Friday, November 30, 2012

Fujiwara and Kawauchi Fire Shots at Fukuoka Pre-Race Press Conference

http://sankei.jp.msn.com/sports/news/121130/oth12113017100010-n1.htm

translated by Brett Larner
click here for JRN's Fukuoka preview

The top invited athletes for the Dec. 2 Fukuoka International Marathon, the first domestic selection race for the Japanese men's marathon team for next August's Moscow World Championships, appeared at a pre-race press conference in Fukuoka on Nov. 30 full of motivation and ready to go.  The first of them across the line will score a guaranteed place on the team if he is under 2:08:00.

At the press conference, London Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) brought the fireworks as they took shots at each other.  The two independents trained together several times between February's Tokyo Marathon and the Olympics.  Fujiwara told the media, "I'm in this race because Kawauchi is here."  Kawauchi fired back, "I have no intention of losing.  When we trained together I didn't see anything that made me feel he's any better than me."

The corporate runners in the race haven't given up under the indie assault.  Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) said, "This race is full of world-class athletes.  Even with such strong competition I think I can take them."  Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) predicted a tough, man-to-man battle, saying, "I want to run an aggressive, active race."

Depending on the wind, the flat Fukuoka course can be ideal for fast times.  Former world record holder Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) is the likely leader, with the best Japan has to offer expected to be chasing behind him.  The Federation has set the bar at the 2:07 level, the minimum time needed to be considered truly world class in this era.  The hope is that the high hurdle will motivate Japan's athletes to set their own standards higher and go for the big times.  In the first post-London race of the buildup to the Rio Olympics four years from now, fans can hope to see the true competitive heart of the Japanese marathoner emerge once again.

2012 Fukuoka International Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner
click here for quotes from the Fukuoka pre-race press conference



The Fukuoka International Marathon has been in the news a lot this fall, hosting the Japanese men's first stab at the Federation's ambitious sub-2:08 World Championships standard, a duel between popular individualists Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) and the marathon debut of the mighty Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), bringing back 2006 winner Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) and taking in a half-dozen transplants from the cancelled New York City Marathon.  It looks like an exciting, multi-layered race, but despite international interest the IAAF gold-label Fukuoka remains characteristically closed to the world at large.  The race will be broadcast live nationwide on TV Asahi beginning at 12:00 p.m. on TV Asahi.  The best bet for trying to watch online at this stage is still Keyhole TV despite an erratic channel selection since an update earlier this month.  JRN will once again cover Fukuoka live via Twitter @JRNLive, but with both of us running the Naha Marathon earlier the same day it is likely that we will not be able to cover the early stages of the race.  Another option for following the race is local broadcaster KBC's website, which is scheduled to have live 5k splits on the tab second from the bottom on the left-hand menu.  There is a possibility of rain later in the day, but the current forecast is for ideal temperatures around 10 degrees during the race.  It could be a big day.

Much of the overseas buzz about Fukuoka has been about Gebrselassie, back for both his second Fukuoka and his second marathon in Japan this year.  He won with ease one second from the course record in 2:06:52 six years ago in Fukuoka but struggled in Tokyo in February as he finished 4th in 2:08:17, among the slowest times of his career.  Gebrselassie has talked about 2:05 or 2:06 in Fukuoka, but with few recent results it's hard to assess his current fitness.  And even such a strong time may not be enough for the win.  2007 World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Mathathi, one of the most accomplished 10-mile runners in history, is finally making a marathon debut.  Having quietly cleaned up on the domestic Japanese half-marathon circuit over the last two years, punctuated by a 58:56 course record at the 2011 Great North Run, in April Mathathi announced his plans for a debut in Fukuoka, saying, "Since it will be my marathon debut I am not setting a time goal and will only go for the win."  Since then things have progressed, and Mathathi's Japanese colleagues have told JRN that he has trained for at worst a 2:05.  Hopefully better.  Kenyan Martin Lel's brief appearance on the Fukuoka entry list after New York's cancellation promised to shake things up further, but with his withdrawal yesterday it looks like a duel between the veteran and the debutant for the win.

The other big duel may not be far behind.  Fan favorite Kawauchi, the highlight of last year's Fukuoka, has said for months that he would go for 2:07 this time and has tailored most of the year to achieving that goal.  Earlier this fall he won three straight marathons, ran 1500 m and 5000 m PBs on back-to-back days a week after the second marathon win, and was the top Japanese man at the World Half Marathon Championships.  Displaying an uncharacteristic lack of confidence at the Ageo City Half Marathon two weeks ago he still ran 1:03:02 for 3rd, one of the best times of his career on a windy day.  Days before Fukuoka he was more confident.  "2:07," he told JRN.  "I can do it."  Fujiwara, the only Japanese man in the field to have run sub-2:08, took two months off after the Olympics but in mid-October abruptly decided to jump into Fukuoka for a showdown with Kawauchi.  On an express training menu since then, he sounds confident and motivated for a head-to-head bout in recent interviews.  Asked about his race plan earlier this week, Fujiwara told JRN, "In the first half I'm going to float like a butterfly, and in the second half my surge is going to sting like a bee."  In Tokyo his surge took down Haile.  Maybe it'll happen again.

The other major Japanese contenders on paper are 2011 World Championships marathon 7th-placer Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) and his World Champs teammate Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota).  Coached by the great Takeshi Soh, the giant Horibata has worked his way down to a 2:09:25 best and after solid ekiden performances throughout November has hopes of a major breakthrough in Fukuoka.  Oda, with an outstanding 2:09:03 debut as part of the now-famous tableau of Kawauchi's 39k surge at last year's Tokyo Marathon, has had injury issues since the Daegu World Championships and has been largely absent from media coverage of Fukuoka so far, usually a sign that an invited athlete is in a bad way.  Earlier this season he ran only 1:04:18 for 4th at the Usti nad Labem Half Marathon in the Czech Republic.

The dark horse among the Japanese runners is Mathathi's training partner and Fujiwara's former JR Higashi Nihon teammate, general division entrant Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC).  The son of a former Japanese national record holder in the marathon, Nakao was strong throughout 2008-2009, with marks including a sub-27:50 10000 m and a 5th place finish at the World Half Marathon Championships.  "In 2009 I thought he was going to become #1 in Japan," Fujiwara told JRN about Nakao.  A longterm injury and coaching change have kept him out of the public eye since then, but a solid 4th-place finish at October's Great Birmingham Run followed a week later by a 2:18:55 win in the Oikawa Marathon as a training run for Fukuoka suggest Nakao is back to 100% fitness and ready to improve on his comparatively weak 2:14:43 best.  "I'm not feeling bad," he told JRN.  "I'm strong enough to drop the rest of the Japanese runners."

If even two of the five main Japanese contenders break 2:10, 2012 will mark the fourth time Japan has had ten or more sub-2:10 performances in one year. Only Kenya, Ethiopia and Japan have ever achieved ten sub-2:10's in a year, Kenya sixteen times and Ethiopia five times. There should be no shortage of competition for the Japanese runners shooting for that time goal in the lead pack. Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine) and Isaac Macharia (Kenya) both have run sub-2:07:30, while Henryk Szost (Poland) was just off that mark in a Polish national record 2:07:39 at March's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon to displace Fujiwara as the fastest non-African marathoner in the world this year. Japan-based Kenyans James Mwangi (Team NTN), the 2011 runner-up in Fukuoka, Cyrus Njui, (Team Hitachi Butsuryu), the 2010 Hokkaido Marathon winner and the third player in Kawauchi's Tokyo surge, and Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.), the 2012 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner, all hold sub-2:10 bests.  Three other Japanese runners, Takeshi Hamano (ex-Team Toyota), Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) and Tomoya Shimizu (Team Sagawa Express), have run under 2:09:30, but none has approached that kind of fitness in years and of them Shimizu is the only one who seems capable of a return to form at this stage.

Further back is a deep group of hopefuls including the five remaining New York transferees.  Scott Overall (GBR) is the best of them with a 2:10:55 mark from the 2011 Berlin Marathon, but there is no shortage of people between 2:12 and 2:15 hoping to make the jump.  Of particular note are Canadian 10000 m national record holder Simon Bairu and American Mohamed Trafeh, both high-potential athletes looking to get the marathon right after two failed attempts apiece, and 2009 National Corporate Half Marathon Champion Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel), who was only 25 seconds behind Mathathi in 3rd at July's Sapporo International Half Marathon.  Interesting wildcards include American Brent Vaughan, whose 1:02:04 half-marathon best suggests potential around the 2:10 level, and Sho Matsumoto (Dream AC), an amateur on a mission to beat Kawauchi.

Fukuoka is not the only major race in Japan this weekend.  Also on Sunday are the world's #1 10 mile road race, the Kumamoto Kosa 10-miler, and, until the rise of the big city marathon over the last five years Japan's largest mass-participation marathon, the Naha Marathon.  Going on throughout the weekend in Yokohama in its final iteration of the year is an exceptionally deep Nittai University Time Trials meet.  Look for JRN's coverage of all four events in the days to come.

2012 Fukuoka International Marathon Elite Field
Fukuoka, 12/2/12
field listing includes bib numbers, PB marks and select general division entrants
click here for complete field listing

1. Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) - 2:03:59 (Berlin, 2008)
2. Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine) - 2:07:15 (Fukuoka, 2006)
3. Isaac Macharia (Kenya) - 2:07:16 (Dubai, 2008)
4. Henryk Szost (Poland) - 2:07:39 (Lake Biwa, 2012)
28. Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) - 2:07:48 (Tokyo, 2012)
21. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) - 2:08:37 (Tokyo, 2011)
22. James Mwangi (Kenya/Team NTN) - 2:08:38 (Fukuoka, 2011)
23. Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 2:09:03 (Tokyo, 2011)
24. Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:09:10 (Tokyo, 2011)
71. Takeshi Hamano (ex-Team Toyota) - 2:09:18 (Lake Biwa, 2002)
63. Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) - 2:09:23 (Fukuoka, 2008)
65. Tomoya Shimizu (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:09:23 (Lake Biwa, 2008)
25. Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:25 (Lake Biwa, 2011)
26. Harun Njoroge (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) - 2:09:38 (Beppu-Oita, 2012)
32. Scott Overall (GBR) - 2:10:55 (Berlin, 2011)
5. Frank de Almeida (Brazil) - 2:12:03 (Milan, 2012)
6. Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe) - 2:12:08 (London Olympics, 2012)
61. Bunta Kuroki (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:12:10 (Tokyo, 2012)
62. Kota Noguchi (Team Toyota) - 2:12:28 (Nobeoka, 2012)
33. Ryan Vail (U.S.A.) - 2:12:43 (Houston, 2012)
64. Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:12:44 (Fukuoka, 2010)
55. Andrew Lemoncello (GBR) - 2:13:40 (London, 2010)
66. Yasuyuki Yamamoto (Team JFE Steel) - 2:14:21 (Beppu-Oita, 2012)
67. Takeshi Makabe (Team Kurosaki Harima) - 2:14:34 (Lake Biwa, 2009)
70. Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:14:43 (Tokyo, 2009)
34. Tim Nelson (U.S.A.) - 2:15:06 (New York, 2010)
52. Ryan Bak (U.S.A.) - 2:15:12 (Houston, 2012)
53. Seung-ho Baek (South Korea) - 2:15:20 (Hofu, 2011)
68. Tomoyuki Kawakami (Team Hitachi Logistics) - 2:15:53 (Lake Biwa, 2012)
69. Takuro Nakanishi (Fukuoka Univ.) - 2:16:19 (Rotterdam, 2012)
54. Jesse Cherry (U.S.A.) - 2:16:31 (Houston, 2012)
73. Akiyuki Iwanaga (Team Kyudenko) - 2:17:13 (Lake Biwa, 2012)
74. Kenji Sakata (Team Kurosaki Harima) - 2:18:19 (Nobeoka, 2011)
127. Sho Matsumoto (Dream AC) - 2:19:26 (Oikawa, 2012)
35. Simon Bairu (Canada) - 2:19:52 (Houston, 2012)
27. Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - debut - 58:56 half marathon
7. Mohamed Trafeh (U.S.A.) - 1:00:39 half marathon
75. Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 1:01:19
36. Brent Vaughan (U.S.A.) - 1:02:04 half marathon
76. Mahoro Ikeda (Team Aichi Seiko) - 1:03:56 half marathon

Pacers
48. Daniel Chebii (Kenya)
51. Reid Coolsaet (Canada)
45. Bitan Karoki (Kenya)
49. Boniface Kirui (Kenya)
45. Yuki Oshikawa (Japan)
46. Yuichiro Ueno (Japan)

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Ndambiri, Deguchi, Iwai, Aoyama Gakuin to Race Dec. 2 Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler

http://kumanichi.com/lsports/kiji/20121128001.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

The 37th Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler takes place this Sunday, Dec. 2.  In the main race of the day, the Japanese-only open division, there is no shortage of exciting competition on tap with top corporate and university runners squaring off over 10 miles (16.093 km). 133 Japanese men make up the open division.  Among the major contenders for the victory are 2010 winner Ryuji Watanabe (Team Toyota Kyushu) fresh from winning three stages at the Grand Tour Kyushu ekiden, and this year's 5000 m national champion Kazuya Deguchi (Team Asahi Kasei).  Invited athletes Kazuharu Takai (Team Kyudenko), Tomohiro Shiiya (Team Toyota Boshoku) and Yusuke Hasegawa (Team S&B) are also likely to be caught up in the action.

Noteworthy locals include defending champion Yuki Iwai (Team Asahi Kasei), 2:08:38 marathoner Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), 2012 National Championships 5000 m 4th placer Takaya Iwasaki (Team Shikoku Denryoku) and, with a solid run at February's Kumanichi 30 km Road Race to his credit, Shuji Yoshikawa (Team Kyudenko).

Leading the collegiate entrants, Aoyama Gakuin University will use the Kumamoto Kosa as its intramural selection race for the team's Hakone Ekiden starting roster.  Among the Aoyama Gakuin runners who were part of the team's course record-setting lineup at October's Izumo Ekiden, local fans can look forward to seeing Kyushu Gakuin H.S. graduates Yudai Fukuda (3rd yr.) and Shun Yamamura (1st yr.) racing back on home ground.

Three foreign athletes make up the international division.  Worth watching are Izumo Ekiden anchor stage winner Enock Omwamba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) and 2011 Fukuoka International Marathon winner Josphat Ndambiri (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.).

The open division and international division will start together at noon.  660 more runners will take part in the high school boys' 10 km, junior high school boys' 5 km and women's 5 km divisions.  Organizers have arranged for detour routes around the course, where roads will be closed to traffic for the duration of the race.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kawauchi Headlines Dec. 16 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon

by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Dec. 16 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon released their 2012 elite field on Nov. 28.  While Hofu has evidently cut its small international field, for the second year in a row it will star the great Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) in an inexplicably suicidal double just two weeks after the Fukuoka International Marathon.  Last year Kawauchi ran 2:09:57 for 3rd in Fukuoka in an inspirational performance, then followed up in Hofu with a head-to-head battle with Mongolian defending champion Serod Batochir where he placed 2nd in 2:12:33.  This year Kawauchi is shooting for 2:07 in Fukuoka, and with no Batochir to push him the best you could probably say is that a slower time seems likely in Hofu.

Kawauchi's strongest competition should come from Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC).  Ito holds a 2:13:16 best from last year's Gold Coast Marathon but has struggled with frequent injury problems since then.  A 2:18:55 at the Oct. 28 Oikawa Marathon as a training run for Hofu suggests Ito is fit, and if Kawauchi falters he should be right there to pick up the pieces.  Kenyan Dishon Karukuwa Maina (Team Aisan Kogyo) is another strong contender, with a 2:15:09 win just off the course record in his marathon debut at last year's Ohtawara Marathon.  Only 21, it wouldn't take much for him to step up to the win.

Noriaki Takahashi will be making his last run in the S&B uniform, one of the athletes hit by the impending demise of Japan's most celebrated corporate team.  With a 2:14:13 he isn't far off the winning level and no doubt will be coming to Hofu to go out in style.  Former two-time 5000 m national champion Kazuyoshi Tokumoto retired from 2012 national champion Team Nissin Shokuhin recently to pursue a coaching career, continuing his running with the Monteroza club team.  Hofu will be his road debut of the second half of his career.  National record holder Toshinari Takaoka-coached Shota Yamada (Team Kanebo) and first-timer Shingo Mishima (Team Toyota) round out the seven-man elite field.

The 43rd Hofu Yomiuri Marathon will be broadcast live locally by KRY and nationwide on NTV-BS, but while there is an off chance it may be available on Keyhole TV the best bet for following the race is via KRY's live 5k splits on race day.  JRN will do limited coverage of the race via Twitter @JRNLive.

43rd Hofu Yomiuri Marathon Elite Field
Hofu, Yamaguchi, 12/16/12
field listing includes bib numbers and PB marks
click here for complete elite field listing

1. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) - 2:08:37
2. Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:16
3. Noriaki Takahashi (Team S&B) - 2:14:13
4. Kazuyoshi Tokumoto (Monteroza AC) - 2:15:05
5. Dishon Karukuwa Maina (Kenya/Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:15:09
6. Shota Yamada (Team Kanebo) - 2:16:13
7. Shingo Mishima (Team Toyota) - 1:30:45 (30 km)

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Martin Lel Withdraws From Fukuoka International Marathon

http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2012112800574

translated by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Dec. 2 Fukuoka International Marathon announced on Nov. 28 that three-time London Marathon winner Martin Lel (Kenya), with a best time of 2:05:15, has withdrawn from Sunday's race due to an injury to his right thigh.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Bolder Arata Fujiwara Talks About the Training and Pyschology Behind His Return From Olympic Breakdown

http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXZZO48561770Y2A111C1000000/

translated by Brett Larner
photo by Dr. Helmut Winter

Running the London Olympics marathon as the ace man on the Japanese team, he crossed the finish line a hollow and defeated 45th in 2:19:11. Now, four months later, 2:07:48 man Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) is readying himself for a return to racing at the Dec. 2 Fukuoka International Marathon. Seiichi Yoshida talked to Fujiwara in-depth about what has been inside him as he has focused on Fukuoka.

You've said that at the Aug. 12 London Olympics marathon your form broke down, but one more time, could you analyze that failure and talk about how you interpret it and rationalize it to yourself?

When I went to St. Moritz in Switzerland to do altitude training (at 1700 m) my body got very strong, but I couldn't get into the kind of motion I have when I'm in one of my good cycles.  The London course had an extremely large number of curves, abundant in variation, and it was hard to get into a steady rhythm.  Normally once I get into a good rhythm I never lose it, but I knew the London course would be one where there was a good chance that I would.  You should always try to run in a good rhythm.  There are athletes who can still hammer it out even if they can't lock in, but I'm not that kind of guy.  As I've said before, if you wanted to level a criticism on me for something I should have worked on more you could probably say that I wasn't strong enough.

But even before that, right from when I got to London I felt that I was having trouble getting into the right form.  I was in great shape, so even though my form was off I was in a situation where I could run off my strength, and as a result of that it was hard to be maniacally focused on my form.  The people around me were telling me, "You're running nice and smoothly," so that also contributed to a false sense of security.  Inside a voice was saying, "Not ready, not ready," but at the same time I think I was working hard on getting into a calm and reassured state of mind.  Regardless of the reason, ultimately I declined from peak readiness.

After the race started, would you attribute it having been hard right from the early stages to your form having been off?

That's really the only way to think about it.  I was just clomping along, feeling like the edge on my running had gone dull.  I haven't watched the video of the Olympics after getting back.  I never watch videos of the bad times.

Even the Kenyans and the Ethiopians couldn't win gold.  The marathon is tough.

I intend to show everyone that "The marathon is easy," some day.  But right now I'd still have to agree with the people who say, "The marathon is tough."

What kind of comeback plan did you have after the Olympics?

The usual way of thinking would be to target the Tokyo Marathon in February, which would leave me with a lot of time on my hands.  Even if I didn't start serious training right away I had enough time to get ready, and I knew that after the Olympics Tokyo would be another big one, so I just ended up being lazy.  I didn't have any kind of training plan put together, and before I realized it two months had gone by.  I had been travelling around and it was already October.  When I looked at what kind of condition my body was in I thought, "Whoa, what is this?"

At that point I suddenly thought of it.  If I jumped into Fukuoka, how would I do?  That was when I put it on my calendar.  My motivation turned on as if blood had suddenly started flowing to a part of my brain that hadn't been getting any.  I thought, "Alright, let's do it," and then jumped into training serious enough to make my eyes change color.

I think the way I train is outside common sense.  It's really chaotic and mixed-up.  I'm doing some kind of workout (the kind of high-intensity training normally done two or three times a week) probably every day.

What specifically have you been doing since October?

It started with doing 16000 m on the track at 3:30~40 / km pace.  Once I was doing that regularly I switched to 12 km cross-country.  XC is a little higher intensity, so I did it at about 3:50 / km pace.  I built up the distance bit by bit, 14 km, 16 km, 18 km, 20 km, then 20 km again the next day.

After that I took two days off, then went into interval training.  12 x 1000 m at 3:05 pace.  Next 6 x 2000 m in 6:10.  Then I went back to XC, doing three days straight of 20 km runs, this time raising the pace to 3:30~40 / km.  At that point I could feel that my body was back to normal.

Next it was time for full-effort XC runs.  3 km + 2 km + 1 km sets with 5 minutes recovery, then 3 km X 5.  I tried to do 6 km x 3 but couldn't finish it.  I did two more days of 20 km runs and then was feeling strong and focused, so I went after the 6 km x 3 workout again and this time I could do it.

After that I did a 1 km x 14 session starting at 2:55 / km pace.  After the fifth one I picked it up to 2:50 pace.  It was a really windy day, so I felt very confident after hitting all my targets in that workout.  I thought that I was ready for longer runs then, so I did 15 km targeting 3:00 / km pace.  Even though that was a windy day too I cleared 45 minutes.

After two days of recovery, on Nov. 15 I ran 20 km, getting perfectly into my rhythm and comfortably doing it in 59:30.  Before I started doing this specific training my condition had fallen so low that I could barely break 16 minutes for 5000 m, but I got to where I am now in only a month.  I'm in shape to run a marathon under 2:10.

Cramming all of your training in like that is something you can only do if you can get away with it, isn't it?

It has its risks, so I'd never do something like this before the Olympics.  There's a playful spirit in this kind of training menu, so it's a lot more interesting and fun for me right now.  I think in my case it's always better when I'm halfway screwing around.  When there's not enough time to get ready for a race and I'm standing there with my back against the wall thinking, "Oh man, this looks bad...." and I'm forced to make radical changes to the way I train in order to deal with the race, that's when I tend to get my best results.

When I do that kind of thing I have to wonder what this thing people call talent is.  Anyone who thinks, "Alright, let's do it," can go after the hard workouts.  There are people who are going to get hurt and people who aren't up for it mentally or emotionally, people whose physiology doesn't improve even when they do the training.  To put it simply, athletes whose results never manifest themselves.  I think talented athletes are the ones whose bodies are able to transform in a positive way in reaction to the stresses put on them in training.

Overall this probably sounds like I'm saying I think I'm talented.  Well, if I'm going to be honest, I guess if I didn't think that I had any talent then I wouldn't feel like doing these kinds of hard workouts, but what I ultimately want to say is that no matter how much talent you have, it's not going to be all laughs when you're going after results.

If my line of thinking is right then it's wrong when coaches say, "You don't have much talent, so you have to work harder."  You can see a lot of athletes with that kind of old-fashioned spirit who honestly believe talk like that.  Let me tell you, the me I am right now is happy to be out there killing myself.  I am having pure, unadulterated fun when I'm doing these hard workouts.

Does that mean you weren't enjoying it before the Olympics?

I was the honor-roll student on the team so I didn't have a lot of choice.....I was chosen as an Olympian so things had to be a certain way.  You have to put out the results.  Needless to say I was under stress before the Olympics.  I felt that something was a little bit wrong.  "Am I too relaxed?"  "Am I thinking too much?"  I didn't really understand my own situation.  If you self-monitor closely you can tell when your strength is on the wane, but I wasn't doing any self-examination.  I figured that thinking too much about little changes was a bad thing.  And then I felt like an idiot when I got the results I did.

So what are your goals for the rest of your marathon career?

Time, of course.  I'm not going for it in Fukuoka, but I want to run 2:05.  2:04 would be nice too.....If Fukuoka is sub-2:10 then I'll consider it a success.

In Fukuoka you'll be up against strong competition like Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei), Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) and Haile Gebreselassie (Ethiopia).  What's your plan?

I haven't thought at all about what kind of race to run yet.  There's a lot of competition, so I'll think about what to do once I get to the 30 km point.

How do you feel that you've changed as a result of your Olympic experience?

I think I'm bolder now.  I was a loser at the Olympics, pure and simple, so there's nothing worse than that left for me. The Olympics were something monumental, something I felt like a touch on my skin. No, in the core of my body.  Now I'm full of enthusiasm about how to write the story of my own post-war reconstruction.  I'm still absorbing the message of the chapter about my Olympic failure.

It seems like it would be easy to get preoccupied with thoughts of, "I should have done this," or "I should have done that."

Emotionally speaking, it is totally unproductive to have remorse about what you should have done.  I stamp out that kind of thinking in a hurry.  But in terms of working toward the future it is necessary to examine what went wrong.  Everything that leads up to a race is one continuous stream of events. There is no chance that it could all be wrong, so you have to examine things closely and search for where there were mistakes and where things could be improved.  That kind of analysis will leave you in a position where you are psychologically ready to compete again.

I feel like there aren't many athletes who make that kind of detailed analysis once things are over and done with.

