Saturday, February 28, 2009

39 Year Old Tergat Aiming for Biwako Course Record

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Former men's marathon world record holder Paul Tergat (Kenyan) is running the Mar. 1 Biwako Mainichi Marathon, his first marathon in Japan. It's been six years since Tergat shocked the world when he ran the first-ever 2:04 marathon at the 2003 Berlin Marathon, but he still continues running. We interviewed the 39 year old veteran.

Why did you decide to run Biwako?
For years I've wanted to run a marathon in Japan. I do April's London Marathon every year, but although they invited me this year I decided to come to Japan. Japanese people are warm-hearted and have a sense of respect for their competitors, and they love sports more than anything. There are a lot of good runners.

What's your target time?
If the wind and temperature are suitable I'll be going for the course record [2:07:34]. I haven't had any injuries and I'm in good shape.

Your life outside running is pretty busy, isn't it?
I'm a member of the World Food Program; my work with them takes me all around the world. I was able to go to high school because of WFP support so I'm honored to be able to do something to repay them. I ask people to take part in charitable activities if they have the chance. I'm here because of people I've never met, so to me charity means rescuing someone else's life.

Do you think you can still set another world record?
To be honest it would be pretty difficult. I think future world records would probably happen in New York, Berlin or Dubai.

You've been one of the world's greatest runners ever since 1995. What are your plans after this?
I'm still running because it's what I love. I haven't had any big injuries so nothing has changed from when I was young. I want to run for a long time, do a lot of races, and, if I can, win. For me the marathon is about expressing my talents. Beyond that, I want to help the next generation of runners cultivate their own talents. As an athlete you peak years are very short, and there is enough time afterwards to do the things you want to do.

In the marathon world, the strength of Africans is outstanding. Japan is trying to learn from the Beijing Olympics, but there are voices saying, "We can't compete with Africans."
That's the wrong idea. It's important to keep training with the idea that "Nothing is impossible." When I started marathoning people told me, "You're too tall and too skinny," but that was just based other people's ideas of what a marathoner should be, not mine. Training with your own vision will lead you to victory.

Kojokan Sends Three to Asian Cross Country Championships

translated by Brett Larner

Kojokan High School is sending three athletes to compete at the Asian Cross Country Championships in Bahrain on Mar. 1. Seniors Rei Obara (18) and Ai Kuboki (18) will join alumna Risa Shigetomo (21, Team Tenmaya) on the Japanese national team in Bahrain. For Kuboki it will be her first overseas race. "I want to soak up the atmosphere and the chance to race against foreign athletes and hope that it helps me to take my running to the next level," she told reporters.

Obara will be running in the junior women's 6 km race. Obara comes to the championships after having won both the 5000 m at October's nationals and the 1st stage of December's National High School Ekiden. Kuboki will be in the same race, having finished 3rd nationally in the 3000 m and helping her team finish as runner-up in the National High School Ekiden with a 4th place run on the 5th stage.

Shigetomi will run in the senior women's 8 km race. She was Kojokan's captain for the team's first National High School Ekiden win in 2005; in January's National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden she contributed to Okayama Prefecture's 2nd place finish with a stage win on the 4th leg, showing dynamic improvement in her ability.

National team coach Yoshitoshi Morimasa (51) looks forward to the trio's races, commenting, "Getting to test themselves in an environment other than Japan is an invaluable experience and will help them learn to manage their abilities."

'Paul Tergat vs. Yared Asmeron? - Preview of Lake Biwa Marathon'

'Justin Young to Chase Berth on U.S. World Marathon Team at Tokyo Marathon'

Justin Young describes some of his training for this year's Tokyo Marathon here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

'The Next Taniguchi' to Debut in Biwako

translated by Brett Larner

The next Taniguchi is ready to challenge the marathon! At the Mar. 1 Biwako Mainichi Marathon, Satoru Sasaki (23, Team Asahi Kasei), whose coach Takeshi Soh calls him "like Hiromi Taniguchi," will debut at the 42.195 km distance. Grabbing attention with a stage win on the New Year Ekiden's 5th leg in only his first year as a professional runner, all eyes are fixed upon this new star. His goal is to earn his ticket to August's World Championships in Berlin.

Sasaki has been a corporate runner for less than a year, but even at this early stage of his career he has the personality of a craftsman. "Attention? Are you talking about me? Well, regardless, this time I just want to get some idea of what the marathon is all about." He has no bold predictions, choosing his words carefully as he talks about his ambitions.

Sasaki began practicing with Team Asahi Kasei at its base in Nobeoka, Miyazaki Prefecture in March last year just before joining. Head coach Takeshi Soh immediately pegged him as "an efficient runner who controls his own pace." Soh went on to describe his impressions of Sasaki in more detail, saying, "It's been a long time since I've had a runner who was made for the marathon. He's like Hiromi Taniguchi." Resembling the 1991 Tokyo World Championships marathon gold medalist, the rookie Sasaki is set to rise to the challenge of the marathon.

Relatively anonymous during his days at Daito Bunka University, Sasaki came to national attention at the 2009 New Year Ekiden. Running against professionals from across the nation, Sasaki covered the 15.9 km 5th stage in 47:26, taking the stage best title. With this achievement under his belt and many of Japan's top runners opting for the Mar. 22 Tokyo Marathon, the window of opportunity is wide open for Sasaki to rise up from the general division and take a place on the World Championships team by finishing as the top Japanese runner.

"Everything went very smoothly in training. I know it's only his first marathon but I'm really looking forward to it," said Coach Soh, raising expectations with his enthusiasm. Sasaki laughed, "Honestly, I'm not very good at being in the spotlight." Of his goals he said, "The future...yeah...well...," trailing off before finally committing himself to, "I'd like to run a marathon in the national uniform."

Onishi, the Shimizu Twins and Rios Looking for Biwako Marathon Win

translated by Brett Larner

The 42.195 km Biwako Mainichi Marathon takes place Mar. 1 in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture. As a selection race for August's World Championships in Berlin, the top Japanese finisher will automatically earn a spot on the team. With all five of the domestic invited elites close in ability the race will likely come down to who is best able to summon up a strong finish.

The Japanese runner with the best time is Yuzo Onishi (Team Nissin Shokuhin), who set his mark of 2:08:54 at last year's Biwako where he was 4th. In the same race Tomoya Shimizu (Team Sagawa Express) was 5th, running 2:09:23 in his marathon debut. Both runners are looking for a big leap in their performances this year. Shimizu's twin brother Masaya (Team Asahi Kasei) and veterans Kazutoshi Takatsuka (Team Komori Corp.) and Takashi Ota (Team Konica Minolta) make up the rest of the invited domestic field.

After the failure of Japanese men's [sic] marathoning at last summer's Beijing Olympics, this year's World Championships represent the beginning of a new and stronger era. Rikuren Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee Assistant Director Toshio Kiuchi commented, "We expect to see the top Japanese runner break 2:09."

Among the foreign entrants, two-time Biwako winner Jose Rios (Spain) is the favorite for the win. 39 year old former world record holder Paul Tergat (Kenya) shows no sign that his strength has declined.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rikuren Announces Nagoya International Women's Marathon Elite Field (updated)

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Feb. 26 Rikuren released the names of the elite field for the Mar. 8 Nagoya International Women's Marathon, a selection race for the Berlin World Championships women's marathon team. Eleven women make up the domestic elite field, among them 2007 Tokyo Marathon winner Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) and 2003 Nagoya winner Takami Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai). The five elite foreign women include 2000 Sydney Olympics silver medalist Lidia Simon (Romania) and 2008 Beijing International Marathon winner Xue Bai (China). 303 runners make up the general division.

In addition to Niiya and Ominami, the domestic elite field includes last year's 5th place finisher Chika Horie (Team Aruze) and 7th place finisher Yumi Hirata (Team Shiseido). Making her marathon debut is Hirata's teammate Yoshiko Fujinaga, who came 3rd at this year's Marugame International Half Marathon. Sydney Olympics gold medalist Naoko Takahashi is running in the general division after having retired from professional running last October.

Nagoya is the final race in which domestic runners can earn a guaranteed spot on the five-member Berlin team. Already secure on the team are Tokyo International Women's Marathon winner Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) and Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo). The top Japanese finisher in Nagoya will pick up the third guaranteed spot, while the second Japanese finisher will have a chance of being selected off a fast time.*

A complete listing of the Nagoya International Women's Marathon field is available here.

*Translator's note: The second Japanese in Nagoya will have to beat Osaka runner-up Yukiko Akaba's 2:25:40 to have a chance of being selected for the Berlin team and Tokyo runner-up Yuri Kano's 2:24:27 to be relatively secure.

2009 Nagoya International Women's Marathon Elite Field
Lidia Simon (Romania) - 2:22:54 (Osaka '00)
Xue Bai (China) - 2:23:27 (Xiamen '08)
Takami Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) - 2:23:43 (Rotterdam '02)
Kiyomi Ogawa (Team Kyocera) - 2:26:02 (Nagoya '05)
Chika Horie (Team Aruze) - 2:26:11 (Hokkaido '02)
Haruko Okamoto (Hyogo T&F Assoc.) - 2:27:01 (Osaka '02)
Ayumi Nakayama (Team Yamada Denki) - 2:28:50 (Osaka '08)
Tabitha Tsatsa (Zimbabwe) - 2:29:20 (Seoul '08)
Yumi Hirata (Team Shiseido) - 2:29:23 (Nagoya '08)
Chihiro Tanaka (Team Daitsu) - 2:29:30 (Nagoya '02)
Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon) - 2:29:48 (Nagoya '06)
Caroline Cheptonui Kilel (Kenya) - 2:30:22 (Venice '03)
Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) - 2:31:01 (Tokyo '07)
Mika Hikichi (Team Tenmaya) - 2:31:03 (Nagoya '06)
Yuka Ezaki (Team Kyudenko) - 2:31:35 (Osaka '07)
Mika Hikita (Team Aruze) - 2:34:22 (Nagoya '02)
Sally Meyerhoff (U.S.A.) - 2:35:52 (Tempe '09)

Debut Marathoners With Half Marathon PB
Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) - 1:09:29
Kei Terada (Team Tenmaya) - 1:10:53
Aya Manome (Team Shimamura) - 1:10:59
Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 1:11:02
Yoshie Kitomi (Team Hokuren) - 1:13:55
Miki Oka (Team Daihatsu) - 1:14:00
Mizuho Kishi (Team Yamada Denki) - 1:15:02
Sumiko Suzuki (Team Hokuren) - 1:15:02

Tergat Arrives in Japan 'Praying For Good Luck'

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The Tergats arrive in Japan on Feb. 25.

