The first meet in this year’s Hokuren Distance Challenge in Hokkaido was the main meet of the weekend, but there was more action near Tokyo than in a normal year too as organizers sought to keep the number of people in one location down. At the HDC Shibetsu Meet the men’s 3000 m was the highlight, with Yohei Ikeda (Kanebo) winning in 7:56.10 to lead the top eight under eight minutes. Even just five years ago it was rare to see more than one Japanese man break eight in an entire year, a sign of how much things have changed in both shoes and priorities.
Titus Wambua (SID Group) ran 13:22.49 for 1st in the men’s 5000 m A-heat, Kenyans sweeping the top four spots. In 5th Kotaro Kondo set a new school record for ekiden power Aoyama Gakuin University, running 13:34.88. 34-year-old Yuki Sato (SGH Group) was 6th in 13:35.74, bettering the time he ran at Nationals less than two weeks ago by 3 seconds.
Women’s results in Shibetsu were low-key, Sakiko Naito (Panasonic) taking the 3000 m A-heat in 9:15.57 and Aoi Nomura (Sekisui Kagaku) the 5000 m in 15:58.89. The Nittai University Time Trials in Kanagawa seemed to be more the meet of choice for women, Despite heavy rain, Tabitha Njeri Kamau (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) took the 3000 m A-heat at Nittai in 8:56.50, Narumi Kobayashi (Meijo Univ.) next in 9:02.54 and the top five all bettering Naito’s mark in Shibetsu.
Marathoner Mao Kiyota (Suzuki) won the women’s 5000 m in 16:00.50. Taiyo Yasuhara (Komazawa Univ.) won the men’s 5000 m A-heat in a PB 13:50.01 with teammate Yuto Akahoshi running 13:57.55 for 6th to give this year’s Hakone Ekiden champs 18 men with sub-14 bests for 5000 m. Ethiopian great Imane Merga (Yachioyo Kogyo) continued his comeback with a 13:54.17 for 3rd.
Complete results from Chiba’s Juntendo University Time Trials aren’t available yet, but eight Juntendo men broke 14 minutes for 5000 m there, Yusaku Nomura leading the way in 13:49.23. More results coming when they’re officially published.