Monday, January 31, 2011

Satoshi Osaki Makes Strong Beijing Comeback at End of Ekiden Season

by Brett Larner

Japan's 2010-2011 ekiden season wrapped Jan. 30 with two high-level men's races, the 65th Meigi Ekiden and the 74th Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden. At the Meigi Ekiden in Nagoya and Gifu, Team Aichi Seiko staged a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Team Aisan Kogyo, spending the first five stages in 5th place before winning by one second thanks to a sensational run from rookie anchor Mahoro Ikeda. 2011 New Year Ekiden national champion Team Toyota, running a mostly JV squad, was only 6th despite a 20:56 stage record run by Chihiro Miyawaki on the 7.3 km Second Stage and a stage best by Fifth Stage man Takamasa Uchida. 2007 World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), who had previously announced plans for a marathon debut this winter, won the 9.8 km Fourth Stage by 37 seconds, running a solid 26:31 but short of his own record from last year's race.

Further south at the Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden, Team Chugoku Denryoku took the win over Team Mazda by 46 seconds, running behind Mazda for the first five stages and only taking the lead on the Sixth Stage thanks to a stage best run from Rui Yonezawa. Chugoku Denryoku anchor Mitsuyoshi Shirahama was only 4th on stage time but was far enough ahead of Mazda anchor Fumiaki Tanaka to seal the win. With most of its past aces, including Shigeru Aburuya, Tsuyoshi Ogata, Atsushi Sato and Kurao Umeki, on the verge of retirement Chugoku Denryoku is in a rebuilding period, but its current young lineup looks set to become a leader on the ekiden circuit.

Outside the champion team, high schooler Genki Matsumura (Saikyo H.S.) turned some heads by finishing 2nd overall on the 15.1 km opening stage, running 44:44 to finish one second behind stage winner Koji Matsuoka (Team Mazda). But the real news came with the runner-up on the 11.1 km anchor stage. Satoshi Osaki (Team NTT Nishi Nihon), who ran a 2:08:36 PB at the 2008 Biwako Mainichi Marathon to take a place on the Beijing Olympics team only to withdraw just before the Olympic marathon with an injury, ran his first race in 2 1/2 years. And ran well. Osaki clocked 31:52, the second-best on the stage, just 6 seconds slower than stage winner Hiroshi Takahashi (Team JFE Steel) but over 31 seconds faster that the third-best man and moving NTT up from 5th to 4th.

Writing on NTT's website before the race Osaki said,
My immediate goal is running in the Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden on Jan. 30. I'll only be doing it as a training run, but after a long time out with injury I'm glad to finally be coming back to racing. I couldn't have kept it together without the support I got from everyone along the way. Thank you. I really wanted to run one marathon this season, but we've decided that it would be better to just go for the throat in one of the Olympic selection races next winter. After Beijing I told myself that making the next Olympics was an absolute must, and now we're up to that point. I'm going to hit it hard and fast at the selection race, then once I've got my Olympic ticket get myself into the shape I'll need to run my best at the Olympics. I think the London Olympics are going to be my last chance and I don't want to leave with any bitter memories this time, so all my concentration and hard work in the next year and a half will be on that.
At a flat conversion Osaki's performance at the ekiden converts to a 28:43 road 10 km. Not bad for a 'training run' comeback after 2 1/2 years away. Welcome back.

2011 Meigi Ekiden
click here for complete results
Top Individual Results
First Stage - 12.4 km - Takahiro Aso (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 35:48
Second Stage - 7.3 km - Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) - 20:56 - CR
Third Stage - 6.0 km - Tomoya Shirayanagi (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 17:28
Fourth Stage - 9.8 km - Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 26:31
Fifth Stage - 5.3 km - Takamasa Uchida (Team Toyota) - 15:02
Sixth Stage - 11.8 km - Mahoro Ikeda (Team Aichi Seiko) - 34:09

Top Team Results - 52.6 km
1. Team Aichi Seiko - 2:32:05
2. Team Aichi Kogyo - 2:32:06
3. Team Toyota Boshoku - 2:32:26
4. Suzuki Hamamatsu AC - 2:32:37
5. Team NTN - 2:32:47


2011 Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden
click here for complete results
Top Individual Results
First Stage - 15.1 km - Koji Matsuoka (Team Mazda) - 44:43
Second Stage - 11.3 km - Yuki Iwamoto (Team Mazda) - 32:54
Third Stage - 11.9 km - Takuya Ishikawa (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 35:23
Fourth Stage - 10.4 km - Hironori Arai (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 30:19
Fifth Stage - 8.7 km - Masashi Kada (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 24:52

Sixth Stage - 15.9 km - Rui Yonezawa (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 47:13
Seventh Stage - 11.1 km - Hiroshi Takahashi (Team JFE Steel) - 31:46

Top Team Results - 84.4 km
1. Team Chugoku Denryoku - 4:09:42
2. Team Mazda - 4:10:28
3. Team JFE Steel - 4:12:58
4. Team NTT Nishi Nihon - 4:14:55
5. Team Chudenko - 4:15:47

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Yukiko Akaba Wins Cold and Windy Osaka International Women's Marathon

by Brett Larner
photo by Mika Tokairin


2011 Osaka top six, L-R Akaba, Ito, Horie, Incerti, Kizaki and Okunaga.

On a near-freezing, windy day the top Japanese marathoner of 2010, Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), took her first marathon victory with a 2:26:29 win at the 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon. Second-time marathoner Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) ran a bold race, repeatedly surging to the lead in an unsuccessful effort to break Akaba and was rewarded with an over two-minute PB of 2:26:55. Both women fell short of the 2:25:59 requirement for an automatic spot on the 2011 World Championships team and thus must wait until March to hear the official team announcement, but each earned praise from notoriously critical Rikuren director Keisuke Sawaki for their strong performances in difficult conditions. Regardless of the outcome, Akaba indicated that she plans to run April's London Marathon to go for a fast time prior to the World Championships.

Along with Akaba and Ito, veteran Chika Horie (Team Univ. Ent.) was likewise impressive, coming back from being dropped several times and even taking the lead before finishing 3rd in 2:27:26. Italian Anna Incerti ran a smart race, staying back in the second pack and then moving up to overtake Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), one of the pre-race favorites for the win, for 4th in a 9-second PB of 2:27:33. Kizaki, one of the best Japanese women of 2010 but hampered by Achilles trouble of late, rounded out the top five in 2:29:35.

In its 30th anniversary, Osaka this year featured its first course change in 20 years, the elimination of the old course's most famous feature, the hilly and twisting turn through Osaka Castle, intended to make the already-fast course even faster. JRN associate editor Mika Tokairin (Namban Rengo AC), who ran Osaka, described the new course as, "Fantastic. Without the wind it could be an extremely fast course." Osaka also for the first time featured pacemakers, with Hungarian Aniko Kalovics and young Japanese runners Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) and Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya) performing their duties well. With a target pace of 17:00 per 5 km the lead pack went through 5 km in 16:59, 10 km in 33:47 and 15 km in 50:56. All eight elite Japanese women followed, while the four foreign elites, Incerti, Adriana Pirtea (Romania), Liudmila Petrova (Russia) and Svetlana Zakharova (Russia) ran some distance behind in a pack of their own.

Following pacer Higuchi's departure at 15 km the pace slowed gradually as the strong wind became a drain upon the runners. By halfway the lead group had slowed to low-2:24 pace. Ito surged into the lead with the withdrawal of the final pacer at 25 km and the next 5 km were marginally faster. Akaba and Kizaki were the only ones to follow Ito's lead, while Horie spent some time working her way back up to the lead trio. Despite Ito's efforts each successive 5 km then slowed, but first Kizaki and then Horie were unable to keep up with the press. Finally with 3 km to go Akaba made her move, leaving Ito behind with ease as she went on to her first win. Only Italian Incerti shook up the running order, moving up to overtake five of the elite Japanese women and coming up just short of catching Horie.

Five races factor into the selection of the five spots on the 2011 World Championships team. With two-time WC team member Yumiko Hara (Team Univ. Ent.) coming in at only 2:34:12 in winning last August's Hokkaido Marathon and no marathon medals at November's Asian Games, all five spots should come from Osaka, February's Yokohama International Women's Marathon and March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon. Despite missing the automatic qualifying time of 2:25:59 Akaba is all but certain to make the team. Ito is likely to be named on the strength of run but must wait to see the results in Yokohama and Nagoya before her place is secure.

In the accompanying half marathon, Naoto Morimoto (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) ran in a lead pack of five through 10 km before accelerating over the second half to win the men's division in 1:04:39 by a margin of nearly 30 seconds. In the women's division 19 year old Shiori Hayashita, surprisingly enough a student at the Osaka University of the Arts, ran a patient race some distance behind early leader Risa Hagiwara (Second Wind AC) before taking the lead in the final 5 km and winning in 1:15:28 to Hagiwara's 1:15:42. Masters runner and mother of two Chihiro Tanaka (Athlec AC) was 3rd for the second year in a row, while two-time World Championships marathon medalist Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) returned to racing after giving birth last April, 4th in 1:22:40. Tosa is scheduled to run the Tokyo Marathon next month.