Members of the invited foreign field for the Mar. 1 Biwako Mainichi Marathon began to arrive in Otsu's Biwako Hotel on Feb. 24 as race day draws near. The athletes' area at the hotel takes up two convention rooms on the hotel's third floor, with six interpreters speaking English, Spanish, French, Italian and Russian on hand to assist with the athletes' communication. The rooms face onto Lake Biwa and are well-stocked with sports drinks, bananas and oranges, offering a comfortable environment in which the runners can relax.

Taking 27 hours to arrive in Otsu from his home in Eritrea after a delayed flight, Yared Asmerom (29) told reporters, "I ran here last year, so I know it's a good course. I'll be going for a new PB."

Former world record holder Paul Tergat (29, Kenya) arrived at Kansai International Airport with his wife Monica on Feb. 25. After departing Nairobi the couple changed planes in Dubai before arriving. "Japan is very far," Tergat commented. The trip took 20 hours altogether, but Tergat spent much of the time talking with other athletes who came on the same flight, never losing his smile.

Tergat has run track races and half marathons in Japan before but this will be his first time running in a Japanese marathon. "I feel very, very happy to have the opportunity to run a marathon in Japan," he said. "The Biwako course is fantastic and I will give it my best effort. I'm praying for good luck on Sunday."

Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05 when he ran a then-world record of 2:04:55 at the 2003 Berlin Marathon. In 2007 Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) broke Tergat's mark, but the Kenyan remains the second-fastest man ever.

Oki Electronics Eliminates Its Running Team

translated by Brett Larner

Citing a decline in the strength of the business environment, the Oki electronics company announced on Feb. 25 that effective Mar. 31 it is eliminating its running team, known as one of the strongest professional women's squads. The team currently includes six athletes along with a support staff of eleven. Oki has pledged to assist its runners with finding positions in other teams and to provide jobs within the company for those athletes who may wish to remain as ordinary workers. The company's public relations office issued a statement saying, "We genuinely regret the necessity of taking this step. We offer our most sincere apologies to team members whose activities we have supported until now and thank them for all their efforts."

The Miyazaki-based Team Oki was founded in 1986. In 1988 Hidekoku Hiroshima, the man who developed the Soh brothers Shigeru and Takashi into legendary marathoners, became head coach. Hiroshima transformed the team into a powerhouse, scoring National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championship wins in 1996, 1997 and 1999. In 2002 men's marathon great Hiromi Taniguchi, now head coach of Team Tokyo Denryoku, took over Team Oki's leadership. Current head coach Yasunori Niihara took over in 2008 following Taniguchi's departure. The team's top runners are the identical twin Miyauchi sisters, Olympic A-standard 10000 m runners. Past members have included Atlanta and Sydney Olympics 10000 m runner Yuko Kawakami.

Fujita Promises Tokyo Marathon Win to His Mother in Heaven

translated by Brett Larner

On Feb. 24, former men's marathon national record holder Atsushi Fujita (32, Team Fujitsu), held a public practice session in Chiba as he prepares for next month's Tokyo Marathon. Fujita has sworn to stage a comeback victory in memory of his late mother.

Today was the one-year anniversary of his mother Shizue's loss at age 54, the victim of a brain tumor. On the 22nd Fujita returned to his hometown of Shirakawa in Fukushima Prefecture to observe the one-year memorial ceremony. "Please watch me as I run this marathon," he prayed before her shrine.

Fujita's last marathon was the Dec. 2007 Fukuoka International Marathon, where he finished 8th. Since Team Fujitsu's win at the New Year Ekiden he has been at training camps on the southern islands of Amami Oshima and Tokunoshima, focusing on high mileage to fortify his stamina. On the 27th he will again travel to Amami Oshima.

Looking ahead, he revealed his revealed his planned path. "My goal is the World Championships [August, Berlin]. I don't want to be just top Japanese in Tokyo. I'm going to run like I can win and I'm timing my peak to be ready on race day."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rikuren Relaxes Advertising Rules to Allow Additon of Sponsors' Names to Marathons

translated by Brett Larner

Let's put corporate logos on our marathons! Rikuren is planning to change its regulations to allow marathons and ekidens in Japan to begin adding sponsoring companies to their race names and to increase the amount of advertising along the course. The move comes during the current recession in hopes of making the events more attractive to potential sponsors.

The decision to make the change took place in December last year. Until now, track races were permitted to advertise their sponsor's names but road races were prohibited from such promotion. Looking at overseas marathons such as the 'Flora London Marathon' and the 'ING New York City Marathon,' the inclusion of the sponsoring food maker or financial institution in the race name is simply a given. "We've made some changes to come into line with IAAF guidelines, not because of the recession" a Rikuren marketing executive commented.

However, it is a fact that "This is an important step in helping to find sponsors." Electronics manufacturer Rohm is withdrawing its longtime sponsorship of the Biwako Mainichi Marathon after this year's running, a single instance but still a harbinger of the recessionary wave's rapid approach. Rikuren has perceived the sense of danger in the current situation, admitting that "The deterioration of sponsors' financial conditions is directly connected to races' ability to survive."

The decision will likely need the approval of local governments and the police, but if accepted the increased media exposure for sponsors' names will certainly result in improved brand awareness and marketability. The Rikuren advertising executive expressed the board's hope for the future, saying, "We hope it will become a great sales opportunity."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is Naoko Running Nagoya for Real!? Takahashi Training in Tokunoshima

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Naoko Takahashi stands between the two monuments in her honor on Tokunoshima island.

Sydney Olympics women's marathon gold medalist and former world record holder Naoko Takahashi (36, Phiten), who retired from professional running last fall, began training on the island of Tokunoshima in Kagoshima Prefecture on Feb. 19 for what she has up until now called a 'thank-you run' at the Mar. 8 Nagoya International Women's Marathon. Q-chan has said her goal for her 'final run' is simply, "to break 3 hours." However, she recently commented, "I'm really afraid that when the starting gun goes off I might get excited and try to run up front [in the lead pack] instead of going out as planned," suggesting the possibility that Nagoya might become a 'real run.' Takahashi was quick to add, "I'm going to try to hold back as much as possible."

Tokunoshima was where Takahashi trained for many of her greatest performances, including her national record win in her second marathon, her gold medal run in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and her two Nagoya victories. Returning to a place with so many positive associations, Takahashi has been quick to recover much of her fitness. She originally planned to just do whatever training she could in the short periods between the jobs which have come her way in her new capacity as a television personality, but after watching last November's Tokyo International Women's Marathon from the outside as an announcer her thoughts changed. "I understood again that an athlete gives everything they have, and that they must understand their own strength. I don't want to run 'adequately' or 'easily.' I want to do it with all my ability."

This is Takahashi's third island training camp since her strength-draining appearances during the New Year season. For today's public training she wore a warmup suit, but as her laps of the course piled up Takahashi ran faster and faster. In the afternoon she wore t-shirt and shorts for a session of speedwork. "[The 30 reporters] watching were expecting me to just be jogging, so they were surprised to see me dress that way and I really felt the tension." Even accustomed as she is to being in front of the cameras, the excitement got into this great runner's blood.

As part of her stay on Tokunoshima, Takahashi attending the unveiling of a momument commemorating her eleven marathons in front of the Sunset Resort hotel. The new monument stands next to one already raised to mark the start point of 'Naoko Road,' the course she used in training for her marathon gold medal in Sydney. "I am deeply grateful that my achievements have been permanently recorded here and want to help other athletes use Tokunoshima as a springboard to competing around the world." Currently staying at the Sunset Resort as they prepare for Nagoya are Hitomi Niiya (20, Team Toyota Jidoshokki) and Chika Horie (28, Team Aruze).

At the end of March Takahashi will take up a full-time position as a sportscaster. Of Nagoya she says, "My only goal is to run the 42 km as hard as I can together with everyone else and showing my thanks to everyone watching along the course. There probably isn't much chance I can follow the lead pack." With her hopes expanding the Takahashi of today may still show us something special.

Translator's note: The Nagoya International Women's Marathon has not yet released its elite field, but below is a listing of athletes other than Takahashi who have declared their intent to run in this year's World Championships selection race edition. Indicated times are the runner's best within the past two years.

2009 Nagoya International Women's Marathon - Preliminary Elite Field
Chika Horie (Team Aruze) - 2:27:16 (5th, Nagoya '08)
Takami Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) - 2:29:24 (3rd, Nagoya '07)
Haruko Okamoto (Team Noritz) - 2:30:09 (6th, Nagoya '07)
Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) - 2:31:01 (1st, Tokyo '07)
Yukiko Matsubara (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:34:05 (18th, Osaka '08)
Kei Terada (Team Tenmaya) - debut - 1:10:53 (half mar.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tokyo Marathon Announces 2009 Elite Field

by Brett Larner

On Feb. 23 the organizing committee of the Tokyo Marathon announced the elite athletes invited to the 2009 race to be held on Mar. 22. With the addition of substantial prize money and a women's field the Tokyo Marathon has taken on a new character this year, and its inclusion as a domestic men's World Championships selection race means that a large number of top Japanese men will also be lining up.

