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Kiplagat and Tadese Lead Busy Weekend of Road Action

It's another busy weekend on the roads across Japan. Two-time marathon world champion Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) and men's half marathon world record holder Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea) top the bill at Sunday's Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon. Kiplagat is the fastest woman in the field, her main competition coming from Sara Hall (U.S.A.) and the Japanese trio of Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal), Michi Numata (Toyota Jidoshokki) and Mai Ito (Otsuka Seiyaku). In something of a slump since the Rio Olympics, Japanese national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal) is also on the entry list.

The somewhat grizzled Tadese is the only man in the field with a recent time under 60 minutes, but just back is a thick group of nine sub-61 men led by Japan-based Kenyan Bernard Kimani (Yakult) and Japanese national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda). Along with Shitara, all five of the other still active Japanese men to have broken 61 are entered, making it the greatest Japanese half marathon field ever assembled. Expect to see the top few on the Japanese national team at next month's Valencia World Half Marathon Championships. More on the Marugame field here.

Later the same day is the first elite men's marathon of the Japanese season, the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. 2014 winner Abraham Kiplimo (Uganda) returns to face a Japanese field hungry for places at the MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials. The top Japanese man in Beppu-Oita has to break 2:11 and the next five sub-2:10 to make the trials, something at least three Japanese men in the field, Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima), Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and Tomohiro Tanigawa (Konica Minolta) have a shot at pulling off. Local hero Ikuto Yufu (Fujitsu), a four-time National University Ekiden stage winner while at Komazawa University, is a scratch in his debut, but former Toyo University runner Ryu Takaku (Yakult) could be the Japanese wildcard in the field. A free live stream of TBS' broadcast should be available here starting at 11:50 local time Sunday, with live English commentary @JRNLive. More on the Beppu-Oita field here.

Along with Marugame, Japanese university runners will also be lining up at two other good-quality half marathons Sunday. The Kanagawa Half Marathon has grown into a sub-63 race in recent years and should be fast pending the outcome of weekend snow in the Tokyo/Yokohama area. Further north, the Moriya Half Marathon is smaller but typically gets turnout from Hakone Ekiden schools Chuo Gakuin University, Nittai University and others. At the tail end of his three-week mini ekiden season, marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) will run the Saitama Ekiden Sunday for his workplace club team.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Kawauchi Breaks Nobeyama Ultra Course Record

2018 Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) won the longest race of his career to date Sunday in Nagano, taking over six minutes off the Yatsugatake Nobeyama Kogen 71 km Ultramarathon in 4:41:55.

A training run for next month’s Stockholm Marathon, Kawauchi set off solo at a steady pace around 3:45/km. Climbing from 1355 m to 1908 m as he approached 20 km he naturally slowed, but with over 1000 m of descent over the next 30 km he was soon back on track. Hitting the marathon split around 2:39, he was so far ahead of the 2nd placer that the announcer initially forget Kawauchi had already gone by and announced the next runner as the leader.

At 58 km Kawauchi was on track to clear 4:30:00, but hitting the uphills in the final 10 km and feeling the effects of the unfamiliar distance he slowed to almost 5:00/km. But with so much leeway to work with there was never any danger of the 4:48:13 course record slipping out of reach. Kawauchi stopped the clock in 4:41:55, please…

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …