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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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Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half …

Kenyans Kabuu, Jemeli and Cheyech Lead Nagoya Women's Marathon Field

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, one with a long history as an elite race and adapting to the times with a mass-participation field of 20,000. The last few years it has seen a series of dynamic, high-level performances by top Japanese women, from Sairi Maeda's 2:22:48 in 2015 to the 2:23:19 to 2:23:20 sprint finish battle between Tomomi Tanaka and Rei Ohara in 2016 to Yuka Ando's stellar 2:21:36 debut and teammate Mao Kiyota's 2:23:47 breakthrough last year.

Maeda, Ohara and Kiyota all return this year to face the Kenyan trio of Lucy Kabuu, Valary Jemeli and Flomena Cheyech Daniel. Kabuu went to high school in Japan before moving on to the big leagues, but she hasn't finished a marathon since her 2:20:21 in Dubai 2015. Cheyech also used to be based in Japan as is a familiar face here, winning the last two Saitama International Marathons. Jemeli is making her Japanese debut, and with a 2:21:57 win in Prague and a 2:20:53 …

Kipsang Talking Loud and Aga Mumbling Bold - Tokyo Marathon Preview

After stepping up to the big leagues last year with course records in the 2:03 and 2:19 range, the Tokyo Marathon hopes to go one better this year. Men's course record setter Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) is back, stepping up from a 2:03:50 prediction for Tokyo in January to a 2:02:50 world record prediction at Friday's pre-race press conference. In the unmentioned absence of women's course record breaker Sarah Chepchirchir the top-ranked woman is Ruti Aga (Ethiopia), coming in hot off a 1:06:39 win last month in Houston and turning heads at the press conference with a boldly mumbled 2:18:00 prediction.

Management for both Kipsang and Aga were skeptical to JRN of their athletes' predictions, people from each camp saying times two minutes slower would be more likely, one minute slower in a best-case scenario. But whatever the prediction, Kipsang was clear to fellow past champs Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) and Dickson Chumba (Kenya) about one thing: he wants a more conservative fi…