The women's race features 2008 Boston and Chicago Marathon runner-up Alevtina Biktimirova of Russia as the fastest foreign entrant. Alongside Biktimirova are two-time World Half Marathon bronze medalist Pamela Chepchumba of Kenya, two-time World Championships marathoner Shitaye Gemechu of Ethiopia, 2008 Vienna Marathon winner Luminita Talpos of Romania, and 2007 Beijing Marathon winner Rong Chen of China.

The Japanese women's field includes two greats running their final races, Harumi Hiroyama and Reiko Tosa. Hiroyama won the 2006 Nagoya International Women's Marathon at age 37 in an excellent 2:23:26, but since turning 40 last year she has been dealing with accumulating injury. Tosa, a two-time World Championships medalist, has likewise struggled with injury since winning her bronze at the 2007 World Championships, but her 1:10:58 half marathon earlier this month suggests she may not be treating Tokyo as simply a goodbye run. 2008 Honolulu Marathon winner Kiyoko Shimahara will be looking for a tiebreaking win over Biktimirova after finishing 3rd behind the Russian in Chicago last fall before beating her in Hawaii. Other noteworthy names in the field include 2007 Rotterdam Marathon winner Hiromi Ominami and 2008 Hokkaido Marathon winner Yukari Sahaku, one of coach Yoshio Koide's protegees.

The men's race contains a mixed bag of aging champions and rising stars. Kenya's Sammy Korir is undoubtedly the biggest name among the foreign set, having been pacemaker for the first-ever 2:04 marathon back in 2003 but still going strong with a 2:07:32 win last year in Seoul. Korir ran the first Tokyo Marathon in 2007 but dropped out a third of the way through. Dmytro Baranovskyy may not be a household name, but the Ukrainian won the 2005 Fukuoka International Marathon and outkicked two-time World Champion and Beijing Olympics silver medalist Jaouad Gharib of Morocco to set his PB of 2:07:15 at the 2006 Fukuoka. Kenyan Salim Kipsang is the other main foreign contender, holding a PB of 2:07:29 from the 2007 Berlin Marathon.

Three Japan-resident Kenyans are also among the major talent. Daniel Njenga won the first Tokyo Marathon in 2007 and set his PB of 2:06:16 at Chicago in 2002, finishing just a step ahead of Toshinari Takaoka's Japanese national record run. Julius Gitahi won his marathon debut in Hokkaido 2007 before finishing 3rd at last year's Tokyo in 2:08:57. James Mwangi debuted in Vienna in 2007 where he was 2nd. His time of 2:10:27 suggests room for improvement.

As is to be expected with a World Championships team berth at stake, the Japanese men's contingent makes up the largest segment of the field. National record holder Toshinari Takaoka is up front, hoping to improve on his 2:11:21 comeback run in Paris last year. The previous national record holder Atsushi Fujita is also hoping for a comeback of sorts after undergoing a thorough re-evaluation of himself. 2005 World Championships bronze medalist Tsuyoshi Ogata and his teammate Kurao Umeki will be trying to make this year's team, as will 2007 World Championships team member Tomoyuki Sato who as 3rd Japanese finisher in Fukuoka this past December is currently unlikely to be chosen for Berlin.

A surprise addition is last year's runner-up Arata Fujiwara. Fujiwara already stands a good chance of being selected for the Berlin team after his 3rd place and 2nd Japanese run in Fukuoka, but he evidently wants to solidify his chances. The other invited domestic runner, Yusei Nakao, holds a mediocre marathon PB but made significant improvement in the half marathon last year, including a 5th place finish at the World Half Marathon, and could be the best candidate for a breakthrough run. Another major candidate is 27-minute 10000 m runner Kazuhiro Maeda, making his marathon debut in Tokyo. With literally dozens of other Japanese corporate and university runners in the elite division, including many half marathon specialists making their marathon debuts, there is also a strong chance that we may again see something like Fujiwara's spectacular rise from obscurity last year.

A complete listing of the overseas and domestic men's and women's elite fields for the 2009 Tokyo Marathon is availble in PDF format here.

2009 Tokyo Marathon Elite Athletes
Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:22:46 (4th, London 2002)
Harumi Hiroyama (Team Shiseido) - 2:22:56 (2nd, Osaka 2000)
Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) - 2:23:26 (2nd, Berlin 2004)
Alevtina Biktimirova (Russia) - 2:25:12 (1st, Frankfurt 2005)
Pamela Chepchumba (Kenya) - 2:25:36 (1st, Milan 2007)
Shitaye Gemechu (Ethiopia) - 2:26:10 (4th, Paris 2008)
Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 2:26:14 (2nd, Hokkaido 2005)
Luminita Talpos (Romania) - 2:26:43 (1st, Vienna 2008)
Rong Chen (China) - 2:27:05 (1st, Beijing 2007)
Mina Ogawa (Amino Vital AC) - 2:28:47 (4th, Osaka 1998)
Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Aruze) - 2:29:49 (4th, Osaka 2004)
Yukari Sahaku (Team Aruze) - 2:31:50 (1st, Hokkaido 2008)

Sammy Korir (Kenya) - 2:04:56 (2nd, Berlin 2003)
Daniel Njenga (Team Yakult) - 2:06:16 (2nd, Chicago 2002)
Toshinari Takaoka (Team Kanebo) - 2:06:16 (3rd, Chicago 2002)
Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu) - 2:06:51 (1st, Fukuoka 2000)
Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine) - 2:07:15 (2nd, Fukuoka 2006)
Salim Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:07:29 (3rd, Berlin 2007)
Tsuyoshi Ogata (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:08:37 (6th, Fukuoka 2003)
Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:08:40 (2nd, Tokyo 2008)
Julius Gitahi (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:08:57 (3rd, Tokyo 2008)
Moges Taye (Ethiopia) - 2:09:21 (1st, Vienna 1998)
Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:43 (5th, Tokyo Int'l 2004)
Kurao Umeki (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:09:52 (7th, Berlin 2003)
Asnake Roro (Ethiopia) - 2:10:27 (4th, Treviso 2007)
James Mwangi (Team NTN) - 2:10:27 (2nd, Vienna 2007)
Justin Young (U.S.A.) - 2:13:54 (13th, Rotterdam 2008)
Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 2:23:29 (12th, Hokkaido 2007)
Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - debut - 1:30:07 (30 km)

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Avenging Beijing! Ogata Joins Tokyo Marathon Lineup

translated by Brett Larner

On Feb. 22, Beijing Olympics men's marathon 13th place finisher Tsuyoshi Ogata (Team Chugoku Denryoku) announced that he will run next month's Tokyo Marathon after having pulled out of December's Fukuoka International Marathon and February's Marugame International Half Marathon with minor injuries. "[After the Olympics] I was a lot more tired than I thought and my condition kind of broke down," stated Ogata, "but now I plan to do the Tokyo Marathon." Commented on his remaining training for Tokyo, Ogata said, "I don't know if everything is going to go smoothly or not, but there's only a month left so I want to do whatever I can to be ready."

Translator's note: The Tokyo Marathon has not yet released details on its elite field for this year's race on Mar. 22. In theory the addition of substantial prize money and a women's race this year in Tokyo could mean a high quality elite field, but with the strength of the fields already announced for London, Boston and Rotterdam there are doubts about what foreign athletes Tokyo will be able pull in. As a selection race for the men's Berlin World Championships team Tokyo will have many top domestic runners, and in fact this year it seems to have drawn many domestic elites away from this week's selection race, the Biwako Mainichi Marathon (aka Lake Biwa Marathon).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mitsuya Wins Kumanichi 30 km (updated)

translated and edited by Brett Larner

At the Rikuren-certified Kinaguri Memorial Kumanichi 30 km Road Race in Kumamoto, Kyushu on Feb. 22, Yu Mitsuya of Team Toyota Kyushu, was victorious in his debut at the distance, winning in a time of 1:29:55. Enduring a slow first 10 km in 30:08, Mitsuya ran in the lead pack until 22 km where he attacked with a strong spurt. He broke away from pursuer Yoshinori Oda of Team Toyota just before 27 km and ran alone to the finish in a successful test run for his planned marathon debut next season. "My legs got pretty heavy after 28 km," Mitsuya said afterwards. "I've gotta train more."

Having won his own debut marathon at the 1991 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon to qualify for the Barcelona Olympics where he won the silver medal, Mitsuya's coach Koichi Morishita gave him passing marks. "He didn't make any mistakes or do anything that wasn't planned. He used his head in this race."

Kumamoto native Oda was 2nd in 1:30:07, while Komazawa University ace Tsuyoshi Ugachi was 3rd in 1:30:47. Chiharu Matsuo (Team Kyudenko) won the women's race in 1:48:22.

The expected battle between Mitsuya and Team Asahi Kasei's Ryuji Ono did not take place when both Ono and Asahi Kasei star Yuki Iwai withdrew shortly before the race.

Mitsuya's next race will be at the Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet on Mar. 7.

Japan Takes Final Yokoyama International Women's Ekiden

by Brett Larner

Click here for an extensive set of photos from the ekiden and after-party courtesy of NTV.

To the surprise of none, a crack Japanese national team made up of most of the country's best current distance runners easily dispatched six foreign and seven regional domestic teams to win the final edition of the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden on Feb. 22. Among the foreign teams, on paper only the Kenyan and Russia squads stood a chance of competing with the hosts' loaded national team, which covered the six-stage, 42.195 km course in 2:15:05 to take its 10th win in the ekiden's history. Kenya was a distant 2nd in 2:16:58, while Russia fell victim to two of the regional Japanese teams, finishing 5th in 2:19:20.

The Japanese national team's three big guns, Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki), Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) and Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) all took stage best titles, while Japan's other three runners were all 2nd on their stages. Kano's former Second Wind teammate Ruth Wanjiru took one of Kenya's two stage best titles, the other picked up by Caroline Cheptonui Kilel. The final stage best title went to Russia's Natalia Medvedeva. Complete results for the final Yokohama International Women's Ekiden are available here.

