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Kipsang Returns to 2018 Tokyo Marathon

A year after running the first-ever 2:03 on Japanese soil, Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) returns to lead the men's field for the 2018 edition of the Tokyo Marathon.

Women's champion Sarah Chepchirchir (Kenya), who likewise pulled off the first 2:19 within Japan at last year's race, is nowhere to be found, but in her place are 2017 runner-up Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia), sub-2:21 women Ruti Aga (Ethiopia) and Purity Cherotich Ronoripo (Kenya), 2016 Tokyo winner Helah Kiprop (Kenya), 2017 World Championships bronze medalist Amy Cragg (U.S.A.) and, in her debut, the great Meseret Defar (Ethiopia).

The restructuring of the Japanese Olympic team selection process opened the door halfway for Japanese women to take part in Tokyo, where they have in the past been barred from national team selection. No top-level women seem to have taken the bait, however, leaving the home crowd, a collection of recently-reitred and developing corporate runners and upper-tier amateurs, one level below the i…
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Osaka Kunei H.S. Beats Top Corporate and University Competition at Kitakyushu Women's Ekiden

In the last major women's ekiden of the season, 2016 National High School Ekiden champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. made up for their loss at the 2017 Nationals last month as they outran top corporate and university competition to win the 29th Kitakyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden.

5th on the opening leg, Osaka Kunei moved up to 2nd behind the Toto corporate women's team on the Second Stage thanks to a strong run from third-year Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu. Building on Takamatsu's momentum, third runner Ayaka Murao put Osaka Kunei 7 seconds ahead of Toto, fourth runner Hikari Takeuchi opening up their lead to 34 seconds, and its last two women Ami Taniguchi and Mai Misaki extending that to 48 seconds by race's end.

Scored in separate divisions, Osaka Kunei and Toto were each awarded 1st-place trophies, but as the first across the line Osaka Kunei was only the 2nd high school in Kitakyushu's 29-year history to take the top spot overall. Local power Kitakyushu…

Kawauchi Outruns 103 Teams to Win Yashio Isshu Ekiden

2017 London World Championships marathon 9th-placer Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) gave local club and high school runners something to remember when he ran Sunday's Yashio Shinai Isshu Ekiden solo against 103 six-runner teams. Kawauchi spent most of the 20.0 km race in 2nd, briefly taking the lead at the end of the 3.9 km Second Stage before falling behind after a Third Stage course record run by Kotaro Minowa (Matsudo T&F Assoc.).

Down 13 seconds, Kawauchi came back to split a time 14 seconds faster for the 2.7 km Fifth Stage than its fastest ekiden runner, Yusei Otsuki (Kasukabe H.S. A). Now ahead of Matsudo and out front alone, Kawauchi saved his biggest running for last, dropping a 2:40 final km to split 14 seconds under the 12:34 course record for the 4.0 km anchor stage. Desperate to catch him, Matsudo anchor Shunsuke Matsui went 6 seconds under the old record to become its official new holder but couldn't match Kawauchi's closing speed.

Kawauchi's…

Shitara Runs Down Defending Champ Nagano to Give Saitama 2018 National Men's Ekiden Title

Half marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara lived up to his pre-race words, running down everyone who stood between him and the finish line to bring Saitama Prefecture its second-ever national title at the 2018 National Men's Ekiden.

Defending champ Nagano, whose win last year gave it a record seven wins in the National Men's Ekiden's 21-year history, was the favorite for the win, its roster packed with members of 2017 National High School Ekiden winner Saku Chosei H.S. and 2017 Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University. Shitara was unfazed, saying pre-race that he'd run down anyone within 50 seconds of him on the 13.0 km anchor stage.

Nagano started strong, taking 2nd on the opening leg behind a nearly record-setting run from Ryuto Igawa (Kumamoto). Hoping for its first-ever top-three finish Ibaraki was unexpectedly strong, 5th on the leadoff leg, overtaking Nagano on the Second Stage and then advancing to 1st on the Third Stage thanks to a strong run from 2018 Hako…

The Alfee to End 31-Year Run of Osaka International Women's Marathon Theme Songs

At a Jan. 19 press conference in Osaka, Kansai Television CEO Sumio Fukui announced that rock band The Alfee, who for over 30 years have written and recorded a theme song for each edition of the Osaka International Women's Marathon, will sing for the final time at this year's 37th running on Jan. 28.



The Alfee began their string of marathon anthems with Osaka's 6th edition in 1987, producing memorable hits like "You Get to Run," "One Step," and the classic "Shining Run." Fukui expressed his gratitude to the band, commenting, "We cannot thank all the members of The Alfee enough for the 31 songs they have written for us."



At the same, Fukui looked to the future, saying, "In the marathon as well, as the Tokyo Olympics approach the selection process has changed and we have entered the days of a new generation. I hope to change our broadcast step by step as well and explore new ways to bring its excitement to the public. This step m…

Cheboitibin, Kiprono and Sonoda Top Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Elite Entries

With just over two weeks to go the organizers of the Feb. 4 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon have released their elite field for this year's race. With its history as an elite men-only race Beppu-Oita's women's field is still tiny given its status as an IAAF silver label race, but this year promises a good race between two local 2:32 women, 2016 winner Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) and Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu), that should see the 2:39:57 course record fall. Defending champ Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) also returns with a 2:38:43 PB from last fall that puts her range of the course record as well.

The men's race is heavier-duty, with a spot in the MGC Race Tokyo Olympic Trials available to the top Japanese man under 2:11:00 and to up to five others if they clear 2:10. Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima) and Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) are the only Japanese men in the field to have run those kinds of times in the last couple of years, and with support from 2:09~2:10 men

Rio Olympian Ito Heads Elite Field of 21 at Kumanichi 30 km

On Jan. 16 the organizers of the Feb. 18 Kumamoto-jo Marathon announced the elite field of 21 women and men for the 62nd running of the accompanying Kanaguri Kinen Kumanichi 30 km Road Race. Rio de Janeiro Olympics women's marathoner Mai Ito (Otsuka Seiyaku), 2012 Kumanichi men's champion Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Konica Minolta) 2018 Hakone Ekiden MVP Keisuke Hayashi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) top the entry lists.

Seven corporate league men are on the entry list, which features Ugachi's teammate Gen Hachisuka (Konica Minolta), 28:15 10000 m runner Masato Terauchi (Aichi Seiko) and 2012 runner-up Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu). Along with eight university men will also be in the race including two of the runners responsible for Toyo Univesity's 2018 Hakone Ekiden Day One win, Shuji Yamamoto and Akira Aizawa, and local Kyushu Gakuin H.S. graduate Shota Nakagawa (Nittai Univ.).

The women's field consists of six athletes including Ito. 2016 runner-up Mami Onuki (Sysmex), twins Yoko