Friday, January 29, 2010

Osaka International Women's Marathon Preview - Watch Online

by Brett Larner

With six elite marathons in seven weeks, the crowded 2010 Japanese marathon season gets rolling this Sunday, Jan. 31 with the Osaka International Women's Marathon. With only an Asian Games spot at stake in a year without a major worldwide championships this year's Osaka has nevertheless attracted an interesting field containing a good number of relative newcomers and a few solid pros.

Osaka has been the site of some very memorable marathon debuts. Last year it was the site of track and half marathon star Yukiko Akaba's first marathon, 2nd overall in a credible 2:25:40. The Team Hokuren runner has been one of the main forces in the domestic track and ekiden scene for the last two years but her shaky appearances at the Olympics, the World Half Marathon and especially her disastrous run in the World Championships marathon have all weakened Akaba's reputation. With some expecting her to become Japan's next sub-2:20 woman Akaba is returning to Osaka to get her marathoning back on track before a planned appearance at April's London Marathon.

Also getting things back on track in Osaka is seasoned World Championships marathoner Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz). Ozaki is the second-fastest woman in the field by PB with her time of 2:23:30 from Osaka '03. She has been out of peak form the last couple of years but the talk around town is that she is fit and ready for a fast one.

Among the foreign elites, Marisa Barros (Portugal) and Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) look to be the most dangerous. Neither has extensive marathon experience, but each holds a 2:26 PB set last year. Barros ran a 10000 m PB of 31:31 earlier this month, suggesting she has the speed to improve her mark. Gobena, mother of a three year old son, has told the Japanese media she hopes to run 2:23. If she is true to her word it will take a serious effort from Akaba, Ozaki or the others in the field to outdo her.

As usual, there is a share of first-timers lining up in Osaka as well. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) was a university ace before joining Team Daihatsu, while Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) was a pro XC skiier before becoming a teammate of Berlin World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki a year and a half ago. Both women have been strong on the ekiden scene throughout the fall and winter, and with both clocking half marathon PBs of 1:10 at last year's Jitsugyodan Half Marathon. A debut of 2:27 or better would not be surprising for either.

Veterans in the field include perennial Osaka invitee Lidia Simon (Romania), Olivia Jevtic (Serbia), and in her last run, 2006 Asian Games bronze medalist Kayoko Obata (Team Acom).

Fuji TV will broadcast the race live nationwide from 12:00 to 2:55 p.m. Overseas viewers should be able to watch live online using Keyhole TV. JRN will be on-site for the race, with associate editor Mika Tokairin running the marathon and editor Brett Larner doing the pre-race half marathon. In the half marathon field are last year's winner Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) and her teammate Yuri Kano, along with 2009 Copenhagen Marathon winner Chihiro Tanaka (Team Daitsu).

2010 Osaka International Women's Marathon Elite Field With Bib Numbers
click here for more detailed profiles and athlete photos
1. Lidia Simon (Romania) - 2:22:54 (Osaka 2000)
31. Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - 2:23:30 (Osaka 2003)
32. Kayoko Obata (Team Acom) - 2:25:14 (Osaka 2000)
2. Olivera Jevtic (Serbia) - 2:25:23 (Rotterdam 2003)
33. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 2:25:40 (Osaka 2009)
3. Marisa Barros (Portugal) - 2:26:03 (Seville 2009)
34. Chika Horie (Team Universal Ent.) - 2:26:11 (Hokkaido 2002)
4. Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) - 2:26:53 (Los Angeles 2009)
35. Ayumi Nakayama (Team Yamada Denki) - 2:28:50 (Osaka 2008)
5. Dulce Maria Rodriguez (Mexico) - 2:28:54 (Chicago 2006)
36. Yumi Hirata (Team Shiseido) - 2:29:23 (Nagoya 2008)
37. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 1:10:16 (Jitsugyodan Half 2009)
38. Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:10:53 (Jitsugyodan Half 2009)
6. Volha Krautsova (Belarus) - 1:11:33 (Philadelphia Half 2007)

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Seko and Nakayama Bury the Hatchet

http://www.daily.co.jp/newsflash/2010/01/27/0002669025.shtml
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2010/01/27/04.html
http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/news/20100126-OHT1T00224.htm
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/tm/2010/news/20100126-OYT1T01262.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Toshihiko Seko and Takeyuki Nakayama, Jan. 26 at Tokyo Midtown. Click photos for full-sized versions.

For the first time since their glory days in the 80's, two of Japan's greatest marathoners, Toshihiko Seko (53) and Takeyuki Nakayama (50) appeared together in public Jan. 26 at Tokyo Midtown. The two former rivals gave a two-way discussion of Japanese men's marathoning as part of the Tokyo Marathon Tune-Up Week series of events promoting the Feb. 28 2010 Tokyo Marathon.

Both Seko and Nakayama ran the 1988 Seoul Olympic marathon. When Seko was injured and unable to run in the Olympic selection race at the 1987 Fukuoka International Marathon but was given special clearance by Rikuren to run another race to qualify, Nakayama infamously said, "If he wants to run the Olympics he should crawl to Fukuoka!" Looking back at that time, Seko said, "I liked Nakayama, but he always hated me. It seemed like his motivation was always, 'I'm going to smash Seko and his times!'" Nakayama replied, "I respected you. For me you were like somebody from up above the clouds, but when we raced it was a different story."

Looking at the Kenyan and Ethiopian whirlwind that has blown through the Japanese men's marathoning world, Seko said, "Japanese people's hunger has disappeared." Nakayama agreed, "They have to start running like they want it again." At this low point in the history of Japanese marathoning both men felt today's training is insufficient, saying, "If they don't work harder in training they won't become stronger."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Next Yokohama International Women's Marathon to be in Feb 2011

http://www.asahi.com/sports/spo/TKY201001240150.html

translated by Brett Larner

At a meeting in Hiroshima on Jan. 24, Rikuren announced that the second edition of the Yokohama International Women's Marathon, sponsored in part by the Asahi Newspaper Group, will be held on Feb. 20, 2011. The first running of the new race was last November. The three major domestic elite women-only marathons in 2011 will thus be lined up in a row, with Osaka in January, Yokohama in February and Nagoya in March.*

The first Yokohama International Women's Marathon was held in November to commemorate its predecessor, the Tokyo International Women's Marathon. However, in November this year Yokohama will host a general meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) alliance, leading to security concerns with regard to the marathon.

*Translator's note: The date given for the race is one week before the date of the 2011 Tokyo Marathon, which also hosts an elite women's field.

Tokyo Marathon Announces Elite Field - Nasukawa and Kipsang Defend

by Brett Larner

click here for complete elite field details

On Jan. 25 the Tokyo Marathon announced its elite field for the race's fourth edition on Feb. 28. Last year's winners Salim Kipsang (Kenya) and Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Universal Entertainment) return to defend their titles.

Tokyo's organizers have done a good job of putting together a solid men's field at the start of the crowded spring marathon season. Kipsang may be back, but the 2:06:48 by Rachid Kisri (Morocco) at last year's Paris Marathon makes him a potential favorite despite a lack of other comparable performances. Six other men in the field have run under 2:08 within the last two or three years, meaning the course record of 2:07:23 should be in danger. Domestic hopes lie with half-marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku). Sato's 2:07:13 PB against Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya) and Deriba Merga (Ethiopia) in Fukuoka '07 makes him the third-fastest man in the field, and his performances at the New Year Ekiden and National Interprefectural Ekiden earlier this month show he is in excellent shape.

The other major Japanese contenders are 2008 Tokyo Marathon runner-up Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon) and last year's 3rd placer Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota). Fujiwara is wildly inconsistent and impossible to predict, but if he is on he will be up front attacking the leaders. Look for a feature interview with Fujiwara on JRNPremium in mid-February. Takahashi's PB is unimpressive but belies the quality of his performance in gale-force winds at last year's Tokyo. Takahashi made the race last year with a bold move after 30 km and outran 2:04 man Sammy Korir (Kenya) for 3rd. With better weather he should be much faster.

Quite a few men are debuting in Tokyo, and among them three Japanese runners deserve special attention. Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin), two young pros, were the stars of the domestic circuit in 2009, bringing gutsy, outstanding performances in nearly every race of the year. 25 year old Okamoto, a teammate of Atsushi Sato's, ran very well at last weekend's National Interprefectural Ekiden and looks primed for a good debut. Kitamura ran 28:00.22 at age 21 and will be running his first marathon just weeks after turning 24. He appeared to sustain an injury during the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden but if he has recovered to full fitness Kitamura could be among the leaders. Takahashi's teammate Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) had a strong 2009 and also looks ready for a good debut.

The women's field is somewhat thin, but the biggest challenges to Nasukawa should come from Ethiopian Robe Guta, Russian Alevtina Biktimirova, and Nasukawa's Japan-based Kenyan teammate Julia Mumbi. Akemi Ozaki (Second Wind AC), older sister of 2009 World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) heads the domestic competition in what is reportedly her last marathon before some time off, along with Miyuki Ando (Team Daiichi Seimei), a teammate of Yoshimi Ozaki. Also worth keeping an eye on is Team Shiseido's Yumi Sato in her marathon debut.

2010 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field
Men
Rachid Kisri (Morocco) - 2:06:48 (Paris '09)
William Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:06:50 (Amsterdam '99)
Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:07:13 (Fukuoka '07)
Salim Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:07:29 (Berlin '07)
Charles Kamathi (Kenya) - 2:07:33 (Rotterdam '08)
Gudisa Shentema (Ethiopia) - 2:07:34 (Paris '08)
Teferi Wodajo (Ethiopia) - 2:07:45 (Amsterdam '09)
Tomoaki Kunichika (Team S&B) - 2:07:52 (Fukuoka '03)
Shigeru Aburuya (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:07:52 (Biwako '01)
Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) - 2:08:12 (Biwako '03)
Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:08:40 (Tokyo '08)
Erick Wainaina (Kenya) - 2:08:53 (Tokyo Int'l '02)
Yuzo Onishi (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:08:54 (Biwako '08)
Kazutoshi Takatsuka (Team Komori Corp.) - 2:08:56 (Biwako '04)
Julius Gitahi (Kenya) - 2:08:57 (Tokyo '08)
Aleksey Sokolov (Russia) - 2:09:07 (Dublin '07)
Shinichi Watanabe (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 2:09:32 (Berlin '04)
Kurao Umeki (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:09:52 (Berlin '03)
James Mwangi (Kenya) - 2:10:27 (Vienna '07)
Seiji Kobayashi (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:10:38 (Beppu-Oita '09)
Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) - 2:11:25 (Tokyo '09)
Tomoya Adachi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:59 (Beppu-Oita '08)
Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:12:10 (Hokkaido '09)

Debut Men
Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 1:30:07 (30 km)
Kenichi Shiraishi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:30:08 (30 km)
Nicholas Kiprono (Uganda) - 1:00:25 (half marathon)
Joseph Mwaniki (Kenya) - 1:01:39 (half marathon)
Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:02:16 (half marathon)
Kiyokatsu Hasegawa (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:26 (half marathon)
Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:00.22 (10000 m)

Women
Nuta Olaru (Romania) - 2:24:33 (Chicago '04)
Robe Guta (Ethiopia) - 2:24:35 (Hamburg '06)
Alevtina Biktimirova (Russia) - 2:25:12 (Frankfurt '05)
Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Universal Entertainment) - 2:25:38 (Tokyo '09)
Julia Mumbi (Kenya) - 2:26:00 (Osaka '08)
Akemi Ozaki (Second Wind AC) - 2:27:23 (Hokkaido '09)
Miyuki Ando (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:29:07 (Osaka '08)
Kaori Yoshida (Amino Vital AC) - 2:30:58 (Nagoya '08)
Yuka Ezaki (Fukuoka T&F Assoc.) - 2:31:35 (Osaka '07)
Sumiko Suzuki (Team Hokuren) - 2:35:51 (Nagoya '09)
Jing Yang (China) - 2:36:28 (Beijing '09)

Debut Women
Yumi Sato (Team Shiseido) - 1:10:03 (half marathon)

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tenmaya and Kojokan Win Kita-Kyushu Women's Ekiden

http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/general/track/news/20100125k0000m050090000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

At the last major women's ekiden of the season, the 21st Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden on Jan. 24 in Kita-Kyushu, Team Tenmaya won the five-stage, 32.8 km open division for the first time in 15 years. Top-ranked Kojokan H.S. took its first win the six-stage, 32.8 km high school division. Both teams hail from Okayama Prefecture and carried over the momentum from Okayama's win at last week's National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden.

Tenmaya's Second Stage runner Yuka Izumi took the lead which Third and Fourth Stage runners Yoshie Kurisu and Kaori Urata lengthened with stage best runs. Tenmaya's anchor, Beijing Olympian Yurika Nakamura, was never seriously threatened as she cruised home for the win. Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo took 2nd after advancing in the later stages, while early leader Team Juhachi Ginko fell to 3rd. Team Acom, which will disband at the end of March, finished 7th.

Kojokan H.S. Second Stage runner Mahiro Akamatsu took the tasuki in 4th but moved all the way up to the lead with a stage best performance. The team fell to 3rd on the Fifth Stage, but anchor Katsuki Suga was able to get back on top. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. was 2nd thanks to stage best runs from Fourth and Fifth leg runners Eri Tayama and Ayaka Shibata. National runner-up Suma Gakuen H.S. was 3rd, while two-time defending champion Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. was 6th. Conditions at the start were cool and sunny with light southerly winds.

2010 Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden - Top Team Results
Open Division
1. Team Tenmaya - 1:47:03
2. Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo - 1:47:42
3. Team Juhachi Ginko - 1:48:11
4. Team Yamada Denki - 1:49:17
5. Team Deodeo - 1:49:28

High School Division
1. Kojokan H.S. - 1:47:21
2. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. - 1:48:31
3. Suma Gakuen H.S. - 1:48:38
4. Kita-Kyushu Civic H.S. - 1:49:18
5. Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S. - 1:50:02

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Shades of Seko - Kensuke Takezawa Outkicks Atsushi Sato for Win, Murasawa Over Kashiwabara at National Interprefectural Ekiden

by Brett Larner

click here to read detailed race commentary on JRNLive

Kensuke Takezawa (Hyogo) outkicks Atsushi Sato (Fukushima) for the win. Click photo for video highlights.

Waseda University graduate and first-year Team S&B elite Kensuke Takezawa (Hyogo Pref.) ran in the image of his coach and mentor Toshihiko Seko, closely tailing half marathon national record holder and fellow Waseda alum Atsushi Sato (Fukushima Pref.) throughout the 13 km anchor leg of the seven stage, 48 km 2010 National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden in Hiroshima on Jan. 24. With 280 m to go Takezawa dispatched Sato with a blazing kick, bringing Hyogo home in 2:20:02 to deliver Hyogo its first National Interprefectural Ekiden win in 3 years and robbing Fukushima of its first-ever National win. "I had a pretty bad year last year," said Takezawa after the race, "so it's nice to get this one off to a good start."

Two-time defending champion and course record holder Nagano Prefecture was the heavy favorite for another win, with 2008 winner Hyogo Prefecture its most likely rival. 3000 m, 10000 m and marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka, a guest announcer on NHK's nationwide commercial-free race broadcast, picked Saitama Prefecture as the darkhorse contender. He was right. Saitama Sakae H.S. student Shota Hattori outkicked a pack of high school aces to put Saitama into the lead on the 7 km First Stage. Junior high school student Yusuke Uchikoshi held on to the lead through the 3 km Second Stage, leaving Team Honda's Yoichi Akiyama to try to hold off the competition on the 8.5 km Third Stage.

Behind Akiyama, two university stars made the Third Stage one of the day's highlights. 18 year-old Tokai University first-year Akinobu Murasawa, who set the Interprefectural Ekiden Fifth Stage record last year and then ran 59:08 for 20 km at October's Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai, started 12 seconds behind Akiyama in 4th. Three seconds back in 7th was Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage star Ryuji Kashiwabara. Kashiwabara went out at full speed, quickly overtaking Murasawa who sped up to run alongside. At one km Kashiwabara clocked 2:36, Murasawa 2:39. That kind of speed couldn't last, but the pair worked together and swiftly reeled in the lead pack of pros and older university runners. It eventually thinned out to a three-way battle between the two young stars and 30 year-old Akiyama, with Murasawa muscling it out in the lead position. In the last km Kashiwabara suddenly went to the verge of vomiting and dropped behind, leaving Murasawa to outsprint the pro Akiyama. Surprisingly, the stage best went to Kashiwabara's former teammate, first year pro Tomoya Onishi of Gifu Prefecture, by one second over Murasawa.

Saitama Prefecture's next two runners, identical twin high school students Yuta and Keita Shitara, retook the lead and opened it to 31 seconds, with Keita taking the stage best on the 8.5 km Fifth Stage. Two runners on the 5 km Fourth Stage, Hirotaka Tamura (Aomori Pref.) and Jun Nobuto (Hyogo Pref.) broke the existing stage record of 14:15. Tamura's time of 14:10 was faster, giving Aomori Pref. its first-ever stage win. Saitama's Sixth Stage runner, junior high school student Kojiro Tomikoshi, lost 13 seconds to Kagoshima's Taishi Sakamoto but held on to an 18 second margin for anchor Takashi Horiguchi. Behind him, Chiba Pref.'s Taiga Machizawa ran a surprise 7-second stage record of 8:31 for the 3 km stage.

Horiguchi, a solid sub-29 minute man, did what he could to keep up front, but behind him it was already all but over. Half marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Fukushima Pref.) and 10000 m national university record holder Kensuke Takezawa (Hyogo Pref.) started 40 seconds back and one second apart in 3rd and 4th. With Sato relentlessly pushing forward, Takezawa sat behind him, applying pressure but biding his time in classic Seko style and never drawing even. Together the pair ran down Kagoshima anchor Ryohei Nakano and steadily cut down the distance to Horiguchi.

With 1.6 km to go it was over for Horiguchi as Sato surged past with Takezawa right on his heels. Just as Seko waited until the last curve of the track to drop Juma Ikangaa at the 1983 Fukuoka Marathon, Takezawa waited until the last 300 m to outkick Sato, gapping him by 3 seconds for the win. Neither Takezawa nor Sato scored the stage best, though, as farther back in the pack 27:38 10000 m runner Yuki Sato (Nagano Pref.), Takezawa's rival throughout high school and university, went from 15th to 4th in 37:12, beating Takezawa's time by a solid 21 seconds but missing the stage record by just 3 seconds. Hometown Hiroshima runner Tetsuya Yoroizaka, who had an excellent run for Meiji University earlier this month at the Hakone Ekiden, deserves special mention for hanging on to Yuki Sato after being passed at 8 km and outkicking him for 4th.

2010 National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden Results
click here for complete results
Stage Best Performances
First Stage - 7 km: Shota Hattori (Saitama Pref.) - 20:12
Second Stage - 3 km: Koki Maeda (Fukuoka Pref.) - 8:39
Third Stage - 8.5 km: Tomoya Onishi (Gifu Pref.) - 24:16
Fourth Stage - 5 km: Hirotaka Tamura (Aomori Pref.) - 14:10 - new stage record
Jun Nobuto (Hyogo Pref.) - 14:14 - new stage record
Fifth Stage - 8.5 km: Keita Shitara (Saitama Pref.) - 24:38
Sixth Stage - 3 km: Taiga Machizawa (Chiba Pref.) - 8:31 - new stage record
Seventh Stage - 13 km: Yuki Sato (Nagano Pref.) - 37:12

Top Team Results
1. Hyogo Pref. - 2:20:02
2. Fukushima Pref. - 2:20:05
3. Saitama Pref. - 2:20:20
4. Hiroshima Pref. - 2:21:00
5. Nagano Pref. - 2:21:00
6. Chiba Pref. - 2:21:06
7. Oita Pref. - 2:21:09
8. Mie Pref. - 2:21:11
9. Kumamoto Pref. - 2:21:16
10. Aichi Pref. - 2:21:45

Third Stage Top Performances
1. Tomoya Onishi (Gifu Pref.) - 24:16
2. Akinobu Murasawa (Nagano Pref.) - 24:17
3. Ryuji Kashiwabara (Fukushima Pref.) - 24:18
4. Naoki Okamoto (Hiroshima Pref.) - 24:19
5. Fumihiro Maruyama (Oita Pref.) - 24:23

