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