Skip to main content

The Captain and the First-Year Ace Lead Fukushi University's Northern Girls to National Ekiden Championships

http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/event/sports/news/20081016-OHT1T00216.htm

translated by Brett Larner

On Oct. 26, teams from across the country will run the 26th Morinomiyako Ekiden, the National University Women's Ekiden Championships, on a six-stage, 38.6 km course stretching from the Miyagi Track and Field Grounds to Sendai City Hall. Three teams from the Tohoku [northeastern] region of Japan will represent all northern girls. Along with the Tohoku Regional University Select Team will be Fukushima University, making its third consecutive and tenth total appearance, and Fukushi University, competing for the second consecutive and sixth total time. Running on Fukushi's team for the first time are captain Shoko Mori (fourth year) and ace recruit Makiko Ishiyama (first year).

Shoko Mori - Fourth Year
Going to the Morinomiyako Ekiden for the first time as a senior and as captain, Mori's enthusiasm and focus are at a peak. "We're representing all of Tohoku," she says. "I have no insecurity at all. I'll be fast." Keeping command of herself and setting the tempo for the whole team are her main goals.

Mori has gone from the very bottom to an elite height. After continuously improving her best times since entering university, Mori fell into a slump in February and March this year. "I couldn't run at all, and had become one of the slowest people on the team. Every day I was afraid that coach was going to say, "Please give up your position as captain." Entering her senior year in April with a broken spirit, Mori thought to herself, "I have to pull myself together and get back to normal." She forced herself to grind away through the workouts, and soon saw the light come shining. In April she ran a 5000 m PB during a time trial. In August she improved her mark again. "At this time last year," Mori recalls, "I was having stomach pains from all the stress, but this year everything's OK. The only thing left is to kill whichever stage I'm given in the ekiden." Mori's rivals have been given fair notice.

Last year as anchor Mori had to run the 6th stage wearing a white tasuki [after earlier runners ran their stages too slowly and missed the cutoff time to pass the team's tasuki]. "This year I want the team to be like a meteor on the first half," says head coach Hironobu Ozaki (39), indicating that this year he plans to use his stronger runners early on. Mori agrees, saying, "I don't want to leave the younger runners with bad memories." Having rebuilt herself into a capable leader, Mori will soon pass the tasuki on to her juniors.

Shoko Mori - Born Feb. 3, 1987 in Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture. 153 cm, 37.5 kg, blood type O, youngest of three children. Competed on the softball and ekiden teams while at Iwanuma J.H.S. Gave up softball to focus on distance running in high school. H.S. team finished 9th in the Miyagi Prefectural High School Ekiden Championships during her second year, qualifying for the Tohoku Regional Championships. At this year's National University Women's Half Marathon Mori was the only runner from Tohoku.

Makiko Ishiyama - First Year
With a 5000 m PB in the 16-minute range, first-year Ishiyama is Fukushi University's ace. 5th in the National High School 1500 m, Fukushi's rookie comes to her first Morinomiyako Ekiden with a sparkling reputation and dying to run.

Tohoku's qualification race for the Morinomiyako Ekiden took place in late September. Fukushi University earned its second straight appearance in the ekiden, but Ishiyama was not there. She began suffering inflammation in her left knee in practice and withdrew shortly before the race. Afterwards, Ishiyama's dreams for her big university debut burned even hotter. "This team can win even without me," she says, "but I'm still sorry to have brought them shame by not being able to run."

The star first-year returned to training after a very short interval with no signs of any lingering injury. In team practices she has been competing with captain Mori and other top runners to lead the workouts. In the Morinomiyako Ekiden she will likely be given one of the early stages. "It's a lot of responsibility and pressure," Ishiyama admits, "but that's not something I can let get to me." The pressure comes partly from running to support the senior runners. "Shoko and some of the other senior runners can get pretty scary during workouts and races, but that's the only time. I'm really thankful to all of them for their leadership and want to show my gratitude through my performance in the race."

