Wednesday, March 1, 2017

JAAF Announces Japanese Team for Kampala World Cross Country Championships

The Japanese national team for the Mar. 26 World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda:

Senior Men's 10 km
Kosei Yamaguchi (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 28:34.19
Shota Maeda (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 28:59.86
Yuma Higashi (Team Kyudenko) - 29:14.78
Haruki Ono (Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:18.49
Yamato Otsuka (Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:22.18

Senior Women's 10 km
Mao Ichiyama (Team Wacoal) - 32:15.73
Kaori Morita (Team Panasonic) - 32:27
Yuki Hori (Team Panasonic) - 32:40
Fumika Sasaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 33:37

Junior Men's 8 km
Keita Yoshida (Sera H.S.) - 13:50.67
Ryo Saito (Akita Kogyo H.S.) - 13:53.75
Kazuya Nishiyama (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 13:54.16
Ryunosuke Chigira (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 14:07.42
Sodai Shimizu (Rakunan H.S.) - 14:12.57
Yoji Sakai (Suma Gakuen H.S.)

Junior Women's 6 km
Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 8:58.86
Rika Kaseda (Narita H.S.) - 9:05.64
Yuka Sarumida (Toyokawa H.S.) - 9:07.07
Wakana Kabasawa (Tokiwa H.S.) - 9:08.54
Hikari Onishi (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 9:18.74
Hayaka Suzuki (Tokiha Gakuen Kikugawa H.S.) - 9:22.77

2017 United Airlines NYC Half to Feature Strongest-Ever Japanese Contingent at a New York Road Runners Race


The 2017 United Airlines NYC Half on Sunday, March 19, will feature a five-strong contingent of top athletes from Japan including university standouts Rintaro Takeda and Kenta Ueda racing against some of the world’s best runners, highlighting both the strength of the event’s international field and New York Road Runners’ partnership with the Ageo City Marathon.

“We are excited to bring in the most talented group of Japanese runners we’ve ever had at a New York Road Runners event,” said Peter Ciaccia, president of events for New York Road Runners and race director of the TCS New York City Marathon. “NYRR’s partnership with the Ageo City Marathon continues to improve each year and is one of the many reasons NYRR serves as the world’s premiere community running organization. Having both professional and university athletes from Japan racing the United Airlines NYC Half this year will showcase what NYRR does to help propel the careers of international runners to the next level.”

Since 2012, NYRR has held an official partnership with Japan’s Ageo City Marathon, in which the top two Japanese collegiate finishers from the event are invited to run the United Airlines NYC Half the following spring. The Ageo City Marathon’s name is an homage to the New York City Marathon, which was already well-established when the Ageo race was founded back in 1988. Known for its incredible depth, it’s also a popular participatory event, with nearly 9,000 finishers across its half marathon, 5K, and youth 3K.

In last year’s university division alone of the half marathon, 63 men ran the course under 64 minutes under a blanket of heavy fog. Waseda University senior Rintaro Takeda caught and passed Yamanashi Gakuin University sophomore Kenta Ueda in the final 200 meters, with both earning their spots at the 2017 United Airlines NYC Half. Takeda’s 1:01:59 was the third-fastest performance ever by a collegian in the race.

Joining them on the United Airlines NYC Half course in March will be Kenta Murayama in the men’s race, Misato Horie in the women’s race and Kota Hokinoue in the men’s wheelchair race.

Murayama, 24, of Sendai, finished in 10th place in his NYC Half debut in 2013 in 1:02:02. He had earned his spot in the professional athlete field of the race by winning the Ageo City Half Marathon the year prior in 1:02:46. Now holding a best of 1:00:50, his participation in 2017 marks the first time an athlete from the Ageo partnership has returned to compete as a corporate runner. In 2015, he finished 22nd over 10,000 meters at the IAAF World Championships and then took ninth in the distance in 2016 at the Japanese Championships.  “When I ran the NYC Half while in university, it was to find out for myself, how long can I hang with the best in the world?” Murayama said. “I'm coming back this year not to hang on, but to race with them. When I run the marathon in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, I think a good race here in New York will be an incredibly valuable part of being a contender there.”

Horie, 30, of Kobe, is coming off a personal-best marathon of 2:25:44 at the Osaka Marathon in January and will be making her road racing debut in New York City. In 2016, she just missed qualifying for the Rio Olympics when she took second at the Osaka Marathon.

Hokinoue, 42, of Fukuoka, is a three-time Paralympian making his United Airlines NYC Half debut. He’s been wheelchair racing since 2002, just two years after he injured his spine in a motorcycle accident. Hokinoue has raced the New York City Marathon four times, with his best finish being third place in 2011. He owns a World Championship bronze medal from the 2013 IPC Athletics Marathon, and he finished seventh in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Marathon.  “I’m very excited to take part in the United Airlines NYC Half for the first time,” Hokinoue said. “It will be a different race for me, competing against those I usually race in a full marathon. I will be planning for the course carefully and will be preparing my race plan to win the event.”

The 2017 United Airlines NYC Half will feature 20,000 runners from more than 90 countries in the 13.1-mile race, which starts in Central Park, heads uptown through Harlem then back through famed Times Square to the finish line near Wall Street in downtown Manhattan.  The event will be broadcast live in the New York area on WABC-TV, Channel 7 and will be shown internationally via a variety of global broadcast partners.

Takeda, Ueda and Murayama will be running the 2017 United Airlines NYC Half with support from JRN.

2017 United Airline NYC Half Elite Fields
New York, U.S.A., 3/19/17

Men
Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) - 59:22
Callum Hawkins (Great Britain) - 1:00:00
Teshome Mekonen (Ethiopia) - 1:00:27
Abdi Abdirahman (U.S.A.) - 1:00:29
Stephen Sambu (Kenya) - 1:00:41
Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) - 1:00:46
Kenta Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:00:50
Diego Estrada (U.S.A.) - 1:00:51
Meb Keflezighi (U.S.A.) - 1:01:00
Shadrack Biwott (U.S.A.) - 1:01:25
Jared Ward (U.S.A.) - 1:01:42
Rintaro Takeda (Japan/Waseda Univ.) - 1:01:59
Kenta Ueda (Japan/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:01
Arne Gabius (Germany) - 1:02:10
Scott MacPherson (U.S.A.) - 1:02:56
Mike Morgan (U.S.A.) - 1:02:56
Johnny Crain (U.S.A.) - 1:03:21
Noah Droddy (U.S.A.) - 1:03:22
Eric Gillis (Canada) - 1:03:30
Chris Derrick (U.S.A.) - 1:03:41
Luke Humphrey (U.S.A.) - 1:03:57

Women
Meseret Defar (Ethiopia) - 1:06:09
Molly Huddle (U.S.A.) - 1:07:41
Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 1:07:41
Amy Cragg (U.S.A.) - 1:08:27
Caroline Rotich (Kenya) - 1:08:52
Diane Nukuri (Burundi) - 1:09:12
Misato Horie (Japan/Noritz) - 1:10:26
Desi Linden (U.S.A.) - 1:10:34
Lanni Marchant (Canada) - 1:10:47
Milly Clark (Australia) - 1:10:48
Kellys Arias (Colombia) - 1:11:21
Dot McMahan (U.S.A.) - 1:11:50
Liz Costello (U.S.A.) - 1:12:35
Beverly Ramos (Puerto Rico) - 1:12:48
Danna Herrick (U.S.A.)- 1:12:55
Sara Galiberti (Italy) - 1:13:42
Florencia Borelli (Argentina) - 1:13:51
Grace Kahura (Kenya) - 1:14:12
Sara Lahti (Sweden) - debut - 31:28.43 (10000 m)
Alexi Pappas (Greece) - debut - 31:36.16 (10000 m)
Emily Sisson (U.S.A.) - debut - 31:38.03 (10000 m)
Rachel Cliff (Canada) - debut - 32:21.98 (10000 m)

Monday, February 27, 2017

Onizuka and Ichiyama Score National Cross Country Titles

by Brett Larner

Japan's main selection race for the 2017 Kampala World Cross Country Championships happened Saturday at Fukuoka's National Cross Country Championships.  On fire this season with top three finishes in every race since November and wins at both January's National Men's Ekiden and the Karatsu 10-Miler two weeks ago, Tokai University first-year Shota Onizuka won a photo finish over pro Yuma Higashi (Team Kyudenko) to score the national title in the senior men's 12 km.  Burning just as hot with top three finishes all the way since October including two wins, Mao Ichiyama (Team Wacoal) won the senior women's 8 km national title by three seconds over Yuka Hori (Team Panasonic).

The junior men's 8 km was nearly as close as the senior race.  Yuhi Nakaya of 2017 National High School Ekiden runner-up Saku Chosei H.S. won a three-way sprint finish over Ryo Saito (Akita Kogyo H.S.) and Kazuya Nishiyama (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.), running 24:02 to his rivals' 24:03.  Just two days after turning 17, the talented Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu, leader of 2017 National High School Ekiden champ Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S., soloed her way to the junior women's 6 km national title, winning by 10 seconds in 19:51.

