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Yamazaki, Ndirangu, Kamulu and Shitara Top Weekend Road Racing Action



Snow and cold impacted road races across Japan over the weekend, but at the top level almost every event went off as planned. In his marathon debut, Shota Yamazaki (Yakult) downed two-time defending champ Ryoichi Matsuo and debuting training partner Takumi Honda of the locally-based New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei corporate team to take the top spot at the Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon in a three-way sprint finish.

Shaking off first-timer Keisuke Tanaka (Fujitsu) late in the race, Yamazaki did all the work in the lead trio with the Asahi Kasei duo hanging off both of his shoulders. Hitting a bridge with 750 m to go Honda surged into the lead with Matsuo following. Yamazaki fell back, looking behind him with 500 m to go and seeming to have settled for 3rd. At 400 m to go Matsuo went to the front and looked to be on track to become only the second man to win Nobeoka three times, but as the pair rounded the final corner Yamazaki came back with a kick that left both his rivals behind.

Yamazaki took the win in 2:12:15 with Honda bettering Matsuo by 1 second for 2nd in 2:12:18. Matsuo's 2:12:19 was over a minute faster than his winning last year and just 8 seconds off his best, but outdone by the debuting duo ahead of him he fell short of the three-peat. 2017 women's winner Noriko Sato (First Dream AC) succeeded in becoming the first women's winner to defend in Nobeoka, beating rival Shiho Katayama (Saku AC Hokkaido) by 19 seconds to win in 2:56:40. Complete results available here.



Running in blowing snow at the National Corporate Half Marathon and 10 km Championships, the Kenyan pair of Charles Ndirangu (JFE Steel) and Pauline Kamulu (Route Inn Hotels) took the top spots in the long races. With the pace see-sawing between 2:53 and 2:59/km every 5 km, Ndirangu broke away after 15 km to run alone the rest of the way to his third national title in 1:01:55. In his first serious half marathon, 10000 m national record holder Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei) nearly ran Ndirangu down in the last kilometer, leading the Japanese chase pack to take 2nd in 1:02:00 less than a second ahead of Hideyuki Tanaka (Toyota), Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu) and Naoya Takahashi (Yasukawa Denki). For his breakthrough effort Murayama earned a place on Japan's team for next month's Valencia World Half Marathon Championships.

Kamulu, course record setter at December's Sanyo Ladies Half, soloed the women's race, leading by 19 seconds at 5 km and steadily lengthening her lead to win by almost a minute and a half in 1:09:40. Runner-up Yuka Hori (Panasonic) likewise ran the entire way on her own, a distant 2nd in 1:11:05 in her debut but still over a minute ahead of 3rd-placer Misaki Hayashida (Toyota Jidoshokki). Hori also earned a place on the Valencia team. Hayashida's teammate Yui Fukuda, winner of the accompanying women's 10 km last year in course record time, led rival Tomoka Kimura (Universal Entertainment) by 4 seconds at 5 km before opening up in the second half to win in 32:09, 8 seconds under last year's course record time. Kimura was the only other runner to clear 33 minutes, 2nd in 32:37. Complete results from all three races available here.

Marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) was scheduled to run the Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon Sunday, but after heavy snowfall on the west coast earlier in the week the race was cancelled. Kawauchi will regroup next weekend at the Kitakyushu Marathon, his second marathon of the year.


On an almost flawless roll since breaking the half marathon national record in September, Yuta Shitara (Honda) won his final tuneup for a planned shot at the marathon national record at the Tokyo Marathon, winning the Karatsu 10-Miler in 46:12 by a margin of 46 seconds over runner-up Yusuke Nishiyama (Toyota). Shunsuke Imanishi (Toyo Univ.) was just behind Nishiyama in 47:00 for 3rd. Members of Fukuoka's Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S. ekiden team took the top three spots in the women's 10 km, Sana Ichihara winning in 34:05. Complete results available here.

© 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
           …