Seventh Stage Top Performances
1. Yuki Sato (Nagano Pref.) - 37:12
2. Kensuke Takezawa (Hyogo Pref.) - 37:33
3. Atsushi Sato (Fukushima Pref.) - 37:37
4. Yusuke Takabayashi (Mie Pref.) - 38:09
5. Hiroshi Yamada (Tokyo Pref.) - 38:11
6. Ryo Yamamoto (Kyoto Pref.) - 38:15
6. Toshikazu Kawazoe (Kumamoto Pref.) - 38:15
8. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Hiroshima Pref.) - 38:17
8. Takuji Morimoto (Tottori Pref.) - 38:17
8. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Tochigi Pref.) - 38:17
11. Hiroyuki Ono (Gunma Pref.) - 38:18
12. Kenichi Jiromaru (Oita Pref.) - 38:22
13. Kazuyoshi Shimosato (Ibaraki Pref.) - 38:23
13. Makoto Tobimatsu (Saga Pref.) - 38:23
15. Takashi Horiguchi (Saitama Pref.) - 38:32

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, January 22, 2010

National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner

The 15th National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden takes place this Sunday, Jan. 24 in Hiroshima. A seven-stage, 48 km race between teams from each of Japan's 47 prefectures, like last weekend's Interprefectural Women's Ekiden the Men's Ekiden features an interesting format in that each team is made up of top runners of all levels from junior high school to seasoned pro. It's one of the only opportunities to see the university-aged Hakone Ekiden stars go up against the top pros, and the junior high school and high school stages frequently provide the first glimpse of future stars. This is the race where Ryuji Kashiwabara first made his name in 2008 as a high school student by taking down national champion Yuki Yagi, and the one where Akinobu Murasawa came to attention last year by setting a stage record of 23:55 for 8.5 km.

Murasawa's native Nagano Prefecture is the undisputed king of the hill, with five wins in the last six years including a course record of 2:18:43 last year. Nagano looks strong again this year, with three members of top high school Saku Chosei, Murasawa and 27:38 man Yuki Sato on board. Not unstoppable, but very formidable.

The only team to beat Nagano in the last six years is Hyogo Prefecture. With a 2nd place finish last year and a 3rd place finish in 2008 the team is reliably tough, and with Olympian Kensuke Takezawa on anchor they should again be a challenge to Nagano despite a lack of otherwise big names.

Fukushima Prefecture is usually in the top ten, and this year with the combination of Kashiwabara and half-marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato on anchor they may have a shot for top three. Hiroshima Prefecture is not usually among the top teams but with high school star Ikki Takeuchi and young pro ace Naoki Okamoto running this year they could be the darkhorse of the day.

NHK will broadcast the 2010 National Men's Interprefectural Ekiden live nationwide and commercial-free beginning at 12:15 p.m on Jan. 24. NHK's availability on Keyhole TV is spotty at best, but interested overseas viewers should at least check come race time. JRN will offer live English commentary via Twitter on JRNLive. NHK's excellent race website includes course maps, detailed team listings, live splits times, and more.

Final start lists will not be available until race morning, but if the entry lists are at all accurate the Third and Seventh Stages should have some spectacular matchups. The Second Stage and Sixth Stage are both 3 km and feature top junior high school runners. The 7 km First Stage, 5 km Fourth Stage and 8.5 km Fifth Stage are high school sections. Hiroshima's Ikki Takeuchi, who set the Fourth Stage best at December's National High School Ekiden as a member of champions Sera H.S., should control the First Stage, while Nagano's Sugeru Osako, who set stage bests the last two years at Nationals as a member of 2008 champions Saku Chosei H.S., should have the Fifth Stage wrapped up. But, as the then-unknown Kashiwabara showed in 2008, anything can happen.

The 8.5 km Third Stage has a great lineup. Coming after only 10 km of competition the runners should still be in range of each other for the most part, meaning what will probably be the most intense head-to-head racing. Both Kashiwabara and Murasawa, the two most promising university runners in the country, are slated to run. It will be their first matchup on the roads as university runners and one fans across the country are no doubt dying to see. Kashiwabara's former teammate Tomoya Onishi of Gifu Prefecture, now a pro with Team Asahi Kasei, is also scheduled to run the Third, along with Miyagi's Takuya Noguchi, who beat Kenyan Cosmas Ondiba to set the best time on the Third Stage of this year's Hakone Ekiden, and Niigata's Yusuke Hasegawa, currently holder of the fastest 10000 m PB among Japanese university students.

There is no doubt, however, that the 13 km anchor stage is the main event. There is too much talent on the entry list to discuss in detail, but almost every stage best winner from the New Year Ekiden, most members of New Year Ekiden victor Team Nissin Shokuhin, several top Hakone aces and assorted other stars are scheduled to battle it out. After 35 km of racing the teams will probably be widely dispersed and we won't see much direct competition, but if even a few of these names are in sight of each other it should be a great stage. The most notable names are listed below along with their recent achievements.

Arata Fujiwara (Nagasaki Pref.) - 2nd, 2008 Tokyo Marathon
Kosaku Hoshina (Miyagi Pref.) - 2010 Team Nissin Shokuhin New Year Ekiden member
Kazuhiro Maeda (Fukuoka Pref.) - 2nd, 2009 Tokyo Marathon
Yuki Matsuoka (Tokushima Pref.) - joint Interpref. Ekiden 1st Stage record holder with Yuki Sato
Naoki Okamoto (Hiroshima Pref.) - Stage Best, 2010 New Year Ekiden 5th Stage
Hiroyuki Ono (Gunma Pref.) - Stage Best, 2010 New Year Ekiden 7th Stage
Atsushi Sato (Fukushima Pref.) - Stage Best, 2010 New Year Ekiden 4th Stage - 1:03:11 for 22.3 km (plug that into a calculator and see what you get for the half marathon)
Yuki Sato (Nagano Pref.) - Stage Best, 2010 New Year Ekiden 3rd Stage
Yusuke Takabayashi (Mie Pref.) - Stage Best, 2010 Hakone Ekiden 9th Stage
Kensuke Takezawa (Hyogo Pref.) - New Stage Record, 2009 Hakone Ekiden 3rd Stage
Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Tochigi Pref.) - Stage Best, 2010 Nat'l Univ. Ekiden 2nd Stage
Bene Zama (Kanagawa Pref.) - 2010 Team Nissin Shokuhin New Year Ekiden member

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mitsuya "Running to Win" Debut Marathon in Beppu-Oita While Targeting 10000 m NR (updated)

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/flash/KFullFlash20100120153.html
http://kyushu.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/spomain/detail/20100121-OYS1T00215.htm
http://www.nishinippon.co.jp/nsp/item/147512

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Click photo for full-sized image.

2005 and 2007 World Championships track runner Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) held a press conference in Fukuoka on Jan. 20 to formally announce that he will run his debut marathon at the Feb. 7 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. He was unambigious about his plans for his debut. "Ever since I went pro my goal has been the marathon. I'm running this to win it."

Ranked #3 for 5000 m and #4 for 10000 m on the all-time Japanese lists, Mitsuya made a big step toward the marathon a year ago with a 1:29:55 win at the Kumanichi 30 km, his first time racing such a long distance. Now looking toward the example of double 10000 m and marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka, Mitusya is attacking with two swords. Since last summer he has dedicated his training to preparation for his marathon debut, developing his strength over 30 km pace runs and completing five 40 km runs since the beginning of November. At the same time Mitsuya and his coach Koichi Morishita are going after his track speed, targeting Takaoka's 10000 m national record of 27:35.09. Morishita explained, "Our main goal this season is the 10000 m record. The marathon will serve as endurance training toward that aim." Looking toward next month's race Mitsuya says, "It's been a long time since I've felt this ready for a good fight. Coach really believes in winning, so that's got me feeling incredibly motivated for the win."

Morishita won the 1991 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in his own debut, running 2:08:53 to beat the great Takeyuki Nakayama with an aggressive surge at 39 km. The next year Morishita went on to win the silver medal at the Barcelona Olympics. With the whole country waiting for the next generation of young Japanese marathoners to step up there is a lot of hope for a replay of Morishita's run. Mitsuya said, "People have always compared me to Coach to see who is better, but I'm trying not to think about any of that. The time you run depends on how the race plays out, so I'm not thinking about just trying to run fast. More than that I'm focusing on winning and having the kind of run that's going to make younger guys say, 'I want to do the marathon too.'

Morishita commented, "If he gains patience and stamina from the marathon then I think he's going to improve on the track." In Beppu-Oita Mitsuya will face strong athletes from Kenya, Ethiopia and Morocco. "Africans are tough," said Mitsuya, "but the Japanese can still give it to them. That's the kind of runner I want to be." Looking further ahead Mitsuya revealed, "The marathon is my target at the London Olympics."

Yu Mitsuya - Born 12/14/84. PBs: 1500 m: 3:46.80 5000 m: 13:18.32 10000 m: 27:41.10 10 miles: 46:28 half marathon: 1:02:26 30 km: 1:29:55

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kashiwabara and Murasawa to Attend Rikuren Marathoner Training Camps

http://www.47news.jp/CN/201001/CN2010011901000781.html
http://www.47news.jp/CN/201001/CN2010011801000967.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

With an eye toward strengthening Japanese men's marathoning and distance running in the buildup to the 2012 London Olympics, Rikuren announced on Jan. 19 that it will sponsor a series of national training camps for promising marathoners in New Zealand and other overseas locations. Among the first to be named for the camps are Hakone Ekiden stars Ryuji Kashiwabara, who earlier this month led Toyo University to its second-straight Hakone win, and first year Akinobu Murasawa of Tokai University, who won October's Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km in a strong 59:08.

Rikuren's Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee revealed that the first camp will take place in New Zealand in March and April. Following June's National Track and Field Championships the camp's athletes will head to the United States for road racing and high-alititude training in Colorado, after which they will train further afield in Kenya and Ethiopia. With regard to the critical condition of Japanese men's marathoning a Rikuren official commented, "We can't just sit back and do nothing. Just doing ekidens is not the answer."

A day prior to the Rikuren announcement, the Kanto Regional University Track and Field Association held its annual Hakone Ekiden Coaches' Conference in Tokyo on Jan. 18. Among the issues discussed were proposals to shorten the 23.4 km mountain climbing Fifth Stage, Hakone's longest, and to either eliminate the Kanto Regional University Select Team, made up of the top finishers in the Yosenkai qualifier who run for Kanto schools which do not qualify for Hakone, or make the Select Team open to universities nationwide.

At this year's Hakone Ekiden, Kashiwabara started the Fifth Stage 4:26 behind the leader but ended up overtaking first and building a 3:36 lead of his own. In 2006 the Kanto Association lengthened the Fifth Stage by 2.5 km to help make it into a proving ground for aspiring marathoners. In the five editions since then the Fifth Stage has been the critical element in determining Hakone's outcome. Some coaches have complained that the Fifth Stage now represents too great an advantage to schools that have an uphill specialist and requested that the stage be shortened again to minimize this advantage. The Kanto Association flatly dismissed the proposal. Director Yoshiyuki Aoba stated, "The idea that when a talented athlete comes along we should handicap them for being too good is ridiculous."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Njenga, Mungara, Mitsuya and Suwa Headline 59th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon (complete field update)

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/flash/KFullFlash20100118119.html
http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2010011800601
http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/general/news/20100119k0000m050076000c.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Jan. 18 the organizing committee for the 59th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon announced the elite field of 15 for this year's Feb. 7 running. At the top of the list of ten Japan-based athletes is Kenyan Daniel Njenga (Team Yakult), who won last summer's Hokkaido Marathon and holds a PB of 2:06:16. Lining up against Njenga in his marathon debut is 2007 World Championships track runner Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu). Athens Olympics marathon 6th place finisher Toshinari Suwa (Team Nissin Shokuhin) is also in the field, and 2:08 man Tadayuki Ojima (Team Asahi Kasei) will be running as his final race before retirement.

The 5 overseas invited athletes are led by Kenyan Jonathan Kipkorir, who set his PB of 2:07:31 last year at the Paris Marathon. Joining him are the top two from last fall's Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Kenyan Kenneth Mungara and Ethiopian Chala Lemi, along with Lemi's countryman Tessema Abshiro who likewise holds a PB under 2:09, and Moroccan Mohamed el Hachimi. Altogether it may be the strongest overseas field Beppu-Oita has ever hosted.

59 and 60 year old world record holder Yoshihisa Hosaka will also return to the site of his last world record to go for his next, the 61 year old marathon world record. This year's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon will be run on a new course, the first course change in 26 years. The new course is designed to minimize the effects of Beppu-Oita's notorious winds. The race will be broadcast live nationwide on TBS beginning at 11:50 a.m. on Feb. 7. Overseas viewers should be able to watch online using the Keyhole TV software available here. JRN will again offer live English race commentary via Twitter on JRNLive.

2010 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Elite Field
click here for info on the complete field
Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Team Yakult) - 2:06:16 (Chicago '02)
Jonathan Kipkorir (Kenya) - 2:07:31 (Paris '09)
Toshinari Suwa (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:07:55 (Fukuoka '03)
Tadayuki Ojima (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:08:18 (Biwako '04)
Tessema Abshiro (Ethiopia) - 2:08:26 (Hamburg '08)
Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) - 2:08:32 (Toronto Waterfront '09)
Chala Lemi (Ethiopia) - 2:08:49 (Toronto Waterfront '09)
Mohamed El Hachimi (Morocco) - 2:10:24 (Vienna '09)
Kenichi Kita (Team Kyudenko) - 2:11:41 (Nobeoka '06)
Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:47 (Tokyo '08)
Masashi Hayashi (Team Yakult) - 2:12:39 (Beijing '09)
Teruto Ozaki (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:13:28 (Beijng '06)
Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:13:53 (Tokyo '09)
Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:14:00 (Biwako '09)
Koichi Sakai (Team Fujitsu) - 2:14:29 (Beijing '09)
Martin Dent (Australia) - 2:14:46 (Fukuoka '08)
Brett Cartwright (Australia) - 2:15:02 (Fukuoka '07)
Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) - debut - 1:29:55 (Kumanichi 30 km '09)
Atsushi Ikawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - debut - 28:14.75 (10000 m, Niigata '09)
Yoshihisa Hosaka (Natural Foods) - 2:34:23 (59+ WR, Fukuoka '08)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Yamauchi and Mogusu Return to Marugame Int'l Half Marathon

by Brett Larner

With three weeks to go until the 2010 Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon race officials announced the complete elite men's and women's fields on Jan. 18. Last year's Japan-based winners Mara Yamauchi (U.K.) and Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya) are scheduled to return to defend their titles. Yamauchi has been out of competition since an injury kept her away from August's Berlin World Championships and is making a welcome return to the scene. The popular Mogusu is likewise making a miniature comeback after his abortive marathon debut last month in Fukuoka.

The elite women's field includes 24 invited athletes along with 25 general division elites. 2004 Tokyo International Women's Marathon winner Bruna Genovese (Italy) and 2009 Great Australian Run winner Nicole Chapple (Australia) are Yamauchi's main overseas competition, while the Japanese runners are led by the Ominami twins Hiromi and Takami (Team Toyota Shatai) and 2008 Shanghai Half Marathon winner Megumi Seike (Team Sysmex). Alongside the Ominamis, two other sets of twins will be in the women's field, Team Kyocera's Hiroko and Yoko Miyauchi, and Kyoko and Yoko Aizu of Team Shikoku Denryoku.

30 invited men and 83 general division elites will be trying to take away Mogusu's title. Japan-based Kenyans Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) and Joseph Mwaniki (Team Konica Minolta) are Mogusu's toughest competition, but with PBs nearly two minutes slower than Mogusu's 59:48 best it will take an off day for them to be close to the talented Mogusu. 2007 Biwako Mainichi Marathon winner Samson Ramadhani (Tanzania) and 2009 World Half Marathon competitor Andrew Lemoncello (U.K.) make up the two-man overseas invited elite field. 2009 World Championships marathon team alternate Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) holds the best PB among the Japanese runners, 1:01:54, and is running Marugame as a tuneup for the Feb. 28 Tokyo Marathon. Two-time World Championships marathoner Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) is also in the field, and listed among the general division elites is 2009 double 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B), who will be making his half marathon debut should he actually start the race.

2010 Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon Selected Elite Field
click here for a complete elite field listing
Women
Mara Yamauchi (U.K.) - 1:08:29 (Marugame '09)
Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) - 1:08:45 (Sapporo '04)
Ikumi Wakamatsu (Team Denso) - 1:09:28 (Marugame '01)
Yuko Manabe (Second Wind AC) - 1:09:36 (Marugame '02)
Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 1:09:54 (Miyazaki '08)
Akane Wakita (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 1:09:57 (Kobe '08)
Nicole Chapple (Australia) - 1:10:03 (Great Australian Run '09)
Eun-Jung Lee (Korea) - 1:11:15 (Berlin '05)
Bruna Genovese (Italy) - 1:11:22 (Cremona '05)
Yuka Kakimi (Team Daiichi Seimei) - debut - 15:25.95 (5000 m, Oita '06)

Men
Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem) - 59:48 (Marugame '07)
Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) - 1:01:36 (Jitsugyodan '00)
Joseph Mwaniki (Kenya/Team Konica Minolta) - 1:01:39 (Marugame '08)
Daniel Gitau (Kenya/Nihon Univ.) - 1:01:43 (Marugame '09)
Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) - 1:01:54 (Nagoya '05)
Samson Ramadhani (Tanzania) - 1:02:07 (Moshi '03)
Kenichiro Setoguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:13 (Marugame '04)
Makoto Tobimatsu (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 1:02:26 (Marugame '09)
Cosmas Ondiba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:29 (Kanto Univ. '09)
Andrew Lemoncello (U.K.) - 1:03:03 (Birmingham '09)
Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) - debut - 13:21.49 (5000 m, Heusden-Zolder '07)

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yurika Nakamura Brings Okayama in to First National Interprefectural Ekiden Win

by Brett Larner

click here for JRNLive's detailed race commentary













Yurika Nakamura scores Okayama Prefecture's first win at the National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden Jan. 17 in Kyoto. Click photo for video highlights.

An Okayama Prefecture team made up primarily of members of the pro Team Tenmaya and the elite Kojokan H.S. derailed hometown hosts Kyoto Prefecture's bid for a sixth-straight National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden win on Jan. 17. Okayama took its first-ever national title, winning the nine-stage, 42.195 km event in 2:16:24 thanks to stage best runs by members Kaori Urata and Katsuki Suga and a new stage record by Kojokan H.S. first-year Mahiro Akamatsu. Okayama's anchor, Olympic marathoner and World Championships track runner Yurika Nakamura, was only 8th on stage time but had a big enough lead to hold off Chiba Prefecture anchor Hitomi Niiya by 15 seconds.

Chiba's best-ever 2nd place showing was a surprise and came thanks in large part to strong performances by its first three runners. Second Stage runner Yuriko Kozaki, a high school first-year, unexpectedly took the lead away from five-time defending champion Kyoto Prefecture. Both she and junior high school Third Stage runner Sakiko Naito were impressively smooth and powerful in their national debuts. Niiya, last year's anchor stage winner, tried her best to run down Nakamura but although she clocked 26 seconds faster than Nakamura could not close the final gap and had to settle for runner-up, one of only three women to break 32 minutes on the stage.

Kyoto Prefecture started off in first after 2009 World University Games 10000 m gold medalist Kasumi Nishihara predictably dispatched all rivals but fell behind after a sub-par performance from Second Stage runner Mari Ozaki, a veteran who is making a marathon comeback in two weeks in Osaka. After only average performances by twin sisters Moe and Haruka Kyuma on the middle stages Kyoto's chances of a defense were in danger as the team sat in 7th. Like Niiya, anchor Kazue Kojima did her best to make up the gap to the lead but could only get as far as 3rd. In so doing she held off World Championships marathoners Yoshimi Ozaki and Yoshiko Fujinaga and finished 4th on the stage on time in the last ekiden of her university career.

Missing star Yuriko Kobayashi, Hyogo Prefecture continued to slide one place and finished 4th after coming in 3rd last year and 2nd in 2008. After starting the ekiden in 34th the team slowly worked its way back up. It took Minami Nakaarai's stage best on the Seventh Stage to keep the team in contention, but although she advanced the team to 3rd anchor Shiho Takechi was unable to hold off Kyoto's Kojima.

