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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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Saitama International Marathon Elite Field

With just over three weeks to go the Saitama International Marathon has released the elite field for its third running scheduled for Nov. 12, and it's a small one. A problematic event that carries the diminished legacy of the Tokyo International Women's Marathon and Yokohama International Women's Marathon, Saitama occupies a place in the national team selection process that should go to the far superior Tokyo Marathon women's race but remains out in the northwestern suburbs thanks to the sponsor and TV broadcast income it generates for the JAAF. But with a field like this, how much longer will it be able to generate any sponsor interest or income?

The move of the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships from mid-December to late November, just two weeks after Saitama, means that not a single corporate league woman is entered in Saitama's elite field. Not one. The home crowd is represented by 22-year-old Reia Iwade (Dome), who quit the Noritz corporate t…

Kawabata Over Kawauchi at Takashimadaira 20 km

Like a distant echo of the thunder of yesterday's Yosenkai 20 km reverberating across the city, Tokyo's other major 20 km road race took place this morning in the northwestern suburb of Takashimadaira. Narrowly surviving the loss of its main sponsor last year, the Takashimadaira Road Race offers a unique 5 km loop course that delivers fast times. Now in its 42nd year, Takashimadaira is a favorite for upper-tier universities that don't have to run the Yosenkai to requalify for the Hakone Ekiden, for other schools' second-stringers, and for top-level independents and amateurs.

This year's race was fronted by a group of runners from Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University who didn't make Tokai's final Izumo roster, by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and others from yesterday's Yosenkai winner Teikyo University and the Hakone-qualified Juntendo University and Komazawa University. In the same cool and lightly rainy…

Kawauchi and Kanematsu Win Rainy Shimantogawa 100 km

The 23rd edition of the Shimantogawa Ultramarathon took place Oct. 15 in Shimanto, Kochi. 1822 runners started the 100 km division, where Yoshiki Kawauchi (26, Saitama T&F Assoc.) and Aiko Kanematsu (37, Team RxL) took the men's and women's titles for the first time.

The 100 km division started under a heavy downpour at 5:30 a.m. in front of Warabioka J.H.S. The 576 participants in the 60 km division got off 4 1/2 hours later from Koinobori Park, with both races finishing at Nakamura H.S.

Kawauchi, the younger brother of "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi, ran Shimantogawa for the second time, improving dramatically on last year's run to win in 6:42:06. "Last time I was 21st, a total disaster," Kawauchi said afterward. "My brother told me, 'Don't overdo it on the uphills,' and his advie helped me get through it. The scenery around Iwama Chinkabashi was really beautiful."

Kanematsu began running with her husband around age 30…