2nd National Cross Country Championships
Fukuoka, 2/25/17
click here for complete results

Senior Men's 12 km
1. Shota Onizuka (Tokai Univ.) - 36:07
2. Yuma Higashi (Kyudenko) - 36:07
3. Kosei Yamaguchi (Aisan Kogyo) - 36:15
4. Yamato Otsuka (Kanagawa Univ.) - 36:21
5. Haruki Ono (Kanagawa Univ.) - 36:22
6. Shota Maeda (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 36:28
7. Shuhei Shirota (Kanebo) - 36:29
8. Kazuma Taira (Waseda Univ.) - 36:37
9. Katsutoshi Monoe (Komazawa Univ.) - 36:48
10. Hiroyoshi Umegae (NTN) - 36:51

Senior Women's 8 km
1. Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) - 26:46
2. Yuka Hori (Panasonic) - 26:49
3. Tomoka Kimura (Universal Entertainment) - 26:56
4. Kaori Morita (Panasonic) - 27:04
5. Natsuki Sekiya (Daito Bunka) - 27:12
6. Fumika Sasaki (Daiichi Seimei) - 27:16
7. Reno Okura (Hokuren) - 27:23
8. Misaki Sango (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 27:28
9. Anju Takamizawa (Matsuyama Univ.) - 27:37
10. Sayaka Ikegame (Hokuren) - 27:38

Junior Men's 8 km
1. Yuhi Nakaya (Saku Chosei H.S.) - 24:02
2. Ryo Saito (Akita Kogyo H.S.) - 24:03
3. Kazuya Nishiyama (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 24:03
4. Ryunosuke Chigira (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 24:09
5. Sodai Shimizu (Rakunan H.S.) - 24:12
6. Keita Yoshida (Sera H.S.) - 24:12
7. Yoji Sakai (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 24:25
8. Takumi Yoshida (Rakunan H.S.) - 24:27
9. Haruka Onodera (Kato Gakuen H.S.) - 24:28
10. Ryota Natori (Saku Chosei H.S.) - 24:35

Junior Women's 6 km
1. Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 19:51
2. Wakana Kabasawa (Tokiwa H.S.) - 20:01
3. Hayaka Suzuki (Tokoha Gakuen Kikuha H.S.) - 20:02
4. Rika Kaseda (Narita H.S.) - 20:03
5. Hikari Onishi (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 20:07
6. Yuka Sarumida (Toyokawa H.S.) - 20:08
7. Miku Moribayashi (Isehaya H.S.) - 20:13
8. Momoka Kawaguchi (Okazaki Gakuen H.S.) - 20:18
9. Yumika Katayama (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 20:23
10. Mikuni Yada (Luther Gakuin H.S.) - 20:29

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, February 26, 2017

History Comes Calling - Kipsang and Chepchirchir Run Japanese Soil Records at Tokyo Marathon

by Brett Larner


The Tokyo Marathon's investment in a new course and top-class field to match paid off with the greatest race in Japanese marathoning history as Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Sarah Chepchirchir delivered the fastest men's and women's marathons ever run on Japanese soil.  But not just them. Young Japanese runners rose to the challenge in both races, with 24-year-old Hiroto Inoue (Team MHPS) and 19-year-old Ayaka Fujimoto (Team Kyocera) making huge breakthroughs to take top Japanese honors.

Conditions were cool enough that the race went out hot, the men's front group going through the first km around 2:46 and splitting 14:14 on the downhill first 5 km, 2:00:07 pace.  But it wasn't just them.  A small chase group including debuting Japanese men Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) and Takashi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei), and second-time marathoner Inoue was close behind on WR pace with the main Japanese pack under NR pace, everyone keying into the vibe of the day and letting it flow.

By 10 km things settled down, Kipsang staying at the helm behind the pacers, flanked by Tokyo event record holder Dickson Chumba (Kenya), the up-and-coming Evans Chebet (Kenya), relative unknowns Gideon Kipketer (Kenya) and Solomon Deksisa (Ethiopia) and others, holding steady on world record pace through the hilly new middle section of the course until 25 km.  Behind him Shitara threw off the other Japanese men with an almost nihilistic fearlessness he hasn't shown since his 1:01:48 at the 2012 NYC Half and tried to close on the lead group, running 10 seconds faster than them between 10 and 15 km.  A Japanese man, debuting, on world record pace. well into the race.  Miracles and wonders.  But unable to get there before the hills began.

The last of the hills, the return trip over Kuramae Bridge, had the expected impact on the lead pack, shaking it down to just Kipsang, Chumba and Deksisa, and when 30 km came the projected finish had slipped to 2:03:00.  Kipsang and Chumba worked together to try to keep it together, but by the final turnaround point just past 35 km Kipsang was all alone and the record was out of reach.  Bearing down after 40 km he rounded the final corner right on the edge of 2:04, kicking in to deliver the first 2:03 ever run on Japanese soil in 2:03:58.  In one bound he took Tokyo and the Japanese all-comers record, from 2:05 to the 2:03 level, putting it among the very top events in the sport.  And he wasn't the only one.

