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Osaka Leads Weekend Action



Sunday's Osaka International Women's Marathon leads the way in Japanese road action this weekend. With qualification spots in the MGC Race 2020 Olympic Trials at stake for the home field there are three main questions:

  1. Can straight-arm specialist Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) duplicate her 2:21:36 debut in Nagoya last year after running badly at the London World Championships?
  2. Can Honami Maeda (Tenmaya), the only Japanese woman to have qualified for the MGC Race so far, run a fast marathon for real after conquering the heat to win August's Hokkaido Marathon in 2:28:48?
  3. What can last year's 10000 m national champion Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) do in her debut?
Eunice Jeptoo (Kenya) tops the international list with a 2:26:13 in Eindhoven last year, with the debuting Gotytom Gebreslase (Ethiopia) the wildcard, her best mark at distance a 49:56 at last year's Utica Boilermaker 15 km. 

Osaka will be broadcast live Sunday by Fuji TV starting at noon local time. A free live stream should be available here. For a detailed field listing click here. This year will also mark the 31st and final year that local heroes The Alfee have written and recording a theme song for Osaka, always a highlight of its broadcast.

Simultaneously with Osaka, the coed Osaka Half Marathon may sneak its way into the TV broadcast. If not, it's being streamed live here and on Youtube. Look for London World Champs men's 10th placer Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) in a tuneup run for April's Boston Marathon.

Also Sunday is the 66th running one of Japan's biggest marathons, the Katsuta Marathon. Every year top men and women from Katsuta end up at the Boston Marathon, Katsuta course record setter Shingo Igarashi (Josai Univ. Staff) going so far as to frontrun the first half of Boston in 2016 before suffering a stress fracture mid-race. Katsuta also features Japan's first fast road 10 km of the year.

In post-season ekiden action, a mix of central Japan corporate men's teams, universities and club teams will face off at the 81st running of the Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden. Live splits will be available here

Northwest of Tokyo, more top club and university teams will race the 64th Okumusashi Ekiden. A regular at Okumusashi with the Saitama Prefectural Government, London World Championships men's marathon 9th placer Yuki Kawauchi will take a rare turn on the 9.9 km First Stage. This year Cambridge University will field an alumni team for the first time. With a 28:45.48 best for 10000 m from Stanford last year Matt Leach will face Kawauchi for Cambridge on the opening leg. JRN will be on-site supporting Cambridge and covering the race live.

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Shiroyama's 8.40 m Jump Leads Four National Records at Athlete Night Games in Fukui

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MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier - Naoki Okamoto

Naoki Okamotoage: 35
sponsor: Chugoku Denryoku
graduated from: Tottori Chuo Ikuei H.S., Meiji University

best time inside MGC window:
2:11:29, 1st, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon

PB: 2:11:29, 1st, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon

other PBs:
5000 m: 13:37.71 (2009) 10000 m: 28:05.84 (2011) half marathon: 1:02:16 (2009)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
DNF, 2019 Beppu-Oita Marathon
1st, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon, 2:11:29 – PB
DNF, 2018 Boston Marathon

other major results:
4th, 2019 Shibetsu Half Marathon, 1:03:53
2nd, 2019 New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage (22.4 km), 1:05:13
1st, 2018 Chugoku Corporate Ekiden Sixth Stage (19.0 km), 56:25 – CR
1st, 2018 Ome 30 km Road Race, 1:33:09
21st, 2017 Tokyo Marathon, 2:13:53

We’re picking Okamoto as our official dark horse of the men’s race. The second-oldest man in a field, Okamoto is a journeyman corporate leaguer who never broke 2:12 and whose PBs all came a decade ago. But, nearing the end of his career, over the last two years he has really come on…

One Month Until the Japanese Olympic Marathon Trials

It's one month to go until what's bound to be the best marathon of 2019, Japan's 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon trials, the Sept. 15 Marathon Grand Championship Race. Up to now Japan has typically picked its Olympic and World Championships marathon teams based on performances in a series of specific races, primarily the Fukuoka International Marathon, Tokyo Marathon and Lake Biwa Marathon for men, and the Saitama International Marathon, Osaka International Women's Marathon and Nagoya Women's Marathon for women. This time around they're going with a U.S.-style one-shot trials race, the MGC Race.

People had a nearly two-year window from August, 2017 to April this year to hit tough standards to qualify. Only 34 men and 15 women made it, and after withdrawals for the Doha World Championships the MGC Race's final entry list is just 31 men and 12 women. Swedish Athletics Federation official Lorenzo Nesicalled it "the most difficult marathon race ever to quali…