Defending Champions Betsy Saina and Edward Waweru will defend their titles at Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon

Last year's winners Betsy Saina and Edward Waweru, both of Kenya, return to the Feb. 3 Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon, but in both cases they have tough competition.

Ranked #1 in the women's race is Mao Ichiyama with a 1:09:14, three seconds better than Saina's winning time last year. Three seconds slower is Sinead Diver with a 1:09:20 on home ground last year.

America's Sara Hall, isn't far behind, and with track star Ayuko Suzuki, making her debut off a brilliant run at last weekend's National Women's Ekiden it should be a solid pack up front.

In the men's race, 2017 marathon world champion Geoffrey Kirui leads the way, his best recent time a 1:00:04 in New Delhi two years ago. Only two seconds behind is Shadrack Kiplagat, with Evans Cheruiyot and the Japan-based Waweru just over 20 seconds back.

Waweru's condition is a question mark after an injury at the New Year Ekiden. Kenta Murayama leads the home crew, with an interesting duo from Chuo University, Ken Nakayama and Kensuke Horio, hoping to improve on their sub-62 bests.

Jack Rayner is another interesting addition, while Germany's Richard Ringer will be making his debut off a 27:36.52 track 10000 m best.

posted Tuesday January 15th