Osaka Prefecture's Ryoko Kizaki, who tied Yurika Nakamura for the best time on the First Stage last year, was again tough and fast as she took the best time on the Fourth Stage. Kizaki makes her marathon debut in two weeks in Osaka. 3000 m, 5000 m and half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi of Aomori Prefecture continued her comeback this season with a stage best of 31:03, passing fifteen teams along the way.

2010 National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden
click here for complete results
Stage Best Performances
1st Stage (6 km) - Kasumi Nishihara (Kyoto) - 19:11
2nd Stage (4 km) - Kaori Urata (Okayama) - 12:31
3rd Stage (3 km) - Tomoka Kimura (Shizuoka) - 9:22
4th Stage (4 km) - Ryoko Kisaki (Osaka) - 12:50
5th Stage (4.1075 km) - Katsuki Suga (Okayama) - 13:02
6th Stage (4.0875 km) - Mahiro Akamatsu (Okayama) - 12:42 - new stage record
7th Stage (4 km) - Minami Nakaarai (Hyogo) - 12:24
8th Stage (3 km) - Yume Tanaka (Shizuoka) - 9:46
9th Stage (10 km) - Kayoko Fukushi (Aomori) - 31:03

Top Team Results - 42.195 km total
1. Okayama - 2:16:24 - first-ever win
2. Chiba - 2:16:39
3. Kyoto - 2:17:12
4. Hyogo - 2:17:15
5. Kanagawa - 2:17:37
6. Nagasaki - 2:17:39
7. Aichi - 2:17:57
8. Fukuoka - 2:18:09
9. Shizuoka - 2:18:17
10. Kumamoto - 2:18:22

Ninth Stage Top Performances - 10 km
1. Kayoko Fukushi (Aomori) - 31:03
2. Misaki Katsumata (Shizuoka) - 31:58
3. Hitomi Niiya (Chiba) - 31:59
4. Kazue Kojima (Kyoto) - 32:11
5. Yoshimi Ozaki (Kanagawa) - 32:19
5. Yuko Shimizu (Gifu) - 32:19
7. Yoshiko Fujinaga (Nagasaki) - 32:24
8. Yurika Nakamura (Okayama) - 32:25
9. Kayo Sugihara (Shimane) - 32:29
10. Yukina Saijo (Shiga) - 32:38
10. Yuka Kakimi (Tokyo) - 32:38
12. Hikari Yoshimoto (Kumamoto) - 32:39
13. Azusa Nojiri (Toyama) - 32:49
14. Mika Okunaga (Oita) - 32:51
15. Yumi Sato (Yamagata) - 32:57
16. Mizuho Nasukawa (Iwate) - 33:03

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, January 16, 2010

2010 National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden - Preview

by Brett Larner

The annual women's and men's National Interprefectural Ekidens are some of Japan's most interesting races. This year's women's race takes place tomorrow, Jan. 17, in Kyoto. Each of Japan's 47 prefectures fields a team of nine women ranging from junior high school students to top professional marathoners, running as one team representing their home ground. With nine legs totalling 42.195 km all but the 6 km First Stage and 10 km Ninth stage are under 5 km, making a faster-paced race than is often the case.

Part of what makes the Interprefectural Ekidens interesting is that rather than emphasizing the big names they are often the site of the national coming out of talented young athletes. Toyo University's Ryuji Kashiwabara was an unknown as a high school senior at the 2008 Men's Interprefectural Ekiden but grabbed attention for the first time by frontrunning against national high school champion Yuki Yagi (Waseda Univ.) on the First Stage and beating him easily. The star of last year's Women's Interprefectural Ekiden was without question Kyoto's Moe Kyuma, then a junior high school student. The great Naoko Takahashi and other race commentators laughed when Kyuma took off at what looked like a full sprint and clocked 2:58 for the first km on the 3 km Eighth Stage, but when Kyuma finished the uphill leg 12 seconds faster than the previous stage record of 9:53 Takahashi could only say, "She's going to be big. I can't believe this is a junior high school student!"

Now in high school, Kyuma, her twin sister Haruka, university star Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) and other members of last year's Kyoto team are back. Having won the last five years straight including a course record of 2:14:58 in 2008, Kyoto's hometown squad is the team to beat. Okayama Prefecture, 3rd in 2008 and 2nd last year, and Hyogo Prefecture, 2nd in 2008 and 3rd last year, are the only other reliable contenders. Okayama is again led by Olympian Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya), and with the exception of two junior high school student runners is fielding a strong team made up entirely of Tenmaya pros and women from top-ranked Kojokan H.S. It should be the biggest threat to Kyoto's reign. Hyogo is missing star Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki), and despite the presence of Kobayashi's Toyota teammates Yuika Mori and Akane Wakita along with three members of national high school runner-up Suma Gakuen H.S.' team its chances will suffer as a result.

Looking at stage-by-stage action, the 6 km First Stage features a great matchup between Yurika Nakamura (Okayama) and Kazue Kojima (Kyoto), with several other strong contenders including Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo's Miki Ohira (Ehime).

The 4 km Second Stage has probably the best field overall, with Moe Kyuma (Kyoto) going up against a tough field of pros and university runners including Hikari Yoshimoto (Kumamoto), Ryoko Kisaki (Osaka), Tomomi Yuda (Aichi), Risa Takenaka (Shiga) and more. Yoshimoto was one of the big news items of 2009 in Japanese women's distance running and should dismantle all competitors.

The 4 km Fourth Stage includes marathoner Mari Ozaki (Kyoto) and the strong Risa Shigetomi (Okayama) who by that point should be battling for the lead. Josai University's Yui Sakai (Fukui) should be star of the 4.0875 km Sixth Stage, but after over a year of injury problems it's questionable whether she is intact. Moe Kyuma's twin sister Haruka Kyuma (Kyoto) is the best runner on the 4 km Seventh Stage and should be able to pick up the lead should Kyoto have fallen behind.

The 10 km Ninth Stage features the remaining big names. Kayoko Fukushi (Aomori) is in a different class from the other 46 women on the stage but is unlikely to be in contention for the lead as Aomori is not generally strong. Berlin World Championships marathon silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Kanagawa) and her WC teammate Yoshiko Fujinaga (Nagasaki) are also on the stage, along with notables Hitomi Niiya (Chiba) and Akane Wakita (Hyogo). The woman who should be the first to cross the finish line is 2009 World University Games 10000 m gold medalist Kasumi Nishihara (Kyoto), a great rival of Kyoto's First Stage runner Kazue Kojima on the university scene but now splitting duties as defending champ Kyoto's aces.

NHK will broadcast the 2010 National Women's Interprefectural Ekiden live nationwide and commercial-free beginning at 12:15 p.m on Jan. 17. NHK's availability on Keyhole TV is spotty at best, but interested overseas viewers should at least check come race time. JRN will offer live English commentary via Twitter on JRNLive. NHK's excellent race website includes course maps, detailed team listings, live splits times, and more.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Master Shoe Craftsman Mimura Joins Adidas

http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/sports/0002639286.shtml
http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=ind_30&k=2010011300822

translated and edited by Mika Tokairin and Brett Larner

L-R: Yakult Swallows outfielder Norichika Aoki, Adidas Japan president Pascal Martin, shoe master Hitoshi Mimura, and 1991 World Championships gold medalist Hiromi Taniguchi in Tokyo on Nov. 13. Click photo for full-sized image.

Sports maker Adidas Japan held a press conference in Tokyo on Jan. 13 to announce the signing of Hitoshi Mimura, the master craftsman known for the handmade shoes he has long produced for the world's top athletes, to an exclusive advisor position with the company. Mimura, 61, will continue to develop his shoes at his 'M. Lab' workshop in Takasago, but said, "I want to make shoes that will set a world record."

Beginning in April, Mimura's shoes will be an Adidas-branded product. Focusing on running and baseball, he will supervise product development for elite athletes, the designing of Adidas' lasts, and Adidas' mass-produced running shoe line. "I hope to work together closely with the athletes," Mimura said.

Mimura had a long-standing position with rival maker Asics, where he made shoes for Olympic marathon gold medalists Mizuki Noguchi, Naoko Takahashi and Stefano Baldini and baseball great Ichiro Suzuki among others. He left Asics last spring to pursue his work independently.

At the press conference on Jan. 13, professional baseball player Norichika Aoki, outfielder for the Yakult Swallows, and 1991 World Championships men's marathon gold medalist Hiromi Taniguchi were in attendance. Aoki commented, "During the off-season in 2005 Mr. Mimura made shoes for me and told me, 'You're definitely going to get more home runs in these,' and, as he said, I went from 3 to 13, then 20. I was really surprised."

Nakamura and Shimahara to Run Boston Marathon

http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/sports/0002637438.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

Beijing Olympics women's marathoner Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) will begin her move back toward the marathon as the 2012 Olympics approach. In the year and a half since Beijing, Nakamura has stayed away from the marathon and instead focused on developing her speed on the track and over the half marathon. On Jan. 12 she announced that she plans to run in April's Boston Marathon.

Nakamura won her marathon debut at the spring, 2008 Nagoya International Women's Marathon, and finished 13th in Beijing. As she begins her buildup toward the 2012 London Marathon she plans to race overseas more frequently to gain experience racing against top foreign competition.

At last summer's World Championships in Berlin she became the first Japanese woman in 10 years to crack the top 8 in the 10000 m, running a PB to finish 7th overall. She also recorded PBs in both the heats and final of the 5000 m. At the World Half Marathon Championships in the fall she was the 12th overall, the top Japanese finisher. Altogether her record since Beijing makes her one of Japanese women's distance running's top aces.

Translator's note: Nakamura's PB in the 10000 m was later disallowed due to race officials' error in failing to lay down dividing cones to guide the outer of the two starting groups.