Kipketer came back late to haul up to 2nd in a PB of 2:05:51, previous CR holder Chumba 3rd in 2:06:25.  Another 2:06.  A 2:07, then a 2:08.  And an aggressive battle over the last three 3 km as Yohanes Ghebregergish (Eritrea) and Inoue retook a fading Shitara.  Ghebregergish took 7th in 2:08:14, then Inoue in a more than 4 1/2 minute PB of 2:08:22 for 8th.  Three more Japanese men, all graduates of Hakone Ekiden powerhouse Toyo University, came through under 2:10, all for the first time, New York 4th placer Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Team Konica Minolta) 10th in a 2:09:12 PB, Shitara becoming the tenth Japanese man to debut sub-2:10 with a 2:09:27 for 11th, and 30 km collegiate national record holder Yuma Hattori (Team Toyota) running a 2 minute PB 2:09:46 for 13th.  But again, they weren't the only ones.

The women's race in Tokyo has always felt like an afterthought to Tokyo's legacy as an elite men's race.  This year the television coverage of the women's race was a big step up even if the field was still small and missing elite domestic women.  Deep in the middle of a massive pack of high-level amateur men and pacers, 2016 Lisbon Marathon winner Chepchirchir was in control the entire way, never relenting her position ahead of the Ethiopian quartet of Amane Beriso, Amane Gobena, Birhane Dibaba and Marta Lema and of debuting compatriot Betsy Saina.  Like the men's race they were out fast, on 2:20:31 pace at 5 km and staying under Mizuki Noguchi's 2:21:18 Japanese all-comers record pace all the way to 30 km.

There Chepchirchir said goodbye, dropping a 15:46 split from 30 to 35 km that took her projected finish down to the edge of sub-2:20 and sailing on uninterrupted to win in a new all-comers record of 2:19:47, a new PB by 5 minutes.  Like Kipsang, she skipped right over the 2:20 range to put Tokyo among the world's fastest courses.  Runner-up Dibaba ran a 1-minute PB to break the old course record for 2nd in 2:21:19, last year's runner-up Gobena taking 3rd in 2:23:09.  The biggest surprise of the day came in 4th, as the unknown teenager Fujimoto, coached by half marathon men's national record holder Atsushi Sato, ran a more than 20 minute PB of 2:27:08.  Running with three Japanese male pacers, American Sara Hall also delivered a PB, going under 2:30 for the first time in 2:28:26 for 6th.

All told the day was a major step for Tokyo's credibility as a world-event, the combination of 2:03 and 2:19 course record putting it among a small handful of races that can boast both.  Kipsang marked what may have been his last serious marathon with a return to his unstoppable winning ways of days five years gone, winning hearts in his post-race interview when he expressed his hope that Japan's marathoners would take it to the next level in the leadup to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

And if Tokyo showed one thing on the home front it was that they are trying.  Inoue, Shitara and Ichida going out on world record pace with no fear, 1:01:55 through halfway for Shitara, 1:02:58 for Inoue, both hanging on for quality times.  Fujimoto going from nobody to the top level of the domestic game.  A clear generational change as runners age 25 and under mopped the road with the likes of greats Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko).  All adding momentum to an event tipped to greatness by a totally unexpected and totally brilliant run by Chepchirchir.  Long the minor major to its five elder siblings, in its eleventh running the Tokyo Marathon has finally come into its own as one of the world's leading marathons.  With three years until the Tokyo Olympics its stature can only grow.

11th Tokyo Marathon
Tokyo, 2/26/17
click here for super-detailed results

Men
1. Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:03:58 - ACR
2. Gideon Kipketer (Kenya) - 2:05:51 - PB
3. Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:06:25
4. Evans Chebet (Kenya) - 2:06:42
5. Alfers Lagat (Kenya) - 2:07:39
6. Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:08:10
7. Yohanes Ghebregergish (Eritrea) - 2:08:14 - PB
8. Hiroto Inoue (Japan/MHPS) - 2:08:22 - PB
9. Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:08:45
10. Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:09:12 - PB
11. Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:27 - debut
12. Solomon Deksisa (Ethiopia) - 2:09:31
13. Yuma Hattori (Japan/Toyota) - 2:09:46 - PB
14. Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:11:02
15. Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:11:04 - PB
16. Yuki Takamiya (Japan/Yakult) - 2:11:05
17. Geoffrey Ronoh (Kenya) - 2:11:20
18. Yuki Nakamura (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:12:58 - debut
19. Akihiko Tsumurai (Japan/Mazda) - 2:13:27 - debut
20. Ryo Hashimoto (Japan/GMO) - 2:13:29
21. Naoki Okamoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:13:33
22. Koji Gokaya (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:113:52
23. Marius Kipserem (Kenya) - 2:13:53
24. Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:13:57
25. Andrew Bumbalough (U.S.A.) - 2:13:58 - debut
-----
DNF - Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza)
DNF - Bernard Koech (Kenya)
DNF - Tadese Tola (Ethiopia)
DNF - Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House)

Women
1. Sarah Chepchirchir (Kenya) - 2:19:47 - ACR, PB
2. Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:21:19 - PB
3. Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) - 2:23:09
4. Ayaka Fujimoto (Japan) - 2:27:08 - PB
5. Marta Lema (Ethiopia) - 2:27:37
6. Sara Hall (U.S.A.) - 2:28:26 - PB
7. Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 2:33:00 - PB
8. Kotomi Takayama (Japan/Sysmex) - 2:34:44 - debut
9. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:35:11
10. Mitsuko Ino (Japan/CR2 Nishi Nihon) - 2:39:33 - PB
11. Kana Unno (Japan/Noritz) - 2:40:32
12. Dawn Grunnagle (U.S.A.) - 2:41:04 - PB
13. Mitsuko Hirose (Japan/Tokyo Wings) - 2:41:51
14. Kumiko Tanno (Japan/Nitori) - 2:41:57 - PB
15. Mayumi Uchiyama (Japan/Nitori) - 2:42:54
-----
DNF - Betsy Saina (Kenya)
DNF - Amane Beriso (Ethiopia)
DNF - Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Team RxL
DNF - Kaoru Nagao (Japan/Urayasu T&F Assoc.)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, February 24, 2017

Kipsang Predicts 2:02:50 - Tokyo Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

2017 Tokyo Marathon top elites Wilson Kipsang, Dickson Chumba, Tsegaye Kebede, Amane Bersio, Amane Gobena, Birhane Dibaba, Masato Imai, Kazuhiro Maeda and Yuma Hattori.

The Tokyo Marathon celebrates its eleventh edition as a mass-participation race this year on a new course with relocated hills to make it faster for the front end and a scenic finish for the masses.  To try to bring its event records more into line with the rest of the Abbott World Marathon Majors Tokyo has brought in some big guns, none bigger than former world record holder Wilson Kipsang (Kenya).  Fresh from a 2:03:13 PB at September's Berlin Marathon, Kipsang brought Friday's press conference to a boil when he predicted in writing a 2:02:50 world record on the new Tokyo course.

Kipsang predicting a 2:02:50 world record.

That may be a stretch, but looking at the depth and quality of the competition the 2:05:42 Tokyo record held by Dickson Chumba (Kenya) looks vulnerable, with the 2:05:18 Japanese all-comers record set by Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) in range if all goes well and the weather cooperates.  It was a rare and mostly unrecognized moment in Japanese marathoning history at the press conference when Kipsang, the course record holder at the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, shared the stage with Tokyo course record holder Chumba and Fukuoka course record holder Kebede, the three kings of Japan's three greatest men's marathons all united.  Kebede boldly predicted a 2:03:50 PB, with Chumba more circumspect in estimating a 2:05:20 to better his own record.  The front group, which includes seven other men with recent sub-2:07 times, is scheduled to go out at 2:55/km, 2:03:04 pace.  If Kipsang is serious he may not have much company for long.  If it turns into a 2:05 race, look for Evans Chebet (Kenya) to surprise off his 2:05:33 and 2:05:31 pair of 2016 marathons.

When we were kings - Kipsang, Chumba and Kebede, CR holders of Japan's three major men's marathons.

For the Japanese men Tokyo is mostly about qualifying for the London World Championships team, a murky selection process of four races to chose three places made more complicated by Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) running 2:09:32 to win the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon earlier this month, slower than the 2:09:11 by Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) in Fukuoka in December but bettering his placing by two.  The JAAF will auto-select one Japanese man in Tokyo if he breaks 2:07:00, a time only three have ever cleared.  Next week the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon will bring qualifying to a close, the men there having the luxury of keying off Kawauchi, Nakamoto and whoever runs fastest in Tokyo.

Yuma Hattori all business with a 2:08:00 prediction for his second marathon.

1:28:52 collegiate 30 km national record holder Yuma Hattori (Team Toyota) was the most outwardly ambitious of the Japanese men at the press conference, estimating a 2:08:00, but he has competition from Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), Arata Fujiwara (Miki House), the debuting pair Takashi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei) and Yuta Shitara (Team Honda), and many more.  When it comes to the 2:09~2:11 range there are always surprises in Japanese men's marathoning with relatively unknown athletes dropping breakthroughs.  Yuki Takamiya (Team Yakult), then an unknown 2:15-level runner, did it last year with a 2:10:57 for top Japanese honors and will be back again to try to follow up.  Along with Ichida and Shitara, American Andrew Bumbalough will be debuting after a decent run at November's Hachioji Long Distance meet.

Ethiopian power trio Beriso, Gobena and Dibaba.

