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Saitama International Marathon Elite Field

With just over three weeks to go the Saitama International Marathon has released the elite field for its third running scheduled for Nov. 12, and it's a small one. A problematic event that carries the diminished legacy of the Tokyo International Women's Marathon and Yokohama International Women's Marathon, Saitama occupies a place in the national team selection process that should go to the far superior Tokyo Marathon women's race but remains out in the northwestern suburbs thanks to the sponsor and TV broadcast income it generates for the JAAF. But with a field like this, how much longer will it be able to generate any sponsor interest or income?

The move of the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships from mid-December to late November, just two weeks after Saitama, means that not a single corporate league woman is entered in Saitama's elite field. Not one. The home crowd is represented by 22-year-old Reia Iwade (Dome), who quit the Noritz corporate team earlier this year to go it alone, and 36-year-old Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL), Japan's only athlete to have ever been suspended for EPO. Both will be in contention for next year's Asian Games team, and if either makes the top six and runs under 2:28:00 or top three under 2:29:00 she will qualify for the 2019 MGC Race, Japan's new Olympic Trials event.

The Olympic connection is sure to add some excitement, but although Iwade is one of the more high-potential young runners in Japan right now it's pretty clear the win will probably be going to last year's champion, the formerly Japan-based Filomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya). Cheyech ran a course record 2:23:18 to win by almost three minutes last year, and with the next-fastest woman in the field, Iwade, only having run as fast as a minute and a half behind that mark Cheyech has room to spare. Shitaye Habtebegrel (Ethiopia) is the other main foreign competition with a 2:25:36 in Dubai last year. Look also for another former Japan-based Kenyan, Philes Ongori, in a return to the marathon for the first time since 2014.

The elite field is a women-only event, but behind it is a mass-participation race that last year had over 13,000 finishers. Fronting that part of the race is local hero Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), who for the second time in his career will be taking on marathons on back-to-back weekends. A week earlier Kawauchi will run France's Nice-Cannes Marathon where he hopes to achieve his first sub-2:10 win outside Japan.

The Saitama International Marathon will be broadcast live nationwide. Check back closer to race date for more information of following it live and options for watching online.

3rd Saitama International Marathon Elite Field

Saitama, 11/12/17
click here for detailed field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Women
Filomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) - 2:21:11 (Paris 2017)
Reia Iwade (Japan/Dome) - 2:24:38 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Shitaye Habtegebrel (Ethiopia) - 2:25:36 (Dubai 2016)
Philes Ongori (Kenya) - 2:26:59 (Yokoyama Women's 2014)
Kaori Yoshida (Japan/RxL) - 2:28:24 (Nagoya Women's 2017)
Monika Stefanowicz (Poland) - 2:28:26 (Hamburg 2016)
Charlotte Purdue (Great Britain) - 2:29:23 (London 2017)
Sinead Diver (Australia) - 2:31:37 (Nagoya Women's 2017)

Men
Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:09:01 (Gold Coast 2016)

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Lexicon

Betsudai - the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
daigaku - university
ekiden - a long-distance relay race
faito - a courseside audience cheer; see ganbatte
ganbatte (ganbare) - a courseside audience cheer; see faito
gasshuku - an intensive training camp
Hakone Ekiden - the annual university men`s championships
jitsugyodan - corporate-sponsored professional running teams
onsen - a hot spring
Q-chan - Naoko Takahashi, the 2000 Sydney Olympics women`s marathon gold medalist, Olympic record holder and first woman to break 2:20 in the marathon
rikujo - track and field, the marathon, and other running events
Rikuren - the JAAF
tasuki - the sash which is handed off during an ekiden
zannen - too bad
otaku - a nerdy, socially awkward person, usually male, who is obsessed with some esoteric topic

Race Entries

Races in Japan usually close entry at least a month beforehand, often much longer. They generally do not have race day entry and race organizers are not willing to make special exceptions for foreigners. If you are coming to Japan for, say, a business trip in two weeks, it is not possible to enter a race. If you are making longer-range plans then it may be possible to find a suitable event using the following services:

Samurai Running Japan is a long-standing entry service that focuses on smaller races to help overseas visitors "experience the 'real' Japan."  Along with entry it assists with accommodations and transportation.

Launched in September, 2015, Runnet Japan is an English-language branch of Runnet, Japan's dominant online entry service, catering to the international community.  The number of races offered on Runnet Japan is still limited but constantly expanding.

Other entry services like Sports Entry, TecNet and the new Sportsnavi Do still offer only Ja…