Along with Saturday's The Fst in Fukuoka there was a lot going on on the roads this weekend across the country, but the biggest results were on the track. Saturday at the Nittai University Time Trials, Margaret Akidor (Comodi Iida) soloed a 14:47.71 Olympic standard 5000 m, over a minute faster than runner-up Kana Mizumoto (Edion) who ran 15:49.25. Akidor's coach reported her splits as 2:53.7 - 3:00.3 - 2:59.9 - 3:00.8 - 2:52.2.
Charles Wanjiku Kamau (Musashino Gakuin Univ.) ran 27:40.58 to lead 10 men sub-28 in the fastest 10000 m heat, 5 of them Kenyan and 5 Japanese. Most notably, just 6 days after winning back-to-back stages at the National University Ekiden Josai University 2nd-year duo Victor Kimutai and Shoya Saito joined the sub-28 club, Kimutai 2nd in 27:41.04 and Saito 9th in 27:59.68. 3 other Josai runners were sub-29 in the B and C heats. Something has finally clicked at the Josai program this season, and together with great runs at Izumo and Nationals the results at Nittai make it one of the more exciting ones to watch at Hakone in January.
In the men's 5000 m fast heat on Sunday, Daniel Kosen (Fujitsu) led the way in 13:26.83, just a fraction of a second off his PB from September. Keita Yoshida (Sumitomo Denko) had a breakthrough run with a 13:27.66 PB for 3rd, the only Japanese runner among the 10 finishers. The B-heat was solid too, with Ryuto Kawahara (Goshima Minami H.S.) the fastest of 4 high schoolers to go sub-14 at 13:52.29.
Also Saturday, Kiyoto Suzuki (Asahi Kasei) was the fastest of the 5 men to go under 28:20 for 10000 m at the Kyushu Corporate Time Trials meet in Saga, 3 seconds off his PB at 28:12.70.
On the roads Sunday was one of the biggest ekiden days of the year, with four major races not even including high school events. At the East Japan Women's Ekiden in Fukushima, Tokyo anchor Yuka Masubuchi of Meijo University pulled off a last-minute reversal, overcoming a 28-second deficit to run down hosts Miyagi's Nado Kadowaki of Takushoku University and take the win in 2:18:35 for the 9-stage, 42.195 km course.
Following last weekend's East Japan Region Corporate Ekiden and Kyushu Region Corporate Ekiden, 4 other regions had their qualifying races for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships. In the Chubu Region, Toyota overcame an off run from Bedan Karoki on the 8.3 km 2nd leg, 3rd man Hideyuki Tanaka moving up from 5th to 1st and all 4 of its remaining men winning their stages to give Toyota the win by almost 2 minutes, 3:53:55 for the full 7-stage, 80.5 km course, 2:54.3/km average pace. In the Hokuriku Region, held together with Chubu, YKK won a close race over Sekino Kosan, 3:59:55 to 4:00:10 for the top spot, 2:58.8/km and a time that would have put them 5th among Chubu teams.
NTT Nishi Nihon had a relatively close win over SGH in the Kansai Region, covering the 7-stage, 80.45 km course in 3:56:03 to SGH's 3:56:55, 2:56.0/km for the winners. In the only real surprise, the Osaka Police Department team beat the Osaka Gas team for 5th, 4:00:43 to 4:02:40, but with Osaka Gas having had a runner in last month's Olympic marathon trials it didn't impact their qualifying status for the New Year Ekiden.
At the Chugoku Region race the Chugoku Denryoku team was back on top, defeating longtime leader Chudenko thanks to new stage records from its last two runners Shunya Kikuchi and Taira Omori that moved it into 1st and opened a 3:11 lead by race's end. Chugoku Denryoku totaled 3:59:55 for the 7-stage, 80.8 km course, 2:58.2/km average.
In other road races:
- Aoyama Gakuin University runners went 1-3 at the Setagaya 246 Half Marathon, with 1st-year Kenta Torii taking 1st in 1:02:34. 4th-place Takato Inage (Hosei Univ.) and 5th-placer Mahiro Yoshimoto (Komazawa Univ.) also made it under 63 minutes, further upping the ante for Hakone where AGU will be one of the main challenges to Komazawa's 2nd-straight triple crown. Club runner Koto Okuno (GRlab Kanto) won the women's race in 1:21:01.
- Other AGU runners were at the Miyako Salmon Half Marathon, where 2023 Hakone runner-up Chuo University's 1st-year Daichi Shibata dropped AGU's Sena Minawatari in the last km to take the win in a CR 1:03:26 in his half marathon debut.
- In marathons, the fastest men's time of the weekend was at the Matsumoto Marathon, where the unsponsored Daigo Tomimura won by over 13 minutes in 2:19:38 and Shinshu University student Saki Shimada the women's race by almost 11 minutes in 2:49:16.
- Yuki Morita (Saysky) won the Okayama Marathon men's race in 2:21:08, while Risa Shinozaki (Fudooka Club) turned in the fastest women's time of the weekend, a 2:44:05 CR for the win. A total of 13,627 people finished the race.
- Local heroes Asuka Tanaka (Runlife) and Chika Tawara (Amino Up) won the mass-participation Fukuoka Marathon in 2:22:15 and 2:48:43, Tawara downing Arisa Kawasaki by just 1:01 for the win.
- Takafumi Tomita won the Saku AC Makomanai Marathon in 2:31:53. Miyuki Shibata was the women's winner in 2:53:01.
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