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Weekend Preview: Asian Games, Berlin Marathon, Nittaidai and the Start of Ekiden Season

by Brett Larner

There is a truckload of action just waiting to dump on fans of Japanese distance around the world this weekend.  Along with the Incheon Asian Games, where athletics kick off Saturday with the women's 10000 m and 3000 mSC and the men's 5000 m, Sunday's Berlin Marathon offers more international exposure to the stealthy Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) in the women's race and the solid trio of 2:08 men Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) and Ryo Yamamoto (Team SGH Group Sagawa) and 2014 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon winner Kazuki Tomaru (Team Toyota).

Back home of familiar shores where laundry facilities are guaranteed to be close at hand, fall gets into full swing with the first two significant ekidens of the season, Saturday's Kansai Region University Women's Ekiden and Sunday's Kanto Region University Women's Ekiden.  Both qualify top-placing teams in the two highly competitive regions for October's National University Women's Ekiden Championships, one of two peak races of the season for collegiate women.

Non-ekiden road action is capped by the Fukuoka Prefecture 10-Mile Championships which this year feature the last four winners, all from the Barcelona Olympics marathon silver medalist Koichi Morishita-coached Toyota Kyushu team.  Most noteworthy among them is Masato Imai, using the race as a final tuneup for his return to the TCS New York City Marathon in November.  The Hakodate Half Marathon also features a healthy number of corporate league runners and collegiates, along with Iwate's Ichinoseki International Half Marathon the same day.

Down the road from Fukuoka, the Nagasaki Nighter Time Trials track meet will host many of the corporate runners based in other parts of Kyushu while northwest of Tokyo Saitama has the East Japan Corporate Long Distance Time Trials , but the main domestic track meet of the weekend is the fall's first edition of the Nittai University Time Trials series in Yokohama.  The two-day meet with everyone from amateurs to Olympians features a grab-bag of distances from 800 m to 10000 m on Saturday before focusing exclusively on 5000 m on Sunday, with 40 heats of around 30 athletes each scheduled to start at 8:00 a.m. sharp and wrap up by 8:35 p.m. at the latest.

Look for as much coverage of each of these races as is humanly possible throughout the weekend right here on JRN.  And don't forget to enter JRN's Asian Games marathon prediction contest for a chance to win great limited-edition prizes.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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