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Weekend Road Racing Preview

Sunday's Saitama International Marathon leads a busy weekend of women's racing across the country. 4th in August's London World Championships marathon, last year's winner Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) returns to lead the tiny elite field of six internationals and two domestic women. Cheyech's strongest competition is Japan's Reia Iwade (Dome), the former under-20 marathon record holder who abruptly quit the Noritz corporate team earlier this year to go the solo route. Whether her new situation finds her ready to go remains to be seen. Close behind and maybe a more likely bet to stay with Daniel is Shitaye Habtegebrel (Ethiopia). Iwade, Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) and any other Japanese women in the general elite field will have the chance to qualify for Japan's 2020 Olympic Trials race if they go under 2:29:00.

Starting 30 minutes after the elite women, Saitama also features a coed mass participation field. Local poster boy Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) will run just a week after racing France's Nice-Cannes Marathon, just the second time in his career that he has run marathons on back-to-back weekends. With the 30 minute stagger putting the elite women out of range Kawauchi hopes to do better than his disappointing 2:15:02 in Nice. Anything better than 2:18:50 will add another course record to his resume. Watch the NTV broadcast of Saitama at 9:00 a.m. local time Sunday.

To the east in Fukushima, the East Japan Women's Ekiden is one of two major women's ekidens happening Sunday. A prelude to January's National Women's Ekiden, it features teams from the eighteen prefectures making up eastern Japan. Each team consists of the top junior high school, high school, university and corporate runners from that prefecture, with all the teams racing for regional supremacy. The Shizuoka team has pulled in the biggest pre-race headlines, its roster prominently featuring London World Championships marathoners Yuka Ando and Mao Kiyota, both of the Suzuki Hamamatsu AC team. East Japan will be broadcast live on Fuji TV starting at noon on Sunday, 10 minutes after the Saitama International Marathon broadcast ends.

Simultaneous with East Japan, the Fukui Super Ladies Ekiden pits top corporate, university and club teams against each other in a rare match-up. Newly-crowned national champion Meijo University is the heavy favorite, their toughest collegiate competition coming from Osaka Gakuin University, 4th at last month's Nationals, with last year's National Corporate Women's Ekiden 4th-placer Kyudenko leading the pros. Fukui TV's local broadcast goes out at noon Sunday.

Other high school, university and corporate league women will race 3000 m and 5000 m on the track Saturday at the Nittai University Time Trials meet. Men including 14 Japan-based Kenyans and former Aoyama Gakuin University and Komazawa University aces Tadashi Isshiki (GMO) and Ikuto Yufu (Fujitsu) will line up in the 10000 m A-heat, with other men including William Malel (Honda) and Ronald Kwemoi (Komori Corp.) due to run one of Sunday's 40 heats of 5000 m. Also Sunday, runners from the Tokai UniversityAoyama Gakuin University and Komazawa University men's ekiden teams lead the field for the mass-participation Setagaya 246 Half Marathon in Tokyo. Continuing the qualification round for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships, the Kansai Region holds the 60th edition of its Corporate Men's Ekiden Championships. Likewise for the Chugoku Region.

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Kawauchi Wins 7th-Straight Okinoshima 50 km

Running the Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon on his late father's home island of Oki for the eighth year in a row, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:52:55 to win it for the seventh straight time. Starting strong on the relatively flat first 10 km where he clocked 33:26, low-2:47 pace, Kawauchi slowed to just over 2:50 pace on the course's toughest hills between 10 and 30 km. A sub-2:50 was still in range at that point, but over the last 20 km he faded further to finish in the second-slowest of his Okinoshima wins.



The day before the race Kawauchi paced children in Okinoshima's kids' run. Following that he greeted participants and local supporters at an expo event where he was hailed onstage as the Boston Marathon winner. As per his usual routine, his next race will be the July 1 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Kipchirchir and Chebii Take on Three Gold Coast Winners

The men's race at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon is usually a Kenya-Japan head-to-head, Kenya taking six wins and Japan three in the last ten years. With not a single Ethiopian in the field for this year's 40th edition it looks set for it to happen yet again.

Sub-2:10 Kenyans Victor Kipchirchir, Douglas Chebii, Philip Sanga and the Japan-based Michael Githae will line up to take on three of the race's last four winners, 2017 champ Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), 2015-16 winner and course record holder Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) and 2013 champ and perpetual top three placer Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't). Give the advantage to team Kenya in this bout, but as Noguchi and Kawauchi have proven Gold Coast is a race where Japanese men are legit contenders.

With the window for getting qualifying times for next year's MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials starting to close, the powers that be in Japan have taken note of the success of Noguchi and Kawauchi on the Gold Coast…

Japan's 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon to be Held September 15, 2019

On June 15 the JAAF announced the date and course for the Marathon Grand Championship Race, or MGC Race for short, its new almost-one-shot trials race that will determine at least two of the three members of its men's and women's marathon teams for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The MGC Race will be held 11 months prior to the Olympics on September 15, 2019. The winners of the MGC Race will be named to the 2020 team, with either the 2nd or 3rd placer also named to the team depending on whether either has broken a fast standard, 2:05:30 for men and 2:21:00 for women. The remaining top three placer will have to wait until March, 2020 to find out whether they will be included on the team or passed over in favor of someone who clears another fast standard in one of the big six domestic elite marathons in the winter of 2019-20.

The MGC Race course will closely follow the already announced Olympic course, the only key exception being a start and finish in the Jingu Gaien district nearby …