Skip to main content

Japanese Women Bronze, Kawauchi Shames the System Again at World Half Marathon Championships

by Brett Larner

The Japanese women took the team bronze medal at the Oct. 6 World Half Marathon Championships, year-leading national corporate champion Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) finishing 8th after running 7th throughout the race with teammate Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) only to lose out in the final sprint to a fast-closing Gemma Steel (GBR). Both Steel  and Tanaka clocked 1:11:09, Ito just back in 1:11:25 after fading in the final kilometer. 21-year-old Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) came through in the second half of the race to move up from 17th to 12th, her 1:12:11 less than a minute off her best and enough to give Japan the bronze over Great Britain. All five Japanese women cracked the top 20.  Ethiopians Meseret Hailu and Feyse Tadese went 1-2 and sub-1:09, ensuring that Ethiopia scored the team gold over Kenya, whose top finisher Paskalia Chepkorir Kipkoech took the individual bronze 9 seconds back from winner Hailu.

As for the men, what is there to say? In an outstanding year with a 2:07 marathon, three 2:08's and four 2:09's so far, with twenty-three men sub-62, with three of Japan's all-time top eight half-marathoners on the team, Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota, 1:00:53), Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta, 1:00:58) and Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo, 1:01:15), corporate team aces one and all with everything they could want at their disposal, it was a self-training independent who in the last six weeks has won two marathons, one a nearly three-minute CR, and set 1500 m and 5000 m lifetime bests, who took the top Japanese spot. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.).



All-time Japanese #3 Miyawaki frontran the early stages of the race only to finish with a time that barely beat Hailu and Tadese in the women's race. All-time Japanese #8 Kihara lost to women's team members Tanaka and Ito. Honestly, what were they doing there? It's not a criticism, it's a genuine question. Sure, it was warm, and sure, Kawauchi fell far short of his time goal and was nearly four minutes adrift of the brilliant Zersenay Tadese's 1:00:19 win, but he was still head and shoulders above the cream of what the corporate system could produce, starting off at the back of the pack and moving up over the last five kilometers to shame them all, the coaches and federation maybe more than the athletes. And, did I mention, he has won two marathons in the last six weeks while the rest of them had everything they could have needed to focus on this pre-ekiden season World Championship race without distraction.

Naoko Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku), only the fourth man on the team with a 1:02:16 PB but a proven racer, deserves some props for coming in as the third scoring member of the team. But overall? How to explain it? I don't know the answer.  As with the Daegu World Championships, where every single Japanese track distance athlete except Hitomi Niiya (Team Univ. Ent.) finished at the bottom of their event after having run great times in domestic Japanese races, you have to wonder what's up. If you're reading this far you're probably someone who could think of a few countries where virtually every athlete running superb times domestically only to show up at an international championships and blow would be viewed as a pretty sizable red flag that more than meets the eye is going on.  What makes Japan different?

Ultimately it doesn't really matter; there won't be much introspection, the women will get their due credit for a bronze medal, Tanaka will get praised for making the top eight that the Japanese care so much about, Kawauchi will earn new fans for rocking and rolling, and all else will be forgotten. Whatever blame flies will fall on the athletes for being weaker than the coaches who will escape criticism were back in their day.  No heads will roll over the rest of the men; after the debacle of the Beijing Olympics marathons the two coaches of the three athletes who actually managed to finish were made the directors of the federation's men's and women's marathoning programs. Despite the encouraging turnaround in Japanese men's times this year, the World Half results only go to show that even when there's a light at the end of the tunnel you're still in the darkness.

2012 World Half Marathon Championships
Kavarna, Bulgaria, 10/6/12
click here for complete results

Women
1. Meseret Hailu (Ethiopia) - 1:08:55 - PB
2. Feyse Tadese (Ethiopia) - 1:08:56
3. Paskalia Chepkorir Kipkoech (Kenya) - 1:09:04
4. Lydia Cheromei (Kenya) - 1:09:13
5. Emebt Etea (Ethiopia) - 1:10:01 - PB
6. Pauline Njeri Kahenya (Kenya) - 1:10:22
7. Gemma Steel (GBR) - 1:11:09 - PB
8. Tomomi Tanaka (Japan) - 1:11:09
9. Mai Ito (Japan) - 1:11:25
10. Caryl Jones (GBR) - 1:11:52 - PB
-----
12. Asami Kato (Japan) - 1:12:11
15. Yoko Miyauchi (Japan) - 1:13:00
19. Kayo Sugihara (Japan) - 1:13:36

Team Results
1. Ethiopia - 3:27:52
2. Kenya - 3:28:39
3. Japan - 3:34:45
4. Great Britain - 3:36:56
5. U.S.A. - 3:40:40

Men
1. Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea) - 1:00:19
2. Deressa Chimsa (Ethiopia) - 1:00:51 - PB
3. John Nzau Mwangangi (Kenya) - 1:01:01
4. Pius Maiyo Kirop (Kenya) - 1:01:11
5. Stephen Kosgei Kibet (Kenya) - 1:01:40
6. Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) - 1:01:52
7. Jackson Kirop (Uganda) - 1:02:05
8. Stephen Mokoka (South Africa) - 1:02:06
9. Tewelde Estifanos (Eritrea) - 1:02:10
10. Kiflom Sium (Eritrea) - 1:02:12
-----
21. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan) - 1:04:04
29. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Japan) - 1:04:49
35. Naoki Okamoto (Japan) - 1:05:40
58. Chihiro Miyawaki (Japan) - 1:08:33
67. Masato Kihara (Japan) - 1:11:31

Team Results
1. Kenya - 3:03:52
2. Eritrea - 3:04:41
3. Ethiopia - 3:05:43
4. U.S.A. - 3:09:56
5. Uganda - 3:10:20
-----
9. Japan - 3:14:33

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Brett Larner said…
Thumbs up to American Luke Puskedra for a quality run.
Brett Larner said…
Some post-race news flashes going around say that Ugachi and Miyawaki both woke up with stomach problems.
TokyoRacer said…
It was hot, but that's not an excuse, as it was hot in Japan in August and most of September.
I guess they're just not comfortable running overseas, which is not surprising. If you don't race much overseas, you won't be used to it. They're probably worrying about things like, will I be able to get Japanese rice?
They also probably get intimidated easily. They're used to (running behind) one or two Africans, but not a whole pack.
Kawauchi, however, is really amazing....
Anonymous said…
Nothing against Puskedra--whose 1:02:46 was only a minute off his Houston PB--but let's also give props to American Augustus Maiyo for making the leap from running the steeplechase to running his first half marathon in 1:02:33, especially under such conditions.
Brett Larner said…
Bob--

Hopefully things are in the process of changing re: not enough international racing, but you're more right than you could know about the rice. Where to do laundry was no doubt also a primary concern.

With regard to Maiyo, well, not being American I'd be more inclined to give whatever additional props are due to Brazilian Giovani dos Santos, who outkicked Maiyo by 1 second and was the top finisher from outside Africa. According to the IAAF Maiyo ran 1:04:24 last November in San Antonio, so while this was not his first half marathon, yes, it was a good run.

Most-Read This Week

Kawabata Over Kawauchi at Takashimadaira 20 km

Like a distant echo of the thunder of yesterday's Yosenkai 20 km reverberating across the city, Tokyo's other major 20 km road race took place this morning in the northwestern suburb of Takashimadaira. Narrowly surviving the loss of its main sponsor last year, the Takashimadaira Road Race offers a unique 5 km loop course that delivers fast times. Now in its 42nd year, Takashimadaira is a favorite for upper-tier universities that don't have to run the Yosenkai to requalify for the Hakone Ekiden, for other schools' second-stringers, and for top-level independents and amateurs.

This year's race was fronted by a group of runners from Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University who didn't make Tokai's final Izumo roster, by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and others from yesterday's Yosenkai winner Teikyo University and the Hakone-qualified Juntendo University and Komazawa University. In the same cool and lightly rainy…

Kawauchi and Kanematsu Win Rainy Shimantogawa 100 km

The 23rd edition of the Shimantogawa Ultramarathon took place Oct. 15 in Shimanto, Kochi. 1822 runners started the 100 km division, where Yoshiki Kawauchi (26, Saitama T&F Assoc.) and Aiko Kanematsu (37, Team RxL) took the men's and women's titles for the first time.

The 100 km division started under a heavy downpour at 5:30 a.m. in front of Warabioka J.H.S. The 576 participants in the 60 km division got off 4 1/2 hours later from Koinobori Park, with both races finishing at Nakamura H.S.

Kawauchi, the younger brother of "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi, ran Shimantogawa for the second time, improving dramatically on last year's run to win in 6:42:06. "Last time I was 21st, a total disaster," Kawauchi said afterward. "My brother told me, 'Don't overdo it on the uphills,' and his advie helped me get through it. The scenery around Iwama Chinkabashi was really beautiful."

Kanematsu began running with her husband around age 30…

Tokai University Outruns Defending Champ Aoyama Gakuin to Win First Izumo Ekiden Title in Ten Years

Kanagawa's Tokai University outran two-time defending champion Aoyama Gakuin University to win the 2017 Izumo Ekiden, its first win at one of the Big Three university men's ekidens under head coach Hayashi Morozumi and Tokai's first Izumo title since 2007.

Formerly head coach at Nagano's Saku Chosei H.S. where he produced the fastest-ever all-Japanese high school team and standout Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) on a cross-country based training regimen, since taking over at Tokai in 2011 Morozumi has set about systematically developing the Tokai program into one with the greatest depth in Japanese university running. On paper AGU had a slight advantage over Tokai over the first half of Izumo's six stages, but with Tokai's second half runners, including its top two men Shota Onizuka and Hayato Seki, ranked at the top of their stages AGU needed a decent lead by halfway to stand a chance.

From the start it wasn't to be. In hot and sunny conditions Tokai&#…