Last week Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) told JRN that she also plans to run this year's Boston Marathon. Shimahara won August's Hokkaido Marathon in a PB and CR of 2:25:10 and went on to finish 2nd and under 2:30 at both the Yokohama International Women's Marathon in November and the Honolulu Marathon in December. Together with Berlin silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) and her World Championships teammate Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) lining up in London it could be an interesting spring for the Japanese women. Who is going to run Tokyo and Nagoya?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

'Bastos, Mizutani Win Disney Marathon Crowns... Again'

http://www2.tbo.com/content/2010/jan/10/sp-bastos-wins-disney-again/sports/

Note: Mizutani is a last-year medical student at Tsukuba University. With her final exams coming up next month she has been busy recently. On Nov. 15 she was 18th in the Yokohama International Women's Marathon in 2:47:33. Disappointed, a week later on Nov. 22 she won the Tsukuba Marathon in 2:43:14. Two weeks after that on Dec. 6 she won the tropical Naha Marathon in 2:50:42. She may well have raced elsewhere between her Naha and Disney wins.

Honda Takes First Asahi Ekiden Win

http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/general/news/20100112k0000m050027000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

17 teams competed in the 61st Asahi Ekiden on Jan. 11, a seven-stage, 99.9 km elite competition stretching from Fukuoka to Kita-Kyushu. Team Honda ran 4:47:33 to take its first-ever Asahi Ekiden win. Honda's Sixth Stage runner Yacob Jarso of Ethiopia started the stage in 3rd place 1:40 behind the leader but broke the existing stage record on his way to taking the lead. Honda anchor Suehiro Ishikawa managed to hold on to the lead to bring the team home on top. Trying for a fourth-straight win, Team Asahi Kasei anchor Tomoya Onishi ran the stage's best time but could not catch Ishikawa and had to settle for 2nd. Team Kyudenko finished 3rd, while last year's Kyushu Jitsugyodan Ekiden winner Team Yasukawa Denki was 4th. Alongside Jarso's mark, Kenyan student runner Kiragu Njuguna (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) also set a new record on the first stage.

2010 Asahi Ekiden - 7 Stages, 99.9 km
Stage Best Performances
First Stage (14.6 km) - Kiragu Njuguna (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 41:06 - new stage record
Second Stage (9.9 km) - Joseph Gitau (Team JFE Steel) - 29:50
Third Stage (11.2 km) - Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - 30:37
Fourth Stage (14.8 km) - Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko) - 42:26
Fifth Stage (15.9 km) - Minoru Okuda (Team Honda) - 46:09
Sixth Stage (16.8 km) - Yacob Jarso (Team Honda) - 46:11 - new stage record
Seventh Stage (16.7 km) - Tomoya Onishi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 46:48

Top Team Results
1. Honda - 4:47:33
2. Asahi Kasei - 4:48:00
3. Kyudenko - 4:48:43
4. Yasukawa Denki - 4:51:56
5. JFE Steel - 4:55:03
6. Nishitetsu - 4:56:02
7. Toyota Kyushu - 4:56:46
8. Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki - 4:57:29
9. Daiichi Kogyo Univ. - 5:04:20
10. Kurosaki Harima - 5:04:35

Course Records Fall at 50th Oita Godo Half Marathon (updated)

http://www.e-obs.com/obs-news/genko/DD01110011914.html
http://www.oita-press.co.jp/localNews/2010_126318885586.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Nearly 600 runners took part in the 50th anniversary Oita Godo Road Race on Jan. 11 in downtown Oita. Intended to help raise the level of distance running within Oita prefecture, the race takes place each year on the Coming of Age Day national holiday and is the frequent site of breakthrough performances by new stars. This year's 50th edition saw course records in the men's half marathon and high school men's 10 km as well as the first women's 10 km race in 22 years. With extended checkpoint cutoff times helping to swell the numbers, this year saw 406 finishers in the men's half marathon, 137 in the high school men's 10 km, and 36 in the women's 10 km.

In the men's half marathon, Oita Tomei H.S. graduate Fumihiro Maruyama (19, Team Asahi Kasei) dropped his rivals with an attack over the last km, winning in a new course record of 1:03:29. Oita Tomei H.S. senior Ikuto Yufu likewise set a course record in the 10 km, clocking 29:32. Yuka Yano (Canon A.C. Kyushu) won the women's 10 km in 35:15.

2010 Oita Godo Road Race - Top Finishers
click here for complete results
Men's Half Marathon
1. Fumihiro Maruyama (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:03:29 - new course record
2. Kenichi Jiromaru (Oita Tomei H.S.) - 1:03:44
3. Ryota Yoshida (Nippon Bunri Univ.) - 1:03:58
4. Shingo Tsumemaru (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:36
5. Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:54

High School Boys' 10 km
1. Ikuto Yufu (Oita Tomei H.S.) - 29:32 - new course record
2. Shunsuke Yuji (Oita Tomei H.S.) - 30:09
3. Ryota Okita (Josuikan H.S.) - 30:46

Women's 10 km
1. Yuka Yano (Canon A.C. Kyushu) - 35:15
2. Chiyuki Mochizuki (Canon A.C. Kyushu) - 36:32
3. Misato Oki (Ritsumeikan AP Univ.) - 36:35

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tadayuki Ojima to Retire After Beppu-Oita

http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/sports/0002629542.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

1999 World Championships marathoner Tadayuki Ojima (33, Team Asahi Kasei) announced on Jan 8 that he will retire from competition following his run at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. After retirement Ojima plans to concentrate on his work obligations with Asahi Kasei.

A native of Sasayama, Ojima went to the competitive Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. where he was part of the school's two year-straight national champion ekiden team. Following his older brother Muneyuki to Team Asahi Kasei, Ojima had a remarkable string of successes as a pro. He was a member of the Japanese national team at the 1999 World Championships marathon in Seville. At the 2004 Biwako Mainichi Marathon he ran 2:08:18, 2nd overall and the top Japanese finisher. The mark put him into contention for the Athens Olympics marathon team but ultimately he was not selected.

Ojima commented, "Before I joined Team Asahi Kasei, Nishiwaki Kogyo coach Koji Watanabe told me, 'If you last for 10 years [in the jitsugyodan circuit] then you'll be a true pro.' I've done my best for 15 years and I'm proud of what I've achieved. In the future I'd like to be a mentor to upcoming young runners."

22 Universities Participate in "Another Hakone Ekiden" Trash Cleanup

http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0109/TKY201001090313.html

translated by Brett Larner

100 students from 22 universities including 10 schools which ran in the main event are taking part in "Another Hakone Ekiden," a two-day event in which students pick up trash while running along the Hakone Ekiden course, began on Jan. 9. Starting from Tokyo's Otemachi district and ending the second day at Ashinoko in Hakone, each team in the event consists of five runners who hand off a tasuki like the real Hakone runners. In determining the winner teams are scored on both time and the amount of garbage they collect.

Carrying a cell phone and bag, one finished runner said, "There was a lot more trash than I expected." A member of the organizing committee commented, "We used the word 'another' in the event title because we want university students to take another look at the environmental problems we face today."

Friday, January 8, 2010

'Zayed Half Marathon Results, Recap, Controversy'

http://www.letsrun.com/2009/zayedhalf0107.php

Japan-based Philes Ongori, 2nd in the women's race, runs for Team Hokuren.

Atsushi Sato to Run Tokyo Marathon

http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/general/news/20100101k0000m050022000c.html
http://www.47news.jp/CN/200912/CN2009123101000436.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

2009 World Championships men's marathon 6th place finisher Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) has announced that he will run in the Feb. 28 Tokyo Marathon. The 31 year old Sato has worked his way back from the disaster of being the last finisher at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, coming in 8th in last April's London Marathon before his strong 6th place in Berlin. In his first domestic marathon since the December 2007 Fukuoka International Marathon, where he was 3rd in a PB of 2:07:13 against Beijing gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya) and Beijing 4th place finisher Deriba Merga (Ethiopia), Sato is one of the best hopes for returning Japan to a competitve position in the era of the high-speed marathon.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Katsumata Wins Final Miyazaki Women's Half Marathon

http://www.nishinippon.co.jp/nsp/item/144738
http://www.asahi.com/sports/spo/SEB201001070003.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The 30th and final edition of the Miyazaki Women's Road Race took place Jan. 6 in Miyazaki city. Running the event's half marathon for the first time, Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei) won in a time of 1:10:27. 27 seconds behind in 2nd place was Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera), with Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) another 30 second back in 3rd. 2009 Berlin World Championships marathoner Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) was 4th in 1:11:33. Women's 1500 m national champion Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) won the 5 km in 16:15.

The Miyazaki Road Race began in 1981 and has seen world records set on its fast course. Past winners of the race have included many famous runners such as Athens Olympics marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex), Sydney Olympics silver medalist Lidia Simon (Romania), Elana Meyer (RSA), Akemi Masuda, Masako Chiba, Yuko Kawakami, and more. However, in recent years due to the recession the race's organizers have had difficulty in inviting top talent and keeping up with prize money offered at other races. Last summer they announced that 2010 would be the event's final running.

2010 Miyazaki Women's Road Race - Top Finishers
Half Marathon
1. Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:10:27
2. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 1:10:54
3. Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) - 1:11:24
4. Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) - 1:11:33
5. Aki Odagiri (Meijo Univ.) - 1:11:43
6. Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 1:12:03
7. Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon) - 1:12:08
8. Saori Nejo (Team Hokuren) - 1:12:18
9. Kayoko Obata (Team Acom) - 1:12:20
10. Sayo Nomura (Meijo Univ.) - 1:12:25

5 km
1. Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) - 16:15
2. Hitomi Shimofuji (Meijo Univ.) - 16:16
3. Yuka Hakoyama (Team Wacoal) - 16:17
4. Hitomi Nakamura (Team Panasonic) - 16:17
5. Seika Nishikawa (Meijo Univ.) - 16:17

Announcing JRNPremium Interview Series

Beginning in Feb., 2010, Japan Running News will introduce its new JRNPremium monthly subscription series of original in-depth and personal interviews with Japanese and Japan-based distance runners, coaches and others involved in the Japanese long-distance running industry. Get a look into a previously-closed world as you read about training, life as a professional jitsugyodan athlete or as a runner in the toughest university system in the world, and the personal sides of those who until now may have been little more than a name next to a time, if even that. You won't find interviews with most of these people anywhere else. In the first half of 2010 JRNPremium will feature original interviews with:

  • Arata Fujiwara, the man who came from nowhere with a 2:08:40 at the 2008 Tokyo Marathon, crashed and burned at the 2009 World Championships, and dreams of doing things his own way.

  • Takeyuki Nakayama, anger-fueled former 10000 m and marathon national record holder, twice 4th in the Olympic marathon, both a vocal opponent of the Japanese system and its greatest anti-hero.

  • Kiyoko Shimahara, a veteran with top-5 finishes in Boston and Chicago who last fall came back from a three-year slump with three sub-2:30's in less than four months and now hopes for the Boston crown.

  • Stephen Mayaka, the first Kenyan high school runner in Japan and now the head coach of a Japanese university team and mentor to Samuel Wanjiru, Martin Mathathi, Gideon Ngatuny and others.

  • Eiji Kobayashi, a young high school coach who like thousands of others sacrificed his own high school and university years for the dream of Hakone Ekiden glory.
JRNPremium will deliver subscribers from eight to ten interviews a year. For an example of the high quality of the content you can expect, take a look at the interview with World Championships and 2:08 marathoner Takayuki Nishida published last summer on the JRN main site and Kiwi runner Jason Lawrence's account of training with Josai University's Hakone Ekiden squad at their summer training base.

$30 U.S. gets you access to the complete 2010 set of JRNPremium interviews, with individual interviews available for $6 each. To subscribe please click here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Race Video of the Year: Kentaro Ito Wins the '08 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon



No comment necessary. Thanks to Scott Douglas of Running Times magazine for sending me the link to this.

ARRS Releases Updated Worldwide Road Race Rankings

by Brett Larner

The Association of Road Running Statisticians (ARRS), released its annually-updated rankings of the world's top road races at the end of December. Using a formula which scores races in terms of both quality and depth of performances, the ARRS listings give an indication of a race's overall level over the course of its history relative to other comparable races. The top three races worldwide at each distance in which at least one scored over 1000 points are reproduced below. Click table for a larger image. Click here to see more detailed listings on the ARRS website.


International championship events held in different countries each edition are excluded from the above summary. Three races fall into this category: the IAAF Women's 15 km World Championships and the IAAF Men's and Women's World Half Marathon Championships.

The table below lists the 25 highest-scoring races worldwide for both men and women. International championship events held in different countries each edition are excluded but listed at the bottom. Click table for larger version.


The ARRS considers the Tokyo Marathon and Yokohama International Women's Marathon, which at the elite level have the same organizers as the now-disbanded Tokyo International Marathon men's and women's races respectively, to be continuations of the older races, and the rankings for these two races reflect this.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, January 4, 2010

Toyo University Gets the Star Treatment

by Brett Larner
Toyo photos by Mika Tokairin

A day after winning its second-straight Hakone Ekiden title, Toyo University had a busy Monday morning. The entire team and coaching staff appeared on the nationally-broadcast Sukkiri morning talk show, equivalent to Good Morning America, which devoted today's episode to interviewing team members and asking for their comments on clips from Saturday and Sunday's race. Sukkiri brought in marathon legend Toshihiko Seko for additional expert commentary and questioning.

Following the TV appearance, a good deal of which focused on second-year Ryuji Kashiwabara's record-setting Fifth Stage run, the team went straight to Toyo sponsor Nike's flagship store in the heart of the Harajuku/Omotesando fashion district for a lunchtime in-store appearance.

Nike had done up the large display windows along Omotesando, Tokyo's most fashionable street, with Hakone uniforms from the four teams it sponsors and oversized lettering which read "Congratulations Toyo University!" The store was packed to overflowing with fans, most of whom were young women, with latecomers crowding the street outside and looking in through the windows.

The runners and coaches greeted the fans and then one-by-one signed a large display board cutout in the shape of a Nike shoe.

Following one more group bow the team was whisked through the cheering crowd by security staff like the rock stars they are.

In a related story, Swiss runner Christian Sommer, a student at Tokyo University Graduate School, sent JRN a picture of himself on the way to working as a course marshall at this year's Hakone Ekiden. Sommer may have been the first-ever European to run the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km qualifier road race when he ran on Tokyo's team at October's 2009 edition. All runners who race the Yosenkai are required to work as marshalls on both days of Hakone. Sommer worked on the ace Second Stage on Day One and the competitive Ninth Stage on Day Two.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
Toyo photos (c) 2010 Mika Tokairin
all rights reserved

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Toyo Wins Second-Straight Hakone Ekiden

This is Nihon TV's end-of-broadcast highlight video. Click here for a video recap of Day One.

by Brett Larner

Click here for JRNLive's detailed live commentary on Twitter.

Riding on the 3:36 lead singlehandly built by second year Ryuji Kashiwabara on the final stage of yesterday's Hakone Ekiden Day One, Toyo University not only held off all rivals but succeeded in extending the lead over the course of Day Two to take its second-straight and second-ever Hakone win. In a repeat of last year's winning pattern, Toyo lost ground on the downhill Sixth Stage, then widened its lead by taking the stage best title on the Seventh Stage and second-best on the Eighth stage, the latter thanks again to team member Yu Chiba. Ninth Stage runner Masaya Kudo had a weak showing, but the team's margin was safe enough for anchor Ryo Takami to bring the team in again to its second win as Toyo covered the 217.9 km course in 11:10:13. With only Kudo and Fourth Stage runner Hiroki Seko graduating this year Toyo should again be the top contender at the 2011 Hakone.

Komazawa University made a strong comeback after a near-disaster Day One, running the fastest time on Day Two to finish 2nd overall in 11:13:59 but missing making a dent on Toyo's start-of-the-day margin of 3:36. First year Kenta Chiba and fourth year Yusuke Takabayashi took two of the five stage best titles of the day to help put Komazawa back up front.

Starting the day with a margin of 43 seconds per stage Toyo could afford to play it safe and it was up to other schools to catch up. Toyo first-year Takanori Ichikawa nevertheless took it out hard, running the massive downhill on the Sixth stage at course record pace. Also running course record pace was Chuo University’s Takamori Yamashita, who briefly moved into 2nd before he slipped on the frost-coated white lines along the edge of the road and went down hard. Ichikawa was in tears by the end of the brutal stage and lost 47 seconds to Yamanashi Gakuin University’s Kyosuke Taguchi. Further back, Komazawa University first-year Kenta Chiba, a member of 2008 national high school champion Saku Chosei HS, built on fourth year Takuya Fukatsu’s strong uphill run the day before to pick up two places and the stage best.

Seventh Stage Toyo runner Takaaki Tanaka followed the school’s winning formula from last year, running the first ten kilometers at a comfortable pace before picking it up in the second half and rolling on to a stage best which crushed any hopes of catching the defending champions. Both Tanaka and Eighth Stage runner Yu Chiba succeed in widening Toyo’s lead with this strategy, and while Ninth and Tenth stage runners Masaya Kudo and Ryo Takami were only able to hold the pace rather than speed up in the second half their runs were more than enough to stay way out of reach.

Chasers Yamanashi Gakuin, Nittai and Chuo were unable to make any headway, and Nittai, which had stacked its three best runners on the first day, dropped all the way to 10th before rebounding to 9th in the final kilometer of the day. The remainder of the top ten saw no change in the lineup from the start to end of the day, only jostling for position led by Komazawa’s move up from 8th to 2nd. If Komazawa had the best run in the top ten, Waseda may have had the worst. Despite an outstanding lineup the team fell to 7th as once again head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe was unable to put together an intact, healthy team for the big day. Meiji University, missing injured ace Kodai Matsumoto and having put all its talent on Day One, fell to 10th but was safe within the seeded bracket for next year’s race, 2:55 ahead of 11th place Teikyo University.

Tokyo Nogyo, Josai and Aoyama Gakuin all made big news by making the top ten, ToNo for the first time in 14 years, Josai for the first time ever, and Aoyama Gakuin for the first time in 41 years, requalifying for Hakone last year after a 33-year absence and significantly improving on last year's last-place finish. Josai’s success was doubly sweet for new head coach Seiji Kushibe, a former star teammate of Waseda’s coach Watanabe, as Josai finished ahead of Waseda. The success held special meaning for Seventh Stage runner Ryo Ishita, who was 2nd fastest on the leg after DNF’ing on the Eighth Stage and eliminating Josai from last year’s Hakone. Ishita wept long and hard after his fantastic Seventh Stage run this year which advanced Josai from 10th to 7th.

Further down in the field, none of the schools which finished outside the top ten on Day One came close to breaking into the seeded spots on Day Two. 2009 Izumo Ekiden and National University Ekiden winner Nihon University was the biggest shock of the 2010 Hakone Ekiden, finishing 15th after running much of the first day in the top five. Tokai University was 12th, a decent placing in a rebuilding year given its 18th-place ranking going in but one which means first-year Akinobu Murasawa, the 2009 Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km qualifier winner, will be lining up again at the 2010 Yosenkai. Murasawa will face Nihon University’s new Kenyan Benjamin Gando at the Yosenkai where a sub-59 may be in the works. For the second year in a row newcomer Jobu University could not live up to its strong showing at the Yosenkai, finishing only 14th with several very weak individual runs. The team’s coach Katsuhiko Hanada, another Waseda contemporary of Kushibe and Watanabe, has yet to put together a team which can run well in October but still peak in early January, but to be fair Jobu’s placing this year was a significant improvement over last year’s 21st-place debut, and anchor Hiromasa Fukushima took an unexpected stage best, the first in Jobu’s brief history.

Looking toward next year, Toyo loses only 4th and 9th stage runners Hiroki Seko and Masaya Kudo to graduation, two of the weakest on this year’s squad. All the key players will return. Komazawa, by contrast, loses its best three, Tsuyoshi Ugachi, Takuya Fukatsu and Yusuke Takabayashi. It may well face a season of rebuilding before being able to field a winning squad again. Yamanashi Gakuin, still dealing with the loss of the brilliant Mekubo Mogusu, will lose six runners from this year’s team and will be hard-pressed to repeat a top-three run next year. Waseda has brought in six star recruits in the last two years. For various reasons only three ran this year, so once again the team is in the position of being only hypothetically strong were all members running at 100%. Nihon University loses Kenyan Daniel Gitau, meaning Gando will need to step up to fill the gap. Other schools have the usual ebb and flow of talent, but at this point there is no question that Toyo looks like the favorite for a third-straight win in 2011.