With the advent of the Tokyo Marathon, which will introduce an elite women's field at next month's third running, the city of Tokyo opted to eliminate the Tokyo International Women's Marathon following last year's 30th edition. A new Yokohama International Women's Marathon will take place this November to replace the Tokyo race, but this new elite marathon comes at the expense of the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden. The sole remaining major international ekiden in Japan is now November's International Chiba Ekiden, which two years ago showed possible signs of financial trouble when it halved the number of invited runners by combining the separate men's and women's events into a single mixed-team format. As the race with the best graphic design in Japan the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden will be missed.

Stage-by-Stage Report
1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi, who set the record on the 5 km 1st stage at last year's ekiden, was expected to lead straight from the gun. It was suprising to see her sitting back in the pack during the first km and even more surprising when the entire field except for Finland's Maija Oravamaki hit the kilometer mark in a quick 3:04. Kobayashi moved to the front and then took off, clocking 3:01 for the second km with only Kenya's Lydiah Njeri Mathathi and Russia's Olesya Syreva trying to keep pace. Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Constantina Tomescu-Dita was unable to sustain the quick tempo, dropping off and eventually finishing 13th of 14 on the stage. Kobayashi clocked 15:21, with Syreva overtaking Mathathi for 2nd in 15:35 and the Kenyan 3rd in 15:37. A large pack was 14 seconds further back.

Kobayashi handed off to Yuri Kano, a likely member of the national team for this summer's World Championships women's marathon after her 2nd place finish at November's Tokyo International Women's Marathon. Although Kano has reportedly been suffering Achilles tendon problems lately, she appeared smooth and relaxed on the 10 km 2nd stage. Kenyan Magdalene Syombua Mukunzi initially made up ground on Kano but then began to slip back away. At 5.3 km Russian Olympian Inga Abitova was overtaken by Kyushu's Natsumi Tomonaga and Kanto-Tokyo's Aya Nagata, the latter of whom anchored Team Toyota Jidoshokki's national champion ekiden team. The trio stayed together, overtaking Mukunzi at 8.5 km but unable to make up ground on Kano. The Japanese team came through in 47:26, with Russia 2nd in 48:06, Kanto-Tokyo just behind in 48:09, Kyushu slipping slightly in 48:13, and Kenya 5th in 48:20.

Yuko Shimizu, winner of the 6000 m at last week's Chiba International Cross-Country meet and a member of the Japanese team at last year's International Chiba Ekiden, took over from Kano for the 6 km 3rd stage, already so far ahead that being caught was unlikely barring an accident. Kenya's Caroline Cheptonui Kilel did her best, overtaking the Kyushu, Kanto-Tokyo and Russian teams, the latter featuring Beijing Olympics 10000 m 5th place finisher Maria Konovalova. Cheptonui scored the stage best time with a 19:19 run but still finished 43 seconds behind Shimizu. Konovalova, a regular in Japan's international ekidens, had a rare off day and finished another 22 seconds back.

Japan's top university runner Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) began the return trip on the 6 km 4th stage running alone and unchallenged. Russia's Natalia Medvedeva gradually edged towards Kenya's Caroline Chepkorir, overtaking her at 5.4 km and taking Russia's only stage best title with an 18:59 clocking. It was a rare ekiden stage loss for Kojima, who was 2nd on the stage in 19:01 but kept Japan in the lead by 1:03. Chepkorir brought Kenya through 3 seconds behind Russia in 3rd.

Two-time World Student Games silver medalist Ryoko Kisaki, nearing the end of her first year of professional running, handled the 10 km 5th stage. Kisaki passed halfway in 16:10 and finished in a creditable 32:39 stage 2nd-best. Outrunning her was Kenya's Ruth Wanjiru, a longtime resident of Japan and a teammate of Yuri Kano at Second Wind AC. Wanjiru, who hopes to run on the Kenyan team in the World Championships marathon off her 2:27:38 performance at last month's Osaka International Women's Marathon, was remarkably aggressive, immediately passing Russia's Tatiana Aryasova, clocking 15:52 for the 5 km split, and closing in a stage best 32:31. Aryasova struggled and was overtaken by the Kanto team's Shoko Mori at 6 km and Kyushu's Mariko Nakao at 8.6 km. The U.S.A.'s Melissa White had the best showing of the day for her team, 3rd on the stage in 32:42 and advancing Team America from 8th to 6th.

Starting the 5.195 km 6th stage 58 seconds behind Japanese anchor Yoko Shibui, Kenya's Jane Wamucii Murage had little hope of pulling off an upset victory. Shibui reported being out of shape after taking a few easy weeks following her win at January's Osaka International Women's Marathon but still ran a stage-best 16:29 to bring Japan in to its 10th Yokohama win. Shibui said afterwards that she hadn't been confident about running the anchor leg at all, but thanks to the good position in which the rest of the team had put her it had been no problem. Murage had an impressive sprint finish to bring Kenya home 2nd, while Kanto-Tokyo's Mizuho Nasukawa and Kyushu's Akane Sueyoshi held their 3rd and 4th place positions ahead of Russia's Elena Zadorozhnaya, who landed in 5th.

A detailed breakdown of the results is available here.

2009 Yokohama International Women's Ekiden
Stage Best Performances
1st Stage (5 km) - Yuriko Kobayashi (Japan) - 15:21
2nd Stage (10 km) - Yuri Kano (Japan) - 32:05
3rd Stage (6 km) - Caroline Cheptonui Kilel (Kenya) - 19:19
4th Stage (6 km) - Natalia Medvedeva (Russia) - 18:59
5th Stage (10 km) - Ruth Wanjiru (Kenya) - 32:31
6th Stage (5.195 km) - Yoko Shibui (Japan) - 16:29

Team Results
1. Japan - 2:15:05
2. Kenya - 2:16:58
3. Kanto / Tokyo - 2:17:45
4. Kyushu - 2:18:43
5. Russia - 2:19:23
6. Kinki - 2:20:00
7. U.S.A. - 2:20:27
8. Hokkaido / Tohoku - 2:21:06
9. Chugoku / Shikoku - 2:21:10
10. China - 2:22:42
11. Kanagawa - 2:23:42
12. Tokai / Hokuriku - 2:24:34
13. Romania - 2:26:03
14. Finland - 2:36:42

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ryuji Ono Targeting 30 km World Record at Kumanichi 30 km

translated by Brett Larner

"I think for me the marathon starts right here," says Ryuji Ono (Team Asahi Kasei) of his 30 km debut at the Feb. 22 Kumanichi 30 km Road Race. "I want to see how close I can get to my target, to run the kind of time I'm shooting for." The race is a test run for his marathon debut next season, a long-term preview of his plans to run the marathon at the 2012 London Olympics.

Ono's goal in Kumanichi is the course and world record of 1:28:00, held by Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta). "Last year at the Olympic Trials 10000 m I lost to Matsumiya and didn't get to go to Beijing. If I can break his record then it'll be worth as much as beating the guy himself," he grins, his youth showing in his brash words.

After starting the year off strong by winning the New Year Ekiden's first stage Ono's condition went downhill, but since then he has recovered and even improved his fitness. "I've got it in hand," he says, revealing his self-assurance.

Ono has gotten advice about the Kumanichi 30 km and how to attack the course from older Team Asahi Kasei runners. "I've heard a lot of things," he nods. "The first 5 km are flat and cruisy, from what I hear, and you have to control yourself there or forget about a time goal. I might take off early on or in the middle, but finishing hard is my kind of race. I'm going to go all out in the last 5 km."

The chance to run against his sam-age rival Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) gives Ono extra incentive. "I think we're both targeting a time goal," he says, his blood beginning to flow more quickly at the thought. He sizes up the race against Mitsuya, who won the Feb. 8 Karatsu 10-Miler, confidently smiling, "It's a great chance to test myself and I'm not worried. I think it's going to be an interesting battle."

Translator's note: Ono and Mitsuya are, along with graduating student runners Kensuke Takezawa (Waseda Univ.), Yuki Sato (Tokai Univ.) and Masato Kihara (Chuo Gakuin Univ.), and, further down the road, Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.) and Akinobu Murasawa (Saku Chosei H.S.), part of an exceptional group of runners in the next generation who may bring Japanese men's marathoning out of its recent slump.

Watch the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden Live Online

The final running of the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden will be broadcast live nationwide on NTV on Feb. 22 beginning at 11:45 a.m. International viewers should be able to watch online for free through one of the sites listed here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ongori 3rd in RAK Half Marathon

by Brett Larner

Team Hokuren's Philes Ongori, who ran the fastest women's half marathon in the world last year, set a new PB of 1:07:50 at the Feb. 20 Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in the UAE. Ongori ran among the leaders until the final kilometers when Ethiopia's Dire Tune broke away to a new national record of 1:07:18. Ongori was outkicked by Ethiopian Aselefech Mergia, settling for 3rd. Team Aruze's Julia Mumbi Muraga was a distant 10th in 1:09:40.

Men's winner Patrick Makau of Kenya ran 58:52, the second-fastest half marathon time ever recorded, breaking world record holder Samuel Wanjiru's course record by 1 second. Yamanashi Gakuin University's Mekubo Mogusu did not start the race after a recent car accident in Kenya, and his friend Daniel Gitau of Nihon University likewise failed to start.

A detailed recap of both the women's and men's races and a link to complete results are available here.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Athletes Seek to Right a 10-Year Wrong'

"If I Run Well..." - Mitsuya, the Marathon, and the Kumanichi 30 km Road Race

translated and edited by Brett Larner

"I came to Kyushu because I want to run the marathon. Now we're getting close," says Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu). A runner with 5000 m and 10000 m World Championships experience, at age 24 Mitsuya has begun his move up to the marathon.

Mitsuya is scheduled to run the Feb. 22 Kumanichi 30 km Road Race in Kumamoto, Kyushu. "If I run well then the marathon is next," he says, hoping that the 30 km race will give him insight into the marathon's 42.195 km. Giving him added motivation is the fact that Athens Olympics 5000 m runner Ryuji Ono (Team Asahi Kasei), also 24, will likewise run Kumanichi.

