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Masaki Shimoju Wins Kumanichi 30km Road Race

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translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Feb. 24 individual entrant Masaki Shimojo (Team Konica Minolta) won the 52nd Kumanichi 30 km Road Race in Kumamoto in 1:30:33. He became only the 3rd individual entrant to ever win the event, the last being Tomoya Shimizu (Team Sagawa Express) 2 years ago. Only 2 women were entered in the race, but winner Miho Notagashira (Team Wacoal) set a new course record by 13 seconds, running 1:44:00.

Although windy conditions prevented a predicted 1:29 finish time, the men's race yielded the first dead heat finish in years. It started with a slow pace. At the 10 km point, Kodai Tanabe (Team Mazda) broke from the lead pack and opened a gap, but at the halfway point it looked likely that the finish time would be in the 1:33 range. The chase pack retook Tabe at the 18 km point and the 8 runners in the pack stayed together for the rest of the way, picking up the pace. With 1 km to go, Kazuyuki Maeda (Team Konica Minolta) launched his last spurt; it looked as though it would be enough for him to seal the win, but in the final meters Shimojo slipped by his teammate Maeda to take the win. Maeda was 1 second behind in 2nd, with Takaaki Koda (Team Asahi Kasei) another 2 seconds back in 3rd. Tanabe finished 16th.

Shimojo's victory as an individual entrant marks him as a new force on the jitsugyodan scene. He has been known as a speed runner since his high school days and as a student at Toyo University, but along with other young jitsugyodan runners such as Koda, his success here after moving up from university is sure to act as inspiration to his juniors. Komazawa University's Hideyuki Anzai also had an excellent run, finishing 5th in 1:30:40.

In the women's race, Notagashira ran alone right from the start in her 1st appearance at Kumanichi in 2 years. 2nd place belonged to Chiyuki Mochizuki (Team Yamada Denki). After the race Notagashira commented, "I was aiming for a 1:43, but the headwinds in the first half were pretty strong so I couldn't do it. I'm really disappointed with this result." Notagashira's time at the turnaround was 51 seconds slower than 2 years ago. She ran the race with her coach Yukio Mihara acting as pacemaker. Mihara told reporters, "I told her to run smart and use the runners around her to block the wind, but even though she was able to pick up her pace in the 2nd half it wasn't good enough to meet our target time." Notagashira was 7th on the 1st stage of last December's All-Japan Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden, a result with which she was satisfied. She has a tendency to be inconsistent in her races, however, and considered her Kumanichi course record a bad performance. "Next up will be the All-Japan Jitsugyodan Half Marathon in March where I'll be running against Mizuki Noguchi. I'll be shooting for one of the top positions," Notagashira predicted.

2nd place finisher Mochizuki has been suffering from liver problems since last fall. "To be honest, I was just happy to finish," she said of her performance, 4 minutes slower than last year's time. "If all goes well I'll be running the Beijing Marathon in September."

Makoto Kojo (SDF Track Club North Kumamoto) had the best performance by a Kumamoto prefectural resident, 40th in 1:39:00. "I really wanted to break 1:40 this year," Kojo commented at the awards ceremony. He was 1 minute behind pace at the halfway point, but ran well and was on track at 25 km. Koda was unable to run the final 5 km with the speed he hoped, but he still managed to break 1:40 and finish 3 minutes faster than his result from his previous Kumanichi best. Kojo ran in high school and university but since beginning work has found it difficult to make time to train, sometimes missing a week of practice at a time but often running early in the morning or late at night to get his workouts in. He has run in the Kyushu Ekiden for the last 3 years. Kojo, 28, became a father last August. "I love running," he said, "I'd like to keep running until she's old enough to understand how hard I try. I think that'll be at least until I'm 35."

Conditions at the start were 4.5 degrees, with 0.7 m/s NNE winds and 67% humidity.

Click here for complete results with splits. Men's results are linked on top, women's results below.

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