by Brett Larner
It's a big weekend of racing across Japan. The 70th Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon leads the way with a shot at the Japanese men's national record as Konica Minolta teammates Masato Kikuchi, Keita Shitara and Tsuyoshi Ugachi, all 1:00:32 to 1:01:12 for the half marathon, line up with support from past winner Collis Birmingham (Australia), Goitom Kifle (Eritrea), track star Yuki Sato (Nissin Shokuhin) in his serious half marathon debut, and more. 2014 Asian Games marathon gold medalist Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) leads a women's field that includes 2015's top Japanese woman Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya), last year's winner Eloise Wellings (Australia), Canadian record hopeful Natasha Wodak and many more.
Likewise celebrating an anniversary year is the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in its 65th running. Not counting in the qualifying for the Rio Olympic team the home field is weaker than usual, Kenichi Shiraishi (Team Asahi Kasei) topping the list at 2:10:36 in Beppu two years ago. Ahead of Shiraishi are three solid sub-2:10 internationals, Evans Ruto (Kenya), Hailu Shume (Ethiopia) and Anthony Maritim (Kenya). One potentially interesting name in is marathon debut is Hiroto Kanamori (Takushoku Univ.), one of the stars of the ultracompetitive First Stage at January's Hakone Ekiden. With a 2:31:28 best amateur Hiroko Yoshitomi (First Dream AC) leads the women's race fresh off three marathon wins in the last three months.
Yokohama's Kanagawa Half Marathon also goes down Sunday, as always featuring a field packed with Hakone runners. Two-time Hakone champion Aoyama Gakuin University has two of its best, 2015 National University Half Marathon Tadashi Isshiki and 2016 Hakone Ekiden Eighth Stage winner Yuta Shimoda, on its entry list. Both Isshiki and Shimoda are set to make their marathon debuts at the end of the month at the Tokyo Marathon, Shimoda at the age of 19. Other university runners will line up further north at the Moriya Half Marathon. Northwest of Tokyo, Yuki Kawauchi will run his second ekiden of 2016, representing the Saitama Prefectural Government at the home ground Saitama Ekiden.
© 2016 Brett Larner
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