The women's field took a hit with the withdrawal of #1-ranked Lucy Kabuu (Kenya) and another with a flight delay that had the debuting Betsy Saina (Kenya) arriving in Japan less than 48 hours before the start, leaving a likely three-way Ethiopian race up front.  Amane Beriso has the fastest women's time in the field with a 2:20:48 Dubai debut last year, but with only a 2:39:38 follow-up in Boston there's a large question mark hanging over her.  Amane Gobena was 2nd last year in a PB 2:21:51 and has a truckload of experience racing in Japan including a win in Osaka and a runner-up placing in Saitama. Birhane Dibaba set her 2:22:30 PB in Tokyo in 2014, won it in 2015 and was 5th last year.  Barring a spectacular debut from Saina it's hard to see anyone else challenging them, especially with the Amanes both predicting 2:20:00 finish times at the press conference.  If they come even close to that they will take down both the 2:21:27 Tokyo record set last year by Helah Kiprop (Kenya) and the 2:21:18 Japanese all-comers record held by Athens Olympics gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Japan).

American Sara Hall will also be running, hoping to break 2:30 for the first time.  Because Tokyo doesn't factor into national team selection for women there are essentially no top-level Japanese women in the field, the fastest being Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) with a 2:28:43 best.  Along with Kaoru Nagao (Urayasu T&F Assoc.), Hiroko Yoshitomi (Team Memolead) and the debuting Kotomi Takayama (Team Sysmex) Yoshida may give Hall some company, but if any Japanese woman succeeds in breaking 2:30 on the course it will be a big day.

Nippon TV's live broadcast of the Tokyo Marathon will be shown worldwide, with JRN's Brett Larner hosting for the second year in a row.  Check your local listing for availability.  The Japanese-language broadcast is also viewable in many locations via mov3.co.  Athlete tracking options are listed here, with the lead men's live leaderboard here.  Check JRN post-race for complete results and more exclusive coverage.

Tokyo Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Tokyo, 2/26/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are athletes' best within last three years except where noted

Men
Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:03:13 (Berlin 2016)
Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 204:32 (Chicago 2014)
Evans Chebet (Kenya) - 2:05:31 (Berlin 2016)
Tadese Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:05:57 (Tokyo 2014)
Bernard Koech (Kenya) - 2:06:08 (Rotterdam 2014)
Marius Kipserem (Kenya) - 2:06:11 (Rotterdam 2016)
Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:06:19 (Amsterdam 2015)
Solomon Deksisa (Ethiopia) - 2:06:22 (Rotterdam 2016)
Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:06:30 (London 2014)
Alfers Lagat (Kenya) - 2:06:48 (Frankfurt 2015)
Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:07:39 (Tokyo 2015)
Stephen Mokoka (South Africa) - 2:07:40 (Shanghai 2015)
Gideon Kipketer (Kenya) - 2:08:35 (Mumbai 2016)
Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza) - 2:09:18 (Tokyo 2015)
Koji Gokaya (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:09:21 (Tokyo 2015)
Geoffrey Ronoh (Kenya) - 2:09:29 (Berlin 2016)
Takuya Fukatsu (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:31 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Yohanes Ghebregergish (Eritrea) - 2:09:48 (Berlin 2016)
Yuki Takamiya (Japan/Yakult) - 2:10:57 (Tokyo 2016)
Ryo Hashimoto (Japan/GMO) - 2:11:20 (Hofu 2016)
Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:11:46 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Yuma Hattori (Japan/Toyota) - 2:11:46 (Tokyo 2016)
Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:11:48 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:11:50 (Hofu 2015)
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:12:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Akiyuki Iwanaga (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:12:24 (Tokyo 2016)
Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:12:29 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Naoki Okamoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:55 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Hiroto Inoue (Japan/MHPS) - 2:12:56 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Keiji Akutsu (Japan/Subaru) - 2:13:26 (Tokyo 2015)
Soji Ikeda (Japan/Yakult) - 2:13:27 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Yasuyuki Nakamura (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:46 (Tokyo 2016)
Tomonori Sakamoto (Japan/Press Kogyo) - 2:13:49 (Nagano 2015)
Yuki Munakata (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:13:53 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Kazuaki Shimizu (Japan/Yakult) - 2:14:16 (Tokyo 2016)
Naoki Inoue (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:15:05 (Katsuta 2016)
Saeki Makino (Japan/DNPL) - 2:15:22 (Seoul 2015)
Kenichi Jiromaru (Japan/Obirin Univ. AC) - 2:15:24 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Sho Matsumoto (Japan/Nikkei Business) - 2:15:50 (Osaka 2016)