Mitsuya is coached by Barcelona Olympics silver medalist Koichi Morishita, who guided Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru through his transition to the marathon. Morishita looked towards their plans for the next three years, saying, "Yu doesn't have any experience at this kind of distance, so it's very important that we set goals clearly before him. If he chooses the marathon and his body shows the right capacity in training then I'd like to think about the London Olympics."

Translator's note: The Kumanichi 30 km Road Race is where Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) set the current world record of 1:28:00 in 2005. Mitsuya and Ono are, along with graduating student runners Kensuke Takezawa (Waseda Univ.), Yuki Sato (Tokai Univ.) and Masato Kihara (Chuo Gakuin Univ.), and, further down the road, Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.) and Akinobu Murasawa (Saku Chosei H.S.), part of an exceptional group of runners in the next generation who may bring Japanese men's marathoning out of its recent slump.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Paul Tergat Headlines Biwako Mainichi Marathon Elite Field (updated)

by Brett Larner

On Feb. 18 the Biwako Mainichi Marathon released the elite field for this year's running to be held on Sun., Mar. 1. Headlining the field is former marathon world record holder Paul Tergat of Kenya. The 39 year old Tergat was scheduled to run the 2007 Fukuoka International Marathon but withdrew at the last moment citing required military service, meaning that Biwako, also known as Lake Biwa and Otsu, will be his first time appearing in a marathon in Japan.

Among the foreign competition facing Tergat are last year's runner-up Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) and past champion Jose Rios (Spain). Both Asmerom and Rios recorded their personal bests on the Biwako course. Also on the bill are Abderrahime Bouramdane (Morocco), Abiyot Guta (Ethiopia), Vitaliy Shafar (Ukraine) and Pawel Ochal (Poland).

Biwako is a selection race for the Japanese men's marathon team for the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. The top Japanese finisher will earn a spot on the team, and other runners have a chance of making the team if they record sub-2:10 times. The two most likely contenders are last year's 4th and 5th place overall finishers, Yuzo Onishi (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Tomoya Shimizu (Team Sagawa Express), both of whom ran their personal bests while trying to qualify for the Beijing Olympics at last year's Biwako. Takashi Ota (Team Konica Minolta) could also factor into the action, having another go after dropping out at the 27 km point of the Feb. 1 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. Rounding out the invited domestic field are 2:08:56 runner Kazutoshi Takatsuka (Team Komori Corp.) and 2006 Biwako 7th place finisher Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei).

Several dozen other professional Japanese runners and university students are entered in the general division, including at least ten debut marathoners with strong half marathon times. The depth of Japanese running being what it is, an unexpected general division runner could well be up front challenging for a World Championships spot. Kazuyoshi Shimozato (Team Nissan), Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) and Noriaki Takahashi (Team Subaru) are the best bets for strong debuts, and with Biwako having a history of university students making major debuts we could see Hakone Ekiden runners Yoshiki Otsuka (Jobu Univ.), Yuto Shoji (Takushoku Univ.) or Ryo Waseda (Kokushikan Univ.) make a mark.

The complete lineup of the 2009 Biwako Mainichi Marathon field is available here. Biwako is Japan's only IAAF Gold Label road race. It will be broadcast live and commercial-free on NHK television on Mar. 1 beginning at 12:00 noon.

2009 Biwako Mainichi Marathon Elite Field
Paul Tergat (Kenya) - 2:04:55 (Berlin 2003)
Jose Rios (Spain) - 2:07:42 (Biwako 2004)
Abderrahime Bouramdane (Morocco) - 2:08:20 (Seoul 2007)
Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) - 2:08:34 (Biwako 2008)
Yuzo Onishi (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:08:54 (Biwako 2008)
Kazutoshi Takatsuka (Team Komori Corp.) - 2:08:56 (Biwako 2004)
Tomoya Shimizu (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:09:23 (Biwako 2008)
Abiyot Guta (Ethiopia) - 2:10:38 (Cologne 2004)
Vitaliy Shafar (Ukraine) - 2:12:07 (Eindhoven 2007)
Takashi Ota (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:12:10 (Tokyo 2008)
Pawel Ochal (Poland) - 2:12:20 (Warsaw 2007)
Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:31 (Biwako 2006)
Kazuyoshi Shimozato (Team Nissan) - 1:02:00 (half marathon)
Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:27 (half marathon)
Noriaki Takahashi (Team Subaru) - 1:02:41 (half marathon)

Update: Invited domestic elite Kazuki Ikenaga (Team Konica Minolta) has withdrawn from the race. Ikenaga was 8th at the 2008 Biwako Mainichi Marathon.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Kenyan Athlete and Training Partner Killed in Accident'

Jefferson Siekei, 3/12/83 - 2/6/09

Jefferson Siekei's profile is located on the Team Hitachi Cable website here. Thank you to JRN reader Chris for pointing out this unfortunate story.

'Tanzanian and Japanese Athletes Run For Peace With Burundian Refugees'

The Japanese version of this article mentions that among the Waseda Univ. students who ran with Ikangaa and Seko were two members of this year's Hakone Ekiden team, 5th stage runner Masayuki Miwa and anchor Itaru Sando. Seko is Waseda's most famous running alumnus.

Olympic Medalist Wainaina Falls 6 Times During 3 km XC Ski Race

translated by Brett Larner

Two-time Olympic marathon medalist and longtime Japan resident Erick Wainaina of Kenya took part in a 3 km race last weekend where he fell six times and finished with a time of over 34 minutes, commenting afterwards, "It was my first experience and I had a lot of fun." Hearing just this you might think, "Whoa! What happened!?" The truth is that Wainaina wasn't running a road race but one on the snow at the 29th Sapporo International Ski Marathon, an event attracting elite and amateur athletes alike.

Wainaina was an invited guest in Sapporo's 3 km division despite only ever having been on skis once. Asked for his impressions after finishing the race, Wainaina said, "If I run 3 km it takes me between 8 and 9 minutes, but today it took 34:34. The muscles you use are completely different from the ones used in running."

Wainaina's best time for a marathon is 2:08:43, a pace of 3:03 per km. In Sapporo's main competition, Tomio Kanamaru won the men's 50 km division in 2:51:48, a pace of 3:26 per km. Wainaina's pace in the 3 km race was 11:31 per km. "This was just for fun," he said, "but in March I'll be doing the Tokyo Marathon for real."

Erick Wainaina
Wainaina came to Japan in 1993 after graduating from high school. He entered the famous Konica Minolta jitsugyodan running team, winning the silver medal in the marathon in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. In 2000 he won the bronze medal in the Sydney Olympics marathon. He now uses the loop around Tokyo's Imperial Palace as the main ground for his training.

'The Tokyo 2016 Olympics: Ishihara Eager to Welcome World to Tokyo'

Another article on Tokyo's Olympic bid with more information than the one I translated yesterday.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tokyo Delivers Its Bid For a Compact Olympics

translated by Brett Larner

On Feb. 13 the 2016 Tokyo Olympics Bid Committee submitted its plan for "the most compact arrangement of facilities in Olympic history," an Olympics designed "from the athletes' point of view." The planned marathon course includes both the 1964 and 2016 Olympic stadiums, a route designed "to encompass the full sweep of [Tokyo's Olympic] history."

The new Olympic stadium, desgined to hold 100,000 spectators with a permanent seating capacity of 80,000, will be built in Tokyo's Harumi district in Chuo Ward and is intended to be the heart of Tokyo's facilities. With the exception of shooting events and soccer, all other competitions are planned to take place within an 8 km radius of the new Olympic stadium. Of the 34 proposed sites, 23 will make use of already-existing venues.

The marathon course in particular captures the spirit of Tokyo's Olympic bid. The proposed course begins at Tokyo's 1964 Olympic Stadium, travelling to the Imperial Palace where athletes will run three loops of a 10 km circuit through Akihabara and Ginza before finishing at the new Olympic Stadium in Harumi, spanning the distance from the old to the new Tokyo Olympics. Making use of part of the course for Asia's largest marathon, the Tokyo Marathon, the proposed Olympic marathon route will run through many of the Tokyo's most popular tourist sites in the heart of the city.

Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) president Tsunekazu Takeda stated, "With 95% of the venues located within an 8 km radius our arrangements are compact and efficient. We will listen to the critiques from every international federation and make whatever improvements necessary to give the athletes the best experience possible."

Biwako Mainichi Marathon - Elite Field Preview

by Brett Larner

The next selection race for the Japanese men's marathon team for the 2009 World Championships in Berlin takes place Mar. 1 at the Biwako Mainichi Marathon, one of Japan's most prestigious elite races. Biwako, also known as the Lake Biwa Marathon and usually referred to in official listings as the Otsu marathon after the town in which the race takes place, became Japan's first IAAF Gold Label road race earlier this year in a suprising move possibly designed to counter main sponsor Rohm's withdrawal of support following this year's race. Biwako's future may be in question but as a World Championships selection race this year's edition is sure to continue the event's history of offering the spring's most dramatic domestic men's racing.

Biwako has not yet released its official entry list, but below is a compilation of athletes who have thus far publicly declared an intent to run. The official entry list should be available within the week.

