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Shitara Chasing 10 Mile National Record Sunday in Karatsu - Weekend Preview



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.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Kawauchi Wins 7th-Straight Okinoshima 50 km

Running the Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon on his late father's home island of Oki for the eighth year in a row, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:52:55 to win it for the seventh straight time. Starting strong on the relatively flat first 10 km where he clocked 33:26, low-2:47 pace, Kawauchi slowed to just over 2:50 pace on the course's toughest hills between 10 and 30 km. A sub-2:50 was still in range at that point, but over the last 20 km he faded further to finish in the second-slowest of his Okinoshima wins.



The day before the race Kawauchi paced children in Okinoshima's kids' run. Following that he greeted participants and local supporters at an expo event where he was hailed onstage as the Boston Marathon winner. As per his usual routine, his next race will be the July 1 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Kipchirchir and Chebii Take on Three Gold Coast Winners

The men's race at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon is usually a Kenya-Japan head-to-head, Kenya taking six wins and Japan three in the last ten years. With not a single Ethiopian in the field for this year's 40th edition it looks set for it to happen yet again.

Sub-2:10 Kenyans Victor Kipchirchir, Douglas Chebii, Philip Sanga and the Japan-based Michael Githae will line up to take on three of the race's last four winners, 2017 champ Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), 2015-16 winner and course record holder Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) and 2013 champ and perpetual top three placer Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't). Give the advantage to team Kenya in this bout, but as Noguchi and Kawauchi have proven Gold Coast is a race where Japanese men are legit contenders.

With the window for getting qualifying times for next year's MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials starting to close, the powers that be in Japan have taken note of the success of Noguchi and Kawauchi on the Gold Coast…

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
           …