Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kiryu Going for Asian Games Gold Despite Hip Pain

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/08/19/kiji/K20140819008774070.html
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/08/20/kiji/K20140820008775040.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

With one month to go until the start of the Incheon Asian Games, ten members of the national team's sprint contingent held a practice session open to members of the media at an indoor facility in Eniwa, Hokkaido on Aug. 19.  The big hope for Japan's first sub-10 in the men's 100 m, 18-year-old Yoshihide Kiryu (Toyo Univ.) talked about his ambitions for the Asian Games, saying, "I don't what kind of time I'll run, but I will be running to win."

In April Kiryu sensed tightness in his right thigh during the heats at the Oda Memorial Meet and sat the final out.  Suffering from pain in his right heel since winning the National Championships in June and cancelling two subsequent meets, Kiryu won the bronze medal at July's World Junior Championships.  Since then he has also been having pain in his left hip joint.  At the press session he worked on baton passing with the relay team and did light training.  "This is most injuries I've had in one year since I started running," he said.  Coach Hiroyasu Tsuchie commented, "I'd be lying if I said there were no worries at all, but we want him to have the best preparations he can for the Asian Games."

At September's National University Track and Field Championships Kiryu plans to run the 200 m and the 4x100 m relay before heading to Incheon.  "I've been wanting to run the 200 m, so I want to tweak things to be ready for that and then ride that flow to the Asian Games. I can't help thinking about injuries.  My situation now is that I'm injured, so I have to try to see how competitive I can be in this condition.  I think once I get there it'll be game on."

Japan's other hope for a sub-10, London Olympian Ryota Yamagata (Keio Univ.) looked fresh and light after recovering from hip problems of his own.  "My sense of the times I'm running and the actual times are matching up well and consistent with when I'm feeling good.  I want to come back with my best running and a good placing."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Japan Sends Team of Thirteen to Nanjing Youth Olympics

by Brett Larner

Amid concerns for athletes' safety in a city with strong resentment of Japanese denial of the Nanking Massacre, with delegation head Yosuke Fujiwara directing team members not to wear their uniforms outside the athletes' village and boos greeting the Japanese delegation during the opening ceremonies, Japan sends a team of only thirteen to compete in athletics at the second Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China.

4th in the girls' 3000 m at last month's World Junior Championships in Eugene, U.S.A., Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) is the lone distance runner on the team, a sure medal contender after her 9:02.85 in Eugene.  Other prominent members include Hina Takahashi (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) in the girls' 800 m, Kenta Oshima (Tokyo H.S.) in the boys' 100 m, Sayori Matsumoto (Nara Ikuei H.S.) in the girls' 5000 m race walk and Yuji Hiramatsu (Shijoyo H.S.) in the boys' high jump, all national title winners at the National High School Track and Field Championships earlier this month, along with boys' discus youth national record holder Yume Ando (Tokyo H.S.).  Below is a complete breakdown of the team roster.

2nd Youth Olympics
Japanese National Team in Athletics
Nanjing, China, Aug. 20-26, 2014
click here for detailed English-language bios of each team member

Boys' 100 m - Kenta Oshima (Tokyo H.S.) - P.B.: 10:37 (+1.9)
1st, 2014 National High School Track and Field Championships

Boys' 200 m - Jun Yamashita (Fukushima H.S.) - P.B.: 21.23 (-0.2)
3rd, 2014 National High School Track and Field Championships

Boys' 110 m Hurdles - Nao Kanai (Tachibana H.S.) - P.B.: 13.77 (-0.1)
3rd, 2014 National High School Track and Field Championships

Boys' High Jump - Yuji Hiramatsu (Shijoyo H.S.) - P.B.: 2.19 m
1st, 2014 National High School Track and Field Championships

Boys' Discus Throw - Yume Ando (Tokyo H.S.) - P.B.: 59.48 m - Youth NR
2nd, 2014 National High School Track and Field Championships

Boys' Race Walk - Minoru Onogawa (Tokyo Jitsugyo H.S.) - P.B.: 46:06.83
2nd, 2014 National High School Track and Field Championships

Girls' 200 m - Tomomi Kawamura (Morioka Daiichi H.S.) - P.B.: 24.29 (-0.3)
4th, 2014 National High School Track and Field Championships

