Thursday, October 31, 2013

Komazawa the Favorite for Sunday's National University Ekiden

by Brett Larner

Defending national champion Komazawa University returns as the favorite for Sunday's 45th edition of the National University Men's Ekiden Championships, eight stages of road action covering the 106.8 km from Nagoya to Ise.  Last year Komazawa set a new course record of 5:12:43 to take a record tenth national title under head coach Hiroaki Oyagi.  This year its chances of adding to that legacy look good after a course record win three weeks ago at the first of the Big Three university ekidens, the Izumo Ekiden.  At that point all Komazawa's cylinders looked to be firing, and with longer average stage lengths Nationals should again play to the champions' strengths if the team has maintained peak fitness and can complement its Izumo squad with two more equally strong members.

Its main competition is a familiar group of schools led by Toyo University, runner-up at both the 2012 Nationals and this year's Izumo with 2013 Hakone Ekiden champion Nittai University, 3rd at Izumo, and 2010 national champion Waseda University right there in the fold.  With eleven men on its squad holding sub-14 bests for 5000 m Meiji University looks like another contender, but the team struggled to put together a quality performance at Izumo as it finished only 7th there.

Kanto Region schools dominate the field, but there is no shortage of talent from elsewhere in the country. Kyoto Sangyo University, the top-placing program from outside Kanto at Izumo, leads Ritsumeikan University, whose women's team won an eighth title at last weekend's National University Women's Ekiden Championships, and other schools hungry to get a piece of the Kanto action.

TV Asahi will broadcast the National University Men's Ekiden Championships live nationwide from 7:00 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. Japan time on the 3rd.  Overseas viewers should be able to watch the race online via Keyhole TV.  Check back for detailed coverage as the race unfolds.

45th National University Men's Ekiden Championships
Nagoya-Ise, 11/3/13
8 stages, 106.8 km, 25 teams

Kanto Region
Komazawa Univ.
Toyo Univ.
Waseda Univ.
Nittai Univ.
Meiji Univ.
Nihon Univ.
Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.
Hosei Univ.
Aoyama Gakuin Univ.
Chuo Gakuin Univ.
Teikyo Univ.
Daito Bunka Univ.
Juntendo Univ.

Kyushu Region
Daiichi Kogyo Univ.
Nippon Bunri Univ.

Kansai Region
Kyoto Sango Univ.
Kwansei Gakuin Univ.
Ritsumeikan Univ.
Osaka Keizai Univ.

Tokai Region
Chukyo Univ.
Gifu Keizai Univ.

Hokuriku Region
Niigata Univ.

Hokkaido Region
Sapporo Gakuin Univ.

Tohoku Region
Tohoku Univ.

Chugoku/Shikoku Region
Hiroshima Univ.

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


photo (c) 2013 Arata Fujiwara
all rights reserved

Monday, October 28, 2013

Daihatsu Sets West Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Course Record

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20131027/ath13102715490003-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

The six-stage, 42.195 km West Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden took place Oct. 27 in Munakata, Fukuoka.  Team Daihatsu ran a course record 2:17:23 to claim its first title in three years.  Team leader Ryoko Kizaki, 4th in the marathon at August's Moscow World Championships, led off with a win on the 6.7 km First Stage, with three more of the team's athletes winning their stages.

Team Otsuka Seiyaku was a close 2nd in 2:17:59, with Team Noritz 3rd.  With Moscow bronze medalist Kayoko Fukushi on board, last year's winner Team Wacoal could do no better than 7th, while the Mizuki Noguchi-led Team Sysmex was only 8th.

The top eight teams at the West Japan event qualified for December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships in Sendai, along with any teams 9th or lower who broke 2:23:00.  Altogether twelve teams made the grade.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ritsumeikan University Takes Eighth National University Women's Ekiden Title

by Brett Larner

Defending national champion Ritsumeikan University added an eighth title to its legacy Oct. 27 in Sendai, winning the 31st National University Women's Ekiden Championships after leading start to finish.  First Stage runner Natsuki Omori got things off by winning the 6.4 km opening leg by a second over Ayumi Uehara of Matsuyama University despite a fall midway through the stage, and from there the Ritsumeikan women never looked back.  Ritsumeikan runners won five of the day's six stages, only Juntendo University's Nanaka Izawa spoiling their day with a win on the 9.2 km Fifth Stage.

With the Kansai region typically seen as the center of collegiate women's distance running, four of this year's top ten schools were from the Kanto region, better known for the strength of its men's programs.  Daito Bunka University was the top Kanto school, 2nd overall on the strength of quality runs from its identical twins Eri and Mari Tayama. Coached by Keiichi Murai, the husband of past marathon great Reiko Tosa, Matsuyama University continued its development into one of the country's leading distance schools as it took 3rd just five years after making Nationals for the first time under Murai's leadership.  In a signal of a shift in eras, perpetual Ritsumeikan rivals Meijo University and Bukkyo University missed out on the top five, taking 6th and 7th more than four minutes behind Ritsumeikan.  Last year's 3rd-placer Tsukuba University had a disastrous run, finishing 16th of 26 teams as star twins Haruka and Moe Kyuma were both non-starters.

31st Morinomiyako Ekiden - National University Women's Ekiden Championships
Sendai, Miyagi, 10/27/13
click here for complete results

Overall Results - six stages, 38.0 km, 26 teams
1. Ritsumeikan Univ. - 2:03:02
2. Daito Bunka Univ. - 2:04:47
3. Matsuyama Univ. - 2:05:40
4. Kanaya Taiiku Univ. - 2:07:09
5. Nittai Univ. - 2:07:19
6. Meijo Univ. - 2:07:31
7. Bukkyo Univ. - 2:07:40
8. Kansai Univ. - 2:08:13
9. Josai Univ. - 2:08:23
10. Juntendo Univ. - 2:08:25

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (6.4 km) - Natsuki Omori (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 20:22
Second Stage (5.6 km) - Nanako Kanno (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 17:39
Third Stage (6.8 km) - Akane Yabushita (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 21:59
Fourth Stage (4.8 km) - Mai Hirota (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:48
Fifth Stage (9.2 km) - Nanaka Izawa (Juntendo Univ.) - 29:53
Sixth Stage (5.2 km) - Nanami Aoki (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 17:12

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Gebremariam, Gitau, Mathathi, Fujiwara and Kawauchi Headline Fukuoka Field

by Brett Larner

The Fukuoka International Marathon has released the entry list for its 67th running on Dec. 1 and it's a familiar story line: one marquee African athlete and a half-dozen other foreign athletes in range of the best Japanese men on the list.  Even more so this year, with its top-end list of seven names identical to last year's field save for the substitution of Ethiopian great Gebre Gebremariam for Ethiopian greater Haile Gebreselassie.  Gebremariam gets the official number one seed from Fukuoka organizers due to his heavily aided 2:04:53 from the 2011 Boston Marathon with no note on the entry list of that time being aided, but with a legitimate best of only 2:08:00 from the 2011 New York City Marathon he has just the sixth-fastest PB in the field.  The true top seed goes to bib #21, defending champion Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel), the only man in the field with a genuine sub-2:07 to his name.  Joining him again are last year's 3rd-placer and Polish national record holder Henryk Szost and, after a high-profile DNF in his debut in Fukuoka last year, 2007 Osaka World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Martin Mathathi (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC).

Also returning are three of last year's top four Japanese finishers at Fukuoka, Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei), Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't).  Horibata suffered a stress fracture in the spring and was an early DNF at the Moscow World Championships, where his main reason for running despite being fully unfit seemed to be a desire to make up for his coach Takeshi Soh not getting to run the 1980 Moscow Olympics marathon due to the U.S.-led boycott.  Fujiwara sustained another long-lasting injury after doing last year's Fukuoka on only a month's training, and after popping up last month for successful runs at the Great North Run and Hakodate Half Marathon he threw his hat in the ring for Fukuoka.  Since then he has written on his Facebook page that he is not feeling great and thinks he has been overtraining, so whether he makes it to the starting line remains to be seen.  Kawauchi will be running Fukuoka, his tenth of eleven planned marathons in 2013, four weeks after next weekend's ING New York City Marathon in a bid to become the first person to go sub-2:10 twice in less than a month, a mark which he will then attempt to erase two weeks later with another sub-2:10 in Hofu.

Beyond that the field thins out rapidly in name-value talent, but the breadth of nationalities represented hearkens back to Fukuoka's glory days as the world championships of marathons before there was a World Championships of marathons.  No less than twelve countries are represented among the variegated subdivisions of the Fukuoka field, with no Ethiopians other than Gebremariam and all four Kenyans in the field calling Japan home. By today's standards it's a solid second-tier field; whether it's enough for Fukuoka to deserve its IAAF gold label status is debatable, but slower races can be just as exciting as today's high-speed bloodbaths and world record time trials.  Who says looking backward can't lead you forward?  Not Fukuoka.  And you too can look forward to the live nationwide broadcast of the Fukuoka International Marathon on Dec. 1 with the starting gun firing at 12:10 p.m.  Check back closer to race date for a more detailed preview and more information on live race day coverage.

