Tuesday, March 30, 2010

High School Coach Jiromaru to Join National Champions Nissin Shokuhin

http://www.oita-press.co.jp/print.php?print_type=localSports&print_first_genre=120731038943&print_second_genre=&print_news_id=2010_126947790574

translated by Brett Larner

It was announced this week that Kenichi Jiromaru, 25, assistant coach with Oita's Tomei H.S. ekiden team, will be joining the powerful Tokyo-based Nissin Shokuhin corporate team in April. Having once before quit the running world only to find rebirth in Oita, Jiromaru is a runner of a different color who hopes that joining this year's New Year Ekiden national champion team will help lead him to his ultimate goal of racing in the national uniform.

Jiromaru was born in Tottori Prefecture. After running the Hakone Ekiden all four years that he was a student at Komazawa University he was somewhat discouraged thinking, "There are a million guys my level." He decided to quit the sport. Jiromaru took a position working at a fabric maker but found that he couldn't stop thinking about running and left the job after only a year. At around the same time he received an offer from fellow Komazawa graduate Hiroshi Inoue, the ekiden team head coach at Tomei H.S. in Oita, to join him as an assistant coach. Jiromaru accepted and became part of the team's staff last April.

As a chaperone in the ekiden team's dormitory Jiromaru began to life the same lifestyle as the high school students. Chief among his duties was to act as training partner for the team's ace Ikuto Yufu, one of the best high school runners in Japan. Running the same workouts as Yufu and others on the Tomei team, Jiromaru says, "helped my patience and inner strength to mature." He improved upon his university-era 5000 m PB by over 28 seconds, clocking a new mark of 14:10.30.

His big break came at October's Kyushu One-Circuit Ekiden. Running on the roads amid some of the best pro runners Jiromaru found he had command of a newfound drive. In all four of the stages he ran he took the stage best title, bathing in the brilliance of his performances. At the Oita Godo Half Marathon and National Interprefectural Ekiden in January he was again on top of the competition. Offers from jitsugyodan teams were quick to follow.

Of his year in Oita Jiromaru says, "My work with all the runners at Tomei may be over, but what they taught me was that to be an athlete you have to be willing to chase after your dreams." Coach Inoue voiced his support, commenting, "He's taking this chance with a hungry spirit. I want him to spread his wings wide and fly."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

World XC Championships - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

For the first time in several years, the Japanese national team at the World Cross-Country Championships will go home empty-handed as its perennial team bronze medal-winning junior women's squad placed only 4th at this year's Championships in Poland on Mar. 28. Junior woman Nanaka Izawa's 19th place finish was the best individual placing on the entire Japanese team, admittedly in the least competitive of the four fields, but her run led the Japanese junior women to finish as the top non-African team.

The junior men were likewise the top non-African team, finishing 6th in their race ahead of a number of teams from countries with far more established cross-country traditions. As JRN predicted Tokai University first-year Akinobu Murasawa was someone to watch. In his last race as a junior Murasawa, the inspiration for JRN's comparison last fall of young American and Japanese men's performances, beat much-hyped American first-year Trevor Dunbar to finish in 28th as the top non-African. Murasawa's run was arguably the best on the Japanese team.

It was through a fluke of birthdays lining up that Murasawa did not join his Tokai teammate Tsubasa Hayakawa on the senior men's team, but it was probably all for the best as the almost exclusively university student team failed to make a dent. After an aggressive start in the front pack Meiji University's Tetsuya Yoroizaka finished only 76th but was still the top senior Japanese man. The squad finished 16th, its worst placing in years. Team Kyudenko's star Kenyan Paul Tanui did not live up to expectations either, finishing 8th overall and only 4th on the Kenyan team after winning the Kenyan selection race.

The senior Japanese women fared better than the men despite predicted weak runs from 2009 18th placer Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) and university star Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) in her last run before going pro. Kojima's young teammate Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) was the surprise of the day for the Japanese team, running an aggressive second half and holding off a fast-finishing Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) to finish as the top Japanese woman in 30th.

2010 World Cross-Country Championships - Japanese Results
click here for complete results
Junior Women - 6 km - team 4th place
1. Mercy Cherono (Kenya) - 18:47
2. Purity Rionoripo (Kenya) - 18:54
3. Esther Chemtai (Kenya) - 18:55
-----
19. Nanaka Izawa (Toyokawa H.S.) - 20:17
22. Yuka Ando (Toyokawa H.S.) - 20:22
24. Minori Suzuki (Toyokawa H.S.) - 20:26
33. Akane Sueyoshi (Isahaya H.S.) - 20:53
47. Chihiro Tanabe (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 21:25
DNF - Yuki Hidaka (Kyushu Civic H.S.)

Junior Men - 8 km - team 6th place
1. Caleb Ndiku (Kenya) - 22:07
2. Clement Langat (Kenya) - 22:09
3. Japhet Korir (Kenya) - 22:12
-----
28. Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) - 23:29 - top non-African
32. Suguru Osako (Saku Chosei H.S.) - 23:42
35. Takumi Honda (Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 23:48
38. Kazuto Nishiike (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 24:01
40. Takashi Ichida (Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.) - 24:09
104. Shun Morozumi (Saku Chosei H.S.) - 26:40

Senior Women - 8 km - team 7th place
1. Emily Chebet (Kenya) - 24:19
2. Linet Masai (Kenya) - 24:20
3. Meselech Melkamu (Ethiopia) - 24:26
-----
30. Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 26:29
31. Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 26:30
43. Yuko Mizuguchi (Team Denso) - 26:57
46. Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 26:59
49. Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 27:07
53. Nanako Hayashi (Team Yamada Denki) - 27:13

Senior Men - 12 km - team 16th place
1. Joseph Ebuya (Kenya) - 33:00
2. Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) - 33:06
3. Moses Mipsiro (Uganda) - 33:10
-----
76. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Meiji Univ.) - 35:48
78. Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) - 35:51
82. Takuya Noguchi (Nittai Univ.) - 36:02
93. Tsubasa Hayakawa (Tokai Univ.) - 36:19
96. Kazuya Deguchi (Nittai Univ.) - 36:23
101. Minato Oishi (Chuo Univ.) - 36:46

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, March 26, 2010

Women Tuning Up Worldwide for London Marathon

by Brett Larner

Looking through results this week from various half marathons around the world I noticed that a number of the top women from next month's London Marathon ran tuneups last Sunday. Here's what I have come across so far. Please send any additions. Both the Jitsugyodan and Matsue half marathons had extremely windy conditions; Japan had such a windy weekend that the 10,000+ runner Arakawa Marathon was cancelled due to the conditions.

2010 London Marathon Elite Women - 3/21/10 Half Marathon Results
Mara Yamauchi (GBR) - 1:09:25 (1st, NYC Half)
Deena Kastor (U.S.A.) - 1:09:43 (2nd, NYC Half)
Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:10:06 (2nd, Jitsugyodan Half)
Askale Tafa (Ethiopia) - 1:10:46 (2nd, Lisbon Half)
Kim Smith (New Zealand) - 1:10:53 (1st, New Bedford Half)
Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 1:11:09 (2nd, Matsue Ladies' Half)
Constantina Dita (Romania) - 1:14:39 (9th, Lisbon Half)

Murasawa, Yoroizaka, Kojima and Izawa Lead Japanese Team for World XC

by Brett Larner

Despite cross-country playing only a minor part in the Japanese distance running calendar, Japan is sending a full squad of 24 to this Sunday's World Cross-Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

The senior men's team is made up almost exclusively of university runners from the Kanto region, with only pro steeplechaser Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) breaking the mold. The top man on the team is Meiji University's Tetsuya Yoroizaka, winner of this year's Fukuoka International XC Meet and top Japanese finisher at the Chiba International XC Meet. A surprising absence is Saku Chosei H.S. graduate Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), replaced in the lineup by Minato Oishi (Chuo Univ.).