In the world of competition there is no "if," but I think the "if" that hangs above consideration of whether doing particular things differently might lead to different results is vital.  That's why I carefully analyze things post race, for the benefit of my next opportunity to race.  You see athletes all the time who hang their heads and say, "I'm very sorry.  I did badly."  But if that's all there is then it's just a negation of the self, a reinforcing of a negative mindset and a negation of any real self-examination.  When you say, "I wasn't strong enough.  I need to start over from the beginning," it's nothing more than some kind of formal greeting, something you have to say because you haven't understood yourself.  If the extent of your self-analysis is "I did badly" then you will never move forward.

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lateralus Revisited



Non-running related, but three years ago today, coincidentally enough the day after I published my "Credit Where Credit Is Due" article, the group I played in did this performance of my arrangement of Tool's "Lateralus" for eight-piece koto ensemble.  Today it's the most-viewed video of koto music on Youtube.  When I listen to it now I still feel that we touched something higher that night.

'Rupp, Puskedra and Japanese Distance Running'

http://www.flotrack.org/coverage/249682-2012-Cross-Country-Season-on-Flotrack/article/15776-Rupp-Puskedra-and-Japanese-Distance-Running

Hmmn, the table at the heart of this article by Mitch Kastoff on Flotrack looks familiar


I think I've seen that picture of Rupp before too.

Update: It appears that Flotrack has added an apology to the article, but at this stage as far as I am aware I've neither been formally asked for nor given permission for my copyrighted material to be used on their website and have not been compensated for its use.  It's hard to see where there is a "misunderstanding" in taking someone else's work, attaching phrases such as "we assembled a list" and "our table," and republishing it.  I'm not from Texas but where I come from that would generally be described as "theft."


It's a strange coincidence that "Credit Where Credit is Due" was published exactly three years ago to the day.  Also that my own most recent comparison of U.S. and Japanese collegiate performances over middle and long distances was published only six days ago. 


The author of this fine piece, Mitch Kastoff.  And what do you know, I'm not the only one this year to have had something stolen by Flotrack.  You have to wonder how much advertising revenue they are pulling in from Asics and other sponsors while appropriating others' work.

Update: I have received a contribution to JRN from Kastoff at Flotrack.  Many thanks.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sho Matsumoto Looking to Take Down Kawauchi and Pick Up His Ticket to Worlds

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20121126/ath12112605020003-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

At the Nov. 25 Koedo Kawagoe Half Marathon, Kawagoe resident Sho Matsumoto, 27, won overall in a course record time of 1:05:33.  As a first-year at Tokyo University he showed his determination by making the 2005 Hakone Ekiden on the Kanto Regional University Select Team.  Crossing Kawagoe's finish line with arms outspread almost eight years later, he outran all the invited university runners in the field.  "That was a lot faster than I planned," he said with a rueful smile.  "I'm surprised too.  Maybe I overdid it a little....."  The truth is that Matsumoto is entered to run next weekend's Fukuoka International Marathon, a selection race for the 2013 Moscow World Championships.  "I just planned to go out at a moderate, conservative pace, but it was feeling easy and I found myself running in 2nd.  With 500 m to go I kicked for the win.  I'm probably going to pay for it next week."

At Kobayashi H.S. in his native Miyazaki, Matsumoto ran the National High School Ekiden Championships as a first-year and again as a third-year.  After entering Tokyo University he ran the 2005 Hakone Ekiden on the Kanto Regional University Select Team, finishing 10th on the Eighth Stage.  The fact that the elite Tokyo University even had a running team became news, and Matsumoto earned a reputation as a top scholar-athlete.

After graduating he joined the TEPCO corporate ekiden team but resigned after three years.*  He now works at the Nikkei Business Service company in Shinjuku, Tokyo.  Since quitting the TEPCO team, as an amateur he frequently runs in Yoyogi Park nearby his office and on the Koedo Kawagoe Half Marathon course in Kawagoe Suijo Park near his home.  He typically runs 10 to 20 km on weekdays and reserves his 30 km long runs for weekends, a perfectly ordinary training schedule.

Burning in Matsumoto's mind, however, is his greatest rival, the role model for amateurs everywhere, Yuki Kawauchi, 25.  Kawauchi is also on the entry list for Fukuoka.  Matsumoto couldn't ask for a better chance for a good fight.  "(In Fukuoka) I want to be up front and on TV in the first half," he says.  "If I don't blow up in the second half then hopefully I can finish around 2:13."  With his times steadily improving lately, Matsumoto says his ultimate goal is, "to break 2:10 and make the Japanese National Team in the marathon."  Next week may well turn into a battle between amateurs for a Moscow ticket, and that is sure to create some buzz.

*Translator's note: This would likely mean that Matsumoto quit the team following the Mar. 11, 2011 disasters, when members of TEPCO's ekiden team were sent to help with cleanup in Fukushima after the explosions at TEPCO's nuclear plants in that area.  

Matsumoto's recent results include a 2:19:26 win, a PB by 6:53, at the Oct. 28 Oikawa Marathon and a 1:04:01 at the Nov. 18 Ageo City Half Marathon.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

'Fancy Footwork'

http://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/other-sports/athletics-fancy-footwork.19314258

Batochir and Simon Win Osaka, Takahashi and Ouchi Take Kobe

http://sportsnavi.yahoo.co.jp/other/athletic/marathon/osaka/2012/headlines/20121125-00000004-spnavi-spo.html
http://www.daily.co.jp/newsflash/general/2012/11/25/0005553103.shtml

translated and edited by Brett Larner

In their second editions the Osaka Marathon and Kobe Marathon moved to the same day, Nov. 25, meaning that one greater metropolitan area held two large-scale marathons simultaneously with combined fields of 50,000.

In Osaka, men's winner Serod Batochir (Mongola) ran 2:11:52 to set a new course record.  The top Japanese finisher, Yasuyuki Nakamura (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), was 2nd in a PB 2:15:37, while half-marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) was 3rd in 2:16:26.  Defending men's champion Elijah Sang (Kenya) faded badly after running the first part of the race in the lead pack, finishing 8th in 2:33:33.

Defending women's champion Lidia Simon (Romania) won in 2:33:12 by more than one minute over Kenyan Julia Mumbi, with Yuki Ino (Team Noritz) the top Japanese woman in 3rd.

In Kobe, local Hyogo native Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) set a new course record of 2:21:14 for the men's win.  Takahashi, with a PB of 2:11:25, was alone in the lead by the first km mark and steadily built his lead the entire race, winning by a final margin of more than 4 minutes.  Last year's runner-up Masahiro Taguchi (Mitsubishi Kagaku) was 2nd again.

After the race winner Takahashi commented, "I decided to do this race back in June and my training since then has been solid.  I ran for the win, so even though I didn't break 2:20 I'm glad to have won.  I had figured I'd probably end up running alone, but I would have been glad to have someone else there to help keep things on track for a better time.  It was hard being by myself from the start but again I'm glad I could keep it going alone.  I thought the course was going to be flat but there were some tough little ups and downs in there.  My face never gives it away when I'm hurting, but I was today.  I have to say thanks to all the spectators for the best cheering I've ever had."

In the women's race, Yui Ouchi (Team Noritz) set a new course record of 2:39:52 after running much of the race with her teammate Kaori Oyama, who ultimately faded to 4th.  Defending champion Satoko Uetani (Kobe Gakuin Univ.) ran the entire race in 3rd, catching Oyama late in the race but run down by last year's runner-up, mid-40's local amateur Chihiro Tanaka (AthleC AC) who took 2nd in 2:42:21 just two weeks after finishing 7th at the Athens Classic Marathon.

2nd Osaka Marathon
Osaka, 11/25/12
click here for complete results

Men
1. Serod Batochir (Mongolia) - 2:11:52 - CR
2. Yasuyuki Nakamura (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:37 - PB
3. Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:16:26
4. Oleg Kulkov (Russia) - 2:16:53
5. Brandon Mull (U.S.A.) - 2:19:21 - PB

Women
1. Lidia Simon (Romania) - 2:33:12
2. Julia Mumbi (Kenya) - 2:34:16
3. Yuki Ino (Team Noritz) - 2:43:24
4. Christina Overbeck-Crawford (U.S.A.) - 2:44:04
5. Yumiko Hara (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:44:24

2nd Kobe Marathon
Kobe, 11/25/12
click here for complete results

Men
1. Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) - 2:21:14 - CR
2. Masahiro Taguchi (Mitsubishi Kagaku) - 2:25:19
3. Yoshiteru Tano (Hyogo Pref.) - 2:27:54

Women
1. Yui Ouchi (Team Noritz) - 2:39:52 - CR
2. Chihiro Tanaka (AthleC AC) - 2:42:21
3. Kaori Oyama (Team Noritz) - 2:42:41
4. Satoko Uetani (Kobe Gakuin Univ.) - 2:42:52
5. Kumi Saito - 2:43:48

Hasegawa Hits World Champs 10000 m B-Standard, 17 Collegiates Sub-29 in Tokyo

text and Kanto video by Brett Larner
Hachioji video by B1853264


Two major time trial meets focusing on the men's 10000 m took place in Tokyo Nov. 24, the pro-oriented Hachioji Long Distance Time Trials meet in Tokyo's western suburbs, and the Kanto Region University Long Distance Time Trials meet at the National Stadium.



The focus in the A-heat in Hachioji was on the 2013 World Championships A and B qualifying times of 27:40.00 and 28:05.00.  With impeccable pacing from Bitan Karoki (Kenya/Team S&B) in 14:00 through 5000 m, former Jobu University ace Yusuke Hasegawa (Team S&B), 2011 year-leader Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) and Kenyans Patrick Mwaka (Team Aisan Kogyo) and Alex Mwangi (Team YKK) cleared the B-standard, Hasegawa going sub-60 on his final lap to deliver a 15-second PB of 27:50.64.  With outstanding conditions four other men in the top ten ran PBs of 20 to 45 seconds, led by 2012 Waseda University graduate Yusuke Mita (Team JR Higashi Nihon) in 28:15.02 for 5th.  11th place finisher Shota Shinjo (Chuo Univ.) was the top collegiate in the A-heat in 28:49.37 just six days after running 1:03:32 for 11th at the Ageo City Half Marathon.  In the D-heat, sophomore Kazuto Nishiike (Hosei Univ.), just out of the medals at the 2010 Youth Olympics 3000 m and a blank during his first year at Hosei, delivered a big run to win by a margin of over 20 seconds in 28:43.69, just 4 seconds off his best from his junior year of high school.



The Kanto meet, a day-long event with fifteen men's 10000 m heats plus women's 5000 m and 10000 m heats, played an important role for the coaches of schools running January's Hakone Ekiden, helping them pare down their rosters to the fittest as the season approaches its peak.  Just a few years ago it was noteworthy if a team had runners with 10000 m PBs uner 29 minutes.  In a sign of the continued evolution of Kanto region university men's distance running, the Kanto Region University Federation offered scholarship money this year to any runner who ran a sub-29 PB at the Nov. 24 meet.  And repeated this fact many times over loudspeakers during the A-heat.

The athletes responded, with fifteen men in Heat 15 breaking 29, almost all in PB times or debuts thanks in part to the excellent conditions and in part to the outstanding pacing by members of the Meiji University team.  All five of Meiji's runners in Heat 15 took turns leading, splitting 2:54 for every single km in the first half of the race to keep things dead on 29-flat pace.  Ace sophomore Yuki Arimura went to the front after 5000 m to push things faster with a 2:52 split, and all fifteen men in the top pack went along to negative split their way to sub-29 marks.  Arimura took the top position in the fastest collegiate time of the weekend, 28:41.75, with three of his four teammates joining him under 29.  Meiji's second man, junior Kaido Kita, ran 28:43.82 for 4th but missed his best by 1 second, the only man in the top fifteen not to PB.  2012 national university half marathon champion Toshikatsu Ebina was 2nd in 28:42.90 to lead three Teikyo University men under 29, 3rd-placer Tatsuya Oike one of two Juntendo University men to run 28.

Hakone Ekiden course record holder Toyo University had two men sub-29 in new bests, star first-year Yuma Hattori and second-stringer Norihisa Imai, but the big surprise of the day was minor Chuo Gakuin University with two first-years under 29. Unknown Hironori Tsuetaki led the way, 5th in 28:44.60 to position himself ahead of Hattori and Izumo Ekiden course record-setter Aoyama Gakuin University's Kazuma Kubota as the fastest rookie on the Kanto scene.  His fellow first-year Keita Shioya just squeezed under 29, 15th in 28:59.55, but did it six days after running 1:03:19 for 7th in Ageo.  With fourteen men running new bests under 29 the Kanto university federation is sure to be paying out more scholarship money than they expected.

2012 Hachioji Long Distance Time Trials
Hachioji, Tokyo, 11/24/12
click here for complete results

Men's 10000 m Heat 1
1. Yusuke Hasegawa (Team S&B) - 27:50.64 - PB
2. Patrick Mwaka (Kenya/Team Aisan Kogyo) - 27:54.82
3. Alex Mwangi (Kenya/Team YKK) - 27:54.86
4. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) - 27:55.29
5. Yusuke Mita (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 28:15.02 - PB
6. Naohiro Domoto (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 28:16.92 - PB
7. Paul Kuira (Kenya/Team Konica Minolta) - 28:18.81
8. Ryo Matsumoto (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 28:24.62 - PB
9. Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu) - 28:24.68 - PB
10. Kenta Murozuka (SDF Academy) - 28:25.19
11. Shota Shinjo (Chuo Univ.) - 28:49.37

Men's 10000 m Heat 4
1. Kazuto Nishiike (Hosei Univ.) - 28:43.69
2. Shigeki Tsuji (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 29:04.52
3. Ryosuke Fukuyama (Team Honda) - 29:10.89

2012 Kanto Region University Long Distance Time Trials
National Stadium, Tokyo, 11/24/12
click here for complete results

Men's 10000 m Heat 15
1. Yuki Arimura (Meiji Univ.) - 28:41.75 - PB
2. Toshikatsu Ebina (Teikyo Univ.) - 28:42.90 - PB
3. Tatsuya Oike (Juntendo Univ.) - 28:43.82 - PB
4. Kaido Kita (Meiji Univ.) - 28:43.92
5. Hironori Tsuetaki (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 28:44.60 - PB
6. Junji Katakawa (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 28:44.81 - PB
7. Kento Tanaka (Teikyo Univ.) - 28:45.03 - PB
8. Shuho Dairokuno (Meiji Univ.) - 28:46.12 - PB
9. Tsukasa Koyama (Teikyo Univ.) - 28:46.20 - PB
10. Kei Fumimoto (Meiji Univ.) - 28:47.54 - debut
11. Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 28:52.55 - PB
12. Yuji Osuda (Chuo Univ.) - 28:54.01 - PB
13. Norihisa Imai (Toyo Univ.) - 28:54.77 - PB
14. Kazuma Ozawa (Juntendo Univ.) - 28:54.92 - PB
15. Keita Shioya (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 28:59.55 - PB

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Asahi Kasei Dominates Final New Year Ekiden Qualifier

http://mainichi.jp/sports/news/20121124k0000m050028000c.html
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2012/11/24/kiji/K20121124004624680.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

For the third year in a row Team Asahi Kasei won the seven stage, 78.8 km Kyushu Corporate Men's Ekiden, dominating the race's 49th edition on Nov. 23.  With Olympian Ryuji Ono taking the lead on the Third Stage with a stage best run, anchor Takuya Fukatsu setting a new stage record and every team member finishing in the top four on time on their stage, there was little question of the team securing its 42nd win in the event's history.

Team Yasukawa Denki presented a challenge in the early going with Hiroki Kubota running the fastest time on the Second Stage, but anchor Kentaro Nakamoto, the London Olympics marathon 6th placer, faded and could not maintain position.  Team Toyota Kyushu started slow, only getting into the game with a stage best run by ace Masato Imai on the Third Stage and another from Yuya Konishi on the Sixth Stage.  World Cross Country Championships silver medalist Paul Tanui blasted the Fifth Stage and brought Team Kyudenko to within one second of leader Asahi Kasei, briefly taking the lead before being outkicked by Asahi Kasei's Tetsuya Yoroizaka, but Kyudenko's final two runners could not improve the team's standing and fell behind.

Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki came up late in the race to take 5th, Team Kurosaki Harima right behind in 6th.  With all of its runners finishing 7th on their individual stages, Team Nishitetsu claimed the final New Year Ekiden national championships ticket.  Conditions during the race were cloudy, 14.6 degrees, 60% humidity, with 3.4 m/s NNE winds.

The same day as the Kyushu Corporate Men's Ekiden, Asahi Kasei's Ryoichi Matsuo, 21, won the 25th Otawara Marathon.  Running just his second marathon, Matsuo broke free of the competition at 24 km to win in 2:16:55 by a margin of 30 seconds.  "I was going for the course record (2:14:53), so I can't be satisfied with my time," Matsuo commented afterward.  One of coach Takeshi Soh's young hopes for the team's future, Matsuo said, "I want to build on this win in my future races and keep reaching upward."

Kikuyo Tsuzaki (22, Team Noritz) won the women's race in 2:43:50.  A first-year pro and like Matsuo running her second marathon, Tsuzaki found herself in the lead after just 3 km.  "There weren't any women around me," she said, "but the men in the race helped pull me along."  Looking toward her future goals she said, "I want to become an athlete whose name everybody knows."

49th Kyushu Corporate Men's Ekiden
Fukuoka-Kitakyushu, 11/23/12
seven stages, 78.8 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Performances - top seven qualify for New Year Ekiden
1. Team Asahi Kasei - 3:52:54
2. Team Yasukawa Denki - 3:55:20
3. Team Toyota Kyushu - 3:56:03
4. Team Kyudenko - 3:56:23
5. Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki - 3:59:15
6. Team Kurosaki Harima - 3:59:17
7. Team Nishitetsu - 4:04:54
-----
8. Team Togami Electric - 4:12:09
9. Kokubun SDF Base - 4:15:11
10. Team Kyocera Kagoshima - 4:16:23

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (13.4 km) - Kazuya Deguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 41:54
Second Stage (10.2 km) - Hiroki Kubota (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 31:06
Third Stage (10.5 km) - Ryuji Ono (Team Asahi Kasei) - 28:55
Fourth Stage (12.2 km) -Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 34:58
Fifth Stage (9.2 km) - Paul Tanui (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 25:29
Sixth Stage (9.1 km) - Yuya Konishi (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 26:39
Seventh Stage (14.2 km) - Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei) - 40:58 - CR

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ueno Solos Second-Straight Fuchu Tamagawa Half Win

http://www.komaspo.com/4157

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The 35th Fuchu Tamagawa Half Marathon took place Nov. 23 in Tokyo's western suburb of Fuchu.  In their last road race before the Jan. 1-2 Hakone Ekiden, defending Fuchu Tamagawa winner Wataru Ueno and teammate Toshiaki Nishizawa of 2012 National University Men's Ekiden champion Komazawa University went 1-2.  Both athletes ran well from the start, running together through 10 km before Ueno made a move to go alone into the lead just before 13 km, leaving Nishizawa behind to fade away.  Looking calm and composed he ran as though there was nothing else, taking the win in 1:05:01.  At the other end of the spectrum, Nishizawa's face showed the strain of the second half of the race and he drifted to a distant 2nd in 1:06:20.  In terms of their placing they showed the characteristic Komazawa strength, but neither athlete was able to reach his time goal.  Both athletes gave comments after the race.

Wataru Ueno
I was still tired from our latest training camp but the conditions were great after the rain let up and it was easy to run.  I dug deep on this one.  Coach (Hiroaki Oyagi) had given me some advice, so I picked things up at 5 km, but even so I was aiming for 64 flat and I ended up a minute short of that.  Since I ran a fair amount of it alone I think it was good mental training (for the Hakone Ekiden).  This is going to be my last Hakone so I want to win my stage and help get the overall win.

Toshiaki Nishizawa
I'm still recovering from the last training camp, so in running with Ueno he was really pushing it and I was just trying to stay with him.  But, I found that I was more fatigued than I expected and after 10 km I started to fade back and was soon by myself.  (Coach Oyagi told me that) this was my last race before Hakone and that I should work on speeding up in the second half, but I couldn't do anything to impress him in this race.  I guess I have to impress him in practice now.  I have to try to overcome my own weakness.

35th Fuchu Tamagawa Half Marathon
Fuchu, Tokyo, 11/23/12

Men
1. Wataru Ueno (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:05:01
2. Toshiaki Nishizawa (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:06:20
3. Suguru Abe (Kanagawa Univ.) - 1:07:21

Kenya Over Japan for Second-Straight International Chiba Ekiden Win

by Brett Larner

For the second year in a row, Kenya and Japan battled back and forth for the lead of the International Chiba Ekiden all the way, with Kenya pulling ahead in the final two km to a narrow victory in 2:05:06 to Japan's 2:05:16.  All three Kenyan women on the team won their stages, Gladys Cherono and anchor Joyce Chepkirui setting new records on their legs.  Olympic 10000 m medalist Galen Rupp won his stage to bring the U.S.A close to the leaders but could not improve his team's position, the U.S.A. taking 3rd in 2:06:36.  Russia, the Japanese University Select Team, Canada, New Zealand and hosts Chiba Prefecture rounded out the top eight, with New Zealand's twins Jake and Zane Robertson winning their stages.  Although times were slower than last year in the cold rain the day brought, in all it felt like the highest-level, most truly international edition of Chiba since the switch to the joint men's and women's team format.

The Japanese University team's Ryotaro Otani of 2012 Izumo Ekiden course record-setting Aoyama Gakuin University took things out fast on the 5 km First Stage, with Zane Robertson on his shoulder and a tight pack of the best just behind.  Otani faded after 2.5 km, and Waseda University ace Suguru Osako moved up to join Robertson in the lead.  At 4 km the pair surged, dropping the competition including London Olympics 5000 m bronze medalist Thomas Longosiwa of Kenya and going head to head for the stage win.  Robertson, with a 5000 m best nearly 30 seconds slower than Osako's, was the one who broke free with 200 m to go to hand off 2 seconds ahead of the Japanese team and far ahead of his own best.  Russia's Egor Nikolaev, 2nd on the opening stage last year, was 3rd, with Canada's Geoff Martinson just behind in 4th.

10000 m national champion Mika Yoshikawa made short work of taking the lead away from New Zealand's Danielle Ingram-Trevis on the 5 km Second Stage but was run down by Cherono in the home straight.  Despite Cherono's left shoe coming undone she blasted a 14:54 course record to put Kenya 2 seconds ahead of Japan.  Sub-15 Russian Elena Zadorozhnaya maintained 3rd, Chelsea Reilly advancing the U.S. to 4th a step ahead of the Japanese University team's Ayuko Suzuki.

Kenyan titan Edwin Soi took things out fast on the first of the two men's 10 km stages, but, evidently to the surprise of at least one American commentator who dismissed him as some "random Japanese dude" with nothing but a "home field advantage," the Japanese team's 28:07/1:01:38 junior Shinobu Kubota, who earlier this month made up a margin of over a minute to anchor Komazawa University to its tenth national title under head coach Hiroaki Oyagi, was brilliant.  With sub-13 man Soi initially opening a lead of 15 seconds Kubota did what he does best and ran him down.  At 4.5 km he caught Soi and went ahead into the lead.  Soi responded but Kubota stayed locked to his side and surging on the corners for the remainder of the stage.  Soi naturally had the kick to keep Kenya in the lead at the handoff but Kubota marked himself as a name to watch, particularly with a planned marathon debut in Lake Biwa in March on tap.  Further back, the U.S.A.'s Jake Riley had a solid run, dropping the Japanese University team's Shota Hiraga and running down Russia's Evgeny Rybakov.  New Zealand's Jake Robertson was a surprise stage winner as he handed off in 6th ahead of Canadian Olympian Reid Coolsaet.

Kenyan Olympic marathon silver medalist Priscah Jeptoo and the Japan team's Misaki Onishi started simultaneously in the lead on the 5 km Fourth Stage, but after only 1.5 km Onishi began to slip back.  Jeptoo rolled away steadily, opening a gap of 30 seconds to win the stage on time and hand off in the lead.  The U.S.A.'s Emma Kertesz was phenomenal, dropping Russian Svetlana Kireyeva and opening a sizeable gap before handing off to highly-anticipated London Olympics 10000 m silver medalist Galen Rupp in 3rd.  Collegiate 10000 m national champion first-year Haruka Kyuma ran well for the Japanese University team, narrowing the deficit to Kireyeva for final collegiate man Takehiro Deki.

At the start of the hilly 10 km Fifth Stage sub-13 Kenyan Philip Mosima held a 30 second lead over past 1500 m and 5000 m Japanese national champion Yuichiro Ueno, the U.S.' Rupp another 42 seconds back, a perfect setup for a classic stage.  Ueno, with pacing duties at next week's Fukuoka International Marathon, handled the distance well and caught Mosima by halfway even as Rupp, wearing a support on his left thigh, made up ground.  After a 13:59 5 km split it looked as though Rupp might make contact with the top two, but going onto the hills in the second half Ueno attacked and after a protracted battle did away with Mosima to put Japan ahead by 11 seconds at the handoff.  Rupp was faster but too far away to catch the leaders, winning the stage in 28:20 but still 16 seconds from first overall.

With four major uphills making it the toughest of Chiba's legs, the 7.195 km anchor stage was thus set up as a match race between 5000 m national champion Hitomi Niiya, who led most of the Olympic 10000 m before finishing in an all-time Japanese #3 30:59.19, and African cross-country champion Joyce Chepkirui, a DNF in the Olympic 10000 m.  Niiya hit it hard, clocking 5:52 for the first 2 km as if the hills weren't there, but Chepkirui still ran her down.  Back and forth they ran, Chepkirui gapping Niiya on the flat stretches and Niiya coming back on the hills, but with a flat final 2 km the outcome seemed inevitable.  Chepkirui pulled away steadily with 2 km to go, bringing Kenya home to a successful title defense despite taking a wrong turn heading into the stadium and getting confused about her final lap on the track.  A disappointed Niiya came in 10 seconds behind, with the U.S.A.'s Neely Spence losing over a minute for 3rd.  Russia and the Japanese University team maintained 4th and 5th, while Canada's Lanni Marchant and New Zealand's Sarah Drought battled over the last lap for 6th, Marchant coming out ahead.  Hosts Chiba rounded out the podium with a top eight finish.