2009 Biwako Mainichi Marathon - Preliminary Elite Field
Jose Rios (Spain) - 2:07:42 (Biwako '04)
Kazutoshi Takatsuka (Team Komori Corp.) - 2:08:56 (Biwako '04)
Tomoya Shimizu (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:09:23 (Biwako '08)
Kenichi Kita (Team Kyudenko) - 2:11:41 (Nobeoka '06)
Takashi Ota (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:12:10 (Tokyo '08)
Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:31 (Biwako '06)
Masayuki Kobayashi (Team Subaru) - 2:14:41 (Biwako '04)
Hayato Kono (Team Subaru) - 2:15:11 (Biwako '06)
Tsuyoshi Kato (Team Komori Corp.) - 2:15:49 (Tokyo '08)
Tomoya Shirayanagi (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 2:29:37 (1/2 mar. PB 1:02:57)
Takashi Maeda (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 2:30:41 (1/2 mar. PB 1:02:38)

Debut Marathoners With Half Marathon PB
Kazuyoshi Shimozato (Team Nissan) - 1:02:00
Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:27
Noriaki Takahashi (Team Subaru) - 1:02:41
Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:03:21
Masatomo Akutsu (Team JAL Ground Service) - 1:03:28
Yuya Shiokawa (Team Subaru) - 1:03:47
Yuji Mizukami (Team Subaru) - 1:04:11
Shigeru Furukawa (Team Subaru) - 1:04:19
Issei Kowata (Team Subaru) - 1:04:41
Bunta Kuroki (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 1:05:35

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Comeback Victory for Yokoyama in Ome

translated by Brett Larner

At the 43rd Ome Marathon on Feb. 15, Tomoe Yokoyama (32, Team Toto) won the women's 30 km race in 1:47:01 six years after her previous Ome victory in 2003. Now completely recovered from a right leg injury which sidelined her career for years, Yokoyama is enthusiastically looking forward to running the marathon in the 2012 London Olympics.

Running under a picture-perfect blue sky, Yokoyama left her competitors far behind as she broke the goal tape, exhibiting in her comeback Ome victory the kind of running not seen since her long-ago first win in 2003. "I'm really grateful to everyone who's helped me up 'til now," she commented afterwards. "And my confidence to race is back." Wearing the laurel wreath for the first time in six years as she stood upon the highest point of the podium, Yokoyama's smile transmitted her joy to all.

The period between her wins has been one of nonstop hardship. Soon after Ome 2003 she injured her right heel in training, after which running anything longer than a half marathon became extremely painful. In the midst of this time of trouble, her sponsor Seiko Instruments disbanded its running team in March 2005. She moved to Team Phiten alongside Naoko Takahashi, but after only a year moved again to Team Toto. These six years were, "unbelievably tough," she recalls quietly.

Yokoyama's older brother Kei, 34, a former runner for Team Fujitsu, is now head coach of Team Toto, and together the pair of siblings is working toward a common goal. She receives acupuncture and other medical treatments for her heel, and to improve her core strength has incorporated a six-hour mountain-climbing course in the mountains around Kita-Kyushu into her training. To cut down on the stress on her brother, this time Yokoyama entered Ome's general division. In the first half of the race she ran in the 2nd pack, but after rounding the turnaround point she accelerated rapidly and opened a gap of 28 seconds over 2nd place.

"Ome this year was the first step toward the marathon," Yokoyama says confidently. "I'm planning to run Boston in April, then next season I'll do one of the three big women's marathons (Yokohama, Osaka and Nagoya)." She intends to dedicate herself completely to her running over the next three years, even holding off on getting married until after the London Olympics. "I want to be an athlete like (Naoko) Takahashi," she concludes. From Ome's streets a runner's dreams of the world stage have been born again.

Tomoe Yokoyama - born Aug. 9, 1976 in Tokyo. 152 cm, 41 kg. Lives with her parents and two brothers. Began running in junior high school and training in Yoshio Koide's Sakura AC while in high school. Ran for Team Seiko Instruments and Team Phiten before moving to Team Toto in 2006. PBs: 10000 m - 32:55.83 / marathon: 2:34:37

Translator's note: Although it seems unlikely, under Rikuren's new selection procedures a strong performance in Boston would put Yokoyama into consideration for the 2009 Berlin World Championships marathon team.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Yoshihisa Hosaka Interview

This weekend I visited Shimoda four hours south of Tokyo to interview Yoshihisa Hosaka about his background and training for his 60+ world record at the Feb. 1 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. I’ve worked at various times with a range of well-known musicians, artists, dancers, athletes and biologists and can honestly say that Hosaka is the most interesting person I have ever met. The interview will appear in the June issue of Running Times magazine, available April 28.

Kurosaki, Yokoyama and Yamauchi Take Ome Marathon Wins

by Brett Larner

While the 2008 Ome Marathon 30 km and 10 km road race was cancelled due to heavy snowfall, this year's race saw unseasonable mid-spring temperatures around 20 degrees. 23280 people ran the two races, with 17959 in the 30 km race and 5321 in the 10 km.

Team Konica Minolta's first-year star recruit Hirokatsu Kurosaki continued to impress, taking the win in the men's 30 km division in 1:32:50, a strong time on Ome's famously hilly course. Veteran jitsugyodan runner Kurao Umeki (Team Chugoku Denryoku) was 48 seconds back in 2nd, narrowly beating out Waseda University's downhill specialist Sota Kato who ran a PB of 1:33:52 for 3rd. 2009 World Championships marathon team member Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) was 4th in 1:34:17, just half a step ahead of American Nicholas Arciniaga who clocked the same time but was 5th.

The women's 30 km race was a three-way battle, with Tomoe Yokoyama (Team Toto) winning in 1:47:01 over Team Hokuren's Yoshie Kitomi and Sumiko Suzuki who were 2nd and 3rd in 1:47:29 and 1:47:44 respectively. The next pack of women, including retired jitsugyodan runners Eri Okubo (Amino Vital AC) and Tomoko Tamamushi (Harriers AC), were another 12 minutes back. Two-time defending Mt. Fuji mountain race winner Yuri Kanbara (Lafine RC) was 10th in 2:02:49.

Fresh from her win at the Feb. 1 Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon, Japan resident Mara Yamauchi (U.K.) scored her second Ome 10 km win, running 32:27. Team Nihon ChemiCon runners swept the remaining five prize positions, led by 2008 World Half Marathon team member Yuko Machida who was 2nd in 33:16. Ome does not feature an elite 10 km men's race, only high school and masters' divisions.

Complete top ten results are available here for the 30 km race and here for the 10 km race.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Maeda Scores First Victory at Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon

translated and edited by Brett Larner

At the 47th Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon starting and finishing in front of Nobeoka City Hall in Nobeoka, Miyazaki Prefecture on Feb. 15, 29 year-old Kazuyuki Maeda (Team Konica Minolta) ran a nearly 30-minute of 2:13:55 to take his first-ever marathon win. Maeda ran alongside debut marathoner Shingo Tsumemaru (Team Asahi Kasei) behind pacemaker Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) until Sato's departure at 30 km. Maeda then gradually pulled away from Tsumemaru and widened his lead to what became a solo run.

The 2nd and 3rd place finishers ran a conservative early pace, coming from behind in the later stages to clock strong results. 2 minutes and 2 seconds behind Maeda in 2nd place was Keisuke Wakui (Team Yakult) in his marathon debut. Takanori Ide (Team Kyudenko) was 3rd in a PB of 2:16:01. Tsumemaru faded to 9th in 2:20:00.

Conditions at the start were an unseasonably warm 19.7 degrees with 28% humidity and east-northeast winds of 1.5 m/sec. 202 runners in all completed the marathon.

Complete top 10 results are available here.

'Karoki and Shimizu the Winners at Chiba Cross Country'

Click pictures for more 2009 Chiba Int'l XC photos by Mikiko Lawrence.

'Ekiden Running Star Involved in Car Accident in Native Kenya'

Mekubo Mogusu is scheduled to run in the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon on Feb. 20.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Shibui, Kobayashi, Dita and More to Run Final Yokohama International Women's Ekiden

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Click photo for a preview video of the 2009 Yokohama International Women's Ekiden (viewing area may be limited).

On Feb. 12 the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden organizing committee held a press conference to announce the lineup of the Japanese national team for this year's 27th and final running scheduled for Feb. 22. Leading the team are Beijing Olympians Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) and Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki). Shibui, who will compete in the marathon at this summer's World Championships in Berlin, set a stage record the last time she ran Yokohama in 2002. Kobayashi has run the 1st leg for the last three years, winning the stage in 2008.

Joining Shibui and Kobayashi are a strong squad made up of 2008 Tokyo International Women's Marathon runner-up Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC), #1-ranked university runner Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) and rising stars Ryoko Kisaki (Team Daihatsu) and Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya). Kano set a stage record on Yokohama's 5th leg in 2005, and Kojima has extensive successful experience in international ekidens despite her young age. With such an impressive membership the Japanese national team will be hungry for its first win in four years.

Along with the Japanese national team and seven regional Japanese squads, teams from six other countries including Russia, Romania, the U.S.A., Kenya, Finland and China will compete. Among the foreign athletes scheduled to run are Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Constantina Dita (Romania) and 10000 m specialists Maria Konovalova and Inga Abitova (Russia). Complete lineups for the other thirteen teams are available here.

The Yokohama International Women's Ekiden covers a six-stage, 42.195 km course beginning and ending at Yokohama's Akarenga arts space. With last year's demise of the Tokyo International Women's Marathon, the ekiden is being replaced with a new Yokohama International Women's Marathon to take place in November. The final edition of the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden will be broadcast live nationwide on NTV beginning at 12:00 noon on Feb. 22. International viewers should be able to watch online for free through one of the sites listed here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chiba International Cross-Country Meet: Kobayashi, Iwamizu, Hiroyama and More Headline

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Rikuren has announced the lineup for the Chiba International Cross Country Meet to take place Feb. 15. As a selection race for the Japanese national team for this year's Jordan World Cross Country Championships in March, the Chiba XC Meet has attracted a range of top athletes looking to represent their nation.

The men's 12000 m race includes 3000 m steeplechase Olympian Yoshitaka Iwamizu (Team Fujitsu), 2009 Interprefectural Ekiden 7th stage winner Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku), two-time Olympic marathoner Jon Brown (Canada/U.K.) and 2009 Shibuya New Ekiden 1st stage winner Jason Lawrence (New Zealand).

