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Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half that put him 5:56 under the previous course record of 2:17:42 set by Shinji Tateishi in Kitakyushu's first running in 2014. Along with the course record, Kawauchi extended his record for most career sub-2:12 marathons to 26.

Both of Kawauchi's younger brothers were also in the race. Middle brother Yoshiki Kawauchi (Jaybird) was 3rd in 2:22:44, with youngest brother Koki Kawauchi (Mediafoam) 6th in 2:30:05. In the women's race, Linda Janthachit (Thailand) was a surprise winner in 2:49:56, only the seventh Thai woman to ever break 2:50 in the marathon.

Just across the island of Kyushu in Kumamoto, the Kumanichi 30 km, the world's most competitive race at its distance, saw an exciting race that came down to a sprint finish. Favorite Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu), winner of the 2016 edition of the tougher Ome 30 km, found himself up against newcomer Keisuke Hayashi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) who last month broke future half marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara's Seventh Stage record at the Hakone Ekiden and helped give AGU a fourth-straight Hakone title.

Oshikawa and Hayashi ran in a large pack through 15 km on a solid low-1:29 pace before an early break from Katsuya Kawasumi (Daito Bunka Univ.) shook things up. Trailed by others the pair ran Kawasumi down by 25 km, raising the pace bit by bit to burn off their other competition. In the home straight Hayashi got the edge on Oshikawa to cross the finish line in 1:29:47, the fastest winning time at Kumanichi since 2014. Oshikawa was a step behind in 1:29:48, with 3rd-place Gen Hachisuka (Konica Minolta) the only other man to clear 1:30 at 1:29:56.

Women's winner Yuko Watanabe (Edion) also emerged on top in a close race, winning in 1:47:17 by a margin of 11 seconds over Nanayo Okamoto (Osaka Gakuin Univ.). Veteran Hiroko Miyauchi (Hokuren) was another 4 seconds back in 3rd in 1:47:32. Watanabe's time was the slowest women's winning time at Kumanichi since 2010. In the accompanying mass-participation Kumamotojo Marathon, Hiroaki Fukukawa (Kumamoto Univ.) took the top men's spot in 2:20:50 with 2016 women's winner Yumi Sakai (Memolead) breaking her own course record for the win in 2:48:24.

Next behind Kumanichi on the world 30 km road race rankings, the Ome 30 km went off just after Kumanichi wrapped. With a slow first half on the tough net uphill section of the Ome course a group of 9 or 10 men stayed together through 20 km before the action began. Among them was Takayuki Matsumiya (Aichi Seiko), course record holder in Kumanichi, Japanese national record holder and former world record holder for 30 km, running Ome three days before his 38th birthday.

Oshikawa's teammate Kento Otsu (Toyota Kyushu) went to the front after 20 km to cut the lead pack down to five including Matsumiya, but on the flatter final 5 km it was another veteran, Naoki Okamoto (Chugoku Denryoku), who got away for the win in 1:33:09. Matsumiya was just 5 seconds short of a miracle, 2nd in 1:33:14 by 1 second over the much younger Koki Tanaka (Kanebo).

In the women's race a lead trio made up of Yuri Nozoe (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), Maki Ashi (Kyudenko) and Kaori Yoshida (RxL) worked together in the initial stages, Danna Herrick (U.S.A.) alone in 4th ahead of two-time winner Asami Kato (Panasonic). Yoshida soon lost touch, leaving Ashi to take control after 20 km and run the last third of the race alone for the win in 1:44:14. Nozoe fell far behind but kept hold of 2nd in 1:47:29 ahead of Yoshida's 1:48:02 for 3rd. Herrick's position stayed unchanged at 4th in 1:49:31, Kato more than 10 minutes off her previous winning times in 1:54:45 for 5th. Yuka Sarumida (Univ. Ent.) won the accompanying women's 10 km in 33:18.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved


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