All told it was the most interesting and meaningful International Chiba Ekiden in memory, a race packed with Olympians and medalists from around the world.  Surely not a coincidence with another Olympic bid in progress.  If the bid committee has its way, should Tokyo win next fall we may be lucky enough to see an ekiden on the menu.  The Chiba course is sure to be the first choice.



2012 International Chiba Ekiden
Chiba, 11/23/12
six stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results
click stage header for individual stage results

Top Individual Performances
First Stage (5.0 km, men)
1. Zane Robertson (New Zealand) - 13:29
2. Suguru Osako (Japan) - 13:31
3. Egor Nikolaev (Russia) - 13:37
4. Geoff Martinson (Canada) - 13:50
5. Keisuke Tanaka (Chiba) - 13:57

Second Stage (5.0 km, women)
1. Gladys Cherono (Kenya) - 14:54 - CR
2. Mika Yoshikawa (Japan) - 15:22
3. Chelsea Reilly (U.S.A.) - 15:29
4. Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Univ.) - 15:32
5. Elena Zadorozhnaya (Russia) - 15:45

Third Stage (10.0 km, men)
1. Jake Robertson (New Zealand) - 28:40
2. Jacob Riley (U.S.A.) - 28:46
3. Reid Coolsaet (Canada) - 28:58
4. Evgeny Rybakov (Russia) - 28:58
5. Shinobu Kubota (Japan) - 29:01

Fourth Stage (5.0 km, women)
1. Priscah Jeptoo (Kenya) - 15:40
2. Misaki Onishi (Japan) - 16:10
3. Emma Kertesz (U.S.A.) - 16:25
4. Haruka Kyuma (Japan Univ.) - 16:26
5. Dominika Nowakowska (Poland) - 16:38

Fifth Stage (10.0 km, men)
1. Galen Rupp (U.S.A.) - 28:20
2. Yuichiro Ueno (Japan) - 28:46
3. Philip Mosima (Kenya) - 29:27
4. Tim Hodge (New Zealand) - 30:00
5. Alex Genest (Canada) - 30:07

Sixth Stage (7.195 km, women)
1. Joyce Chepkirui (Kenya) - 22:05 - CR
2. Hitomi Niiya (Japan) - 22:26
3. Neely Spence (U.S.A.) - 23:30
4. Mai Tsuda (Japan Univ.) - 24:02
5. Elizaveta Grechishinikova (Russia) - 24:05

Team Results
1. Kenya - 2:05:06
2. Japan - 2:05:16
3. U.S.A. - 2:06:36
4. Russia - 2:09:13
5. Japan Univ. Select Team - 2:09:31
6. Canada - 2:11:01
7. New Zealand - 2:11:04
8. Chiba Pref. - 2:12:12
9. Poland - 2:13:02
10. Romania - 2:13:41
11. Norway - 2:14:08
12. Australia - 2:15:19
13. Finland - 2:16:29
14. South Korea - 2:16:42
15. Czech Republic - 2:16:49

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, November 22, 2012

International Chiba Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner

Continuing on with its unique and entertaining format of alternating men and women on each stage the Nov. 23 International Chiba Ekiden boasts its strongest overall field since switching from separate men's and women's races, with London Olympics medalists Priscah Jeptoo and Thomas Longosiwa of Kenya and American Galen Rupp crowning the lists.  The race will be broadcast live nationwide on Fuji TV beginning at 1:00 p.m. local time.  Keyhole TV has reportedly not been working recently, leaving limited viewing options for international fans.  JRN will cover the ekiden via Twitter @JRNLive.  Please note that this is not the regular @JRNHeadlines feed, so follow both to be sure to get all updates.  Live results should be available after each stage on the official race website.  Fuji's race website is also worth a check.

Defending Chiba winner and course record holder Kenya is the favorite again this year, with Jeptoo, Longosiwa, Edwin Soi and Philip Mosima the top-ranked athletes on four of Chiba's six stages, but the Russian team holds the other two top individual spots with women Yelena Zadorozhnaya and Elizaveta Grechishnikova and is close behind overall, third woman Svetlana Kireyeva ranked second on her stage and all three men, Egor Nikolaev and twins Evgeny and Anatoliy Rybakov, having been close to winning their Chiba stages in the past.  If both teams run up to ability it could be a close race for the win between them.

The Japan team last won Chiba in 2009, outrun by the Japanese University Select Team the next year and Kenya last year despite breaking the course record.  This year's lineup, featuring Olympians Hitomi Niiya (Team Univ. Ent.) and Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) and top collegiates Shinobu Kubota (Komazawa Univ.) and Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) and with the home-soil and familiar race format advantages, is a solid bet for 3rd, higher if either Kenya or Russia falters.

The U.S.A. and the 2010 Chiba-winning Japanese University Select Team, featuring Takehiro Deki and Ryotaro Otani of 2012 Izumo Ekiden course record setters Aoyama Gakuin University and 2012 national collegiate 10000 m champion Haruka Kyuma (Tsukuba Univ.), are not far behind.  The U.S.A. looks likely to spend the first two-thirds of the race around 5th or 6th place; much of its success will depend on how much ground Rupp can make up on the hilly 10 km Fifth Stage.

Look also for Poland, opening with its best athletes Lukasz Parszczynski and Lidia Chojeckaand Canada, leading with the solid trio of Geoff Martinson, Tarah Korir and Reid Coolsaet, to factor into the first half of the race, with hosts Chiba Prefecture coming up in the second half to join Poland and Canada in rounding out the top eight for a podium finish.

2012 International Chiba Ekiden Start List Highlights
Chiba, 11/23/12
six stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete running order

Teams
Australia
Canada
Chiba Prefecture
Czech Republic
Finland
Japan
Japanese University Select Team
Kenya
New Zealand
Norway
Poland
Romania
Russia
South Korea
U.S.A.

First Stage - 5.0 km, men
Thomas Longosiwa (Kenya) - 12:49.04
Suguru Osako (Japan) - 13:31.27 / 27:56.94
Egor Nikolaev (Russia) - 13:35.33
Lukasz Parszczynski (Poland) - 13:42.21
Geoff Martinson (Canada) - 13:43.45
James Strang (U.S.A.) - 13:44.18 / 28:12.03
Keisuke Tanaka (Chiba Pref.) - 13:50.15
Zane Robertson (New Zealand) - 13:58.00
Ryotaro Otani (Japanese Univ. Team) - 13:58.75

Second Stage - 5.0 km, women
Yelena Zadorozhnaya (Russia) - 14:40.47
Lidia Chojecka (Poland) - 15:04.88 / 32:55.10
Mika Yoshikawa (Japan) - 15:15.33 / 31:28.71
Ayuko Suzuki (Japanese Univ. Team) - 15:33.47
Kaila McKnight (Australia) - 15:33.77
Chelsea Reilly (U.S.A.) - 32:40.01
Gladys Cherono (Kenya) - 15:39.50 / 32:41.40
Tarah McKay-Korir (Canada) - 15:47.00 / 32:00.07
Son-Un Kim (South Korea) - 15:55.86

Third Stage - 10.0 km, men
Edwin Cheruiyot Soi (Kenya) - 12:52.40 / 27:14.83
Reid Coolsaet (Canada) - 13:21.53 / 27:56.92
Jake Robertson (New Zealand) - 13:22.38
Evgeny Rybakov (Russia) - 13:31.36 / 28:05.75
Jake Riley (U.S.A.) - 13:32.82 / 28:08.36
Seung-Ho Baek (South Korea) - 13:42.98 / 28:25.19
Radoslaw Kleczek (Poland) - 13:43.37
Shota Hiraga (Japanese Univ. Team) - 13:45.83 / 28:41.42
Shinobu Kubota (Japan) - 13:49.53 / 28:07.01
Mitchell Brown (Australia) - 13:55.47 / 28:53.00
Kazuma Ito (Chiba Pref.) - 13:59.01/28:48.02

Fourth Stage - 5.0 km, women
Priscah Jeptoo (Kenya) - 2:20:14
Svetlana Kireyeva (Russia) - 15:08.36
Misaki Onishi (Japan) - 15:32.88
Victoria Mitchell (Australia) - 15:36.15
Haruka Kyuma (Japanese Univ. Team) - 15:39.86 / 32:59.33
Azusa Kurusu (Chiba Pref.) - 15:47.60
Emma Kertesz (U.S.A.) - 32:51.00
Ho-Sun Park (South Korea) - 15:49.21 / 32:52.96

Fifth Stage - 10.0 km, men
Philip Mosima (Kenya) - 12:53.72
Galen Rupp (U.S.A.) - 12:58.90 / 26:48.00
Yuichiro Ueno (Japan) - 13:21.49 / 28:12.37
Anatoliy Rybakov (Russia) - 13:30.43 / 28:06.54
Jussi Utriainen (Finland) - 13:42.64 / 28:50.20
Arkadiusz Gardzielewski (Poland) - 13:53/56 / 28:44.19
Takehiro Deki (Japanese Univ. Team) - 13:54.09
Makoto Hasegawa (Chiba Pref.) - 13:56.83
Marius Ionescu (Romania) - 28:54.83

Sixth Stage - 7.195 km, women
Elizaveta Grechishnikova (Russia) - 15:02.38 / 31:07.88
Hitomi Niiya (Japan) - 15:10.20 / 30:59.19
Joyce Chepkirui (Kenya) - 31:26.10
Neely Spence (U.S.A.) - 15:27.72 / 32:50.00
Mai Tsuda (Japanese Univ. Team) - 15:48.41
Mai Shinozuka (Chiba Pref.) - 15:57.40

Alternates - men
Vyacheslav Shalamov (Russia) - 13:38.10
Taku Fujimoto (Japan) - 13:38.68 / 28:27.66
Brendan Gregg (U.S.A.) - 13:46.49 / 28:54.41
Hugo Beamish (New Zealand) - 13:51.00
Kazuma Kubota (Japanese Univ. Team) - 13:59.16

Alternates - women
Alfiya Muryasova (Russia) - 15:26.31
Riko Matsuzaki (Japan) - 15:34.69
Mai Shoji (Japanese Univ. Team) - 15:51.25

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012 NCAA XC and 2012 National University Men's Ekiden Championships Top Five Teams Compared

by Brett Larner



Just under two weeks after the Japanese IUAU's Nov. 4 Japanese National University Men's Ekiden Championships, the American NCAA held its National Cross-Country Championships on Nov. 17.  Although different styles of racing and on different surfaces, the fall national championship events of the world's two leading university men's distance running systems focus on similar distances, the eight-man Japanese collegiate teams averaging 13.35 km and each of the seven men on the NCAA teams running 10 km.  With the athletes in both systems peaking at almost the same time for races of almost the same distance it's worth a look at how the top five teams in each national championship event compare.

Given the overall emphasis on longer distances in the Japanese collegiate system and on shorter distances in the American system evident in the tables below, 5000 m, the only distance at which almost all athletes from all ten schools have posted PB marks, allows for the best comparison.  The IAUA averages in the table below include seven of the eight starting members to give better equivalency to the seven-member NCAA teams.  No average is listed if fewer than four starting members have known PBs at a given distance.  Click to enlarge tables.


Despite the Japanese schools' Hakone Ekiden-driven primary focus on the half-marathon distance, including races such as the Nov. 18 Ageo City Half Marathon where over 150 Japanese collegiates ran sub-67, overall they possess better credentials over 5000 m than their U.S. counterparts in addition to their 10000 m and half-marathon credentials.

While all eight team members score at the National University Men's Ekiden Championships, only five of the seven members of NCAA teams score.  Restricting both teams to their five best members as per the U.S. system corresponds better to the actual finishing orders at the two championships and gives a better idea of the teams' relative levels. Viewed this way it becomes evident that if these ten teams were to meet over a distance similar to that of their national championships with the same kind of peaking, the question would be how many NCAA teams would finish among the top five.


A more detailed breakdown of the individuals on each team is given below. Corrections and additions are welcome. In another difference between the two systems illustrated below, none of the top five teams at the Japanese National University Men's Ekiden Championships included any athletes over age 22 or any foreign-born athletes. Four out of the top five NCAA teams included athletes of age 23 or 24, and likewise four out of five included athletes of foreign origin. NCAA winner Oklahoma State University appeared to have had only one American team member out of seven and none among its best five on paper.


Where the NCAA season winds down before heading into indoor track, the top Japanese colleges now ramp up their distance for the peak of their season, the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden. More competitive and important than the National title, Hakone, with an average stage length of roughly a half-marathon, is the main event of the Japanese year.

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ekiden Weekend Roundup - Olympic Marathoner Ryo Yamamoto Returns to Action

by Brett Larner

Along with weekend's major domestic races, the Ageo City Half Marathon and Yokohama International Women's Marathon, no less than five major ekidens took place across the country. At Saturday's cold and rainy 74th Biwako University Ekiden, the eight stage, 83.6 km year-end championship for men's university teams from western Japan, Kyoto Sangyo University pulled off a third-straight win after a disappointing 2012 season. Never far from the front, Kyoto Sangyo took the lead on the 7.3 km Second Stage, losing it momentarily on the 11.0 km Third Stage to rival Daiichi Kogyo University's Kenyan ringer John Kariuki but returning on the next leg thanks to a stage win by Naoto Nakai. Kyoto Sangyo's next two runners built the team's lead up to 2:18, but a weak run by seventh man Makoto Kan cut the margin by a minute and left anchor Naoya Yoshioka with 1:16 to try to hold off Ritsumeikan University's 1500 m specialist Toshiki Imazeki over 7.7 km. Imazeki did what he could, running the fastest anchor leg by 21 seconds, but could not close the final 10 seconds. Kyoto Sangyo claimed the win in 4:15:45, Ritsumeikan 2nd in 4:15:55. Kansai Gakuin University was 3rd in a photo-finish with Osaka Keizai University, both teams clocking 4:18:12. Click here for complete results.

The other four ekidens of the weekend were all corporate men's regional qualifiers for the New Year Ekiden national championships. Olympic marathoner Ryo Yamamoto delivered his first solid post-London performance, winning the 16.0 km Third Stage to give Team Sagawa Express the win at the 55th Kansai Region Corporate Men's Ekiden. Before Yamamoto took the tasuki Sagawa fluctuated between 3rd and 5th, but after Yamamoto managed to run down the lead and put the team 5 seconds ahead they held on to win by a margin of well over a minute, covering the seven stage, 80.45 km course in 3:59:31. Team Shikoku Denryoku took 2nd in 4:00:56, Team Otsuka Seiyaku claiming 3rd in 4:01:46.  Team NTT Nishi Nihon's Masashi Kada set a new record of 23:00 for the 7.68 km Second Stage but his team could no better than 5th overall.

Team Toyota Boshoku was the surprise winner at the 52nd Chubu Region Corporate Men's Ekiden, covering the seven stage, 85.7 km course in 4:18:22 ahead of powerhouse Team Toyota on the strength of mid-race stage wins by Tomohiro Shiiya and Yoshihiro Yamamoto. The Toyota team spent, lacking ace Chihiro Miyawaki, most of the race in 3rd and 4th place, but stage wins on the final three legs were enough for it to advance to 2nd in 4:18:51. Noteworthy was the 36:25 win on the 11.9 km Fifth Stage by Toyota's Daegu World Championships marathoner Yoshinori Oda, who will race the Fukuoka International Marathon in two weeks in a bid for next summer's Moscow World Championships. Run down by Toyota anchor Shota Inoue and finishing 3rd just 8 seconds back was Team Aichi Seiko.

With only four teams the Hokuriku region holds its regional qualifier together with the Chubu region, both sets of teams running simultaneously but scored separately.  Perpetual winner Team YKK took every stage in the 42nd Hokuriku Corporate Men's Ekiden division to win in 4:19:55, a time that would have been good enough for 4th in the Chubu division. The tiny Team Omokawa Lumber was nearly 10 minutes back from YKK but still managed to qualify for the New Year Ekiden for the fourth time in its history.

Perpetual Chugoku Region Corporate Men's Ekiden champion Team Chugoku Denryoku did it again at that event's 51st running, recovering from a slow start to win the seven stage, 83.1 km event in 4:09:16 thanks to stage wins on the final four legs. Team Mazda led for the first five stages but could not hold off Chugoku Denryoku's back-heavy team stacking and had to settle for 2nd in 4:11:58. Former Sera H.S. sensation Charles Ndirangu the individual star of the show again, covering the 7.2 km Second Stage in 20:25 to help Team JFE Steel take 3rd in 4:12:39.

One more regional qualifier awaits, the Nov. 23 Kyushu Region Corporate Men's Ekiden, before the final roster for the Jan. 1 national championships lineup is settled. Favorites Team Asahi Kasei will face tough competition from the Koichi Morishita-coached Team Toyota Kyushu, whose members were key players in the Fukuoka team's defeat of the Asahi Kasei-powered Miyazaki team at the Grand Tour Kyushu ekiden earlier this month. Also look for Olympic marathon 6th-placer Kentaro Nakamoto to lead Team Yasukawa Denki after three straight wins at the Grand Tour Kyushu and the  Fukuoka Prefecture 10 Mile Road Race Championships.

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved