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Kajiwara Gets 2016 Off to Fast Start, Kawauchi and Yoshitomi Break Ibusuki Nanohana CR - Weekend Road Race Highlights

by Brett Larner
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The 2016 road race reason got started early in Japan with at least four quality half marathons and one of the world's biggest marathons all happening Sunday.  Aritaka Kajiwara, a former teammate of Yuki Kawauchi's on the Hakone Ekiden's Kanto Region Select Team who quit the Press Kogyo corporate team mid-fall to go independent, ran a 1:02:45 course record to win Tochigi's Takanezawa Half Marathon by a second over Kinari Ikeda, an alternate for last week's Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University who broke 1:03 for the first time.  Aoyama Gakuin first-year Homare Morita made a quality half marathon debut in 1:03:01 for 3rd, Ikeda and Morita reassuring Aoyama Gakuin that it has the depth to maintain a solid lineup after four of this year's winning members graduate in March.

Further south in Oita, former course record holder Fumihiro Maruyama (Asahi Kasei) ran solo to repeat his 2010 Oita City Half Marathon win, 2 1/2 minutes ahead of the runner-up and just off his old time in 1:03:42.  Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu) won the women's race in 1:15:22, her teammate Minori Goto taking the women's 10 km in a course record 34:11.  Local high schooler Sota Ito (Oita Tomei H.S.) broke 30 in the men's 10 km, running 29:58 for the win.  Another road 10 km at the South Japan Long Distance Meet in nearby Kagoshima saw the top two dip under 30 as Kenyan first-year Geoffrey Gichia (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) outran independent Yusuke Tobimatsu for the win 29:50 to 29:55.

After a mostly disappointing 2015, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref Gov't) got his 2016 started the right way as he returned to the Ibusuki Nanohana Marathon, also in Kagoshima.  Running with a sprained ankle last year Kawauchi won in 2:24:10, the slowest marathon time of his career.  Fit this year he hoped to run 2:15 to 2:16, and with no competition at all he did just that.  Running an even pace throughout the race, he crossed the finish line in a new course record of 2:15:14, the first man in Ibusuki Nanohana's 35-year history to break 2:20 and just the third to win it two years in a row.  2nd place was almost 17 minutes back.  Alongside Kawauchi, Japan's #1 amateur woman Hiroko Yoshitomi (First Dream AC) scored her third marathon win in the last two months with a 2:45:22 course record in the women's race.  Her margin of victory was even more overwhelming than Kawauchi's, beating the runner-up by 21 minutes.  Yoshitomi plans to run both the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon and Tokyo Marathon in February, going for the 2:31:28 PB she set in Tokyo three years ago.

© 2016 Brett Larner
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