Before running Ishiyama always follows a ritual of hitting herself over her heart with her right fist to get herself mentally ready to go, an act which has earned her the reputation of being a 'traditionalist.' "I'm ready right now and will bring it all to the race," she says in closing. On Oct. 26 she will need to fully charge her self-confidence as she presents herself to the nation in her first Morinomiyako Ekiden.

Makiko Ishiyama - Born Nov. 11, 1989 in Yamagata Prefecture. 156 cm, 47 kg, blood type O, oldest of three children. Ran in the National Junior High School Ekiden Championships while still playing on her junior high school's basketball team. Focused on track and field upon entering high school and made the National High School Ekiden Championships her second and third year.

Comments

GKK said…
Frustrating that the Yomiuri Shimbun calls these women in theirs 20s "girls" - so demeaning. They'd never call the Hakone pro race and event for "boys."

Interesting to see they list blood type too. I'd kind of hoped only the "sports" newspapers did that kind of thing.
Brett Larner said…
Gordon--

Well, technically that's my translation, but I felt it matched the terms used in the original article better than 'women.'

Morinomiyako is essentially the women's Hakone, but it doesn't get anywhere near the attention. It seems like this year the organizers and sponsors are trying to push it a bit more (posters in stations and a documentary this morning about the top schools' summer training), but it's hard to see it ever being treated on a par with Hakone.

Most-Read This Week

Kawabata Over Kawauchi at Takashimadaira 20 km

Like a distant echo of the thunder of yesterday's Yosenkai 20 km reverberating across the city, Tokyo's other major 20 km road race took place this morning in the northwestern suburb of Takashimadaira. Narrowly surviving the loss of its main sponsor last year, the Takashimadaira Road Race offers a unique 5 km loop course that delivers fast times. Now in its 42nd year, Takashimadaira is a favorite for upper-tier universities that don't have to run the Yosenkai to requalify for the Hakone Ekiden, for other schools' second-stringers, and for top-level independents and amateurs.

This year's race was fronted by a group of runners from Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University who didn't make Tokai's final Izumo roster, by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and others from yesterday's Yosenkai winner Teikyo University and the Hakone-qualified Juntendo University and Komazawa University. In the same cool and lightly rainy…

Kawauchi and Kanematsu Win Rainy Shimantogawa 100 km

The 23rd edition of the Shimantogawa Ultramarathon took place Oct. 15 in Shimanto, Kochi. 1822 runners started the 100 km division, where Yoshiki Kawauchi (26, Saitama T&F Assoc.) and Aiko Kanematsu (37, Team RxL) took the men's and women's titles for the first time.

The 100 km division started under a heavy downpour at 5:30 a.m. in front of Warabioka J.H.S. The 576 participants in the 60 km division got off 4 1/2 hours later from Koinobori Park, with both races finishing at Nakamura H.S.

Kawauchi, the younger brother of "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi, ran Shimantogawa for the second time, improving dramatically on last year's run to win in 6:42:06. "Last time I was 21st, a total disaster," Kawauchi said afterward. "My brother told me, 'Don't overdo it on the uphills,' and his advie helped me get through it. The scenery around Iwama Chinkabashi was really beautiful."

Kanematsu began running with her husband around age 30…

Osaka Marathon Elite Field

One of the world's ten biggest marathons, in its six runnings to date the Osaka Marathon has continued to avoid the addition of a world-class elite field of the same caliber as at equivalently-sized races like Tokyo, Berlin and Boston. In place of doling out cash to pros, Osaka's women's field has developed into a sort of national championship race for amateur women.

In the field this year are six, probably all six, of the amateur Japan women to have broken 2:40 in the last three years. Last year's top three, Yoshiko Sakamoto (F.O.R.), Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) and Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) lead the way at the 2:36 +/- level, with a second trio of Marie Imada (Iwatani Sangyo), Mitsuko Ino (R2 Nishin Nihon) and Chika Tawara (RxL) all around the 2:39 level.

Last year's winner Sakamoto and 3rd placer Yoshimatsu squared off in September at Germany's Volksbank Muenster Marathon, Yoshimatsu tying Sakamoto's Osaka winning time of 2:36:02 to take 3rd over …