Debut
Masato Kikuchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:00:32 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 1:01:19 (Marugame Half 2017)
Takashi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:03 (Ageo City Half 2014)
Andrew Bumbalough (U.S.A.) - 1:02:04 (New York Half 2015)
Yuki Nakamura (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:35 (Marugame Half 2016)
Yuji Serunarudo (Japan/Soka Univ.) - 1:02:48 (Marugame Half 2016)
Akihiko Tsumurai (Japan/Mazda) - 1:03:39 (Boston Half 2016)

Women
Amane Beriso (Ethiopia) - 2:20:48 (Dubai 2016)
Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) - 2:21:51 (Tokyo 2016)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:30 (Tokyo 2014)
Sarah Chepchirchir (Kenya) - 2:24:13 (Lisbon 2016)
Marta Lema (Ethiopia) - 2:24:32 (Xiamen 2016)
Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Team RxL) - 2:28:43 (Saitama 2015)
Sara Hall (U.S.A.) - 2:30:06 (London 2016)
Kaoru Nagao (Japan/Urayasu T&F Assoc.) - 2:30:54 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:33:04 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hitomi Nakamura (Japan/Panasonic) - 2:33:23 (Osaka Int'l 2016)
Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 2:33:39 (Tokyo 2016)
Miya Nishio (Japan/Sapporo T&F Assoc.) - 2:34:18 (Tokyo 2016)
Saki Tabita (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:34:20 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/SWAC) - 2:35:49 (Tokyo 2015)

Debut
Betsy Saina (Kenya) - 1:07:22 (Glasgow Half 2016)
Kotomi Takayama (Japan/Sysmex) - 1:10:47 (Matsue Ladies' Half 2015)

text and photos © 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rio Silver Medalist Kirwa Returns to Nagoya Women's Marathon

by Brett Larner

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, with 19,112 finishers last year.  It was also the deepest elite women's marathon in the world next to the Rio Olympics, with more women sub-2:27 than in Rio and only three fewer under 2:30.  Many of the main people who made it what it was last year are set to return, led by course record holder and two-time defending champion Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) who comes back to Nagoya as an Olympic silver medalist.  Japan's Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya), Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), Reia Iwade (Team Noritz), Sayaka Kuwahara (Team Sekisui Kagaku) and Shiho Takechi (Team Yamada Denki) all ran sub-2:26 PBs in Nagoya last year, Ohara's 2:23:30 just missing her a place on the Rio Olympic team.  Ohara is Kirwa's closest competition, but with a nearly two-minute difference in their recent half marathon wins Ohara will have a very tough battle facing her to stay in contact.  At stake for her and for the other top Japanese woman is a place at the London World Championships, Nagoya serving as the last selection race for the Japanese women's team.

Fatuma Sado (Ethiopia), 2nd in Toronto in 2015, is the other main front-end contender.  Mid-pack, interesting names include 2015 Rotterdam Marathon winner Asami Kato (Team Panasonic), Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (U.S.A.) and 2016 Osaka Marathon winner Yoshiko Sakamoto (Y.W.C.).  Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL), Cassie Fien (Australia) and Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.)  are all set to double after having run January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, Arai off a win at last weekend's Kumanichi 30 km and Yoshida also entered in this weekend's Tokyo Marathon.  2016 and 2017 National Corporate Half Marathon champions Miho Shimizu (Team Hokuren) and Ai Utsunomiya (Miyazaki Ginko) are down to make their marathon debuts, as are equally talented half marathoners Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and Hisami Ishii (Team Yamada Denki).

The Nagoya Women's Marathon will be broadcast live on March 12.  JRN will cover the race live on @JRNLive.  Check back closer to race date for livestreaming details and other info.