Running on his 19th birthday, Fukuoka XC senior men's runner-up and Saku Chosei H.S. alumnus Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) is in the junior men's race. Fresh from training in New Zealand and with a 59:08 road 20 km to his name since last year's World XC, Murasawa could be someone to watch. Joining him are Chiba XC junior men's winner and Fukuoka junior men's runner-up Kazuto Nishiike (Suma Gakuen H.S.) and Chiba runner-up Sugeru Osako (Saku Chosei H.S.).

The senior women's team is missing Chiba XC winner Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei) but includes both Fukuoka XC winner Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) and the Japanese runner-up in both races, Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki). Kojima, in her last race before going pro and joining Niiya at Toyota, was the dominant university woman over the last few years but had been out of her usual form in recent months prior to her Fukuoka win. Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku), the top woman from last year's squad, is also on the team but has likewise been out of form lately.

The junior women are usually the best-placing of the Japanese teams. The squad is led by Chiba XC and Fukuoka XC winner Nanaka Izawa (Toyokawa H.S.) and includes the top three from each race, with runners-up Yuka Ando (Toyokawa H.S.) and Chihiro Tanabe (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) the best contenders should Izawa falter.

2010 World Cross-Country Championships - Japanese Teams
click here for complete entry lists
Senior Men - 12 km
Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Meiji Univ.)
Kazuya Deguchi (Nittai Univ.)
Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN)
Takuya Noguchi (Nittai Univ.)
Tsubasa Hayakawa (Tokai Univ.)
Minato Oishi (Chuo Univ.)

Senior Women - 8 km
Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.)
Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki)
Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.)
Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku)
Nanako Hayashi (Team Yamada Denki)
Yuko Mizuguchi (Team Denso)

Junior Men - 8 km
Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.)
Kazuto Nishiike (Suma Gakuen H.S.)
Sugeru Osako (Saku Chosei H.S.)
Takashi Ichida (Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.)
Shun Morozumi (Saku Chosei H.S.)
Takumi Honda (Kyushu Gakuin H.S.)

Junior Women - 6 km
Nanaka Izawa (Toyokawa H.S.)
Akane Sueyoshi (Isahaya H.S.)
Yuka Ando (Toyokawa H.S.)
Chihiro Tanabe (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.)
Minori Suzuki (Toyokawa H.S.)
Yuki Hidaka (Kyushu Civic H.S.)

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The 2010 Rome Marathon in Pictures


JRN's Brett Larner was at the 2010 Rome Marathon covering the race for Runners magazine and representing invited runners Satoko Uetani and Toyokazu Yoshimura. A number of retired Japanese elites were also onhand as part of a JTB-sponsored tour group promoting a closer relationship between the Tokyo and Rome Marathons on the 50th anniversary of the 1960 Rome Olympics. Click here to read the IAAF's report on this year's elite race. Better late than never, below are photos from the entire race weekend. Thanks to Rome Marathon elite athlete coordinator Massimiliano Monteforte, Kassa Tadesse and everyone else in the Rome Marathon office who helped make the event and JRN's presence possible.

click photos for larger versions

all photos (c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved
no reproduction without permission


Press Conference, Mar. 19

The 2010 Rome Marathon elite field.

Part of the women's elite field.
Satoko Uetani and Toyokazu Yoshimura.
Marathon Expo Presentation of Elites, 3/20

The marathon expo at the Palazzo dei Congressi.
Invited runner Satoko Uetani and JTB tour group members Mineko Yamanouchi and Kayoko Obata.
The many faces of charismatic Ethiopian women's half marathon national record holder Mare Dibaba.


Eventual men's winner Siraj Gena (Ethiopia) and Toyokazu Yoshimura.
The elite men's field.
Ethiopians gather at the Ethiopia Day booth.
Race Day, 3/21

Mascots Volly and Pietrino the anthropomorphic cobblestone.
The start in front of the Colosseum.





Josai Univ. junior Shohei Mita nears Vatican City territory just past 16 km.
Toyokazu Yoshimura approaches the Basilica di San Pietro in Vatican City near 16.5 km.
Mineko Yamanouchi in a pack on the edge of Piazza San Pietro in Vatican City near 17 km.
Runners heading toward San Pietro. #936 is on sub-3 pace.
Leaders Siraj Gena and Benson Barus (Kenya) round a fountain at 34.5 km.
Oleksandr Sitkovskyy (Ukraine) runs the cobblestones at 34.5 km.
The lead women's pack at 34.5 km.
Satoko Uetani at 34.5 km.
The 35 km water station.
Kayoko Obata on the downwhill approaching 40 km.
The finish in front of the Colosseum. #936 just misses going sub-3.
The finish area.
Medals await.
Kayoko Obata and Satoko Uetani post-race.
Kayoko Obata and former 10000 m and half marathon national record holder Junko Kataoka post-race.
A gutted Toyokazu Yoshimura, Satoko Uetani and Uetani's coach Miyoko Nishikawa post-race.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Satoshi Irifune Joins London Marathon Field

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/100321/spg1003211532003-n1.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

It was announced this week that two-time World Championships marathoner Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) will run the April 25 London Marathon. Team Kanebo head coach Kunimitsu Ito said that Irifune had been intending to run the Rotterdam Marathon but that they had changed plans. Irifune joins several other Japanese runners in the world's most top-class field in London, including Berlin World Championships women's marathon silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei), World Championships marathoner Yukiko Akaba, Beijing Olympian Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta), his twin brother Yuko Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) and World Half Marathon runner Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Obare Over Akaba at Matsue Ladies' Half Marathon

by Brett Larner

As Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) finished 2nd at the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships, the over elite Japanese woman scheduled to run next month's London Marathon, Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) lined up at the Matsue Ladies' Half Marathon in her first race since dropping out of January's Osaka International Women's Marathon. It was essentially a head-to-head race between Akaba and Kenyan Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) in her half marathon debut. Strong winds kept the pace slow, but nevertheless the pack of chasers made no attempt to follow. Obare and Akaba ran the first km in 3:30 and gradually picked up the pace, but when Obare pushed the 4th km to 3:09 Akaba let go. The gap between the pair widened to 48 seconds at 10 km before Akaba began to accelerate, closing to within 17 seconds of Obare but unable to catch her. Obare won in 1:10:52, with Akaba 2nd in 1:11:09. Running a great race to beat away numerous challenges from the pack, Meijo University first-year Aki Odagiri was 3rd.

Click here for complete results.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ndungu, Cheyech Win National Corporate Half Marathon

http://www.chugoku-np.co.jp/sports/Sp201003220091.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On a windy day with strong headwinds in the second half of the race, Samuel Ndungu (Team Aichi Seiko) ran 1:01:19 to take the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships men's race on Mar. 21, with defending champion Joseph Gitau (Team JFE Steel) 2nd. Akihiko Tsumurai (Team Mazda) was the top Japanese finisher, 5th overall in a PB of 1:01:58 despite his left shoe coming undone partway through the race. "It didn't bother me at all," he said afterwards. With the strong time and placing Tsumurai secured a spot on the Japanese national team for October's World Half Marathon Championships in China. Altogether 105 men in the field broke 66 minutes.

Defending women's champion Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo) took a second win with a 1:09:01 run. Berlin World Championships women's marathon silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) was 2nd in 1:10:06, likewise earning a World Half Marathon spot. Cheyech became injured after returning to Kenya around the New Year and was only able to resume training in February. "My mileage is too low right now," she said ruefully after the race. Cheyech also hopes to run the World Half Marathon for her native Kenya. "I want to just run one race at a time and build up the results I'll need to get there," she said. 39 women in race broke 76 minutes.

Click here for complete results from both the men's and women's races.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ozaki Tunes up for London - Watch the National Corporate Half Marathon Online

http://www.chugoku-np.co.jp/sports/Sp201003170188.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The men's and women's National Jitsugyodan Half Marathon Championships take place this Sunday, Mar. 21 in Yamaguchi. A selection race for the national team for October's World Half Marathon Championships, the Jitsugyodan Half wraps up the road season as athletes head to track in April.

