Thursday, November 24, 2016

Weekend Preview: Five Big Races in 48 Hours

by Brett Larner

A big weekend of racing on the track and roads lies ahead.

Saturday the Tokyo area hosts not one but two massive 10000 m time trial meets.  The Hachioji Long Distance meet at Hosei University has grown to become one of the world's leading races at that distance over the last few years, the site of a 27:29.69 Japanese national record by Kota Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) last year.  The A-heat at this year's race will be targeting 27:45 ahead of next summer's London World Championships with pacing by Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC) and features the tantalizing debut of Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.).

At the same time as Hachioji, many of Japan's best collegiate men who didn't race at last weekend's record-setting Ageo City Half Marathon will be taking on 10000 m at Keio University's Kanto Region University Time Trials. Last year Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University put eight of its men under 29 minutes in one heat at Keio.  This year seven of its best are entered in the A-heat, so expect more.  Unlike Hachioji, Keio also features women's races, with the A-heat set to go for sub-32:30.  Click here for a more detailed preview of both meets.

The next morning a solid field lines up at the Kumamoto Kosa 10-Mile Road Race.  A tuneup for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national corporate men's championships, Kosa is far and away the world's #1 10-miler.  This year's field includes sub-61 half marathoner Keijiro Mogi (Team Asahi Kasei), 2:07:39 marathoner Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), Rio Olympians Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.), Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) and Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda), former Hakone Fifth Stage star Daichi Kamino (Team Konica Minolta) and many more.

Many university women not racing at Keio will instead be running the second of the season's three big university women's ekidens, the Nikko Irohazaka Ekiden.  All uphill, Irohazaka is an interesting event that puts the women's season on almost an equal footing with the three-race university men's ekiden season.  Course record holder and defending champion Daito Bunka University returns as the favorite after taking 5th at last month's National University Women's Ekiden, the top placer there entered in Irohazaka.

Further to the north, corporate women will run the Queens Ekiden, their national championship race.  Moved up several weeks this year from its traditional mid-December date, the Queens Ekiden is now in direct conflict with the Saitama International Marathon, one of the races the JAAF uses to pick its national team.  22 teams will race the six-stage, 42.195 km ekiden where defending champion Denso set a 2:14:22 course record last year.  Japan Post features Rio Olympians Ayuko Suzuki and Hanami Sekine, but with the fitness of both a question mark its chances look tough.  Yamada Denki may be a more solid pick for a breakthrough this year.  JRN will cover the race live on @JRNLive starting at 11:50 a.m. Japan time on Sunday.

© 2016 Brett Larner
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