2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon - Top Finishers
click here for complete results
1. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 2:26:29
2. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:26:55 - PB
3. Chika Horie (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:27:26
4. Anna Incerti (Italy) - 2:27:33 - PB
5. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 2:29:35
6. Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) - 2:30:36
7. Adriana Pirtea (Romania) - 2:32:44
8. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:36:43
9. Svetlana Zakharova (Russia) - 2:36:56
10. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:38:31

2011 Osaka Half Marathon - Top Finishers
click here for complete results
Men
1. Naoto Morimoto (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 1:04:39
2. Osamu Ibata (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:05:06
3. Yusuke Kataoka (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:05:16

Women
1. Shiori Hayashita (Osaka Univ. of the Arts) - 1:15:18
2. Risa Hagiwara (Second Wind AC) - 1:15:42
3. Chihiro Tanaka (Athlec AC) - 1:17:34
4. Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 1:22:40

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved
photo (c) and (p) 2011 Mika Tokairin
all rights reserved

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Injured Hara, Morimoto Out of Osaka International Women's Marathon



http://www.kahoku.co.jp/news/2011/01/2011012801000700.htm
http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/110129/spg1101290502002-n1.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The elite athletes at this year's World Championships selection edition and 30th anniversary Osaka International Women's Marathon were presented at a press conference Jan. 28 in Osaka. Going for her first marathon win and second-straight World Championships team, Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) said, "I'm in the best shape I've ever been up until now." Of the new course, the first change in 20 years, last year's 6th-place finisher Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) predicted, "They've cut down on the hills, but I think the race is going to be decided on what up-down there is."

Race organizers also announced that four invited elites have withdrawn. Yumiko Hara (Team Univ. Ent.) has pulled a muscle in her right thigh, while Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) has a stress fracture in her left foot. Overseas elites Adriana Fernandez (Mexico) and Teyana Holovchenko (Ukraine) have also withdrawn.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Akaba Wants the Win and the Time - Osaka International Women's Marathon Preview (updated)

by Brett Larner

Update: Yumiko Hara (Team Univ. Ent.), Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya), Adriana Fernandez (Mexico) and Tetyana Holovchenko have withdrawn with injuries.

The 30th anniversary Osaka International Women's Marathon takes place this Sunday, Jan. 30. With a new course which aims to be flatter and faster by eliminating the old course's most famous feature, the twisting and hilly turn through the ground of Osaka Castle, organizers are hopeful of seeing outstanding times in the first of the major domestic selection races for this summer's World Championships. 2009 World Championships marathoner Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) says she is going to deliver.

Akaba, one of Japan's top track and half marathon runners in the last few years, came to last year's Osaka with a knee injury, but despite being less than 100% she led the race through a 1:10:45 in cold rain. Akaba ultimately DNF'd but said afterwards that she had just wanted to see what she could do in the shape she was in, and returned later in the spring to set a modest PB of 2:24:55 at the London Marathon. This year Akaba says she is fit and going not only for a World Championships spot but the win, and not only the win but a fast time. If she follows through on last year's performance the Japanese all-comers' record of 2:21:18 could be in range.

Two overseas women have faster PBs, Russians Liudmila Petrova and Svetlana Zakharova, but with both in their 40's it's questionable whether they could still be factors in a fast race. That leaves Italian Anna Incerti as the probable top foreign entrant, with a PB of 2:27:42. Not far off is Romanian Adriana Pirtea, who improved her PB to 2:28:52 after her infamous near-win at the Chicago Marathon.

The biggest potential news could come from two follow-up marathoners who debuted in 2010, Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) and Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku). Kizaki was the best all-around Japanese woman of 2010, with strong track performances, a good run at the World Half Marathon, and a 2:27:34 debut at last year's Osaka after following Akaba's 1:10:45 first half. She says she is shooting for a 2:24, which should be enough for at least 2nd Japanese. Ito was 4th at last year's Nagoya International Women's Marathon in her debut. Her time of 2:29:13 was not particularly remarkable, but it does not tell the full story of her run. Despite committing to the marathon only a month beforehand, Ito ran head-to-head against the experienced Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) in the latter stages of the race, pushing the pace before falling apart in the final 5 km and losing two places. Since then she has run 3000 m, 5000 m and 10000 m PBs, and with experience and better stamina this time around her coach Tadasu Kawano says she is ready for the win.

Osaka also features a number of other women in the 2:26-2:39 range, most of whom could be in the pack late in the race. Chika Horie (Team Univ. Ent.), Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) and Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) all hold solid experience behind them, with Okunaga having shown potential for something higher by running in the lead pack at the 2009 London Marathon. 2010's top two Japanese half marathoners, identical twins Hiroko and Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) have yet to find success at the marathon but have the talent to be there.

The Osaka International Women's Marathon will be broadcast live on Fuji TV beginning at noon Japan time on Jan. 30. Overseas viewers should be able to watch for free online via Keyhole TV, available here. Live English commentary via Twitter will be available @JRNLive.

2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon
click here for complete field listing
1. Liudmila Petrova (Russia) - 2:21:29 (London '06)
2. Svetlana Zakharova (Russia) - 2:21:31 (Chicago '02)
4. Anna Incerti (Italy) - 2:27:42 (Milan '08)
5. Adriana Pirtea (Romania) - 2:28:52 (London '08)
33. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 2:24:55 (London '10)
34. Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:26:09 (Osaka '08)
35. Chika Horie (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:26:11 (Hokkaido '02)
36. Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) - 2:27:16 (Osaka '09)
37. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 2:27:34 (Osaka '10)
38. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:29:13 (Nagoya '10)
39. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:32:20 (Yokohama '09)
40. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:33:36 (Nagoya '10)
101. Ayumi Nakayama (Team Yamada Denki) - 2:28:50 (Osaka '08)
102. Saori Nejo (Team Hokuren) - 2:33:54 (Osaka '10)
106. Satoko Uetani (Kobe Gakuin Univ.) - 2:33:55 (Sapporo '09)


pacemakers
62. Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal)
61. Aniko Kalovics (Hungary)
63. Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya)

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Haile Leads 2011 Tokyo Marathon - Complete Elite Field Listing

by Brett Larner

The Tokyo Marathon has announced the elite field for this year's fifth running, to be held Feb. 27. Following through on his pre-retirement crisis promise, world record holder Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) will return to the marathon distance after his DNF at November's New York City Marathon.

Gebrselassie faces what is without a doubt the strongest field in Tokyo's short history, including 2010 and 2009 winners Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) and Salim Kipsang (Kenya), 2010 Biwako Mainichi Marathon winner Yemane Tsegaye (Ethiopia), 2010 Hokkaido Marathon winner Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Cable), 2008 Kenyan XC champion Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin) in his marathon debut, recent 2:07 man Paul Biwott (Kenya), 2:07 runner and former teammate of Fujiwara's Hailu Mekonnen (Ethiopia), veteran great Felix Limo (Kenya), top-ranked Japanese debutant Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota), and, thus far unsuccessful at the marathon in his first two attempts, sub-hour half marathoner Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem). It will not be an easy task for aging legend Haile to add another win to his legacy.

As a domestic selection race for the 2011 World Championships marathon team, Tokyo has also attracted a number of strong contenders led by Honda's defending champion Fujiwara and 2011 New Year Ekiden champion Toyota's Oda. The top Japanese man will earn a guaranteed spot on the World Championships team provided he breaks 2:09:30, which, despite Tokyo's potentially fast course, has remained difficult thus far due to atrocious weather in three of the four runnings to date.

Fujiwara, who holds the collegiate and debut marathon national records thanks to his 2:08:12 PB run at the 2003 Biwako Mainichi Marathon, won last year's Tokyo with a patient run and brilliant surge at 40 km amid freezing rain and sleet before following up with a weak 2:12:00 at September's Berlin Marathon. Oda, a sub-62 half marathoner, broke 28 for 10000 m for the first time last fall at the top of his marathon training and looks poised for the best Japanese marathon debut of the year.

Ekiden specialist Keita Akiba (Team Komori Corp.) had an excellent debut at the 2009 Beppu-Oita Marathon and may be the best bet for a major breakthrough in his follow-up marathon after a stage win at this year's New Year Ekiden. Veterans Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) and Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) have fallen on hard times in the last year but have solid credentials and World Championship experience. Despite disappointing performances in their most recent marathons, three runners from outside the corporate team system, 2008 Hokkaido Marathon winner and impending head coach of national champion Saku Chosei H.S. Masaru Takamizawa, two-time Tokyo runner-up Arata Fujiwara (Remo System RC) and last year's surprise 4th placer Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) also add interest should they wind up in contention for a spot. If there is a dark horse to watch out for it is former half marathon junior national record holder Hideaki Date (Team Chugoku Denryoku), spectacularly talented while at Tokai University and all but invisible since going pro, in his marathon debut.

The Tokyo Marathon's women's race is not a national team selection event but includes a field at least as strong as those already announced for the Jan. 30 Osaka and Feb. 20 Yokohama women's marathons. Former national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo) makes a return to the marathon alongside teammates Reiko Tosa and Miki Ohira after nearly two years of injury and motivation issues. Shibui claims she will not race seriously, but even so she is likely to be among the leaders. Her strongest domestic competitor is 2009 Hokkaido Marathon winner and course record holder Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC), the wife of men's elite Takamizawa. Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei), a teammate of 2009 World Championships marathon silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki, and Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal), a training partner of 3000 m, 5000 m and half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi, will also be lining up for their marathon debuts with solid sub-71 half marathon credentials.

Four of the five overseas elites hail from eastern Europe, including Romanian Nuta Olaru and 2010 Dublin Marathon winner Tatiana Aryasova (Russia). The lone African woman is two-time Ottawa Marathon winner Asmae Leghzaoui (Morocco), meaning that along with men's elite Arata Fujiwara this year's Tokyo Marathon features both Ottawa Marathon course record holders.

Look for detailed JRN pre- and post-race coverage of this year's Tokyo Marathon in the weeks to come.