Leading the way in the women's race is the star of Team Daiichi Seimei, 2009 World Championships marathon silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki, running her last major tuneup race before April's London Marathon. Her main competition will come from teammate Misaki Katsumata, who had a brilliant victory at last month's Chiba International Cross Country Meet, and defending champion Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo). National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships Sixth Stage winner Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya) could also be a threat.

2009 World Championships marathoners Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) and Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) headine the men's race. Suffering from leg injuries since the Beijing Olympics, Tsuyoshi Ogata (Team Chugoku Denryoku) is also on the entry list along with strong young runners Bene Zama (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Akihiko Tsumurai (Team Mazda). Kenyan Laban Kagika (Team JFE Steel), a longtime familiar face on the jitsugyodan circuit, will be running his last race before returning home to Kenya.

The race will be broadcast on TBS beginning at 2:00 p.m. Japan time on Mar. 21. International viewers should be able to watch online for free via Keyhole TV.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rome Marathon Preview - Dibaba Debuts (updated)

by Brett Larner

The 2010 Rome Marathon elite field.

The 16th Rome Marathon takes place this Sunday, Mar. 21. In the 50th anniversary year of 1960 Rome Olympics, the Rome Marathon has formed a partnership with the Tokyo Marathon, site of the 1964 Olympics, to work together to promote cooperative bids from each city for the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games. A handful of elite Japanese runners will join the Rome field this year for the first time, two as invited elites and three as special guests in honor of the Rome-Tokyo cooperative relationship. As the 50th anniversary of the legendary barefoot win by Ethiopian great Abebe Bikila in the 1960 Olympics, Rome organizers have offered a unique bonus: if either the men's or women's leader in this year's race runs the final 300 m over cobblestones barefoot they will receive a 5000 euro bonus and 20 seconds off their finish time to compensate for the time spent stopping and taking off their shoes.

The men's race features a solid field of young Kenyan and Ethiopian runners, most running their second marathons after 2:10-2:11 debuts. At the head of the field are Kenyans Nicholas Kamakya and Benson Barus, both of whom ran under 2:09 at last fall's Beijing Marathon and both of whom stand strong chances for the win on Rome's historic cobblestone course. Countryman Vincent Kiplagat is the only other runner with a recent time under 2:10, but almost any of the nine other athletes with times under 2:12 could step up and contend for the win. Of particular interest is Italian Daniele Meucci who is debuting at the marathon after running a 1:02:41 half marathon PB earlier this year. 2009 Copenhagen Marathon winner Toyokazu Yoshimura is the only invited Japanese man in the field and hopes to break into the top 10 with a 2-3 minute PB. Joining him is Josai University's Shohei Mita, making his marathon debut as the youngest man in the field and one of Rome's guest runners.


The elite women's field is more evenly matched and notable for the absence of Kenyan women. By far the most interesting facet is the marathon debut of Mare Dibaba, who earlier this season set the Ethiopian half marathon national record of 1:07:13 at the Ras al Khaimah Half Marathon. Fellow Ethiopians Firehiwot Dado and Kebebush Haile hold recent times in the 2:27-2:28 range and should be up front along with Ukrainian Tetyana Filonyuk. Lithuanian Zivile Balciunaite has the second-fastest PB in the field, 2:25:15 from the 2005 Tokyo International Women's Marathon, but she has stuggled to break 2:30 in recent seasons. 2009 Hokkaido Marathon 3rd place finisher Satoko Uetani is the only invited elite Japanese woman in the field. With a PB-level performance she has a lock on a top-10 spot and could finish as high as 5th. The fastest woman, Japanese guest runner Kayoko Obata, ran 2:27:19 in January's Osaka International Women's Marathon in what she said at the time was her retirement run. Whether she is running Rome seriously remains to be seen. Mineko Yamanouchi, a retired sub-2:30 woman, is the other guest runner.

Satoko Uetani and Toyokazu Yoshimura.

JRN will bring you exclusive photos and reports from the Rome Marathon throughout the weekend. Check back for updates.



2010 Rome Marathon Elite Field
Women

Kayoko Obata (Japan) - 2:25:14
Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:25:15
Tetyana Filonyuk (Ukraine) - 2:26:55
Firehiwot Dado (Ethiopia) - 2:27:08
Haile Kebebush (Ethiopia) - 2:28:08
Yelena Sokolova (Russia) - 2:31:54
Satoko Uetani (Japan) - 2:33:55
Tiruwork Mekonnen (Ethiopia) - 2:34:07
Konjit Tilahun Biruk (Ethiopia) - 2:34:23
Fate Tola Geleto (Ethiopia) - 2:35:22
Mare Dibaba (Ethiopa) - debut - 1:07:13 (half - NR)

Men
Benson Barus (Kenya) - 2:08:33
Nicholas Manza Kamakya (Kenya) - 2:08:42
Vincent Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:09:22
Oleksandr Sitkovskyy (Ukraine) - 2:10:16
Habteselassie Gemechu Lemma (Ethiopia) - 2:10:19
James Kimaiyo Chemboi (Kenya) - 2:10:24
Philemon Rotich (Kenya) - 2:10:26
Siraj Gena (Ethiopia) - 2:10:41
David Chepkwony Kiptanui (Kenya) - 2:10:57
Shume Hailu (Ethiopia) - 2:11:26
Kedir Fikadu (Ethiopia) - 2:11:39
Ruben Iidongo (Namibia) - 2:12:38
Nixon Machichim (Kenya) - 2:13:27
Abdullah Dawit Shami (Ethiopia) - 2:14:09
Nigussie Ketema (Ethiopia) - 2:14:29
Alemayehu Ameta Belachew (Ethiopia) - 2:14:51
Toyokazu Yoshimura (Japan) - 2:15:05
Festus Langat (Kenya) - debut - 1:01:31 (half)
Daniele Meucci (Italy) - debut - 1:02:41 (half)
Shohei Mita (Japan) - debut

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Rikuren Announces Selection Races for 2011 World Championships

http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/general/news/20100317k0000m050079000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Mar. 16 Rikuren announced the official selection races for the five men's and women's places available on the Japanese national team for the 2011 World Championships marathon in Daegu, South Korea. Japanese athletes already named to November's Asian Games team can qualify by finishing as the top Japanese medalist at the Asian Games marathon. Beyond that, the top Japanese finishers at the Fukuoka, Beppu-Oita, Tokyo and Biwako Mainichi marathons will be considered for the men's team while women may qualify at the Hokkaido, Osaka, Yokohama and Nagoya marathons. Other results may be considered by the selection committee but results from overseas marathons will not be included.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Watch the New York City Half Marathon Live Online

by Brett Larner

In its first running as a spring race, the New York City Half Marathon takes place this Sunday, Mar. 21. In the women's field are the 1st and 3rd place finishers from last month's Ome 30 km road race, Japan-based Mara Yamauchi (GBR) and 2009 Hokkaido Marathon winner Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC).

After a fantastic run at the London Marathon last year Yamauchi missed most of 2009, including the World Championships, with an injury. She began her recovery with a decent run at the Marugame Half Marathon in early February before winning her Ome debut. New York will be Yamauchi's major tuneup for next month's London Marathon.

Earlier this week Shimahara was named to the Japanese national team for November's Asian Games marathon, where she will be the defending silver medalist. Shimahara had a very strong fall season last year including a course record win at the Hokkaido Marathon in late August and 2nd place finishes at November's Yokohama International Women's Marathon and December's Honolulu Marathon, all sub-2:30 performances. Her own injury troubles bothered her in January and February but Shimahara will be using New York as a fitness check ahead of April's Nagano Marathon.

The race will be webcast live on universalsports.com and should be available for viewing in Japan. The webcast is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. local time, 8:30 p.m. Japan time on Mar. 21. Click here to watch. For a more detailed preview of the men's and women's fields, click here.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rikuren Downgrades Noguchi's Official Status

http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/news/20100317k0000m050056000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

For the tenth consecutive year, on Mar. 16 Rikuren announced the list of athletes who will receive official financial support from the federation. Previously ranked as a top-level S-Class athlete with 3 million yen of support per year, 2004 Athens Olympics women's marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) was downgraded to an A-Class athlete and will receive only 2 million yen this year. Noguchi was a member of the Beijing Olympics marathon team but withdrew shortly before the race due to injury and has not raced again since then.

Three athletes received S-Class rankings for 2010-2011: men's hammer thrower Koji Murofushi (Team Mizuno), women's marathoner Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) and men's javelin thrower Yukifumi Murakami (Team Suzuki).

Kano, Sato Headline Team of Four for Asian Games

http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/general/news/20100317k0000m050071000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

At a press conference in Tokyo on Mar. 16, officials named the members of the men's and women's marathon teams for November's Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. The men's team consists of Tomoyuki Sato (29, Team Asahi Kasei) and Yukihiro Kitaoka (27, Team NTN), while the women's team is made up of teammates Yuri Kano (31, Second Wind AC) and Kiyoko Shimahara (33, Second Wind AC). Apart from Shimahara, who won the silver medal at the 2006 Doha Asian Games, it will be the first time at the Games for all the athletes.

Sato finished 31st at December's Fukuoka International Marathon but rebounded with a 2nd place finish earlier this month at the Biwako Mainichi Marathon. Kitaoka was 4th in Biwako in his debut marathon, running a strong 2:10. Kano won last weekend's Nagoya International Women's Marathon to qualify for the team. She initially indicated that she would pass on the Asian Games in favor of November's New York City Marathon but later changed her mind. Shimahara was selected after coming in 2nd overall and as the top Japanese finisher at the Yokohama International Women's Marathon last November.

The timing of the Asian Games conflicts with ekiden season, making selection of the teams a difficult process due to other obligations on the athletes' side. Tokyo Marathon winner Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) and Osaka International Women's Marathon 3rd placer Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) did not express an intent to run the Asian Games marathon.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

JRN On Location: Rome Marathon

JRN will be on location at the Mar. 21 Rome Marathon to cover Satoko Uetani and Toyokazu Yoshimura's runs. We apologize in advance for any interruptions to regularly scheduled service that this may create.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Komazawa's Inoue on Top at National University Men's Half Marathon Championships

by Brett Larner

2010 Hakone Ekiden runner-up Komazawa University's Shota Inoue took the top spot at the 2010 Tachikawa Akishima Half Marathon in Tokyo on Mar. 14, winning in 1:03:11 by two seconds over Ryohei Kawakami of 2010 Hakone winner Toyo University. Doubling as the National University Men's Half Marathon Championships, in 2009 Tachikawa Akishima was the deepest half marathon in the world. This year the top seven men broke 1:03:30, with Kawakami's teammate Hiroyuki Uno 8th in 1:03:31. Altogether 106 men broke 1:06.

2010 Tachikawa Akishima Half Marathon - Top Finishers
1. Shota Inoue (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:03:11 - PB
2. Ryohei Kawakami (Toyo Univ.) - 1:03:13
3. Yuta Igarashi (Senshu Univ.) - 1:03:15
4. Ryota Nakamura (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:03:16
5. Akinori Iida (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:03:17 - PB
6. Koji Kobayashi (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:17
7. Hideki Inomata (Waseda Univ.) - 1:03:24
8. Hiroyuki Uno (Toyo Univ.) - 1:03:31

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kano Wins Nagoya

by Brett Larner

2009 World Championships marathon 7th place finisher Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) took a perfunctory win at the 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon, running 2:27:11 for the second marathon victory in her career. Ethiopian Derartu Tulu, who beat Kano at last November's New York City Marathon, was second in 2:28:13. For the first time this season the weather cooperated, with clear skies, low winds and humidity and temperatures which started in the upper teens and dropped comfortably.

The race kicked off with a quick 3:20 first km but quickly calmed down with veteran Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) doing much of the early leading work. Kano and Tulu were part of a pack of four, along with Ominami and first-timer Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku), who broke away from the field after a slow half. Tulu fell away around 25 km, and after Kano picked up the pace rounding the turnaround point at 28 km Ominami likewise fell back. Only Ito was able to hang on after 30 km as Kano took the pace down to 3:22/km with surgical precision, and by 32 km even she was gone. Kano kept up the push alone until 35 km before fading over the final 7 km but had build up enough of a margin to be unchallenged for the win.

Ito, a product of last month's Rikuren marathon training camp in New Zealand, looked poised to deliver a strong debut but paid for her attempt to stay with the experienced Kano, losing pace over the final 5 km and being retaken by both Ominami and Tulu. Tulu likewise overtook Ominami to take 2nd in almost the same time with which she won last year's New York City Marathon. Ominami was 3rd, with Ito finishing strong enough to go sub-2:30 in her debut, 4th in 2:29:13. Two other runners, Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko) and Akane Wakita (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) ran PBs to make six women under 2:30.

For her win Kano becomes the main contender for one of the two spots on the Japanese national team for November's Asian Games, but she has indicated that she is likely to run New York again the same month. Her teammate Kiyoko Shimahara, runner-up and top Japanese finisher at last November's Yokohama International Women's Marathon, is the other runner most likely to be offered one of the spots, with Osaka International Women's Marathon 3rd placer Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) another possibility. Osaka 6th placer Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), who ran 2:27:34 in her marathon debut there, and Ito are the top possibilities if Rikuren chooses to include one young runner on the team.

2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon - Top Finishers
1. Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) - 2:27:11
2. Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) - 2:28:13
3. Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) - 2:28:35
4. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:29:13 - debut
5. Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 2:29:36 - PB
6. Akane Wakita (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 2:29:54 - PB
7. Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) - 2:30:19
8. Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon) - 2:31:42
9. Aimi Horikoshi (Team Yamada Denki) - 2:32:44 - debut
10. Rose Kerubo Nyangacha (Kenya) - 2:33:16

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Imperial Prince Visits With Kenya's Bridge to Japan

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/national/news/20100312-OYT1T00318.htm

translated by Brett Larner

Japan's imperial crown prince met on Mar. 11 with the man who for 30 years has been the bridge between Kenya's distance runners and Japan, sports promoter Shuichi Kobayashi, 67. The meeting came during the prince's visit to Kenya as he spoke to a group of 30 Japanese citizens living in Kenya.

Kobayashi has brought more than 50 Kenyan runners to Japan school and company teams, among them Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru and Erick Wainaina, the bronze medalist in the Atlanta Olympics and silver medalist in the Sydney Olympics. Kobayashi was himself a runner in junior high school and high school. Intrigued by the Kenyan running kingdom, at age 34 he travelled there for the first time. Over time Kobayashi developed a relationship with Rikuren to begin introducing Kenyan runners to Japanese professional and school teams. He currently focuses on discovering young runners aged 15-18, finding them places with Japanese teams where they can focus on their running with worrying about food or security.

Brought to Japan by Kobayashi at age 19, Seoul Olympics silver medalist Douglas Wakiihuri, 46, commented, "Kobayashi was the one who opened the door to the medal. I owe him a tremendous amount." Before travelling to Kenya, the imperial prince told reporters, "Ever since I was young my image of Africa was the marathon." Meeting with Kobayashi for the first time, the prince listened intently to all he had to say.

Translator's note: I recently interviewed Kobayashi's longtime Japan-side associate Tsutomu Akiyama and the first high school runner the pair brought to Japan, Stephen Mayaka, for the April issue of Running Times magazine. The complete interviews, both solid gold, will be published later this spring in JRNPremium.

Okutani 'Satisfied' With Last Run at Tokyo Marathon

http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/sports/0002774254.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

Translator's note: This article came out a few days ago and covers the Tokyo Marathon two weeks ago, but I've been a fan of Okutani since Helsinki in '05 and didn't know he had run Tokyo. I had always hoped he would make it back.

Going his own way separate from the professional running world, Wataru Okutani (35, Team Subaru) ran his final race at last month's Tokyo Marathon. It has been nearly three years since Okutani's life as a professional runner came to a sudden halt. Okutani was the leader of the 2007 World Championships Japanese marathon team when he fell seriously ill and was forced to withdraw from the team. "With this race finished I can say with a free and clear heart that it's over," said Okutani. He now plans to dedicate himself to coaching the next generation of athletes.

As a student at Hyogo's Nishiwake Kogyo H.S., Okutani was a part of the school's National High School Ekiden Championships-winning squad. As a professional runner with Team Subaru he ran the Helsinki World Championships in 2005. He set his PB of 2:08:49 at the 2006 Fukuoka International Marathon to qualify for the 2007 Osaka World Championships, but in the spring of 2007 a ruptured colon led to complications which required major internal surgery and forced him to withdraw from the team. The effects of the surgery forced Okutani onto a restricted diet and led to chronic problems with anemia and diarrhea, leading him to retire last spring and become part of Subaru's coaching staff.

With this sudden end to his career, even in the depths of his forced retirement Okutani had a feeling of unfinished business and a lingering hope: "I want to cross the finish line in a marathon one more time." Along with 300,000 others he applied for the Tokyo Marathon general division lottery, and when he got in his chance had arrived.

On race day Okutani was not feeling well, and with the heavy rain and cold temperatures he faced considerable challenges. At 25 km his muscles began to seize up. Knowing that his wife and their pair of 2 year old twins were watching along with many of his friends, Okutani stayed on his feet and, although he was in great pain and had to walk repeatedly, made it to the finish line in 4:11:16. "I know that with my health the way it is now doing something this hard was dangerous," he gasped after finishing, "but finally, I'm satisfied."

The finish line behind him, Okutani is now focused on the future. "You can say that Japanese men's marathoning has gotten weaker, but I want to help bring up the next generation to be strong and confident in doing things in their own style." As a runner who stuck it out and made it through his own hard work, Okutani and his experience will be a leading role model for tomorrow's world-class runners.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon - Watch Online

by Brett Larner

So far this year Japan's major marathons have been cursed with bad weather. January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, February's Tokyo Marathon and last week's Biwako Mainichi Marathon all had cold, rainy, windy conditions which put the brakes on hopes of good times. This Sunday's Nagoya International Women's Marathon looks set to have the first genuinely nice spring day, with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid to upper teens. Could it be too much of a good thing?

The race is being pitched in the Japanese media as a battle between the holder of the fastest PB in the field, 2007 Rotterdam Marathon winner Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai), and the field's highest-placing finisher from last summer's World Championships marathon, 7th-placer Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC). Ominami hasn't broken 2:30 since 2007 but turned in strong performances at February's Marugame Half Marathon and Ome 30 km which indicate she is in good shape. Probably not enough for the win, but she is an experienced competitor who can't be discounted. The diminuitive Kano comes to Nagoya from altitude training in Albuquerque without any major race results this year. She says she has no other goal than the win, but there is a phrase in Japanese, "Kanousei ga hikui," which when spoken can mean either "Kano is short" or "Not much chance." If she succeeds in picking up the second marathon win of her career, Kano will join her teammate Kiyoko Shimahara as a top contender for the Japanese team at November's Asian Games marathon.

Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) will be the woman wearing the #1 bib. Until winning last year's New York City Marathon Tulu had not been a factor at the international level since setting her PB, the best in the field after Ominami, at the 2005 World Championships. Nagoya will be her chance to show her surprise New York win wasn't a fluke. It is a little surprising to see Lyubov Denisova (Russia) in the field after a late-career two-year ban for a drug violation, but it will be interesting to see whether she can approach anywhere near the stable 2:25-2:26 range she held from 2002-2006 before being caught. Her countrywoman Tatiana Aryasova, Chinese runner Jiala Wang and Kenyan Rose Nyangacha round out the overseas field.

Looking at the rest of the domestic field, Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) is worth keeping an eye on. After a modest 2:27:17 PB at last year's Osaka in January, Okunaga joined Kano at the London Marathon in April where she ran in the lead pack at near 2:20 pace for the first part of the race. Okunaga doesn't look to be that caliber of athlete but the ambition she showed in London suggests that if she has learned from that performance she may be a contender this Sunday.

Several strong women are debuting in Nagoya, chief among them Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera). One half of a set of fast twins, Miyauchi PB'd at February's Marugame Half Marathon in 1:09:51. Not far behind is Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu), who with a PB of 1:10:03 has a shot at breaking 2:27. Four other debut women have half marathon PBs in the 1:11 range and could perform. Also worth watching out for is Yoshio Koide-coached Akane Wakita (Team Toyota Jidoshoki), whose 2:31:16 debut at last year's Osaka didn't accurately represent her potential.

The marathon will be broadcast live nationwide on Fuji TV from 11:50 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. this Sunday, Mar. 14. Overseas fans should be able to watch online for free thanks to the miracle of Keyhole TV. Click here for more information on watching the race.

2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon Elite Field With Bib Numbers
click here for complete field listing
1. Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) - 2:23:30 (World Championships '05)
2. Lyubov Denisova (Russia) - 2:25:18 (New York '04)
3. Jiali Wang (China) - 2:26:34 (Zhengzhou '08)
4. Tatiana Aryasova (Russia) - 2:29:09 (Los Angeles '08)
5. Rose Kerubo Nyangacha (Kenya) - 2:29:22 (Hamburg '07)
11. Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) - 2:23:26 (Berlin '04)
12. Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) - 2:24:27 (Tokyo Int'l '08)
13. Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) - 2:27:17 (Osaka '09)
14. Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon) - 2:29:35 (Nagoya '09)
15. Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 2:29:56 (Osaka '09)
16. Akane Wakita (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 2:31:16 (Osaka '09)
17. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - debut - 1:09:51 (Marugame Half '10)
18. Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) - debut - 1:10:03 (Jitsugyodan Half '09)
101. Misuzu Okamoto (Team Hokkoku Ginko) - 2:34:12 (Sapporo '09)
103. Yukiko Matsubara (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:34:05 (Osaka '08)
104. Shoko Miyazaki (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - debut - 1:11:06 (Jitsugyodan Half '09)
105. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - debut - 1:11:11 (Kyoto Half '06)
115. Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) - 1:11:35 - debut - 1:11:35 (Miyazaki Half '07)
116. Aimi Horikoshi (Team Yamada Denki) - debut - 1:11:20 (Miyazaki Half '08)
117. Ikumi Wakamatsu (Team Denso) - 2:27:44 (Nagoya '01)

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Marathoner Hiroyama Gives Birth to Baby Girl

http://www.47news.jp/CN/201003/CN2010030901000506.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Mar. 9 it was announced that retired Olympian Harumi Hiroyama, 41, gave birth to her first baby, a girl, at a hospital in Urayasu, Chiba on Mar. 7. The management of Hiroyama's former team, Shiseido, said that both mother and daughter are healthy and doing fine. Hiroyama ran on the track at the Atlanta, Sydney and Athens Olympics. She retired at the end of March last year following the Tokyo Marathon.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fujiwara and Sato Likely Choices for Asian Games

http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2010030700132

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Following the final selection race on Mar. 7, Rikuren director Keisuke Sawaki discussed the candidates for the two men's marathon spots available on the Japanese national team for November's Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. "Now that we have the results from the three selection races [Fukuoka, Tokyo and Biwako], I would like to settle the lineup."

Director Sawaki's indicated his first choice is Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda), the winner of February's Tokyo Marathon. "He set a brilliant example in Tokyo. His newfound strength has brought him to the forefront." Rikuren director of men's marathoning Yasushi Sakaguchi suggested that he favors Biwako runner-up Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei). "In the pressure of a selection race he had the fastest time [by a Japanese runner] and with just a little more luck would have gone under 2:10. He at least cleared one of the main criteria."

In Fukuoka the top Japanese finisher was general division entrant Tadashi Shitamori (Team Yasukawa Denki). Shitamori finished 9th but beat Sato in the process.

Translator's note: Prior to Biwako yesterday Tokyo runner-up Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon) was also in contention for the Asian Games team. In past years a marathon medal at the Asian Games has secured a Japanese runner a spot on the following year's World Championships team. With Japan's only major competition on the men's side at the Games being Koreans and Qatari Kenyans, of which there are at maximum two each, the chance of at least one medal is high enough that it has happened every time the Asian Games have ever been held. As such, the Asian Games are the easiest way for a Japanese marathoner to make the World Championships.

'Racing 12 Time Zones Away'

Canadian marathoner Steve Osaduik finished 16th in yesterday's Biwako Mainichi Marathon in 2:18:29. Later in the day he wrote about the race and experience on his blog. Click here to read it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fukushi 31:57 Course Record at Tamana 10 km

by Brett Larner

Fresh back from New Zealand where she was spotted at Rikuren's marathon training camp by JRN reader Jason Lawrence, 3000 m, 5000 m and half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) ran a solo 31:57 10 km course record at the 61st Kanaguri Hai Tamana Road Race in Kumamoto on Mar. 7 to become the first woman to break 32 minutes in the 25 years that the women's 10 km has been part of the event. Running alone and unpressured with her nearest competition nearly a minute behind, Fukushi's time would have put her 4th in last week's much-heralded World's Best 10 km in San Juan, Puerto Rico and is the latest sign that she is back to her best. Last year's winner Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) finished 2nd in 32:43, while Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) was 3rd in 33:29 in a tuneup for next week's Nagoya International Women's Marathon.

The course record also fell in the high school boys' 10 km, where Kenyan students took the top five spots. 8 days after winning the junior race at the Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet, Steven Njeri (Fukuoka Daiichi H.S.) took the 10 km win in a new record time of 28:51 while last year's winner Titus Kihara Kifuru (Chinzei H.S.) was 3rd in 29:23. The top Japanese finisher, Kazuma Kubota (Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) was 6th in 30:05.

In the men's half marathon, Team Asahi Kasei runners took two of the top three spots, with winner Keita Tsuchihashi holding off Teruo Taneno (Team Yasukawa Denki) by one second to finish in 1:04:08. Last year's high school 10 km runner-up Fumihiro Maruyama (Team Asahi Kasei) was 3rd in 1:04:14. Tsuchihashi and Maruyama are teammates of today's Biwako Mainichi Marathon runner-up Tomoyuki Sato.

2010 Tamana Road Race - Top Finishers
click division header for complete results
Women's 10 km
1. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 31:57 - CR
2. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 32:43
3. Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) - 33:29

High School Boys' 10 km
1. Steven Njeri (Kenya/Fukuoka Daiichi H.S.) - 28:51 - CR
2. Titus Waruru (Kenya/Chinzei H.S.) - 29:18
3. Titus Kihara Kifuru (Kenya/Chinzei H.S.) - 29:23

Men's Half Marathon
1. Keita Tsuchihashi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:08
2. Teruo Taneno (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 1:04:09
3. Fumihiro Maruyama (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:14

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Cold and Rain Again - Tsegay Takes Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - Video Highlights

by Brett Larner

click here for detailed race coverage on JRNLive

Yemane Tsegay of Ethiopia wins the 2010 Biwako Mainichi Marathon in 2:09:34. Click photo for video highlights courtesy of NHK.

The cold, rain and wind that cursed January's Osaka International Women's Marathon and February's Tokyo Marathon returned this month to take down hopes of fast times at the 65th Biwako Mainichi Marathon on Mar. 7. After an early snafu when several of the pacemakers took a wrong turn in the first km the drizzling, cool first half was moderately slower than hoped for, 1:04:07. Ethiopian Yemane Tsegay then took the pace down to 2:54/km to run a solo second half. Tsegay kept the splits under 3:00 through 30 km but after the pacemakers departed the temperature dropped from 9 to 7 degrees and the rain intensified. His pace dropped to as slow as 3:22/km.

Behind him first-timer Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) led a pack of six which included three runners in their marathon debuts, one doing his second race, veteran Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) and Eritrean Abraham Tadesse. Kitaoka, the top Japanese man at last year's World Half Marathon, did the lion's share of the work to keep things moving at 2:08 pace, but as the weather worsened he could not keep it up and the speed dropped. At 35 km Kitaoka made a move to get things back on track but the calm and composed Sato, a member of Japan's 2007 World Championships marathon team, soon broke free. As leader Tsegay dropped down to 3:20/km territory Sato was approaching 3:05, but he was too far back to close the gap of over one minute. Tsegay jogged in to a 2:09:34 win with Sato just missing a sub-2:10 with a 2:10:07 2nd place finish, over 30 seconds faster than the Ethiopian over the final 5 km.

Tadesse shook off Kitaoka for 3rd, but Kitaoka hung on to 4th in 2:10:51, a solid debut in the difficult conditions. Fellow first timers Naoto Yoneda (Team Konica Minolta) and Satoshi Yoshii (Team Sumco Techxiv) also turned in credible debuts in 2:11:00 and 2:12:24, with second-time marathoner Kenichiro Setoguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) 6th in 2:11:44. All told a slower day than hoped for but a good crop of results from the young set.

None of the other invited elites fared well, with top Kenyan Charles Munyeki never to be seen and 2:06 man Hendrick Ramaala fading from the top once the worst of the rain started and falling from 9th to 11th over the last 2 km. In his post-race interview winner Tsegay told reporters, "I thought the new course was great, but the weather was terrible. The cold rain made my legs tighten up and I couldn't keep up my pace. I wanted to run 2:06 or better today to set the record here, but when the weather got worse in the second half it was impossible." Runner-up Sato felt the same way. On the strength of his performance Sato is now, along with Tokyo Marathon winner Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda), one of the two frontrunners for a spot on the Japanese team for November's Asian Games.

2010 Biwako Mainichi Marathon - Top Finishers
click here for complete results
1. Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) - 2:09:34
2. Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:07
3. Abraham Tadesse (Eritrea) - 2:10:46
4. Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - 2:10:51 - debut
5. Naoto Yoneda (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:11:00 - debut
6. Kenichiro Setoguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:44 - PB
7. Satoshi Yoshii (Team Sumco) - 2:12:24 - debut
8. Tomoya Shimizu (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:13:25
9. Munehiro Sugaya (Team Toyota) - 2:15:07 - PB
10. Takeshi Ueno (Team JFE Steel) - 2:15:26 - PB
-----
11. Henrick Ramaala (South Africa) - 2:15:29
16. Steve Osaduik (Canada) - 2:18:29
-----
DNF - Charles Munyeki (Kenya)
DNF - Yuriy Hychun (Ukraine)
DNF - Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei)
DNF - Mark Tucker (Australia)
DNS - Adil Annani (Morocco)
DNS - Laban Kagika (Kenya/Team JFE Steel)

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Biwako Mainichi Marathon Live Commentary

The Biwako Mainichi Marathon does not appear to be available on Keyhole TV without a password. For live text commentary in English go to JRNLive.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Men's Marathon Training Camp Departs for New Zealand

http://www.chugoku-np.co.jp/sports/Sp201003050232.html

translated by Brett Larner

Note: This article repeats that of a few days ago but fleshes out the details significantly.

Led by Team Chugoku Denryoku head coach and Rikuren director of men's marathoning Yasushi Sakaguchi, the athletes in Rikuren's men's marathoning reinforcement training camp depart Mar. 7 for two weeks in New Zealand. Departing from the usual practice, this year's camp is targeting university runners. Among the five student athletes attending the camp is two year-straight Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage record setter Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.). We spoke to Director Sakaguchi about the training camp.

