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Weekend Racing Roundup - University Ekiden Season Gets Going

by Brett Larner

Along with the Berlin Marathon, where Moscow World Championships bronze medalist Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) turned in the fastest Japanese women's performance overseas so far this year at 2:26:25 for 6th and 2014 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon winner Kazuki Tomaru (Team Toyota) cracked the top ten with a 2:11:25 PB, the fall season got underway for real all across Japan.

The university ekiden circuit kicked off with the Kansai Region University Women's Ekiden on Saturday, where for the second year in a row Osaka Gakuin University beat national champion Ritsumeikan University.  The two schools traded the lead for the first four of the race's six stages before Osaka Gakuin got free on the Fifth Stage, ultimately winning by 7 seconds in 1:38:53.  The Kanto Region University Women's Ekiden followed on Sunday, with Daito Bunka University taking the lead on the Second Stage to run unchallenged all the way to the finish in a course record 1:38:22.  Early leader Tokyo Nogyo University and Nittai University ran the entire way within 7 seconds of each other before Nittai anchor Hiromi Hikida outkicked Tokyo Nogyo's Natsuno Furuya by 2 seconds for 2nd place in 1:41:46.

In preparation for next month's Izumo Ekiden the Daito Bunka University men were in action on the track, hosting the Saitama Jitsugyodan Long Distance Time Trials meet.  DBU's star twins Takashi Ichida and Hiroshi Ichida took the top two spots in the 10000 m, Takashi running 28:57.69 and Hiroshi 2nd in 29:14.99.  Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University had its Izumo lineup focus on 5000 m, where junior Kazuma Watanabe led in 14:01.81.

A half dozen other areas had minor meets at about the same level as Saitama's but the biggest track results of the weekend came at the season's first edition of the Nittai University Time Trials meet.  In her first pro season, Ayuko Suzuki (Team Japan Post) got things started in a big way with the first Japanese women's sub-9 minute 3000 m in over six years as she soloed an 8:58.08 PB to win the A-heat.  Ritsumeikan grad Michi Numata turned in a good 15:32.41 to top the 5000 m A-heat, while in the men's races Kenyans Leonard Barsoton (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Bernard Kimanyi (Team Yakult) won the 5000 m and 10000 m in 13:25.39 and 27:50.66.

Back on the roads, another Japan-based Kenyan, John Maina (Team Toho Refine) won the Ichinoseki International Half Marathon in 1:03:29, with Hawaiian resident Polina Carlson (Russia) winning the women's race in 1:16:48.  Maina told reporters, "I'm very happy to win a race here in my hometown."  A little further north, Tomohiro Tanigawa of 2014 New Year Ekiden winner Team Konica Minolta won the Hakodate Half Marathon in 1:03:20.  Much further south, Toyo grad Hisanori Kitajima (Team Yasukawa Denki) was a surprise winner in the Fukuoka Prefecture 10-Mile Championships, outrunning defending champion Ryuji Watanabe and marathoner Masato Imai (both Team Team Toyota Kyushu) by over a minute for the win in 48:24.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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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). With a 1:01:20 at last year's Prague Half debuting Kenyan Eliud Mwangi should also factor into the front end. 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 start…

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