2011 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field
click here for complete elite field listing
Men
1. Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) - 2:03:59 (Berlin 2008) - WR
2. Felix Limo (Kenya) - 2:06:14 (Rotterdam 2004)
3. Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) - 2:06:30 (Paris 2009)
4. Paul Biwott (Kenya) - 2:07:02 (Amsterdam 2009)
5. Salim Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:07:29 (Berlin 2007)
6. Hailu Mekonnen (Ethiopia) - 2:07:37 (Amsterdam 2010)
7. Abraham Tadesse (Ethiopia) - 2:09:24 (Berlin 2010)
8. Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Cable) - 2:11:22 (Hokkaido 2010)
9. Gideon Ngatuny (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - debut - 59:50 (Nagoya Half 2009)
11. Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) - 2:08:12 (Biwako 2003)
12. Arata Fujiwara (Remo System RC) - 2:08:40 (Tokyo 2008)
13. Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) - 2:09:23 (Fukuoka 2008)
14. Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:43 (Tokyo Int'l 2004)
15. Keita Akiba (Team Komori Corp.) - 2:10:53 (Beppu-Oita 2009)
16. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:12:35 (Tokyo 2010)
17. Takaaki Koda (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:04 (Tokyo 2010)
18. Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:23:06 (Tokyo 2010)
19. Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - debut - 1:01:41 (Jitsugyodan Half 2009)

101. Masaru Takamizawa (Saku Chosei H.S.) - 2:12:10 (Hokkaido 2008)
106. Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem) - 2:16:38 (Hokkaido 2010)
139. Hideaki Date (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - debut - 1:02:08 (Ageo City Half 2004)

Women
21. Nuta Olaru (Romania) - 2:24:33 (Chicago 2004)
22. Tatiana Petrova (Russia) - 2:25:53 (Dubai 2009)
23. Tatiana Aryasova (Russia) - 2:26:13 (Dublin 2010)
24. Asmae Leghzaoui (Morocco) - 2:27:41 (Ottawa 2009)
25. Olena Burkovska (Ukraine) - 2:28:31 (Berlin 2010)
31. Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:19:41 (Berlin 2004)
32. Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 2:25:41 (Hokkaido 2010)
33. Yumi Hirata (Team Shiseido) - 2:29:23 (Nagoya Int'l 2008)
34. Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei) - debut - 1:10:27 (Miyaki Women's Half 2010)
35. Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) - debut - 1:10:57 (Marugame Half 2010)

201. Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:22:46 (London 2002)
202. Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:26:09 (Osaka 2008)

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

JRN Headlines Now Available on Twitter

JRN is now available via Twitter @JRNHeadlines. Follow us to get the latest news with links to complete articles on the JRN main site.

Seven Straight Weeks of Elite Marathon Action

by Brett Larner

This weekend kicks off the busiest period of the year for Japanese distance running, with Sunday's Osaka International Women's Marathon leading seven straight weekends of elite marathons in this World Championships qualifying season. It's busier than ever thanks to last fall's APEC conference in Yokohama, which forced the second running of the Yokohama International Women's Marathon to shift from November to February. A quick guide to the upcoming marathons, all of which except Nobeoka will be broadcast live nationwide and viewable overseas.

Jan. 30: Osaka International Women's Marathon
Feb. 6: Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
Feb. 13: Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon
Feb. 20: Yokohama International Women's Marathon
Feb. 27: Tokyo Marathon
Mar. 6: Biwako Mainichi Marathon
Mar. 13: Nagoya International Women's Marathon

It's not just marathons, either, as the world's two most competitive 30 km races, four of its most competitive half marathons, several high-level 10-milers, the last major ekiden of the season and even the miniature domestic XC season also fall within the same window.

Jan. 30: Meigi Ekiden
Feb. 6: Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon
Feb. 11: Himejijo 10-Miler
Feb. 13: Karatsu 10-Miler / 10 km
Feb. 13: Chiba International XC Meet
Feb. 20: Ome 30 km / 10 km
Feb. 26: Fukuoka International XC Meet
Feb. 27: Kumanichi 30 km
Mar. 13: Tachikawa Akishima Half Marathon
Mar. 20: National Jitsugyodan Half Marathon Championships
Mar. 20: Matsue Ladies' Half Marathon

Another dozen or more elite-level races fill in the gaps. As always, JRN will bring you coverage of it all. Stay tuned for our previews and results, beginning later today with a preview of Sunday's Osaka International Women's Marathon and its accompanying elite-level half marathon.

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Ominami, Kurosaki Return to Ome 30 km

http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/news/20110126-OHT1T00300.htm
http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/event/sports/news/20110126-OHT1T00302.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

2009 Ome 30 km winner Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Team Konica Minolta) and 2007 Rotterdam Marathon winner Hiromi Ominami (Utic AC) will return to this year's 45th anniversary Ome 30 km, with a field of 15000 the world's largest 30 km race, scheduled for Feb. 20 in Tokyo's mountainous western suburbs.

Kurosaki seeks to become the fourth man in Ome history to win twice. He will face the top Japanese man from last year's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, Atsushi Ikawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and the 2000 winner of Ome's H.S. 10 km division, Daisuke Shimizu (Team Kanebo). With such strong competition his win is anything but assured.

Ominami will run Ome for the second straight year, having finished as runner-up last year. She will run Ome as a tune-up for March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon where she hopes to earn a spot on the Japanese national team for August's World Championships.

Sumo yokozuna Hakuho will serve as the official starter for the race, following in the footsteps of marathon greats Naoko Takahashi and Toshihiko Seko and Beijing Olympics bronze medalist sprinter Nobuharu Asahara.

2011 Ome 30 km Elite Field
click here for complete elite field details
Men
Jason Lehmkuhle (U.S.A.) - 1:02:32 (half)
Atsushi Ikawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:03:03 (half)
Daisuke Shimizu (Team Kanebo) - 1:03:39 (half)
Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Team Konica Minolta) - 1:03:41 (half)

Women
Hiromi Ominami (Utic AC) - 1:08:45 (half)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

Organizers of the 49th Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon have announced the elite field for the Feb. 13 race. A developmental race for up-and-coming marathoners and first-timers, Nobeoka serves the role of a step up to the next tier of the Japanese marathoning circuit.

Last year's 3rd-placer Takanori Ide (Team Kyudenko) heads the field, and with training partner Kazuhiro Maeda going for a World Championships spot a week before at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Ide has been doing the workouts necessary to win. His competition will include last year's 5th-place man Kenji Higashino (Team Asahi Kasei), Takayuki Ota (Team Fujitsu), and, looking to improve on his rare overseas debut at last fall's Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Minoru Okuda (Team Honda). Among the debutants Okuda's teammate Seigo Ikegami (Team Honda) is the most likely to have a strong showing, but 1:02 half marathoners Yusuke Ichinoi (Team Nishitetsu) and Takaharu Miyazaki (Team Sumco) should also be near the forefront.

2011 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon Elite Field
click here for complete field listing with photos
Takanori Ide (Team Kyudenko) - 2:14:11 (Nobeoka 2010)
Takayuki Ota (Team Fujitsu) - 2:15:23 (Fukuoka 2009)
Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:42 (Hofu 2010)
Kenji Higashino (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:15:42 (Nobeoka 2010)
Katsuhiro Katagai (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:15:47 (Nobeoka 2008)
Minoru Okuda (Team Honda) - 2:18:52 (Toronto Waterfront 2010)
Takumi Owada (Team Hitachi Cable) - 2:22:02 (Tokyo 2010)
Michinori Takano (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 2:24:27 (Senshu 2010)
Naoki Yamashita (Team NTN) - 2:25:43 (Nobeoka 2010)
Yusuke Ichinoi (Team Nishitetsu) - debut - 1:02:44 (Ageo Half 2005)
Takaharu Miyazaki (Team Sumco) - debut - 1:02:50 (Marugame Half 2009)
Seigo Ikegami (Team Honda) - debut - 1:03:00 (Kyoto Half 2002)
Kenji Sakata (Team Kurosaki Harima) - debut - 1:03:09 (Jitsugyodan 2005)
Takahiro Inoue (Team Komori Corp.) - debut - 1:03:39 (Inuyama 2007)
Bunta Kuroki (Team Yasukawa Denki) - debut - 1:03:57 (Jitsugyodan 2009)
Mahoro Ikeda (Team Aichi Seiko) - debut - 1:04:12 (Nagoya 2010)


(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, January 24, 2011

WC Silver Medalist Ozaki, '09 NYC Champ Tulu Lead Yokohama Int'l Women's Marathon Elites

http://www.asahi.com/sports/spo/TKY201101250131.html
http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/110124/spg1101241747004-n1.htm
http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2011012400672

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Jan. 24 Rikuren announced the domestic and overseas elite fields for the second running of the Yokohama International Women's Marathon, scheduled for Feb. 20. The domestic field of six includes 2009 World Championships marathon silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) and 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon 5th place finisher Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko. The foreign field of five is led by 2009 New York City Marathon winner Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia), who holds a marathon best of 2:23:30. 2004 Athens Olympics marathoner Naoko Sakamoto (Team Tenmaya) is entered in the general division.

As a selection race for August's World Championships in Daegu, Korea, the top Japanese woman in Yokohama will earn a place on the team provided she runs under 2:26 on the flatter new course starting and finishing at Yokohama's Yamashita Park. To aid in achieving this time goal Rikuren will employ female pacemakers, including 2010 Sanyo Women's Half Marathon winner Shoko Mori (Team Otsuka Seiyaku). According to Rikuren Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee member Toshio Kiuchi, the pacemakers will go out targeting a time faster than 2:25.

2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon Elite Field
Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:23:30
Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) - 2:23:30
Azalech Masresha (Ethiopia) - 2:25:34
Marisa Barros (Portugal) - 2:25:44
Alevtina Ivanonva (Russia) - 2:26:38
Karolina Jarzynska (Poland) - 2:29:10
Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 2:29:36
Kaori Yoshida (Amino Vital AC) - 2:29:45
Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) - 2:34:29
Kaoru Nagao (Team Universal Ent.) - debut - 1:10:45
Yuka Izumi (Team Tenmaya) - debut - 1:10:58

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Yoko Shibui to Run Tokyo Marathon

http://www.nikkei.com/sports/news/article/g=96958A9C81818A9993E2E0E0EB8DE0E1E2E3E0E2E3E3E2E2E2E2E2E2;da=96958A88889DE2E0E3EAEAE5E6E2E0E3E3E0E0E2E2EBE2E2E2E2E2E2 http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/news/20110124k0000m050083000c.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Following her stage win at the Jan. 23 Kita-Kyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden, 10000 m national record holder and former marathon national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) announced that she will run the Feb. 27 Tokyo Marathon. It will be Shibui's first full marathon since pulling out of the 2009 World Championships marathon team with a stress fracture. "My teammate Reiko Tosa is running, so I thought it would be fun to enter too," Shibui said. "I'm just going to run comfortably without setting any target time."

Shibui's coach Shigeharu Watanabe said that the decision to run Tokyo came shortly after Shibui's successful return to competition at December's National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships. "Her training is at about 60 or 70% of normal," he commented. "I want her to enjoy being out in a marathon again." On Feb. 4 Shibui will leave for a two-week training camp on Miyako Island to do her final preparations for the main event.

Also following the Kita-Kyushu Invitational, Team Tenmaya head coach Yutaka Taketomi indicated that Beijing Olympics marathoner Yurika Nakamura, who Shibui beat by more than 90 seconds over 11.7 km in Kita-Kyushu, will run her spring marathon at March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon, the site of her successful debut in 2008.

Translator's note: Despite having top-class fields the Tokyo Marathon is not a World Championships selection race for women, meaning that Shibui is forgoing the chance to pick up a spot on the national team. Nakamura will be elligible should she win again in Nagoya.

Ugachi Anchors Tochigi's First National Men's Ekiden Win - Video Highlights

by Brett Larner

Click photo for video highlights courtesy of NHK.

First-year pro Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta), 12th at last fall's World Half Marathon in a sub-62 minute PB, brought his native Tochigi Prefecture home for its first-ever win Jan. 23 at the National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden Championships in Hiroshima. Buoyed by strong performances from high schooler teammates Genki Yagisawa (Nasu Takuyo H.S.) and Keita Shioya (Nasu Takuyo H.S.) Tochigi took an early lead and, even when passed, was never out of the top three. Ugachi started the 13.0 km anchor stage just 2 seconds behind leader Kosaku Hoshina (Miyagi/Team Nissin Shokuhin) and swiftly took the lead, ultimately opening a gap of 31 seconds to take the win.

Defending champion Hyogo Prefecture struggled, dropping from among the leaders to the 20's in the middle stages, returning to the forefront, then dropping again to 10th after a weak anchor leg by Hoshina's teammate Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin). Pre-race favorite Kagoshima Prefecture, which featured three members of 2010 National High School Ekiden champion Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S. in its lineup, likewise floundered, its hopes of a late-stage comeback sunk by a weak showing by veteran anchor Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo). In their places, 2009 champion Nagano Prefecture, host Hiroshima Prefecture and unheralded Kyoto Prefecture all had good days to take 2nd through 4th. Mie Prefecture rounded out the top 5 in its best-ever finish thanks in large part to anchor Yusuke Takabayashi of 2011 New Year Ekiden national champion Team Toyota. Takabayashi took the fastest time on the star-studded anchor stage, clocking individual kilometer splits as fast as 2:37 on the 13.0 km leg.

In terms of individual action, the biggest draw of the Interprefectural Ekiden for the second year in a row was Nagano's Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.). The 19 year-old Murasawa, who passed 17 people in a field of 20 earlier this month on the Hakone Ekiden's most competitive stage just a hair from the fastest time ever by a Japanese runner on that leg, had another stage-winning run, this time passing 24 people and the finishing as the only runner to break 24 minutes. Prior to running Murasawa said he was confident of picking up 20-30 seconds, but despite starting 43 seconds back from leader Yuki Yagi (Hyogo/Waseda Univ.) Murasawa made it all the way to the front, briefly taking the lead before being outkicked by Yagi, who cruised the stage and recorded only the 16th-fastest time.

Twin high school seniors Kenta Murayama and Kota Murayama (Miyagi/Meisei H.S.) both gained attention with excellent runs. Kenta, who made news in the fall with a 28:23.18 clocking for 10000 m, took the lead from Murasawa's Nagano Prefecture team and won the 8.5 km Fifth Stage in 24:33 despite apparent sideache difficulties over the final 3 km of the stage. His lesser-known twin Kota ran a patient First Stage, staying in the pack and ignoring the surges thrown in by leader Kazuto Nishiike (Hyogo/Suma Gakuen H.S.). With 400 m to go Kota launched an incredible all-out kick, obviously not sustainable all the way but good enough to take second after he tied up in the final meters of the 7 km leg. Stage winner Yagisawa of Tochigi told reporters afterward, "Coach told me that that last stretch is longer than it looks, so I was careful to time my kick. I was pretty shocked by Murayama's kick, though." Kenta Murayama will head to 2011 Hakone Ekiden 3rd placers Komazawa Univ. following his graduation in March, while Kota Murayama will join Josai Univ., which finished a heartbreaking 11th in Hakone's now-famous wrong-turn final kick incident.

2011 National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden
Jan. 23, Hiroshima
7 stages, 48.0 km
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
click stage headers for video highlights
First Stage - 7.0 km (H.S.)
1. Genki Yagisawa (Tochigi/Nasu Takuyo H.S.) - 20:07
2. Kota Murayama (Miyagi/Meisei H.S.) - 20:08
3. Ryota Matono (Nagasaki/Isahaya H.S.) - 20:08

Second Stage - 3.0 km (J.H.S.)
1. Kengo Takamori (Chiba/Abiko J.H.S.) - 8:31
2. Taishi Sakamoto (Kagoshima/Akune J.H.S.) - 8:35
3. Yoshiki Minami (Shizuoka/Maisaka J.H.S.) - 8:47

Third Stage - 8.5 km (univ/pro)
1. Akinobu Murasawa (Nagano/Tokai Univ.) - 23:48
2. Yo Yazawa (Kanagawa/Waseda Univ.) - 24:02
3. Yusuke Hasegawa (Niigata/Jobu Univ.) - 24:07
4. Keiji Akutsu (Gunma/Team Subaru) - 24:09
5. Sota Hoshi (Fukushima/Team Fujitsu) - 24:11

Fourth Stage - 5.0 km (H.S.)
1. Keita Shioya (Tochigi/Nasu Takuyo H.S.) - 14:25
2. Hikaru Kato (Miyagi/Tohoku H.S.) - 14:30
2. Kazuma Watanabe (Kumamoto/Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 14:30

Fifth Stage - 8.5 km (H.S.)
1. Kenta Murayama (Miyagi/Meisei H.S.) - 24:33
2. Yuki Arimura (Kagoshima/Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.) - 24:37
3. Shota Shinjo (Hyogo/Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 24:40

Sixth Stage - 3.0 km (J.H.S.)
1. Yuichi Yasui (Chiba/Tokiwadaira J.H.S.) - 8:40
2. Makoto Mitsunobu (Fukuoka/Kasuga Nishi J.H.S.) - 8:41
3. Junpei Kanisawa (Nagano/Komagane Higashi J.H.S.) - 8:48

Seventh Stage - 13.0 km (pro/univ)
1. Yusuke Takabayashi (Mie/Team Toyota) - 37:25
2. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Hiroshima/Meiji Univ.) - 37:29
3. Yuichiro Ueno (Nagano/Team S&B) - 37:36
4. Takuya Ishikawa (Yamaguchi/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 37:37
5. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Tochigi/Team Konica Minolta) - 37:39
6. Chihiro Miyawaki (Gifu/Team Toyota) - 37:49
7. Rui Yonezawa (Fukui/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 37:53
8. Satoru Sasaki (Akita/Team Asahi Kasei) - 37:54
9. Hiroyuki Ono (Gunma/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 37:55
9. Fumihiro Maruyama (Oita/Team Asahi Kasei) - 37:55

Top Team Performances - 48.0 km
1. Tochigi - 2:19:31
2. Nagano - 2:20:02
3. Hiroshima - 2:20:37
4. Kyoto - 2:20:39
5. Mie - 2:20:40
6. Nagasaki - 2:20:42
7. Hyogo - 2:20:43
8. Miyagi - 2:20:43
9. Kumamoto - 2:20:45
10. Chiba - 2:20:58

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Shibui Slays Tenmaya for Kita-Kyushu Invitational Win

by Brett Larner

You can't keep a great champion down. Mostly absent from competition with injuries and motivation issues for the two years since winning the 2009 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 10000 m national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) looked well on her way to staging the nth comeback of a career full of ups and downs Jan. 23 at the Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden, the last major women's ekiden of the season. Starting the 11.7 km anchor leg 47 seconds back from leader Yurika Nakamura of 2010 National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden winners Team Tenmaya, Shibui virtually singlehandedly won the race as she finished the stage 48 seconds ahead in 1st. Although she was far from the stage record, Shibui also took the best time on the stage by 15 seconds over 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon winner Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC), clocking 37:12.

Before Shibui's outstanding performance Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo was running 4th in the field of 29 pro, university and high school teams including the 2010 national champions at all three levels. The race appeared to be between Team Tenmaya, which led through the First Stage after a strong opening run from Rei Ohara, and Team Kyudenko, which took the lead on the Second Stage thanks to Kenyan Sally Chepyego. Kyudenko's Mika Okunaga, in her final tuneup for next weekend's Osaka International Women's Marathon, took the stage best on the Third Stage to keep her team in the lead, while further back local girl Kasumi Todaka (Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S.) overtook Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo's Eri Sato to move into 3rd. Tenmaya's Kaori Urata took the best time on the Fourth Stage to move back into the lead, while high schooler Ayano Ikeuchi (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) was only one second slower, clocking a new H.S. stage record of 19:06 for the 5.9 km leg to replace Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S. in 3rd.

While Shibui blew out the 11.7 km open division anchor leg, the high schoolers split the stage into two shorter distances, 4.9 km and 6.8 km. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. was assured of the win thanks to a stage best by Nanami Aoki on the shorter Fifth Stage. On the H.S. anchor stage 2010 national champion Kojokan H.S.' Katsuki Suga, fresh from a stage record at last weekend's National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden, rocked another stage record by 26 seconds, 20:00 for 6.8 km.

At December's National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships Shibui said that her decent run had been a lot of fun and had reawoken her urge for the marathon. Following her first-rate Kita-Kyushu Invitational performance Shibui announced that she will make a return to the marathon at next month's Tokyo Marathon alongside teammate Reiko Tosa's return from childbirth. Nakamura, who ran over 1 1/2 minutes slower than Shibui, likewise announced plans for a spring marathon, returning to the site of her debut marathon victory at March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon.

2011 Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden
Jan. 23, Kita-Kyushu
Open Division
5 stages, 32.8 km
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
First Stage - 4.2 km
1. Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) - 13:17
2. Kazuka Wakatsuki (Team Toto) - 13:20
3. Hanae Tanaka (Kita-Kyushu Select Team) - 13:23

Second Stage - 5.9 km
1. Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 18:24
2. Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) - 19:01
3. Yoshika Arai (Team Deodeo) - 19:35

Third Stage - 5.1 km
1. Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) - 16:44
2. Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 16:47
3. Eri Sato (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 16:48

Fourth Stage - 5.9 km
1. Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya) - 19:05
2. Ikuyo Yamashita (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 19:19
3. Madoki Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 19:31

Fifth Stage - 11.7 km
1. Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 37:12
2. Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) - 37:27
3. Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu) - 37:59

Top Team Results - 32.8 km
1. Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo - 1:46:40
2. Team Tenmaya - 1:47:28
3. Team Kyudenko - 1:47:48
4. Team Juhachi Ginko - 1:48:30
5. Canon AC Kyushu - 1:49:56

High School Division
6 stages, 32.8 km
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
First Stage - 4.2 km - Mika Kobayashi (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 13:27
Second Stage - 5.9 km - Shiori Yano (Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S.) - 19:03

Third Stage - 5.1 km - Kasumi Todaka (Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S.) - 16:47
Fourth Stage - 5.9 km - Ayano Ikeuchi (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 19:06 - CR
Fifth Stage - 4.9 km - Nanami Aoki (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 16:04
Sixth Stage - 6.8 km - Katsuki Suga (Kojokan H.S.) - 20:00 - CR


Top Team Results - 32.8 km
1. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. - 1:46:50
2. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. - 1:47:28
3. Kojokan H.S. - 1:48:21
4. Isahaya H.S. - 1:49:50
5. Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S. - 1:51:11


(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Toyo's Kashiwabara Out of National Men's Ekiden

http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/news/20110123-OHT1T00010.htm

translated by Brett Larner

Three-time Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage winner Ryuji Kashiwabara (3rd yr., Toyo Univ.) has withdrawn from his planned run for the Fukushima Prefecture team at today's National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden in Hiroshima due to pain in his right knee. If he recovers in time, his next target race will be the 10 km race at the Feb. 26 Fukuoka International XC Meet.

Kashiwabara was scheduled to run the 8.5 km Third Stage, but after discussion between the Toyo and Fukushima Prefecture teams it was decided that he would be withdrawn. "If he ran in his current condition it would be a lot of unnecessary pressure, so for his own sake we pulled him," explained Toyo head coach Toshiyuki Sakai, 34. He went on to say that while Kashiwabara is currently experiencing pain in his right knee and left heel, the ailments are not serious and they have focused on him being ready for the Fukuoka International XC Meet in one month's time.

Competing off the roads on the rough surfaces and hills of a cross-country course is a point of pride for Hakone's "God of the Mountain." The Fukuoka International XC Meet is a selection race for March's World XC Championships in Spain. It may well become the staging ground for Kashiwabara's big step up to take on the world.

Translator's note: Kashiwabara's run against Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) and Yoichiro Akiyama (Team Honda) on the Third Stage was one of the highlights of last year's Interprefectural Ekiden. Kashiwabara went on to spend most of 2010 injured but despite being less than 100% still won this year's Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage in a time faster than any other athlete has ever run.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Watch the National Men's Ekiden Championships Online (updated)

by Brett Larner

The 2011 National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden Championships take place Jan. 23 in Hiroshima. The race, which features teams made up of the best pro, university, high school and junior high school runners from each of Japan's 47 prefectures, will be broadcast live and commerical-free on NHK beginning at 12:15 p.m. Overseas viewers should be able to watch live online for free using Keyhole TV, available here, with password NHK. JRN will be doing live English-language commentary via Twitter @JRNLive. Live splits and race highlight videos will be available on NHK's race website.

Looking at the overall team competition, despite the absence of last year's anchor Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B), defending champion Hyogo is in an excellent position to defend its title with five of the team's seven runners ranked among the best on their respective stages. Look for First Stage runner Kazuto Nishiike, winner of last year's National High School Ekiden First Stage to put Hyogo into an early lead. Hyogo's strongest challenge will come from Kagoshima, which features three members of the 2010 National High School Ekiden champion Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S. team. Tochigi also features an excellent lineup with as many top-ranked men as Hyogo and should challenge for the win. Miyagi, Yamaguchi, host Hiroshima, Chiba, Nagano and Fukushima are in the next tier and should be near the front of the race throughout the afternoon. For JRN's entry list-based preview of individual stage highlights, click here.

2011 National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden
Start List Highlights
Jan. 23, 2011, Hiroshima
7 stages, 48.0 km
click here for complete entry lists
bib numbers: team - stage

First Stage - 7 km (H.S.)
stage record: 19:51 - Yuki Matsuoka (Kyoto/Rakunan H.S.), 2003 / Yuki Sato (Nagano/Saku Chosei H.S.), 2005
28-1. Kazuto Nishiike (Hyogo/Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 13:54.33
24-1. Mitsunori Asaoka (Gifu/Chukyo H.S.) - 13:55.02
46-1. Takashi Ichida (Kagoshima/Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.) - 13:55.44
9-1. Genki Yagisawa (Tochigi/Nasu Takuyo H.S.) - 13:57.37
35-1. Genki Matsumura (Yamaguchi/Saikyo H.S.) - 13:59.54
5-1. Kengo Namioka (Akita/Akita Kogyo H.S.) - 14:01.23
4-1. Kota Murayama (Miyagi/Meisei H.S.) - 14:04.18


Second Stage - 3 km (J.H.S.)
stage record: 8:30 - Yuta Katsumata (Shizuoka/Fujioka J.H.S.), 2009
46-2. Taishi Sakamoto (Kagoshima/Akune J.H.S.) - 8:31.89
11-2. Kazuki Takeshita (Saitama/Higashi Matsuyama E. J.H.S.) - 8:38.14
9-2. Wataru Tochigi (Tochigi/Ohira J.H.S.) - 8:38.58

34-2. Ren Josai (Hiroshima/Sera Nishi J.H.S.) - 8:38.84
27-2. Kenta Hosokawa (Osaka/Yuhigaoka J.H.S.) - 8:39.31
12-2. Kengo Takamori (Chiba/Abiko J.H.S.) - 8:39.64

Third Stage - 8.5 km (univ./pro)
stage record: 23:26 - Terukazu Omori (Kochi/Team Kuroshiro Tsushi Service), 2005
40-3. Yu Mitsuya (Fukuoka/Team Toyota Kyushu) - 27:41.10
1-3. Takashi Ota (Hokkaido/Team Konica Minolta) - 28:06.22
16-3. Yusuke Hasegawa (Niigata/Jobu Univ.) - 28:07.47
34-3. Naoki Okamoto (Hiroshima/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 28:07.99
19-3. Kenta Murotsuka (Ishikawa/SDF Academy) - 28:18.49

30-3. Takeshi Hamano (Wakayama/Team Toyota) - 28:20.85
33-3. Yosuke Kanezuka (Okayama/Team Honda) - 28:25.34
35-3. Taku Fujimoto (Yamaguchi/Kokushikan Univ.) - 28:27.66
8-3. Kazuya Deguchi (Ibaraki/Nittai Univ.) - 28:34.02

17-3. Akinobu Murasawa (Nagano/Tokai Univ.) - 28:44.23
14-3. Yo Yazawa (Kanagawa/Waseda Univ.) - 28:45.56
20-3. Tsubasa Hayakawa (Fukui/Tokai Univ.) - 28:47.37
44-3. Ikuto Yufu (Oita/Komazawa Univ.) - 28:51.71

9-3. Ryota Matoba (Tochigi/Juntendo Univ.) - 28:52.02
28-3. Yuki Yagi (Hyogo/Waseda Univ.) - 28:55.24

13-3. Ryotaro Nitta (Tokyo/Team Konica Minolta) - 28:56.88

Fourth Stage - 5 km (H.S.)
stage record: 14:10 - Hirotaka Tamura (Aomori/Aomori Yamada H.S.), 2010
46-4. Hiroshi Ichida (Kagoshima/Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.) - 14:01.59
43-4. Kazuma Watanabe (Kumamoto/Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 14:20.54
7-4. Kazuhito Sato (Fukushima/Tamura H.S.) - 14:20.75
12-4. Teruyasu Otsuki (Chiba/Kashiwa Nittai Prep H.S.) - 14:21.00
17-4. Toshiya Agekura (Nagano/Saku Chosei H.S.) - 14:21.47

Fifth Stage - 8.5 km (H.S.)
stage record: 23:55 - Akinobu Murasawa (Nagano/Saku Chosei H.S.), 2009
4-5. Kenta Murayama (Miyagi/Meisei H.S.) - 13:49.45
7-5. Norihisa Imai (Fukushima/Ishikawa H.S.) - 13:52.52
46-5. Yuki Arimura (Kagoshima/Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.) - 13:56.02
9-5. Ken Yokote (Tochigi/Sakushin Gakuin H.S.) - 13:58.93
28-5. Shota Shinjo (Hyogo/Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 13:59.61


Sixth Stage - 3 km (J.H.S.)
stage record: 8:31 - Taiga Machizawa (Chiba/Minami Nagareyama J.H.S.), 2010
19-6. Ryutaro Ichitani (Ishikawa/Tsubata Minami J.H.S.) - 8:34.57
28-6. Shigeki Fujiwara (Hyogo/Hiraoka J.H.S.) - 8:38.75
10-6. Yusuke Koike (Gunma/Nakano J.H.S.) - 8:43.01
12-6. Yuichi Yasui (Chiba/Tokiwadaira J.H.S.) - 8:44.16
46-6. Shunya Nomura (Kagoshima/Shibushi Ariake J.H.S.) - 8:45.74


Seventh Stage - 13 km (pro/univ.)
stage record: 37:09 - Kenta Oshima (Kochi/Team Kuroshiro Tsushi Service), 2004
46-7. Satoshi Irifune (Kagoshima/Team Kanebo) - 27:53.92
23-7. Yusuke Takabayashi (Mie/Team Toyota) - 27:57.46
28-7. Satoru Kitamura (Hyogo/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:00.22
9-7. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Tochigi/Team Konica Minolta) - 28:01.54

13-7. Daisuke Shimizu (Tokyo/Team Kanebo) - 28:10.68
35-7. Takuya Ishikawa (Yamaguchi/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 28:17.39

24-7. Chihiro Miyawaki (Gifu/Team Toyota) - 28:21.00
10-7. Hiroyuki Ono (Gunma/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:26.61
17-7. Yuichiro Ueno (Nagano/Team S&B) - 28:27.39

5-7. Satoru Sasaki (Akita/Team Asahi Kasei) - 28:32.30
40-7. Bunta Kuroki (Fukuoka/Team Yasukawa Denki) - 28:33.34
34-7. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Hiroshima/Meiji Univ.) - 28:34.12

4-7. Kosaku Hoshina (Miyagi/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:44.00
26-7. Hiroki Mitsuoka (Kyoto/Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 28:48.23

7-7. Hiromitsu Kakuage (Fukushima/Komazawa Univ.) - 28:57.47
11-7. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 29:02.33


(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comedian Hazama Completes Round-the-World Run

http://www.sanspo.com/geino/news/110122/gnj1101220508017-n1.htm

translated by Brett Larner



On Jan. 21 comedian Kanpei Hazama, 61, completed his round-the-world solo running and sailing "Earth Marathon," crossing the finish line onstage at Osaka's Nanba Grand Kagetsu auditorium. Greeted by his wife Mitsuyo, 53, and a large crowd of his fellow celebrities, Hazama, who was diagnosed with cancer partway through his run, wept openly before leading a group cheer of "Thank you!" The 41,000 km journey around the world took 766 days and passed through 18 countries including Japan.

Translator's note: Hazama's Youtube channel includes hundreds of videos documenting his trip.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fujita, Guta, Hunt, Njenga, Ramadhani Headline 60th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon (updated)

by Brett Larner

Updated Jan. 19 with complete elite field.

In a special advance release, organizers of the 60th anniversary Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon scheduled for Feb. 6 briefly made the names of some of this year's elite field publicly available on Jan. 14. At the top of the foreign elite field are 2003 Beppu-Oita winner Samson Ramadhani (Tanzania) and the man who made last year's Beppu-Oita of international note with an exciting come-from-behind 3rd-place finish and Australian debut record of 2:11:00, Jeff Hunt. Ramadhani, the 2006 Commonwealth Games and 2007 Biwako Mainichi Marathon champion, returns to Beppu-Oita after defeating Hunt in hot and humid conditions at October's Commonwealth Games where he was 5th in 2:19:31 to Hunt's 2:25:03 13th place finish. The rematch should be one of the highlights of this year's race.

Also in the international field are last year's runner-up Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Team Yakult), Ethiopian Abiyote Guta, last year's Marrakech Marathon 3rd placer Ahmed Baday (Morocco), Japan-based Kenyan Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) and veteran Andrew Letherby (Australia) whose PB of 2:11:42 dates to 2005.

Heading the domestic field which will by vying for a provisional spot on the 2011 World Championships team is Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), 2nd in 2:11:01 in his debut at the 2009 Tokyo Marathon. Alongside Maeda, 2007 Beppu-Oita winner and former national record holder Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu) will be making a comeback to the marathon after a strong run at this month's New Year Ekiden and a 1:29:46 win at last February's Kumanichi 30 km. Kenichiro Setoguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) had a strong 2:11:44 debut at last year's Biwako Mainichi Marathon and will be aiming to improve on his time, as will 2010 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon winner Masaki Shimoju. Among debutants, Yuki Nakamura (Team Kanebo) may be the best bet for a strong showing, coached by national record holder Toshinari Takaoka and holding a 1:02:32 half marathon PB. The close-matched field should make for an exciting pack race.

Among the general division entrants are 59+ world record holder Yoshihisa Hosaka and the 2009 Tokyo Marathon Man in the Wig, Nobuaki Takata. For the first time Beppu-Oita will also host an official women's field, featuring 17 second-tier pro and upper-level club women led by Team Kyudenko's Yuka Ezaki. Pacemakers include two-time Beppu-Oita winner and course record holder Gert Thys (South Africa).

2011 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Elite Field
click here for complete field listing
Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Team Yakult) - 2:06:16 (Chicago, 2002)
Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu) - 2:06:51 (Fukuoka, 2000)
Shigeru Aburuya (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:07:52 (Biwako, 2001)
Samson Ramadhani (Tanzania) - 2:08:01 (London, 2003)
Abiyote Guta (Ethiopia) - 2:09:03 (Dubai, 2010)
Ahmed Baday (Morocco) - 2:10:58 (Marrakech, 2010)
Jeff Hunt (Australia) - 2:11:00 (Beppu-Oita, 2010)
Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - 2:11:01 (Tokyo, 2009)
Andrew Letherby (Australia) - 2:11:42 (Berlin, 2005)
Kenichiro Setoguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:44 (Biwako, 2010)
Masaki Shimoju (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:12:18 (Nobeoka, 2010)
Tomonori Onitsuka (Team Kyudenko) - 2:12:48 (Beppu-Oita, 2005)
Harun Njoroge (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) - 2:13:04 (Hokkaido, 2010)
Keisuke Wakui (Team Yakult) - 2:13:43 (Beppu-Oita, 2010)
Kentaro Ito (Team Hyako Kyowa Bio) - 2:13:44 (Hofu, 2001)
Naoya Hashimoto (Team Chudenko) - 2:13:50 (Beppu-Oita, 2010)
Akinori Shibutani (Team Kurosaki Harima) - 2:13:51 (Beppu-Oita, 2000)
Fumihiro Watanabe (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:52 (Nobeoka, 2010)
Akiyuki Iwanaga (Team Kyudenko) - debut - 1:31:08 (30 km)
Yuki Nakamura (Team Kanebo) - debut - 1:02:32 (Marugame Half, 2009)


(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kenyan XC Champ Gideon Ngatuny to Debut at Tokyo Marathon

by Brett Larner

2010 national champions Team Nissin Shokuhin have announced that the team's star, 2008 Kenyan XC national champion Gideon Ngatuny, will run his marathon debut at the Feb. 27 Tokyo Marathon. Ngatuny, who holds a half marathon best of 59:50 and a 10000 m best of 27:01.83, has in the last two years progressively moved up in distance, with wins at the 2008 and 2009 Nagoya Half Marathon and the 2009 Sapporo International Half Marathon and a turn as a pacemaker at the 2010 London Marathon.

Ngatuny joins world record holder Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia), 2010 double Sapporo International Half Marathon and Hokkaido Marathon winner Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Cable) and New Year Ekiden Fifth Stage winner Keita Akiba (Team Komori Corp.) among the athletes to have already publicly declared their participation in what looks to be the highest-level Tokyo Marathon field to date.

Gideon Ngatuny - Kenya
born 10/10/86
half marathon: 59:50 (Nagoya, 2009)
10000 m: 27:01.83 (Tendo, 2009)
5000 m: 13:11.81 (Yokohama, 2008)

Major Results:
3rd, New Year Ekiden 2nd Stage (8.3 km), 1/1/11 - 22:30
7th, Lisboa Half Marathon, 3/21/10 - 1:01:07
1st, Nagoya Half Marathon, 11/23/09 - 59:50 - CR
1st, Sapporo Int'l Half Marathon, 7/5/09 - 1:00:39
1st, Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler, 12/8/08 - 45:15
1st, Nagoya Half Marathon, 11/24/08 - 1:00:11
7th, World XC Championships, Edinburgh, 3/30/08 - 35:16
1st, Kenyan National XC Championships, 2008
1st, Kenyan Prisons XC Championships, 2008
1st, New Year Ekiden 1st Stage (11.3 km), 1/1/08 - 30:59
4th, World XC Championships, Mombasa, 3/24/07 - 36:43

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saku Chosei H.S. Head Coach Morozumi to Take Over at Tokai University

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/e-japan/nagano/news/20110117-OYT8T01097.htm
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2011/01/17/kiji/K20110117000067200.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Saku Chosei H.S. head coach Hayashi Morozumi, 44, announced Jan. 17 that in April he will take over as head coach of his alma mater, 2011 Hakone Ekiden 4th-place Tokai University. Morozumi will replace current Tokai coach Toshihiro Arai, 58, who coached Morozumi during Morozumi's student days and asked him to be his replacement. Morozumi told reporters, "My goal is not just to do well at the Hakone Ekiden but to produce Olympians." Morozumi graduated from Tokai Dai-San Prep H.S. before running for Tokai University where he competed in the Hakone Ekiden all four years. He later ran professionally for the Nissan and Daiei teams.

