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National Corporate Women's Championships, A Potential National Record and More - Weekend Preview



It's always a busy weekend of racing in Japan, this weekend as much as any. Saturday's main event is the Hachioji Long Distance meet at Tokyo's Hosei University. In the last few years Hachioji has become one of the world's premier track 10,000 m, the site of the current Japanese national record two years ago. The big question mark this year is half marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda) in the A-heat. After running the 1:00:17 national record and a 2:09:03 PB on back-to-back weekends at the end of September is he ready to tackle the 27:29.69 national record? It'll take a big improvement on his 27:42.71 best, but not as much as what he did in breaking the half marathon record.

Also up Saturday night is the Kanto Region University 10,000 m Time Trials meet at Kanagawa's Keio University. While the very top university men will turn up at Hachioji, most looking to sharpen their times ahead of their coaches' final team selections for the Hakone Ekiden will run at Keio. Defending Hakone champ Aoyama Gakuin University will be a heavy presence in the A-heat which is scheduled to chase the 28:20 qualifying standard for next year's National Championships 10,000 m. Smaller time trial meets will also be going on in Kyoto and Saga.

A few university men will run Sunday's Koedo Kawagoe Half Marathon, the last significant half before Hakone, but for the most part Sunday is all about women's running. First and foremost is the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships in Sendai. Now in its second year being held in November instead of December, the Queen's Ekiden as it is known will be a race to beat defending  national champions Japan Post, whose top trio of Olympians and World Championships team members Rina Nabeshima, Hanami Sekine and Ayuko Suzuki is without a doubt the best in Japan. Japan Post beat Daiichi Seimei by just 13 seconds over 42.195 km last year, but Daiichi Seimei looks to be down somewhat in strength this year and sets up others to step up. Last year Daihatsu finished only 16th, but with the return of talented young marathoner Sairi Maeda from a long injury cycle they should be in position to challenge for the eight-deep podium. The race will be broadcast live on TBS starting at 11:50 a.m. local time. Follow @JRNLive for more coverage throughout the race.

Further south in Tochigi, top university women's teams will be facing off at the second of the season's big three ekidens, the all-uphill Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden. After just missing the national title at October's Morinomiyako Ekiden, two-time Nikko champ Daito Bunka University will be giving Nikko a miss this year, leaving the door open for last year's 2nd and 3rd-placers Osaka Geidai and Tokyo Nogyo to land 1st. For Osaka it would be its first Nikko win, while for Tokyo it would be a return to the top after winning the inaugural edition three years ago.

Sunday's main marathon action comes at the Osaka Marathon, one of the world's ten biggest marathons with 29,431 finishers last year. As the number of mass participation marathons in Japan continues to grow and races struggle to differentiate themselves from the competition Osaka has become a sort of unofficial amateur women's championship race. Led by mother of three Yoshiko Sakamoto (F.O.R.) who last year became the first-ever Japanese winner in Osaka, all six of Japan's current sub-2:40 amateur women are set to run, with the most interesting duel being between Sakamoto and last year's 3rd-placer Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall), who beat Sakamoto and exactly tied her Osaka winning time of 2:36:02 at September's Volksbank Muenster Marathon in Germany. Newcomer Marie Imada (Iwatani Sangyo) could be their biggest threat.

Also Sunday is the Asian Marathon Championship at China's Dongguan Marathon. 2:28:19 runner Keiko Nogami (Juhachi Ginko) will represent Japan on the women's side after runner-up finishes at the 2015 Gold Coast Airport Marathon and this year's Hokkaido Marathon. Shogo Kanezane (Chugoku Denryoku) will be the men's representative with a 2:14:15 best.

© 2017 Brett Larner,, all rights reserved

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Fukushi Leads Wacoal to Top of Wild National Corporate Women's Ekiden Qualifier

In one of the wildest elite-level ekidens in memory, half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi ran her best race in almost 3 years to anchor the Wacoal team to the win at the Princess Ekiden, the qualifying race for next month's National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships.

The field of 27 teams raced 6 stages totaling 42.195 km for one of 14 spots at Nationals alongside last year's top 8. Things were complicated by the disqualification of 2017 national champion Universal Entertainment, which found itself back at the Princess Ekiden to requalify. Sayaka Sato got things off to a good start for Sekisui Kagaku, winning the 7.0 km First Stage in 22:36 just off the CR. 4 seconds back was Shiori Yano, whose Canon AC Kyushu team missed Nationals by a minute last year. and another 5 seconds behind was Miku Daido of the debuting Iwatani Sangyo team.



Coached by marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi's former coach Hisakazu Hirose, Iwatani Sangyo's next …

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
           …

Weekend Road Race Roundup

Saturday's Hakone Ekiden Qualifier half marathon was the main event of the weekend, but between that and early ekiden season track time trials across the country there were a few other notable results at home and abroad.

In Sendai, the second running of the Tohoku Miyagi Fukko Marathon took place, an event launched last year to commemorate those lost in the 2011 tsunami and to show the area's recovery. In its first running organizers brought in then-future 2:06 man Hiroto Inoue to lead the field. This year it was 2017 Gold Coast Marathon winnerTakuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), who took more than 5 minutes off the course record with a workout-effort 2:18:37 for the win. Aki Odagiri (Takemura Seisakusho) won the women's race in 2:46:07.

In Toyama, 2018 Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran the Namerikawa Hotaruika Half Marathon a week after a disappointing run at the Chicago Marathon. Running completely solo he won in 1:05:18, beating 2nd place b…