Last year Rikuren revived the overseas training camps which had been a fixture of its calendar in the 1990's. What is the aim this time in focusing on athletes under age 23?

Our goal is to get our most talented young runners looking toward the marathon from the start. We have a lot of runners who can handle 2:08, but right now we're lacking the people who can realistically target 2:06. We want to help them realize that the Hakone Ekiden isn't everything and to look out at the world with higher goals in mind.

Who is attending?

Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.), Takuya Ishikawa (Meiji Univ.), Yo Yazawa (Waseda Univ.), Hiroki Mitsuoka (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) and Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.). Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) are also joining.

Why are Sato and Matsumiya going to be there?

Like Sato (finishing last) in Beijing, we want them to learn that a world-class athlete keeps his motivation to compete in the face of tough international competition. A local event like the Hakone Ekiden is different. We want them to feel how tough it is to be internationally competitive.

What kind of training will they be doing?

While focusing on cross-country we'll be building the base for track season. They won't be doing actual marathon training. We don't expect a dramatic change to happen in just two or three weeks, but by experiencing this kind of high-level elite training we hope that the tension will be born within them. In normal group training there are athletes of a variety of levels and the best athletes may have a little room for slack, but on a national-level training camp that is not the case. I listened to what World Championships marathon silver medalist and Team Daiichi Seimei head coach Sachiko Yamashita had to say, and she believes that this sort of opportunity is the gateway to building the motivation to make a national team.

What are you hoping to build toward?

Developing the perseverence to keep going for the long period of time necessary to make a big change is the most important thing. If these young athletes have a high-quality experience and come out of this thinking, "I want to do this again," that feeling will spread to other runners on different teams. If they begin to think, "I want to be part of that too," then being invited to join this program will become fiercely competitive. If we can harness that then the level of our national teams can only improve.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Money, Motivation and the System - Arata Fujiwara Part 5 of 5

The second part of JRN's exclusive post-race interview with 2010 Tokyo Marathon runner-up Arata Fujiwara of Team JR Higashi Nihon is now available in our JRNPremium subscription series. Together with our pre-race interview, today's segement is the fifth of five and we have saved the best for last. In this interview Fujiwara talks about problems with the jitsugyodan corporate system and what the real pressures it puts on Japanese runners are, the physiological advantages Japanese runners have over Africans, specifics on how his training differs from 'standard' Japanese methods, the effect of public prize money on Japanese marathoning, the role of motivation and more. It is an articulate, intelligent look into a young runner who is not only one of Japan's leading marathoners but also reveals himself to be one of the sport's leading domestic thinkers. Click here for more information on subscribing and help us continue to bring you more high-quality original content.

Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Preview - Live Online Coverage

by Brett Larner

Update: Current forecast as of 7:00 p.m. on Mar. 6 is for light rain, moderate wind and temperatures of 6-7 degrees at the start.

The 2010 Biwako Mainichi Marathon, known as Biwako in Japan and Lake Biwa overseas, takes place this Sunday, Mar. 7. One of the oldest marathons in Japan, Biwako has taken steps in the last two years to ensure its continued prominence in the elite marathon circuit including securing Japan's first IAAF gold label despite not meeting any of the published criteria. This year's race unveils a new and purportedly faster course, a new main sponsor, and a good field with some top overseas talent.

The race will probably come down to one between the two men with the best recent times, 2009 World Championships 4th placer Yemane Tsegay of Ethiopia and 2009 Chicago Marathon 4th placer Charles Munyeki of Kenya, but should weather intervene or incentive be lacking quite a few people have a chance of stepping up and presenting a challenge in even a slighter slower race. Foremost among those is of course the great Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa, but look for Japan's Shimizu twins Tomoya (Team Sagawa Express) and Masaya (Team Asahi Kasei), each of whom ran his PB at Biwako within the last two years, to be up there.

Despite a poor showing at December's Fukuoka International Marathon, Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) is a stable 2:09 runner who should also factor in if he is back to normal. Three other overseas elites, Abraham Tadesse (Eritrea), Adil Annani (Morocco) and Yuriy Hychun (Ukraine) have 2:10 wins within the last two years and could be ready for a step up. Lastly, Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) had a strong 2009 including a 1:02:17 half marathon PB and finishing the World Half Marathon Championships in 1:02:50 as the top Japanese runner and will be debuting at Biwako with great expectations of success.

The race will be broadcast live nationwide and commercial-free on NHK beginning at 12:15 p.m. on Mar. 7. NHK's online availability overseas on Keyhole TV is spotty, but JRNLive will offer live English-language commentary on the race.

2010 Biwako Mainichi Marathon Elite Field with bib numbers
click here for complete field listings
1. Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) - 2:06:30 (Paris '09)
2. Hendrick Ramaala (South Africa) - 2:06:55 (London '06)
3. Charles Munyeki (Kenya) - 2:07:06 (Chicago '09)
4. Abraham Tadesse (Eritrea) - 2:10:09 (Zurich '09)
5. Adil Annani (Morocco) - 2:10:15 (Beppu-Oita '09)
6. Yuriy Hychun (Ukraine) - 2:10:59 (Debno '08)
31. Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:50 (Biwako '09)
32. Tomoya Shimizu (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:09:23 (Biwako '08)
33. Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:43 (Tokyo Int'l '04)
34. Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - debut - 1:02:17 (Jitsugyodan Half '09)
101. Laban Kagika (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 2:10:24 (Fukuoka '01)
102. Toshiya Katayama (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:10:12 (Biwako '05)
103. Kenjiro Jitsui (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:08:50 (Tokyo Int'l '96)
104. Mark Tucker (Australia) - 2:13:49 (Fukuoka '08)
105. Yuki Abe (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:13:47 (Biwako '07)
106. Yoshiyuki Suetsugu (Team Kanebo) - 2:14:31 (Nagano '08)
107. Shingo Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:14:03 (Tokyo '08)
139. Steve Osaduik (Canada) - 2:16:49 (Victoria '06)

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Derartu Tulu Heads Nagoya Marathon Field'

http://www.runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=18939

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kashiwabara and Murasawa to Join Rikuren Long Distance Camps

http://sankei.jp.msn.com/sports/other/100228/oth1002281843019-n1.htm

translated by Brett Larner

Rikuren director of men's marathoning Yasushi Sakaguchi announced this week that the Japanese federation will organize two overseas training camps in March aimed at strengthening young distance runners. Attending the first camp, to be held Mar. 7-20 in New Zealand, will be two-time Hakone Ekiden 5th Stage record setter Ryuji Kashiwabara (2nd yr., Toyo Univ.) and Akinobu Murasawa (1st yr., Tokai Univ.) who passed 10 people on the ace 2nd stage at Hakone this year. Five other athletes including 2009 World Championships marathon 6th place finisher Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) are also scheduled to attend.

The second camp will take place Mar. 24-Apr. 13 and will include Tokyo Marathon runner-up Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon). Director Sakaguchi commented, "We've assembled the athletes we expect to be the core of our team at the London Olympics."

Translator's note: In addition to being the director of men's marathoning, Sakaguchi is Atsushi Sato's coach at Chugoku Denryoku.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Saitama's Kawauchi Battles With the Best at the Tokyo Marathon

http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/news/20100302k0000e050065000c.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

At the Tokyo Marathon on Feb. 28, a Saitama Prefectural Government employee showed that he is able to battle with the best of the invited elites. His name is Yuki Kawauchi, age 22. Fitting in his training while working regular hours in the department overseeing prefectural high school administration, Kawauchi finished 4th in a PB of 2:12:36.

As a student at Saitama's Kasukabe East H.S. Kawauchi was frequently troubled by injury. He became the elite Gakushuin University's first-ever runner to make the Hakone Ekiden, running twice on the Kanto Regional University Select Team and finishing a strong 3rd on the downhill 6th Stage as a senior last year. He received invitations from many jitsugyodan teams but instead focused on studying for the examinations for entering public service.

