It's a relatively quiet weekend ahead in the middle of Japan's busiest road racing season, but there are still four important races going on in the southern part of the country. The biggest is the National Corporate Half Marathon and 10 km Championships in Yamaguchi. Men's national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda) is entered in what would be his first race since catching the flu post-Fukuoka and leads the domestic component of a field that includes nine men with recent sub-1:02 times and a million more right on the cusp. If he runs his main competition is sub-60 man Paul Kuira (Konica Minolta). 61:30ish runners Keisuke Nakatani (Nissin Shokuhin) and Kengo Suzuki (Fujitsu) will be looking to make comebacks after long periods of injury.
The women's field is split between the half marathon and 10 km. Only three women in the half have broken 70 minutes before, Miho Shimizu (Hokuren) doing it the most recently with a 1:09:27 at Nationals in 2016. Shiori Yano (Canon AC Kyushu) is the most exciting newcomer in the field, one of the six women who cleared the Doha World Championships 10000 m qualifying standard in Yamaguchi in December. Two of the other qualifiers, Harumi Okamoto (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) and Yuka Hori (Panasonic) lead the 10 km, where two-time winner Yui Fukuda (Toyota Jidoshokki) is a DNS. The men's and women's half will be broadcast on delay on TBS starting at 14:00 local time Sunday.
The Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon is the weekend's highest-level full, a developmental-level race that saw its top four finish seconds apart in 2:12 last year. With a lot of 2nd and 3rd-tier men having taken a swing at Olympic trials qualification last weekend in Beppu-Oita the Nobeoka entry list is a bit thin this year, but two-time winner Ryoichi Matsuo (Asahi Kasei) is slated to be back again to try to win Nobeoka for the third time. Next-best on the entry list after Matsuo is Shingo Igarashi (Josai Univ. Staff), 2nd last October at the Osaka Marathon in 2:14:19, exactly two minutes behind Matsuo's runner-up mark in Nobeoka last year.
The Ehime Marathon is also Sunday, a longstanding mass-participation race with a sub-elite field that sometimes produces times in the top 25 best Japanese marks for the season. 2:15:05 amateur Naoki Inoue (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) leads the men's field, with Hiroki Shoi (Ehime Ginko) leading the women's field at 2:33:04.
The Karatsu 10-Miler rounds out the main action, with an interesting matchup between Jakarta Asian Games marathon gold medalist Hiroto Inoue (MHPS) and Ibusuki Nanohana Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ahead of their duel at April's Boston Marathon. Sub-62 half marathoners Ken Yokote (Fujitsu) and Takuya Fujikawa (Chugoku Denryoku) and 2:08:59 marathoner Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta) are also in the mix. Opting for Karatsu over Nationals, Yuka Takashima (Shiseido) leads the women's 10 km field with a track best of 31:33.33.
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