by Brett Larner
February is one of those months with more events crammed in than it's possible to cover. This weekend features at least three good quality marathons, a 10-miler, another late-season ekiden, and half of the elite Japanese cross country season.
That XC happens east of Tokyo in Chiba at the Chiba International XC Meet, along with the Feb. 21 Fukuoka International XC Meet one of the two races that decide the Japanese team for next month's World XC Championships in China. Marugame Half Marathon remnants Samuel Tsegaye (Eritrea) and Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) make up the major share of the international component in the senior men's 12 km where they face the likes of 2015 Hakone Ekiden course record setter Aoyama Gakuin University's Kazuma Kubota, Daito Bunka University wonder twins Hiroshi and Takashi Ichida and many more. The Japanese junior teams usually represent well at worlds, and most of the country's best up-and-coming talent will be there.
Others will be at the Chugoku Women's Ekiden, which this year changes homes and names slightly to the Chugoku Women's Sera Ekiden in Sera, Hiroshima, home of 2014 National High School Ekiden champion Sera H.S. Further west, the Karatsu Road Race hosts sub-2:10 marathoner Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei), top track runners Taku Fujimoto (Team Toyota) and Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Kenyan Edward Waweru (Team NTN) in its 10-miler, with a good selection of upper-level Japanese women including Misato Horie (Team Noritz) and Yuka Takashima (Team Denso) in its 10 km division.
Another sub-2:10 marathoner from the Asahi Kasei crew, Tomoya Adachi, lines up on home ground at the Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon where his main competition is 2014 Asian Games bronze medalist Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't). Kawauchi, with a PB of 2:08:14, is recovered from his ankle sprain in late December but down in fitness during his recovery. Adachi, who ran a 2:09:59 best in Fukuoka in December, should be a more than worthy competitor for him. Good lower-tier races are also on the calendar at the Ehime Marathon and the Kitakyushu Marathon, the latter of which saw quality times in its first edition last year.
(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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