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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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