Friday the great Paul Tanui (Kyudenko) leads the show in the Time Trial in Nagasaki track meet, one of the few top-level Japan-based Kenyans not headed to Tokyo for the weekend. Speaking of Tokyo, also Friday is the Fuchu Tamagawa Half Marathon, once the top-level autumn half for university men but fallen on harder times. A few runners from local Komazawa University usually still line up in Fuchu.
Everyone but Tanui is headed to western Tokyo for Saturday's Hachioji Long Distance meet, one of the world's premier 10000 m races every year and site of the current Japanese national record. The man who set it, Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei) is one of two Japanese men entered in the A-heat, the other being 5000 m and marathon national record holder Suguru Osako (NOP). Murayama will be going for a time under the yet-to-be-announced Doha World Championships standard. All the other top Japanese men will be trying to break 28 minutes in the B-heat with pacing from Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu), who paced both 10000 m world leads set in Japan in October and earlier this month.
Five other heats lead up to the big two in Hachioji, but there are still two other 10000 m time trial meets in the Tokyo area Saturday. The very top university men will be in Hachioji, but most of the rest will be at Kanagawa's Keio University for the Kanto Region University Time Trials. Additional overflow will head to Saitama for the Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials. Among them is David Nilsson (Sweden), who set a Swedish national record of 1:02:09 at last weekend's Ageo City Half Marathon. Nilsson had hoped to run in Hachioji, but following the Bowerman Track Club's Chris Derrick and Andrew Bumbalough running Hachioji two years ago and Australia's Harry Summers last year, organizers made it their official policy this year to prohibit non-Japan-based athletes from entering. Considering Hachioji's stature as an event on the world calendar and principal sponsor Konica Minolta's position as a major international brand it's a highly regrettable stance to have taken.
Sunday there is yet another half marathon that typically pulls in Hakone-bound university men, this one Saitama's Koedo Kawagoe Half Marathon. But there's bigger action up north in Sendai, where the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships will be happening. Panasonic was elevated to the throne earlier this year when last year's winner Universal Entertainment was stripped of its title following a positive drug test by one member who had undergone surgery for women's issues months earlier. Universal Entertainment re-earned a place at Nationals at last month's dramatic qualifying race, where it will face Panasonic and qualifier winner Wacoal among others. TBS will broadcast the race live, with English-language coverage on @JRNLive.
Farther south the Osaka Marathon also happens Sunday, the mass-participation cousin to January's Osaka International Women's Marathon. With around 30,000 finishers Osaka is one of the world's ten biggest marathons, but it hasn't shown much interest in putting together an elite field concomitant with that scale of an event. On the men's side there are a trio of 2:11 to 2:12 Kenyans and a few others Japanese and otherwise one step down from there, the main attraction being 2014 Asian Games silver medalist Kohei Matsumura (MHPS).
The women's race, on the other hand, has evolved into something very interesting over the last few years, a sort of unofficial amateur women's national championships. All six current sub-2:40 amateur women in Japan are on the entry list, led by last year's winner Yumiko Kinoshita (Tokyo T&F Assoc.). 2:31 Moroccan Soud Kanbouchia is also in the field, but the heavy favorite is quasi-corporate leaguer Hiroko Yoshitomi, functionally an amateur who gets support from the tiny Memolead corporate team to run ekidens with them. Yoshitomi tuned up for Osaka two weeks ago with a 2:30:09 PB and CR at the Fukuoka Marathon and will be trying to go under 2:30 for the first time.
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