Conditions were on the humid side for the second meet in the four-part Hokuren Distance Challenge series Wednesday in Fukagawa, Hokkaido, but that didn't stop the fast times.
In the race of the day, Benard Kibet Koech (Kyudenko) went out front in the men's 10000 m from the gun, opening a lead of more than 5 seconds over a small chase pack led by Bedan Karoki (Toyota) at just over 27:20 pace. Karoki reeled Koech in over the second half, but when he was caught Koech didn't lie down, fighting back and retaking the lead repeatedly. With 200 m to go it looked like Karoki would get away, but in the home straight Koech came back again to win in 27:14.84, a PB and the fastest time in the world so far this year. Karoki was next in a quality 27:15.97, with Cleophas Kandie (MHPS) 3rd in 27:51.19. Tatsuhiko Ito (Honda), one of the stars of the Second Stage at this year's Hakone Ekiden, running a 60-second final lap to clear 28, taking 4th in 27:58.43 in his corporate league debut. 3000 m world leader Dan Kiplangat also got under 28 at 27:59.95 for 5th.
The women's 10000 m was full of marathon heavyweights, led by 2020 Olympic marathon team members Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) and Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal), and 2:21:36 woman Yuka Ando (Wacoal). All three broke away from the rest of the field early on 31:40 pace. Ando was the first to drop away, taking 3rd in 32:15.38, followed by Nagoya winner Ichiyama, who landed 2nd in 32:03.65. Maeda, winner of last September's Olympic marathon trials and who went on to break marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi's 30 km national record in February and run a 5000 m PB earlier this month in Shibetsu, took 40 seconds off her PB with a world-leading 31:34.94 for 1st. Maeda ran the Olympic trials like a medalist and has gone from strength to strength since then. Let's hope there's an Olympics for her to shine in, and a legit shot at Noguchi's marathon NR if there isn't.
Men's 5000 m A-heat winner Benard Kimeli (Fujitsu) came up 5 seconds short of a world-leader in a close race against Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu) and Richard Yator Kimunyan (Hitachi Butsuryu), winning in 13:16.61 to Ndiku's 13:17.98 and Kimunyan's 13:18.76. Hiroki Matsueda (Fujitsu) was the fastest Japanese man of the day, running a PB 13:26.25 for 7th. 19-year-old Ren Tazawa (Komazawa Univ.) ran a PB 13:37.28 for 11th, but in the B-heat 18-year-old Yamato Yoshii (Chuo Univ.) almost equalled him with a 13:38.79 PB for the win. If there are chances for the two of them to go head-to-head over the next year there should be some great racing ahead.
Top Japan-based Kenyan Rosemary Monica Wanjiru (Starts) dominated the women's 5000 m A-heat, taking 5 seconds off her PB for the win in 15:03.49. After a stellar marathon debut in Nagoya in March and a 3000 m PB on the 4th, Sayaka Sato (Sekisui Kagaku) clipped a second off her best for 2nd in 15:26.66. Performances were also good in the 3000 m and 3000 m steeplechase, with a PB 8:41.35 from Nozomi Tanaka (Toyota Jidoshokki), who dipped under the NR this time after miscounting laps last year, runner-up Hellen Ekarare (Toyota Jidoshokki) 2nd in 8:43.33 and an 8:48.12 breakthrough for 3rd and all-time JPN #3 from 19-year-old Kaede Hagitani (Edion), and a 9:53.50 in the steeple from top collegian Reimi Yoshimura (Daito Bunka Univ.).
Next up in the Hokuren Distance Challenge series is the July 15 Abashiri meet. Check back closer to race date for live streaming and other info.