translated by Brett Larner
The 55th Karatsu Road Race took place Feb. 8, starting and finishing at Karatsu Municipal Field in Saga. Marathon national team member Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) took his first Karatsu win in the men's 10 miles division in 47:12, outkicking Masatoshi Kikuchi (Team Fujitsu) and Naoki Kudo (1st yr., Komazawa Univ.). Yuka Takashima (Team Denso) won the women's 10 km divison in 32:33, likewise her first Karatsu title. Kiyoshi Koga (3rd yr., Tosu Kogyo H.S.) won the high school boys' 10 km in 29:48, while Yuki Yokoishi (3rd yr., Shiraishi H.S.) set a course record 16:48 in the high school girls' 5 km.
The win gave Sasaki momentum in his bid for the Beijing World Championships men's marathon team. Sasaki ran mid-pack in the lead group until late in the race, unconcerned when other runners started throwing in surges with 2 km to go. His own move to the front came with just 1 km left. "My experience in the marathon helped me not to do the work up front, instead just riding the flow," he said. "That was pretty much the way I thought the race was going to go." With a new 10 mile PB by 6 seconds he was more than satisfied.
At the New Year Ekiden Sasaki ran the longest stage, the 22.0 km Fourth Stage, where he was only 15th, but after running mileage on a tough course at a training camp in Ayamachi, Miyazaki in mid-January his condition began to pick up. "My results today were in line with my training and confirmed that I'm in good shape," he nodded.
Sasaki's next race is March's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon where he hopes to make the World Championships team. Last year he was 2nd in the Karatsu 10-Miler in preparation for Lake Biwa, where he ran a PB 2:09:47 for 2nd, the top Japanese finisher and his first time sub-2:10. "Things are moving along the same way as last year," he said. "This year I want to run 2:08 and be the top Japanese man, and I think that will get me to the World Championships." The 29-year-old captain of the prestigious Asahi Kasei team is clearly confident of his chances.
In the high school boys' 10 km, Koga struggled with brutal 30 kph north winds but still came out with a PB by 4 seconds. Koga held back for the first 3 km before taking advantage of a slight weakening of the headwind to take control of the race. "I didn't run the kind of time I was hoping for, but I did achieve my goal of winning," he said happily. After graduating next month he will join Fukuoka's Yasukawa Denki team where he hopes to run the New Year Ekiden.
The high school girls' 5 km came down to a photo finish, both of the top two getting the same time of 16:48 but coming down to a ruling that Yokoishi had crossed the line first. Despite having set a new course record Yokoishi was disappointed, saying, "My target time was 16:20, so this wasn't good enough." Following her graduation she will join the Kyudenko team in Fukuoka, where she hopes to continue to grow as an athlete.