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Record Attempts on Deck at Birell Prague Grand Prix 10 km

Saturday night's Birell Prague Grand Prix 10 km looks set to be the biggest race of the weekend.

Returning to Prague after both going under Paula Radcliffe's 10 km world record of 30:21 en route to more world records at April's Prague Half Marathon, Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya) and Violah Jepchumba (Bahrain) will face off again in a race that organizers hope will produce the first-ever women's sub-30 clocking on the roads. In April Jepkosgei clocked 30:04 and Jepchumba 30:05 at the Prague Half, and with decent temperatures around 20˚C and moderate winds forecast for the evening race the chances look good.

Fancy Chemutai (Kenya), Netsanet Gudeta (Ethiopia) and Kayoko Fukushi (Japan/Wacoal) have all cleared 31 minutes on the track or roads and could factor into the second pack with solid performances, but whether any is up for being paced by three men to go under 30 minutes is a question mark. Fukushi in particular has taken it relatively easy since the Rio Olympic marathon and has not cleared 33 minutes on the road or track this year. Pre-race in Prague she looked tanned and relaxed, laughing readily and noncommittal about her goals. Fukushi already holds the Asian road 10 km record of 30:52, but it would be a big jump up in her post-Rio fitness to give that kind of time a serious go come Saturday.

There will be no world record attempt in the men's race, but organizers do hope to see the 27:28 course record taken further. The pair of pacers are set to go out under 27:20 pace, a time that only Benard Kimeli (Kenya) has cleared on the roads but one that should be in range of sub-27 track 10000 m man Jemal Yimer Mekonnen (Ethiopia) and Mathew Kimeli (Kenya), 27:14.44 on the track earlier this year. Defending champion Abraham Kapsis Kipytaich (Kenya/Asahi Kasei) is also back, saying pre-race that he thinks that kind of pace might be a bit too hot for him but having a change of heart at the press conference and indicating he was ready to roll with the leaders as fast as needed.

Among the six other sub-28 men in the field, the three members of Japan's 2015 Beijing World Championships 10000 m team have come back together in a chance reunion. After a memorable debut at February's Tokyo Marathon, Yuta Shitara (Honda) will run Prague as a last tuneup before the Berlin Marathon later this month where he hopes to run 2:07. Shitara told JRN he will try to run with the other Japanese men in Prague and see where it gets him.

All-time Japanese #2 on the track at 27:29.74, Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei) is in Prague at the tail end of a trip on the late-summer European track circuit. Yoroizaka told JRN that he is in decent shape but has been suffering some stomach discomfort after eating something dodgy while training in Italy over the last week.

U18 national record holder Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei) is the only one of the three in Europe specifically for the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10 km, running with support from JRN and trying again for the Japanese road 10 km national record after a failed attempt at May's Ottawa 10 km. At Friday's pre-race press conference Murayama was unambiguous about his goals if a little less brash than in Ottawa, saying in English, "My goal is to run under 28:05, because that is the Japanese national record." The 27:35 Asian record may be a stretch at this stage, but with good weather, a solid group around them and a smart and controlled race Murayama and/or the others should be able to take the national record into more respectable sub-28 territory.

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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