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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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Morita Goes Sub-32 in 10000 m Debut

Running her track 10000 m debut of a 32:27 road 10 km in the spring, Kaori Morita (Panasonic) closed hard off a slow opening pace to win the National Corporate Federation Women's Long Distance Time Trials 10000 m Friday afternoon in Yamaguchi.

A new filler meet to take up space on the calendar following the National Corporate Women's Ekiden's move to November, the Corporate Time Trials meet featured one heat of 3000 m and three 5000 m heats before its main focus, the 10000 m. After a 3:19 first 1000 m Morita's teammate Yuka Hori, winner of the 10.9 km Third Stage at Nationals, took over, leading the field at 3:12 to 3:14 / km pace through 7000 m. Morita, who won the 7.0 km First Stage, went to the front at that point with a 3:14 to 8000 m before taking off.

Clocking her fastest split up to that point with a 3:07 between 8 and 9000 m, Morita closed impressively with a 3:01 final km to dip under 32 minutes as she won in 31:59.94. Steepler Chikako Mori (Sekisui Kagaku) w…

Saitama International Marathon Top Two's Times Annulled Due to Last-Minute Misdirection by Race Officials

At the Nov. 12 Saitama International Marathon, Kenyan Flomena Cheyech Daniel won a sprint finish over Bahraini Shitaye Habtegebrel by 3 seconds to take her second-straight Saitama title in 2:28:39. On Dec. 11 race organizers announced that both runners' times had been annulled.

In the midst of the pair's battle for the win, race officials misdirected the pair into the righthand lane on the final corner instead of the lefthand lane in which the finish line was located. Both ran over the curb dividing the two lanes and returned to the original course before finishing.

At the time JAAF executive director Mitsugi Ogata said, "This was a mistake by the organizers and the athletes did nothing wrong. There was no effect on the finishing order and no advantage gained in terms of the distance run." After later consultation with JAAF officials, race organizers decided that Cheyech and Habtegebrel had not covered the complete distance and that their times should be annulled. N…

Tokyo Marathon to Move to March Date Beginning in 2019

At a press conference in Tokyo on Dec. 12, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation announced that beginning in 2019, the Tokyo Marathon will move from its current date on the last Sunday of February to the first Sunday of March. The next Imperial succession is set to take place in 2019, meaning that February 23 will become the Emperor's Birthday national holiday starting in 2020. The race date is being preemptively moved to avoid any potential overlap.

According to the Foundation, setting up and breaking down the facilities necessary to hold the Tokyo Marathon takes several days. With the finish area being positioned in front of the Imperial Palace there were concerns that problems would arise due to the large number of people who would gather in the area to celebrate the Emperor's birthday.

Translator's note: The Tokyo Marathon previously experimented with a March race date in 2009 but abandoned it to return to February the next year. Since 1994 the first Sunday of March has been t…