67th Fukuoka International Marathon
Fukuoka, Dec. 1, 2013
click here for complete field listing

21. Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 2:06:58 (Fukuoka 2012)
68. Atsushi Sato (Japan/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:07:13 (Fukuoka 2007)
2. Viktor Rothlin (Switzerland) - 2:07:23 (Tokyo 2008)
3. Henryk Szost (Poland) - 2:07:39 (Biwako 2012)
22. Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:07:48 (Tokyo 2012)
1. Gebre Gebremariam (Ethiopia) - 2:08:00 (New York 2011) / 2:04:53a (Boston 2011)
23. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:08:14 (Seoul Int'l 2013)
24. Hiroyuki Horibata (Japan/Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:08:24 (Fukuoka 2012)
25. Takayuki Matsumiya (Japan/Team Konica Minolta) - 2:09:14 (Tokyo 2013)
4. Ayad Lamdassem (Spain) - 2:09:28 (London 2013)
5. Reid Coolsaet (Canada) - 2:10:55 (Toronto Waterfront 2011)
26. Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:11:02 (Tokyo 2013)
62. Takaaki Koda (Japan/Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:08 (Tokyo 2011)
27. Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:11:15 (Tokyo 2013)
6. Andrew Carlson (U.S.A.) - 2:11:24 (Houston Olympic Trials 2012)
28. Satoru Sasaki (Japan/Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:28 (Tokyo 2013)
29. Chiharu Takada (Japan/Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:11:53 (Tokyo 2013)
66. Koji Gokaya (Japan/Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:12:07 (Biwako 2011)
71. Hironori Arai (Japan/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:27 (Biwako 2011)
61. Yuki Nakamura (Japan/Team Kanebo) - 2:12:52 (Tokyo 2012)
64. Etsu Miyata (Japan/unattached) - 2:13:19 (Nagano 2010)
63. Sho Matsumoto (Japan/Nikkei Business) - 2:13:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
59. Andrew Lemoncello (Great Britain) - 2:13:40 (London 2010)
54. Mark Kenneally (Ireland) - 2:13:55 (Amsterdam 2011)
57. Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) - 2:14:10 (New York 2011)
55. Clint Verran (U.S.A.) - 2:14:17 (Chicago 2002)
51. Carlos Trujillo (U.S.A.) - 2:14:21 (Chicago 2012)
65. Yasuyuki Yamamoto (Japan/Team JFE Steel) - 2:14:21 (Biwako 2012)
53. Chia-Che Chang (Taiwan) - 2:16:06 (Pyongyang 2012)
58. Bobby Curtis (U.S.A.) - 2:16:46 (New York 2011)
52. Ben Moreau (Great Britain) - 2:16:46 (London 2010)
56. Brendan Martin (U.S.A.) - 2:22:32a (Boston 2013)

Debut / Shooting for first marathon completion
72. Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 58:56a (Great North Run 2011)
7. Alistair Cragg (Ireland) - 1:00:49a (New York Half 2011)
73. Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Team Monteroza) - 1:01:06 (Marugame Half 2012)

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ngandu Outkicks Kawauchi for Takashimadaira 20k Title

by Brett Larner
photo by paul

A day after the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai brought world record-setting depth to the 20 km distance, Tokyo played host to another 20 km road race packed with collegiate talent, the Takashimadaira Road Race.  Up front, former Nihon University ace Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Team Monteroza), Aoyama Gakuin University's Shunsuke Ishida and, seven days after running 2:11:40 for 2nd at the Melbourne Marathon, the indefatigable Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) traded the lead not far off course record pace through the first three loops of Takashimadaira's perfectly flat four-corner 5 km course.  Ishida lost on the last loop, leaving Ngandu and Kawauchi to battle it out.  In the last km the bar chain-sponsored Ngandu's kick proved too much as he pulled away for the win in 59:14.  Kawauchi was close behind in 59:17, with Ishida falling back to 59:33 for 3rd.  Kawauchi time, which tied the top Japanese time at the Yosenkai, translates to close to 1:02:30 for the half marathon, a time which would be the second-fastest of his career and which signals his return to peak fitness ahead of next month's ING New York City Marathon.

Five days before Takashimadaira, Ishida's Aoyama Gakuin University team finished 5th at the Izumo Ekiden where it was the defending champion.  Running Takashimadaira with many of its junior and second-string runners, AGU dominated the race with seven men in the top ten, Yuhi Akiyama joining Ishida under the hour mark.  Its ten-man combined time of 10:03:41, run without most of the team's best members, was almost a minute faster than Yosenkai winner Tokyo Nogyo University, spelling good things for the rest of AGU's season.  Next up is the Nov. 3 National University Ekiden Championships.

38th Takashimadaira Road Race
Takashimadaira, Tokyo, 10/20/13

Men's 20 km
1. Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Team Monteroza) - 59:14
2. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 59:17
3. Shunsuke Ishida (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 59:33
4. Yuhi Akiyama (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 59:54
5. Masato Endo (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:00:05
6. Soshi Takahashi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:00:25
7. Shun Yamamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:00:26
8. Ryo Hashimoto (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:00:35
9. Tomoya Yui (Tokai Univ.) - 1:00:38
10. Ryota Motegi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:00:38

Women's 20 km
1. Mitsuko Hirose - 1:14:15

Men's 10 km
1. Shun Kurihara - 29:41

Women's 10 km
1. Haruka Yamaguchi - 34:42

text (c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photo (c) 2013 paul
all rights reserved

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Omwamba Over Kitonyi in 57:57 to Win Record-Setting Hakone Ekiden Qualifier As Tokyo Nogyo University Takes Team Title

by Brett Larner



Japan's biggest sporting event of the year is the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, a ten-stage university men's road relay which each runner covering roughly a half marathon distance in front of a live nationwide TV audience of 40 million and millions more cheering courseside.  Each year the top ten of the twenty teams in the Hakone field are seeded to run again the next year, also running October's Izumo Ekiden.  The remaining schools are sent back to run the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai, a 20 km road race qualifier in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park, along with dozens of other schools from around the Kanto Region hopeful of earning the honor of a place on the starting line at Hakone come Jan. 2.

Monday's Izumo Ekiden saw an overall course record for the third time in the last four years, with individual stage records on three of its six legs.  In a sign of the continued explosively rapid rate of growth in Japanese men's collegiate athletics, Saturday's Yosenkai set new records for depth and quality, with eighteen men under 60 minutes, well beyond the Yosenkai's previous record of twelve, and the fastest times ever recorded in any 20 km in the world for places 35 and beyond.  34 men broke 1:00:30, tying the existing world record from the 2006 World Road Racing Championships, with 71 sub-1:01:00, 104 sub-1:01:30, 139 sub-1:02:00 and 173 sub-1:02:30, all new world records.  For comparison, at the recent U.S. 20 km Championships three athletes ran sub-1:00:30 and sub-1:01:00, six sub-1:01:30, seven sub-1:02:00 and ten sub-1:02:30.  The Japanese public responded to the excitement of the day's results, with the Yosenkai occupying the top two and four of the top ten nationwide trending topics on Twitter during and after the race's live national broadcast.

A relatively slow first 5 km of 14:48 saw the four Africans in the field, Enock Omwamba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.), Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Kenya/Nihon Univ.), Leul Gebreselassie (Ethiopia/Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) and Duncan Muthee (Kenya/Takushoku Univ.) go to the front accompanied only by Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.), identical twin brother of Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) who took 12 seconds off the Third Stage record at Izumo earlier in the week.  The massive chase pack followed 6 seconds back, led by identical twins Hiroshi and Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.).  As the pack slowed to 15:03 for the next 5 km the lead quintet got it in gear, running 14:29 to hit halfway in a quality 29:17.

Going into the back half Kitonyi, the 2013 national collegiate 5000 m and 10000 m champion, attacked, throwing down a 14:09 split through 15 km. Omwamba, the 2013 Kanto Region and 2012 national collegiate 5000 m and 10000 m champion, was the only one to follow, with first Muthee, then Murayama, then Gebreselassie dropping off.  In the chase pack almost a minute back, Natsuki Terada (Koku Gakuin Univ.), infamous for taking a wrong turn in the last 200 m of the 2011 Hakone Ekiden, made the first move to break things up, putting on a surge that carried along Omwamba's teammate Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.), the Ichida twins, and Kanagawa university aces Masaya Kakihara and Kazuma Ganaha.

Back up front, Kitonyi did all he could to shake off Omwamba, but in the last straight it wasn't enough. Omwamba kicked away to take the win in 57:57, the fastest time in the world this year for a 20 km race and only the fourth man to break 58 since the Yosenkai became a 20 km in 1964.  Kitonyi narrowly missed making this the first time two men broke 58, stopping the clock 3 seconds back in 58:00.  Gebreselassie, running alone over the second half of the race, rounded out the top three in 58:30.

