by Brett Larner
Sakamoto photo c/o Yichen Ding
The 100th Japanese National Track and Field Championships were the weekend's main event, but there was no shortage of road racing action at home and abroad. The Hakodate Half Marathon was the most major, this year featuring the addition of a full marathon division for the first time. 2015 Marugame Half Marathon winner Paul Kuira (Konica Minolta) took another Japanese half title, pushing through rain and winds for the win in 1:03:14 over a small pack including Charles Ndungu (Komori Corp.), defending champion Michael Githae (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and Tomohiro Tanigawa (Konica Minolta). Just a week after setting the 50 km national record, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) pushed up through the field late in the race to pass ten people in the last 5 km for 5th overall in 1:04:24. Sayo Nomura (Daiichi Seimei) took the women's half in 1:13:02, while Tokyo-based amateur Takehiko Gyoba became Hakodate's first marathon champ in 2:26:54.
Across the island of Hokkaido the Lake Saroma Ultramarathon was also going down in similarly tough conditions. Tatsuya Inagaki (Mishima RC) took the men's 100 km title in 6:37:05, with Hisayo Matsumoto (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) outrunning Mai Fujisawa (Sapporo Excel AC) by less than three minutes for the women's 100 km win in 7:39:51.
Jilin International Marathon with support from JRN. Following up on a season that saw her DNS at January's Osaka International Women's Marathon when her children came down with the flu, DNS a few weeks later in Tokyo when she herself came down with the flu, and DNF in freezing rain while leading during her title defense in Zurich in April, Sakamoto finally put it all together to take 4th in 2:37:57. Kenyans Agnes Barsosio and Sylvester Teimet won in 2:34:15 and 2:14:23.
In Europe, 2015 Gold Coast Airport Marathon winner Risa Takenaka replicated Sakamoto's result with a 4th-place finish in 1:12:53 in hot conditions at the Czech Republic's Olomouc Half Marathon. The great Mary Keitany (Kenya) won in 1:08:53, while Kenyan Olympic marathoner Stanley Biwott won the men's race in a solid 1:00:46.
Sakamoto photo © 2016 Yichen Ding, all rights reserved
text © 2016 Brett Larner, all rights reserved