Kawauchi currently does most of his training before his office opens at 1:00 p.m., going to a nearby park where he trains "while dodging pigeons." He ran his first two marathons as a university senior, running 2:19 at the 2009 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon and following up just over a month later with a small PB at the Tokyo Marathon. In December he ran a PB of 2:17:33 at the Fukuoka International Marathon, 13th overall and the 3rd-place Japanese finisher. For Tokyo this time he used his days off on the weekends to increase his overall mileage.

In the race he ran up front in the lead pack the entire way. He was unaffected by the cold rain and wind, saying, "This kind of cold felt just right." After 35 km he led for part of the way, and over the final stretch he pushed 2009 World Championships marathon 6th place finisher and half marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denyoku) to the breaking point.

"That was the best running of my entire life," said Kawauchi after the race. "There are a lot of people who quit running after graduating from university, but today I wanted to show them that you can still make it as an amateur." Of the 1,000,000 yen prize money he won by placing 4th Kawauchi says, "It'll probably all be gone soon paying for shoes and travel to races. But it'll help me get to my next target: a sub-2:10."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Arata Fujiwara Evaluates the 2010 Tokyo Marathon

interview by Brett Larner

Running in miserable conditions this past Sunday, 2:08 marathoner Arata Fujiwara of Team JR Higashi Nihon came 2nd at the Tokyo Marathon for the second time in his career. The next day, a badly limping Fujiwara generously met with JRN at a favorite bar of his to talk about the race, what went wrong and right, his training and the future. Some highlights of the interview are included below. Click here to read the complete interview.

Congratulations on your first marathon in the 2:10’s.
(laughs) Thanks, yeah, I broke through the wall. This time I was more focused on peaking properly than on getting my body stronger. My training this year was solid and consistent, but rather than saying, “I need more stamina, so let’s work on that,” or, “I don’t have enough speed so I need more speedwork,” I focused on keeping an overall good feeling and peaking properly.

When you got up yesterday and saw the weather what changed in your plans?
I didn’t have much time to get ready for the cold but I did what I could. I went to an outdoors shop and bought a waterproof backpack lining, then cut out squares and sewed them on to the front and back of my singlet under the bib numbers. I didn’t really want to cut up a windbreaker for that, so I just bought a bag. It worked really well.

Compared to your other marathons it seemed that you were running more under control the whole time.
That’s right. At first I was watching Atsushi Sato, but it made me nervous and tighten up. While I was up near the front in the first 10 km I was watching him but it felt like his back was watching me. (laughs) So I moved somewhere where I couldn’t see him, back at the very rear of the pack in 20th or 30th. I didn’t want to see him. (laughs)

Just before 21 km you were running wide of the pack and looking very relaxed.
Yes, that was when I was feeling the most relaxed and comfortable. I was thinking, “Oh man, this is comfortable. I feel great today!” But then when I looked at the time and saw how slow we were going it kind of killed my enthusiasm. “It’s comfortable because we’re going really slow!” (laughs)

Around 26 km the rain changed to snow. What did you think when it started snowing?
“Nobody told me it was going to snow today!” (laughs) When I had checked the weather it said rain but nothing about it changing to snow. I was prepared for cold rain, but it was a little different when it became snow. I was thinking, “Hey, hey, hey, what is this?” It was quite a shock.

When Shibutani took off at 28 km what did you think?
Well, I didn’t really think Shibutani was the kind of runner who could run away from us, so I thought he was going way too hard. Sometimes when things get difficult you go faster, and the way he took off that’s how it seemed. The pack seemed to have the consensus not to go with him but just to spend some time gradually reeling him back in without working too hard. Somehow you just instinctively know, “This guy’s not going to be able to keep that up.” If you react to those fake surges every time you just waste energy, so I stayed at the back of the pack where it’s easiest to run and observed what was going on.

From 30.5 km to Tsukuda Bridge at 36 km the race was very tense. You were constantly looking around at the other runners.
I kept wondering, “Who’s got the most left?” My legs were in bad shape, so actually everybody else looked good. (laughs) I thought I might finish last out of that pack and I was trying to figure out which place I would come in. My mind was a bit fuzzy at that point so when I was looking around I couldn’t count the numbers very well. I had to concentrate on counting, “1, 2, 3, 4…” Rachid Kisri was the one I was most concerned about. A veteran like that, at that age, running a 2:06, someone like that has a lot of skill at running the marathon. I kept wondering, “How is Kisri reacting?” and kept an eye on him. He was always looking for the best way to position himself in the pack, and I thought following him would be the best way to save energy.

At the 35 km water station you almost fell twice. What was going on?
At 35 km my legs were getting bad, but this was more about my mind not working right at that stage. I had completely forgotten that the elite water stations were every 5 km. When I saw it I thought, “Oh, a water station.” My drink was on the second table so it came pretty quickly and I had to react. It was pretty hard to move fast enough and I lost my balance and almost fell. This time I barely got any of my drinks. My hands were so cold that I couldn’t pick up the bottles, and then I started forgetting that the water stations were coming.

With the weather this year people like Kensuke Takahashi and Julius Gitahi started losing contact with the lead pack after only about 3 km. Was there anyone you were surprised not to see in the pack in those late stages?
The only person who surprised me was HIM. Yuki Kawauchi. [an amateur runner] More than being surprised that someone wasn’t there, I was surprised that he WAS there. At first I was thinking, “Hey, it’s Kawauchi. Hmmn, I wonder how long this kid’s going to last?” (laughs) Then he was there until the very end! He has a lot of guts in the marathon. He was the biggest surprise.

Masakazu Fujiwara was feeling great this time. Were you surprised by that?
At the New Year Ekiden this year he ran 1:03:40 or 1:03:50 [for 22.3 km]. I only beat him by about 10 seconds, so I knew that he was coming into Tokyo in good shape. He hasn’t been able to run properly for seven years because of injuries, but he’s still a great runner so I knew I should look out for him and in the end he beat me. Right when I was drinking at 40 km and feeling the worst he attacked, so for a minute there I thought it was over. Nobody else really tried to chase him, so I decided, “OK, let’s just work with what we have,” and then tried to go after him. It was a pretty dangerous moment, but I bet on the side of my legs surviving. After finishing I had a little regret that I should have gone with him earlier.

Passing somebody like Sato with a km to go, you must have felt some stress about staying ahead of him the whole way.
I don’t think the last spurt in a marathon is about how much speed you have so much as how much endurance you have. I don’t have the kind of 5000 m speed Sato does, but in the marathon not having that kind of top-end speed isn’t really a disadvantage. Everyone says, “Fujiwara doesn’t have any speed, he just runs marathons,” but I think, “Well, that’s OK, isn’t it?”

You didn’t manage to win this one, but do you feel satisfied with your run? What will you take away from it?
Of course I’m really disappointed I didn’t win, especially to someone else named Fujiwara. But my legs really hurt this time, like to the point where I didn’t know if I was going to crash or not, so I think finishing 2nd in that kind of condition was the best I could hope for. On that point, I’m pretty happy, but at the same time now I wish I could have gone with Masakazu. Next time.

Click here to read the rest of Fujiwara's post-race interview along with other JRN exclusives.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, March 1, 2010

Yokota Takes Bronze at Asian Indoor Championships

by Brett Larner

Men's 800 m national record holder Masato Yokota (Keio Univ.) won a bronze medal on the second day of competition at the 2010 Asian Indoor Athletics Championships in Tehran, Iran. After winning his semifinal in 1:52.74 on Feb. 24 Yokota returned the next day with a 1:54.71 to take the bronze behind Mohammed Al Azemi of Kuwait and Musaaba Bala of Qatar.

Other medals earned at the Championships included a leap of 7.65 m for the gold by long jumper Rikia Saruyama and a silver for Nobuaki Fujibayashi with a 16.33 m in the men's triple jump. Click here for complete results.

Special thanks to JRN reader Sayyed Abolfazl for bringing this story to our attention.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved