Friday, April 30, 2010

Fukushima Breaks Own 100 m National Record at Oda Memorial Meet

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/news/p-sp-tp0-20100430-624039.html

translated by Brett Larner

At the 44th Oda Memorial Track and Field Meet at Hiroshima's Big Arch Stadium on Apr. 29, sprinter Chisato Fukushima (21, Hokkaido Hi-Tec AC) broke her own national record by 0.03 seconds, running 11.21 for her third-straight record. With a strong spring ahead of her, Fukushima's sights are set on breaking the record again and becoming the first Japanese woman to break 11. "Today was only about 70 or 80%," she said after the race. "I'm getting closer to a 10 one step at a time."

It was a convincing victory. After finishing 1st in her heat Fukushima immediately opened a 5 m lead on rival Momoko Takahashi (Heisei Kokusai Univ.) in the final and held that margin all the way to the end. When the electric display showed her time the 12000 people in attendance erupted into cheers and applause. "I was surprised too," Fukushima laughed. "That was my first good start this season."

Over the winter Fukushima focused on increasing her muscle mass to develop better power. In the Beijing Olympics and last summer's World Championships she failed to advance to the finals, illustrating to her the painful gap between her level and that of the world's best. She became more focused on nutrition, eating six different dishes at all three meals every day and taking amino acid supplements before and after each practice session. As a consequence she has added 2 kg of muscle mass since last summer, going from 48 kg to 50 kg. "I've finally found my full strength," she said.

Beijing Olympics men's 4x100 m bronze medalist Nobuharu Asahara, now retired, commented, "I think we're going to see a Japanese woman run 10 before we see a man run 9." Fukushima's position at the head of that charge shows no signs of stopping.

Karoki, Moges Win Oda Memorial 5000 m

by Brett Larner

In high winds, Kenyan Bitan Karoki (Team S&B) took his first win in his new team colors as he ran 13:48.17 in the men's 5000 m at the 44th Oda Memorial Track and Field Meet on Apr. 29. Last month Karoki graduated from Sera High School to take a place with the elite Team S&B. Interestingly, the runner-up in the Oda Memorial 5000 m was his succesor at Sera, Kenyan Charles Durango, who clocked 13:58.15. Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) finished 3rd in 14:04.70 over Kenyan Samuel Ganga (Team Mazda).

The women's 5000 m was a closer-pitched battle, turning into a three-way sprint finish. Ethiopian Betelhem Moges (Team Denso) came out on top in 15:38.70, with Kenyans Felista Wanjugu (Team Universal Entertainment) and Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo) just a step behind. Just behind, Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) outleaned Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) for 4th.

2010 Oda Memorial Track & Field Meet - Top Finishers
click event for complete results
Men's 5000 m
1. Bitan Karoki (Kenya/Team S&B) - 13:48.17
2. Charles Durango (Kenya/Sera H.S.) - 13:58.15
3. Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 14:04.70
4. Samuel Ganga (Kenya/Team Mazda) - 14:15.92
5. Tsuyoshi Ueno (Team JFE Steel) - 14:20.28
-----
26. Tsuyoshi Ogata (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 14:56.29

Women's 5000 m
1. Betelhem Moges (Ethiopia/Team Denso) - 15:38.70
2. Felista Wanjugu (Kenya/Team Universal Entertainment) - 15:39.78
3. Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Kenya/Team Uniqlo) - 15:40.12
4. Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 15:42.20
5. Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 15:42.46
6. Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya) - 15:43.04
7. Miho Notagashira (Team Wacoal) - 15:44.56
8. Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:48.41
9. Misato Yamaguchi (Team Yamada Denki) - 15:50.03
10. Madoka Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 15:53.11

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"The Things You Can Only Learn From Firsthand Experience" - Kiyoko Shimahara on What Needs to Change for Japanese Women

Part two of JRN's exclusive interview with Hokkaido Marathon course record holder, 2008 Honolulu Marathon winner and 2010 Asian Games Japanese national team member Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) is now available in our JRNPremium subscription series. Shimahara talked to JRN shortly before her recent run at the Nagano Marathon about her training, life in Albuquerque, the flaws in the Japanese corporate team system and the Japanese national team selection process. It's a great read and one available only to subscribers. To subscribe, click here. Subscribers click here to log in.

Upcoming issues:

May: Japan's first Kenyan high school runner Stephen Mayaka, now a Japanese citizen and head coach of Sozo Gakuen University's ekiden team, in a solid gold one-on-one.

June: One half of the partnership responsible for discovering and bringing Kenyans including Samuel Wanjiru to Japan, Tsutomu Akiyama looks back on what his work has accomplished.

July: At the peak of the summer Hakone Ekiden training camp season, former Josai University runner Eiji Kobayashi talks in detail about the kind of hell young Japanese men put themselves through for the chance of touching the Hakone dream.

August: Japanese marathoning's greatest anti-hero Takeyuki Nakayama shows that time doesn't cool all anger.

February and March's issues included exclusive pre- and post-Tokyo Marathon interviews with marathoner Arata Fujiwara. A subscription gets you access to all these and additional interviews forthcoming later this year. Don't miss them.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Reiko Tosa Gives Birth to Baby Girl

http://osaka.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/other-games/20100426-OYO8T00354.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Two-time Olympian and double World Championships marathon medalist Reiko Tosa (33, Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) gave birth to her first child, a girl, Apr. 25 in her hometown of Matsuyama. Tosa issued a statement which said, "The delivery was way worse than a marathon, but in the end my daughter was born healthy so I'm very happy." Tosa retired from professional following last year's Tokyo Marathon. Her husband, Matsuyama Univ. track and field team coach Keiichi Marui (36) commented, "Even as a 'mama-san runner' it was our dream as a couple for Reiko to run the marathon. Now that it has come to that, we'll look at the possibilities for her to keep running."

Akaba 6th in PB at London Marathon (updated)

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/100426/spg1004261040004-n1.htm
http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/100425/spg1004252333011-n1.htm
http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2010042500237

translated and edited by Brett Larner

At Sunday's London Marathon, 2009 World Championships marathoner Yukiko Akaba (30, Team Hokuren) broke her PB as she finished 6th in 2:24:55. Mari Ozaki (34, Team Noritz) was 9th, while 2009 World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (28, Team Daiichi Seimei) was 13th. On the men's side, 2009 World Championships marathoner Satoshi Irifune (34, Team Kanebo) was 16th while 5000 m and 30 km national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) was 23rd. Both Irifune and Matsumiya ran the first half in the lead pack close to national record pace. Beijing Olympics bronze medalist Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) won the men's race in 2:05:19 while Liliya Shobukhova (Russia) took the women's race in a PB of 2:22:00.

After her disastrous runs at the World Championships and January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, Akaba was happy with her performance as she cleared her target of a new PB. "This was a satisfying race," she said afterwards with a smile. With rainy conditions Akaba developed blisters after only 5 km. At 33 km, she said, "I thought I was going to have to stop," but she pushed on to the finish and was rewarded with a new best. "My training this time was good," she told reporters. "Everything went according to our training plan. I had a lot of support from my husband and daughter and I owe them everything for this success."

For World Championships medalist Ozaki the race was less satisfying. Hopes for her were high, but she fell out of the lead pack after only 20 km and finished third among the three Japanese women in the field, 9 minutes off her PB. Following her strong showing at the Mar. 21 National Jitsugyodan Half Marathon, in early April Ozaki began to suffer from fatigue but did not cut back on her training. "I just couldn't get back to feeling right," she said. Nervous about whether to go through with London she thought, "If you don't try and run you won't know," but the possible overtraining symptoms combined with arriving in London two days late due to the Icelandic volcano proved too much for her. Finishing 13th overall, she said, "I'm not surprised at all. I felt terrible." Last year she finished 2nd at the World Championships, but looking at the athletes around her in London Ozaki modestly admitted, "I still need to make a lot of improvement in my running." Amid this disappointment she added, "Now I know what it feels like to run on empty."

2010 London Marathon - Top Finishers
click here for complete results
Women
1. Liliya Shobukhova (Russia) - 2:22:00 - PB
2. Inga Abitova (Russia) - 2:22:19 - PB
3. Aselefech Mergia (Ethiopia) - 2:22:38 - PB
4. Bezunesh Bekele (Ethiopia) - 2:23:17
5. Askale Tafe (Ethiopia) - 2:24:39
6. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 2:24:55 - PB
7. Xue Bai (China) - 2:25:18
8. Kim Smith (New Zealand) - 2:25:21 - NR, PB
9. Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - 2:25:43
10. Mara Yamauchi (GBR) - 2:26:16
-----
13. Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:32:26

Men
1. Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:05:19
2. Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya) - 2:06:23
3. Jaouad Gharib (Morocco) - 2:06:55
4. Abderrahime Bouramdane (Morocco) - 2:07:33 - PB
5. Abel Kirui (Kenya) - 2:08:04
6. Marilson Dos Santos (Brazil) - 2:08:46
7. Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea) - 2:12:03 - PB
8. Andrew Lemoncello (GBR) - 2:13:40 - debut
9. Yonas Kifle (Eritrea) - 2:14:39
10. Andi Jones (GBR) - 2:16:38 - PB
-----
16. Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) - 2:19:25
23. Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:21:34
DNF - Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Yoshimoto Makes a Big Debut, Thuo Runs World Leading Time at Hyogo Relay Carnival Day Two

by Brett Larner

In the grand prix events on day two of the 2010 Hyogo Relay Carnival, Bukkyo Univ. third-year Hikari Yoshimoto showed that her anchor stage win at last November's International Chiba Ekiden was no fluke as she nearly ran down winner Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) in the women's 10000 m and set a new national university record in the process. Fukushi, the 3000 m, 5000 m and half marathon national record holder, won in a solid 31:29.03. Yoshimoto, in her first track 10000 m, was just steps behind in 31:30.92, a time which broke the 15 year-old Japanese university record and which would have put her in the top 20 worldwide last year. The pair outran top-ranked Kenyan Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi), who was 3rd in a PB of 31:37.07. The trio's times were the 2nd, 3rd and 4th-fastest in the world so far this year and no other women broke 32:15, making Yoshimoto's debut all the more impressive.

In the men's 10000 m John Thuo (Kenya/Team Toyota) outkicked Japanese all-comers record holder Josephat Ndambiri (Kenya/Team Komori) and 2010 Kenyan cross-country champion Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko) for the win in a world-leading 27:15.73. The 19 year-old Tanui clocked a PB of 27:17.61. Redirecting from a planned run at Friday's Brutus Hamilton Invitational, Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin) was the top Japanese finisher, 5th overall in 28:19.01.

In the 1500 m races, men's 1500 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) did most of the leading before being narrowly clipped for the win by Kenyan Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi), who clocked 3:42.70. Ueno did manage to beat national record holder Fumikazu Kobayashi (Team NTN) in their first major rematch since Ueno humiliated Kobayashi at last summer's National Championships. Women's 1500 m national champion Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) was only 3rd, with little-known Yukari Nomura (Chuo Univ.) taking the win in a modest 4:20.57. Tetsuya Sasaki (Team Chudenko) won the men's steeplechase in 8:48.70.

2010 Hyogo Relay Carnival Day Two - Top Finishers
click here for complete results or event header for individual event results

Women's Grand Prix 10000 m
1. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 31:29.03
2. Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 31:30.92 - debut
3. Doricah Obare (Kenya/Team Hitachi) - 31:37.07 - PB
4. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 32:15.91
5. Noriko Matsuoka (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 32:18.90
6. Shino Saito (Team Shimamura) - 32:33.99
7. Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) - 32:37.72
8. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 32:38.68
9. Madoka Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 32:51.24
10. Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 32:54.78

Men's Grand Prix 10000 m
1. John Thuo (Kenya/Team Toyota) - 27:15.73
2. Josephat Ndambiri (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) - 27:16.51
3. Paul Tanui (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 27:17.61 - PB
4. Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem) - 28:11.45
5. Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:19.01
6. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) - 28:21.58
7. Atsushi Ikawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 28:29.67
8. Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 28:53.42
9. Takeshi Hamano (Team Toyota) - 28:55.05
10. Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - 29:01.91

Men's Grand Prix 3000 m SC
1. Tetsuya Sasaki (Team Chudenko) - 8:48.70
2. Minato Yamashita (Chukyo Univ.) - 8:50.77
3. Tatsunori Shinoura (Team S&B) - 8:51.53

Men's Grand Prix 1500 m
1. Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya/Team Hitachi) - 3:42.70
2. Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) - 3:42.95
3. Fumikazu Kobayashi (Team NTN) - 3:43.22

Women's Grand Prix 1500 m
1. Yukari Nomura (Chuo Univ.) - 4:20.57
2. Saori Yamashita (Team Hokuren) - 4:21.36
3. Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) - 4:21.61

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

High Schoolers Nishiike and Shinjo sub-14 MR at Hyogo Relay Carnival Day Two

by Brett Larner

Suma Gakuen H.S. senior Kazuto Nishiike brought his best to the second day of the 2010 Hyogo Relay Carnival on Apr. 24, taking 10 seconds off his own meet record in the high school boys' 5000 m with a PB 13:58.68. Surprisingly, Nishiike was not alone as Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. senior Shota Shinjo was close behind, just sneaking under 14 minutes with a 13:59.61 PB which likewise cleared the old meet record. The high school girls' 3000 m was leisurely by comparison as Nishiike's teammates Mika Kobayashi and Keiko Osako went 1-2, Kobayashi winning in 9:45.32.

The Hyogo Relay Carnival continues the afternoon of Apr. 25 with the Grand Prix 1500 m and 10000 m A-heats.

2010 Hyogo Relay Carnival Day Two - Top Finishers
click here for complete results or event header for individual event results

High School Boys' 5000 m
1. Kazuto Nishiike (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 13:58.68 - MR, PB
2. Shota Shinjo (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 13:59.61 - MR, PB
3. Hayato Yamada (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 14:11.55

High School Girls' 3000 m
1. Mika Kobayashi (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 9:45.32
2. Keiko Osako (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 9:46.58
3. Sumire Kojima (Tatsuno H.S.) - 9:46.87

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Makau, Notagashira Take Asics Challenge

by Brett Larner

The 2010 Hyogo Relay Carnival got underway on Apr. 24 with the sprints and Asics Challenge distance events.

In the Asics Challenge 10000 m, the weekend's men's 10000 m B-heat, Kenyan Nicholas Makau (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) easily defeated Keita Akiba (Team Komori Corp.) and Akihiko Tsumurai (Team Mazda) but was more than 45 seconds off Samuel Wanjiru's B-heat meet record from 2005. Miho Notagashira (Team Wacoal), teammate of national record holder Kayoko Fukushi, won the Asics Challenge women's 5000 m by a few strides over Shoko Mori (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) in 15:54.48.

The Hyogo Relay Carnival continues on Apr. 25 with the high school races and Grand Prix 1500 m and 10000 m A-heats.

2010 Hyogo Relay Carnival Day One - Top Finishers
click here for complete results or event header for individual event results

Asics Challenge Men's 10000 m
1. Nicholas Makau (Kenya/Team Yachiyo Kogyo) - 28:18.94
2. Keita Akiba (Team Komori Corp.) - 28:34.42
3. Akihiko Tsumurai (Team Mazda) - 28:36.91

Asics Challenge Women's 5000 m
1. Miho Notagashira (Team Wacoal) - 15:54.48
2. Shoko Mori (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 15:55.25
3. Yuka Takashima (Team Denso) - 15:57.41

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, April 24, 2010

2010 Brutus Hamilton Invitational Results

by Brett Larner

Quick results from the distance events at the 2010 Brutus Hamilton Invitational in Berkeley, CA.

2010 Brutus Hamilton Invitational - Top Finishers
click here for complete results or event header for individual events

Men's 10000 m

1. Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:27.93
2. Yuta Takahashi (Team S&B) - 28:36.86 - PB
3. Takeshi Makabe (Team Kanebo) - 28:40.23
-----
6. Yusuke Hasegawa (Jobu Univ.) - 28:58.63

Men's 5000 m

1. Galen Rupp (Unattached) - 13:32.53
2. Juan Carlos Romero (Nike German Silva) - 13:34.27
3. Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) - 13:47.30
-----
5. Ikuto Yufu (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:54.15
9. Yasunori Murakami (Team Fujitsu) - 14:07.59
11. Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) - 14:15.99

Women's 3000 m

1. Amy Begley (Nike Oregon) - 8:53.73
2. Malindi Elmore (Unattached ) - 8:57.97
3. Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 9:01.39
-----
9. Kazue Kojima (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 9:17.08

Men's 3000 mSC

1. Steve Strickland (Utah State) - 8:42.97
2. Gilbert Limo (Texas Tech) - 8:42.99
3. Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) - 8:53.10

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Ozaki Looking for Lifetime Best'

http://lrn.london-marathon.com/ozaki-looking-lifetime-best/

Note: In its London preview, American fan website letsrun.com inexplicably calls Ozaki, the 2009 World Championships silver medalist, a 'wanna-be.' It also incorrectly claims that she has never won a major marathon despite then listing her 2:23:30 win, which came at the 2008 Tokyo International Women's Marathon, one of the world's premier elite women's races, rather than the 2008 Tokyo Marathon as suggested in the website's preview. In her Tokyo International Women's Marathon win Ozaki beat London entrants Mara Yamauchi (GBR) and Svetlana Zakharova (RUS), 2009 Boston Marathon winner Salina Kosgei (Kenya), 2009 New York City Marathon winner Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia), 2:19 woman / 2009 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Yoko Shibui (Team Mistui Sumitomo Kaijo) and 2009 World Championships team member / 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon winner Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC).

Besides these two strong performances, Ozaki was 2nd in her debut marathon at the 2008 Nagoya International Women's Marathon, a close 2nd behind London as the world's top-ranked elite women's marathon. London will be Ozaki's 4th marathon. As she states in the article linked at the top, her goal is a 2:21.

Watch the Japanese Broadcast of the London Marathon Live Online

With a significant number of Japanese runners in the field, TV Tokyo will be broadcasting this year's London Marathon live. Scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Japan time on Apr. 25, it appears that the broadcast will begin 30 minutes after the start of the elite women's race but will otherwise show the race in its entirety. Overseas viewers should be able to watch online for free using Keyhole TV. To download Keyhole TV and for directions on how to use it, click here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Yoshimi Ozaki Targeting 2:21 in London

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/flash/KFullFlash20100407007.html

translated by Brett Larner

On the verge of taking up the title of Japanese women's marathoning ace, Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) is running the Apr. 25 London Marathon for the first time. At the National Jitsugyodan Half Marathon Championships in Yamaguchi on Mar. 21 she was 2nd overall and the top Japanese finisher, indicating that everything has gone smoothly with her preparations. Hoping to run a 2:21 PB in her first time at the world's fastest race, she says confidently, "My target time is in reach."

In just her third marathon Ozaki won the silver medal at last August's World Championships in Berlin, giving a tremendous boost to her self-confidence. The 28 year old Ozaki has been "doing 50 m repeats at top speed and working as hard as I can on being able to surge during the race." With the results of a high-quality training camp in hand she is eagerly looking forward to reaping the benefits.

Leading her is 1991 World Championships marathon silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita. Yamashita views London as the next step in her pupil's growth. "This time it isn't a selection race for the national team but a chance to challenge the best in the world. It's also a chance to get used to the London environment," she says, alluding to the Olympic games now just two years away.

This year's London Marathon field includes last year's world champion Xue Bai (China), two-time defending champion Irina Mikitenko (Germany), last year's runner-up Mara Yamauchi (GBR) and most of the other top runners in the world. Ozaki's PB of 2:23:30 came in winning the 2008 Tokyo International Women's Marathon in her first time on the course. "I'm positive this is going to be a fast race," says Ozaki. With confidence she predicts, "I'll be up front and am going to run a race to remember."

Translator's note: In its London preview, American fan website letsrun.com inexplicably calls Ozaki, the 2009 World Championships silver medalist, a 'wanna-be.' It also incorrectly claims that she has never won a major marathon despite then listing her 2:23:30 win, which came at the 2008 Tokyo International Women's Marathon, one of the world's premier elite women's races, rather than the 2008 Tokyo Marathon as suggested in the website's preview. In her Tokyo International Women's Marathon win Ozaki beat London entrants Mara Yamauchi (GBR) and Svetlana Zakharova (RUS), 2009 Boston Marathon winner Salina Kosgei (Kenya), 2009 New York City Marathon winner Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia), 2:19 woman / 2009 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Yoko Shibui (Team Mistui Sumitomo Kaijo) and 2009 World Championships team member / 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon winner Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC).

Besides these two strong performances, Ozaki was 2nd in her debut marathon at the 2008 Nagoya International Women's Marathon, a close 2nd behind London as the world's top-ranked elite women's marathon. London will be Ozaki's 4th marathon. As she states in this article, her goal is a 2:21.

Mathathi and Ndambiri to Battle Sunday at Hyogo Relay Carnival

by Brett Larner

The second big Japanese meet of the season takes place this weekend at the 58th Hyogo Relay Carnival. The main draw in the distance events is Sunday's grand prix 10000 m A-heat. On the men's side sub-27 men Josephat Ndambiri (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) and Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) will once again be pushing each other into new territory as they go after Mathathi's meet record of 27:08.42 from 2005. They'll have company in the form of sub-28 minute men John Thuo (Kenya/Team Toyota), Jeilan Ibrahim (Ethiopia/ Team Honda), Paul Tanui (Kenya/Team Kyudenko), Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem), Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku), Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) and Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu).

The women's 10000 m is should be a solo run for 3000 m, 5000 m and half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), but Julia Mumbi (Kenya/Team Universal Entertainment), Doricah Obare (Kenya/Team Hitachi) and a number of other top Japanese women are on the start list including ailing 10000 m junior national record holder Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno), Noriko Matsuoka (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), the Miyauchi twins (Team Kyocera), Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) and Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.).

With the grand prix events limited to 1500 m and 10000 m most of the other top competition will be going short in the 1500. The men's race should be a matchup between national record holder Fumikazu Kobayashi (Team NTN) and defending national champ Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) with challenges from Girma Bekele (Ethiopia/Team Honda) and Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya/Team Hitachi Cable). Women's 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) is running the Brutus Hamilton Invitational in California, meaning the race should easily go to defending national champion Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic).

Saturday also features 5000 m events and B-heats. Of these the most interesting may be the high school boys' 5000 m, where 14:02.39 man Kazuto Nishiike (Suma Gakuen H.S.) will try to kick off his senior year with a dip into 13 minute territory.

The Hyogo Relay Carnival will unfortunately not be broadcast nationwide, but if the local broadcast become available JRN will post info on how to watch. Check back Sunday night for complete results.

2010 Hyogo Relay Carnival - Top Entrants
click here for complete start lists
Men's Grand Prix 10000 m
Josephat Ndambiri (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) - 26:57.36
Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 26:59.88
John Thuo (Kenya/Team Toyota) - 27:11.88
Jeilan Ibrahim (Ethiopia/Team Honda) - 27:22.19
Paul Tanui (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 27:25.24
Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem) - 27:26.56
Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 27:41.10
Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 27:48.71
Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - 27:55.17
Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:00.22

Women's Grand Prix 10000 m
Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 30:51.81
Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) - 31:23.21
Julia Mumbi (Kenya/Team Universal Entertainment) - 31:39.38
Noriko Matsuoka (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 31:41.90
Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) - 31:47.82
Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 31:50.45
Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 32:18.57
Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 32:24.00
Doricah Obare (Kenya/Team Hitachi) - 33:07.67
Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - debut

Men's Grand Prix 1500 m
Fumikazu Kobayashi (Team NTN) - 3:37.42 - NR
Girma Bekele (Ethiopia/Team Honda) - 3:39.88
Yasuhiro Tago (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 3:40.36
Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya/Team Hitachi Cable) - 3:41.83
Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) - 3:42.51

Women's Grand Prix 1500 m
Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) - 4:10.00
Yukari Soh (Asahi Kasei AC) - 4:13.79
Felista Wanjugu (Kenya/Team Universal Entertainment) - 4:17.13
Mai Ishibashi (Bukkyo Univ.) - 4:18.02
Yukari Nomura (Chuo Univ.) - 4:19.09

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Japanese Entrants for 2010 Brutus Hamilton Invitational

by Brett Larner

Stanford University's Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational has long been a staple on the Japanese spring track calendar, with both the current men's and women's 10000 m national records set on the Stanford track. Beginning last year, however, the focus has shifted to include Berkeley's Brutus Hamilton Invitational thanks in part to the involvement of the NYRR Distance Carnival. This year the cream of the crop is headed north to Berkeley.

The man to watch will be Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) in the 10000 m. At last year's Brutus Hamilton Invitational Sato ran his PB of 27:38.25, the all-time third-fastest Japanese men's time and just three seconds off the national record, after running 13:48.71 at the Mt. SAC Relays. At last week's Mt. SAC Sato ran a comfortable 13:44.70, kicking the last lap with ease. Taken together, an attempt on the national record of 27:35.09 looks likely if Sato has the competition to push him. Four other Japanese men are on the entry list, but one, Sato's teammate Satoru Kitamura, will be racing at this weekend's Hyogo Relay Carnival instead. Yusuke Hasegawa (Jobu Univ.) was also on the entry list at Mt. SAC but did not race, meaning he is unlikely to be in Berkeley. Yuta Takahashi (Team S&B) made his pro debut in the 5000 m at Mt. SAC last week with a 13:31.37 PB and should be looking for a comparable 10000 m PB. Coached by 10000 m national record holder Toshinari Takaoka, Takeshi Makabe (Team Kanebo) rounds out the roster with the only other Japanese sub-28 PB.

The men's 5000 m looks juicy if all the entrants actually show. In addition to Sato in the 10000 m, three of the young Japanese runners detailed in JRN's comparison of American and Japanese men aged 18-22, reproduced below, are on the entry list along with one American counterpart. Sato's perpetual rival Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B), who ran 13:19.00 at age 20, ran a good 13:33.61 rustbuster at last week's Oda Memorial Meet and then told reporters he is targeting a new PB this season. It should be interesting to see him in a race with American equivalent Galen Rupp. Komazawa University's ace first-year Ikuto Yufu ran a 13:53.20 at the Oda Memorial and is something of a surprise to see on the list. A welcome addition is Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo), a 1:01:50 half-marathoner at age 20 and like Takeshi Makabe now coached by Toshinari Takaoka. Steeplechase national record holder Yoshitaka Iwamizu (Team Fujitsu) is bypassing his main event in favor of the 5000 m along with 1500 m specialist Yasunori Murakami (Team Fujitsu).

Women's 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki), off her peak form so far this season, will likewise move up in distance to the 3000 m. Along with her is teammate Kazue Kojima, decent in her pro debut last week at Mt. SAC. Rounding out the Japanese distance entrants is men's steeplechaser Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN).

Flotrack will be providing video coverage of this year's Brutus Hamilton Invitational. Click here to go to their coverage page.

2010 Brutus Hamilton Invitational - Japanese entrants
click here for complete heat sheets
Men's 10000 m
Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 27:38.25
Takeshi Makabe (Team Kanebo) - 27:53.78
Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:00.22
Yusuke Hasegawa (Jobu Univ.) - 28:13.92
Yuta Takahashi (Team S&B) - 28:38.71

Men's 5000 m
Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) - 13:19.00
Yoshitaka Iwamizu (Team Fujitsu) - 13:37.99
Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) - 13:50.96
Ikuto Yufu (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:53.20
Yasunori Murakami (Team Fujitsu) - 13:57.38

Women's 3000 m
Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 8:51.85
Kazue Kojima (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 9:14.36

Men's 3000 m SC
Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) - 8:35.19

American and Japanese men aged 18-22. Click to enlarge.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'London Marathon 2010: Mara Yamauchi Wins Travel Marathon'

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/athletics/london-marathon/7615851/London-Marathon-2010-Mara-Yamauchi-wins-travel-marathon.html

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Akaba Leaves for London, Ozaki to Follow

http://www.nikkei.com/sports/news/article/g=96958A9C81818A9996E2E1E5E38DE0E3E2E6E0E2E3E2E2E2E2E2E2E2;da=96958A88889DE2E0E3EAEAE5E6E2E0E3E3E0E0E2E2EBE2E2E2E2E2E2

translated by Brett Larner

With the re-opening of London's Heathrow Airport following the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland which has disrupted travel across Europe, Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) was able to secure departure on a flight on Apr. 21 to compete in the Apr. 25 London Marathon. Despite all the confusion over travel to Europe, she continued to train while waiting for a flight. "This is the first time in a long time that I'll be going to the start line without any injury worries," a happy Akaba told reporters. "If I sit in the lead pack until 30 km then I think I'm going to drop a PB."

Unable to fly on her planned departure date of Apr. 20, World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) was also able to secure a seat on a flight and will travel to London on Apr. 22.

Rikuren to Introduce Female Pacemakers to Women's Marathons

http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/general/track/news/20100416k0000m050048000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

On April 15 Rikuren announced that as part of an effort to strengthen Japan's future marathoners it will begin using young Japanese athletes as pacemakers in next year's World Championships selection edition Osaka, Yokohama and Nagoya International Women's Marathons. It will be the first time the races have made use of pacemakers. The move is intended to give up-and-coming athletes the experience of running in a major marathon and the feeling of running competitive marathon speed.

Rikuren also announced that it will be sending a crew of sprinters to the U.K.'s Loughborough University for a training camp intended to give them increased experience in an international environment.

Ozaki and Akaba Likely to Withdraw From London Marathon

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2010/04/20/17.html

translated by Brett Larner

With airspace closures due to the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland creating travel headaches across Europe, the planned appearances of Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei), Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and other Japanese elites at Sunday's London Marathon is looking less and less likely, with a worst-case scenario of withdrawal becoming probable. Ozaki's coach Sachiko Yamashita told reporters, "We have a way for her to get to Europe via the United States, but we don't want to do this complicated land travel that everyone is talking about." Akaba's coach Shuhei Akaba commented, "We were supposed to leave on the 21st, but that's impossible now. We can get to Europe through the U.S. but all the trains and buses to England are full. We're just waiting for something to open up."

'Volcanic Eruption Threatens Disruption for Elite London Marathon Field'

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/athletics/london-marathon/7608517/Volcanic-eruption-threatens-disruption-for-elite-London-Marathon-field.html

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nakamura 7th in Boston Marathon

http://www.topics.or.jp/worldNews/worldSports/2010/04/2010041901000933.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

At the 114th Boston Marathon on April 19th, Beijing Olympics marathoner Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) finished 7th overall with a time of 2:30:40. Teyba Erkesso (Ethiopia) won in 2:26:11, while Robert Cheruiyot (Kenya) set a course record 2:05:52 in his first Boston win.

Since the Beijing Olympics Nakamura has focused on her track speed, meaning Boston was her first marathon in one year and eight months. Nakamura led most of the first half of the race but fell behind the leaders when Erkesso and two other Ethiopians surged away at 20 km. Last year's winner Salina Kosgei (Kenya) was 3rd.

Men's 60+ world record holder Yoshihisa Hosaka (Natural Foods AC) had a disappointing day, 2nd in his age group in 2:56:30. In the wheelchair race Wakako Tsuchida took her 4th straight title in 1:43:32, while Kota Hokinoue was the top Japanese man, 3rd in 1:27:05.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Australian Weightman and Kenyan Chelimo win Nagano Marathon

http://www.shinmai.co.jp/news/20100418/KT100418IWI090006000022.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

At the 12th Nagano Olympics Commemorative Marathon on April 18th, Australian Lisa Weightman ran a PB of 2:28:48 to win the women's race, while Kenyan Nicholas Chelimo ran 2:10:24 to take men's marathon, missing the course record by less than 10 seconds. After a freak snowstorm the day before the race, temperatures at the start were 12.5 degrees.

In the women's race Weightman led an early pack with Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) and Irene Limika (Kenya). Weightman made a move to break away only 17 km into the race and ran the remaining 25 km alone to become the first Australian winner in Nagano history. Defending champion Irina Timofeyeva experienced problems with her right thigh and was unable to maintain contact with the leaders. Eri Hayakawa (Amino Vital AC) overtook Shimahara to finish as the top Japanese runner in 3rd overall.

In the men's race the lead pack boiled down to Chelimo, Ethiopian Abioyt Guta and two others after 7 km. The group went through 10 km in 30:22 and halfway in 1:04:13, among the fastest splits the Nagano Marathon has seen. Chelimo surged at 30 km and maintained his momentum for the win. Japan-resident Kenyan Peter Kariuki (Team Mazda) was 2nd. Masaru Takamizawa (Saku Chosei H.S. AC) was the top Japanese finisher, 4th overall.

2010 Nagano Olympics Commemorative Marathon - Top Finishers
click division for more detailed results
Women
1. Lisa Weightman (Australia) - 2:28:48 - PB
2. Olena Burkovska (Ukraine) - 2:31:53
3. Eri Hayakawa (Amino Vital AC) - 2:33:05
4. Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 2:34:46
5. Irene Limika (Kenya) - 2:36:26
6. Chinatsu Maruoka (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 2:38:45
7. Kate Smyth (Australia) - 2:39:27
8. Naoko Tsuchiya (Piolacs AC) - 2:39:35
9. Chihiro Tanaka (AthleC AC) - 2:42:39
10. Miya Nishio (Team Universal Entertainment) - 2:43:15

Men
1. Nicholas Chelimo (Kenya) - 2:10:24
2. Peter Kariuki (Kenya/Team Mazda) - 2:11:30
3. Shadrack Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:12:49
4. Masaru Takamizawa (Saku Chosei H.S. AC) - 2:13:04
5. Etsu Miyata (Team Fujitsu) - 2:13:19
6. Anthony Wangeci (Kenya) - 2:14:49
7. Tomohiro Seto (Team Kanebo) - 2:15:26
8. Abiyot Guta (Ethiopia) - 2:18:06
9. Tomonori Onitsuka (Team Komori Corp.) - 2:18:22
10. Erick Wainaina (Kenya/Lights AC) - 2:19:14

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Yuki Sato Setting Up for 10000 m NR? - Mt. SAC 2010

by Brett Larner

For the second year in a row, 13:23.57 man Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) stepped down to the 5000 m B-heat at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, CA. Last year Sato ran his pro debut at Mt. SAC, clocking an undistinguished 13:48.71 and finishing 3rd. Not until the following week, when he clocked an almost identical split for the first half of the Brutus Hamilton Invitational 10000 m on his way to a 27:38.25 PB three seconds off the Japanese national record, was it clear that Mt. SAC was only a pace run and not an indication that he was in poor shape. At this year's Mt. SAC Relays on Apr. 16 Sato won the B-heat 5000 m in 13:44.70, blowing out the rest of the field by over 3 seconds over the last 400 m after keeping himself comfortable in 2nd for the entire race. Sato is also on the entry list for next weekend's Brutus Hamilton Invitational 10000 m, raising the question of whether he is planning on going for the national record of 27:35.09. We'll know on the 23rd. Click here to watch Sato's race.

Former Josai University ace Yuta Takahashi (Team S&B) made his pro debut in the 5000 m A-heat, running a six-second PB of 13:31.37 for 9th behind winner Dan Huling's 13:24.72. Takahashi's time was two seconds faster than star teammate Kensuke Takezawa's season-opening time at last weekend's Kanaguri Memorial Meet. Click here for the Mt. SAC 5000 m A-heat.

Kazue Kojima (Team Toyota Jidoshoki), the top university woman in recent years, also made her pro debut in the Mt. SAC women's 5000 m A-heat. She finished a decent 5th in 15:40.95, five seconds off her PB and a good start to the season but 38 seconds behind winner Sally Kipyego of Kenya. Click here to see the race.

Yoshiaki Arai was 4th in the women's 3000 mSC in 10:07.25, while women's 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) was ten seconds off her form, 6th in 4:13.88.

For complete results from this year's Mt. SAC Relays, click here.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, April 16, 2010

Kiyoko Shimahara on Failure, Success and Sunday's Nagano Marathon

The friendliest person in Japanese marathoning, Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) is the favorite for Sunday's Nagano Marathon. The course record holder at the Hokkaido and Katsuta marathons, she won a silver medal at the 2006 Asian Games and finished 6th in the 2007 Osaka World Championships marathon.

Shimahara sat down with JRN recently during her buildup to Nagano to talk about last fall's remarkable season where she ran a PB of 2:25:10 and two other sub-2:30 marathons in just over 100 days, about her views on racing internationally and domestically, and the problems facing young Japanese women in distance running.

It's an interview in turns funny, insightful and scathing, and it's available only through JRNPremium. Click here to subscribe to read it and other first-rate interviews with the top people in Japanese distance running. If you're already a subscriber, click here to log in.

photo (c) 2009 Mika Tokairin
all rights reserved

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Yurika Nakamura on the Frontlines in Boston (updated)

http://mytown.asahi.com/hyogo/news.php?k_id=29000141003310002

translated by Brett Larner

Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) is running Monday's Boston Marathon, only her third attempt at the distance. In her last marathon Nakamura was the only Japanese woman to finish the Beijing Olympics, where she was 13th. She vowed to work on her track speed before returning to the marathon. At last summer's World Championships she was one of the highlights of the Japanese team, with three PBs in three starts on the track over 5000 and 10000 m and unafraid to lead each of her races. With only a 2:25 PB from her 2008 debut Nakamura is unlikely to attract much pre-race attention, but the simple fact that she is there says she feels ready for something big in Boston. The local Hyogo edition of the asahi.com website recently published this interview with Nakamura.

Asahi.com: When you were a child you weren't a particularly fast runner.
Nakamura: I loved playing kick the can and hide and seek, but I was really slow. When I was in 6th grade I finished 6th in an intramural race so I decided to join the track team when I went to junior high. The older people on the team were all super nice and didn't have the usual kind of pecking order, so practice always had a great relaxed atmosphere that made me want to be there and be part of it. But I wasn't good enough to make Nationals.

If that was the case then why did you decide to join the track team when you went to Nishinomiya High School?
I wanted to go to a university where the emphasis was on studying, so when I got to high school I was really struggling to decide, "Should I keep running? Should I quit?" My advisor, Kenkichi Hagiwara kind of gave me a push when he told me, "Well, why don't you just try it and see?" There were a lot of high-level runners at the school so it was really hard, but I listened to Mr. Hagiwara's advice, "If you're going to doing something your goal should be to the best," and I learned the importance of working hard every day of your life.

You met Team Tenmaya's head coach Yutaka Taketomi when you were in your first year of high school, right?
Coach Taketomi had come to scout some of the older girls. I hadn't run any decent times at all yet, but he told me, "You run very well." When he told me that, in my heart I immediately settled on becoming a Tenmaya runner. I knew then I wanted to make the national team and run in the Olympics.

Four years after you became a corporate runner you ran the Nagoya International Women's Marathon in 2008. Even though it was your first marathon you beat Sydney Olympics gold medalist Naoko Takahashi and won.
The whole time I was training I kept telling myself, "You can win." I remember that since Takahashi was there the sides of the roads were jam-packed with people cheering. When I made my move with 10 km to go it was with the state of mind, "If you're not completely focused on this then you're going to lose."

Winning Nagoya got you onto the Beijing Olympics team. You came 13th and were the only Japanese woman to reach the finish line.
You really have some heavy responsibility when you put on the national uniform, you know? I couldn't keep my concentration when I was in the race and just lost it internally. I thought, "Losing you mental endurance means you are weak," or something like that. The Olympics made me realize that I wasn't world-class and that I still had a long way to go before I got to that level.

What are your future goals?
I want to make the Olympics again. To improve my speed I stopped marathoning after Beijing and went back to improving my 10000 m times and whatnot. I'm going to run the Boston Marathon and just want to take on whoever's up front.

What does running mean to Yurika Nakamura?
It's what lets me grow. That's because you quickly learn what your weak points are. Especially in the marathon, there's no faking your way through it. When you honestly feel from your heart, "I've grown," that's when you want to run the most.

Can you give us a message for all the amateur running enthusiasts out there?
Have a goal, think about positive results when you're training, and enjoy it when you run. I also want to keep developing into someone whose running will make everyone happy.

Yurika Nakamura - born April 1, 1986
PBs
5000 m: 15:13.01 (12th, Berlin WC final, 2009)
10000 m: 31:31.95* (3rd, Hyogo Distance Carnival, 2008)
half marathon: 1:09:20 (1st, Sapporo, 2009)
marathon: 2:25:51 (1st, Nagoya 2008 - debut)
*Nakamura ran a PB of 31:14.39 to finish 7th in the Berlin WC 10000 m but the mark was later disallowed because she was part of the group who went off course due to officials' error in cone placement.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mathathi and Mogusu Set to Go For Wanjiru's Record in Sendai

by Brett Larner

The Sendai International Half Marathon has announced the lineup for this year's 20th anniversary edition on May 9. The top end of the men's field promises a great duel as sub-27 10000 m man and 10 mile junior world record holder Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) makes his half marathon debut against three-time sub-hour half marathoner Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem). Their goal will no doubt be not just the win but Samuel Wanjiru's course and Japanese all-comers record of 59:43, a target that has so far eluded Mogusu by as little as 5 seconds.

With a mixed field of Japanese elites, Japan-resident Africans and Japanese university men there are too many noteworthy runners to mention, but other names on the entry list include 2010 Asian Games marathon team member Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN), multiple World Half Marathon national team member Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko), Tokyo Marathon 4th placer Yuki Kawauchi (unatt.), Kenyans James Mwangi (Team NTN), Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) and Cyrus Njui (Team Hitachi), and Yu Chiba and Takashi Chiba of two-time defending Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University.

2009 World Championships marathoner Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) is the biggest name in the women's field, but she faces tough competition from Kenyan Julia Mumbi (Team Universal Entertainment), 2009 Kobe National Women's Marathon winner Misato Horie (Team Noritz), World Half Marathon national team members Chisato Osaki (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) and Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon) and Team Kyocera's Miyauchi twins among others.

For a complete field listing click here. JRN will publish a more detailed preview including info on how to watch online the week of the race.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Teaching the Masters

Spring is here. With it comes the April issue of our new subscription series JRNPremium. This month's issues features an interview with Kiyoko Shimahara, the 2009 Hokkaido Marathon winner who broke 2:30 three times in just over 100 days last fall. Shimahara is running Sunday's Nagano Marathon and was just named to the Japanese national team for November's Asian Games. We talked to her about what happened last fall, her training this spring, and her views on national teams, racing overseas, and what's wrong with the corporate team system. Look for Shimahara's interview tomorrow.

Also out now, as a companion piece to editor-in-chief Jonathan Beverley's interview with Kenya's Samuel Wanjiru, the May, 2010 issue of Running Times magazine includes my article "Teaching the Masters" which looks at the history of African distance runners in Japan. For the article I interviewed Tsutomu Akiyama, one of the men responsible for bringing Samuel Wanjiru to the world, Stephen Mayaka, the first Kenyan high school runner in Japan, and Biruk Bekele, an agent who in his running days was one of the first Ethiopians to be hired by a Japanese corporate team.

The complete interviews with Mayaka and Akiyama, both solid gold, will be published in the May and June issues of JRNPremium. The July issue of Running Times will also include an article of mine looking at the development of the Japanese running system from a historical perspective.

5:45 This Morning

Team Tepco does a group tempo run at 5:45 a.m. in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park. The team's coach, 1991 World Championships marathon gold medalist Hiromi Taniguchi, follows on a bike.


photos (c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mesfin and Kobayashi 1500 m MR at Kanaguri Memorial

by Brett Larner

Ethiopian Nahom Mesfin (Team Kanebo) and 1500 m national record holder Fumikazu Kobayashi (Team NTN) got the track season started off with a duel over 1500 m at the Kanaguri Memorial Track Meet April 10 in Kumamoto. With a PB performance Mesfin came out a step ahead as both runners broke Kobayashi's 5 year old meet record. Kenyan Ann Karindi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) fell 0.11 seconds short of the women's 1500 m meet record but still set a PB of 4:09.41 and beat national record holder and teammate Yuriko Kobayashi by 9 seconds.

The other meet record of the day came in the high school boys' 5000 m, where Takashi Ichida (Kumamoto H.S.) ran 14:11.75 to break the existing meet record by 6.5 seconds. The old record holder, Ikuto Yufu (Komazawa Univ.), made his university debut in the men's 5000 m where he was 8th in a creditable PB of 13:53.20. Kenyan Josephat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp.) took an unsurprising win in the men's 5000 m as Kenyans went 1-2-3. Only Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) prevented an all-Kenyan top 4 as he ran a solid early-season 13:33.61. Takezawa was pleased with his performance, saying afterwards, "I can't remember how many years it's been since I felt good right from the spring. This year I'm targeting my 5000 and 10000 m times." Defending national champion Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) was 6th, while 13:18 man Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) showed the after-effects of his disappointing marathon debut in February, finishing over 14 minutes in 13th.

With top seed Doricah Obare (Kenya/Team Hitachi) a no-show in the women's 5000 m, Ethiopian Betelhem Moges (Team Denso) was just a hair off her PB as she outkicked Kenyan Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo). University star Kazue Kojima (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) had a decent pro debut, 4th in 15:54.96 behind top Japanese finisher Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz). 10000 m junior national record holder Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) was also a no-show. In the high school girls' 3000 m identical twins Eri and Mari Tayama (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) went 1-2.

2010 Kanaguri Memorial Track Meet - Top Results
click here for complete overall results
click event headers for complete event results

Men's 5000 m - Heat 3
1. Josephat Ndambiri (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) - 13:25.57
2. Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem) - 13:32.41
3. Nicholas Makau (Yachiyo Kogyo H.S.) - 13:33.06
4. Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) - 13:33.61
5. Kiragu Njuguna (Kenya/Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 13:38.17
6. Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) - 13:45.95
7. Stephen Njeri (Fukuoka Ichi H.S.) - 13:50.43
8. Ikuto Yufu (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:53.20 - PB
9. Cosmas Ondiba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 13:55.30
10. Terukazu Omori (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 13:56.13
-----
13. Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 14:12.52

Women's 5000 m - Heat 2
1. Betelhem Moges (Ethiopia/Team Denso) - 15:25.36
2. Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Kenya/Team Uniqlo) - 15:25.83
3. Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - 15:53.85
4. Kazue Kojima (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 15:54.96
5. Madoka Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 15:57.03
6. Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) - 16:01.78
7. Keiko Nogami (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 16:06.64
8. Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu) - 16:20.63
9. Kaori Oyama (Team Noritz) - 16:27.36
10. Michi Numata (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 16:28.63
-----
DNS - Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno)

Men's 1500 m - Heat 2
1. Nahom Mesfin (Ethiopia/Team Kanebo) - 3:41.60 - MR, PB
2. Fumikazu Kobayashi (Team NTN) - 3:41.88 - (MR)
3. Hiroshi Ino (Team Fujitsu) - 3:46.52
4. Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) - 3:46.72
5. Takahiro Onishi (Team NTN) - 3:48.84

Women's 1500 m - Heat 2
1. Ann Karindi (Kenya/Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 4:09.41 - PB
2. Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 4:18.41
3. Yukari So (Asahi Kasei AC) - 4:22.81

High School Boys' 5000 m - Heat 6
1. Takashi Ichida (Kumamoto H.S.) - 14:11.75 - MR
2. Yuki Arimura (Kumamoto H.S.) - 14:19.88
3. Masashi Ishida (Kyushu Kokuritsu Prep H.S.) - 14:39.88

High School Girls' 3000 m - Heat 4
1. Eri Tayama (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 9:27.04
2. Mari Tayama (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 9:27.14
3. Tomoka Kimura (Chikushi Jogakuen H.S.) - 9:28.81

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, April 9, 2010

2010 Track Season Starts With Kanaguri Memorial Meet

by Brett Larner

The 2010 Japanese track season starts tomorrow at Kumamoto's Kanaguri Memorial Track and Field Meet, named after Japan's first Olympic marathoner Shizo Kanaguri. Many of the country's top pro, university and high school runners will open their seasons in the meet's 5000 m and 1500 m events.

The men's 5000 m may be the most competitive of the meet, with top Japanese-based Kenyan Josephat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp.) and three of the best young Japanese runners, Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu), Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) and Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B). Along with Mitsuya, Kenyan Mekubo Mogusu (Team Aidem) will be looking for a good season-starter after a failed marathon debut. Kenyan high school student Titus Waruru (Chinzai H.S.) doesn't have a strong PB but has been tearing up the high school road circuit over the last year and could run something big.

The women's 5000 m is likely to be a battle between Ethiopian Betelhem Moges (Team Denso) and Kenyans Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) and Danielle Cheyech (Team Uniqlo), but a strong performance by Mari Ozaki (Team Denso) at January's Osaka International Women's Marathon showed she is back to near her past form. University star Kazue Kojima (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) will be making her pro debut, and the talented 10000 m junior national record holder Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) will try to take another step on the road back from the injuries that have kept her out of commission for almost two years.

In the men's 1500 m, national record holder Fumikazu Kobayashi (Team NTN) will be looking to get his season off to a good start after the humiliation of being shut out of last summer's World Championships by interloper Yuichiro Ueno. Kenyan Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Cable) and Ethiopian Nahom Mesfin (Team Kanebo) should be Kobayashi's main competition. Of particular interest is the presence of Mesfin's teammate Masato Kihara, who at age 20 ran a 1:01:50 half marathon, the fastest time ever by a Japanese university student on a record-legal course. Kihara is now coached by 3000 m, 10000 m and marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka who believes in spending years working on track speed before moving to the marathon.

Women's 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki), no relation to the men's 1500 m national record holder, will make a return to the 1500 m after more success at 5000 m in the last two years. Her only real competition is likely to come from her Kenyan teammate Ann Karindi. Kobayashi and teammates Kazue Kojima and Ayaka Mori will be headed to California after the meet to run in next weekend's Mt. Sac Relays.

2010 Kanaguri Memorial T&F Meet - Entry List Highlights
click here for complete entry lists
Men's 5000 m
Josephat Ndambiri (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) - 13:05.33
Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 13:18.32
Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) - 13:19.00
Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) - 13:21.49
Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem) - 13:27.14
Nicholas Makau (Kenya/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 13:27.49
Titus Waruru (Kenya/Chinzai H.S.) - 13:47.00

Women's 5000 m
Doricah Obare (Kenya/Team Hitachi) - 15:04.87
Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - 15:12.76
Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Kenya/Team Uniqlo) - 15:19.47
Betelhem Moges (Ethiopia/Team Denso) - 15:25.26
Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) - 15:27.98
Keiko Nogami (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 15:28.47
Kazue Kojima (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 15:35.87
Seika Nishikawa (Team Sysmex) - 15:38.22

Men's 1500 m
Fumikazu Kobayashi (Team NTN) - 3:37.42 - NR
Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Cable) - 3:41.83
Nahom Mesfin (Ethiopia/Team Kanebo) - 3:43.31
Hiroshi Ino (Team Fujitsu) - 3:43.98
Daisuke Tamura (SDF Academy) - 3:44.42
Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) - 3:45.00
Daiki Tsutsumi (SDF Academy) - 3:45.00

Women's 1500 m
Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 4:07.86 - NR
Ann Karindi (Kenya/Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 4:12.75
Yukari So (Asahi Kasei AC) - 4:13.79
Ayumi Takada (Canon AC) - 4:17.00
Mutsumi Ikeda (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 4:19.33

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, April 8, 2010

High School National Champion Kenyan Deported

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20100408-00000003-maip-soci

translated by Brett Larner

Wysela Wylim, 18, a member of Toyokawa High School's 2008 National High School Girls Ekiden-winning ekiden team who disappeared from the school soon afterwards, was deported back to her native Kenya on April 8. Wylem's student visa expired in September last year. In February this year she appeared at the Nagoya Immigration Office to apply for a special extension for her visa. She was immediately arrested and put in the Immigration Office's accompanying prison. Her dream, "I want to run for a Japanese corporate team someday," was left unrealized.

As a 2nd-year at Toyokawa H.S. Wylem went home to Kenya for winter holidays in January 2009. While there her house was robbed and her passport was stolen. Waiting for a new passport, she was unable to return to Japan until April 20. In her absence, when she did not arrive for the start of the new academic year in early April Toyokawa H.S. opted to summarily expel her from the school.

Afterwards Wylem survived through the help of supporters. She sought to sue the school for reneging on its agreement but could not afford a lawyer's fees. On April 2 this year a representative from the Kenyan Embassy visited Toyokawa H.S. to protest Wylem's expulsion and request a review of the school's decision but said officials were unresponsive. After the meeting the diplomat angrily told reporters, "They've just destroyed a young woman's life."

'Tokyo Runner One of the First Selected for ING NYC Marathon'

A NYRR press release for immediate release:

Keflezighi, Kastor Announce Return to 2010 ING New York City Marathon on Live Lottery Stream Show

Flurry of Activities Surround “I’m In. We’re In.” Marketing Platform to Help Launch Seven-Month Countdown to Race


A record 120,000 apply for November 7 race; Victoria Salbu of Oslo is first lottery runner announced

New York, April 7, 2010—Americans Meb Keflezighi, the ING New York City Marathon 2009 champion, and Deena Kastor, the nation’s finest female long distance runner of the past decade, were announced for this year’s ING New York City Marathon, along with the first runners selected from the lottery, by New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg on Wednesday, April 7, in the first-ever live streaming of the lottery selection.

The lottery show, seen at www.nyrr.org, was hosted by veteran sports announcer Bruce Beck and Wittenberg from the Parker Meridien Hotel overlooking Central Park. The announcement is accompanied by a flurry of activities in the opening strides in the seven-month countdown to the race on Sunday, November 7. A series of launch parties hosted by NYRR and open to runners, friends, family, and fans as part of the debut of the “I’m In. We’re In.” marketing platform will be held this evening. Three new multi-year marathon sponsors—Unilever, Nissan, and Tata Consultancy Services—were announced earlier in the week.

“With Meb’s win last year and Deena’s gutsy efforts over the years, they have become part of the magic and history of our marathon,” said Wittenberg. “We are so pleased to welcome them back today, as we warmly welcome runners from around the globe to our ING NYC Marathon 2010.”

Keflezighi, 34, returns after last year’s historic triumph, when he became the first American winner of the race in the 27 years since Alberto Salazar’s third win in 1982. Keflezighi’s victory, in a personal-best time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, and 15 seconds, was the pinnacle of an already illustrious marathon career that began with his debut in New York in 2002 and was highlighted by his silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Marathon. Keflezighi will be one of the top contenders in this month’s Boston Marathon.

“The ING New York City Marathon has been the core race in my marathon career,” said Keflezighi, who will be making his fifth start in New York. “I came back several times looking for that elusive victory and I finally got it. I hope that my victory on November 1, 2009 teaches us that while we may not accomplish our dreams and goals overnight, we need to stay committed.”

Kastor, 37, made her marathon debut in New York in 2001 and will be making her fourth start in the five-borough challenge; her best finish has been her sixth place in 2006. The 2004 Olympic Marathon bronze medalist, Kastor has won World Marathon Majors titles in Chicago and London. She is one of the leading contenders in this month’s Virgin London Marathon.

“I was brought to tears when Meb won [last year] against a stellar field of the world’s best, and I’m inspired to commit to succeeding in New York come November,” said Kastor. “The ING New York City Marathon is a perfect representation of the diversity that the city is known for, and it’s wonderful to be part of such high-spirited celebration of running.”

More than 120,000 applications—the most in history—were received by New York Road Runners officials, who plan for a starting field of between 42,000 and 43,000. This is the fourth consecutive year in which 100,000 or more applications have been received for the five-borough race.

“A quantum leap in the number of marathon applicants, in the midst of the recession, speaks volumes about the importance of the ING NEW York City Marathon in the lives of so many,” said Wittenberg.

Reflecting the worldwide interest in the race, the list of the first entrants announced spans the globe—from Oslo, Norway, to Eugene, Oregon, and from São Paulo, Brazil, to Portland, Maine. The first lottery winners named were Victoria Salbu of Oslo, Norway; Rebecca Slater of Oxford, United Kingdom; Gustavo Bueno of São Paulo, Brazil; Seiichi Tanabe of Tokyo, Japan; Trae Richardson of Eugene, OR; Jordon Medeiros of Detroit, MI; Dr. William Burnett of Dallas, TX; Meredith Pendleton of Portland, ME; and Lynn Berman of New York City, NY.

New York Road Runners
New York Road Runners is dedicated to promoting the sport of distance running, enhancing health and fitness for all, and responding to community needs. Our road races and other fitness programs draw upwards of 300,000 runners annually, and together with our magazine and website support and promote professional and recreational running. A staff of more than 100, assisted by thousands of volunteers, stages the ING New York City Marathon, as well as a road race nearly every weekend plus many track and cross country events. NYRR’s home base in New York, and its lifelong identification with Central Park, have given many of its events iconic status, attracting the world’s top professional runners. Our youth programs provide running to 75,000 schoolchildren in New York City, around the country, and in South Africa who would otherwise have few or no fitness opportunities. For more information, visit http://www.nyrr.org/.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ominami Twins Head Home to Team Fukui

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/flash/KFullFlash20100405121.html

translated by Brett Larner

Masahiko Takahashi, former head coach of Team Toyota Shatai which formally disbanded at the end of March, revealed on Apr. 5 that his twin star runners Hiromi and Takami Ominami will return to their hometown of Fukui to start a new club team. The three hope that the provisionally-titled "Team Fukui" will become a new model to help raise the level of track and field within Fukui prefecture.

As of this month both athletes have relocated to Tokyo, where they are looking for an office and new sponsors to help them in their mission to improve their hometown athletics. Coach Takahashi commented, "There will always be the Fukui Prefecture Sports Day for many years to come, so we are keen to get started with creating Team Fukui."

Monday, April 5, 2010

New 2010 Jitsugyodan Men: Two World XC Champs Land in Japan

by Brett Larner

April 1 marks the start of the Japanese fiscal and academic year. This year's round of university graduates and transfers from other teams are now settling in to their new homes around the country. Below is a list of many of the best new men joining corporate teams this season. Click for a larger version.

2010 New Year Ekiden national champion Team Nissin Shokuhin picks up a major score in 2010 World XC Junior Men's winner Caleb Ndiku (Kenya), a replacement for Olympian Julius Gitahi (Kenya). It will be interesting to see how Ndiku fares compared to the team's current #1 Kenyan, Gideon Ngatuny. Nissin rescues Komazawa Univ. grad Hideyuki Anzai from the disbanded Team JAL Ground Service.

Team Honda likewise picks up a World XC Junior Men's champion, 2008 winner Ibrahim Jelian (Ethiopia), and a JAL survivor, Ryosuke Fukuyama, and should maintain its spot near the top of the hierarchy. Perennially strong Team Asahi Kasei lands two top recruits, Komazawa's Takuya Fukatsu and Takahiro Mori of Nittai Univ., as does Team Chugoku Denryoku who recruit Meiji Univ. ace Takuya Ishikawa and Kanagawa Univ.'s Takuji Morimoto.

If there is a shift in power it may be in the direction of 2009 New Year Ekiden champion Team Fujitsu, who adds four quality men to its ekiden roster. Nihon University star Daniel Gitau (Kenya) is the best of the bunch, while Komazawa's Sota Hoshi should also become a team leader if he recovers from the injury problems that weakened him throughout the second half of 2009. Fujitsu also adds 800 m national record holder Masato Yokota to its middle-distance squad.

The biggest winner in this year's recruitment drive is Tokyo-based Team S&B. S&B has not had any emphasis on ekidens of late but has been quietly building a top-notch squad over the last two years with the addition of Kensuke Takezawa and Yuichiro Ueno. This year the team pulls in three ringers: #1-ranked high school runner Bitan Karoki (Kenya/Sera H.S.), Josai Univ. star Yuta Takahashi, and Meiji's tough Kodai Matsumoto. If S&B enters the ring for the New Year Ekiden in 2010-11 with all of its stars in place, Nissin Shokuhin, Honda, Fujitsu and the rest will be hard-pressed to handle them.

Look for a preview of the new jitsugyodan women's recruits later this week on JRN.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Nagano Marathon Announces Elite Field (updated)

http://www.shinmai.co.jp/news/20100401/a-4.htm
http://www.naganomarathon.gr.jp/modules/bulletin/article.php?storyid=108

translated by Brett Larner

On Mar. 31 the organizing committee of the 12th Nagano Olympic Commemorative Marathon announced the 34 athletes in the elite field for this year's edition on Apr. 18. Nicholas Chelimo (Kenya) tops the men's field with a PB of 2:07:46. Nagano prefecture marathon record holder Masaru Takamizawa (Saku Chosei H.S. AC) is also scheduled to run. Defending women's champion Irina Timofeyeva (Russia) returns and will face Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC), who was just named to the Japanese national team for November's Asian Games in Guanzhou, China.

Translator's note: Issue 3 of JRNPremium features an exclusive interview with Shimahara and will be published next week. Click here for more information.

2010 Nagano Marathon - Elite Field
click here for complete elite field listing
Men
Nicholas Chelimo (Kenya) - 2:07:46 (Amsterdam '09)
Shadrack Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:07:53 (Amsterdam '07)
Ambesse Tolossa (Ethiopia) - 2:08:56 (Paris '04)
Abiyot Guta (Ethiopia) - 2:09:03 (Dubai '09)
Moges Taye (Ethiopia) - 2:09:21 (Vienna '98)
Anthony Wangeci (Kenya) - 2:11:47 (Frankfurt '09)
Masaru Takamizawa (Saku Chosei H.S. AC) - 2:12:10 (Hokkaido '08)
Tomohiro Seto (Team Kanebo) - 2:12:21 (Berlin '07)
Tomonori Onitsuka (Team Kyudenko) - 2:12:48 (Beppu-Oita '05)
Peter Kariuki (Kenya/Team Mazda) - 2:13:38 (Biwako '08)

Women
Irina Timofeyeva (Russia) - 2:24:14 (Hamburg '08)
Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 2:25:10 (Hokkaido '09)
Eri Hayakawa (Amino Vital AC) - 2:28:11 (Honolulu '04)
Irene Limika (Kenya) - 2:28:31 (Frankfurt '08)
Kate Smyth (Australia) - 2:28:51 (Nagano '08)
Chihiro Tanaka (AthleC RC) - 2:29:30 (Nagoya '02)
Lisa Weightman (Australia) - 2:30:42 (Berlin WC '09)
Olena Burkovska (Ukraine) - 2:30:50 (Kosice '09)
Yoshimi Hoshino (eAthletes Shizuoka) - 2:35:58 (Otawara '05)
Yoko Yagi (Suzuki AC) - 2:36:26 (Nagano '09)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Martin Mathathi Planning Debut Half Marathon and Marathon

http://www.shizushin.com/sports_news/shizuoka/20100402000000000020.htm

translated by Brett Larner

On Apr. 1 Suzuki launched a new track and field team, "Suzuki Hamamatsu AC," to replace its former corporate-league Team Suzuki. The new club is officially registered with Rikuren, allowing its members to compete in the National Championships, the Japan Grand Prix Series and other national-level events as well as to shoot for national team membership at the World Championships, Asian Games and Olympics.

The club consists of 25 athletes including 2009 World Championships men's javelin bronze medalist Yukifumi Murakami and women's javelin team member Yuki Ebihara. The men's distance squad, always powerful at past years' New Year Ekiden, will now be turning its sights toward the marathon. 2007 World Championships men's 10000 m bronze medalist and 10 mile junior world record holder Martin Mathathi (Kenya) is planning to run his debut half marathon this season with a marathon debut planned for next year. He is aiming for a spot on the Kenyan marathon team at the London Olympics.

The 25 athletes will continue to be employees of the Suzuki company but will go along with the shift in emphasis accompanying the move to a club-based organization. The club will seek to have an increased involvement with the community in the western part of Shizuoka prefecture, working to help spread the popularity of track and field among students and individual company workers who run on their own. The club includes a coaching and management staff of 9 and is based at the Suzuki headquarters in Hamamatsu. Athletes will continue to use the same yellow-colored uniforms from the Team Suzuki era. Murakami is scheduled to compete at the National Invitational Meet on April 24 while Ebihara will start her season at May's Shizuoka International Meet.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Arata Fujiwara Quits JR Team to Go Independent

http://sankei.jp.msn.com/sports/other/100401/oth1004011944017-n1.htm
http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/general/track/news/20100402k0000m050045000c.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Arata Fujiwara, 28, the runner-up at February's Tokyo Marathon and a member of last summer's World Championships marathon squad, quit his position and job with the JR Higashi Nihon jitsugyodan corporate team on March 31. As of April 1 Fujiwara is no longer part of the jitsugyodan system and will instead pursue his hopes of a successful running career as an independent. Athletes such as 400 m hurdler Dai Tamesue (APF) train and compete without a coach or team, but in the distance running world it is an unheard-of move for a competitive athlete to go independent.

According to JR East Japan head coach Tetsuji Iwase, Fujiwara is very strongly motivated to pursue his own route to the London Olympics. "Over the last six months we tried to persuade him to stay, but he told us, ' It has been my dream to try to do it this way since I was a high school student,'" said Iwase. "His mind was made up."

Born in Nagasaki and a graduate of Isahaya High School and Takushoku University before joining the jitsugyodan system at JR Higashi Nihon, Fujiwara ran 2:08:40 to finish 2nd at the 2008 Tokyo Marathon, earning a spot as the alternate on the Beijing Olympics team.

Translator's note: This is big news. As far as we are aware, Fujiwara is the first Japanese man ever to make this kind of move at the peak of his marathoning career. To the best of our knowledge Naoko Takahashi, the Sydney Olympics marathon gold medalist and the first woman ever to break 2:20, is the only precedent in Japanese women's marathoning for a runner going independent. Team Shiseido head coach Manabu Kawagoe left with four of his top women in 2007 to form the Second Wind club team. In his extensive, exclusive two-part interview with JRN published in the February and March issues of JRNPremium, Fujiwara talked about his hopes for the future post-March 31.

After 59 Years Asahi Kasei Women's Team Disappears

http://mytown.asahi.com/miyazaki/news.php?k_id=46000001004010004

translated by Brett Larner

A longtime home for top women over the past 59 years, on the first day of the new fiscal year today Asahi Kasei's women's team is no more. With the departure of members Yukiko Matsubara and Yukari Soh and no new women joining, the guiding light of the women's team has simply gone out. Matsubara is retiring from the sport, while Soh, the daughter of head coach Takeshi Soh, will continue working at the Asahi Kasei company and running on her own.

The Asahi Kasei track and field team was founded in 1946 in Nobeoka, Kyushu with a women's team added five years later. The team initially consisted primarily of sprinters, but over time its emphasis shifted to longer distances and it began to produce international-level athletes. 1988 Seoul Olympics marathoner Misako Miyahara, 1993 Stuttgart World Championships marathon bronze medalist and 100 km world record holder Tomoe Abe, and Olympian and two-time World Championships medalist Masako Chiba all belonged to Team Asahi Kasei.

However, recent athletes have tended to prefer to stay within metropolitan areas in Kanto and Kansai. Asahi Kasei scouts had increased difficulty doing their jobs, and in 2007 they were unable to sign any new runners meaning that in 2008 the women's team fell to two members. With the departure of Matsubara and Soh there is noone to replace them. Head coach Soh commented, "It's not that we are closing the women's team or that we won't hire any more new women. If any good athletes are interested they are welcome to apply."