Nagoya Women's Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Nagoya, 3/12/17
click here for detailed field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) - 2:22:08 (Nagoya 2015)
Rei Ohara (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:23:20 (Nagoya 2016)
Fatuma Sado (Ethiopia) - 2:24:16 (Toronto Waterfront 2015)
Mao Kiyota (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:24:32 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Reia Iwade (Japan/Noritz) - 2:24:38 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Sayaka Kuwahara (Japan/Sekisui Kagaku) - 2:25:09 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Valeria Straneo (Italy) - 2:25:27 (Zurich European Championships 2014)
Shiho Takechi (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 2:25:29 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) - 2:25:31 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Asami Kato (Japan/Panasonic) - 2:26:30 (Japan/Rotterdam 2015)
Monica Jepkoech (Kenya) - 2:27:26 (Toronto Waterfront 2015)
Keiko Nogami (Japan/Juhachi Ginko) - 2:28:19 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Yuko Watanabe (Japan/Edion) - 2:28:36 (Osaka Int'l 2015)
Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Team RxL) - 2:28:43 (Saitama Int'l 2015)
Alessandra Aguilar (Spain) - 2:29:45 (London 2015)
Aki Otagiri (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:30:24 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (U.S.A.) - 2:31:14 (L.A. Olympic Trials 2016)
Haruna Takada (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 2:31:17 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Yukiko Okuno (Japan/Shiseido) - 2:31:17 (Tokyo 2016)
Winfridah Kebaso (Kenya/Nitori) - 2:32:08 (Saitama Int'l 2015)
Yui Okada (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:32:10 (Hokkaido 2015)
Kikuyo Tsuzaki (Japan/Noritz) - 2:32:23 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Cassie Fien (Australia) - 2:33:01 (Osaka Int'l 2017)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:33:04 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Kana Orino (Japan/Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:33:51 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Mayumi Fujita (Japan/Nagasaki T&F Assoc.) - 2:34:13 (Yokohama Int'l 2014)
Sinead Diver (Australia) - 2:34:15 (Melbourne 2014)
Mei Matsuyama (Japan/Noritz) - 2:34:35 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Sakie Arai (Japan/Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 2:34:40 (Osaka Int'l 2017)
Anna Nosenko (Ukraine) - 2:34:57 (Krakow 2016)
Yoko Miyauchi (Japan/Hokuren) - 2:35:09 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/Y.W.C.) - 2:36:02 (Osaka 2016)
Ai Inoue (Japan/Noritz) - 2:36:35 (Nagoya Women's 2016)

Debut
Miho Shimizu (Japan/Hokuren) - 1:09:41 (Nat'l Corporate Half 2016)
Yuka Ando (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:09:51 (Sanyo Women's Half 2015)
Hisami Ishii (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 1:10:09 (Nat'l Corporate Half 2016)
Ai Utsunomiya (Japan/Miyazaki Ginko) - 1:10:47

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Where Runners With the Highest Ambitions Come Together" - Fujiwara in Iten Ahead of Tokyo Marathon

text and photos by Tsukasa Kawarai
translated and edited by Brett Larner

2012 London Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) has had some of his greatest races at the Tokyo Marathon, finishing 2nd three times: an explosive 2:08:40 breakthrough there in 2008, 2:12:34 in sleet and strong wind in 2010, and his 2:07:48 PB in 2012 to make the London team. He has also done some of his worst marathons there, running 2:29:21 in 2011, dropping out in 2013, 2:30:58 in 2014, 2:19:40 in 2015 and 2:20:23 last year. The blindfolded-shot-in-the-dark quality of Fujiwara’s history in Tokyo has always made him unpredictable but entertaining. In preparation for this year’s Tokyo Marathon Fujiwara trained in Kenya for nearly two months. Tsukasa Kawarai spent time at Fujiwara’s training camp in January, and ahead of Sunday’s race he wrote a report for JRN on what he saw of Fujiwara’s preparations.


Starting in mid-December last year Arata Fujiwara trained in Iten, Kenya for about two months. It was his second time to train in Iten, his goal this time to build up a solid base in preparation for the Tokyo Marathon. Fujiwara injured his knee in June last year while training for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. The injury that kept him from doing the kind of running he wanted for several months, but he came to Iten to make a full recovery from that setback.

It takes several weeks to adapt to high altitude training at 2400 m. Being the dry season it hardly ever rained in Iten, meaning very dry conditions. In the rough terrain around Iten, a passing car leaves you completely covered with dust. Amid this kind of tough environment, Fujiwara worked hard alongside the Kenyans.


In Iten Fujiwara chose locals Edwin Kiprop and Benerd Koech, a different athlete from Tokyo Marathon invited elite Bernard Koech, as his training partners. He ran together with them and in a larger training group during interval workouts at Kamariny Stadium and for long runs.


I accompanied Fujiwara to Kamariny Stadium for a high-quality interval session of 600 m x 15 led by Kenyan runners. With weeks of that kind of training behind him in Iten he looked to me like the Fujiwara of old, when he was in his best shape.


Fujiwara wasn’t the only one training at Kamariny Stadium. Many Olympians regularly do tough workouts there, a daily fact of life that makes Iten “The Home of Champions.” At the same time that Fujiwara was doing his interval workout, Wilson Kipsang was also training with a group in prep for Tokyo. Paul Chelimo was there from the U.S.A. too with a group of his own. “This is where runners with the highest ambitions from here and abroad come together,” Fujiwara said.

After the workout Fujiwara chatted with Kipsang. They both ran the London Olympics marathon. Both of them will run the Tokyo Marathon deadly focused on making this year’s London World Championships. To run again in the city of London.

The Tokyo Marathon has changed its course this year to what is being called a “high-speed course.” The late-stage hills of the old course are gone, and the expectation is that people will be slowing down less in the second half. With highly-developed racing intuition born from long experience I expect to see Fujiwara run an aggressive race and a long-overdue sub-2:10.


text and photos © 2017 Tsukasa Kawarai
all rights reserved