Girls' 800 m - Hina Takahashi (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - P.B.: 2:07.19
1st, 2014 National High School Track and Field Championships

Girls' 3000 m - Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - P.B.: 9:02.85
4th, 2014 World Junior Track and Field Championships

Girls' 100 m Hurdles - Nana Fujimori (Hamamatsu Municipal H.S.) - P.B.: 13.84 (+0.2)
3rd, 2014 National High School Track and Field Championships

Girls' Pole Vault - Misaki Morota (Ota Joshi H.S.) - P.B.: 3.50 m

Girls' Javelin Throw - Nagisa Mori (Meijo Prep Fuzoku H.S.) - P.B.: 49.03 m
5th, 2014 National High School Track and Field Championships

Girls' Race Walk - Sayori Matsumoto (Nara Ikuei H.S.) - P.B.: 24:13.13
1st, 2014 National High School Track and Field Championships

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Perkins Crushes 100 Meilen Berlin Course Record

by Brett Larner
photos by Dr. Helmut Winter

In the 25th anniversary year of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Great Britain's Mark Perkins ran the race of his life to take nearly three hours off the 100 Meilen Berlin course record and an hour off his own best, covering the 100 mile course along the former path of the Berlin Wall in 13:06:52.

A partially handicapped runner ranked 6th in the world for 100 km in 2013, Japan's Tsutomu Nagata took the race out hard in his European debut, running mid-11 hour pace, just one second off world record pace through 21 km, and holding near world record level through 30 km before settling into something more sustainable in the low-12 hour range.  Skipping many aid stations while receiving on-the-run assistance from his wife and daughter, Perkins was never far behind him, maxing out at 4 minutes behind as he followed Nagata's lead and ran steadily on low-12 hour pace.

Nearing halfway Nagata began to suffer stomach trouble and slowed.  Perkins made contact around 75 km, but while Nagata tried to stay with him he quickly lost touch and was two minutes behind by 79 km.  Now alone out front, Perkins gradually slowed, unchallenged the rest of the way but just missing a rare sub-13 hour clocking as he knocked the course record from last year's 15:53:45 to a world-class 13:06:52, a major improvement on his 14:03:54 best.  Runner-up Marco Bonfiglio just missed Perkins' old PB as he took 2nd in 14:04:27.  The top five, including last year's course record-setter Peter Flock, all broke the former course record.

After being left behind Nagata suffered mightily from his internal problems, clocking over an hour for the 6 km from 79 to 85 km after an extended break at an aid station.  Following that he got back in gear with some of the fastest splits of his race, but he again ran into trouble near 110 km.  After staggering through the next 27 km Nagata talked with the race doctor who made an initial determination that his stomach trouble made it dangerous for him to continue the race, but thanks to the intervention of an interpreter Nagata was allowed to continue.  Pulling himself together, he covered the final 23 km two minutes faster than winner Perkins' split, crossing the line in 11th in 16:50:59.

Nearly an hour and a half after him, women's winner Grit Seidl finished in 18:16:29 not far ahead of fellow German Martina Schliep, 2nd in 18:59:19.  Canadian Veronique Bourbeau was 3rd in 21:19:32.  All told 120 men and 10 women in the starting field of 300 cleared 24 hours for the complete course.

100 Meilen Berlin
Berlin, Germany, Aug. 16-17, 2014
click here for complete results

Men
1. Mark Perkins (Great Britain) - 13:06:52 - CR
2. Marco Bonfiglio (Italy) - 14:04:27 (CR)
3. Patrick Hoesl (Germany) - 15:19:46 (CR)
4. Peter Flock (Germany) - 15:51:50 (CR)
5. Christof Kuehner (Germany) - 15:53:31 (CR)
-----
11. Tsutomu Nagata (Japan) - 16:50:59

Women
1. Grit Seidl (Germany) - 18:16:29
2. Martina Schliep (Germany) - 18:59:19
3. Veronique Bourbeau (Canada) - 21:19:32

text (c) 2014 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
photos (c) 2014 Dr. Helmut Winter, all rights reserved

The 'Kawauchi Effect' Brings Record-Setting 779 to Nosappu Misaki Half Marathon

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20140817-00000035-nksports-spo

translated by Brett Larner

The 33rd Hoppo Ryodo Nosappu Misaki Half Marathon took place Aug. 17 on the northeastern coast of Nemuro, Hokkaido. 2014 Incheon Asian Games marathon team member Yuki Kawauchi (27, Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran the half marathon division as an invited athlete, taking 1st in 1:06:12. The last time the Nosappu Misaki Half invited an athlete was nine years ago when it featured Seoul Olympian Akemi Matsuno.  As a measure of the 'Kawauchi Effect,' 779 people entered the race, the most ever in the event's 33-year history.

Wearing a bib reading "Give back the Northern Territories!" [a reference to an ongoing territorial dispute with Russia involving nearby islands held by the Soviet Union and Russia since the end of World War II but still claimed by Japan] emblazoned across his chest, Kawauchi showed his strength to local fans.  After finishing, he gorged himself on the local specialty, hanasaki crab soup.

At the end of the month Kawauchi plans to run a full marathon in Perth, Australia on Aug. 31.  After coming back to Japan he will return to Hokkaido to take part in the Japanese Federation's men's marathon National Team training camp in preparation for the Oct. 3 Asian Games men's marathon.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Federation Officials Examine Rio Olympics Marathon Course

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20140813/k10013771981000.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

In preparation for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics two years from now, executives from each Japanese sports federation visited the city this week to inspect the venues for their disciplines during the same period in which the Olympics will take place.  JAAF representatives including men's marathon director Takeshi Soh and women's marathon director Yutaka Taketomi examined the marathon course running through the heart of the city.

For the most part the course avoids the Copacapana and Ipanema waterfront that characterizes Rio de Janeiro, instead featuring many straight sections with few hills or undulations.  Although it is winter, temperatures in Rio de Janeiro peaked at 30 degrees with strong sunshine on the day of the course inspection.  Members of the inspection committee began at the start point of the marathon, examining the road conditions and taking measurements of the road surface temperature and perceived heat in the shade all along the course.

Men's director Soh commented, "I had heard that the humidity would be quite high but it was unexpectedly low.  I think the crosswind from the ocean helped to lower the heat.  I plan to take full advantage of the data we have gathered for our planning and future development.  The sooner we can do that the better.  If the race goes right I think we can target times as well.  It's a great course."  Women's director Taketomi spoke about the difficult hills at the turnaround point, saying, "That will be the deciding point of the race.  We have to come into this being comfortable enough to be able to compete at that point in the race.  There is a great deal we can do to prepare beforehand, and that gives us a chance."

2012 National 800 m Champion Ruriko Kubo to Leave Edion Team

http://www.jiji.com/jc/zc?k=201408/2014081500449&g=spo

translated by Brett Larner

On Aug. 15 it was announced that middle-distance runner Ruriko Kubo (25) will leave the Edion corporate women's team at the end of this month.  In 2011 Kubo ran 2:01.90 to become the second-fastest Japanese woman in history, going on to win the 800 m at the 2012 Japanese National Championships.  According to an Edion spokesperson, Kubo explained the decision by saying "I want to re-examine myself."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Elite Trail Runner Tsuyoshi Soma Disappears While Climbing The Matterhorn (updated)

http://fuji-trailhead.com/archives/1779 https://www.facebook.com/fujitrailhead
http://fuji-trailhead.com/archives/1784 http://fuji-trailhead.com/archives/1788
http://fuji-trailhead.com/archives/1791 http://fuji-trailhead.com/archives/1794

translated by Brett Larner

I will continue to update this story as Fuji Trailhead posts new information to its website.

July 15
From July 16 to July 25 I'll be in Switerland.  I'm running the Eiger Ultra Trail race, 101 km with 6700 m total elevation change.  After the race I want to climb the Matterhorn, but from looking at live cameras I get the feeling for some reason that the snow conditions aren't very good, so I wonder whether I should do it.

But, I'm going to run, climb, and enjoy it with all my heart.  I can't wait to do my kind of trail running and mountain climbing for the first time in a long time.  While I'm in Switzerland it make take me a while to reply to emails.  When I get back home, let's enjoy the mountains of Japan together.