Murayama, 10 seconds faster than the chase pack between 10 and 15 km despite dropping off the leaders, was in agony over the last quarter of the race, almost staggering as he split 15:16.  Behind him, chasers Inoue and Kakihara turned it on as the struggling Murayama came into view.  With a 14:32 closing split, only 1 second slower than winner Omwamba, the pair closed to within 8 seconds but ran out of ground as Murayama crossed the line in 59:17, the fourth-fastest ever by a Japanese man at the Yosenkai, to take top Japanese honors.  Inoue took 5th in a photo finish, both he and Kakihara clocking 59:25.  All told eighteen men cleared the hour mark, a new record added to the Yosenkai's illustrious history.

With three additional places available at the 2014 Hakone Ekiden to commemorate its 90th running, team results at this year's Yosenkai took on special meaning as it meant that smaller schools without a prayer of making it in a regular year might have the chance of achieving their dreams of Hakone glory. Thanks to the elimination of an arcane scoring rule, team results this year was simple and straightforward: a team's score was the combined time of the top ten of its twelve men at the Yosenkai, with the best thirteen-placing teams going on to Hakone.  Tokyo Nogyo University took the top position in 10:04:35, Omwamba and Inoue leading Yamanashi Gakuin University to a close 2nd in 10:05:33.  Favorite Tokai University took a hit when star first-year Takayuki Tsuchiya ran into trouble in the last quarter of the race, stopping and hunching over in pain before dragging himself in to a 1:01:01 finish as Tokai's tenth scorer to give it 3rd place overall.

Kanagawa University and Senshu University had strong showings, both making the top seven, while Kitonyi's Nihon University and Murayama's Josai University underperformed, finishing only 8th and 10th.  The shocker of the day was Chuo University, one of the favorites for the win and an A-list school only running the Yosenkai due to one of its runners DNFing at the last Hakone.  Despite its JV team running well at Izumo on Monday, Chuo's varsity turned in a ramshackle run at the Yosenkai, barely squeezing in as it finished 12th out of the thirteen qualifiers.  Kokushikan University breathed a collective sigh of relief as it took the final qualifying position well ahead of 2006 Hakone champion Asia University.

With record-setting performances in the first two big races of the season, Japanese university men's ekiden season continues Nov. 3 with the National University Ekiden Championships.  Two weeks later the Hakone-qualified schools line up at the Ageo City Half Marathon where the head coaches will thin the ranks of their lineups' contenders for the final squad at the season-ending Hakone Ekiden.  Judging from the records so far this season it's going to be a big year.

90th Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai Qualifier 20 km Road Race
Showa Kinen Park, Tachikawa, 10/19/13

Individual Results
click here for complete results
1. Enock Omwamba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 57:57
2. Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Kenya/Nihon Univ.) - 58:00
3. Leul Gebreselassie (Ethiopia/Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 58:30
4. Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.) - 59:17
5. Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 59:25
6. Masaya Kakihara (Kanagawa Univ.) - 59:25
7. Kazuma Ganaha (Kanagawa Univ.) - 59:29
8. Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 59:37
9. Hiroshi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 59:39
10. Masaki Toda (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 59:42
11. Kodai Tsuno (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 59:43
12. Shohei Kurata (Jobu Univ.) - 59:49
13. Natsuki Terada (Koku Gakuin) - 59:53
14. Hiroki Sugawa (Chuo Univ.) - 59:53
15. Shohei Yamaguchi (Soka Univ.) - 59:54
16. Yuta Aiba (Chuo Univ.) - 59:55
17. Duncan Muthee (Kenya/Takushoku Univ.) - 59:57
18. Ryo Shirayoshi (Tokai Univ.) - 59:59
19. Ryoma Takeuchi (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 1:00:00
20. Ryohei Nishiyama (Kanagawa Univ.) - 1:00:08

Top Team Results
top thirteen teams qualify for 2014 Hakone Ekiden
click here for complete team results
1. Tokyo Nogyo Univ. - 10:04.35
2. Yamanashi Gakuin Univ. - 10:05:33
3. Tokai Univ. - 10:06:36
4. Kanagawa Univ. - 10:07:32
5. Koku Gakuin Univ. - 10:08:30
6. Daito Bunka Univ. - 10:09:51
7. Senshu Univ. - 10:09:56
8. Nihon Univ. - 10:11:39
9. Takushoku Univ. - 10:11:53
10. Josai Univ. - 10:12:29
11. Jobu Univ. - 10:14:05
12. Chuo Univ. - 10:14:12
13. Kokushikan Univ. - 10:16:54
-----
14. Asia Univ. - 10:21:29
15. Ryutsu Keizai Univ. - 10:22:40

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon to Be Streamed Live on Ekiden News

Sunday's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, featuring Kokushikan University alumnus Takashi Horiguchi (Team Honda), former Team Uniqlo ringer Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Kenya), 59+ world record holder Yoshihisa Hosaka (Natural Foods AC) and many more, will be streamed live worldwide.  For the first time, Japanese hosting of the webcast will be provided courtesy of Ekiden News.  Click here to follow the webcast starting at 9:30 p.m. Japan time on Sunday, Oct. 20.

Friday, October 18, 2013

University Ekiden Season Rolls On With Saturday's Hakone Ekiden Qualifier

by Brett Larner

Following Monday's Izumo Ekiden, university ekiden season rolls on this Saturday with the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai qualifier 20 km road race in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park.  Each year the top ten schools at the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, the ten-stage, twenty-team university road relay that is Japan's largest sporting and TV event, win seeded places at the following year's race.  The remaining ten teams and other hopeful universities in the Kanto Region line up the third Saturday in October to try to earn the privilege of a starting place at the prestigious Hakone.  Any readers in the Tokyo area should join the thousands of fans who go out to Showa Kinen Park on the 19th to soak in the atmosphere of a race packed with university bands, cheerleader squads and booster clubs.  For those elsewhere, for the first time this year's Yosenkai will be broadcast live instead of on tape delay.  Try Keyhole TV to catch Nihon TV's broadcast starting at 9:30 a.m. Japan time.



In 2014 the Hakone Ekiden will celebrate its 90th running.  In honor of this anniversary three extra spots have been added to the field, and the elimination of the Kanto Region Select Team made up of top-placing individuals from schools that do not make the team qualification means that thirteen of the forty-four universities at Saturday's Yosenkai will achieve the dream of every young Japanese who runs and gain a place on the Hakone starting line.

At the Yosenkai each team's score is determined by the cumulative time over 20 km of the top ten finishers among its team of at most twelve starters.  In past years the 7th-9th place teams' scores have included a point handicap from their university's track team's overall performance at May's Kanto Regional Track and Field Championships, but the elimination of the handicap this year means qualification will be clear and fair.  Fifteen schools have a clear shot at the thirteen available spots, with Tokai University the favorite.  Tokai head coach Hayashi Morozumi previously developed Saku Chosei H.S. into a national champion that produced an string of talent including Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.), Akinobu Murasawa (Team Nissin Shokuhin), Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC). He took over at his alma mater Tokai in 2011, but this season is the first sign that his XC-based methods are starting to take root.  Tokai this year features four men with 10000 m bests under 29 minutes led by first-year Yuki Hirota's 28:44.34 and bolstered by sub-14 senior Daichi Motomura, and as one of only five teams on the list that could field a team of ten sub-30 men it has the depth to win.



Among the four other schools with ten-deep sub-30 credentials, Tokyo Nogyo University may be Tokai's strongest competition for the win with three men sub-29. Chuo University, among the top-ranked schools at the last Hakone Ekiden but bumped back to the Yosenkai after one of its men DNF'd,  should also be dangerous with a combination of depth, quality up front, and extra motivation to make up for the shame of not finishing Hakone.  Takushoku University, alma mater of London Olympics marathoners Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) and led by sub-28 Kenyan Duncan Muthee, also looks set to turn in a good day, with tiny Koku Gakuin University rounding out the top contenders.

Other schools virtually guaranteed to earn a place include two more Kenyan-powered squads, Yamanashi Gakuin University and Nihon University, Daito Bunka University featuring sub-29 twins Hiroshi and Takashi Ichida, perpetual Yosenkai peaker Jobu University, and the off-and-on Josai University.  Down around 11th the race gets even more interesting, five schools all showing potential for the last three places.  Kokushikan University looks like the best of them with eight men sub-29, and on a good day it should have a shot at running down Josai.  Kanagawa University performed very well last year without strong credentials and finds itself in a similar position this year.  In contention for the final spot at Senshu University, Asia University and, the longshot of the day, Soka University.  With no tradition of making Hakone, Soka would be the most welcome addition to the field if it can outrun at least two of the regulars.



The elimination of the Kanto Region University Select Team by the Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto (KGRR) is a major blow for smaller schools like Soka and others who are hoping to squeeze into one of the bottom qualifying places.  People like 2013 Chicago Marathon 7th-placer Hiraoki Sano (Team Honda), 2013 World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), 2011 World Championships marathoner Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) and the currently ascendant Aritaka Kajiwara (Team Press Kogyo) all chose to attend academically-strong universities over a running-focused center of power but still got to run in the Hakone Ekiden thanks to the Select Team.  Its elimination means that new programs and outsider schools will no longer be able to attract any talented high schoolers, and that anyone who develops under their program will not get to fulfill the dreams of every Japanese boy who begins running and race in Hakone.  Kawauchi has written articulately and passionately about this subject on his blog.  The KGRR's move positions its priorities solidly on developing an high average level among its distance runners at the expense of individual development, an accurate reflection of the dilemma currently facing Japanese distance running as a whole.

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Yokohama International Women's Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Nov. 17 Yokohama International Women's Marathon have released this year's elite field and it is looking pretty okay.  2012 Nagoya Women's Marathon winner Albina Mayorova (Russia) is back in Japan for more and leads the way among the internationals with her 2:23:52 best from Nagoya, joined at the 2:24 level by Yamanashi Gakuin graduate and longtime Hokuren corporate team member Philes Ongori (Kenya) and Jessica Augusto (Portugal).  Top Japanese elite Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) with a best of 2:24:28 is something of a question mark after bailing on last month's Berlin Marathon.

Should she falter, #3-ranked domestic woman Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.), the top Japanese woman last year in an anaemic performance that saw her left off the Moscow World Championships team in favor of an empty seat, is the best bet to pick up the reins.  Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) and Eri Okubo (Miki House), both athletes swelling the growing ranks of competitive Japanese athletes forging careers as independents outside the corporate system, fill in the #2 and #4 spots on the domestic roster, with another, talented club runner Maki Inami (AC Kita), in the general division.

Look for detailed coverage, race previews and info on how to follow the race live closer to race date.

Yokohama International Women's Marathon
Yokohama, Kanagawa, 11/17/13

22. Yumiko Hara (AASP Running Club) - 2:23:48 (Osaka Int'l 2007)
1. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:23:52 (Nagoya Women's 2012)
2. Philes Ongori (Kenya) - 2:24:20 (Rotterdam 2011)
11. Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) - 2:24:28 (Nagoya Women's 2012)
3. Jessica Augusto (Portugal) - 2:24:33 (London 2011)
12. Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:24:57 (Osaka Int'l 2012)
13. Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:25:38 (Tokyo 2009)
14. Eri Okubo (Miki House) - 2:26:08 (Tokyo 2012)
4. Nadia Ejjafini (Italy) - 2:26:15 (Frankfurt 2011)
5. Tetyana Filonyuk (Ukraine) - 2:26:24 (Rome 2010)
6. Freya Ross (Great Britain) - 2:28:10 (London 2012)
15. Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) - 2:28:49 (Tokyo 2011)
7. Rene Kalmer (South Africa) - 2:29:59 (Yokohama Int'l 2011)
16. Hiroko Shoi (Team Nihon ChemiCon) - 2:33:21 (Tokyo 2013)
24. Maki Inami (AC Kita) - 2:37:34 (Tokyo 2011)

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kawauchi Visits Sister High School in Melbourne

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/p-sp-tp0-20131015-1204370.html

translated by Brett Larner

After finishing 2nd in Sunday's Melbourne Marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (26, Saitama Pref. Gov't) visited Melbourne High School on Oct. 14.  Melbourne High School has had a sister school relationship with Kasukabe High School, where Kawauchi is employed, for fourteen years, sending exchange students to each other every year, and his visit to the school came through that connection.  Among its graduates, Melbourne High School counts 1964 Tokyo Olympics 10000 m bronze medalist Ron Clarke.

After running 15 km early in the morning, Kawauchi was greeted at the school by principal Jeremy Ludowyck and Kasukabe H.S. exchange student Mao Kato.  "I'm honored to find out that the place I work has a relationship with a school with such a long tradition," Kawauchi commented.  "I feel that the students who go to school here are very fortunate."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Komazawa University Smashes Izumo Ekiden CR With Near-Perfect Performance

by Brett Larner



2012 National Champion Komazawa University came out swinging at the start of university ekiden season, winning the Izumo Ekiden for the first time in 15 years with a 2:09:11 course record at the six stage, 44.5 km event's 25th running on Oct. 14.  2013 National University Half Marathon champion Shogo Nakamura got the race off on the right foot, surging halfway into the 8.0 km First Stage to give the #1-seeded Komazawa a 20-second lead that only grew as each stage went by.  Sub-29 first-year Keisuke Nakatani added a few seconds to the lead over the 5.8 km Second Stage, but it was a spectacular 22:36 course record by star junior Kenta Murayama on the 7.9 km Third Stage, a full 12 seconds better than the old record set by Japan's current #1 distance runner, Komazawa alum Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) that blew the race apart for the rest of the field.  Murayama evidently learned something in his long conversation with Bernard Lagat (U.S.A.) following this year's New York City Half Marathon as he delivered a closing kick the likes of which is rarely seen in Japanese distance running to hand off to Komazawa 10000 m record holder Ikuto Yufu.

Yufu and Fifth Stage man Yusuke Nishiyama cruised through their stages with the second-fastest marks, leaving team captain Shinobu Kubota a comfortable margin with which to run the 10.2 Sixth Stage for the overall course record.  Despite running 26 seconds slower than last year, Kubota easily eclipsed Aoyama Gakuin University's year-old record of 2:09:41 by 30 seconds to bring Komazawa home in 2:09:11.  With a title defense up next month at the National University Ekiden Championships Komazawa's season is looking bright if it can sustain its key men's fitness.

Defending champion AGU was part of a chase pack behind Komazawa with 2013 Hakone Ekiden winner Nittai University, #6-ranked Chuo Gakuin University and #10 Hosei University, with last year's runner-up Toyo University 6th after leadoff man Masaya Taguchi faltered and #3-ranked Waseda University and #4-ranked Meiji University farther back.  Despite a Second Stage win from 13:28.79 junior Genki Yagisawa Meiji was never a factor, but Toyo and Waseda spent the rest of the race playing catchup to the chase pack.  By the Fourth Stage Nittai had dropped Chuo Gakuin for 2nd, but on the Fifth Stage a course record run from 28:22.43 sophomore Yuma Hattori brought Toyo up to 2nd where it stayed all the way to the finish, 53 seconds faster than last year but over a minute behind Komazawa.  Japan's #1 collegiate Suguru Osako tried to bring the struggling Waseda squad into the seeded top three but was just too far back from Nittai anchor Keigo Yano. #5-ranked Nittai ran a solid 2:10:59 for 3rd, with Waseda 48 seconds back for 4th. Defending champion Aoyama Gakuin ran well to round out the top five in 2:12:09.

Chuo Gakuin, impresssively tough and with a Fourth Stage record by senior Yudai Okamoto was in top three contention until the anchor stage but equalled its pre-race #6 ranking.  Meiji was the only top-level team with an off day, ranked #4 but finishing 7th. With its 2012 3rd-place varsity due to run next weekend's Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai qualifier, Chuo University's JV squad had a surprisingly good showing, finishing 10th overall just ahead of the top team from outside the Kanto Region, Kyoto Sangyo University at 11th. The #11-ranked Ivy League Select Team was never in contention, 10th after the First Stage and falling to an eventual 14th-place finish.

University ekiden season continues on Saturday with the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km qualifier in Tokyo, the race that determines the second tier of 13 teams for the 23-school field for the 90th running of Hakone on Jan. 2-3.  The upper tier of schools line up next at the National University Ekiden Championships on Nov. 3 before putting all their focus on Japan's biggest and best sporting event, the Hakone Ekiden.

25th Izumo Ekiden
Izumo, 10/14/13
twenty-two teams, six stages, 44.5 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Performances
1. Komazawa University - 2:09:11 - CR
2. Toyo University - 2:10:17
3. Nittai University - 2:10:59
4. Waseda University - 2:11:47
5. Aoyama Gakuin University - 2:12:09
6. Chuo Gakuin University - 2:12:24
7. Meiji University - 2:13:09
8. Hosei University - 2:13:20
9. Juntendo University - 2:13:29
10. Chuo University - 2:14:40
11. Kyoto Sangyo Univ. - 2:15:22
12. Teikyo Univ. - 2:16:07
13. Kwansei Gakuin Univ. - 2:17:13
14. Ivy League Select Team - 2:18:08

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (8.0 km)
1. Shogo Nakamura (Komazawa Univ.) - 23:25
2. Shota Hattori (Nittai Univ.) - 23:45
3. Kazuto Nishiike (Hosei Univ.) - 23:46
4. Yusuke Ogura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 23:47
5. Hironori Tsuetaki (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 23:51
-----
10. Joe Stilin (Ivy League) - 24:29

Second Stage (5.8 km)
1. Genki Yagisawa (Meiji Univ.) - 16:32
2. Keisuke Nakatani (Komazawa Univ.) - 16:44
3. Yuta Oikawa (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 16:45
4. Koki Takada (Waseda Univ.) - 16:47
5. Shohei Tomita (Nittai Univ.) - 16:49
-----
10. Mark Amirault (Ivy League) - 17:31

Third Stage (7.9 km)
1. Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) - 22:36 - CR
2. Hideto Yamanaka (Nittai Univ.) - 22:49
3. Yuta Shitara (Toyo Univ.) - 23:14
4. Yuki Matsumura (Juntendo Univ.) - 23:26
5. Shuhei Yamamoto (Waseda Univ.) - 23:29
-----
14. Dan Lowry (Ivy League) - 24:40

Fourth Stage (6.2 km)
1. Yudai Okamoto (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 17:46 - CR
2. Ikuto Yufu (Komazawa Univ.) - 18:03
3. Jun Nobuto (Toyo Univ.) - 18:05
4. Hikaru Kato (Nittai Univ.) - 18:13
5. Rintaro Takeda (Waseda Univ.) - 18:15
-----
19. Kyle Merber (Ivy League) - 19:39

Fifth Stage (6.4 km)
1. Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 17:54 - CR
2. Yusuke Nishiyama (Komazawa Univ.) - 18:31
3. Ken Yokote (Meiji Univ.) - 18:38
4. Shota Kai (Nittai Univ.) - 18:45
5. Kazuki Ozawa (Juntendo Univ.) - 18:50
-----
17. Trevor Van Ackeren (Ivy League) - 20:12

Sixth Stage (10.2 km)
1. Shinobu Kubota (Komazawa Univ.) - 29:52
2. Keita Shitara (Toyo Univ.) - 29:59
3. Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) - 30:00
4. Daichi Kamino (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 30:27
5. Keigo Yano (Nittai Univ.) - 30:38
-----
12. Brendan Martin (Ivy League) - 31:37

Alternates' 5000 m
1. Genta Yodokawa (Toyo Univ.) - 14:06.77 - PB
2. Ryo Kuchimachi (Toyo Univ.) - 14:07.23 - PB
3. Shinya Saito (Toyo Univ.) - 14:07.54
4. Shuya Kurokawa (Komazawa Univ.) - 14:08.99 - PB
5. Yoshihiro Nishizawa (Komazawa Univ.) - 14:11.65

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Chicago Marathon - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner
photos by Collin Winter and Dr. Helmut Winter

In the distance behind Kenyan winners Dennis Kimetto and Rita Jeptoo, Japanese runners Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda) and Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) each took 7th at the 2013 Chicago Marathon, Sano running almost dead even half splits for a 2:10:29 PB and Akaba fading to 2:27:49 after starting out among the leaders.  Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) also sneaked into the men's top ten, dropping dropping American Matt Tegenkamp in the last 3 km to take 9th in 2:11:29.

Oda started out on 2:10-flat pace, with Sano and other 2:12~2:13 Japanese entrants Kenji Higashino (Team Asahi Kasei), Norihide Fujimori (Team Chugoku Denryoku), Hiroki Tanaka (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Yoshiki Otsuka (Team Aichi Seiko) running in Tegenkamp's group with Alistair Cragg (Ireland) and Michael Shelley (Australia) at 2:11:30 pace.  As the pace gradually increased toward 2:10 first Oda was absorbed, then the group of Japanese men began to fall away.

After a 1:05:13 first half, 2:10:26 pace, only Sano, Oda and Higashino were left when the sextet hit 25 km on 2:10:16 pace.  By 30 km, on 2:10:00 pace, Higashino had been burned off with pacer Cragg soon to follow.  35 km saw the four remaining men back down to 2:10:16 pace, and over the final 5 km Sano showed the same strength he did in winning his marathon debut in February, pulling away to run down a string of casualties from the lead pack including pre-race favorite Moses Mosop (Kenya).

Akaba followed the opposite trajectory.  Starting out with the leaders on track to go just under 2:23 and looking under control, she began to fade between 20 km and the halfway point which she hit in 1:11:20, four seconds back from the top group.  From there it was a steady slide down in pace, falling as low as 10th but gutting it out to retake places and catching Ethiopian Abebech Afework in the final kilometer for 7th and just missing 6th-place Ethiopian Ehitu Kiros Reda.  Akaba's time of 2:27:49 came up far short of her goal of a sub-2:24, and after having changed her training approach this time to a Kawauchi-style method of doing races as training runs, for which she was curiously mocked by the American broadcasters, she'll no doubt be spending time evaluating what went wrong.

2013 Chicago Marathon
Chicago, IL, 10/13/13
click here for complete results

Men
1. Dennis Kimetto (Kenya) - 2:03:45 - CR, PB
2. Emannuel Mutai (Kenya) - 2:03:52 - PB
3. Sammy Kitwara (Kenya) - 2:05:16 - PB
4. Micah Kogo (Kenya) - 2:06:56 - PB
5. Dathan Ritzenhein (U.S.A.) - 2:09:45
6. Ayele Abshero (Ethiopia) - 2:10:10
7. Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Team Honda) - 2:10:29 - PB
8. Moses Mosop (Kenya) - 2:11:19
9. Yoshinori Oda (Japan/Team Toyota) - 2:11:29
10. Matt Tegenkamp (U.S.A.) - 2:12:28 - debut
-----
14. Kenji Higashino (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:53
15. Norihide Fujimori (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:13:55
18. Hiroki Tanaka (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:15:36
20. Yoshiki Otsuka (Team Aichi Seiko) - 2:16:58

Women
1. Rita Jeptoo (Kenya) - 2:19:57 - PB
2. Jemima Sumgong Jelegat (Kenya) - 2:20:48 - PB
3. Maria Konovalova (Russia) - 2:22:46 - PB
4. Aliaksandra Duliba (Belarus) - 2:23:44 - debut
5. Atsede Baysa (Ethiopia) - 2:26:42
6. Ehitu Kiros Reda (Ethiopia) - 2:27:42
7. Yukiko Akaba (Japan/Team Hokuren) - 2:27:49
8. Abebech Afework (Ethiopia) - 2:28:38
9. Clara Santucci (U.S.A.) - 2:31:39
10. Melissa White (U.S.A.) - 2:32:37 - PB

text (c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photo (c) 2013 Collin Winter and Dr. Helmut Winter
all rights reserved

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ondoro Over Kawauchi at Melbourne Marathon

by Brett Larner
photo by Melinda Jacobsen

2013 Tiberias Marathon winner Dominic Ondoro (Kenya) proved too much for Japanese hopeful Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), breaking away after 30 km to win the Medibank Melbourne Marathon in a course record 2:10:47 by nearly a minute and thwart Kawauchi's bid to win all three of Australia's main marathons. The women's race also saw a course record, with Lisa Jane Weightman running a PB 2:26:05 to clock the fastest time ever by an Australian woman on home soil.

Ondoro and Kawauchi ran in a pack with 2013 Brighton Marathon winner Dominic Kimwetich Kangor (Kenya), defending champion Jonathan Kipchirchir Chesoo (Kenya), 2012 Xiamen Marathon winner Peter Kamais (Kenya) and others through 30 km, Kawauchi, in his eighth of eleven planned marathons this year, doing much of the leading with relatively steady 10 km splits centered around 31:20.  At 30 km Ondoro went to work, dropping the pace from 3:08/km to 3:01/km as he clocked 30:09 from 30 km to 40 km. Kimwetich initially followed but soon slipped back and went through 40 km with a 30:42 split.  Kawauchi tried to follow but could not match the Kenyans' speed, running a split of only 30:50.

Ondoro sailed on unchallenged to break the 2:11:04 course record in 2:10:47.  Nine seconds down at 40 km, Kawauchi dug deep to run Kimwetich down over the final 2.195 km for 2nd, catching him and opening a gap of sixteen seconds.  Defending champion Chesoo was a distant 4th in 2:12:54, not far off his winning time last year.  Top Australian honors went to Liam Adams, 6th in 2:14:09 just back from 5th-plaer Kamais.  In post-race comments Kawauchi, who runs next weekend's Takashimadaira 20 km in Tokyo before heading to the ING New York City Marathon, told Nikkei News, "I'm disappointed that I lost, but I was able to push on to the end and run like myself so I'd give myself a score of 79% on this."

In the women's race, 2013 Brighton Marathon winner and pre-race favorite Eunice Cheyech Kales (Kenya) went out aggressively, on 2:22:35 pace at 20 km despite a PB of only 2:28:50.  Weightman, with a best of 2:27:32, was plenty aggressive herself, on 2:24:14 pace at 20 km, but was behind by well over a minute at 30 km.  As they often do, things went wrong for Kales after 30, and by 40 km Weightman had caught up and the pair was running side-by-side.  With nothing left after her early barn burning, Kales could only watch as Weightman pulled away over the final 2.195 km to take the win.  Both women marked new bests by a margin of around a minute and a half, Weightman in 2:26:05 and Kales in 2:27:19, the first two sub-2:30 times in Melbourne history.  Combined with the men's race and the rise in performances at the Sydney Marathon and Gold Coast Airport Marathon in the last few years it was a clear sign that Australia's marathon scene is quickly growing to a world-class level.

