Skip to main content

Back on the Track, A New Ekiden and No Rest for Kawauchi - Weekend Preview

by Brett Larner

Earlier this year when Oregon-training then-future 3000 m national record holder Suguru Osako (Team Nissin Shokuhin) ran in a U.S. track meet its webcast announcer, talking about Osako's PBs, said in a mocking tone of voice, "Who runs track in November?"  The answer, of course, is just about every elite Japan-based runner.

November is full of track time trial meets that coaches use to assess fitness within their rosters ahead of the mid-December to mid-January national championship ekiden season.  One of the biggest happens on Saturday, the Hachioji Long Distance time trials meet in Tokyo's western suburbs featuring seven men's 10000 m heats packed with much of the top talent in the country.  The A-heat features 18 of the best Japan-based Africans paced by sub-27 man Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC), young sub-28 Japanese athletes Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota), Keita Shitara (Team Konica Minolta), Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) and Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei) plus nine others hoping to join them.  The other 6 heats, staggered in 10-second target time increments, all feature Japan-based Kenyan pacers like 2013 World XC junior silver medalist Leonard Barsoton (Team Nissin Shokuhin) leading mixed pro and collegiate fields.  Quality track time trial meets are scheduled far to the west in Nagasaki, mid-country at Chukyo University, and northwest of Tokyo at Heisei Kokusai University in Saitama.  If you consider yourself a serious runner here, there's a pretty good chance you'll be running track in November.

Many college-aged women who aren't will instead be north of Tokyo in Tochigi at the Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden, a brand-new event and welcome addition to the university women's calendar.  14 teams are entered for the one-way, uphill race that is looking to build up some of the buzz that surrounds the Hakone Ekiden's legendary uphill Fifth Stage.  With 6 stages totalling only 23.4 km it'll be over in a relative flash, but at 875 m of climb it's a tough course, especially on its own Fifth Stage which climbs roughly 400 m in 3.5 km.  The #1 women's university team in eastern Japan, Daito Bunka University, is fielding a lineup featuring A-listers Mari Tayama and Eri Utsunomiya, and national-level Osaka Geidai University and Chuo University likewise have some of their big names on their entry list, so in its first running the Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden looks set for a good race.

The weekend's other main event comes in Saitama at the newish Koedo Kawagoe Half Marathon.  A week after a 2:12:59 course record at the Fukuchiyama Marathon, two weeks after a career third-best 1:02:55 at the Ageo City Half Marathon and four weeks after a disappointing turn at the TCS New York City Marathon, Kawagoe course record holder Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returns to give his 1:04:44 record from last year a go in a tuneup for a shot at a 2:07 marathon next month.  Look for coverage of these and other events throughout the weekend here on JRN.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half …

Chebii Returns - Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Elite Field

Defending champ Ezekiel Chebii (Kenya) returns to lead the field for the Mar. 4 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Chebii is one of three men in the field with recent 2:06 times, his 2:06:07 in Amsterdam two years ago leading Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland) and Abera Kuma (Ethiopia) to form a clear trio of favorites.

Making up the second pack are four current sub-2:10 Japanese men, 2017 Gold Coast winner Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), Rio Olympian Satoru Sasaki (Asahi Kasei), and Sasaki's teammates Takuya Fukatsu and Fumihiro Maruyama. The addition of sub-61 half marathoner Kenta Murayama in his second shot at the marathon after a failed debut in Tokyo two years ago makes for a formidable quartet of men from 2017 and 2018 New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei all aligned in training and talent.

With Japan's depth it's never surprising to see a relatively anonymous runner make a breakthrough and factor into the action. Yoshiki Takenouchi (NTT Nishi Nihon) was one of the …

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
Upcoming race schedule: Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan
Mar. 25: Kuki Half Marathon, Saitama
Apr. 16: Boston Marathon, U.S.A.
May 5: Toyohirakawa Half Marathon, Hokkaido
June 2: ASICS Stockholm Marathon, Sweden
June 17: Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon, Shimane
July 1: Gold Coast Airport Marathon, Australia
Aug. 2…