At least five major races fill the calendar this weekend across Japan. Potentially the biggest is the Karatsu 10-Miler, where half marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda) is slated to run in what many hope will be a shot at the antique national record. Over 30 seconds faster than the American national record, Hisatoshi Shintaku's 45:40,has stood since 1984 and survived over three decades of assaults including Shitara's 45:58 at December's Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler. It translates to 42:34 for 15 km; at last weekend's Marugame Half Shitara went through 15 km in 42:39. Just two weeks out from a shot at the Japanese national record for the marathon will Shitara try to add another national record to his resume en route to Tokyo?
Many of his corporate league brethren and sistren will be lining up at the National Corporate Half Marathon and 10 km Championships. Historically the world's deepest competitive men's half marathon and second-deepest women's half, the National Championships are a race that the powers that be use to choose the few corporate league athletes they will allow to compete overseas at the half marathon distance later in the year. This year that includes spots on the Valencia World Half Marathon team. Most notable on the men's side is 10000 m national record holder Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei) who has yet to run a serious half despite his twin brother and teammate Kenta Murayama's success at that distance. The women's race has been somewhat diluted by the addition a few years back of a road 10 km division, but it still produces fast times up front. Yukiko Akaba's 2013 winning time of 1:08:59 was the last time a Japanese woman has broken 1:09. TBS will broadcast the National Corporate Half on delay at 2:00 p.m. Sunday Japan time.
Record-breaking snow has hammered much of Japan's west coast this winter, but Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) is still set to run the Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon in Izumo, Shimane armed with fresh cold weather experience. Izumo will be a tuneup for his second marathon of 2018, next weekend's Kitakyushu Marathon.
The Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon is Sunday's major elite-level marathon. Defending champs Ryoichi Matsuo (Asahi Kasei) and Noriko Sato (First Dream AC) return, Matsuo looking to become only the second man in Nobeoka's 56 years to win three straight titles and Sato the first in the short four years of history in the women's race to repeat. Takumi Honda (Asahi Kasei) and Yusei Tsutsumi (JFE Steel) are especially interesting among the first timers in the men's race.
Formerly one of Japan's three big 10-milers, the mass-participation Himejijo Marathon will also happen Sunday. JRN will be on-site to film the first episode of our new TV show to be broadcast worldwide on NHK World in mid-March.
Championship ekiden season is three weeks gone but there's still no shortage of post-season road relay action. The biggest is Sunday's Chugoku Women's Ekiden, held in Hiroshima.
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