2013 Medibank Melbourne Marathon
Melbourne, Australia, 10/13/13
click here for complete results

Men
1. Dominic Ondoro (Kenya) - 2:10:47 - CR
2. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:11:40
3. Dominic Kimwetich Kangor (Kenya) - 2:11:56
4. Jonathan Kipchirchir Chesoo (Kenya) - 2:12:54
5. Peter Kamais (Kenya) - 2:13:51
6. Liam Adams (Australia) - 2:14:09 - debut
7. Scott Westcott (Australia) - 2:14:21
8. Zac Newman (Australia) - 2:25:11
9. Patrick Nispei (Australia) - 2:26:01
10. Joji Mori (Australia) - 2:26:34

Women
1. Lisa Jane Weightman (Australia) - 2:26:05 - CR, PB
2. Eunice Cheyech Kales (Kenya) - 2:27:19 - (CR), PB
3. Whitney Hammond (Australia) - 2:40:54
4. Melanie Panayiotou (Australia) - 2:41:48
5. Sarah Klein (Australia) - 2:42:53
6. Jane Fardell (Australia) - 2:43:40
7. Miho Yanagisawa (Japan) - 2:47:09
8. Laura James (Australia) - 2:47:17
9. Hannah Flannery (Australia) - 2:47:29
10. Johanna Parsons (Australia) - 2:49:47

text (c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photo (c) 2013 Melinda Jacobsen
all rights reserved

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Few Words on Chicago

by Brett Larner
photos by Dr. Helmut Winter

Chicago comes at a tough time for Japan's corporate leagues, just before the start of the fall ekiden season's regional qualifiers.  Although just about every team has more than enough people to fill their lineups for these relatively minor events, head coaches will usually not let their better athletes do an October marathon, whether because of the limited recovery time in the event that they decide a big gun has to run in a qualifier, or because it would give them the hassle of explaining to the parent corporation why a star is off doing his or her own thing instead of being there for the team.  As a result you typically only see Japanese runners at Chicago when they are looking to drop something big, as with Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) this year, or, like the block of  Japanese men at 2:12~2:13, as part of a corporate federation junket for promising third-tier men to get the experience of running in the second pack of a race well beyond them for the benefit of hypothetical future appearances on Olympic and World Championships and for their numerous support staff to have the chance to comb the streets of foreign cities in search of laundromats.

Akaba is the only quality Japanese woman on the line, one of Japan's all-time best on the track and over the half-marathon but so far unable to reach her goals in the marathon. With three 2:24 performances in London capped by a 3rd-place finish this year Akaba comes to Chicago looking to finally get where she envisions herself.  Her 2:27:17 course record win at July's Gold Coast Airport Marathon was originally planned as a training run, then upgraded on arrival when she discovered the unexpected strength of the invited African field.  In late August Akaba told JRN that her Kawauchi-style double, a 2:32:10 for 2nd at the Hokkaido Marathon seven weeks after Gold Coast followed six days later by a narrow loss in 1:10:24 at the Lille Half Marathon in France, was planned to simulate running with tired legs the kind of time she hoped to do over the second half of Chicago. Her racing style at Daegu and London, running a controlled pace and ignoring early moves before turning it on in the second half, served her reasonably well in those races, and if she is actually able to bring a second half time around 1:10:30 she could place very well indeed.

Oda has had a very interesting domestic career, steering clear of the ekiden powerhouse universities but still making the celebrated Hakone Ekiden on the Select Team before going to the Toyota corporate team which he helped lead to the 2011 national title.  His 2:09:03 a few weeks later at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon was the all-time third-fastest Japanese debut, but unfortunately he was almost completely overlooked due to the unlucky role he played in this:



He's had a streak of injuries and never been able to put another good marathon together in the two and a half years since his debut, but a 28:26.04 for 10000 m at the end of June put him back close to peak fitness.  If he carried that on through the summer then Oda may be on track to finally follow up.

The most interesting Japanese man in Chicago, though, is 25-year-old Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda), a teammate of Moscow World Championships marathoner Masakazu Fujiwara and Berlin Marathon 7th-placer Suehiro Ishikawa. Sano exploded onto the scene in February with a completely unexpected, even by his coaching staff, 2:12:14 win in his debut at the Nobeoka Nishi Nihon Marathon.  Exploded in terms of a 6:31 split for the last 2.195 km, faster than Yuki Kawauchi's stunning finish a week earlier at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. There's no telling whether it was a fluke and his other performances don't give much indication that Sano has the potential for major improvement, but there's always the chance something special could happen.  The man he beat in the Nobeoka sprint, Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Team Konica Minolta), is also on the list, but a 1:09:00 clocking two weeks ago at the Hakodate Half Marathon was not encouraging.

Four other men, Kenji Higashino (Team Asahi Kasei), Yoshiki Otsuka (Team Aichi Seiko), Hiroki Tanaka (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Norihide Fujimori (Team Chugoku Denryoku) round out the Japanese tour.  Higashino, coached by the great Takeshi Soh, is the cream of the bunch, his 2:12:13 for 3rd in Beppu-Oita this year putting him just one second ahead of Sano's winning time a week later.  A breakthrough to sub-2:10 or even sub-2:12 territory for any of them would be a feather in the cap of a corporate system struggling with modernity.

text (c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photos (c) 2013 Dr. Helmut Winter
all rights reserved

Kawauchi Confident of Melbourne Victory: "I'm Going There to Win"

http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/news/20131010-OHT1T00190.htm

translated by Brett Larner

Yuki Kawauchi (26, Saitama Pref. Gov't) left Narita Airport Oct. 10 on a plane bound for Australia, where he will race the Oct. 13 Medibank Melbourne Marathon.  Kasukabe H.S. where Kawauchi works has a sister school relationship with a high school in Melbourne, giving him extra impetus to run there, but his main motivation is to add the Melbourne title to his wins last year in Sydney and at Gold Coast in July to complete his Australian triple crown.  "Some 2:07 athletes will be there, so I'm really looking forward to it," he said with confidence.  "I'm going there to win."

After Melbourne Kawauchi will run the ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 3 and the Fukuoka International Marathon on Dec. 1, making it three straight months of marathoning.  "New York has nothing but world-class people, so my focus there will be on competing for place.  In Fukuoka the focus will be on time, 2:07.  I've defined different concepts for each race and will do everything I can to see each goal bear fruit."  If successful in Fukuoka he will earn another place on the Japanese national team ahead of next year's Asian Games.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Izumo Ekiden Preview - The Best Line Up for University Ekiden Season

by Brett Larner



University ekiden season kicks off in style Monday, October 14 as the world’s best collegiate teams take to the roads for the 25th running of the Izumo Ekiden. The first of the nationally-televised Big Three University Ekidens and a prelude to November’s National University Ekiden Championships, the six-stage Izumo is something of an anomaly with an average stage length of only 7.42 km, a race with an emphasis on speed over the kind of stamina required at the season-ending Hakone Ekiden.

Japanese university men’s distance running has seen an explosion in talent and performance over the last five years, something made clear by looking over the rosters of the top bracket of the twenty-two teams entered for this year’s Izumo. With only ten full-strength teams from the Kanto Region, six of them feature a six-man 5000 m average under 14:00 and five a six-man 10000 m average under 29:00. Two schools include under-23 Japanese men with 5000 m bests better than 13:30, two have sub-28 men, and three have men sub-62 for the half marathon. Meiji University boasts an incredible eleven men on its roster with sub-14 bests for 5000 m led by 20-year-old Genki Yagisawa’s 13:28.79. Where will it end?

The top tier of teams at the 25th Izumo Ekiden. Click to enlarge. How does your team stack up?

Along with Meiji, defending Izumo champion and course-record holder Aoyama Gakuin University is the only other school to field at least six sub-14 men for Izumo. Despite the loss of aces Takehiro Deki and Ryotaro Otani to graduation, AGU returns with a stronger Kazuma Kubota and an overall stronger team, its average 5000 m and 10000 m times both significantly better than last year. On aggregate they come to Izumo ranked only 7th behind unheralded minors Chuo Gakuin University, but with similar positioning last year they came out on top and, with less reliance on individual star runners and the extra motivation of defending their title, they should be a frontline contender.

Last year’s runner-up and 2011 champion Toyo University also returns stronger, down slightly on 5000 m speed from last year but with its 10000 m credentials getting a major boost from identical twins Keita and Yuta Shitara’s brilliant sub-28 clockings this spring. Yuta has struggled since then and is a large question mark coming in to Izumo, but Hakone course record-holders Toyo are one of the craftiest of ekiden teams and, ranked #2 overall this year, stand a good chance of taking the title.

2012’s surprise 3rd-placer Chuo University was a DNF at Hakone this year as its Fifth Stage man Yushi Nowaki suffered hypothermia in hurricane-force winds at the peak of the mountain stage, meaning that it must run both Izumo, where it was seeded, and next weekend’s Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai qualifier to rejoin the lucky few in the world’s greatest university race. As a result, Chuo’s A-squad will be headed to the Yosenkai in Tokyo’s Showa Kinen Park next Saturday, with its JV squad representing in Izumo. Ranked 13th in the field, anything in the top ten would be an outstanding day.

Outside last year’s top three, the clear favorite to compete with AGU and Toyo for the title is 2012 National Champion Komazawa University. Down slightly in strength over both 5000 m and 10000 m from last year, Komazawa is still the best team in Japan, with six-man averages of 13:50.57 and 28:23.78. The team features four men good enough to be the star of any school in Japan, or the U.S. for that matter, and if all arrive intact it will be a rough day for the rest of the field. One of them, 2013 National University Half Marathon champion Shogo Nakamura, has reportedly been dealing with injuries over the summer, something that may not be fatal but could hurt if Toyo is close to full strength.

2010 course record-setter Waseda University features Japan’s #1 collegiate, senior Suguru Osako who gives the team’s numbers a boost with bests of 13:27.43 and 27:38.31. Junior Shuhei Yamamoto is also up there in ability and sub-14 first-years Kazuma Taira and Rintaro Takeda show promise, but beyond that Waseda’s squad falls off rapidly. The absence of 28:38.46 senior Fuminori Shikata is also a major blow to its chances. Head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe has more often than not had trouble getting his team to the starting line in peak condition, so while Waseda looks good for top five its chances of winning seem slim.

As mentioned above, Meiji University has come on strong in 2013, with eleven men now on its roster holding 5000 m bests under 14 minutes. Nine of them are entered at Izumo, meaning that Meiji could easily enter a B-team that would beat just about every other school in the field even with the absence of 13:43.20/28:41.09 junior Yuki Arimura. Its six-man 5000 m average of 13:46.99 is the best in the field, but while its 10000 m average of 28:56.88 is only the fifth-best and knocks it down to a #4 seed overall, its momentum right now, fresh from Yagisawa’s 13:28.79 two weeks ago and three other of its runners running sub-14 bests in the same race, means that Meiji could be the favorite.

2013 Hakone Ekiden champion Nittai University rounds out the front group of contenders for the win, seeded 5th overall close behind Meiji. Captain Shota Hattori has been absent from the scene since July’s World University Games and 13:56.47/28:46.38 senior Takumi Honda is out with injury, a potential double blow to its chances, but with much of the team improving its track times two weeks ago at its home time trials meet Nittai should be tough at Izumo.

Worth a mention is this year’s Ivy League Select Team, which returns to a bona-fide all-Ivy lineup after a few years of recruiting among the commoners helped it get into the top ten. Led by Joe Stilin (Princeton), Dan Lowry (Brown), Mark Amirault (Princeton) and NCAA 1500 m record holder Kyle Merber (Columbia), the Ivy League team is ranked 3rd in the field on 5000 m average with a six-man mark of 13:51.62. Unfortunately the lineup is hamstrung by a relative lack of experience over longer distances, bumping it down to a #11 seed. A placing in the top ten would be a pretty major achievement for the Americans.

Also deserving a mention as the top-ranked school from outside Kanto, the Kansai region’s Kyoto Sangyo University. Seeded #12 just behind the Ivy League, Kyoto Sangyo’s comparative weakness over 5000 m is offset by good 10000 m credentials, meaning that it could spend much of the race working with the Ivies to chase down 7th-9th ranked Kanto teams Juntendo University, Teikyo University and Hosei University.

The Izumo Ekiden gets rolling at 1 p.m. Japan time on Monday, October 14. Overseas fans can try to catch Fuji TV's live nationwide broadcast via Keyhole TV or follow JRN’s live tweeting coverage @JRNLive.

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

'Men's Race Record Set to Go' - Kawauchi in Melbourne This Sunday



http://www.melbournemarathon.com.au/News/ArtMID/4424/ArticleID/1895/Mens-Race-Record-set-to-go

Note: Two corrections to the above article.  Melbourne will be Yuki Kawauchi's eighth marathon so far this year, with three more planned in November and December.  He finished 8th at last month's Great North Run.

Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. Head Coach Disgraced for Use of Corporal Punishment Still Coaching Team on Volunteer Basis

http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20131009k0000m040146000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Oct. 8 the Aichi Prefectural Board of Education confirmed that a 50-year-old male coach who officially left his position with the national-level Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. ekiden team in April after revelations of his systematic use of corporal punishment against male and female team members is still active in coaching the team at the present time.  According to Board officials, the former employee began working with the team again on a volunteer basis in May, overseeing 14 of the 27 team members.  A Board member commented, "Former employees are free to volunteer their guidance, but we don't like to see a team divided into two parts like this."  Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. vice principal Shigeyuki Furui told the Mainichi Newspaper, "We'd like to see him formally coaching official practice sessions."

The former coach developed Toyokawa Kogyo into one of the country's strongest high school ekiden teams, but in January this year problems came to light.  It was discovered that over the last five years he had beaten thirty team members, seriously injuring five.

Translator's note: Click here for more background on the scandal surrounding "former" Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. head coach Masaaki Watanabe's frequent beating of team members. The disconnect between appearance and reality evident in this story is a commonplace aspect of Japanese society.

The video below surfaced last month showing corporal punishment being used on a student by the volleyball coach at Hamamatsu Nittai H.S., roughly 30 km from Toyokawa Kogyo H.S.  Along with abuse scandals in other major sports, in May the JAAF established a counseling service for athletes who experience physical abuse and sexual harassment from coaches and other authority figures, an indication of how widespread practices like these are are in Japan's sports culture.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hoshi and Shimizu Add to Gold Medal Haul at East Asian Games

http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/news/20131008-OHT1T00074.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On the third day of competition at the 2013 East Asian Games in Tianjin, China, 5000 m national champion Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu) won gold in the men's 5000 m in 14:25.00. Developing off a slow early pace, Hoshi shook free of his Korean competition in the very late stages of the race. In the women's 10000 m, Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) ran a strong 32:50.42 to claim gold alongside Hoshi and women's 5000 m champion Riko Matsuzaki (Team Sekisui Kagaku), completing a Japanese sweep of the distance events.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Matsuzaki Wins Japan's First Gold at East Asian Games

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2013/10/07/kiji/K20131007006765350.html

translated by Brett Larner

As the 6th East Asian Games got underway Oct. 7 in Tianjin, China, 20-year-old Riko Matsuzaki (Team Sekisui Kagaku) ran 16:09.72 to win Japan's first gold medal in the Games' first final, the women's 5000 m. Matsuzaki surged away from the rest of the field of five near 3000 m, opening a gap of 26 seconds on the 2nd-place runner from North Korea. "This was a good experience-builder," she said post-race. "My goal was to win and I achieved that. I was expecting the pace to get slow, so when I did I was ready for it and didn't get nervous or impatient."

In other events, London Olympian Seito Yamamoto (Chukyo Univ.) cleared 5.50 m to win the men's pole vault with teammate Hiroki Ogita (Mizuno) 3rd in 5.30 m.

Weekend Track and Road Roundup

by Brett Larner
video by akuy125

Domestic Japanese action this weekend focused on the annual National Sports Festival and on three competitive half marathons.  Women's 5000 m Japanese year leader Misaki Onishi (Team Sekisui Kagaku) started the weekend off with a win in 15:43.03 in a close pack race at the National Sports Festival 5000 m.  2013 World University Games 10000 m gold medalist Ayuko Suzuki (Nagoya Univ.) was next across the line in 15:46.30, with 3rd through 9th all finishing within less than two seconds of her.  Kenyan Charles Ndungu (Sapporo Yamanote H.S.) had an easier time in the junior men's 5000 m, winning by nearly 20 seconds in 13:56.27 over Suguru Hirosue (Kobayashi H.S.).

Course record holder Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) enjoyed an even greater level of domination in winning his third Ichinoseki International Half Marathon, improving on his time last year in clocking 1:02:11.  Runner-up Yuta Koyama (Komazawa University) was more than four minutes back in 1:06:30.  Another Kenyan, John Maina (Toho Refine) took the men's 10 km division in 29:55.

Koyama's teammate Shota Baba (Komazawa University) had more success at the Sapporo Half Marathon, the only runner under 65 as he won in 1:04:48 over independent Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business), 2nd in 1:05:04, and a field of corporate and collegiate rivals.  A more impressive result came in the women's race, where 2011 World University Games half marathon bronze medalist Sayo Nomura (Team Daiichi Seimei) ran a strong 1:10:27, one second outside the Japanese top ten for the year), to win over teammate Sakiko Matsumi.  Daiichi Seimei head coach Sachiko Yamashita has been putting a heavy emphasis on the half marathon this year as the 2011 National Corporate Women's Ekiden champion team seeks to return to the top this December after losing to rival Universal Entertainment in 2012.



Elsewhere, perpetual racing machine Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran a practice-level effort at the Hirosaki Shirahama Apple Half Marathon, winning in 1:04:42 with a margin of almost five minutes over runner-up Takahiro Yamauchi.  "I felt good today," he told reporters post-race.  "This was the kind of weather I like."  Kawauchi next races the Oct. 13 Melbourne Marathon in a tune-up for the Nov. 3 ING New York City Marathon.

National Sports Festival
Ajinomoto Stadium, Chofu, Tokyo, 10/4~8/13
click here for complete results

Senior Women's 5000 m
1. Misaki Onishi (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 15:43.03
2. Ayuko Suzuki (Nagoya Univ.) - 15:46.30
3. Yuka Ando (Mizuno) - 15:46.53
4. Shiho Takechi (Team Yamada Denki) - 15:47.02
5. Yuika Mori (Team Yamada Denki) - 15:47.21
6. Yuki Mitsunobu (Team Kyocera) - 15:47.79
7. Yukari Abe (Team Shimamura) - 15:47.87
8. Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido) - 15:47.94
9. Keiko Nogami (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 15:48.04
10. Sairi Maeda (Bukkyo Univ.) - 15:51.24

Junior Men's 5000 m
1. Charles Ndungu (Kenya/Sapporo Yamanote H.S.) - 13:56.27
2. Suguru Hirosue (Kobayashi H.S.) - 14:15.06
3. Kazuto Kawabata (Ayabe H.S.) - 14:15.52

38th Sapporo Half Marathon
Sapporo, Hokkaido, 10/6/13
click here for complete results

Men
1. Shota Baba (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:04:48
2. Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business) - 1:05:04
3. Tomohiko Takenaka (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 1:05:17
4. Kazuhito Sato (Hosei Univ.) - 1:05:28
5. Koki Tanaka (Juntendo Univ.) - 1:05:52

Women
1. Sayo Nomura (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:10:27
2. Sakiko Matsumi (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:13:34
3. Misaki Sakamoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 1:18:01

32nd Ichinoseki International Half Marathon
Ichinoseki, Iwate, 10/6/13
click here for complete results

Men
1. Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 1:02:11
2. Yuta Koyama (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:06:30
3. Toshiyuki Fujimatsu (Crest AC) - 1:06:51

Women
1. Yukie Tamura - 1:22:05
2. Mina Ogawa - 1:22:44
3. Yumi Sato - 1:23:41

Men's 10 km
1. John Maina (Kenya/Toho Refine) - 29:55
2. Tomoya Mori - 30:47
3. Shohei Ogata - 31:25

11th Hirosaki Shirahama Apple Half Marathon
Hirosaki, Aomori, 10/6/13
click here for complete results

Men
1. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:04:42
2. Takahiro Yamauchi - 1:09:24
3. Hiroki Komatsu - 1:12:24

Women
1. Eri Suzuki - 1:19:25
2. Futaba Aoki - 1:25:54
3. Kazuko Nakamura - 1:26:11

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, October 4, 2013

44 Universities to Bid for 13 Places at Oct. 19 Hakone Ekiden Qualifier

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20131003-00000926-yom-spo

translated and edited by Brett Larner



On Oct. 3 the Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto [KGRR] announced the entry list for the Oct. 19 Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai qualifier road race in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park.  Forty-four universities led by 2013 Hakone Ekiden 11th-placer Yamanashi Gakuin University will compete for places at the Hakone Ekiden's 90th running on Jan. 2-3, 2014.  In honor of Hakone's 90th anniversary its field size has been increased from the traditional twenty to twenty-three teams, meaning that the top thirteen schools at the Yosenkai will have the honor of competing in Japan's most prestigious sporting event alongside the ten schools that earned seeded places by finishing in the top ten at Hakone this year.



Each athlete at the Yosenkai runs 20 km, with his team's score determined by the cumulative time of its top ten finishers.  Up to this year the scores for the 7th-place and below teams have included points earned at May's Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships, but beginning this year this additional point system has been eliminated.  Also eliminated is the Kanto Region University Select Team made up of top-finishing individuals from schools that do not make the Hakone cut as teams.  Its elimination means that the number of schools able to qualify for Hakone increases from nine to ten, with three additional places added to commemorate Hakone's 90th edition.



Translator's note: The Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai is one of Japan's greatest races.  Any readers in the Tokyo area should join the thousands of fans who go out to Showa Kinen Park on the 19th to soak in the atmosphere of a race packed with university bands, cheerleader squads and booster clubs.

The elimination of the Kanto Regionals point system is a plus for smaller schools and fairness.  In the past, large, wealthy, well-established universities that can afford to develop sprint and field event squads along with a distance team have earned points based on the overall performance of their entire track and field team at the Kanto Regionals meet. Virtually every year this has resulted in big old boy network universities with weak distance squads making Hakone via this crutch over smaller schools whose distance teams actually ran faster at the Yosenkai qualifier.  No more.

On the other hand, the elimination of the Kanto Region University Select Team is a major blow for smaller schools.  People like 2013 World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi, his 2011 World Championships marathon teammate Yoshinori Oda and the currently ascendant Aritaka Kajiwara all chose to attend academically-strong universities over a running-focused center of power but still got to run in the Hakone Ekiden thanks to the Select Team.  Its elimination means that new programs and outsider schools will no longer be able to attract any talented high schoolers, and that anyone who develops under their program will not get to fulfill the dreams of every Japanese boy who begins running and race in Hakone.  Kawauchi has written articulately and passionately about this subject on his blog.  The KGRR's move positions its priorities solidly on developing an high average level among its distance runners at the expense of individual development, an accurate reflection of the dilemma currently facing Japanese distance running as a whole.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Takahashi to Lead New Japan Post Women's Corporate Team

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20131001-00000000-spnavi-spo

translated by Brett Larner

The Japan Post Group held a press conference Oct. 1 in Tokyo to formally launch its new women's distance running team.  Masahiko Takahashi, who helped train Sydney Olympics women's marathon gold medalist and former world record holder Naoko Takahashi and two-time Olympic marathon medalist Yuko Arimori, was named to the team's leadership position along with the announcement of an initial lineup of five female athletes headed by 2013 World University Games 10000 m gold medalist Ayuko Suzuki (Nagoya Univ.).

Scheduled to get underway at the start of the new fiscal year on April 1, 2014, the women's distance team is the first fully sports-oriented team that the Japan Post Group has sponsored since its founding.  The strong and deep parallel between the postal service's mission of faithfully delivering letters and the ekiden's ideal of passing on the tasuki to those yet to come was the precipitating factor in the decision to sponsor the team.  The new team's goals are both to win the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships and to develop athletes competitive at the international level, with an eye to both the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 150th anniversary of the postal service's founding.  With only five athletes the team is not yet ekiden-ready, but the team management's goal is to have a fully-operational squad of twelve women within three years.

With a record of success training world-class athletes, head coach Takahashi spoke of his goals, commenting, "This will be my first time working to develop young athletes.  It's important to help already-established athletes to refine what they are doing, but in terms of the potential to see how much someone can change and progress, [the chance to work with young athletes] is incredibly exciting and worthwhile."

Attending the press conference as a special guest, noted sports journalist Akemi Masuda interviewed the team's athletes.  Asked why she chose the Japan Post Group team from among the countless corporate league teams eager to sign her, Suzuki said, "I really wanted to be part of a team that was starting from zero, and to help build it together with Coach Takahashi."  Of her personal goals she said with confidence, "To begin with, I want to become as strong as I can on the track over 5000 m and 10000 m."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Historic Himeji Castle 10-Miler to Fold in Favor of Full Marathon Format

http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/sports/201309/0006363197.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

A favorite of athletes from junior high to the corporate leagues, Hyogo prefecture's Himeji Castle Road Race is set to be discontinued after February's 54th running.  With a new Himeji Castle World Heritage Site Marathon set to be launched in 2015, the 10-miler's race organization committee will be dismantled and the event's long history of hosting many of the country's best athletes will come to an end.

According to the Hyogo Prefecture Track and Field Association's 50th anniversary commemorative magazine, in 1948 there was a move to inaugurate a series of 10-mile road races in January in all the major cities of the country, but in 1960 the series came to a halt.  With Hyogo's event having been held at Himeji Castle since 1954 and having already developed a reputation as a fast course, it was relaunched in 1961 as the first Himeji Castle Road Race with a certified course under the auspices of the Kinki Track and Field Association.  The rest is history.

For corporate league and university men, the 10-mile division has been the main draw. Winners have included Tatsuya Moriguchi (Team Kobe Seiko), a member of the ill-fated Moscow Olympics men's long distance team, Hakone Ekiden star and now Waseda University head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe (Waseda Univ.), and men's marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka (Team Kanebo).

In 1990 other divisions were added to allow junior high school-aged runners to compete. London Olympics marathoner Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) and Beijing Olympics track runners Kensuke Takezawa (Team Sumitomo Denko) and Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) were among the countless local junior high school students to run, each of them scoring wins.

Hyogo Track and Field Association director Masaaki Uetsuki commented, "There's a touch of sadness about this decision, but this race has played its role in making Hyogo the home of Japanese distance running.  Now we want to support as wide a range of runners as possible and make the Himeji Castle Marathon as popular and successful as we can."