yamashita-coached Daiichi Seimei corporate team but mostly unsuccessful since leaving to follow an Arata Fujiwara-inspired route of independent sponsorship.  In Hokkaido Nojiri easily dropped the rest of the field to win in 2:30:26, a quality mark in a typically hot race that rarely sees sub-2:30 winning times.  Debuting runner-up Shoko Mori (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) was nearly five minutes back in 2:35:10, just beating pre-race favorite Yuka Yano (Canon AC Kyushu) who took 3rd in 2:35:22.  Seemingly immortal masters' runner Chihiro Tanaka (Athlec AC), 44, the 1997 and 2003 Hokkaido winner, was 6th in 2:41:48.

Despite its depth the men's race played out slower than expected.  Last year's runner-up Shigeki Tsuji (Team Otsuka Seiyaku), coached by Japan's first 2:06 man Takayuki Inubushi, used his experience to his advantage to outdo over a half dozen runners with faster times, taking the win by more than a minute over the promising Ryoichi Matsuo (Team Asahi Kasei) in 2:15:24.  3rd through 8th came in in a tight pack that saw Masamichi Shinozaki (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) outkick National Team member Masanori Sakai (Team Kyudenko) for 3rd in  2:17:22.  Etsu Miyata (Arata Project), another runner to leave the corporate team system in search of independence and finding it with support from Olympian Fujiwara, was 8th in 2:17:46 in a step back from injury problems shortly after going his own way.  Look for Miyata, Fujiwara and other corporate league expatriates in Fujiwara's Arata Project club team to run November's East Japan Corporate Ekiden in a shot at making the New Year Ekiden national corporate championships.

Hokkaido Marathon
Sapporo, Hokkaido, 8/31/14
official results coming shortly

Women
1. Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:30:26
2. Shoko Mori (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:35:10 - debut
3. Yuka Yano (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:35:22
4. Megumi Amako (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:37:42 - debut
5. Manami Kamitanida (Team Hitachi) - 2:41:00
6. Chihiro Tanaka (Athlec AC) - 2:41:48

Men
1. Shigeki Tsuji (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:15:24
2. Ryoichi Matsuo (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:16:32
3. Masamichi Shinozaki (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:17:22
4. Masanori Sakai (Team Kyudenko) - 2:17:24
5. Yuji Iwata (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:17:26
6. Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 2:17:32
7. Takuya Suzuki (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:17:35
8. Etsu Miyata (Arata Project) - 2:17:46
9. Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - 2:19:06
10. Shingo Igarahi (Team Subaru) - 2:19:10
11. Kiyokatsu Hasegawa (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:19:19
12. Masaki Hori (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:19:53

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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