Skip to main content

Karoki, Mwangi, Omwamba and Wairimu top Second Half of Hokuren Distance Challenge

by Brett Larner

Japan’s biggest summer track series, the Hokuren Distance Challenge on the northern island of Hokkaido, wrapped up this week with its final two meets in the towns of Kitami and Abashiri. The Kitami meet was relatively low-key as everyone focused on the series closer in Abashiri. Building toward his marathon debut with two half marathon wins and a sub-27 best for 10000 m to his name this season Bedan Karoki (Kenya/DeNA RC) delivered the biggest result in Kitami, winning the 5000 m A-heat in 13:15.25. Hokkaido-based high schooler Charles Ndungu (Kenya/Sapporo Yamanote H.S.) was 3rd in a quality best of 13:35.55 just ahead of top Japanese man Minato Oishi (Team Toyota), 4th in 13:36.40.

Kenyan Susan Wairimu (Team Denso) won the women’s 3000 m A-heat over two-time 5000 m national champion Misaki Onishi (Team Sekisui Kagaku), 9:01.29 to 9:05.45, while the year’s #1-ranked Japanese woman Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo) took the 5000 m A-heat in 15:33.71.

In Abashiri Hagiwara faltered, dropping out of the 5000 m A-heat as Onishi won in 15:28.25. Wairimu’s teammate Yuka Takashima (Team Denso) took the women’s 10000 m heat in 31:55.81, just the third Japanese woman this year to clear 32 minutes. Sairi Maeda (Team Daihatsu), who set the national collegiate marathon record of 2:26:46 in her debut at January’s Osaka International Women’s Marathon just before graduating from Kyoto’s Bukkyo University, was 2nd in a sizeable PB of 32:04.37, with 2014 World Half Marathon Championships team member Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido) also PBing in 32:07.08 for 3rd. Moscow World Championships women’s marathon bronze medalist Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) made a long-delayed return to competition in the same heat, finishing 14th in 32:48.87.

Along with Takenaka, most of Japan’s men’s World Half Marathon Championships team also ran in Abashiri. Masato Kikuchi (Team Konica Minolta), 18th in Copenhagen in 1:01:23, doubled with a 3:44.21 win in the 1500 m before coming back to run 13:40.40 for 3rd in the 5000 m A-heat just off Copenhagen teammate Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.), 13:39.27 for 2nd behind 2014 Kanto Region University 1500 m and 5000 m champion Enock Omwamba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) who won again in 13:38.50. A third member of the World Half team, Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.), took 5th in 13:42.74, while its other collegiate runner Shogo Nakamura (Komazawa Univ.) struggled in the 10000 m A-heat as he finished last in 30:18.91. The Copenhagen team’s final member, 2013 national 5000 m champion Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu), sat Abashiri out after running a PB 13:38.46 in Kitami.

No Japanese men broke 28 in the Abashiri 10000 m A-heat, where newcomer James Mwangi (Kenya/Team NTN) continued his rapid rise with a 27:23.66 win over the Koichi Morishita-coached Jeremiah Karemi Thuku (Kenya/Team Toyota Kyushu), 2nd in 27:28.27. Muryo Takase (Team Nissin Shokuhin), sub-62 for the half marathon while at Yamanashi Gakuin University, ran a PB 28:03.81 to take top Japanese honors at 6th just ahead of former Komazawa University captain Shinobu Kubota who just nicked his best with a two-second PB of 28:05.08. Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin University) was the top Japanese collegiate, running a nearly 90-second of PB 28:23.40 for 13th to just beat AGU teammate Yusuke Ogura’s B-heat-winning 28:27.73, also a major PB by 42 seconds. AGU’s Yuhi Akiyama likewise cleared 29 minutes for the first time in the B-heat, as did three runners from rival Meiji University led by Hayato Yamada in 28:35.76. With 2014 Hakone Ekiden top two Toyo University and Komazawa University both suffering from significant losses to graduation both Aoyama Gakuin and Meiji look set to be serious factors in this fall’s university ekiden season, the highlight of the Japanese racing year.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved 

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Cheboitibin Breaks Seko's Course Record at Ome 30 km

One of Japan's longest-standing course records at its elite races fell Sunday as Kenyan Ezekiel Cheboitibin (Sunbelx) beat the great Toshihiko Seko's 38-year-old Ome 30 km Road Race record by almost 30 seconds.

Tough and hilly with a net climb in the first half and descent on the return trip, Ome is a standard spring marathon prep run and a natural partner for April's Boston Marathon, with which it has a longstanding athlete exchange program. The 2017 Ome winner, this time out Cheboitibin was gunning for Seko's record from the start, hitting the mostly uphill 10 km completely solo in 29:47, 20 km midway through the return trip in 59:30, and saving his fastest 10 km split for the end as he crossed the finish line in 1:29:06. Seko's 1:29:32 just two months before his first Boston win had made him the only man in Ome history to break 90 minutes. With the best performance of his career Cheboitibin turned the page on that history.

With the withdrawal of Fukuoka winner

Last Chance for Tokyo 2020? - Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Elite Field

With just under three weeks to go the organizers of the Mar. 10 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon's 74th running have finally released the elite field. For Japanese men it's the last chance - almost - to qualify for September's MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials, the last domestic race with up to six spots up for grabs for anyone under 2:11:00 or 2:10:00 and more for anyone else under 2:08:30 or averaging under 2:11:00 between Lake Biwa and another marathon in the last year and a half. The window on that last two-race option runs through April 30th so there will still be a few chances left, but realistically for most of the men at Lake Biwa this is it, all or nothing for a home soil Olympic team.

There's a good international field of twelve African-born runners of eight nationalities at the 2:06 to 2:09 level to help pull the Japanese men to hit those times. Last year's winner Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) is back, ranked 6th in a field led by 2:06 men Deribe…

Beppu-Oita Marathon to Review Staff Training After Interpreter Refers to African Athletes as "Chimpanzees"

On Feb. 14 the organizers of the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon confirmed that a local woman in her fifties who served as an interpreter at this year's race had published a blog post in which she referred to the African athletes on whose behalf she had worked as "chimpanzees." The woman said she had no malicious or racist intent behind her comments, but a spokesperson for the organizers called her choice of words "inappropriate." Organizers plan to review their training and guidance procedures for all race management staff members.

The Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon took place in the two cities on Feb. 3. According to the spokesperson, the blog to which the woman posted the comments is for members of a sports club to which she belongs to report on what they have been doing. On Feb. 10 she wrote about her work with the African athletes, posting it with public access so that anyone could read it. She described the struggle of talking to the African athletes, saying …