Morozumi has been head coach at Saku Chosei since 1995 and brought the school its first National High School Ekiden Championships title in 2008 along with twelve top-eight finishes. Most of the best current under-25 runners passed through his leadership at Saku Chosei, including 2011 Hakone Ekiden MVP Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.), Asian half marathon junior area record holder Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.), Hakone Ekiden 6th Stage record holder Kenta Chiba (Komazawa Univ.), 2009 Ageo City Half Marathon winner Shota Hiraga (Waseda Univ.), 27:38 10000 m runner and three-time Hakone Ekiden stage record setter Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and 2009 double 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B). Key to Morozumi's success as a coach has been the introduction of cross-country training on a custom-built course near the Saku Chosei campus in the mountains of Nagano.

Replacing him as coach at Saku Chosei is current assistant coach Masaru Takamizawa, 29. Takamizawa, a graduate of Saku Chosei, ran at Yamanashi Gakuin University and Team Nissin Shokuhin before becoming assistant coach in 2008. He won the 2008 Hokkaido Marathon wearing a Saku Chosei singlet. Explaining Takamizawa's selection Morozumi commented, "Takamizawa is himself a strong athlete, and I thought that under his leadership the team would continue to do well." Takamizawa said, "I hope to apply the knowhow and insights I have gained by working alongside coach Morizumi."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Abeylegesse vs. Fukushi vs. Chapple, Yuki Sato to Debut at Marugame Half

by Brett Larner

Today the 2011 Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon announced the elite field for this year's 65th running on Feb. 6. Organizers have set up an excellent women's race, with defending champion Nikki Chapple (Australia) facing the top half marathoner of 2010, Olympic track medalist Elvan Abeylegesse (Turkey) and national half marathon record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal). Abeylegesse is the obvious favorite, but it will be very interesting to see what Fukushi, who set the national record of 1:07:26 in her half marathon debut at Marugame in 2005 and made a quiet return to the distance after over three years with a win at July's Shibetsu Half Marathon, has planned. Chapple's winning time of 1:08:37 from last year puts her in reach of either woman.

The men's race is headed by course record holder Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem) and features the likes of 2:06 marathoner Rachid Kisri (Morocco) and 2010 Asian Games marathon gold medalist Youngjun Ji (South Korea), but the main attraction will be the official half marathon debut of track and ekiden star Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin). Official as in he has run the equivalent of a sub-61 half marathon at least four times on ekiden stages longer than the half marahton distance, most recently 1:03:25 for 22.0 km at this year's New Year Ekiden. With a 27:38.25 10000 m PB, the all-time 3rd-best Japanese men's time, it would not be surprising to see Sato be in contention for the win on what is usually Japan's fastest course.

The Marugame Half will be broadcast nationwide. Check back closer to race date for broadcast details and a full preview.

2011 Kagawa Marugame Int'l Half Marathon
Feb. 6, 2011, Marugame
Elite Field Highlights
click here for complete elite field listing
Women
Elvan Abeylegesse (Turkey) - 1:07:07 (Ras al Khaimah 2010)
Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 1:07:26 (Marugame 2006)
Nikki Chapple (Australia) - 1:08:37 (Marugame 2010)
Silviia Skvortsova (Russia) - 1:09:17 (San Jose 2006)
Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) - 1:09:19 (Kobe Women's 2001)
Megumi Seike (Team Sysmex) - 1:10:08 (Jitsugyodan 2009)
Nami Kurosawa (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 1:10:09 (Jitsugyodan 2001)
Miho Notagashira (Team Wacoal) - 1:10:25 (Marugame 2005)
Nozomi Ijima (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 1:10:40 (Miyazaki Women's 2004)


Men
Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Aidem) - 59:48 (Marugame 2007)
Samuel Ndungu (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko) - 1:01:19 (Jitsugyodan 2010)
Girma Tola (Ethiopia) - 1:01:26 (Philadelphia 2008)
Tetsuo Nishikawa (Team YKK) - 1:01:42 (Jitsugyodan 2001)
Toyoshi Ishige (Team Yakult) - 1:01:44 (Jitsugyodan 2001)
Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) - 1:01:49 (World Half 2010)

Tsuyoshi Ogata (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:01:50 (Jitsugyodan 2002)
Kazushi Hara (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 1:01:52 (Jitsugyodan 2003)
Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) - 1:01:54 (Nagoya 2005)
Muryo Takase (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:57 (Marugame 2010)
Kazuyoshi Shimozato (Team Komori Corp.) - 1:01:58 (Jitsugyodan 2006)
Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - debut - 27:38.25 10000 m
Nicholas Makau (Kenya/Team Yachiyo Kogyo) - debut - 27:52.32 10000 m
Rachid Kisri (Morocco) - 1:02:11 (World Half 2009)
Dymytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine) - 2:07:15 (Fukuoka 2006)
Youngjun Ji (South Korea) - 2:08:30 (Daegu 2009)


(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Fukuoka Upgraded to IAAF Gold Label Status

http://sankei.jp.msn.com/sports/news/110117/oth11011717030054-n1.htm
http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2011011700699

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Rikuren announced on Jan. 17 that the IAAF has granted the Fukuoka International Marathon its highest ranking, a gold label. Having been upgraded from silver label status, along with March's Biwako Mainichi Marathon and February's Tokyo Marathon, Fukuoka, scheduled for Dec. 4, is now the third race within Japan to receive the gold label distinction. Among the factors considered in the rankings were the number and quality of elite athletes, the prize purse, the scale of television broadcast including an international broadcast, the presence of anti-doping measures, and the organizational strength of the event. Fukuoka cleared all criteria, joining the ranks of other major races in important cities around the world including the London and New York City marathons.

Translator's note: One of the two major criteria cited in the Tokyo Marathon initially receiving a silver label several years ago was that it did not have both elite men's and women's fields, an original requirement for a gold label. Biwako (Lake Biwa) received a gold label without a women's field in an apparent bid to save it from going under after the loss of main sponsor Rohm. Fukuoka now joins Biwako in receiving a gold label without a women's field. Japan's elite women-only marathons Osaka, Nagoya and Yokohama have yet to receive the same preferential treatment and remain silver label events.

The lack of an international broadcast was also cited in Tokyo not initially receiving a gold label. Although Biwako, Tokyo and Fukuoka now hold gold labels and the articles above cite the international broadcast requirement the actual existence of an internationally-available broadcast of any of the three races remains unclear. Perhaps another criterion in the awarding of a gold label is the extent of international financial transactions. Anyone with additional information on the awarding of gold labels to these three Japanese races please feel free to contact us.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kyoto Takes Back National Women's Ekiden Championship Title - Video Highlights

by Brett Larner

Click photo for video highlights.

Despite a slow start which saw it fall as low as 16th by the end of Third Stage, host Kyoto Prefecture did the expected, dismantling defending champion Okayama Prefecture to return to the top of the 2011 National Women's Interprefectural Ekiden Championships on Jan. 16. 2010's #2-ranked Japanese woman Ryoko Kizaki got Kyoto back in the game on the Fourth Stage, bringing Kyoto up to 6th. With strong runs on the next three stages including a new stage record of 12:39 by Nanako Kanno on the 4.0875 km Sixth Stage Kyoto advanced to 1st, leaving the door open for anchor and stage record holder Kayoko Fukushi to sail on unchallenged to the win. Despite being the only woman on the 10 km Ninth Stage to break 32 minutes Fukushi was so relaxed that she repeatedly laughed and waved to spectators on the course throughout the second half. Fukushi crossed the line in 2:17:06 to give Kyoto its 14th win in 29 editions of the National Women's Ekiden.

Although featuring primarily members of the 2010 national champion Tenmaya corporate team and 2010 national champion Kojokan high school team, Okayama finished only 2nd without a single stage best performance by one of its team members. Three Okayama runners took 2nd on their stages, but a weak performance by Second Stage runner Kaori Urata, beaten by two high schoolers, hurt the team's position heading into the middle stages. Sixth Stage runner Katsuki Suga was second on her leg behind Kyoto's Kanno but likewise broke the former stage record held by teammate Mahiro Akamatsu and helped to move Okayama into contention. Akamatsu dramatically underperformed on the Seventh Stage, finishing 40 seconds slower than she predicted and eliminating any chance of anchor Risa Shigetomo outrunning the superior Fukushi.

Expected 3rd-placers Hyogo Prefecture duelled with the unexpectedly strong Fukuoka Prefecture for the lead much of the way thanks in large part to a stage-record run by Hyogo's 1500 m NR holder Yuriko Kobayashi, but a disastrous turn by anchor Akane Wakita knocked the team down to 9th. Fukuoka was excellent in 3rd, leading early on after a stage win by Hanae Tanaka, the anchor of the International Chiba Ekiden-winning Japanese University Select Team. Chiba Prefecture and Nagasaki Prefecture came up to round out the top five thanks to outstanding anchor runs from Hitomi Niiya and Yoshiko Fujinaga.

The men's edition of the National Interprefectural Ekiden Championships takes place Jan. 23 in Hiroshima, featuring a 7-stage, 48.0 km course.

2011 National Women's Interprefectural Ekiden Championships
Jan. 16, Kyoto
9 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
click stage header for video highlights
First Stage - 6 km
1. Hanae Tanaka (Fukuoka/Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 19:41
2. Yurika Nakamura (Okayama/Team Tenmaya) - 19:42
3. Risa Takenaka (Shiga/Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 19:43


Second Stage - 4 km
1. Tomoka Kimura (Fukuoka/Chikushi Jyogakuen H.S.) - 12:22
2. Chikako Mori (Nagasaki/Isahaya H.S.) - 12:32
3. Kaori Urata (Okayama/Team Tenmaya) - 12:38


Third Stage - 3 km
1. Hanami Sekine (Tokyo/Kanai J.H.S.) - 9:21
2. Yuka Kobayashi (Tochigi/Nakamura J.H.S.) - 9:23
3. Saori Imamura (Kanagawa/Kamisugesta J.H.S.) - 9:32

Fourth Stage - 4 km
1. Yuriko Kobayashi (Hyogo/Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 12:41 - CR
2. Ryoko Kizaki (Kyoto/Team Daihatsu) - 12:52
3. Kazuka Wakatsuki (Fukuoka/Team Toto) - 12:53

Fifth Stage - 4.1075 km
1. Mutsumi Ikeda (Hyogo/Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 13:26
1. Erina Maki (Kyoto/Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 13:26
3. Mao Kiyota (Aichi/Chukyo Prep H.S.) - 13:32

Sixth Stage - 4.0875 km
1. Nanako Kanno (Kyoto/Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 12:39 - CR
2. Katsuki Suga (Okayama/Kojokan H.S.) - 12:40 (CR)
3. Rina Yonetsu (Kanagawa/Hadano H.S.) - 13:06

Seventh Stage - 4 km
1. Ayano Ikeuchi (Kyoto/Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 12:35
2. Mahiro Akamatsu (Okayama/Kojokan H.S.) - 12:51
3. Shiori Yano (Fukuoka/Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S.) - 12:52

Eighth Stage - 3 km
1. Ayaka Nakagawa (Saitama/Asaka Dai-San J.H.S.) - 10:02
2. Yoshie Inoue (Fukuoka/Toho J.H.S.) - 10:25
3. Yui Shiokawa (Shizuoka/Fujimiya Dai-San J.H.S.) - 10:27
3. Kanna Tamaki (Nagano/Kawanakajima J.H.S.) - 10:27

Ninth Stage - 10 km
1. Kayoko Fukushi (Kyoto/Team Wacoal) - 31:53
2. Risa Shigetomo (Okayama/Team Tenmaya) - 32:13
3. Hitomi Niiya (Chiba/Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 32:22

Top Team Performances
1. Kyoto - 2:17:16
2. Okayama - 2:18:07
3. Fukuoka - 2:19:00
4. Chiba - 2:19:21
5. Nagasaki - 2:19:38
6. Aichi - 2:19:48
7. Kanagawa - 2:19:49
8. Kumamoto - 2:19:52
9. Hyogo - 2:20:03
10. Osaka - 2:21:08

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, January 14, 2011

Watch the National Women's Ekiden Championships Live Online - Preview

by Brett Larner

The 2011 National Women's Interprefectural Ekiden Championships take place this Sunday, Jan. 16, in Kyoto. With each of Japan's 47 prefectures fielding a team made up of runners from the top pro, university, high school and junior high school teams the Interprefectural Ekiden is the de facto national distance running championship and offers an interesting cross-section of who is who at all domestic levels of the sport. The race is broadcast live nationwide and commercial-free on NHK beginning at 12:15 p.m. Japan time. Overseas viewers should be able to watch via Keyhole TV using the password NHK.

Host Kyoto has long been the dominant force at the Interprefectural Ekiden, winning every year from 2005-2009 and taking a total of 13 wins in the ekiden's 28-year history, more than any other prefecture. Last year Okayama dethroned Kyoto, taking its first-ever win. This year Kyoto and Okayama are again the clear-cut favorites. Okayama returns with a team made up of star members of 2010 National Corporate champions Team Tenmaya and 2010 National High School champions Kojokan H.S. including Kaori Urata, Yuka Izumi, Yurika Nakamura, Katsuki Suga, Miyuki Oka and Mahiro Akamatsu. These six of Okayama's nine runners figure among the top entrants on their stages, making the defending champions a formidable challenge.

It's a challenge for which Kyoto appears ready, however. With the two best individual pro women of 2010, Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) and Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), top pro rookie Kazue Kojima (Team Toyota Jidoshoki), #1-ranked university woman Kasumi Nishihara (Bukkyo Univ.) and national team-level twins Moe and Haruka Kyuma (Ayabe H.S.) making up the core of its roster Kyoto likewise has six of its nine runners among the best of their stages. Going by PBs and performances throughout the fall season Kyoto has a clear edge over Okayama and should successfully return to the top. Look for Kizaki and Nishihara to give Kyoto a lead over Okayama on the first two stages, Okayama to make up ground on the short middle stages, and then for Fukushi, running for Kyoto rather than her hometown Aomori for the first time in five years, to bring Kyoto back to the front on the anchor leg.

Beyond the two leaders, look for the Hyogo, Aichi and Kanagawa teams to be in contention for 3rd. Hyogo, a three-time winner, has a tremendous advantage in the presence of Second Stage record holder and 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki), who returns to the Second Stage after a 2010 that saw her mostly sidelined with injury. Aichi is led by the talented Nanaka Izawa (Juntendo Univ.) who should have a good shot at taking the Sixth Stage record set last year by Okayama's Mahiro Akamatsu (Kojokan H.S.) if she can beat Akamatsu herself. Kanagawa prominently features 1500 m national champion Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic), who will face Kobayashi, Nishihara and Urata on the Second Stage. One other runner who deserves special mention is national collegiate 10000 m record holder Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) who will run the anchor Ninth Stage for her native Kumamoto prefecture rather than the Kyoto team where Bukkyo is based.

2011 National Women's Interprefectural Ekiden Championships
Entry List Highlights
Jan. 16, Kyoto
9 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete entry lists
bib numbers: team - stage

First Stage - 6 km (pro/univ.)
stage record: 18:44 - Miwako Yamanaka (Nara/Team Daihatsu), 2003
25-1. Risa Takenaka (Shiga/Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:24.99
40-1. Hanae Tanaka (Fukuoka/Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:27.55
2-1. Miho Notagashira (Aomori/Team Wacoal) - 15:31.27
26-1. Ryoko Kizaki (Kyoto/Team Daihatsu) - 15:35.12
37-1. Shoko Mori (Tokushima/Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 15:35.12
38-1. Ayuko Suzuki (Aichi/Nagoya Univ.) - 15:37.83
43-1. Seika Nishikawa (Kumamoto/Team Sysmex) - 15:38.22

Second Stage - 4 km (pro/univ.)
stage record: 12:07 - Yuriko Kobayashi (Hyogo/Team Toyota Jidoshoki), 2009
28-2. Yuriko Kobayashi (Hyogo/Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 15:05.37
26-2. Kasumi Nishihara (Kyoto/Bukkyo Univ.) - 15:25.50
14-2. Mika Yoshikawa (Kanagawa/Team Panasonic) - 15:28.44
33-2. Kaori Urata (Okayama/Team Tenmaya) - 15:31.47

Third Stage - 3 km (J.H.S.)
stage record: 9:11 - Yui Takahashi (Yamagata/Tobishima J.H.S.), 2004
11-3. Ayaka Nakagawa (Saitama/Asaka San J.H.S.) - 9:22.54
28-3. Yuki Honbo (Hyogo/Amuro J.H.S.) - 9:26.87
14-3. Saori Imamura (Kanagawa/Kamisugita J.H.S.) - 9:27.18

Fourth Stage - 4 km (open)
stage record: 12:43 - Mari Ozaki (Kyoto/Team Noritz), 2006
33-4. Yuka Izumi (Okayama/Team Tenmaya)- 15:25.68
26-4. Kazue Kojima (Kyoto/Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 15:35.87
11-4. Michi Numata (Saitama/Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:41.00

Fifth Stage - 4.1075 km (H.S.)
stage record: 12:53 - Taeko Igarashi (Miyagi/Sendai Ikuei H.S.), 1995
26-5. Moe Kyuma (Kyoto/Ayabe H.S.) - 9:09.75
33-5. Katsuki Suga (Okayama/Kojokan H.S.) - 9:11.63
44-5. Saori Makishima (Oita/Oita Nishi H.S.) - 9:12.14

Sixth Stage - 4.0875 km (open)
stage record: 12:42 - Mahiro Akamatsu (Okayama/Kojokan H.S.), 2010
38-6. Nanaka Izawa (Aichi/Juntendo Univ.) - 9:08.44
33-6. Mahiro Akamatsu (Okayama/Kojokan H.S.) - 9:11.06
44-6. Ayumi Takada (Oita/Canon AC Kyushu) - 9:11.98
26-6. Haruka Kyuma (Kyoto/Ayabe H.S.) - 9:12.06

Seventh Stage - 4 km (H.S./univ.)
stage record: 12:21 - Kazue Kojima (Kyoto/Ritsumeikan Univ.), 2007
46-7. Misuzu Nakahara (Kagoshima/Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 9:15.04
28-7. Risa Yokoe (Hyogo/Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 9:15.70
33-7. Miyuki Oka (Okayama/Kojokan H.S.) - 9:18.23
36-7. Mao Kiyota (Aichi/Chukyo Prep H.S.) - 9:18.30

Eighth Stage - 3 km (J.H.S.)
stage record: 9:41 - Moe Kyuma (Kyoto/Ayabe J.H.S.), 2009
28-8. Nana Yoshijima (Hyogo/Arai J.H.S.) - 9:34.88
13-8. Hanami Sekine (Tokyo/Kanai J.H.S.) - 9:36.31
14-8. Maho Matsumoto (Kanagawa/Midorigaoka J.H.S.) - 9:36.99

Ninth Stage - 10 km (pro/univ.)
stage record: 30:52 - Kayoko Fukushi (Aomori/Team Wacoal), 2004
26-9. Kayoko Fukushi (Kyoto/Team Wacoal) - 30:51.81
43-9. Hikari Yoshimoto (Kumamoto/Bukkyo Univ.) - 31:30.92
33-9. Yurika Nakamura (Okayama/Team Tenmaya) - 31:31.95
13-9. Yuri Kano (Tokyo/Second Wind AC) - 31:53.07
10-9. Remi Nakazato (Gunma/Team Daihatsu) - 31:53.22

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved