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Osaka International Women's Marathon Leads Weekend Action (updated)

Championship ekiden season wrapped last weekend, but there's still a lot going on this weekend. First up, Keita Sato (Komazawa Univ.), who holds five U20 national records from 1500 m through 10000 m and ran a 59:22 half marathon equivalent at the Hakone Ekiden just over 3 weeks ago, tunes up for February's Millrose Games 2-mile with an indoor 5000 m at the Boston University Terrier Classic Friday night in his first race since turning 20. Sato has only run one indoor race before, a 3000 m silver medal at last year's Asian Indoor Championships, but the indoor NR of 13:27.81 is sure to be a target. The quick transition from Hakone isn't easy, but based on his 27:28.50 10000 m in November, the Asian indoor AR of 13:08.41 could be in range too.

Three big road races dominate the horizon on Sunday. First up is the Katsuta Marathon in Ibaraki. Now in its 71st year, Katsuta has a mass participation field of 10000 with another 5000 m in its 10 km. Although it's got a hilly course it has had pretty good winning times in the past, with course records of 2:11:17 and 2:28:17 in the marathon and 29:07 and 31:55 in the 10 km. Former 10000 m and marathon NR holder Yoko Shibui set the women's 10 km record and 2006 Doha Asian Games silver medalist Kiyoko Shimahara the women's marathon record, so top-class athletes do turn up there sometimes. Streaming, below, starts at 10:10 local time Sunday with the marathon starting at 10:30.

Starting at noon is the Osaka Half Marathon, an addition to the Osaka International Women's Marathon that has grown into one of the season's major races, a preferred tune-up for people running the Osaka Marathon a month later. Yuka Ando (Wacoal) and Ethiopian Desta Burka (Denso) lead the women's field with recent bests of 1:08:13 and 1:09:31, with Hiroto Hayashida (Mitsubishi Juko) the favorite in the men's race at 1:00:38. But with another 7 men having recent times under 1:01:30 and another 12 under 1:02:00 it'll be a thick pack up front. Streaming up top starts at 11:50. Entry list highlights are here.

The main event at 12:15 is the Osaka International Women's Marathon. Along with Nagoya in March, Osaka Women's is one of two chances for Japanese women to take the 3rd spot on the Paris Olympic marathon team away from Trials 3rd-placer Ai Hosoda, which would take a 2:21:41. Top-ranked Japanese entrant Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) has run that kind of time before, winning Osaka Women's two years ago in 2:20:52, and both Sayaka Sato (Sekisui Kagaku) and Tokyo Olympics marathon team member Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) have run within a minute of it, so it's realistic to think it could happen. The weather is looking pretty close to perfect at this point, with temps of 9˚~10˚C, clouds, and very light winds. But if anyone does pull it off, they'll still be vulnerable to the people running Nagoya.

Workenesh Edesa (Ethiopia) is the favorite with a 2:18:51 in Berlin two years ago, and with a 2:20:23 in Hamburg last spring Stella Chesang (Uganda) is pretty well-positioned to pull whoever ends up on top of the Japanese race to a good time. Other international women will also be going for Olympic spots, either by a top 5 finish in the platinum label Osaka Women's, by hitting the 2:26:50 standard, or by trying to break into the last few spots in the 80-deep Olympic quota. With five German women having run under the standard Katharina Steinruck will have to run under 2:24:32 to move into the 3rd-ranked spot. That would take a PB of 1:28.

South Korea's Daeun Jeong would need an even bigger improvement on her 2:28:32 PB to hit the standard, but even just a 2:27:17 would be enough to get her into the 80-deep Olympic quota. With Osaka Women's being a platinum label race there are a lot of placing points to be had that would push her higher up the rankings, making Jeong the most likely bet for a new addition to the potential Olympic field even if it won't be easy for her to stay there through the spring season without the standard.

Entry list highlights are here. Fuji TV's broadcast of Osaka Women's starts at 12:00, and if you've got a VPN you can watch it on TVer here. JRN will cover it on @JRNLive.

Update: On Jan. 26 the Osaka International Women's Marathon announced the withdrawal of eight athletes, most notably Ethiopian Sisay Meseret Gola and the debuting Hina Yanagitani (Wacoal).

© 2024 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Stefan said…
Physically, I think the 3 top Japanese women marathoners Mizuki Matsuda, Sayaka Sato and Honami Maeda are capable to achieve the time standard to oust Ai Hosoda from the Olympic 3rd place position. And it appears the weather conditions couldn't be much better. However, just from a layman's perspective of observing their recent performances I have doubts on whether it will be done. Mentally, I just don't detect the same intensity and drive. I hope I am proven wrong and it is an exciting race that raises the stakes to a climax at March's Nagoya marathon, the way it did 4 years ago. I am really looking forward to watching this one.

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