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Yamazaki, Ndirangu, Kamulu and Shitara Top Weekend Road Racing Action

Snow and cold impacted road races across Japan over the weekend, but at the top level almost every event went off as planned. In his marathon debut, Shota Yamazaki (Yakult) downed two-time defending champ Ryoichi Matsuo and debuting training partner Takumi Honda of the locally-based New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei corporate team to take the top spot at the Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon in a three-way sprint finish.

Shaking off first-timer Keisuke Tanaka (Fujitsu) late in the race, Yamazaki did all the work in the lead trio with the Asahi Kasei duo hanging off both of his shoulders. Hitting a bridge with 750 m to go Honda surged into the lead with Matsuo following. Yamazaki fell back, looking behind him with 500 m to go and seeming to have settled for 3rd. At 400 m to go Matsuo went to the front and looked to be on track to become only the second man to win Nobeoka three times, but as the pair rounded the final corner Yamazaki came back with a kick that left both his rivals behind.

Yamazaki took the win in 2:12:15 with Honda bettering Matsuo by 1 second for 2nd in 2:12:18. Matsuo's 2:12:19 was over a minute faster than his winning last year and just 8 seconds off his best, but outdone by the debuting duo ahead of him he fell short of the three-peat. 2017 women's winner Noriko Sato (First Dream AC) succeeded in becoming the first women's winner to defend in Nobeoka, beating rival Shiho Katayama (Saku AC Hokkaido) by 19 seconds to win in 2:56:40. Complete results available here.

Running in blowing snow at the National Corporate Half Marathon and 10 km Championships, the Kenyan pair of Charles Ndirangu (JFE Steel) and Pauline Kamulu (Route Inn Hotels) took the top spots in the long races. With the pace see-sawing between 2:53 and 2:59/km every 5 km, Ndirangu broke away after 15 km to run alone the rest of the way to his third national title in 1:01:55. In his first serious half marathon, 10000 m national record holder Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei) nearly ran Ndirangu down in the last kilometer, leading the Japanese chase pack to take 2nd in 1:02:00 less than a second ahead of Hideyuki Tanaka (Toyota), Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu) and Naoya Takahashi (Yasukawa Denki). For his breakthrough effort Murayama earned a place on Japan's team for next month's Valencia World Half Marathon Championships.

Kamulu, course record setter at December's Sanyo Ladies Half, soloed the women's race, leading by 19 seconds at 5 km and steadily lengthening her lead to win by almost a minute and a half in 1:09:40. Runner-up Yuka Hori (Panasonic) likewise ran the entire way on her own, a distant 2nd in 1:11:05 in her debut but still over a minute ahead of 3rd-placer Misaki Hayashida (Toyota Jidoshokki). Hori also earned a place on the Valencia team. Hayashida's teammate Yui Fukuda, winner of the accompanying women's 10 km last year in course record time, led rival Tomoka Kimura (Universal Entertainment) by 4 seconds at 5 km before opening up in the second half to win in 32:09, 8 seconds under last year's course record time. Kimura was the only other runner to clear 33 minutes, 2nd in 32:37. Complete results from all three races available here.

Marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) was scheduled to run the Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon Sunday, but after heavy snowfall on the west coast earlier in the week the race was cancelled. Kawauchi will regroup next weekend at the Kitakyushu Marathon, his second marathon of the year.

On an almost flawless roll since breaking the half marathon national record in September, Yuta Shitara (Honda) won his final tuneup for a planned shot at the marathon national record at the Tokyo Marathon, winning the Karatsu 10-Miler in 46:12 by a margin of 46 seconds over runner-up Yusuke Nishiyama (Toyota). Shunsuke Imanishi (Toyo Univ.) was just behind Nishiyama in 47:00 for 3rd. Members of Fukuoka's Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S. ekiden team took the top three spots in the women's 10 km, Sana Ichihara winning in 34:05. Complete results available here.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved


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