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JRN's Ten Most-Read Stories of the Year

2015 was a complex year in Japan with lots to get excited about, a new generation of talent finally starting to break through the wall, multiple national records and world record-setting depth in what seemed like just about every major race, countered by embarrassingly bad World Championships performances, 2020 Tokyo Olympics organizational snafus that ranged from incompetent to much worse, and the consequences of the country's race organizers' and elite athlete coordinators' ready willingness to deal with people who trade freely in dirty athletes finally starting to come home to roost.  JRN's top ten most-read articles of 2015:

1. Hakone Champion AGU's Isshiki Leads 27 under 1:03 and 265 Sub-1:06 at National University Half Marathon Championships - Mar. 1
Tadashi Isshiki, a 2nd-year at 2015 Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University, ran 1:02:11 to top a field that produced historic results including a world record 265 men under 1:06:00 and 643 under 1:10:00.  Isshiki, Naoki Kudo (1st yr, Komazawa Univ.) and Yuta Takahashi (3rd yr, Teikyo University) all qualified for the 2015 World University Games.  Preview.  One of JRN's all-time top five most-read articles.

2. Kota Murayama and Tetsuya Yoroizaka Photo Finish Double 10000 m Japanese National Record - Nov. 28
Asahi Kasei teammates Kota Murayama and Tetsuya Yoroizaka led the charge in a shot at the 27:35.09 Japanese national record set back in 2001 by the great Toshinari Takaoka.  Yoroizaka leading Murayama with 100 m to go, it came down to a photo finish with both breaking 27:30 and Murayama getting the record by 0.05 seconds over Yoroizaka.  Preview.

3. Aoyama Gakuin University Rewrites History in First-Ever Hakone Ekiden Win - Jan. 3
Returning to the Hakone Ekiden in 2008 after a 33-year absence, Aoyama Gakuin University hit the top of Japan's biggest race for the first time with an overall course record led by third-year Daichi Kamino's epic stage record on the uphill Fifth Stage.  Click here for Day One results and report.  Hakone Ekiden preview here.

4. Why Is There a Track in Narita Airport Terminal 3?  Designer Naoki Ito's Concept of Airport Design - Apr. 9
An interview with Naoki Ito of Creative Lab Party, the creative director for the construction of the new Terminal 3 at Tokyo's Narita Airport, about the inclusion of a 4-lane rubber surface track design in the terminal's walkways.

5. 'Paul Kuira Pulls a Ryan Hall' - Feb. 6
Satire of articles by American site Letsrun.com and Italian athletics writer Alberto Stretti that praised white New Zealander Zane Robertson's outstanding 59:47 debut at the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon as "one of the most amazing in history" without even mentioning that he lost to another runner also making his half marathon debut, black Kenyan Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta) who set the course record in 59:47.  JRN's coverage of Marugame.

6. South Korea Plans to Give Citizenship to Kenyan Athlete to Ensure Marathon Gold at Rio Olympics - Mar. 19
Just weeks after the end of his suspension for EPO use, a South Korean newspaper reported that the South Korean Athletics Federation planned to help Kenyan Wilson Lonayae Erupe transfer his citizenship in order to represent South Korea at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

7. Russian Victor Ugarov Wins Inaugural Kanazawa Marathon - Nov. 16
Two days after the IAAF's Nov. 13 suspension of the Russian Federation (ARAF) and ban on Russian athletes competing internationally, Victor Ugarov and another Russian athlete ran the first Kanazawa Marathon as part of a sister city relationship between Kanazawa and Irkutsk.  Ugarov won in a PB 2:17:19.  Kanazawa Marathon officials claimed there was no problem with his participation, but two days later the ARAF announced that his results in Kanazawa would be annulled and that he would face a ban of up to 4 years for violating the IAAF suspension.

8. Kawauchi 6th in TCS New York City Marathon - Nov. 1
Finally shaking off the injuries that had plagued him for nearly ten months following an ankle sprain, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran one of the best races of his career to finish 6th in the TCS New York City Marathon, the highest placing by a Japanese man in the 2015 World Marathon Majors.

9. Karoki to Transfer Nationality to Japan - Apr. 1
An April Fools' Day article about 2015 World XC Championships silver medalist Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC) and 2013 Fukuoka International Marathon winner Martin Mathathi (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), both longtime Japan-resident Kenyans, applying for Japanese citizenship after the Mar. 30 corporate league announcement of a $1 million bonus for breaking the 2:06:16 Japanese national record in the marathon.

10. Back From New York, Kawauchi Defies Federation Expectations With Statement of Intent to Run Own Race in Fukuoka - Nov. 4
Talking to a large scrum of journalists waiting for him at Narita Airport upon his return to Japan from the TCS New York City Marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) defied JAAF statements that they would prioritize people who tried to run their sub-2:06:30 time standard in selection for the Rio Olympic team, indicating that he would run his own race in Fukuoka and not an unrealistic pace.  Despite his words, in Fukuoka he went out at 2:06 pace with the lead group, losing touch just after 10 km and finishing 8th in 2:12:48.

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Fukuoka Winner Yuma Hattori: "Running Isn't Fun"

At the Dec. 2 Fukuoka International MarathonYuma Hattori (25, Toyota) ran 2:07:27 to win and become the eighth-fastest Japanese man ever. It was the first time since 2004 that a Japanese man became the Fukuoka champion. Hattori now stands among the leading competitors in the fierce battle to make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon team.

Hattori and his younger brother Hazuma Hattori (23, Toenec) were star members of Toyo University's 2014 Hakone Ekiden winning team. They rank among the most famous brothers in Japanese athletics, but neither of them actually wanted to be a runner. "I wanted to play soccer," Hattori said. "Hazuma wanted to play table tennis. We're from the sticks out in Niigata and my junior high school didn't have a soccer team. I thought about joining a club team, but it was too far away."

"My dad had been a decathlete," Hattori continued, "so I started doing track and field as well. My mom was a cross-country skier, so bo…

Iron Injections Remain an Issue in Japanese High School Girls' Distance Running

To treat anemia some of the country's top high school ekiden teams inappropriately utilize iron injections that could have a harmful effect on athletes' health.

Iron injections are primarily used to treat serious anemia arising from iron deficiency, but according to experts they also improve endurance. As a result their use has spread across the country over the last 20 years, primarily among female athletes who are more prone to anemia.

Following a 2015 case in which an athlete was confirmed to have suffered liver damage as a result of excess iron levels, in April, 2016 the JAAF issued a warning for coaches to stop the practice of injections, saying, "The accumulation of iron in the internal organs has deleterious effects on the body." In an interview two women who graduated prior to the JAAF's warning talked about their firsthand experience in high school. Under their coaches' direction both used iron injections throughout their high school careers and pro…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …