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Weekend Road Race Roundup

There was too much going on this weekend to cover everything, but out of the major road race results the final regional qualifiers for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships led the way. In the Kansai region, new transfer Hazuma Hattori got things rolling for the NTT Nishi Nihon team with the top spot on the 12.6 km opening leg, and the rest of the team never looked back. NTT won in 3:56:46 for the full 80.45 km distance, 4th man Ayumu Kobayashi getting special recognition for the only new stage record of the day, 26:21 for the 9.5 km 4th leg. SGH, Otsuka Seiyaku, Sumitomo Denko and Osaka Gas picked up the remaining qualifying spots, with the Osaka Police Department missing out by 1:08 in 6th.

The Chubu and Hokuriku regions ran their qualifying races together, with the top 7 Chubu teams and winning Hokuriku team scoring New Year places. Like NTT, Toyota led start to finish to lead the qualifiers, first runner Tatsuya Maruyama getting things moving and anchor Hideyuki Tanaka bringing them home for the win by almost 2 minutes in 3:54:41 for the 80.5 km full course. Toyota's Chihiro Miyawaki, running as part of a non-scoring select team, broke the 12.2 km 5th leg CR with a solid 35:18. Almost 15 minutes separated 7th-place Chuo Hatsujo from 8th-place Infinity RC, making you wonder what the point really was. YKK took the top Hokuriku spot in 4:03:33 by less than a minute over Sekino Kyosan.

Now coached by former half marathon NR holder Atsushi Sato, the Chugoku Denryoku team was back on top in the Chugoku region, where four New Year spots were in contention. Chugoku Denryoku started in 3rd and didn't manage to run down leader Chudenko until the 5th leg with a stage best from Yuta Mikami. Over the last three stages he, Shunya Kikuchi and Shogo Kanezane managed to turn that into an almost 2-minute lead over Chudenko, winning in 4:00:20 for the 80.8 km course. 4th-placer JFE Steel was almost 16 minutes ahead of 5th-placer Takeda Yakuhin, making you wonder again, what's the point of mandatory qualifying races when everybody who could qualify is guaranteed to?

At the East Japan Women's Ekiden in Fukushima, the Tokyo team came from exactly a minute behind at the start of the 10.0 km anchor stage to win by 1:01 over longtime leader Chiba with a 31:08 stage best from anchor Hitomi Niiya. Chiba anchor Nana Sato only managed a 33:09 for 5th on her stage but held on to 2nd overall. Continuing a great comeback season, Saitama anchor Minami Yamanouchi also went under 32 minutes, a rarity on the East Japan course, with a 31:48, moving up from 7th to take 3rd overall.. Kanagawa anchor Haruka Yamaguchi was 3rd on stage time in 32:42, moving Kanagawa up from 5th to 4th.

One of the main fall half marathons on the Kanto region university men's circuit, Tokyo's Setagaya 246 Half Marathon returned with a 1:02:43 win from Peter Kamau (Kokushikan Univ.). Last year's winner Yuto Tanaka of 2022 Hakone Ekiden champ Aoyama Gakuin University was 2nd in 1:03:04 and 2022 Izumo and National University Ekiden winner Komazawa University's Mahiro Yoshimoto 3rd in 1:03:31. Hiromi Masaki won the women's race in 1:25:37. AGU runners dominated at the Miyako Salmon Half Marathon, 2021 winner Aoi Ota making it two in a row with a 1:03:06 for 1st and women's winner Natsumi Nakashima also repeating in 1:26:52.

Road 5 km races aren't really a thing at the elite level in Japan, but at the new Fst in Fukuoka (not a typo) Ohori Park run on Saturday local corporate leaguer Benard Koech (Kyudenko) ran 13:21 for the win in the men's race over Sitonik Kiprono (Kurosaki Harima), 2nd in 13:26, and Isaac Ndiema (Kenya), 3rd in 13:30. Hyuga Endo (Sumitomo Denko) was 7th in 13:50, technically a new NR in the little-raced distance. Teresiah Muthoni (Daiso) had an easy win in the women's race in 15:22, with Nozomi Tanaka (Toyota Jidoshokki) just holding off Rebecca Mwangi (Daiso) for 2nd, 15:34 to 15:39. Like Endo's time, Tanaka's was technically a new NR but still in easy range of any top-level Japanese woman who took a halfway serious stab at it. Australians Stewart McSweyn and Georgia Griffith won the road miles in 4:00 and 4:34.

Sunday in Fukuoka the mass-participation Fukuoka Marathon returned with a field of 11,000. Koichi Tsukamoto won the men's race in 2:28:24, Seika Iwamura taking the women's race in 2:51:34. 10,212 people finished the Okayama Marathon, where Daito Bunka University grad Hiroo Toyota took 1st in 2:18:31. Women's winner Natsuki Tomii set a new course record of 2:48:10. 4,446 people finished Nagano's Matsumoto Marathon, where local legend Junichi Ushiyama lost out to invited runner Yuki Kawauchi 2:20:25 to 2:27:17. Tomomi Sawahata followed up on her win at last week's Gunma Marathon with another win in 2:52:40. Another large marathon, the Tsukuba Marathon, also took place Sunday in Ibaraki, but as of this writing results are not yet available.

© 2022 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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