The women's 6000 m race features Beijing Olympics 5000 m runner Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki), 2007 World Championships 6th place finisher Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC), and veteran Harumi Hiroyama (Team Shiseido).

In the junior men's 8000 m race, the top Japanese finisher and overall 3rd place finisher from last summer's National High School Meet 5000 m, Yutaro Fukushi (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) will compete against 2008 National High School 10000 m champion Hirotaka Tamura (Aomori Yamada H.S.) for a spot on the national team.

The junior women's 5000 m race includes National High School champion Ayaka Mori (Suma Gakuen H.S.) and National High School Ekiden 1st stage winner Rei Obara (Kojokan H.S.).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Three Stars for the Ome Marathon: Satoshi Irifune, Eri Okubo and Sota Kato

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The 43rd edition of the Ome Marathon* is scheduled to take place Feb. 15. Once again this year 20000 runners from across the country, amateurs and professionals alike, will come together to run Ome's early spring roads in the foothills of the mountains west of Tokyo. 15000 will run in Ome's main event, the 30 km road race, while another 5000 will run in the 10 km race. We interviewed some of the most interesting and well-known faces.

Satoshi Irifune - Team Kanebo
Satoshi Irifune is on his way to the world. Finishing 2nd overall at December's Fukuoka International Marathon in a PB time of 2:09:23, Irifune became the first man to book a seat on the marathon team for August's World Track and Field Championships in Berlin. "I want to peak at the World Championships, so this will help me get some idea of my current condition," he says of his upcoming Ome debut. "Racing to win will give me some hints about how I should run in the marathon."

Three and a half weeks after Fukuoka at the New Year Ekiden Irifune was only 13th on the 13.7 km 3rd stage. "To be honest, I was pretty exhausted," he admits. After the ekiden he adjusted his training to allow time to recover from the fatigue of running two races in such a short span, but he has now begun rebuilding himself in preparation for the World Championships. His coach Kunimitsu Ito, 54, who won back-to-back Ome titles in '85 and '86, evaluated Irifune's prospects, saying, "In order to succeed in the marathon it's crucial that he focus on his speed in the second half." He indicated that he has given Irifune strict directions to go for a fast time in Ome, not simply for the win.

The winner in Fukuoka was Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede, 22, who ran a PB time of 2:06:10. Irifune ran with Kebede until 30 km, but over the final 10 km he lost contact and a huge gap of 3 minutes, 13 seconds opened between 1st and 2nd. In order to safely preserve his position as top Japanese, Irifune explains, "I gave up on trying to reach my target time," but the road to being competitive at the world level will require his speed. "I think that I can only really say I'm targeting 2:06 in the marathon if I have the necessary workouts in hand, so with that in mind I want to take Ome in a dominating time." The early-spring Ome course will be the stage for Irifune's proud first step toward national representation.

Satoshi Irifune - Born Dec. 14, 1975 in Hioki, Kagoshima Prefecture. 176 cm, 59 kg. Married with one son and one daughter. After graduating from Kagoshima Shogyo H.S. he joined Team Kyocera in 1994, running the 10000 m in the 1999 World Championships in Seville, where he was 20th. He joined Team Kanebo in July, 2000, and was 20th in the marathon at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki. He will run the marathon in this year's Berlin World Championships. PBs: 5000 m - 13:22.12 / 10000 m - 27:53.92 / half marathon - 1:01:36 / marathon - 2:09:23

Sota Kato - Waseda University
Revenge is in sight and his blood is already boiling. At this year's Hakone Ekiden Sota Kato's Waseda University ekiden team was relegated to the runner-up position for the second year in a row. "Next year I want to do my part to help win Hakone," Kato vows. "I want to start things off the right way with a good run in Ome." As the first race of a new season, Ome will give him a chance to wipe away the sweat of countless miles of daily practice.

"Being up in the mountains it's a hard course to run, so there is a lot of similarity to Hakone," evaluates Kato, recalling his 2007 run in Ome. That year as a university first-year he was 13th in the men's 30 km division in 1:36:52. After rounding the course's turnaround point and beginning the return run, Kato heard cheers of support from the runners still outbound. He remains thankful as he says, "Hearing that made me really happy right when I was feeling dead." While preparing for that year's Ome Kato was 2nd in the National University Half Marathon Championships and 5th in the World Student Games half marathon in Bangkok. Combined with his stage best title at the following year's Hakone Ekiden, Kato became a much more confident person.

This year Kato was unable to achieve his hopes. In his third time as Waseda's man for the Hakone Ekiden's downhill mountain running 6th stage, Kato recalls, "I wasn't feeling bad, but I got stomach cramps and couldn't speed up when I needed too." Starting the stage in 2nd place Kato was able to improve Waseda's position but finished 53 seconds slower than last year with a time of 1:00:08 for the 20.8 km leg, only the 7th best time of the day. On the 8th stage Waseda lost the lead Kato had captured to eventual winner Toyo University. Kato takes responsibility, saying, "I think if I'd been able to run the way I should have then we would have won." Just over a month later his hard feelings have anything but faded. The downhill specialist's motivation is clearly strong as he looks toward his upcoming Ome performance at the start of his final university season. "If I can run the uphills well then I'm pretty confident. Nobody is going to take me on the downhills."

Sota Kato - Born Feb. 1, 1988 in Seto, Aichi Prefecture. 170 cm, 59 kg. Lives with his parents and sister. Beginning track and field his first year at Hatayama J.H.S., Kato graduated from Aichi H.S. and entered Waseda Univ.'s Sports Department in 2006. He is Waseda's downhill specialist and has run the Hakone Ekiden 6th stage three times thus far, finishing 9th on the stage his first year, winning the stage in 2008, and coming in 7th this year. PBs: 5000 m - 13:59.34 / 10000 m - 29:43.63 / half marathon - 1:03:54 / 30 km - 1:36:52

Eri Okubo - Amino Vital AC
People used to call her 'Naoko the Second.' When she was a senior at Tokyo's Hachioji High School, Eri Okubo won the 10 km race at the 2002 Ome Marathon, the first high school student to win in 21 years. The same year she joined Team Toyota Jidoshokki, where, under the tutelage of head coach Yoshio Koide, 69, she moved to Boulder, Colorado to work as the training partner of Sydney Olympics marathon gold medalist Naoko Takahashi. "The training was very, very hard," recalls Okubo, "but I loved every day of it."

Sadly for this dreamlike life, reality is not always so sweet. Okubo's only good performance as a professional was a 3rd place finish in the 2006 Ome Marathon 30 km. A lingering injury to her left heel which began in the fall of her first year with Toyota Jidoshokki led to surgery. Following her recovery she was unable to return to her previous form and in August, 2006 Okubo quit the team. "I lost my motivation and couldn't be like a professional anymore," she says.

If one spirit abandons you another will always pick you up. In September of the same year Okubo talked to Susumu Nakajima, 59, coach to Mari Tanigawa among others, and joined his Amino Vital Athletic Club. She also became an instructor in Nakajima's 'Hi-Tec Sports Academy,' helping everyone from corporate CEOs to entry-level company workers improve their fitness, all the while keeping up with her own training. She began to get good results, including a 10th place finish at the 2007 Tokyo International Women's Marathon where Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) won in her own comeback race.

Okubo's first Ome Marathon in three years is a step toward a PB attempt at March's Tokyo Marathon. "Last time I ran 1:46, so this time I want to beat that," she says boldly. Her mentor Mari Tanigawa, the 'Star of the Civic Runners,' became a professional at age 28 when she joined Team Shiseido, going on to finish 3rd at the 1990 Tokyo International Women's Marathon and winning the next year. Okubo is still only 25. There is more than enough time for to become 'Mari the Second.'

Eri Okubo - Born June 2, 1983 in Hino, Tokyo. 164 cm, 48 kg. Lives with her parents and brother. Graduated from Hachioji H.S. in 2002 and joined Team Toyota Jidoshokki. Quit in 2006 and joined Amino Vital AC. Her marathon PB is 2:40:12 from the 2007 Tokyo International Women's Marathon.

*Translator's note: Despite its name, the Ome Marathon is in fact a 30 km road race which stands as one of the most respected races in the country. Last year's Ome was cancelled due to heavy snowfall.

'Nissan Suspends Sports Activities'

Team Nissan's Silas Jui finished 2nd at the Karatsu 10-Miler on Feb. 8. Nissan is unlikely to be the only company to eliminate its sports teams in the current economic environment.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kitamura Outleans Sato and Omori at Himejijo 10 Miler

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Terukazu Omori, Satoru Kitamura and Atsushi Sato in a photo-finish at the 2009 Himejijo 10-Miler.

Ten days after finishing two seconds behind half marathon Asian record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) at the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon, the diminuitive Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin) came out on top at the 49th Himejijo 10 Mile Road Race in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture on Feb. 11. The race came down to a sprint finish between the three runners with the fastest 10000 m times in the field after a slow early pace. Kitamura, Sato and Terukazu Omori (Team Shikoku Denryoku) all clocked times of 47:57, but the rookie Kitamura outleaned Beijing Olympics marathoner Sato and ekiden ace Omori to take the win. Sato was 2nd, with Omori taking 3rd.

Sato is planning on running April's London Marathon but commented, "I'm still don't really know how it's going to go, so I'm not sure yet." He plans to race next in March's Fukuoka International Cross Country meet and National Corporate Half Marathon Championships.

Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon Elite Field Preview

by Brett Larner

The 2009 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon takes place this Sunday, Feb. 15 on Japan's southernmost main island of Kyushu. Nobeoka is one of Japan's second-tier elite marathons and typically serves as a development race for young marathoners and first-timers. The top returning runner from 2008 is 4th place finisher Isamu Sueyoshi (Team Otsuka Seiyaku), who recorded his PB of 2:15:12 at last year's race. His main competitor may be Masayuki Sakahashi (Team Kurosaki Harima), but with more debutants than experienced marathoners Nobeoka is far from predictable.