--Tsuyoshi Soma, trail runner

Soma placed 11th overall at the Eiger Ultra Trail race, running 14:15:06.7.

July 23
The sky is threatening rain.

In the mountainous areas of Europe it tends to rain for a long time.  The air is heavy with humidity and the village in this valley is beautifully lush and moist, but the presence of one particular mountain leaves me impatient.  Perhaps she'll appear tomorrow.

The Matterhorn.

--Tsuyoshi Soma, trail runner

July 26
Fuji Trailhead representative Tsuyoshi Soma suffered an accident while climbing the Matterhorn on July 23.  He fell from a ridge, slid roughly 800 m, and was buried by an avalanche or new-fallen snow.  Although some of his equipment has been found, Soma has not yet been located.  The best search and rescue operations possible in the area are being conducted, but, according to local police, given the circumstances of the accident the chance of survival is very low.

Therefore, until Soma is found safely and returns home to Japan, all scheduled Fuji Trailhead events will be cancelled.  We will make every effort to contact all entrants but it may not be possible to reach every person in time.  We are very sorry if this proves to be the case.

Additionally, because we are in active communication with local police engaged in the search in Switzerland, it is difficult for us to respond to each and every inquiry we receive about this terrible news.  We are very sorry for any distress that our inability to answer such correspondence may cause.  We sincerely appreciate all of your notes and apologize for putting our own concerns first.  As soon as new information becomes available we will update our website.

--on behalf of the Fuji Trailhead staff

July 27
With regard to Tsuyoshi Soma's accident, we would like to apologize for causing so many people distress and concern.  Additionally, we would like to say thank you for the countless messages of support and encouragement that we have received.  From the heart, we are deeply grateful.  Soma's family likewise send their gratitude and thanks to you all.

Members of Soma's family have arrived in Switzerland and are staying locally, but please rest assured that they are accompanied by two Japanese guides.  At the current time the weather in the area of Soma's accident has turned bad, and as our priority is to not have a secondary accident we have temporarily suspended the search.  Once the weather improves the search and rescue crews will be back out there.  As soon as new information becomes available we will update our website.

--on behalf of the Fuji Trailhead staff

Aug. 4
With regard to Tsuyoshi Soma's accident, we are very sorry not to be able to respond to all of the kind messages of concern that we continue to receive.  We would like to give you an update on the progress since our last website posting on July 27.  Since then, rain and snow have continued to fall in the area of the accident without sign of the weather changing, every day preventing the search operation from going forward.

In terms of what has been found in the search so far, the area of the search has been narrowed thanks to the discovery of some of Soma's equipment, but it is in an area of glaciers and within the danger zone of frequent avalanches from the Matterhorn's eastern face.  Considering the dangers of the area and the weather, no rescue team has been sent in yet.  However, the Hoernli hut, the highest encampment for climbers on the Matterhorn, is being renovated this year, so if the weather clears there will be many helicopters flying and landing there daily.  The information about the location of Soma's accident has been given to all local pilots, and during each of their renovation runs and sightseeing flights they will fly over the glacier and perform visual searches.

Additionally, a local rescue company called Air Zermatt, the world's leading helicopter rescue team, is involved in the search.  We are receiving messages from many people questioning the skill of the search teams and the circumstances of the search but can assure you that the world's best rescue team is conducting the search and rescue operation.  We realize that it is painful to think that there has been no progress but we ask for your understanding of the situation.

As soon as new information becomes available we will update our website.

Aug. 14
This is Tsuyoshi Soma's wife.   Once again, I'm very sorry for all of the tremendous worry this has caused everybody.

Several days have passed since I returned to Japan.  I wondered whether or not it would be better to wait until he was found and hesitated about it for a while, but the days of waiting just went by with nothing I could do and I thought that he would not want that for me, so that led me to come back here.

Even now that I'm back the rescue team continues to search, and having gone there and met them, talked to them and listened to them, I could feel that they were trustworthy, reliable people.  They're going to find him.  I believe it.

Thanks to the support of everyone around us, even when there are times like this we can still find ways to think about things positively and move forward in one piece.  If you happen to see me around I'll be very happy if you'll just talk to me normally.  I'm eternally grateful for all the messages I've received from so many people.  Thank you.  I felt the warmth of human nature.  Please forgive me if I'm not able to reply.