Race broadcaster Nihon TV will air a one-hour program on Jan. 10 titled “One More Hakone Ekiden,” a series of race-day behind the scenes and post-race interviews with key players and graduating stars. It is an always-fascinating look inside the world’s most-watched road race, the Hakone Ekiden.

2010 Hakone Ekiden Results
click here for complete results
Stage Best Times
6th Stage - 20.8 km: Kenta Chiba (1st yr., Komazawa Univ.) - 59:44
7th Stage - 21.3 km: Takaaki Tanaka (2nd yr., Toyo Univ.) - 1:04:56
8th Stage - 21.5 km: Shota Kinoshita (4th yr., Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:06:55
9th Stage - 23.2 km: Yusuke Takabayashi (4th yr., Komazawa Univ.) - 1:10:19
10th Stage - 23.1 km: Hiromasa Fukushima (4th yr., Jobu Univ.) - 1:10:54

Final Team Results
1. Toyo Univ. - 11:10:13
2. Komazawa Univ. - 11:13:59 (Day Two winner - 5:34:41)
3. Yamanashi Gakuin Univ. - 11:15:46
4. Chuo Univ. - 11:16:00
5. Tokyo Nogyo Univ. - 11:16:42
6. Josai Univ. - 11:17:53
7. Waseda Univ. - 11:20:04
8. Aoyama Gakuin Univ. - 11:21:25
9. Nittai Univ. - 11:21:45
10. Meiji Univ. - 11:21:57
-----top ten teams are seeded for 2011 Hakone Ekiden
11. Teikyo Univ. - 11:24:52
12. Tokai Univ. - 11:25:46
13. Chuo Gakuin Univ. - 11:26:41
14. Jobu Univ. - 11:28:14
15. Nihon Univ. - 11:28:48
16. Kanto Region Select Team - 11:29:37
17. Senshu Univ. - 11:29:51
18. Daito Bunka Univ. - 11:32:53
19. Hosei Univ. - 11:33:22
20. Asia Univ. - 11:41:07

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, January 2, 2010

KASHIWABARA - 2nd-Straight Hakone Record Run



by Brett Larner

Click here for JRNLive's detailed live race commentary.

For the second straight year, Toyo University sophomore Ryuji Kashiwabara was the key figure on the first day of the Hakone Ekiden. Starting the fifth and final stage of the day in 7th place 4:26 behind leader Kimiya Hisakuni of Meiji University, Kashiwabara blew by the competition as he attacked the 874 m climb stage, taking the lead with ease after just 12.7 km. Where last year Kashiwabara had rival Masayuki Miwa of Waseda University to battle until the last 2 km, this year he had only his own record to race over the last 10.7 km. Kashiwabara finished in a stunning new record of 1:17:08, but even more impressively went from a 4:26 deficit to a 3:36 lead. As Toyo begins the second day tomorrow morning it is in an excellent position to defend its 2009 Hakone title.

Where last year's Hakone Day One was a complex, turbulent mix of four stage records, surprise meltdowns and the last runs by three of the most talented runners ever to appear in the race, this year was comparatively lean, tight, straightforward and tense. Most teams stacked the day with their best runners in an effort to make up a probable repeat of the 5 minute 20 second advantage Kashiwabara picked up last year to give Toyo the win. After last year's extravaganza stage records were scarce, but several stages saw runs close to their best marks.

On the often-lazy First Stage, Kanto Select Team runner Takuji Morimoto (Kanagawa Univ.) made sure it was going to be an honest race, taking the field through the first of 21.4 km in 2:53. Morimoto repeatedly traded the lead with last year's stage winner Yo Yazawa (Waseda Univ.) and Koji Gokaya (Senshu Univ.), ensuring the pace stayed quick, but when Takashi Hojo (Meiji Univ.) dropped a 2:46 km on the uphill onto the large bridge marking 4 km to go he erased all contenders. Hojo handed off to Second Stage ace Takuya Ishikawa, giving Meiji its first win on the First Stage in 49 years and clocking 1:02:27, the 6th-best ever on the stage.

In his stage win interview Hojo said he hoped that Meiji would keep the lead through the 4th stage, and that is exactly what happened. Ishikawa and the next two Meiji runners Tetsuya Yoroizaka and Masamichi Yasuda were overpowering, progressively widening Meiji's lead and putting it in first at the start of the Fifth Stage for the first time in 61 years. Behind them, Toyo went from 5th on the First Stage to 7th on the Second Stage and dropping further to 9th on the Third Stage. Fourth Stage runner Hiroki Seko finally turned things around, bringing Toyo back up to 7th with a margin of 4:26 behind the leader, an improvement on last year's Fifth Stage starting position of 4:58 behind in 9th.

Along the way there was a good deal of action. Kenyan fourth-year Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) started slow on the 23.2 km Second Stage, not really taking off until the 10 km mark but still taking the stage best in 1:07:37. First-year Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) was 2nd on the same stage in 1:08:08, passing ten teams along the way and just missing cracking the all-time top ten on the stage. Several big names were lackluster, including fourth-years Yuta Takahashi (Josai Univ.) and Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Komazawa Univ.). The undisputed star of the 21.5 km Third Stage was third-year Takuya Noguchi (Nittai Univ.), who ran 1:02:46, the all-time 3rd-best on the leg, to put Nittai into 4th, losing out to 2009 Ageo City Half Marathon winner Shota Hiraga (Waseda Univ.) in a sprint finish but beating Kenyan Cosmas Ondiba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) on time by a wide margin. Yusuke Hasegawa (Jobu Univ.), holder of the fastest 10000 m PB in the field after Gitau, was a notable breakdown on Day One, finishing 17th on the Third Stage.

After teammate Seko's strong Fourth Stage showing Kashiwabara started the Fifth Stage in a better position than last year and made quick work of it. Within 4 km, still on relatively flat ground, he had passed three of the six runners ahead of him, neutralizing a challenge from same-aged HS champion Yuki Yagi (Waseda Univ.), running down the remaining runners including leader Hisakuni of Meiji at 12.7 km and blazing on to a 10-second course record. Hisakuni was not up to the uphill challenge as he finished 18th on the stage and fell to 6th. Fourth-year Kota Otani (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) had an outstanding showing in his first and last Hakone, running the best time after Kashiwabara, 1:21:16, to put Yamanashi into 2nd. Chuo University's Minato Oishi was the next fastest but couldn't catch Nittai's Masaki Nagao and ended up in 4th. Next to Meiji's Hisakuni, Shinichi Sasazaki (Nihon Univ.) was the breakdown of the day, last on the stage on time and dropping from 4th to 13th.

Day Two Preview
Looking toward tomorrow's return run, Kashiwabara's performance has two important ramifications. First, last year Kashiwabara's 22-second lead over Waseda was enough for Toyo to win with good performances from all five runners on the second day. This year with a 3:36 lead they can afford to play it safe and run conservatively to avoid any accidents. Barring a breakdown there is no chance of another team making up such a margin, over 2 sec/km for the entire day, considering that most have already used up their best runners. Second, since Day One runners must finish within 10 minutes of the leader to avoid a time handicapped mass start on Day Two, Kashiwabara's commanding lead means that almost half the field will be in the mass start at 8:10 a.m. Besides being something of an embarrassment, the mass start and time handicap complicate the issue of making the top ten seeded spots for next year's Hakone.

Toyo is thus in a solid position for the win, but as with Juntendo Univ. at the 2006 Hakone Ekiden it isn't impossible for them to lose a lead of over a kilometer. Toyo and Yamanashi Gakuin are the only schools currently in the top ten which have no cracks in their 2009-10 season, and Toyo has the superior record of the two. If any team is going to pick up the lead should Toyo break it will be either Yamanashi Gakuin, Chuo or Tokyo Nogyo. Nittai, Meiji and Jobu have all used their best runners and will probably lose places on Day Two. Waseda has likewise used all its best men but Sixth Stage downhill specialist Sota Kato and first-year Hiroyuki Sasaki and, currently 7th, will at best break the top five. Komazawa Univ. had another poor showing, with only senior Takuya Fukatsu clawing his way into the seeded bracket on the Fifth Stage. With only strong runners Yusuke Takabayashi and Wataru Ueno left it will be trying to hang on to a seeded position against Aoyama Gakuin, Josai, the Kanto Select Team and Nihon.

Day Two begins at 8:00 a.m. Japan time on Jan. 3 with a one-hour preview at 7:00 a.m. Click here to watch Nihon TV's broadcast online via Keyhole TV. Click here for live English commentary on JRNLive. Click here for JRN's 2010 Hakone preview.

2010 Hakone Ekiden Day One Results
click here for complete results
Stage Best Times
First Stage - 21.4 km: Takashi Hojo (4th yr., Meiji Univ.) - 1:02:27
Second Stage - 23.2 km: Daniel Gitau (4th yr., Nihon Univ.) - 1:07:37
Third Stage - 21.5 km: Takuya Noguchi (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 1:02:46
Fourth Stage - 18.5 km: Masamichi Yasuda (4th yr., Meiji Univ.) - 55:57
Fifth Stage - 23.5 km: Ryuji Kashiwabara (2nd yr., Toyo Univ.) - 1:17:08 - new stage record

Team Results
1. Toyo Univ. - 5:32:02
2. Yamanashi Gakuin Univ. - 5:35:38
3. Nittai Univ. - 5:36:15
4. Chuo Univ. - 5:36:26
5. Tokyo Nogyo Univ. - 5:36:59
6. Meiji Univ. - 5:37:45
7. Waseda Univ. - 5:38:07
8. Komazawa Univ. - 5:39:18
9. Aoyama Gakuin Univ. - 5:39:19
10. Josai Univ. - 5:39:25
11. Kanto Regional Select Team - 5:41:37
-----teams more than 10 minutes behind leader start Day Two ten minutes behind with a time penalty added to their Day Two running time
12. Tokai Univ. - 5:42:47
13. Nihon Univ. - 5:43:25
14. Jobu Univ. - 5:44:12
15. Teikyo Univ. - 5:44:48
16. Chuo Gakuin Univ. - 5:45:24
17. Senshu Univ. - 5:45:36
18. Hosei Univ. - 5:47:22
19. Asia Univ. - 5:50:20
20. Daito Bunka Univ. - 5:51:01

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
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