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Kiplagat and Tadese Lead Busy Weekend of Road Action

It's another busy weekend on the roads across Japan. Two-time marathon world champion Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) and men's half marathon world record holder Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea) top the bill at Sunday's Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon. Kiplagat is the fastest woman in the field, her main competition coming from Sara Hall (U.S.A.) and the Japanese trio of Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal), Michi Numata (Toyota Jidoshokki) and Mai Ito (Otsuka Seiyaku). In something of a slump since the Rio Olympics, Japanese national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal) is also on the entry list.

The somewhat grizzled Tadese is the only man in the field with a recent time under 60 minutes, but just back is a thick group of nine sub-61 men led by Japan-based Kenyan Bernard Kimani (Yakult) and Japanese national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda). Along with Shitara, all five of the other still active Japanese men to have broken 61 are entered, making it the greatest Japanese half marathon field ever assembled. Expect to see the top few on the Japanese national team at next month's Valencia World Half Marathon Championships. More on the Marugame field here.

Later the same day is the first elite men's marathon of the Japanese season, the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. 2014 winner Abraham Kiplimo (Uganda) returns to face a Japanese field hungry for places at the MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials. The top Japanese man in Beppu-Oita has to break 2:11 and the next five sub-2:10 to make the trials, something at least three Japanese men in the field, Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima), Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and Tomohiro Tanigawa (Konica Minolta) have a shot at pulling off. Local hero Ikuto Yufu (Fujitsu), a four-time National University Ekiden stage winner while at Komazawa University, is a scratch in his debut, but former Toyo University runner Ryu Takaku (Yakult) could be the Japanese wildcard in the field. A free live stream of TBS' broadcast should be available here starting at 11:50 local time Sunday, with live English commentary @JRNLive. More on the Beppu-Oita field here.

Along with Marugame, Japanese university runners will also be lining up at two other good-quality half marathons Sunday. The Kanagawa Half Marathon has grown into a sub-63 race in recent years and should be fast pending the outcome of weekend snow in the Tokyo/Yokohama area. Further north, the Moriya Half Marathon is smaller but typically gets turnout from Hakone Ekiden schools Chuo Gakuin University, Nittai University and others. At the tail end of his three-week mini ekiden season, marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) will run the Saitama Ekiden Sunday for his workplace club team.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Upcoming race schedule: Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan
Mar. 25: Kuki Half Marathon, Saitama
Apr. 16: Boston Marathon, U.S.A.
May 5: Toyohirakawa Half Marathon, Hokkaido
June 2: ASICS Stockholm Marathon, Sweden
June 17: Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon, Shimane
July 1: Gold Coast Airport Marathon, Australia
Aug. 2…