The first-time marathoner most likely to be a factor is 1:02:01 half marathoner Yuki Tanaka (Team Sumco Techxiv), but either Takashi Nabeshima (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) or Sueyoshi's teammate Katsuji Yamaguchi, both of whom have half marathon times under 1:03, could also be up front. The most talented runner in the field, Kazuyuki Maeda (Team Konica Minolta), holds a half marathon PB of 1:01:49 and a 30 km PB of 1:29:57 but has thus far struggled in the marathon. If he performs up to potential the course record of 2:11:05 could be at risk.

Running as pacemaker is 2007 World Championships marathon team member Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei). Sato will be running the Tokyo Marathon in March to qualify for this summer's World Championships in Berlin.

2009 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon Elite Field
Masayuki Sakahashi (Team Kurosaki Harima) - 2:15:04
Isamu Sueyoshi (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:15:12
Takahiko Saeki (Team Sumco Techxiv) - 2:16:36
Takanori Ide (Team Kyudenko) - 2:16:40
Shunsuke Kamiya (Team Chudenko) - 2:17:39
Munehiro Sugaya (Team Toyota) - 2:18:24
Nao Kazami (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:18:58
Katsutoshi Tanisue (SDF Academy) - 2:20:14
Fumiyuki Watanabe (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:20:22
Ken Konishi (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:22:31
Kazuyuki Maeda (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:43:43

Debut Marathoners With Half Marathon PB
Yuki Tanaka (Team Sumco Techxiv) - 1:02:01
Takashi Nabeshima (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 1:02:49
Katsuji Yamaguchi (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:02:58
Takuro Yamashita (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:03:14
Masato Ninomiya (Team Chudenko) - 1:03:20
Tatsunori Sento (Team Sagawa Express) - 1:03:23
Yuki Moriwaki (Team JFE Steel) - 1:03:39
Shingo Tsumemaru (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:03:39
Keisuke Wakui (Team Yakult) - 1:03:52
Kaoru Shinohara (Team Nishitetsu) - 1:03:53
Koji Sato (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 1:04:13
Yoshiharu Tateishi (Team Osaka Gas) - 1:04:19
Tetsuya Tomohiro (Team Kyudenko) - 1:04:26
Kodai Tanabe (Team Mazda) - 1:04:35
Yutaro Shimoyae (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 1:05:50
Hiro Ashida (Team Nishitetsu) - 50:06 (10 miles)

Keisuke Ikeda (Team Sumco Techxiv) - no info available
Kazuma Nagatomi (Team Sumco Techxiv) - no info available
Kenji Takeuchi (Team Toyota Kyushu) - no info available

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Atsushi Sato Headlines Himejijo 10 Miler

by Brett Larner

Half marathon Asian record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) headlines the field at the 49th Himejijo 10 Mile Road Race on the national holiday of Feb. 11, just 10 days after finishing 3rd overall and as the top domestic runner at the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon. As he prepares for the London Marathon Sato will face a wide range of challengers including the runner who finished just behind him in Marugame, Team Nissin Shokuhin's Satoru Kitamura, and 2:07:52 marathoner Tomoaki Kunichika (Team S&B), but his biggest competition is likely to be the only other sub-28 minute 10000 m runner in the race, Terukazu Omori (Team Shikoku Denryoku). The field also includes American Steven Crane, the lone foreigner among the elite runners.

2009 Himejijo 10 Mile Road Race Elite Field
times listed are PB marks for 10000 m and half marathon

Terukazu Omori (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 27:43.94 / 1:02:14
Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 27:56.86 / 1:00:25
Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:00.22 / 1:02:26
Kenji Noguchi (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 28:03.83 / 1:02:20
Tomoaki Kunichika (Team S&B) - 28:05.38 / 1:02:14
Akira Kiniwa (Team S&B) - 28:08.16 / 1:03:00
Kazuyoshi Tokumoto (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:13.23 / 1:03:36
Takeshi Takahashi (Team Osaka Gas) - 28:16.98 / 1:02:46
Atsushi Ikawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 28:20.36 / 1:03:03
Keisuke Nakatani (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 28:30.54 / 1:02:30
Shuichi Fujii (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:33.36 / 1:02:09
Yoshinori Suzuki (Team Fujitsu) - 28:40.25 / -
Shinya Katsuma (Team Sagawa Express) - 28:56.18 / 1:03:24
Hironori Takaoka (Team JAL Ground Service) - 29:03.76 / 1:04:50
Koji Kannan (Team JAL Ground Service) - 29:06.35 / 1:02:22
Yusuke Mita (Waseda Univ.) - 29:15.18 / 1:04:25
Hirotaka Nagai (Nittai Univ.) - 29:22.52 / 1:04:28
Go Nakagawa (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 29:35.27 / 1:03:30
Steven Crane (U.S.A.) - 29:52 / 1:05:02

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, February 9, 2009

Speed Runner Mitsuya On His Way to Marathon Debut

translated by Brett Larner

Photo courtesy of Rikuren.

Long distance track ace Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) won the 49th Karatsu 10 Mile Road Race on Feb. 8 with the kind of finish Japanese marathon fans love to see.

Entering the stadium with just 300 m left to go on the track, Mitsuya outkicked Kenyan leader and 2007 Karatsu winner Silas Jui (Team Nissan) to win by 6 seconds after dueling over the last 6 km of the race. Mitsuya raised his hands triumphantly as he broke the finish tape, smashing through the first gate on the road to his debut marathon. "I think Silas had a cold or something, but we'll see each other again in the [Kumanichi] 30 km race. That's where I really want to win," a sweaty Mitsuya commented afterwards, looking toward his first 30 km race with eager eyes.

This 10 mile race and the Feb. 22 Kumanichi 30 km Road Race are part of his development plan for a planned marathon debut next year, a series of tests designed to assign a value to his potential worth as a marathoner. Although strong winds of 16 km/hr prevented him from reaching his target time in Karatsu, being able to stay with a Kenyan start to finish and then having the strength and speed to outkick him makes his future in the marathon look bright. His coach Koichi Morishita agreed, giving Mitsuya passing marks. "He showed good racing sensibilities. Next the 30 km will be crucial."

As Mitsuya becomes a marathoner his consciousness of himself is also changing. After races and training sessions he has become more diligent about icing himself and about including stretching as part of his regimen in order to help prevent injury. In the past he has frequently had setbacks, but in the last year he has managed to avoid any extended periods of time off for injury. "I feel motivated to see how I can do in the marathon," Mitsuya says. "I think I'll be able to see a little of what it's like by doing this 30 km race. If I don't give it a try I can't know." Getting a sense of the reality of his situation in the Kumanichi 30 km, Mitsuya will be able to enter his marathon preparations with a realistic and concrete goal in mind.

Also running in the Kumanichi 30 km is Mitsuya's arch-rival Ryuji Ono (Team Asahi Kasei). The same age as Mitsuya, Ono likewise plans to debut in the marathon next year. Looking toward their showdown Mitsuya says, "I know he's working really hard too so I can't let myself lose to him. I'll be running for the win." First in Karatsu and then in Kumamoto, as this speed star runs Kyushu's roads all of Japan is waiting for his marathon debut.

Translator's note: Yu Mitsuya was born in Dec., 1984. He ran in the World Cross Country Championships in 2002 and 2004 and competed in the 10000 m in the 2005 Helsinki World Championships and the 5000 m in the 2007 Osaka World Championships. He was also the 2005 national 10000 m champion. Mitsuya is coached by Barcelona Olympics marathon silver medalist Koichi Morishita and was a teammate and training partner of Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru before Wanjiru's retirement from the team. Mitsuya's PBs of 13:18.32 for 5000 m and 27:41.10 are the all-time third-best Japanese men's marks and the best times ever run within Japan by a Japanese runner.

His rival Ryuji Ono was born in Jan., 1985. Ono won the bronze medal in the 10000 m at the 2004 World Junior Championships and a month later ran the 10000 m at the Athens Olympics at age 19. He set his 3000 m PB of 7:54.25, his 5000 m PB of 13:32.67 and his 10000 m PB of 27:53.19 in the summer of 2008. As this article says, both runners' moves to the marathon are eagerly anticipated in Japan.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mitsuya and Miyauchi Win Karatsu 10-Miler

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Two-time World Champioinships track runner Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) won the Karatsu 10 Mile Road Race on Feb. 8 in Karatsu, Saga Prefecture. Mitsuya ran 47:04 to take his first-ever win in Karatsu. In two weeks he will run the Kumanichi 30 km Road Race as part of his preparations for a marathon debut later in the year. Noritaka Fujiyama (Team Sumco Techxiv) was the top Saga Prefecture native, finishing 3rd overall.

Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Oki) also scored her first Karatsu win, taking the women's 10 km event in 32:38. Yuya Konishi (Tosu Kogyo H.S.) won the high school boys' 10 km race in 30:12, giving Saga Prefecture its first high school division win in 3 years. Konishi's teammate Satoru Hori was 4th overall.

Matsumiya and Yamada Run in Kenya Prisons XC Championships

30 km world record holder and 5000 m national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya and his Konica Minolta teammate Hiroshi Yamada, training together in Kenya this month, ran in the Kenya Prisons Cross-Country National Championships on Feb. 7. No word on their results.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Kodama to Become Head Coach of Team Aichi Seiko

translated by Brett Larner

Team Aichi Seiko of Tokai, Aichi Prefecture, has announced that head coach and former 10000 m and marathon national record holder Takeyuki Nakayama, 49, will be resigning his position as head coach at the end of this season. Nakayama will be replaced by former marathon national record holder Taisuke Kodama, 50, who will take over effective April 1st.

As a runner for Team Asahi Kasei, Kodama won the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon and Beijing International Marathon, going on to coach Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki and Asahi Kasei's women's team following the end of his competitve running.

Nakayama became head coach of Team Aichi Seiko in 2004 and served for five years, leading the team to the New Year Ekiden four times. His plans following his retirement are currently undecided.