Come back, without fail.  We're all waiting for you!

Mayumi Soma

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"I Want to Send a Message" - Tsutomu Nagata to Make European Debut at This Weekend's 100 Meilen Berlin

by Brett Larner

In the fall of 2010 Tsutomu Nagata was in his mid-20's, a nearly-elite runner who had done 14:16 and 29:44 on the track before leaving the Self-Defense Forces team to join the ranks of the world's countless full-time working amateur runners.  On November 28, 2010, he raced the Tsukuba Marathon, running down four people in the last 5 km to take 3rd in a PB 2:27:36.  Nine days later Nagata's right arm was caught in the conveyor belt of a can-pressing machine at the factory where he worked, causing serious damage that left him hospitalized for almost two months.  Reconstructive surgery was unsuccessful, leaving his right arm permanently in a brace with limited use of his hand and fingers.

After months in the hospital he was unsure of the impact on his running, but, he says, "there was never any question of quitting.  Instead, I felt very strongly that 'I can still do it!'"  Once he returned home he started with walking, building up to 30 minutes and then tentatively edging back into running.  "A year after the surgery to help repair the injury I was running again, slowly," he says.  The injury and brace prevented him from doing the kind of hard speed workouts he was used to, a serious blow to his hopes at the marathon and shorter distances.  But his stamina remained, and in the interim he had discovered something new.
 
"I found out about the ultramarathon scene and the level of competition there from magazines," he says.  "I tried it out at the Miyakojima 100 km and that served as a recruitment call for a 100 km novice like me.  At that point I was already thinking about the Lake Saroma 100 km."

Lake Saroma, the course where both the men's and women's 100 km world records were set.  Just two and a half years after his accident, at the 2013 Lake Saroma 100 km Nagata had a major breakthrough, finishing 3rd in 6:44:33.  His time put him 6th in the world for the year.  "I felt like it was the real start to my career as an ultra runner," he says.  "As far as the quality of the time, there were faster people out there so I knew I still had work to do."

On an invitation from friends in the My Star running club Nagata went outside Japan for the first time in his life to run the Coldwater Rumble 100 mile trail race in the U.S. in January, 2014, his first time taking on that kind of distance.  After leading early at an extremely ambitious pace he crashed on the last of the course's five laps, literally crashing into cacti and to the ground in the dark before finishing a bruised 2nd in 16:14:21.  But despite the disappointing result the race proved another life-changing moment for Nagata.  "Running that 100 mile race in the U.S. had a major impact on my way of thinking," he says.  "It took someone like me who was only conscious of Japan and turned me toward the world overseas.  It got me excited about going out there and searching out interesting races."

He returned to Japan transformed, quitting his job in Niigata and moving to Tokyo to try to start a career as a professional ultramarathoner, forming long-term goals and working out his training methodology and sponsor and coaching relationships.  "At the moment I'm not working and am staying with friends, sponging off them as I train and try to get established," he says.  "As far as sponsors, Medalist, New Hale and Shields are supplying me with gear, but I'm looking for others interested in supporting what I want to do."  His first opportunity came with a message from Berlin Marathon founder Horst Milde inviting him to run the August 16-17 100 Meilen Berlin along the former border of the Berlin Wall.  "In Berlin I want to run a race that demonstrates the ability and strength I couldn't show at the Coldwater 100," he says.

Beyond Berlin, he has a clear idea of his long-term purpose: "My goal is to be out there racing ultramarathons on the road and trails without boundaries.  To start with I want to make Western States.  I want people to know that there is an ultra runner named Tsutomu Nagata out there.  I run aggressively with all my heart and I hope that people notice.  In my running I want to send a message to all the high school and university kids who are thinking of quitting their schools' teams, to all the other people out there who have had accidents or have disabilities, to show them that even if you aren't fast, even if you aren't pretty, patience and perseverance will bring success.  My handicapped right arm is a strength.  How far can I go?  I don't know.  Personally, I have very high expectations for myself.  The possibilities are infinite."

interview and text (c) 2014 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
Coldwater Rumble photo (c) 2014 Aravaipa Running, all rights reserved
other photos c/o Tsutomu Nagata