Saturday, March 31, 2012

2:07 Man Francis Kibiwott Headlines Nagano Marathon

2012 Nagano Marathon Elite Field
April 15, Nagano
click here for complete elite field listing

Men
1. Francis Kibiwott (Kenya) - 2:07:32 (Tiberias 2012)
2. Moses Kangogo (Kenya) - 2:08:58 (Dublin 2010)
3. Silas Sang (Kenya) - 2:10:58 (Ottawa 2011)
4. Alexey Sokolov (Russia) - 2:11:53 (Zurich 2011)
10. Norihiro Nomiya (Team Toyota) - 2:14:36 (Nobeoka 2010)
11. Kiyokatsu Hasegawa (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:15:15 (Tokyo 2010)
12. Sohei Wada (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 2:15:19 (Kochi 2010)
13. Koji Matsuoka (Team Mazda) - debut - 1:02:55 (Nat'l Corp Half 2006)
14. Yu Chiba (Team Honda) - debut - 1:04:01 (Ageo City Half 2008)
20. Hiro Tonegawa (Alps Tools AC) - 2:19:34 (Tokyo 2011)
21. Satoshi Nishizawa (Yamani Spring AC) - 2:20:30 (Tokyo Int'l 2005)

Women
51. Belainesh Gebre (Ethiopia) - 2:26:17 (Chicago 2011)
52. Anastasia Ndereba (Kenya) - 2:29:03 (Venice 2002)
53. Rose Kerubo Nyangacha (Kenya) - 2:29:22 (Hamburg 2007)
54. Pauline Wangui (Kenya) - 2:38:05 (Madrid 2011)
60. Yumiko Hara (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:23:48 (Osaka Int'l 2007)
61. Risa Hagiwara (Second Wind AC) - 2:28:14 (Nagoya Int'l 2003)
62. Chihiro Tanaka (Athlec AC) - 2:29:30 (Nagoya Int'l 2002)
63. Yuko Machida (Raffine AC) - 2:29:35 (Nagoya Int'l 2009)
64. Yumi Sato (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:32:49 (Osaka Int'l 2012)
65. Yoshimi Hoshino (eA Shizuoka AC) - 2:35:58 (Otawara 2005)

Fujiwara and Kawauchi Run 12 km Workout Together

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20120331/ath12033112370002-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

Click here for a photo sequence of Fujiwara and Kawauchi working out together Mar. 31.

London Olympics marathon team member Arata Fujiwara (30, Tokyo T&F Assoc.) ran a workout Mar. 31 along the Arakawa River in Saitama Prefecture together with full-time working runner Yuki Kawauchi (25, Saitama Pref.), the pair pushing each other through a 12 km race-simulation workout in the midst of gale-force winds.  Kawauchi, who missed making the Olympic team, had wanted to run the workout, and the senior Fujiwara sent him an email saying that he could do it.

Neither athlete belonging to a corporate team, Fujiwara and Kawauchi each serve to stimulate and motivate the other.  Fujiwara commented, "It was really intimidating to run together.  He's very talented at making subtle pace changes.  I'm inspired by his aggressive running style."  Kawauchi smiled as he said, "It was hard, but I'm glad to get in a high-quality workout.  I hope I can do my part to help him get ready for the Olympics."

The pair hope to work together in the future when their schedules allow.  Asked for their impressions of each other, Fujiwara said, "He's an intense kid."  Kawauchi said, "He's an inspiring elder."

Graduating Kashiwabara: "I Want to Run in the Olympics at Some Point"

http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2012033000497

translated and edited by Brett Larner

A Tokyo subway ad for Fukushima recovery efforts featuring Kashiwabara and mountains.

Scheduled to join the Fujitsu corporate team following his graduation from Toyo University at the end of March, Ryuji Kashiwabara told reporters about his future ambitions at a March 30 press conference in Tokyo, saying, "At some point in my career as an athlete I want to run in the Olympics."  Kashiwabara won the Hakone Ekiden's 900 m-climb Fifth Stage all four years at Toyo, three of them in new stage records.  In January this year at the Hakone Ekiden he broke his own record a final time, leaving with a legacy as "The God of the Mountain."

With an eye toward his development as a marathoner in the future, Kashiwabara has set his sights on improving his junior-year 10000 m PB of 28:20.99.  "To start with, I want to get down around the 27 minute range," he said of his short-term goals.  On April 1 he will join Fujitsu as a contract employee, working at the company while training.  He is entered to run at the April 21 Hyogo Relay Carnival.

Translator's note: Kashiwabara is one of the biggest stars in Japanese distance running, nationally-known to the general public thanks to his Hakone Ekiden performances.  A native of Fukushima, he is the public face of recovery efforts in the disaster-hit prefecture.  Compare Twitter follower numbers for some of the world's better-known distance athletes:

Mo Farah: 73,892
Paula Radcliffe: 46,023
Haile Gebrselassie: 37,160
Ryan Hall: 36,912
Bernard Lagat: 16,380
Shalane Flanagan: 14,640
Kenenisa Bekele: 2,952
Ryuji Kashiwabara: 76,037

Friday, March 30, 2012

Marathoner Fujiwara Throws Out First Pitch at Giants Game

http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2012033001062

translated by Brett Larner

London Olympics marathon team member Arata Fujiwara (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) threw out the first pitch at the Mar. 30 Giants-Yakult baseball game.  Wearing the number 812, the date of the Olympic marathon, Fujiwara's no-bounce pitch drew a massive roar of approval.  "I could feel the energy from the crowd on my skin," he said, loving every minute of the stress.  "Athletes who can play in front of that are amazing."

Fujiwara Targeting 2:07 at Olympics "Without Worrying About What Place"

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2012/03/30/kiji/K20120330002935440.html

translated by Brett Larner

Appearing at a press conference in his hometown of Isahaya, Nagasaki on Mar. 29, London Olympics marathon team member Arata Fujiwara (30, Tokyo T&F Assoc.) talked about his goals at the Olympics, saying, "If you can run 2:07 then you can compete with the Africans.  I'm going to train focusing on time without worrying about what place it gets me."

Before the press conference Fujiwara made an appearance at his alma mater, Isahaya H.S., receiving words of support and encouragement from his old coach Toshihiro Matsumoto, 55, and students.  "All of your support is a powerful encouragement," Fujiwara told them.  "I want to run the kind of race that will let me pay it back to you."

Translator's note: Although it seems likely to change in London, to date only Beijing Olympics gold and silver medalists Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya) and Jaouad Gharib (Morocco) have ever run 2:07 or better at the Olympics.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Kenyan Hakone Ekiden Ace Ondiba Starts Work at Nanyo City Hall

http://news24.jp/nnn/news8872149.html

translated by Brett Larner

Click here for video of Ondiba meeting with Nanyo Mayor Shiota.

Getting off the JR Yamagata shinkansen at Akayu Station in Yamagata is 22-year-old Kenyan runner Cosmas Ondiba.  Having come to Japan after graduating from junior high school, Ondiba made his first appearance at the Hakone Ekiden as a second-year at Yamanashi Gakuin University.  Running the Third Stage three years in a row, this year as a senior he passed seven people on the way to setting a new course record to cap an outstanding 2011.  Hired by Nanyo City Hall, which features a track and field club, Ondiba will begin work this spring.

Meeting with Ondiba, Mayor Shiota told him, "We hope that you will give strength to our track and field club and show our children what it means to do their best."  Ondiba hopes to work with the other club members to earn Nanyo its coveted first-ever New Year Ekiden berth.  Watch for Ondiba to make his Yamagata debut on the Higashi Ogitama region team at this year's Yamagata Prefecture Ekiden.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kunimitsu Ito Takes Over as Head Coach at Senshu University

http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/news/20120328-OHT1T00004.htm

translated by Brett Larner

Senshu University announced on Mar. 27 that former Team Kanebo head coach Kunimitsu Ito, 57,  will take over as head coach of its track and field program effective Apr. 1.  A legendary marathoner, Ito ran a best of 2:07:57 during his days as an athlete.  Athletes he has coached include marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka.  He retired from his position as head coach at Kanebo in October last year.

Translator's note: Senshu Univ. missed qualifying for the 2012 Hakone Ekiden.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"I Hope He Gets the Gold Medal!" - Olympic Marathoner Yamamoto Visits Kindergarten

http://mainichi.jp/area/shiga/news/20120327ddlk25050651000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

Late last week London Olympics marathon team member Ryo Yamamoto (27, Team Sagawa Express) visited Moriyama Kindergarten in his hometown of Moriyama to be feted by local kindergarteners, mayor Kazuhiro Miyamoto and others.  Wearing his team uniform, Yamamoto was greeted by a teeming swarm of 45 children from the 4-5-year-old class who excitedly shouted out "You're really fast!" and "I saw you on the news!"  Students placed a lei made of origami around Yamamoto's neck and gave him with a card saying, "Go for gold!" before singing for him as a chorus.  Mayor Miyamoto gave Yamamoto his encouragement, saying, "Let our support be a tailwind behind you," as he presented him with a bouquet of flowers.

On the school's playground Yamamoto ran with the kindergarten students at their speed.  "This is a little different from how I'll be running in the big race," he joked with them, saying afterwards, "I got a lot of energy from the children.  I want to run aggressively and competitively."  Sunflower Class member Ayaka Omori, 6, said, "It was a lot of fun.  I hope he gets the gold medal!"

Monday, March 26, 2012

Comedian Neko Tapped for Cambodian Olympic Team in Marathon; Official Announcement Due in April

http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/entertainment/news/20120326-OHT1T00015.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Having taken Cambodian citizenship in a bid to make the London Olympics, comedian Hiroshi Neko (Hiroshi Cat, 34, born Kuniaki Takizaki) was been named to the Cambodian Olympic team in the men's marathon according to a statement from Cambodian Olympic Committee managing director Vath Chamrouen on Mar. 25.  An official announcement will be made in April along with the lineup of the Cambodian Olympic team in other sports.  Neko's dream is coming true, but his participation in the Olympics after transferring citizenship has sparked debate.

Running headlong in pursuit of the Olympics, Neko's dream has come true.  After whittling down the candidates for the wildcard athletics berth to three men and one woman, the Cambodian Olympic Committee evaluated the candidates based on their performances and other criteria in accordance with IAAF procedures.  Director Chamrouen gave the decision his blessing, commenting, "He has been diligent and rigorous in his training, and he is qualified to be part of our Olympic team.  I look forward to him setting a new PB at the Olympics."

Neko began running after appearing on a TV show which featured a celebrity race.  Under the guidance of Susumu Nakajima, coach of Mari Tanigawa and other top athletes, he began regularly improving his times in races.  At a December, 2010 half marathon in Cambodia he was good enough to finish 3rd, attracting inquiries from the Cambodian government about the possibility of Neko changing nationalities and going for the London Olympics.  "I don't want to be number one in Cambodia, I want to be numpurr one!" he responded.

In November last year he received Cambodian citizenship.  The same month he made his national team debut, running a PB at the Southeast Asia Games marathon and then another PB of 2:30:26 at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon.  His time fell fall short of the 2:18 Olympic B-standard, but Olympic rules allow countries and territories that have no qualified athletes in any track or field event to enter one male and one female athlete in a special exemption.  Neko's entry falls under this category.  His pacer at Beppu-Oita, Kaori Yoshida, 30, sent her support, saying, "I think he's probably going to have his share of troubles ahead of him, but it's an honor and I hope he gives it everything he has."

At the time the news of his Olympic team selection was announced Neko was appearing at an event in Shinjuku, Tokyo.  He had not yet been contacted directly but told reporters, "Tomorrow I'll be having a press conference to talk about it."  Having run his first marathon in 3:48:57 as a celebrity runner at the 2008 Tokyo Marathon, he has now found his way onto the Olympic stage after an unprecedented change of nationality.  At the Beijing Olympics Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya) won in a record 2:06:32.  At that pace Neko could run his best and still be 24 minutes, nearly 8 km, behind.  Last among the 76 finishers was Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) in 2:41:08.  Neko's PB would have put him in 70th.  He now has 139 days left until the men's marathon on Aug. 12.  What kind of polish can he put on his running before the main event?

Translator's note: Although a JAAF official was quoted in November as saying that Neko's late transfer of citizenship was legal because he was not registered with the JAAF, photos are readily available on Neko's own blog of him wearing JAAF-registered division bibs at the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Tokyo Marathons.  He may well have not renewed his membership at the start of the 2011-2012 year in April, 2011, but if that is sufficient to exempt him from regulations on transfer of allegiance then it is hard to see why this strategy is not in widespread use elsewhere.  Do the regulations only apply to athletes above a certain ability level?

The unofficial confirmation of Neko on the Cambodian team seems to come at the expense of Cambodian national record holder Hem Bunting, who is reportedly in Kenya through the end of the month training for the Paris Marathon in hope of qualifying for London thanks to financial assistance from a Japanese agricultural company.  Bunting, whose PB from 2009 is five minutes faster than Neko's recent best, apparently has a fractious relationship with the Cambodian federation and Olympic committee.  

It's hard to know what to make of Bunting's circumstances, but either way although Neko's Olympic bid may somehow follow the letter of the regulations it doesn't seem in the spirit of things that IAAF Olympic qualification rule D.6.a is being used to let a popular foreign-born celebrity go to the Olympics, one who is already being used to generate Japanese tourism interest in Cambodia with the support of the Cambodian Olympic Committee, instead of to help develop and motivate a small country's own athletes.  It will be very, very regrettable if the worldwide media in London portray Neko finishing half an hour behind the winners the usual way, as a brave act by the lone athlete from a remote country, instead of what it seems to be, a business deal between a government and a foreign celebrity to use the Olympics to promote tourism at the expense of a more talented native athlete.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Asian Cross Country Championships - Results

Story on African-born Bahraini athletes dominating senior races here: http://www.iaaf.org/news/newsid=64449.html

12th Asian Cross Country Championships
Quingzhen, China, 3/24/12
results via @athletekuma

Senior Men's 12 km
1. Alemu Bekele (Bahrain) - 35:33
2. Dejene Regassa (Bahrain) - 35:39
3. Bilisuma Shume (Bahrain) - 35:41
4. Hasan Mahboob Ali (Bahrain) - 36:18
-----
6. Hayato Saito (Team Honda) - 36:59
7. Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 37:06
8. Daichi Motomura (Tokai Univ.) - 37:13
10. Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) - 37:44

Senior Women's 8 km
1. Shitaye Eshete (Bahrain) - 26:14
2. Tejitu Daba (Bahrain) - 26:50
3. Genzebe Shami (Bahrain) - 26:59
4. Hitomi Niiya (Sakura AC) - 27:03
-----
8. Sachi Tanaka (Sports Yamagata 21 AC) - 27:53
10. Ayuko Suzuki (Nagoya Univ.) - 28:35
11. Toshika Tamura (Matsuyama Univ.) - 28:54

Junior Men's 8 km
1. Shota Baba (Kurashiki H.S.) - 25:07
2. Yudai Yamamoto (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 25:10
3. Taiga Machizawa (Kashiwa Civic H.S.) - 25:10
4. Kazuki Murakami (Mima Shogyo H.S.) - 25:11
-----
6. Yuta Koyama (Toyokawa Kogyo H.S.) - 25:32

Junior Women's 6 km
1. Miyuki Uehara (Kagoshima Joshi H.S.) - 20:26
2. Shiori Yano (Kitakyushu Civic H.S.) - 20:29
3. Momoko Akiyama (Hakuoh Joshi H.S.) - 20:37
4. Nanami Aoki (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 20:57
-----
6. Mai Shoji (Okazaki Gakuen H.S.) - 21:00

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Land of the Half Marathon

by Brett Larner

With last weekend's National Corporate Half Marathon Championships, National University Women's Half Marathon Championships and NYC Half Marathon bringing Japan's post-championship ekiden winter half marathon season to a close, yesterday I looked at the top 100 men's and women's performances by country so far this year and tweeted the results.  The totals have been making the rounds on Twitter since then, so although they will be out of date tomorrow as the European half marathon season rolls on here is the current breakdown using the results listed here.

Top 100 Men's Half Marathon Performances of 2012 by Country
Kenya: 39
Japan: 31
Ethiopia: 15
Morocco: 4
U.S.A.: 4
Brazil: 2
England: 2
other: 3

Top 100 Women's Half Marathon Performances of 2012 by Country
Japan: 40
Kenya: 23
Ethiopia: 10
U.S.A.: 4
Morocco: 3
Netherlands: 3
Poland: 2
Scotland: 2
other: 13

Combined Men's & Women's Top 100 Half Marathon Performances of 2012 by Country
Japan: 71
Kenya: 62
Ethiopia: 25
U.S.A.: 8
Morocco: 7
England: 3
Netherlands: 3
Australia: 2
Brazil: 2
Poland: 2
Scotland: 2
other: 13

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kasumigaura Marathon Sees Record 27,353 Entrants; Kawauchi to Pace Younger Brother

http://mainichi.jp/area/ibaraki/news/20120323ddlk08050128000c.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Cancelled last year in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami disasters, the organizers of the 22nd Kasumigaura Marathon announced on Mar. 22 that a record 27,353 people have entered this year's race, scheduled for April 15.  The number makes it the third-largest marathon in Japan after the Tokyo Marathon and Osaka Marathon.

2011 World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) will appear as an invited athlete, pacing his younger brother Koki Kawauchi (Takasaki Keizai Univ.) through his marathon debut.  Past Olympic marathon greats Yuko Arimori, Kenji Kimihara, Akio Usami and Takeyuki Nakayama will run as guide runners in the International Blind Marathon Championships division.

Translator's note: Kasumigaura also features a competitive 10-miler, which Kawauchi won in 2010.  The race course was damaged in last year's disasters.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Marathoner Nojiri Leaves National Champion Team Daiichi Seimei

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/f-sp-tp0-20120322-921519.html

translated by Brett Larner

A member of last summer's World Championships women's marathon team, Azusa Nojiri (29) is set to leave her sponsor Team Daiichi Seimei according to a statement from a connected party on Mar. 22.  Nojiri plans to leave the team at the end of March but will not retire from competition.

According to Daiichi Seimei, Nojiri told the team management, "Now that my shot at the Olympics is over I want to take some time off.  I need to change my environment to keep becoming a more competitive athlete."  The team office accepted her resignation.  Nojiri does not yet have a new sponsor lined up but is exploring her options including the possibility of running as an independent.

A native of Toyama prefecture, Nojiri was an international-level cross-country skiier who competed at the World University Games and a champion mountain runner before switching her focus to road racing at age 26.  At January's Osaka International Women's Marathon Olympic selection race she was 3rd overall as the second Japanese finisher, failing to make the Olympic team.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

'Toyo Duo Experiences NYC Half'

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/sports/T120319003652.htm

Yuta Shitara, Kento Otsu and coach Toshiyuki Sakai post-race at the 2012 NYC Half Marathon.

photo (c) 2012 Brett Larner

all rights reserved

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Miyawaki 1:00:53 CR in Debut, Shitara 1:01:48 PB in New York - Weekend Half-Marathon Results

by Brett Larner

20-year-olds dominated the Japanese half-marathon news this weekend. 20-year-old Olympic 10000 m squad favorite Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) set a course record of 1:00:53 in his half-marathon at the National Corporate Half-Marathon Championships, outkicking Kenyan Jacob Wanjuki (Team Aichi Seiko) on the final lap of the track after dueling with the talented Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) throughout the race. Miyawaki's time was the third-fastest ever by a Japanese man on an unaided course, with Kihara's 1:01:15 PB landing him at all-time #8. Tamagawa Univ. grad Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) won the women's race in 1:09:47, the first sub-70 by a Japanese woman this year, while past 1500 m national champion Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) won the women's 10 km in 32:59 by a second over Kenyan Grace Kimanzi (Team Starts).

A few hours and half a world away 20-year-old Yuta Shitara (Toyo Univ.), runner up at last year's Ageo City Half-Marathon, ran a PB of 1:01:48 to take 14th at the New York City Half-Marathon, dropping 2009 World Half Marathon Championships bronze medalist Dathan Ritzenhein (U.S.A.) with 1 km to go after splitting two seconds faster than his track 10000 m PB on the hills of the course's first 10 km. Shitara's mark was the fastest-ever by a Japanese man on U.S. soil. His teammate Kento Otsu (Toyo Univ.), also 20, was 25th in 1:03:15 in his international debut. Both Shitara and Otsu were invited to New York as part of a relationship set up by JRN between the NYC Half and Ageo to help give top Japanese collegiates international experience at their best distance early in their careers.

University women were also in the news as little-known Ayame Takaki (Meijo Univ.) ran a strong 1:11:10 to win the National University Women's Half-Marathon Championships in Matsue. Takaki won by more than a minute over a small chase pack. Maki Arai (Team Uniqlo) took the 10 km in 33:46.

2012 National Corporate Half-Marathon Championships
Yamaguchi, 3/18/12
click here for complete results

Men
1. Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) - 1:00:53 - CR, debut
2. Jacob Wanjuki (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko) - 1:00:59
3. Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) - 1:01:15 - PB
4. Yoshihiro Wakamatsu (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 1:02:17
5. Takehiro Arakawa (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:18
6. Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu) - 1:02:20
7. Dishawn Karukuwa (Kenya/Team Aisan Kogyo) - 1:02:36
8. Ryo Matsumoto (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 1:02:36
9. Takahiro Aso (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 1:02:36
10. Yuki Takamiya (Team Yakult) - 1:02:37

Women
1. Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:09:47 - PB
2. Yuka Tokuda (Team Starts) - 1:10:40
3. Ai Igarashi (Team Sysmex) - 1:10:48
4. Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) - 1:11:02
5. Shino Saito (Team Shimamura) - 1:11:10
6. Chihiro Takato (Team Wacoal) - 1:11:23
7. Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) - 1:11:32
8. Hiroko Shoi (Team Nihon ChemiCon) - 1:11:50
9. Megumi Seike (Team Sysmex) - 1:12:15
10. Rui Aoyama (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) - 1:12:16

Women's 10 km
1. Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) - 32:59
2. Grace Kimanzi (Kenya/Team Starts) - 33:00
3. Yurie Doi (Team Starts) - 33:11
4. Tomoka Inadomi (Team Wacoal) - 33:19
5. Kotomi Takayama (Team Sysmex) - 33:27



2012 New York City Half-Marathon
New York, 3/18/12
click here for complete results

Men
1. Peter Kirui (Kenya) - 59:39 - PB
2. Deriba Merga (Ethiopia) - 59:48
3. Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) - 1:00:45
4. Wesley Korir (Kenya) - 1:01:19 - PB
5. Sam Chelanga (Kenya) - 1:01:19 - PB
6. Kevin Chelimo (Kenya) - 1:01:21
7. Chris Thompson (U.K.) - 1:01:23 - PB
8. Scott Overall (U.K.) - 1:01:25 - PB
9. Marilson Gomes dos Santos (Brazil) - 1:01:26
10. Michael Shelley (Australia) - 1:01:27 - PB
-----
13. Meb Keflezighi (U.S.A.) - 1:01:41
14. Yuta Shitara (Japan) - 1:01:48 - PB
15. Dathan Ritzenhein (U.S.A.) - 1:01:52
25. Kento Otsu (Japan) - 1:03:15

Women
1. Dado Firehiwot (Ethiopia) - 1:08:35
2. Kim Smith (New Zealand) - 1:08:43
3. Kara Goucher (U.S.A.) - 1:09:12
4. Hilda Kibet (Netherlands) - 1:09:42
5. Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (U.S.A.) - 1:09:55
6. Madai Perez (Mexico) - 1:10:05
7. Lisa Weightman (Australia) - 1:10:10
8. Caroline Rotich (Kenya) - 1:10:17
9. Desi Davila (U.S.A.) - 1:10:44
10. Bekelech Bedada (Ethiopia) - 1:10:54

2012 Matsue Ladies Half-Marathon
15th National University Women's Half-Marathon Championships
Matsue, 3/18/12
click here for complete results

Half-Marathon
1. Ayame Takaki (Meijo Univ.) - 1:11:10
2. Ayako Mitsui (RItsumeikan Univ.) - 1:12:22
3. Eriko Kushima (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 1:12:28
4. Eriko Ogino (Team Daihatsu) - 1:12:45
5. Maria Yano (Matsuyama Univ.) - 1:13:06

10 km
1. Maki Arai (Team Uniqlo) - 33:46
2. Rio Kojima (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 33:56
3. Yukiko Nishizono (Team Uniqlo) - 34:20
4. Saki Ochiai (Hirata H.S.) - 35:52
5. Maiya Fukuda (Hirata H.S.) - 36:54

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, March 16, 2012

Toyo in New York - Kento Otsu, Yuta Shitara and Coach Sakai Talk Pre-NYC Half

http://ekiden-news.jp/?p=658

translated and edited by Brett Larner

As part of a new relationship set up by JRN between the New York City Half Marathon and the Ageo City Half Marathon, sophomores Yuta Shitara and Kento Otsu of Hakone Ekiden course record setters Toyo University were invited to run this year's NYC Half after finishing 2nd and 3rd at last year's Ageo.  Just before their departure for New York from Narita Airport on March 14, the Ekiden News website talked with Shitara, Otsu and Toyo head coach Toshiyuki Sakai.

How did you feel when you first heard about your invitation to run the New York City Half Marathon?
Shitara: I was totally surprised.
Otsu: I’ve never been so happy. It’s my first overseas race and I’m really looking forward to it.

What has been your main focus from the end of the Hakone Ekiden up until today?
Shitara: I took some time off after Hakone, then ran the National Men’s Ekiden, then cross-country, each time focusing on the next race.
Otsu: Hakone marked the beginning of the new year, so instead of feeling like it was the end of the season I started setting my next goals and working towards them.

What are your goals and race plans for the NYC Half?
Shitara: My goal is to break my PB. I’m aiming to pick up the pace a lot in the last 5 km.
Otsu: I want to set a new PB too. Since this is my first time racing outside Japan I want to get as much out of the experience as I can to help me improve once we come back.

What do you want to bring back to the Toyo University team from this opportunity to run the NYC Half?
Shitara: I want to be able to show them that the door to racing overseas is open.
Otsu: What it’s like to run in an unpredictable race with shifting pace instead of the run-a-safe-pace-and-then-push-it type of race we usually have in Japan.

With the graduation of Toyo University’s captain Kashiwabara and the other seniors the team will take a different direction under its new captain Saito. Having won the Hakone Ekiden this year, what do you see for the team’s future? What message do you want to send to the incoming first-years?
Shitara: Toyo University became as strong as it has on the shoulders of this year’s graduating class. We owe it all to Kashiwabara and the other seniors. I want to show that kind of leadership to the younger members of the team through my own running. After the NYC Half I want to make the podium at the Kanto Regional University Track & Field Championships 10000 m.
Otsu: The seniors this year all had very strong character, and the seriousness with which they all approached their training and their lives, the way they each individually were always asking themselves, “What can I do to be better?” was a major influence on me. Up until Nationals [last November] I was never a starting member on the team, but they gave me the motivation to get serious [about making the Hakone Ekiden starting lineup] and to do what I had to do to get there. The same way that this year’s seniors taught me this, through their running instead of with words, I want to be able to show to the underclassmen. I want to make the top eight at the Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships half marathon after New York.

What do you make of an opportunity like this one to compete against some of the best in the world in a race other than the Olympics or the World Championships?
Sakai: These days people target the Hakone Ekiden, but originally it was meant as a stepping stone to international competition. In terms of focusing on the rest of the world, on wearing the national colors and going to the Olympics or World Championships, in terms of renewing the system so that the first time our athletes are standing on the starting line of a world-level race they are not just there for the experience, an opportunity such as this one to run the NYC Half as a university student is extremely important.

Do you plan to become more active in taking on these kinds of overseas opportunities after this as well?
Sakai: The domestic university championships and ekidens are our number one priority, but I’d like to start having more of our runners taking on the marathon. If you race overseas you have to deal with issues of differences in culture, food, weather, jet lag, travel problems, and the like which in many ways make it a different situation from racing domestically, but you have to learn to be able to run up to your potential even when faced with difficulties and in that respect when the opportunity to race overseas is there it’s important to take it.

At this year’s Hakone Ekiden the Toyo University team put a clear emphasis on speed over distances longer than 20 km, showing clearly how strong they are.
Sakai: I think there’s still a pretty big disparity in terms of what we can do on the track relative to world standards, but the goal here is to take what we’ve been able to accomplish at the 20+ km distance and see how far that can take us against some of the best in the world.

Are you thinking of this NYC Half more in terms of building experience or actually getting results?
Sakai: Well, in terms of results, if they try to race some of these 59 minute or 60 minute athletes they will be running faster than the Japanese national record pace, so that might be a little much. But I do want them to be an active part of the front end of the race, not just passively hanging on to the rear of the pack. On the track and in the marathon it’s become increasingly more difficult to be internationally competitive, so I feel strongly that we have to make changes to our way of doing things, and to look carefully at the corporate system.

On the domestic race circuit just about the only chance to race against corporate runners is at Marugame, so there are few opportunities for the best university runners to face top-quality competition over the half-marathon distance. Both Otsu and Shitara are second-years, so I want them to get a lot out of their NYC Half experience, to run the way they would be unafraid to go after the best corporate runners, and through that to take a more and more leading role in the Japanese athletics world.

Both runners said that they are already targeting podium finishes at the Kanto Championships now before NYC.
Sakai: I think they are looking at it in terms of this international experience giving them a big edge once they go back to the university championships. It’s not just a question of tactics but of learning to make the race yourself. I want them to become aggressive racers, not just competing against whoever happens to be right there.

What has their training been like since the Hakone Ekiden, and what is the race plan in the NYC Half?
Sakai: Both of them ran the National Men’s Ekiden and the Chiba and Fukuoka XC meets, so by using races as part of their preparations I think they are sharp and primed. In the NYC Half I don’t think the section through Central Park will be that fast, so I anticipate them running in the lead pack through the park and then picking it up once they get out onto the roads. I’m sure the leaders will be changing gears a lot and I hope that Otsu and Shitara will be able to stay with at least one of the big moves and to play a part in making the race themselves. They both have a lot of ability over longer distances, so I’d like to see them come out of this as top-ranked university athletes over the half.

Finally, can we look forward to seeing them run in the dark blue ekiden season Toyo University uniforms?
Sakai: Yes, they’ll be wearing the blue uniforms.

Otsu and Shitara are two athletes who had probably never even thought about the possibility of racing overseas, but as their coach tells them, “If you don’t try to change the world then there’s no future.” This year’s New York City Half Marathon is another signal that Japan is on its way back to becoming strong again.


photo (c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Watch the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships Online

by Brett Larner

The 2012 National Jitsugyodan Half Marathon Championships take place this Sunday in Yamaguchi.  Cancelled last year following the Tohoku disasters, this year's race is the first selection race for the Japanese team for this fall's World Half Marathon Championships and also features the addition of a women's road 10 km division.  The elite fields are among the deepest of any Japanese road race, including sub-61 Kenyans Jacob Wanjuki (Team Aichi Seiko) and James Mwangi (Team NTN), five Japanese men with sub-62 PBs, the highly-anticipated debut of 20-year-old 27:41 man Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) and many more.  Click here for complete entry lists.

Overseas viewers should be able to watch TBS' broadcast of the race online via Keyhole TV starting at 2:00 p.m. Japan time on Sunday, Mar. 18.  Later in the day the National University Women's Half Marathon Championships will also be broadcast on Fuji TV starting at 2:15 a.m. on Mar. 19.

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, March 12, 2012

Japan Names London Olympics Men's and Women's Marathon Teams

by Brett Larner

At a live televised press conference the afternoon of Mar. 12, the Japanese federation announced the lineups of the men's and women's marathon teams for this summer's London Olympics along with brief rationales for each athlete's selection.  Daegu World Championships men's 7th-placer Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) and women's 5th-placer Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) were named alternates after running sub-par at their final selection races.  In Horibata's case the federation officials specified that he had been picked for alternate over Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) because he had beaten Kawauchi by a wide margin in Daegu.

Below are profiles of the three members and alternate on each team.  Click any photo for more detailed profile info.  The men's team appears to be the stronger of the two, with one 2:07 runner and two 2:08 men, but the women's team is also solid, having two 2:23 runners, one a World Championships silver medalist, and a 2:26 winner.  The federation took factors other than pure time into consideration, as Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) with a 2:08:38 in Tokyo was passed over in favor of the slightly slower Yamamoto and Nakamoto, and 2:24 women Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) and Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) were bumped by 2:26 Yokohama winner Kizaki.  Kawauchi and Akaba ran even faster than Maeda, Nakazato and Nojiri last year.

Congratulations to the 30% of poll respondents who correctly picked Nakamoto to join his former Takushoku University teammate Fujiwara and the man who passed him with 400 m to go at Lake Biwa, Yamamoto, on the London team.

Men

Arata Fujiwara (Tokyo T&F Assoc.)

Selection race performance:
2:07:48 - 2012 Tokyo Marathon, 2nd - PB




PB marks:
marathon: 2:07:48 - Tokyo, 2012
half-marathon: 1:01:34 - Marugame, 2012
10000 m: 28:41.05 - Fukagawa, 2009
5000 m: 13:41.35 - 2006

Marathon history:
2:07:48 - 2012 Tokyo Marathon, 2nd
2:29:21 - 2011 Tokyo Marathon, 57th
DNF - 2010 New York City Marathon
2:09:34 - 2010 Ottawa Marathon, 1st - CR
2:12:34 - 2010 Tokyo Marathon, 2nd
2:31:06 - 2009 Berlin World Championships, 61st
2:09:47 - 2008 Fukuoka International Marathon, 3rd
2:23:10 - 2008 Chicago Marathon, 16th
2:08:40 - 2008 Tokyo Marathon, 2nd
2:38:37 - 2007 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 85th

Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express)

Selection race performance:
2:08:44 - 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 4th - PB



PB marks:
marathon: 2:08:44 - Lake Biwa, 2012
half-marathon: 1:01:54 - Marugame, 2012
10000 m: 28:22.84 - Nittai Univ., 2011
5000 m: 13:54.96

Marathon history:
2:08:44 - 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 4th
2:16:49 - 2011 Hokkaido Marathon, 5th
2:22:32 - 2010 Tokyo Marathon, 22nd
2:12:10 - 2009 Hokkaido Marathon, 2nd

Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki)

Selection race performances:
2:08:53 - 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 5th - PB
2:13:10 - 2011 Daegu World Championships, 10th


PB marks:
marathon: 2:08:53 - Lake Biwa, 2012
half-marathon: 1:02:29 - Marugame, 2009
10000 m: 29:04.24 - Sayagatani, 2011
5000 m: 14:04.31 - Nobeoka, 2011

Marathon history:
2:08:53 - 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 5th
2:13:10 - 2011 Daegu World Championships, 10th
2:09:31 - 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 4th
2:12:38 - 2010 Amsterdam Marathon, 9th
2:11:42 - 2010 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, 8th
2:13:53 - 2009 Tokyo Marathon, 9th
2:15:21 - 2008 Hokkaido Marathon, 2nd
2:13:54 - 2008 Nobeoka Nishi Nihon Marathon, 3rd

Alt: Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei)

Selection race performances:
2:10:05 - 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 11th
2:11:52 - 2011 Daegu World Championships, 7th

PB marks:
marathon: 2:09:25 - Lake Biwa, 2011
half-marathon: 1:04:11
10000 m: 28:30.32 - Nobeoka, 2011
5000 m: 13:53.07 - Nobeoka, 2011

Marathon history:
2:10:05 - 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 11th
2:11:52 - 2011 Daegu World Championships, 7th
2:09:25 - 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 3rd
2:26:55 - 2010 Hokkaido Marathon, 20th
2:18:27 - 2009 Tokyo Marathon, 22nd
2:11:47 - 2008 Tokyo Marathon, 9th

Women

Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya)

Selection race performance:
2:23:23 - 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 1st - PB




PB marks:
marathon: 2:23:23 - Osaka International, 2012
half-marathon: 1:10:58 - Osaka International, 2012
10 km: 32:38 - Okayama, 2010
5000 m: 15:32.41 - Himeji, 2006

Marathon history:
2:23:23 - 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 1st
2:31:28 - 2011 London Marathon, 24th

Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei)

Selection race performances:
2:24:14 - 2012 Nagoya Women's Marathon, 2nd
2:26:49 - 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon (fall), 2nd
2:32:31 - 2011 Daegu World Championships, 18th

PB marks:
marathon: 2:23:30 - Tokyo International, 2008
half-marathon: 1:09:26 - Udine, 2007
10000 m: 31:47.23 - Kobe, 2005
5000 m: 15:28.55 - Tottori, 2004

Marathon history:
2:24:14 - 2012 Nagoya Women's Marathon, 2nd
2:26:49 - 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon (fall), 2nd
2:32:31 - 2011 Daegu World Championships, 18th
2:23:56 - 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon (spring), 1st - CR
2:32:26 - 2010 London Marathon, 10th
2:25:25 - 2009 Berlin World Championships, 2nd
2:23:30 - 2008 Tokyo International Women's Marathon, 1st
2:26:19 - 2008 Nagoya International Women's Marathon, 2nd

Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu)

Selection race performance:
2:26:32 - 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon (fall), 1st - PB



PB marks:
marathon: 2:26:32 - Yokohama, 2011
half-marathon: 1:10:16 - Yamaguchi, 2009
10000 m: 31:38.71 - Niigata, 2011
5000 m: 15:35.12 - Hiroshima, 2009

Marathon history:
2:26:32 - 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon (fall), 1st
2:29:35 - 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 5th
2:27:34 - 2010 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 6th

Alt: Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren)

Selection race performances:
2:26:08 - 2012 Nagoya Women's Marathon, 8th
2:29:35 - 2011 Daegu World Championships, 5th



PB marks:
marathon: 2:24:08 - London, 2011
half-marathon: 1:08:11 - Yamaguchi, 2008
10000 m: 31:15.34 - Kawasaki, 2008
5000 m: 15:06.07 - 2008

Marathon history:
2:26:08 - 2012 Nagoya Women's Marathon, 8th
2:29:35 - 2011 Daegu World Championships, 5th
2:24:08 - 2011 London Marathon, 6th
2:26:29 - 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 1st
2:24:55 - 2010 London Marathon, 6th
DNF - 2010 Osaka International Women's Marathon
2:37:43 - 2009 Berlin World Championships, 31st
2:25:40 - 2009 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 2nd

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kawauchi Wins Saitama Half-Marathon

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20120312/ath12031205070010-n1.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On the one-year anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, London Olympics marathon team candidate Yuki Kawauchi (25, Saitama Pref.) ran the Saitama Half-Marathon as a specially-invited guest, winning in 1:04:26.  After finishing 14th at the Tokyo Marathon two weeks ago Kawauchi said, "It's impossible for me to make the Olympics," but having been the top Japanese finisher at December's Fukuoka International Marathon selection race in a good time some chance remains of him making the team.  The Japanese federation will announce the men's and women's Olympic marathon team lineups at 3:30 p.m. on Mar. 12.

Kawauchi shaved his head in shame after running 2:12:51 for 4th in Tokyo.  He took three days off following the race and has only jogged since then.  He had also planned to just jog the Saitama Half, but once he was in the heat of the race his full strength came out.  "It's a tough, undulating course, so I think a 64 is pretty good here," he said after the race.  "People were cheering and it got me going.  When they're calling out, 'Do your best!' that's all you can do.  In the sense of helping me focus toward doing my best in achieving my next goal it was a good race.  At Tokyo next year I want to make up for what happened this year."

Having set his sights on making the national team for the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Kawauchi's spirits and motivation have returned.  Before then, he may well make the London team.  With Nagoya Women's Marathon 2nd-placer Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) considered a strong choice for the London team after having run poorly at the Daegu World Championships followed by two selection race runs, Kawauchi must be viewed as in almost the same position, finishing 3rd on the Japanese team in Daegu and 3rd overall in Fukuoka prior to running Tokyo.  It's possible he may join Arata Fujiwara (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) and Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) as the third man on the Olympic team.  Fans all across the country are watching to see if the dream success story of a self-training amateur making the Olympics comes true in the end.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Russian Mayorova Wins Largest-Ever Women-Only Marathon, Ozaki Takes Top Japanese Spot in Nagoya

by Brett Larner

Transformed on the one-year anniversary of the Tohoku disasters from the small, elite-online format to the world's largest women-only marathon with 15,000 runners running a new course with an indoor finish unique in Japan, the Nagoya Women's Marathon marked the end of the Japanese Olympic team selection cycle.  Russian veteran Albina Mayorova ran a massive negative split of over two minutes to effortlessly blow by Japan's best in the final part of the race and take the win in 2:23:52, nearly two minutes better than her 8 1/2 year-old PB.  Tumbling in the turbulence behind her, 2009 World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) outkicked her 2011 World Championships teammate Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) to take the top Japanese spot, 2nd overall in 2:24:14, and put herself into the circle of contenders for the London team.  Nakazato was 3rd in 2:24:28, a PB by one second and good enough to give her a chance of joining Ozaki in London.  Past national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) was a surprise and elated 4th in 2:25:02, her best performance in over three years and one which makes her the first Japanese woman to break 2:27 eight times, while current national record holder and Athens Olympics gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) was an emotional 6th in 2:25:33, her first marathon in over four years and the fifth-best time of her career.

While the lead pack of Japanese Olympic hopefuls set off at 2:23-flat pace, splitting exactly 1:11:30 at halfway, Mayorova and Ukrainian Olena Shurkhno ran a more conservative 1:13:00 first half.  Both Mayorova and Shurkhno then turned it on, picking up the pace and catching stragglers from the lead pack one by one.  The 34-year-old Mayorova, consistently at the 2:28-2:31 level since 2005 with a 2:25:35 best from the 2003 Chicago Marathon, split a stunning 1:10:52 for the second half, while Shurkhno managed a more modest 1:12:49 second half to take nearly three minutes off her best from last year's downhill Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon.  Both clocked 7:20 for the final 2.195 km, the fastest in the field, to join other Eastern European women from the same athlete management firm, including the runner-up at January's Osaka International Women's Marathon Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine), 2011 Chicago Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova (Russia) and 2011 Tokyo Marathon first and third placers Tatiana Aryasova (Russia) and Tatiana Petrova (Russia), in a remarkably consistent pattern of success over the last year: a negative split with the fastest last 2.195 km in the race, the kind of closing splits more commonly run by men.  Combined with this race strategy, this group's seemingly innovative training methods make for a nearly unbeatable combination.  Amazing.

In the race for the Japanese Olympic team, early casualties of the 2:23-flat pace included defending Nagoya champion Yuri Kano (Team Shiseido) and Akane Wakita (Team Toyota Jidoshokki), both out of the lead pack after only 5 km.  Kano's teammate Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) was next, then Mari Tanigawa Half-Marathon winner Kaori Yoshida (Amino Vital AC).  At 17 km Noguchi, looking heavy and jerky in her return to the distance, was also off the pack.  Just past 20 km, favorite Kaoru Nagao (Team Univ. Ent.), the top Japanese woman at February's Marugame International Half Marathon, had a very hard fall at a water station.  Unable to get back up for a long time, she finally pushed herself back to her feet and started to run again, staggering and crying and eventually finishing 30th in 2:38:02.  The lead pack of seven, Nakazato, Ozaki, Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei), Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku), Shibui and Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) along with pacer Rene Kalmer (South Africa) went through halfway in 1:11:30.

With Kalmer's departure at 23 km the pace immediately slowed, 3:21 for her final km followed by a 3:26 and a 3:30.  At 25 km Noguchi was over 20 seconds back, but as the pack ahead of her turned tactical she began to accelerate, regaining contact at 29 km and taking the lead at 30 km, with a 1:42:31 split as the nation caught its breath.  Miyauchi was the first victim of Noguchi's push to get the race back on track.  Sensing danger, Ozaki responded just past 32 km with a long, hard surge to drop Akaba, then Shibui, then her teammate Katsumata, and finally Noguchi.  Only Nakazato and Ito were left, but by 34 km Akaba had returned to the lead pack, which was now made up of four of the five members of Japan's Daegu World Championships marathon team.

Just past 35 km, looking fresh and strong Mayorova blew by the lead quartet of Japanese women, all but one of whom held faster PBs than her 2003 best.  Akaba, who suffered a knee injury in February training, fell away as the other three Japanese women picked it up to tail the Russian.  At 36 km Ozaki made a move to retake the lead, while Ito lost contact.  At km 37 km Mayorova threw down the hammer again to sail off to the win in Nagoya Dome.  Ozaki and Nakazato repeatedly traded the front position as they battled over the final 5 km, and not until the last 600 m did Ozaki make the move to put Nakazato away.  Shibui overtook Ito for 4th, looking overjoyed as she crossed the line, while a tearful Noguchi came through seven seconds back in 2:25:33, two seconds better than her debut marathon time.  Although Noguchi failed in her bid to return to the Olympics, she can take pride in having never given up on her dream over the years and in finally seeing it through even when she knew she was at less than 100%.  Prior to today only one woman, Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) had ever beaten Noguchi in a marathon, and Noguchi can take additional pride in the fact that she was almost ten minutes faster than Ndereba in Nagoya after long years out of the game.

The Japanese Olympic marathon team lineup will be announced at a press conference at 3:30 p.m. on Mar. 12.  With her Nagoya performance Ozaki joins Osaka winner Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) as probable placeholders on the team.  In post-race interviews Ozaki said that while she had run slower than planned, she was happy to have been the top Japanese woman and get into Olympic contention.  The third Olympian will come from among Akaba, Yokohama International Women's Marathon winner Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), Osaka 3rd-placer Azusa Nojiri (Team Daihatsu) and Nakazato.  Kizaki's win over Ozaki in Yokohama gives her an edge despite her relatively slow winning time.  For her part, Noguchi said that although she missed her goal of making London she was very happy with how she had run considering the condition she was in, and she looks forward to building toward her next goal, a clear statement that this was not the end of her road.

2012 Nagoya Women's Marathon Top Results
Nagoya, 3/11/2012

1. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:23:52 - PB
2. Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:24:14
3. Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) - 2:24:28 - PB
4. Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:25:02
5. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:25:26 - PB
6. Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) - 2:25:33
7. Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine) - 2:25:49 - PB
8. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 2:26:08
9. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:26:23 - PB
10. Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:28:01 - PB
11. Eri Hayakawa (Amino Vital AC) - 2:28:19
12. Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:28:44
13. Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion) - 2:29:20 - PB
14. Jessica Tengrove (Australia) - 2:31:02 - debut
15. Korei Omata (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 2:31:13 - debut
-----
19. Lidia Simon (Romania) - 2:33:41
22. Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) - 2:35:08

Friday, March 9, 2012

Nagoya Women's Marathon Preview - Watch Online

by Brett Larner

The Japanese selection races for the country's marathon teams for the London Olympics wrap up this Sunday with the new-and-improved Nagoya Women's Marathon.  Modernizing from a small, elite-only race to the world's largest women-only mass participation field of 15000 and an accompanying co-ed half-marathon, Nagoya retains its elite history with what may be the closest thing the country has seen to a straight-up single-race Olympic trial.  Fifteen elite Japanese women will be going for what are generally believed to be the two remaining Olympic team places, at least eight of them with a realistic chance of making the team.  Fuji TV will be broadcasting the race live nationwide starting at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, Mar. 11, and overseas viewers should be able to watch online for free via the lo-res splendor of Keyhole TV.  Twitter coverage via @JRNLive will unfortunately not be available for this race.

Races need an international field of at least five different nationalities to maintain IAAF label status, and Nagoya's organizers have duly complied with an overseas field of five, one athlete each from Kenya, Romania, Russia, the Ukraine and Lithuania.  Veteran medalists Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) and Lidia Simon (Romania) return for their perpetual Japanese invites along with Eastern Europeans Albina Mayorova (Russia), Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine) and Rasa Drazdauskaite (Lithuania), but barring a dramatic improvement and remarkable closing ability like Ukrainian Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko at January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, it doesn't seem likely that any of the foreign competition will factor into what is generally expected to be a fast race.

Fifteen Japanese women are on the invited list to contend for the Olympic team.  General opinion has two places available, with Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) a lock after her 2:23:23 victory but Yokohama International Women's Marathon winner Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) given little chance of making the Olympic team with only a 2:26:32.

The favorites look to be Daegu World Championships 5th-placer Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and Berlin World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei).  Akaba already had a solid chance for the London team on the strength of her Daegu performance but passed up a planned shot at a fast time at last month's Tokyo Marathon in order to try to improve her standings in the selection rankings in Nagoya.  To do that she will have to run fast and win.  Ozaki faltered in Daegu and lost out to Kizaki in the last stretch of Yokohama in November, so likewise she will need to be fast and in first to earn her spot on the team.

Athens Olympics gold medalist and national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) and her NR predecessor Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) are scheduled to start, and given their sub-2:20 credentials they cannot be discounted.  Noguchi has not raced a marathon since 2007 due to a never-ending series of injuries and pushed her public goodwill to the limit over the winter with a series of highly-publicized domestic comeback runs only to withdraw at the last minute virtually every time, most recently at January's Osaka International Women's Marathon.  Nagoya is her absolute last chance to qualify for London.  Is she really ready?  Has the all the comeback talk just been a marketing ploy?  If she is even close to fit she is a leading contender.  Shibui has not raced well since winning the 2009 Osaka International Women's Marathon, her recent marathon best a 2:29:03 at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon nearly ten minutes off her former NR.  But like Noguchi if she is even close to her old self she is the match of any of the other Japanese women.  It may be a bigger stretch, but she is Yoko Shibui.

At the next level are a handful of younger runners with the potential for a step up to the next level.  Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) was impressive in her 2:24:29 runner-up performance at last spring's edition of Yokohama to make the Daegu World Championships.  Kaoru Nagao (Team Univ. Ent.) was only 4th in both runnings of Yokohama last year but switched to Nagoya from Tokyo after a 1:10:32 PB to finish as the top Japanese woman at last month's Marugame Half-Marathon.  Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) was 2nd at Osaka 2011 to make the Daegu World Championships, beating veteran Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) in the selection process despite a faster PB performance by Fujinaga under difficult circumstances in London last year.  Both are possibilities in Nagoya, with Ito having soundly beaten Fujinaga in Marugame.

More distant possibilities are 2010 Nagoya winner Yuri Kano (Team Shiseido), 2009 Tokyo Marathon winner Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.) and, elevated to winner of the 2011 Tokyo Marathon following the doping disqualification of Russian Tatyana Aryasova, Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal).  Although neither Kano nor Nasukawa have shown recent fitness, Higuchi ran well in Marugame, suggesting she may be the best bet of the three.

Rounding out the invited field are Kaori Yoshida (Amino Vital AC), Akane Wakita (Team Toyota Jidoshokki), Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei) and Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera).  Yoshida won January's Mari Tanigawa Half-Marathon in a solid 1:11:16 but ran poorly last month at the Ome 30 km.  A teammate of Ozaki's, Katsumata's debut was only a 2:31:10 but she showed potential for better and could be a darkhorse.  Miyauchi is the most talented of this group but has not yet been able to execute a strong marathon.

With the drama in the men's Olympic selection races coming with the team announcement on Mar. 12, Nagoya should be a dynamic cap to the winter Japanese marathon season and Olympic-qualifying series as the women's team lineup is likely to be clear once the second Japanese woman is across the finish line.

2012 Nagoya Women's Marathon Elite Field
Nagoya, Mar. 11, 2012
click here for complete elite field listing

1. Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) - 2:18:47 (Chicago 2001)
2. Lidia Simon (Romania) - 2:22:54 (Osaka Int'l 2000)
3. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:25:35 (Chicago 2003)
4. Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine) - 2:28:34a (San Diego 2011)
5. Rasa Drazdauskaite (Lithuania) - 2:29:47 (Turin 2011)
11. Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) - 2:19:12 (Berlin 2005)
12. Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:19:41 (Berlin 2004)
13. Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:23:30 (Tokyo Int'l 2008)
14. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 2:24:09 (London 2011)
15. Yuri Kano (Team Shiseido) - 2:24:27 (Tokyo Int'l 2008)
16. Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) - 2:24:29 (Yokohama Int'l 2011)
17. Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:25:38 (Tokyo 2009)
18. Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) - 2:25:40 (London 2011)
19. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:26:55 (Osaka Int'l 2011)
20. Kaoru Nagao (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:26:58 (Yokohama Int'l 2011)
21. Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) - 2:28:49 (Tokyo 2011)
22. Kaori Yoshida (Amino Vital AC) - 2:29:45 (Chicago 2010)
23. Akane Wakita (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) - 2:29:54 (Nagoya Int'l 2010)
24. Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:31:10 (Tokyo 2011)
25. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:33:36 (Nagoya Int'l 2010)

Pacers
51. Aniko Kalovics (Hungary)
52. Rene Kalmer (South Africa)
53. Sayo Nomura (Meijo Univ.)
54. Mao Kuroda (Team Yutaka Giken)

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Correction: Only 193 Sub-66 at National University Men's Half-Marathon Championships

by Brett Larner



Earlier this week JRN reported that based on Waseda University posting that one of its athletes had finished 211th at the Mar. 4 National University Men's Half-Marathon Championships in 1:06:11 it appeared that over 200 athletes may have broken 66 minutes for the first time ever.  With complete results available it is now evident that only 193 athletes, led by Teikyo University sophomore Toshikatsu Ebina in 1:02:23, broke 1:06.  This surpasses the previous world record of 188 set at the 2005 Ageo City Half Marathon but falls short of clearing the 200 mark.

JRN regrets the error.

2012 National University Men's Half-Marathon Championships
Tachikawa, Tokyo, 3/4/12
click here for complete results

1. Toshikatsu Ebina (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:23 - PB
2. Yudai Yamakawa (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:36 - PB
3. Takumi Honda (Nittai Univ.) - 1:02:37 - PB
4. Duncan Muthee (Kenya/Takushoku Univ.) - 1:02:40 - PB
5. Kenta Kitazawa (Takushoku Univ.) - 1:02:40 - PB
6. Kenta Chiba (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:41 - PB
7. Yuki Matsumura (Juntendo Univ.) - 1:02:44 - debut
8. Natsuki Terada (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:47 - debut
9. Wataru Ueno (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:50 - PB
10. Kazuhiro Kuga (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:52 - PB
-----
25. Shuji Matsuo (Senshu Univ.) - 1:03:34
-----
50. Koki Takahashi (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:04:16
-----
100. Ryota Watanabe (Nihon Univ.) - 1:04:54
-----
150.  Kosuke Tanaka (Waseda Univ.) - 1:05:28
-----
193. Hironari Terada (Nihon Univ.) - 1:05:59
-----
200. Kodai Matsushita (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:06:02

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

One Olympic Ticket Left and No Clear Choice

by Brett Larner
photos by Dr. Helmut Winter


Heading into this marathon season the Japanese federation did not announce any specific criteria for the marathon teams for this summer's London Olympic Games, saying that they would not make any decision until the completion of the four-race selection cycle, the Daegu World Championships, Fukuoka International Marathon, Tokyo Marathon and Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon for men and the World Championships, Yokohama International Women's Marathon, Osaka International Women's Marathon and this Sunday's Nagoya Women's Marathon for the women.  The team lineups and alternates will be announced on Monday, Mar. 12 following Nagoya on Sunday, but for men all the contenders are in now that Lake Biwa is on the books.

Despite the lack of explicit criteria, two people are popularly considered to be on the three-man team for certain.  Arata Fujiwara (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) ran 2:07:48 for 2nd at the Tokyo Marathon and Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) 2:08:44 for 4th at Lake Biwa, each taking the top Japanese spot in his race.  With strong times, Fujiwara's mark making him all-time #7 on the Japanese lists, good placings and the top Japanese positions behind them it is unthinkable that either would be left off the team.  Interestingly enough, of the six possibilities for the team only Fujiwara and Yamamoto ran in only one of the four selection races.

Six possibilities.  Besides Fujiwara and Yamamoto, three men have a good chance of picking up the last remaining spot and a fourth is conceivable.  All have factors working for them and against them, and although one will get the consolation of being named alternate like Fujiwara was for the Beijing Olympics, the nature of the Japanese selection process, especially this time, is that an unequivocally clear and fair choice is not possible and that most of them will get screwed on some level.  The four contenders for the third Olympic team, their pros and cons:

Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko)


Selection race results:
-Tokyo Marathon: 6th overall, 2nd Japanese, 2:08:38 PB
-Fukuoka International Marathon: 6th overall, 3rd Japanese, 2:11:46



Pros:
-Has the fastest qualification time of the four, 2:08:38.
-Beat Kawauchi in Tokyo.
-Was closer to winner in Tokyo than other three contenders in their selection race runs.
-Of his five marathons, only one has been slower than 2:12.

Cons:
-Had to run a second selection race to get into Olympic contention after losing to Kawauchi and Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) in Fukuoka.
-Was not the top Japanese finisher in either selection race run.
-His only truly bad marathon was a big one, 39th at the Berlin World Championships in 2:19:59, 4th of five on the Japanese team.

Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki)


Selection race results:
-Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon: 5th overall, 2nd Japanese, 2:08:53 PB
-Daegu World Championships: 10th overall, 2nd Japanese, 2:13:10



Pros:
-Only one of the four contenders to finish in the top two Japanese spots in both selection race runs.
-Ran his 2:08:53 in cold and rain vs. perfect conditions for Maeda and Kawauchi in Tokyo.
-Placed higher overall in Lake Biwa than Maeda in Tokyo or Horibata in Daegu World Championships.
-Beat Kawauchi in Daegu World Championships.
-Beat Horibata at Lake Biwa.
-Has PB'd every year since his marathon debut: 2:13:54 in 2008, 2:13:53 in 2009, 2:11:42 in 2010, 2:09:31 in 2011, and 2:08:53 in 2012.
-Has never finished outside the top 10 in a marathon.

Cons:
-Was not the top Japanese finisher in either selection race run.
-Lost to Horibata at Daegu World Championships.
-At both the 2011 and 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathons, lost to another Japanese runner by a few seconds.

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.)


Selection race results:
-Tokyo Marathon: 14th overall, 9th Japanese, 2:12:51
-Fukuoka International Marathon: 3rd overall, 1st Japanese, 2:09:57
-Daegu World Championships: 18th overall, 3rd Japanese, 2:16:11


Pros:
-Top Japanese man and sub-2:10 in Fukuoka.
-Beat Maeda in Fukuoka.
-Placed higher overall in Fukuoka than other three contenders in their selection race runs.
-Showed tremendous racing ability in Fukuoka.
-Fastest PB of the four contenders, 2:08:37, within the London Olympics qualification period.
-Popular support.

Cons:
-Ran badly at Tokyo Marathon after already having chance of making team from Fukuoka and finished outside Japanese top two.
-Underperformed at Daegu World Championships and finished outside Japanese top two.
-Lost to Maeda in Tokyo after beating him in Fukuoka.
-Lost to Horibata and Nakamoto at Daegu World Championships.
-Only contender to have been beaten by all three other contenders within the selection races.

Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei)


Selection race results:
-Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon: 11th overall, 7th Japanese, 2:10:05
-Daegu World Championships: 7th overall, 1st Japanese, 2:11:52



Pros:
-Made top eight at Daegu World Championships.
-Top Japanese man at Daegu World Championships.
-Beat Nakamoto and Kawauchi at Daegu World Championships.
-Lake Biwa result was still second-fastest of career, in cold and rainy conditions.
-Only contender from well-connected old-school team.

Cons:
-Underperformed at Lake Biwa and finished outside Japanese top two.
-Lost to Nakamoto at Lake Biwa.
-Of the four contenders, was farthest from winner in better of selection race performances.
-Placed lower overall than other three contenders in better of selection race performances.
-Only contender not to break 2:10 in either selection race run.
-Only contender not to have broken 2:09.

Looking at these four, there is no clear choice.  Maeda has the fastest time, Nakamoto is the most reliable, Kawauchi was the top Japanese man in one domestic selection race, and Horibata made the top-eight, an all-important distinction to the Japanese, in the last World Championships.  Each has a legitimate argument, there are precedents for almost any of the scenarios, and there would be no truly surprising choice among them.  It's a sign of strength that there are so many good choices, but also a sign of problems with the procedure that there is clearly room for politics in the decision-making.

Of the four, Nakamoto is the only one who is virtually spotless, the kind of solid, reliable backup you want to round out a good team.  He is JRN's pick for the best choice for the third Olympic spot.  But he is by no means a sure thing.  Intuition says Maeda will be picked on the basis of having the fastest time.  It could go either way, but it looks most likely that the two of them will earn the available Olympic berth and alternate spot.

Kawauchi is the most popular choice and has a valid claim based on Fukuoka, but having blown Tokyo it is hard to see him getting the nod.  And, given Tokyo, even harder to see him accepting it if nominated.  Despite this, although many would argue that it should not factor into the decision, Kawauchi has had a bigger impact on the public perception of Japanese marathoning than anyone since Naoko Takahashi, and there is no denying what having him on the London team would mean in that respect.  But then again, even Takahashi didn't make Athens.  Horibata is a long shot after falling apart at Lake Biwa, but his World Championships result will count for something; last time around Tsuyoshi Ogata (Team Chugoku Denryoku) was picked with a 2:17:42 for 5th at the Osaka World Championships over Arata Fujiwara's 2:08:40 for 2nd at the Tokyo Marathon selection race.  And never underestimate the importance of connections.

Take a minute to place your vote in the poll above for who is most likely to pick up that third ticket. Whichever athlete rounds out the team, Japan's London Olympics marathon squad looks set to be far stronger than would have been imaginable two or three years ago.

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photos (c) 2012 Dr. Helmut Winter
all rights reserved

Monday, March 5, 2012

'5 Japanese Break 2:10 in One Marathon'

http://news.runnersworld.com/2012/03/05/5-japanese-break-210-in-one-marathon/

Yamamoto's Coach and Mother Surprised at Likelihood of Olympic Team

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/f-sp-tp0-20120304-912749.html

translated by Brett Larner
photo by Dr. Helmut Winter


At the 67 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 27-year-old Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) was the top Japanese finisher and 4th overall, surprising all those around him.  Passing Daegu World Championships marathon team members Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) and Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) in the final part of the race, Yamamoto finished in 2:08:44.  Having run a strong time in bad weather conditions to put himself into an unquestionable position for the London Olympics team, Yamamoto smiled as he said, "I was tough over the second half.  I kept thinking, 'Olympics!  Olympics!' as a I ran."

This was Yamamoto's fourth marathon.  His best time up to now came in his debut at the hot and humid 2009 Hokkaido Marathon where he was 2nd in 2:12:10.  Sagawa Express head coach Tsuyoshi Nakano, 38, commented, "To be honest, the goal this time was just to try to finish up among some of the top-ranked guys in order to get his name out there for Moscow [World Championships] next near."  Yamamoto's mother Sachiko, 54, said, "This morning Ryo sent me an email that just said, 'Good morning.  Here goes!'  When he was little he had asthma and allergies.  It's cedar pollen allergy season so I was worried whether he would be OK today."

photo (c) 2012 Dr. Helmut Winter
all rights reserved

Nakamoto in Obvious Shock After Lake Biwa

http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2012030400163

translated by Brett Larner
photos by Dr. Helmut Winter


9 seconds.  In a turbulent battle for the a Japanese ticket to the London Olympics, Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) lost his leading Japanese position to Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) with 400 m to go on the track at the Mar. 4 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  "In one word, devastation.  It was a huge shock when he passed me.  I'm crushed," Nakamoto said after the race, downcast and tremendously disappointed.

Nakamoto lost touch with the leaders at one point in the race, but saving up his strength he attacked in the second half to pass top Japanese man Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) at 38 km and assume the leading position in the race for the Olympic team.  But the astoshing strength with which Yamamoto pursued and ran him down was completely unexpected.  "I thought I'd make it if I kept going like that," said Nakamoto of the swift turn from sweetness to misery.

With a time of 2:08:53 Nakamoto broke his best of 2:09:31 set at last year's Lake Biwa.  His hopes of making the Olympic team are not complete lost, but, he says, "I'm not strong enough.  My task now is to improve my speed," a characteristically frank self-evaluation as he looks to what comes next.



Translator's note: Nakamoto and Olympic marathon squad lock Arata Fujiwara (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) were teammates at Takushoku University.

photos (c) 2012 Dr. Helmut Winter
all rights reserved

Fukatsu 1:01:25 CR at Tamana Half, 200+ Sub-1:06 at National University Half Championships

by Brett Larner
complete results coming soon

Three major half marathons across Japan started off the morning of Mar. 4 in style.  At the 63rd Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Komazawa University graduate Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei) ran a solo 1:01:25 course record, the all-time #8 Japanese mark on an unaided course and bettering the 1:01:31 mark set by Fukatsu's former Komazawa teammate Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota) last month at Marugame.  Fukatsu ran together with Kenyans Kiragu Njuguna (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) and Dishawn Karukuwa Maina (Team Aisan Kogyo) before dropping them in the second half of the race to win by over a minute.  Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) won the women's 10 km in 33:09, with Shuhei Kondo (Oita Tomei H.S.) winning the high school boys' 10 km in 29:38.

At the Shizuoka Sunpu Half Marathon, Shinichi Yamashita (Takigahara SDF Base) won in a conservative 1:04:58 over Teikyo University's Katsunori Watanabe and Takuma Tamura, but the race was most noteworthy for the half marathon debut of 27:38 track ace Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin).  Sato clocked only 1:06:50, saying afterward that he is not in good condition but is hopeful of regaining form in time to earn an Olympic A-standard in the 10000 m this spring.



The deepest-ever half-marathon finish, beginning with Toshikatsu Ebina in 1:02:23.

Fukatsu's CR aside, the biggest half marathon results of the day came in Tachikawa, Tokyo at the National University Men's Half Marathon Championships.  Takushoku University second-year Kenyan Duncan Muthee took the race out fast at 1:00:40 pace, with a large group of Japanese students near 1:01-flat pace not far behind.  Times slowed somewhat, but Teikyo University second-year Toshikatsu Ebina managed to keep it moving well enough to win in an apparent course record of 1:02:23, with teammate Yudai Yamakawa making it a Teikyo 1-2 in 1:02:36.  The top thirteen student athletes all broke 1:03, and the depth of the field was record-setting.  Although complete official results are not yet available, Waseda University reported one of its runners had finished in 1:06:11 in 211th place.  If true, it appears that for the first time in history more than 200 runners may have broken 1:06 in one race.  The previous record of 188 came at the 2005 Ageo City Half Marathon, Japan's major fall university half.  These results will be confirmed and this story updated once complete results are available.

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Aoyama Gakuin University Junior Takehiro Deki on 2:10:02 Marathon Debut: "For a Second There I Thought About the Olympics"

translated by Brett Larner
photos by Dr. Helmut Winter


Aoyama Gakuin University junior Takehiro Deki ran a 2:10:02 debut for 9th at the Mar. 4 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, the all-time #3 Japanese collegiate time and all-time #9 Japanese debut.  After briefly leading the race at 30 km on 2:06:55 pace he faded to 12th but came back to outkick Nairobi Marathon winner Ernest Kebenei and Daegu WC 7th and 8th placers Hiroyuki Horibata and Ruggero Pertile. Afterwards Deki told JRN about his race.

This was my marathon debut, so I wanted to give it a go and see how far I could make it.  I ran keeping things under control in the first half.  At 30 km I was running up in the lead pack and was really happy, and just for a second there I caught myself thinking about the Olympics.

But it didn't end up being that easy, and around 33 km the harshness of the marathon started to catch up with me.  In the last 5 km I was targeting breaking 2:10, but I just missed it by a tiny bit.  That was really disappointing.  But considering that I only ran up to 30 km in my training I'm satisfied with this result.

On the other hand, as far as my future marathon career I could tell that if I trained more seriously I'd be able to be competitive, so this gave me a lot of confidence in that respect.  Next month I start my senior year, so in my final Hakone Ekiden and the Olympics four years from now I want to use this experience to help me be my best.  Thank you.


photos (c) 2012 Dr. Helmut Winter
all rights reserved

Ndungu Wins Debut at Lake Biwa, Szost Sets 2:07:39 Polish NR, Yamamoto Takes Probable Olympic Spot

by Brett Larner
photos by Dr. Helmut Winter


Hot on the heels of a record-setting morning of half-marathon action across the country, the 67th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, Japan's final domestic selection race for its London Olympics men's marathon team, was tense and exciting, with a string of strong debuts, a national record, and an unexpected last-minute Olympic berth upset making up most of the major results in the top ten.

In cold, rainy conditions Japan-based Kenyan Samuel Ndungu (Team Aichi Seiko) was the surprise winner, marking a steady 2:07:04 debut time for the win.  Ndungu sat tight in the lead pack, which stayed on low-2:07 pace throughout the race, through km in 30:12, 20 km in 1:00:22 and halfway in 1:03:38.  Virtually the entire elite field and the upper echelons of the general division went with him, more than forty men still in contention at halfway.  Some of the few early casualties included Australia's Lee Troop, Canadian Dylan Wykes, and 2:11:00 man Naoto Yoneda (Team Konica Minolta).  All three dropped out of the race, Troop with calf trouble and Wykes with stomach problems.  All the other major contenders spent time hovering near the front of the pack, including Japanese favorite Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) who had at least two collisions with other runners.

Rounding the turnaround the pace quickened, and after 24 km Ndungu moved to the forefront as people set up for the pacers' departure at 25 km.  Top seed Nicholas Manza (Kenya) went out hard at 25 km to break up the pack, with Bekana Daba (Ethiopia) following suit to open a gap and push the next km to 2:51.  The lead group quickly diluted to eight, including Ndungu, Horibata, Manza and Daba along with Moroccan Abdellah Taghrafet, Poland's Henryk Szost, Nairobi Marathon winner Ernest Kebenei (Kenya), and, in his marathon debut, Aoyama Gakuin University junior Takehiro Deki.  Further back an all-Japanese second pack assembled with Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki), Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express), Takashi Horiguchi (Team Honda), Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo) and Masashi Hayashi (Team Yakult) all hanging on to a more sensible pace in hopes of running down casualties later in the race.

Nakamoto leads the chase pack.  All five went sub-2:10, two of them sub-2:09.

As the front group tried to reel Daba back in Deki pushed to the lead of the pack at 28 km, forcing the others to work harder and upping the energy of the situation.  Regaining contact the group of eight went through 30 km in 1:30:14, 2:06:55 pace, with the second Japanese pack around 15 seconds back.  Deki, who along with his coach Susumu Hara earlier this week told JRN that he had not trained specifically to make a marathon debut at this point and was only doing it for future experience, with only two weeks of mileage training including three 30 km runs in one week off his Hakone Ekiden fitness behind him, recklessly pushed to the front of the race as Horibata began to look haggard.  The race announcers' voices turned gleeful and Twitter exploded as Deki, totally unaware of but likewise unafraid to face what waited for him after 30 km, pushed on.

A km later Ndungu took things in hand, dropping what proved to be the race-ending surge.  Taghrafet and Szost worked together a distance back, with Daba, Horibata and Kebenei forming the next group, Manza and Deki in a pair, and farther back the Japanese chase pack led by Daegu World Championships team member Nakamoto.  As the rain intensified Ndungu pushed on all the way to the finish, staying on low-2:07 pace to end with a small negative split and the second-fastest time of the year so far by a Kenyan man, 2:07:04.  Szost and Taghrafet continued to push each other until late in the race Szost cast off to smash the Polish national record by two minutes in 2:07:39 for 2nd, Taghrafet lagging behind and just missing his PB as he took 3rd in 2:08:37.  The rest of the race was more unpredictable.

Szost gets the record.

Manza faltered, then dropped out.  Daba faltered, then dropped out.  Deki, in completely uncharted territory, advanced on Horibata.  Behind him, Nakamoto, a college teammate of the Tokyo Marathon's top Japanese man Arata Fujiwara (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) and 2:12 man Horiguchi, a teammate of 10000 m world champion Ibrahim Jeilan, picked up the pace to drop the rest of the Japanese pack and catch Deki with 7 km to go.  Nakamoto went into another gear to get rid of Horiguchi just before making contact with Horibata, while simultaneously Yamamoto went by Deki.  With all five of the top Japanese still on sub-2:09 pace it was turning into a wild race for the Olympics.  If the second Japanese man broke the 2:08:38 time run by Tokyo's second Japanese man Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) then two men from Lake Biwa would have a good chance for the team.

Right on pace to break 2:08, Nakamoto went by Horibata and then the slowing Kebenei, moving up to 4th with 4 km and looking solid for an Olympic berth.  But behind him the unheralded Yamamoto, with a PB of only 2:12:10 from the hot and humid Hokkaido Marathon, was coming on strong, closing down the gap quickly as he knocked favorite Horibata out of the 2nd Japanese position and Olympic contention.  At 40 km the lights seemed to suddenly go out for Nakamoto as Yamamoto bore down.  He rallied in the last km, but Yamamoto was right behind him coming onto the track and kicked by with 400 m to go to take the top Japanese spot in 2:08:44, a PB by nearly four minutes over Nakamoto's 2:08:53, also a PB.

                Yamamoto seals an Olympic spot.

The remainder of the Japanese chase pack succeeded in overtaking lead pack runners Horibata and Deki, with Morita running the all-time #3 Japanese debut marathon of 2:09:12 for 6th and veterans Horiguchi and Hayashi both breaking 2:10 for the first time.  In a sprint finish Deki incredibly ran down Kebenei and Horibata to finish in 2:10:02, agonizingly close to a sub-2:10 but still the third-fastest ever by a Japanese collegiate, the all-time #9 Japanese debut, and gutsy considering he was on 2:06 pace at 30 km with no training runs longer than 30 km.  Post-race Deki told JRN, "For a second there I thought about the Olympics."  Kebenei clocked a small PB of 2:10:04 to round out the top ten, one step ahead of Horibata who collapsed after taking 11th in 2:10:05.  One second behind Horibata was Italy's Ruggero Pertile, who also finished seconds behind Horibata in Daegu.

In just two races a week apart Japan is already having one of its best-ever years, with one 2:07, three 2:08s, four 2:09s, and a collegiate 2:10:02, all either PBs or debuts.  While there is still a large amount of ground to make up it's a sure sign that the post-Beijing malaise has finally turned back around.  Looking at the London Olympic team, Fujiwara and Yamamoto are both locks with their 2:07:48 and 2:08:44 from Tokyo and Lake Biwa.  Up for contention for the third spot are Tokyo's second Japanese man, Maeda, 6th in 2:08:38 after finishing 6th in 2:11:46 at the Fukuoka selection race, Nakamoto with his 2:08:53 for 5th and 2nd Japanese man today and a 2:13:10 for 10th at the Daegu World Championships, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) with a 2:09:57 for 3rd and the top Japanese spot in Fukuoka followed by a 14th-place 2:12:51 in Tokyo, and Horibata with a 7th place 2:11:52 and the Daegu World Championships and a 2:10:05 for 11th today.  Although Maeda is the most likely candidate there's a case to made for each of them.  The official decision will not be made until Mar. 12 following the Nagoya Women's Marathon, the last of the women's selection races.

                                 Ryo Yamamoto, 2:12:10 to 2:08:44 and going to London.

2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
67th running, Otsu, 3/4/12
click here for complete results


1. Samuel Ndungu (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko) - 2:07:04 - debut
2. Henryk Szost (Poland) - 2:07:39 - NR
3. Abdellah Taghrafet (Morocco) - 2:08:37
4. Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:08:44 - PB
5. Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:08:53 - PB
6. Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo) - 2:09:12 - debut
7. Takashi Horiguchi (Team Honda) - 2:09:16 - PB
8. Masashi Hayashi (Team Yakult) - 2:09:55 - PB
9. Takehiro Deki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:10:02 - debut
10. Ernest Kebenei (Kenya) - 2:10:04 - PB
11. Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:05
12. Ruggero Pertile (Italy) - 2:10:06
13. Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) - 2:11:13 - debut
14. Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:19
15. Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:31 - PB

DNF - Nicholas Manza (KEN)
DNF - Bekana Daba (ETH)
DNF - Dylan Wykes (CAN)
DNF - Lee Troop (AUS)
DNF - Abdellatif Mefta (FRA)
DNF - Yohanis Abera (ETH)
DNF - Naota Yoneda (Team Konica Minolta)

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photos (c) 2012 Dr. Helmut Winter
all rights reserved