Saturday, January 31, 2015

2015 Japanese Distance Rankings

Updated 12/26/15

JRN's 2015 Japanese track and road distance running rankings. Overall rankings are calculated using runner's times and placings in races over 5000 m, 10000 m, half-marathon and marathon and the strength of these performances relative to others in the top ten in each category. Click any image to enlarge.


© 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Marugame Overseas Elites Hold Running Sessions With Local Children

http://www.sankei.com/region/news/150131/rgn1501310073-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

Overseas elite athletes scheduled to run the 69th edition of the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon on Feb. 1 took part in sessions at elementary schools in Utazu and Marugame on Jan. 30, talking with local children and offering them advice and guidance in their running.  The sessions were part of the schools' "Real Experience" program, seeking to increase children's interest in activities like sports by letting them interact directly with athletes from around the world.

2014 Continental Cup women's 5000 m 4th-placer Eloise Wellings (32, Australia) visited Utazu Elementary School, taking questions from the children about how to develop fast form and proper breathing.  "Relax when you run," she told them.  "Inhale through your nose and try to exhale from both your nose and mouth."  Afterwards, students enjoyed the thrill of racing Wellings in short sprints in the school gymnasium, full of smiles for the valuable experience.  Sixth grader Hidema Enami, 12, said, "It was inspiring to have such a rare opportunity.  Ms. Wellings' advice about running will be very helpful in my future in athletics."

At the same time, 2014 World Half Marathon Championships silver medalist Samuel Tsegaye (26, Eritrea) did a demonstration session at Joto Elementary School in Marugame, running and interacting with representative children from the school.  The children warmly wished Tsegaye good luck in Sunday's race.

Arciniaga and Mutazaki Lead Field for 49th Ome 30 km Road Race

http://www.ohme-marathon.jp/news/2015/01/27/3284

translated by Brett Larner

We are pleased to announce the elite athletes for the 49th running of the Ome 30 km Road Race on Feb. 15.

30 km Division - Men

Nicholas Arciniaga (U.S.A.)
D.O.B.: June 30, 1983 (31 yrs old)
height/weight: 177 cm / 63 kg
bib number: 1
PBs
marathon: 2:11:30
half-marathon: 1:03:22
10000 m: 28:29.71
5000 m: 14:13.14
Major Accomplishments
2014 NYC Marathon: 10th
2014 Boston Marathon: 7th
2009 Ome 30 km: 5th
2008 Boston Marathon: 10th

Kiyokatsu Hasegawa (JR Higashi Nihon)
D.O.B.: Apr. 2, 1983 (31 yrs old)
height/weight: 174 cm / 57 kg
bib number: 2
PBs
marathon: 2:15:15
half-marathon: 1:02:26
10000 m: 28:45:23
5000 m: 14:05.93
Major Accomplishments
2012 Nagano Marathon: 5th
2011 Lake Saroma 100 km: 1st
2010 Tokyo Marathon: 10th
2009 Ome 30 km Road Race: 6th

Kohei Ogino (Fujitsu)
D.O.B.: Dec. 8, 1989 (25 yrs old)
height/weight: 174 cm / 58 kg
bib number: 3
PBs
marathon: 2:13:12
half-marathon: 1:03:18
10000 m: 28:56.00
5000 m: 14:19.76
Major Accomplishments
2013 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon: 3rd
2012 Hakone Ekiden Second Stage: 7th

Kodai Matsumoto (Puma RC)
D.O.B.: Apr. 17, 1987 (27 yrs old)
height/weight: 170 cm / 52 kg
bib number: 4
PBs
marathon: 2:22:40
half-marathon: 1:04:07
10000 m: 28:45.10
5000 m: 13:54.76
Major Accomplishments
2013 Tsukuba Marathon: 1st
2012 Chiba Aqualine Marathon: 6th
2010 Hakone Ekiden Fourth Stage: 3rd
2009 Kanto Regionals 10000 m: 3rd

Shinichiro Nakamura (Waseda Univ.)
D.O.B.: Apr. 14, 1993 (21 yrs. old)
height/weight: 174 cm / 57 kg
bib number: 5
PBs
half-marathon: 1:02:30
10000 m: 28:56.00
5000 m: 14:06.08
Major Accomplishments
2015 Hakone Ekiden First Stage: 11th
2014 Hakone Ekiden Tenth Stage: 10th

Tetsuya Watanabe (Senshu Unv.)
D.O.B.: Oct. 5, 1992 (22 yrs old)
height/weight: 170 cm / 50 kg
bib number: 6
PBs
half-marathon: 1:04:52
10000 m: 29:56.41
5000 m: 14:32.76
Major Accomplishments
2013 Ome 30 m Road Race: 12th

30 km Division - Women

Akane Mutazaki (Edion)
D.O.B.: Jan. 10, 1986 (29 yrs old)
height/weight: 162 cm / 49 kg
bib number: 20001
PBs
marathon: 2:37:14
half-marathon: 1:12:38
10000 m: 33:51.03
5000 m: 16:00.53
Major Accomplishments
2013 Nagoya Women's Marathon: 17th

Megumi Amako (Canon AC Kyushu)
D.O.B.: Dec. 13, 1990 (24 yrs old)
height/weight: 153 cm / 38 kg
bib number: 20002
PBs
marathon: 2:37:42
half-marathon: 1:12:44
10000 m: 33:03.84
5000 m: 15:57.76
Major Accomplishments
2014 Hokkaido Marathon: 4th

Friday, January 30, 2015

Beppu-Oita, Marugame and Kanagawa Lead Weekend Action

by Brett Larner

It's a busy and snowy weekend across Japan with at least three major races leading the way.

On the southernmost main island of Kyushu, defending champion Abraham Kiplimo (Uganda) returns to the 64th running of the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon as the probable favorite after the withdrawal of top domestic contender Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) with injury earlier this week.  In Nakamoto's absence Kiplimo's main competition is Fekadu Lema (Ethiopia), but with a solid pack of 2:09-2:12 Japanese men there could be a surprise.  Relevant debuts include 1:01:31 half marathoner Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota) and sub-63 Moroccan Abdelmajid El Hissouf.

In the women's race, 2014 100 km World Championships silver medalist Chiyuki Mochizuki (Canon AC Kyushu), a three-time Beppu-Oita winner, returns to face last year's winner Haruka Yamaguchi (Kita AC).  Click here for a complete elite field listing, and follow @JRNLive for live coverage during the race starting noonish on Sunday Japan time.

Further north on the island of Shikoku, the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon, always host to one of the deepest fields in the world, has another solid lineup for its 69th edition.  Beijing Olympics 10000 m bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan (U.S.A.) leads a women's field that includes sub-70 women Hanae Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) and Ehitu Kiros (Ethiopia), defending champion Eri Makikawa (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and upper-tier debuts from Eloise Wellings (Australia), Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu) and Kaho Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei).  Also in the field is Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania), welcomed back to the Yokohama International Women's Marathon in 2012 just weeks after the end of her drug suspension.  Coincidentally, both Yokohama and Marugame share the same elite coordinator.

The men's field is a great one, with last year's winner Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) leading four sub-60 men including 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon silver medalist Samuel Tsegaye (Eritrea) and the formidable Bernard Koech (Kenya).  The field is packed with Japan-based African talent and eight sub-62 Japanese men including top-ranked Masato Kikuchi (Team Konica Minolta), London Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House), sub-62 collegiates Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) and Shogo Nakamura (Komazawa Univ.), and one of the biggest current stars in Japanese distance running, 2015 Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage record-setter Daichi Kamino (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.).  34 Japanese men on the entry list have 62-minute PBs.  Talented first-timers include Zane Robertson (New Zealand), Akinobu Murasawa (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Ken Yokote (Meiji Univ.).  Click here for detailed elite field highlights.

Many of Inoue, Nakamura and Kamino's teammates will line up closer to Tokyo for the 37th running of the Kanagawa Half Marathon instead of Marugame.  A fast if spectacularly ugly course through the industrial zone south of Yokohama, Kanagawa has tended in recent years to be a proving ground for future top-level university athletes.  Aoyama Gakuin athletes have won three of the last four years culminating in a 1:03:01 course record last year by AGU's Tadashi Isshiki, a major player along with Kamino in the school's CR win at Hakone earlier this month.  If recent trends continue, look for Isshiki's Kanagawa record to fall if the weather cooperates.

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Kawauchi vs. Adachi at Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon

by Brett Larner

The Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon organizers have announced the field for their 53rd running on Feb. 8.  Run on the home ground of the Takeshi Soh-led Asahi Kasei corporate team, Nobeoka is primarily a developmental race focusing on first-timers and young athletes trying to get the marathon right and typically sees winning times in the 2:12~2:13 range.  It's noteworthy outside Japan mainly in that every year the people who run around that level in Nobeoka make up a major part of the runners included on their coaches' annual junket to the Chicago Marathon, where some go on to take a step toward bigger things.

Recently things have been getting a little faster in Nobeoka, with 2:11 winning times in two of the last three years.  This year the organizers have taken a slightly different tack, invited three experienced men who should be able to work together to take down the 2:11:05 course record.  Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) is the strongest by far with a 2:08:14 best, but after losing a month's training to an ankle sprain in late December he will get a solid challenge from Asahi Kasei's Tomoya Adachi, who became the tenth Japanese man of 2014 to go sub-2:10, just, when he ran a 2:09:59 PB in Fukuoka in December.  Kazuya Ishida (Team Nishitetsu) won Nobeoka in 2:11:57 in 2012 and should be the other major contender.

Noteworthy names trying to run quality times after failed marathon debuts include pre-course change Hakone Ekiden Sixth Stage record holder Kenta Chiba (Fujitsu) and sub-62 half marathoner Shuji Yoshikawa (Kyudenko), a training partner of 2:08:00 marathoner Kazuhiro Maeda and 2:09:10 man Masanori Sakai.  First-timers make up over half the invited athlete field, with sub-63 half marathoners Yuya Ito (Team Toyota), Sho Matsueda (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki), Masanori Kitajima (Team Yasukawa Denki) and Hiroki Yamagishi (Hitachi Butsuryu) topping the list.

53rd Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon Elite Field
Nobeoka, Miyazaki, 2/8/15
click here for complete field listing

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:08:14 (Seoul 2013)
Tomoya Adachi (Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:59 (Fukuoka 2014)
Kazuya Ishida (Nishitetsu) - 2:11:57 (Nobeoka 2012)
Norimasa Nishina (Fujitsu) - 2:13:12 (Hofu 2014)
Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business) - 2:13:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
Yasushi Yamamoto (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:15 (Biwako 2013)
Takuya Suzuki (Aisan Kogyo) - 2:15:40 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Yasunori Onuma (Toenec) - 2:18:00 (Nobeoka 2014)
Kenta Chiba (Fujitsu) - 2:18:07 (Nobeoka 2014)

Do-Over
Shuji Yoshikawa (Kyudenko) - 1:01:58 (Marugame Half 2012)
Ryota Matoba (Komori Corp.) - 1:03:15 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2013)
Ryota Nakamura (Chudenko) - 1:03:16 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2010)

Debut
Yuya Ito (Toyota) - 1:02:21 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Sho Matsueda (Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 1:02:41 (Marugame Half 2013)
Masanori Kitajima (Yasukawa Denki) - 1:02:50 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2010)
Hiroki Yamagishi (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 1:02:51 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2013)
Takamitsu Hashimoto (Komori Corp.) - 1:03:13 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Masahito Sumimoto (Mazda) - 1:03:13 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Tatsuya Oshinomi (Nishitetsu) - 1:03:17 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2012)
Norikazu Kato (Yakult) - 1:03:18 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Shogo Kanezane (Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:03:19 (Marugame Half 2012)
Tsukasa Koyam (Subaru) - 1:03:28 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2012)
Atsushi Yamazaki (Subaru) - 1:03:34 (Kyoto Half 2009)
Daiki Kubota (Yasukawa Denki) - 1:03:38 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2013)
Yuma Morii (SG Holdings) - 1:03:57 (Marugame Half 2014)
Hajime Koizumi (Iwaki T&F Assoc.) - 1:04:01 (Ageo Half 2007)
Takashi Maie (Konica Minolta) - 1:04:16 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2009)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

Nakamoto Withdraws from Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon

http://www.jiji.com/jc/zc?k=201501/2015012600546&g=spo

translated by Brett Larner

On Jan. 26 the organizers of the Feb. 1 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon announced that elite athlete Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) has withdrawn from the race with pain and nerve problems in the gluteus and quadraceps of his left leg.  Nakamoto was 6th in the men's marathon at the 2012 London Olympics and 5th in the 2013 Moscow World Championships marathon.  In December he ran the Fukuoka International Marathon to make the 2015 Beijing World Championships marathon team but finished only 12th in 2:11:58.

Chida and Kamitanida Win Katsuta Marathon

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/local/ibaraki/news/20150125-OYTNT50223.html

translated by Brett Larner

The 63rd running of the Katsuta National Marathon took place Jan. 25 in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki.  A total of 20,280 runners took part in the combined men's and women's marathon and 10 km divisions.  In the men's marathon, Yosuke Chida (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) claimed his first win in 2:18:15, while 2013 women's winner Manami Kamitanida (Team Hitachi) returned to the top in 2:38:29.

Conditions at the 10:30 start were excellent, with blue skies, 12.0 degree temperatures, 33.2% humidity and a gentle 1.7 m/s northerly wind.  Starting on Omotemachi Mall, the marathon course passed in front of Katsuta Station before heading north on Route 245 to Tokaimura where it returned to Ishikawa Exercise Plaza.

In the men's race, Tatsuya Itagaki (Team JP Post) took the lead at 15 km, but near 32.7 km a chase group of three caught him.  Chida surged on the hills around 34 km, and when the rest of the group was unable to follow he pushed on to the win alone.  In the women's race, Kamitanida ran a stable race to beat 2nd by over five minutes.  Upper-placing finishers in both races will receive invitations to run April's Boston Marathon.

Translator's note: Elsewhere, Subaru corporate team manager Shingo Igarashi ran 2:14:29 to win the 15th Asian Marathon Championships held as part of Sunday's Hong Kong Marathon.  Ethiopian Ejigu Sentayehu Merga won the actual Hong Kong Marathon in 2:13:00 with Igarashi placing 13th. Photo hosted by Athleticsasia.org

Kawauchi Sits Ekiden Out With Lingering Left Ankle Sprain

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2015/01/26/kiji/K20150126009696350.html

translated by Brett Larner

With lingering effects from a sprained ankle, civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (27, Saitama Pref. Gov't) sat out the Jan. 25 Okumusasahi Ekiden where he had won the Fourth through Sixth Stages over the last three years.  Kawauchi was scheduled to run the Second Stage this year, but he is still experiencing pain from spraining his left ankle in late December.  "I haven't done real training in almost a month," he said.  "This is the first time I've had an injury last this long since I started working."

Despite not running Kawauchi was busy behind the scenes, carrying a Saitama Prefectural Government banner and cheering on runners from his high school, Kasukabe Higashi H.S., from the side of the road with a loud and enthusiastic voice.  He indicated that he still plans to run the Feb. 1 Saitama Ekiden next week, saying, "I want to be out there somehow."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gamera 2:22:09 Ukrainian NR for 3rd-Straight Osaka Women's Win - Chepyego Sets Osaka Half Marathon CR

by Brett Larner

Two-time defending champion Tetiana Gamera ran a 2:22:09 Ukrainian national record to win a third-straight Osaka International Women's Marathon in the race's 34-year history.  Gamera went to the front heading out of the park around Osaka's Nagai Stadium and onto the roads before 5 km, challenged only by the last woman to win Osaka before her, 2012 champ Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya).  In that race Shigetomo ran 2:23:23, more than 30 seconds up on Gamera's 2:23:58 best from her 2013 win, but without a sub-2:30 from Shigetomo since then the odds did not look to be in her favor.

Shigetomo and Gamera pushed the pace to near 2:22-flat while a chase pack of eight led by 38-year-old Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) and 39-year-old Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) ran closer to 2:24-25 pace.  With a sub-2:22:30 requirement for auto selection to the 2015 Beijing World Championships team Shigetomo and Gamera hit the half in 1:11:15, but at the 180' turn just after halfway Gamera threw in a 3:16 km that dropped Shigetomo for good.

In her three previous runs at Osaka Gamera dropped negative splits with the fastest second half and final 2.195 km in the field.  Despite running the first half 25 seconds faster than her half marathon PB this time she somehow found the drive to do it again, covering the back half in 1:10:54 and the last 2.195 km in 7:18, both the best in the field, for the win. Only Japanese national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) had ever run faster to win Osaka, with a 2:21:18 on the tougher old version of the course back in 2003.

Shigetomo didn't initially slow, simply unable to follow Gamera's sheer power.  Behind her, Prokopcuka and Japan's Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu), a training partner of 2014 100 km World Championships silver medalist Chiyuki Mochizuki making her marathon debut as part of Osaka's new Next Heroine development program, worked together to close the gap to Shigetomo.  When they pulled within 40 seconds Prokopcuka threw in a surge that got rid of Kido and put her ahead of Shigetomo into 2nd just after 30 km.

Shigetomo, in obvious discomfort, slowed, but Kido stalled as she was hit with the last 10 km of a marathon for the first time and stopped advancing.  Prokopcuka pushed on for 2nd in 2:24:07, on at least one list the fastest time ever by a 38-year-old woman, while behind her Shigetomo bit down and hung on to 3rd, her 2:26:39 time not a good marker of how gritty her run really was.  Not surprisingly far off the Federation's Beijing standard, Shigetomo was still faster than the 2:26:57 winning time run by Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) at the Yokohama International Women's Marathon selection race in November. Barring a spectacular Nagoya Women's Marathon in March the Federation's selection procedure will likely happen inside a black box, but considering that Shigetomo's coach Yutaka Taketomi is in charge of the Federation's women's marathoning program you have to figure she has a leg up in the process.

Kido looked set for 4th but was overtaken late in the game by Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion), a promising first-timer two years ago in Osaka who has struggled since then.  Like Shigetomo's run, Watanabe's 2:28:36 was a semi-comeback.  Kido came through in 5th in 2:29:08, the top first-timer and as expected leading the Next Heroine contingent.  Ozaki took 7th in 2:29:56, missing the Japanese age 39 record by seconds but happy with a return to sub-2:30 territory.

In the accompanying Osaka Half Marathon, 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon bronze medalist Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) ran together with teammate Misaki Kato, both breaking the course record with Chepyego getting the win over Kato by 6 seconds in 1:09:43.  For Chepyego it was a solid tune-up for her marathon debut next month in Tokyo.  For Kato it was her first time under 70 minutes after a promising 1:10:44 debut at the 2013 Great North Run with support from JRN.  The men's race in the half marathon was also between teammates as 2012 winner Takaaki Koda (Team Asahi Kasei) returned to the top with a 1:04:02 win by 4 seconds over Kenichi Shirashi.  Like Chepyego, Shiraishi is also scheduled to run Tokyo.

34th Osaka International Women's Marathon
Osaka, 1/25/15
click here for complete results

1. Tetiana Gamera (Ukraine) - 2:22:09 - NR
2. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:24:07
3. Risa Shigetomo (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:26:39
4. Yuko Watanabe (Japan/Edion) - 2:28:36
5. Chieko Kido (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:29:08 - debut
6. Rika Shintaku (Japan/Shimamura) - 2:29:27 - PB
7. Mari Ozaki (Japan/Noritz) - 2:29:56
8. Yukiko Okuno (Japan/Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) 2:32:41 - debut
9. Shoko Mori (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:34:28 - PB
10. Kanae Shimoyama (Japan/Noritz) - 2:35:26 - debut
11. Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/YWC) - 2:36:29
12. Hisae Yoshimatsu (Japan/Shunan City Hall) - 2:39:48
13. Eri Tayama (Japan/Daito Bunka Univ.) - 2:39:53 - debut
14. Hiroko Miyauchi (Japan/Hokuren) - 2:41:29
15. Bornes Jepkirui (Kenya) - 2:41:47
16. Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:42:16
17. Sakiko Matsumi (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - 2:43:01
-----
DNF - Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC)
DNF - Melkam Gizaw (Ethiopia)

18th Osaka Half Marathon
Osaka, 1/25/15
click here for complete results

Women
1. Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Kyudenko) - 1:09:43 - CR
2. Misaki Kato (Japan/Kyudenko) - 1:09:49 - PB
3. Ai Inoue (Japan/Noritz) - 1:12:26
4. Saki Tabata (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:12:39
5. Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 1:12:49

Men
1. Takaaki Koda (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:02
2. Kenichi Shirashi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:06
3. Shusei Ohashi (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:04:16
4. Naoto Miyagawa (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 1:04:20
5. Shota Atsuchi (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) - 1:04:35

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, January 23, 2015

Time for the Next Generation? Osaka International Women's Marathon and Osaka Half Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

The Osaka International Women's Marathon holds its 34th running Sunday, with two-time winner Tetiana Gamera (Ukraine) going for a third-straight win and Japanese women going for places on the 2015 Beijing World Championships team.  Gamera's best of 2:23:58 came in Osaka two years ago, and with the withdrawal of Kenyan Margaret Agai it means that if Gamera is anywhere near the same shape this time then her main competition is likely to be 38-year-old Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) whose best of 2:22:56 also came in Osaka a decade ago but is still running strong with a 2:24:07 in Nagoya last spring.

Japanese women are facing a sub-2:22:30 requirement for Beijing representation, more realistic than the laughable sub-2:06:30 requirement for men but still a time no Japanese woman has run since 2007.  Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) has the fastest time since then with a 2:23:23 in Osaka three years ago, but with nothing under 2:30 since then there's not much reason to think she's ready for a 1-minute PB.  39-year-old Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) is yet another runner whose best came in Osaka, a 2:23:30 back in the golden years in 2003, and while she is reportedly in excellent condition her 2:31:17 in Osaka last year doesn't inspire much confidence.  Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) ran her best of 2:24:57 in Osaka three years ago behind Shigetomo but since leaving the corporate system to go independent she has been more at the 2:28+ level, and after finishing 44th of 47 on her stage at the National Women's Ekiden two weeks ago it's a good question whether she is fit.

Which means it will be time for some new blood to step up.  Yuko Watanabe (Team Edion), Rika Shintaku (Team Shimamura), Shoko Mori (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and in particular Sakiko Matsumi (Team Daiichi Seimei), a Sachiko Yamashita-coached training partner of 2014 Yokohama International Women's Marathon winner Tomomi Tanaka, are all promising athletes looking to improve on their debuts from the last year or two.  Osaka has made its want for future talent to step up clear this year with its new "Next Heroine" development program featuring university and young corporate runners taking a shot at the marathon.  2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon team member Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu) leads this group with a 1:10:11 half marathon best, followed by collegiate rivals Yukiko Okuno (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) and Eri Tayama (Daito Bunka Univ.).  There's not much chance any of them will break 2:22:30, but considering that Tanaka only needed to run 2:26:57 to win Yokohama and that the fastest Japanese women's time last year was just 2:25:26 anything under 2:30 would put them in a good position near the top of the current generation of Japanese women.

If anything the Osaka Half Marathon accompanying the main race looks at least as exciting.  2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon bronze medalist Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Kyudenko) is running in a tune-up for her marathon debut next month in Tokyo, with her teammate Misaki Kato, sporting a solid 1:10:44 debut at the 2013 Great North Run, the likeliest contender for runner-up.  Defending champion Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) and 2013 winner Saki Tabata (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) are also in the field.  With a 1:07:51 best it shouldn't take much for Chepyego to take down the 1:09:55 course record.

The men's half marathon field is also good, with last year's winner Noriyuki Nabetani (Osaka Police Dep't) and 2012 champ Takaaki Koda (Team Asahi Kasei) both returning to face probable favorite Shusei Ohashi (Team JR Higashi Nihon) and, in training for the Tokyo Marathon, Kenichi Shiraishi (Team Asahi Kasei).

Follow @JRNLive for live coverage of the 2015 Osaka International Women's Marathon starting at noon Japan time on Sunday, Jan. 25.

34th Osaka International Women's Marathon
Elite Field Highlights
Osaka, 1/25/15
click here for complete listing

Marathon
Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:22:56 (Osaka Women's 2005)
Risa Shigetomo (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:23:23 (Osaka Women's 2012)
Mari Ozaki (Japan/Noritz) - 2:23:30 (Osaka Women's 2003)
Tetiana Gamera (Ukraine) - 2:23:58 (Osaka Women's 2013)
Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:24:57 (Osaka Women's 2012)
Yuko Watanabe (Japan/Edion) - 2:25:56 (Osaka Women's 2013)
Melkam Gizaw (Ethiopia) - 2:26:24 (Dusseldorf 2013)
Kaoru Nagao (Japan/Univ. Ent.) - 2:26:58 (Yokohama Women's 2011)
Hisae Yoshimatsu (Japan/Shunan City Hall) - 2:28:49 (Hokkaido 2002)
Rika Shintaku (Japan/Shimamura) - 2:30:37 (Gold Coast 2014)
Hiroko Miyauchi (Japan/Hokuren) - 2:32:20 (Yokohama Women's 2009)
Bornes Jepkirui (Kenya) - 2:33:50 (Hannover 2014)
Shoko Mori (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:35:10 (Hokkaido 2014)
Sakiko Matsumi (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - 2:36:45 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Yuri Yoshizumi (Japan/Osaka T&F Assoc.) - 2:37:56 (Hokkaido 2013)

Debut
Chieko Kido (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:10:11 (Sanyo Women's 2013)
Yukiko Okuno (Japan/Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 1:12:44 (Matsue Women's 2014)
Eri Tayama (Japan/Daito Bunka Univ.) - 1:12:44 (Matsue Women's 2014)
Kanae Shimoyama (Japan/Noritz) - 1:14:28 (Matsue Women's 2014)

Half Marathon - Women
Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Kyudenko) -  1:07:51 (World Half 2014)
Noriko Higuchi (Japan/Wacoal) - 1:10:51 (Marugame 2010)
Yuka Hakoyama (Japan/Wacoal) - 1:11:32 (Sanyo Women's 2012)
Misaki Kato (Japan/Kyudenko) - 1:11:57 (Corporate Half 2014) - 1:10:44a (Great North Run 2013)
Saki Tabata (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:13:01 (Osaka 2013)
Ai Migita (Japan/Wacoal) - 1:14:05 (Inuyama 2014)
Mika Sawa (Japan/Noritz) - 1:14:09 (Sanyo Women's 2011)

Half Marathon - Men
Takanobu Otsubo (Japan/Osaka Police Dep't) - 1:01:55 (Corporate Half 2005)
Kenichi Shiraishi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:23 (Corporate Half 2007)
Noritaka Fujiyama (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) - 1:02:26 (Corporate Half 2009)
Shusei Ohashi (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:39 (Marugame 2014)
Tsukasa Morita (Japan/Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 1:02:42 (Sendai 2008)
Takaaki Koda (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:52 (Corporate Half 2008)
Koji Kageyama (Japan/Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 1:03:28 (Ageo 2002)
Daisuke Kumon (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:03:31 (Corporate Half 2014)
Noriyuki Nabetani (Japan/Osaka Police Dep't) - 1:03:55 (Osaka 2014)
Mahoro Ikeda (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 1:03:56 (Gifu Seiryu 2012)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2015 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

Last year the Tokyo Marathon expanded on its claim to legitimacy as a World Marathon Major with new course records of 2:05:42 and 2:22:23, alongside the London Marathon one of only two races in the world all year to have 9 men sub-2:09 and its grand total of 14 men sub-2:10 making it far and away the deepest race in the world in 2014.  But the absence of much big-name talent and Tokyo's lack of genuine international orientation meant not many people noticed or cared.

Continuing to expand on its legitimacy, the Tokyo Marathon has partially remedied that by pulling in both quantity and some quality names for this year's race, especially on the men's side.  All told Tokyo features 21 men with bests from 2:03:02 to 2:09:30, the other spring World Marathon Majors Boston having 15 men from 2:03:38 to 2:09:37 and London 13 from 2:02:57 to 2:09:54.  Alongside last year's Tokyo course record-setting winner Dickson Chumba (Kenya) are Boston and New York City Marathon course record holder Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya), former Chicago Marathon course record holder Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia), London Olympics and Moscow World Championships marathon gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda), the debut of London Olympics 10000 m bronze medalist Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia) and a total of six men with bests under 2:06.

Last year's Tokyo was arguably the second-greatest marathon in Japanese men's history, with five Japanese men under 2:10 led by future Asian Games silver medalist Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) in 2:08:09.  Four of those five including Matsumura are back along with the man who pulled them there, the fastest Japanese ever on the Tokyo course, Arata Fujiwara (Miki House), his London Olympics teammate Ryo Yamamoto (Team SGH Group), 2:09 men Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo) and Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), and six more Japanese men with recent 2:10 bests.

The most exciting names to watch are Takehiro Deki (Team Chugoku Denryoku), who ran a 2:10:02 debut his junior year at Aoyama Gakuin University and makes a return to the marathon for the first time since then fresh off a superb anchor stage win at the National Men's Ekiden last weekend, and 30 km collegiate national record holder Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) who like Deki is making his marathon debut as a university third-year and likewise comes in off a big ekiden performance, a win on the Hakone Ekiden's most competitive stage earlier this month.  It's safe to say that none of the Japanese men will hit the Federation's ultra-realistic sub-2:06:30 requirement for automatic selection to the Beijing World Championships team, but the day could surpass the legendary 2003 Fukuoka International Marathon where six Japanese men broke 2:10 including three sub-2:08.

Belying Tokyo's roots as a men-only race, the women's field is significantly smaller, especially on the home front.  Course record holder Tirfi Tsegaye (Ethiopia) is absent, leaving London Olympics gold medalist Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) and last year's runner-up Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) at the top of the list.  Like Gelana a former Japan resident, Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) is another top contender after a solid 2:22:44 win in Paris last spring.  The most exciting part of the women's race looks to be the debut of another Japan-based Kenyan, 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon bronze medalist Sally Chepyego (Team Kyudenko), who comes in off a long string of wins inside Japan.

The structure of the Tokyo Marathon, counted in World Championships and Olympic team selection for men but not for women, prevents the best Japanese women from running against the best international women's field on Japanese soil every year, something that seems counter to what a World Marathon Major should stand for but which the others seem to have signed off on.  The top Japanese women are not what they used to be, but even so there is not a single top-level Japanese woman, not even one from 2014's ten fastest, in the Tokyo field.  The best is Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease), a former pro who quit the corporate leagues to go her own way with a private sponsor in the footsteps of Fujiwara.  Since then she has just dipped into the 2:28 range on her good days, but given the tiny size of the women's field even that could be enough to get her into a decent position.  If she actually runs Tokyo, that is.  Nojiri is also entered for the Jan. 25 Osaka International Women's Marathon, and after finishing third-to-last on her stage at the National Women's Ekiden this month there has to be a question mark after her name.

2015 Tokyo Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Tokyo, Feb. 22, 2015
click here for complete field listing

Men
Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya) - 2:04:15 (Berlin 2012) - 2:03:02a (Boston 2012)
Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:04:32 (Chicago 2014)
Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:04:38 (Chicago 2012)
Endeshaw Negesse (Ethiopia) - 2:04:52 (Dubai 2013)
Markos Geneti (Ethiopia) - 2:04:54 (Dubai 2012)
Peter Some (Kenya) - 2:05:38 (Paris 2013)
Shumi Dechasa (Bahrain) - 2:06:43 (Hamburg 2014)
Michael Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:06:48 (Eindhoven 2011)
Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 2:06:58 (Fukuoka 2012)
Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:07:20 (Enschede 2011)
Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) - 2:07:27 (Chuncheon 2011)
Adil Annani (Morocco) - 2:07:43 (London 2012)
Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:07:48 (Tokyo 2012)
Kohei Matsumura (Japan/Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:08:09 (Tokyo 2014)
Ryo Yamamoto (Japan/Sagawa Express) - 2:08:44 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Koji Kobayashi (Japan/Subaru) - 2:08:51 (Tokyo 2014)
Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:09:07 (Tokyo 2014)
Masanori Sakai (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:09:10 (Tokyo 2014)
Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Arata Project) - 2:09:10 (Tokyo 2011)
Tomoyuki Morita (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:09:12 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:09:30 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Takehiro Deki (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:10:02 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:03 (Fukuoka 2014)
Takeshi Kumamoto (Japan/Toyota) - 2:10:13 (Tokyo 2012)
Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:10:29 (Chicago 2013)
Kenichi Shiraishi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:36 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Hideaki Tamura (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:54 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Atsushi Ikawa (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:11:04 (Beppu-Oita 2010)
Koji Gokaya (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:11:43 (Frankfurt 2014)
Josphat Boit (U.S.A.) - 2:13:14 (Twin Cities 2013) - 2:12:52a (Boston 2014)
Yuki Sato (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:16:31 (Tokyo 2013)

Debut
Yuma Hattori (Japan/Toyo University) - 1:28:52 for 30 km (Kumanichi 2014)
Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia) - 1:02:11 half-marathon (Chicago 2014) - 1:01:39a (GNR 2014)

Women
Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) - 2:18:58 (Rotterdam 2012)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:30 (Tokyo 2014)
Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) - 2:22:44 (Paris 2014)
Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:23:52 (Nagoya Women's 2012)
Yeshi Esayias (Ethiopia) - 2:24:06 (Frankfurt 2013)
Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:24:57 (Osaka Women's 2012)
Yoshiko Fujinaga (Japan/Isahaya T&F Assoc.) - 2:25:40 (London 2011)
Madoka Ogi (Japan/Juhachi Ginko) - 2:26:55 (Osaka Women's 2008) 
Helah Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:27:14 (Frankfurt 2014)
Kaori Oyama (Japan/Noritz) - 2:32:51 (Tokyo 2012)
Maki Inami (Japan/AC Kita) - 2:37:34 (Tokyo 2011)
Noriko Sato (Japan/First Dream AC) - 2:38:50 (Tokyo 2013)
Lauren Kleppin (U.S.A.) 2:39:13 (New York 2014) - 2:28:48a (Los Angeles 2014)
Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/Second Wind AC) - 2:39:38 (Nagano 2014)

Debut
Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Kyudenko) - 1:07:52 half-marathon (World Half 2014)
Yukari Abe (Japan/Panasonic) - 1:13:19 half-marathon (Marugame 2011)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tokyo Police Conduct Anti-Terrorism Drill in Ginza in Preparation for Tokyo Marathon

http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXLASDG22H5E_S5A120C1CC0000/

translated by Brett Larner

With one month to go until the Tokyo Marathon, the Tokyo police department carried out an anti-terrorism traning drill on Jan. 22 on the section of the course running through the Ginza area of Tokyo.  Roughly 80 people took part, including riot police, Tsukiji officials and members of the local shopowners association.

The exercise revolved around a scenario in which officers on patrol before the race discovered a suspicious man in a parking lot near the course.  Police dogs detected the smell of gunpowder on the man's bag, leading to the discovery of explosives.  Riot police wearing protective clothing transported the explosives to a safe location.

Tsukiji director Shinya Mito spoke after the exercise, touching upon the threats by the group calling itself Islamic State to kill two Japanese hostages and warning, "Terrorism is not just a foreign problem.  It happens right here in our midst in Japan as well."

According to the police department, this was the second time they have conducted an anti-terrorism exercise in preparation for the Tokyo Marathon.  Last year they performed a drill in reponse to the bombings in the United States at the April, 2013 Boston Marathon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Thoughts on Disqualification in the Ekiden and Latitude in Application of Rules

http://www.47news.jp/smp/EN/201501/EN2015012001001451.html

by Jun Ikushima
translated by Brett Larner

At Sunday's National Men's Ekiden the Aichi Prefecture team was disqualified after its opening runner threw the tasuki, the sash that ekiden runners exchange, across the line to the next runner as he struggled to finish, the second time in a month that this sort of rare disqualification happened after an almost identical scene at last month's National Corporate Women's Ekiden, pictured above.  Prominent sportswriter Jun Ikushima wrote the following editorial about Aichi's disqualification.

On Jan. 18 in Hiroshima, the Saitama team won the National Men's Ekiden for the first time, but unusually for an ekiden there was also a disqualification.  Responsible for running the First Stage for the Aichi team, Atsushi Yamato (Aichi H.S.) became unsteady just before the handoff zone and couldn't quite make it to the line.  He tried to hold out the tasuki to pass it to waiting Second Stage junior high school runner Shota Ezomori (Kochino J.H.S.), but, unable to connect, Yamato surprisingly threw it across the line.  Ezomori picked the tasuki up and started running, but the exchange was ruled illegal and the team was disqualified.  The entire scene was captured on the TV broadcast.

Let's take a look at the "JAAF Ekiden Standards (March, 2010 revision)" guidelines that set the official rules for the ekiden.  Section 2.6.1 dealing with exchanges states:
1. The tasuki must be exchanged within 20 m of the exchange zone line in the direction in which the race is traveling.  The exchange zone line must be a white line 50 mm in width.
If interpreted strictly in accordance with this criterion, Aichi's First Stage runner who threw the tasuki across the line did not reach the exchange zone line, which would mean that the exchange was not completed.  The referees did their job.

But on the other hand, given the major importance and implications of the tasuki in the ekiden it's not surprising that fans have been saying, "That should have been allowed."  I have to agree that in the case of the ekiden there should be some latitude in application of the rules.  If a situation like this one happened again, while prioritizing the health and safety of the runners, if the exchange was not properly completed I don't see a problem with stopping the second runner and directing them to return to the exchange zone line to do the handoff again.

In other words, I'm suggesting that it would be a good idea to leave some room for the discretion of the officials.  That's because whether you're talking about overrunning the baton zone in a 400 m track relay or an early start in a swim relay exchange, the meaning and understanding of "exchange" varies depending upon the sport.  In track and swimming, timing technology is a crucial part of the process and the sport itself.  In the ekiden you are talking about seconds in the context of many hours of competition.  Compared to track racing, the impact of the actual exchange itself on the win is minimal and there is no technology being used to monitor the exchange.  Additionally, in ekidens with large numbers of teams like the National Men's Ekiden, the exchange from the First to Second Stage is very crowded and chaotic and you often see people fall during the handoff.

Since there is a rule specifying "within 20 m of the exchange zone line in the direction in which the race is traveling" it's hard to say that the rules are confusing, but I think that it would be a good idea to leave room for some flexibility around that point in how the sport is conducted.  In the wider world of sports there is usually a range of interpretation in how referees and umpires apply rules.  In soccer the referee's decision about whether a foul was committed has become a key part of the game.  I think it might be a good idea to have more of a spirit of generosity within the ekiden.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

1500 m National Record Holder Yuriko Kobayashi to Retire at End of Season

http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/sports/201501/0007673131.shtml

translated and edited by Brett Larner

1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (26, Toyota Jidoshokki), a Beijing Olympian over 5000 m, will retire at the end of this season due to a series of injuries according to an announcement on Jan. 19.  After her retirement she plans to make a living on the lecture circuit and making guest appearances at major races across the country.

Kobayashi became a middle distance star while at Asahigaoka J.H.S. in Ono, Hyogo.  While at Suma Gakuen H.S. she won the National Championships and National High School Championships, setting the 1500 m national record of 4:07.86 in 2006.  Later the same year she won the National High School Ekiden's Second Stage to help Suma Gakuen win the national title. 

After graduating she joined the Toyota Jidoshokki team, making the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2009 Berlin World Championships teams.  She later spent time living in the United States training with James Li, coach of multiple Olympics and World Championships medalist Bernard Lagat.  Kobayashi plans to run on the Ono city team at the Feb. 1 Hyogo Prefecture Ekiden in Kakogawa, Hyogo.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Osaka Kunei Unseats Ritsumeikan Uji at Kita-Kyushu Women's Ekiden

by Brett Larner

A week after the National Women's Ekiden marked the end of the main women's championship ekiden season, 9 pro and university teams and 15 high school teams lined up for the 26th edition of the Kita-Kyushu Women's Ekiden, a 5-stage, 32.8 km race that features an 11.7 km anchor stage split into two for the high school runners.  Last year's winning anchor Misaki Kato got defending open division champion Kyudenko off to a good start with an 18-second lead on the 4.2 km First Stage, and after Kenyan Sally Chepyego was through with the 5.9 km Second Stage Kyudenko's lead was up to well over a minute, a margin they held for the rest of the race to take a second-straight win in 1:45:23.

With a long streak of Kita-Kyushu wins behind it, defending H.S. division champion Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. got off to a slow start, 2nd among H.S. teams on the First Stage and more than 30 seconds behind Kato.  2014 National H.S. Ekiden champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. was even further back, but on the Second Stage its runner Kanami Sagayama ran the fastest time on the stage behind Chepyego to move put Osaka Kunei ahead of Ritsumeikan Uji and 3rd overall, just 2 seconds behind 2nd-place pro team Denso.

Ritsumeikan Uji fought back on the 5.1 km Third Stage, Fukiko Ando winning the stage outright in 16:31 to overtake both Osaka Kunei and Denso and opening a 15-second lead.  Another good run from Fourth Stage runner Aki Manabe extended Ritsumeikan Uji's lead over Osaka Kunei to 28 seconds with two stages to go, and although Osaka Kunei's fifth runner Kyoka Mori cut the lead by 4 seconds it needed a big anchor run to catch the dominant Ritsumeikan Uji.  Ena Kagayama, Osaka Kunei's anchor at its first-ever National H.S. Ekiden win last month, delivered again, outrunning Ritsumeikan Uji anchor Sakura Sunda by more than a minute and a half over 6.8 km to take the win in 1:46:39.

26th Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden
Kita-Kyushu, 1/18/15
open division: 9 teams, 5 stages, 32.8 km
H.S. division: 15 teams, 6 stages, 32.8 km
click here for complete results

Open Division Top Team Results
1. Kyudenko - 1:45:23
2. Denso - 1:46:47
3. Toto - 1:48:34
4. Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo - 1:49:12
5. Osaka Gakuin Univ. - 1:49:38

H.S. Division Top Team Results
1. Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuen H.S. - 1:46:39
2. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. - 1:48:14
3. Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S. - 1:49:20
4. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. - 1:49:23
5. Suma Gakuen H.S. - 1:49:47

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (4.2 km)
1. Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) - 13:15
2. Satomi Ueda (Toto) - 13:33
3. Nami Hashimoto (Denso) - 13:36

Second Stage (5.9 km)
1. Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Kyudenko) - 18:19
2. Kanami Sagayama (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 19:05
3. Kureha Seki (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 19:09
3. Saori Noda (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 19:09

Third Stage (5.1 km)
1. Fukiko Ando (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 16:31
2. Rino Maeda (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 16:47
3. Miyuki Oka (Denso) - 16:57

Fourth Stage (5.9 km)
1. Sayaka Kurogi (Kyudenko) - 19:19
2. Aki Manabe (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 19:22
3. Misato Kagayama (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 19:35

Open Division Fifth Stage (11.7 km)
1. Yuka Miyazaki (Kyudenko) - 37:07
2. Yuki Mitsunobu (Denso) - 37:13
3. Yukari Ishibashi (Edion) - 37:41

H.S. Division Fifth Stage (4.9 km)
1. Kyoka Mori (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 16:09
2. Ryoka Meno (Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S.) - 16:17
3. Sakura Wada (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 16:22

H.S. Division Sixth Stage (6.8 km)
1. Haruka Tobimatsu (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 20:58
2. Ena Kagayama (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 21:13
3. Yuki Shibata (Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S.) - 22:00

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Saitama Scores First-Ever National Title at 20th National Men's Ekiden

by Brett Larner
video highlights courtesy of race broadcaster NHK

Championship ekiden season wrapped up with Sunday's 20th running of the National Men's Ekiden starting and finishing at Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Museum.  Strong start to finish, the Saitama team outran Japan's 46 other prefectures to take its first national title in 2:19:14, the third-fastest time in race history.

Saitama was right there from the start, opening runner Ryoji Tatezawa up against five sub-14 athletes but taking 6th on the 7.0 km H.S.-only First Stage in 20:14 just 10 seconds behind leader Shota Onitsuka (Fukuoka).  Many of the pre-race favorites had trouble on the opening stage, defending champion Nagano 17th, 2012-13 winner Hyogo 18th, hosts Hiroshima just 32nd and powerhouse Aichi disqualified after its first runner Atsushi Yamato threw the tasuki across the line to second runner Shota Ezomori after falling repeatedly in the final 50 m while struggling to finish, a rare disqualification for an illegal handoff.  Fukui was scored as a DNF when its opening runner Yu Agehara collapsed mid-stage, second runner Seiya Hyoda starting with the first white sash in Nationals history.  Both Aichi and Fukui's remaining runners were allowed to run but their results were not counted in stage or overall standings, a major blow to Aichi whose team included Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage course record-setter Daichi Kamino of Hakone champion Aoyama Gakuin University.

Saitama's Ryu Hashimoto took the lead on the 3.0 km J.H.S. Second Stage with an 8:39 stage win, forming a trio with Shizuoka and Fukuoka that stayed close for most of the rest of the race.  Saitama's 8.5 km Third Stage runner Yuta Shitara set the course record on the New Year Ekiden's 22.0 km Fourth Stage earlier this month and came in to the National Men's Ekiden saying he was in the hunt for the 23:26 course record, but although he quickly dispatched Fukuoka's Kazuharu Takai he couldn't shake Shizuoka's Shin Kimura, a collegiate replacement for 5000 m and 10000 m national champion Yuki Sato who sat out with a case of the flu that is sweeping Japan.  Kimura challenged Shitara all the way, the pair trading the lead and looking on track to run stage-winning times.

But behind them, Kumamoto's Kazuma Kubota, 2nd on Hakone's First Stage for winner Aoyama Gakuin University, hauled past the chase group to make contact late in the stage.  Shitara and Kimura responded, but on the second-to-last corner Kubota surged and handed off to the 5.0 km H.S. Fourth Stage with a one-second lead.

Which promptly disappeared as Saitama's fourth man Naoki Koyama ran away with a 14:13 stage win to put Saitama 15 seconds ahead of Kumamoto.  Its fifth man Ryo Kozasa was second-fastest on the 8.5 km H.S. Fifth Stage in 24:46, stretching Saitama's lead to 31 seconds.  J.H.S. runner Ryunosuke Saito was 12th on time for the 3.0 km Sixth Stage, cutting Saitama's lead to 26 seconds, but anchor Shota Hattori was solid and controlled, keeping the lead at 24 seconds with a strong finish after Miyagi anchor Kenta Murayama closed to within 15 seconds with just over a kilometer to go.

Hattori crossed the line in 2:19:14, the third-fastest time ever at the National Men's Ekiden, to give Saitama its first national title.  Murayama appeared in pain in the last kilometer with a hitch in his stride but held on to break 2:20:00, giving Miyagi 2nd in 2:19:38.  Perpetual top 3 finisher Tokyo returned from a bad run last year for 3rd in 2:20:19 off a good run from anchor Keita Shitara.

Enigmatic ekiden specialist Takehiro Deki ran big again, winning the stage on time in 37:28 to move Nagasaki up from 15th to take the final podium position in 8th and surprisingly outrunning Hiroshima's anchor Tetsuya Yoroizaka, a 27:38 runner on the track, who likewise picked up 7 spots in moving from 20th to 13th in 37:33.  Aichi's Hakone star Daichi Kamino ran the third-fastest time on the stage, 37:36, but his results were not counted in official standings due to Aichi's First Stage disqualification.  Kamino and many of the other top runners in the National Men's Ekiden will next line up Feb. 1 at the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon before parting ways again to pursue separate collegiate and corporate agenda.

20th National Men's Ekiden
Hiroshima, 1/18/15
47 teams, 7 stages, 48.0 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Saitama - 2:19:14
2. Miyagi - 2:19:38
3. Tokyo - 2:20:19
4. Gunma - 2:20:25
5. Kagoshima - 2:20:27
6. Fukuoka - 2:20:41
7. Hyogo - 2:20:45
8. Nagasaki - 2:20:48
9. Shizuoka - 2:20:59
10. Tochigi - 2:21:00
-----
DNF - Fukui
DQ - Aichi

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (7.0 km) - H.S. stage
1. Shota Onitsuka (Fukuoka) - 20:04
2. Fuminori Shimo (Mie) - 20:07
3. Hiroyuki Sakaguchi (Nagasaki) - 20:08

Second Stage (3.0 km) - J.H.S. stage
1. Ryu Hashimoto (Saitama) - 8:39
2. Yusuke Mukai (Kagawa) - 8:44
3. Shogo Matsushima (Shizuoka) - 8:45
3. Koshi Takagi (Nagano) - 8:45

Third Stage (8.5 km)
1. Masato Kikuchi (Hokkaido) - 24:04
2. Ken Yokote (Tochigi) - 24:07
3. Kazuma Kubota (Kumamoto) - 24:10
4. Shuho Dairokuno (Kagoshima) - 24:15
5. Yuta Takahashi (Tokyo) - 24:17
6. Hazuma Hattori (Niigata) - 24:24
7. Kota Murayama (Miyagi) - 24:26
8. Yuta Shitara (Saitama) - 24:27
9. Shin Kimura (Shizuoka) - 24:29
9. Shinichiro Nakamura (Kagawa) - 24:29
9. Ryohei Yamasaki (Tottori) - 24:29

Fourth Stage (5.0 km) - H.S. stage
1. Naoki Koyama (Saitama) - 14:13
2. Kazuya Nishiyama (Gunma) - 14:24
3. Tomoya Nakamura (Osaka) - 14:25

Fifth Stage (8.5 km) - H.S. stage
1. Hiroki Miura (Miyagi) - 24:32
2. Ryo Kozasa (Saitama) - 24:46
2. Kanta Shimizu (Gunma) - 24:46

Sixth Stage (3.0 km) - J.H.S. stage
1. Yuki Sakamoto (Hyogo) - 8:41
2. Yusuke Osawa (Gunma) - 8:48
2. Daichi Watanabe (Shizuoka) - 8:48

Seventh Stage (13.0 km)
1. Takehiro Deki (Nagasaki) - 37:28
2. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Hiroshima) - 37:33
3. Daichi Kamino (Aichi) - 37:36
4. Kenta Murayama (Miyagi) - 37:48
5. Shota Hattori (Saitama) - 37:59
6. Yuki Matsuoka (Tokushima) - 38:04
7. Keita Shitara (Tokyo) - 38:07
7. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Tochigi) - 38:07
7. Yusuke Ogura (Hokkaido) - 38:07
7. Chihiro Miyawaki (Gifu) - 38:07

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kariuki Sets Okukuma Half Marathon Course Record

by Brett Larner

In a period that sees many of Japan's long-standing small elite races folding or changing to mass-participation formats the Okukuma Road Race, launched in 2013 in one of the most conservative areas of southern Japan, is something of a throwback, a small race of around 100 men with an accompanying high school boys' 10 km and women restricted to 5 km because, well, that's how they roll in Kumamoto.

In its third edition, Kyushu-based Kenyan John Kariuki (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) led the top four at the Okukuma Half Marathon under last year's course record for the win in a new record of 1:03:16.  Essentially unchallenged, Kariuki had a lead of around 10 seconds at 10 km and held that margin to win by 13 seconds over London Olympics marathoner Ryo Yamamoto (SGH Group) with Shun Inoura, an alternate for Komazawa University's Hakone Ekiden runner-up team, another 3 seconds back in 1:03:32.

Still recovering from a sprained ankle a few weeks back, Asian Games marathon bronze medalist Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) was 9th in 1:04:44 after running the early part of the race with Yamamoto.

Results were less noteworthy at the 39th edition of the Chiba Marine Half Marathon east of Tokyo.  Yuki Iwasaki (Sekino Reform) took a close men's race over Shota Yamada (Chiba T&F Assoc.) in 1:06:16 to 1:06:17, while Kyoko Koyama led a Juntendo University sweep of the top four places in the women's race in 1:18:40.  The best result in Chiba came in the women's 10 km, where Chiaki Morikawa (Starts) won in 34:28.

3rd Okukuma Road Race
Kumagun, Kumamoto, 1/18/15
complete results coming shortly

Men's Half Marathon
1. John Kariuki (Kenya/Daichi Kogyo Univ.) - 1:03:16 - CR
2. Ryo Yamamoto (SGH Group) - 1:03:29 (CR)
3. Shun Inoura (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:03:32 (CR)
4. Rei Hashimoto (Toyo Univ.) - 1:03:35 (CR)
5. Daisuke Watanabe (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:03:37
6. Naoki Hasegawa (Toyo Univ.) - 1:03:41
7. Shun Yamamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:43
8. Ryusei Yoshinaga (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:55
9. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:04:44
10. Kenichi Kawano (Kurosaki Harima) - 1:04:50

H.S. Boys' 10 km
1. Satoshi Nakao (Chiharadai H.S.)

Women's 5 km
1. Yuki Yokoishi (Shiraishi H.S.) - 16:42

39th Chiba Marine Half Marathon
Chiba, 1/18/15
complete results coming eventually

Women's Half Marathon
1. Kyoko Koyama (Juntendo Univ.) - 1:18:40
2. Saori Imamura (Juntendo Univ.) - 1:19:56
3. Miki Kobayashi (Juntendo Univ.) - 1:20:07

Men's Half Marathon
1. Yuki Iwasaki (Sekino Reform) - 1:06:16
2. Shota Yamada (Chiba T&F Assoc.) - 1:06:17
3. Yatsuya Itagaki (JP Post) - 1:06:31

Women's 10 km
1. Chiaki Morikawa (Starts) - 34:28

Men's 10 km
1. Jun Sugimura (Heisei Kokusai Univ.) - 31:41

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Der Hakone Ekiden: Eine Sportliche und Mediale Show der Superlative - Helmut Winter Berichtet'

http://www.germanroadraces.de/24-0-41357-der-hakone-ekiden-eine-sportliche-und-mediale.html

A German-language article on the 2015 Hakone Ekiden and the Hakone phenomenon in general by JRN photo contributor Dr. Helmut Winter.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Hometown Hiroshima Looking Like the Favorite - National Men's Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner
click here for video highlights of the first 19 years of the National Men's Ekiden

Ekiden season rolls on for a few weeks more, but Sunday's 20th anniversary National Men's Ekiden marks the end of the month-long run of national championship ekiden races.  Teams made up of the best J.H.S., H.S., university and pro runners from each of Japan's 47 prefectures race over 48.0 km in 7 stages through the streets of Hiroshima, with NHK's live commercial-free broadcast showing many of Japan's future stars to a national audience for the first time.  Follow @JRNLive for live coverage starting at 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 18.

There's so much growth happening right now in Japanese men's distance running that there's almost no point filling a preview with details about which teams are packed with talent.  Most of them are.  Hometown Hiroshima is not fooling around with its lineup, featuring 27:38.99 man Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei), 2015 Hakone Ekiden Ninth Stage winner Takuya Fujikawa of Hakone champion Aoyama Gakuin University, and four members of Sera High School's 2014 National High School Ekiden champion team.  The favorite?  Maybe.

Defending champion Nagano, with 6 national titles the winningest in National Men's Ekiden history, is solid, with its two-time anchor stage winner Keigo Yano (Nissin Shokuhin) back for more fronting a team that includes three members of 2014 National High School Ekiden runner-up Saku Chosei H.S.  2014 2nd-placer Saitama looks even stronger, led by Honda team members Yuta Shitara, Shota Hattori and Wataru Ueno and two members of National High School Ekiden 3rd-placer Saitama Sakae H.S.  4th-place Nagasaki includes sub-62 half marathon collegiate Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.), talented ekiden specialist Takehiro Deki (Chugoku Denryoku) and sub-14 high schooler Hiroyuki Sakaguchi (Isahaya H.S.).

2012 and 2013 winner Hyogo finished only 10th last year, but its lineup this year includes two of its past stage winners, Kensuke Takezawa (Sumitomo Denko) and Keisuke Nakatani (Komazawa Univ.).  Runner-up behind Hyogo both of those years, Tokyo was also down on its luck last year in a dismal 24th.  Keita Shitara (Konica Minolta), the brother twin of Saitama's Shitara, leads this year's team which should be in contention to climb back into the top 10.  The Shitaras may have split up, but their rivals to the claim of being the world's best twins, Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) and Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.) are both on the roster for Miyagi and should bring some fireworks even if the Miyagi team is not strong enough for them to feature up front.

In terms of what to watch for in the development of the race, the 7.0 km First Stage features only high school runners, with many star runners who never got to run the National High School Ekiden making their national debuts.  The top two or three placers almost always end up making a big impact at the Hakone Ekiden later, so catch them now.  Likewise for the 3.0 km Second Stage featuring most of the top J.H.S. runners.  Top university and pro runners square off on the 8.5 km Third Stage where some of the heaviest turnover of the race usually takes place, especially late in the stage.  High School runners fill the 5.0 km Fourth Stage and 8.5 km Fifth Stage, where the contenders for the win usually separate themselves from the rest of the field for good.  More J.H.S. runners populate the 3.0 km Sixth Stage before the handoff to the 13.0 km anchor stage for one more matchup between the best university and pro talent on the way to finish line in front of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial commemorating the victims of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima 70 years ago this year.  Kicking off 50 years after the bombing, in its 20th edition the National Men's Ekiden promises some of the best action yet in its history.

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Oishi, Hoshi, Hattori to Make 30 km Debut at Feb. 15 Kumanichi Road Race

http://kumanichi.com/fsports/marathon/2015/kiji/20150117001.xhtml

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Jan. 16 the organizing committee of the Kumamotojo Marathon announced the 18 men and women making up the elite field for the 59th running of the Kanaguri Hai Kumanichi 30 km Road Race scheduled for Feb. 15.  The list is packed with talent from this year's New Year Ekiden and Hakone Ekiden.

At the top of the corporate ladder are Minato Oishi, the Fifth Stage winner for New Year Ekiden national champion Toyota, and 2013's 5000 m national champion Sota Hoshi (Fujitsu).  Three-time Hofu Yomiuri Marathon winner Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia, NTN) and Kyushu Gakuin H.S. graduate Daiichi Motomura (Nissin Shokuhin) are also on the list.

At last year's Kumanichi 30 km Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) won in a collegiate national record 1:28:52.  This year his younger brother Hazuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) takes up the challenge, looking to establish a Hattori dynasty.  From Hakone Ekiden runner-up Komazawa University, Eighth Stage 2nd-placer Shohei Otsuka is also scheduled to run.

2014 Kobe Marathon winner Hiromi Saito (Kyocera) leads the women's field which also includes Saori Noda (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) of Kumamoto's podium-making team at last weekend's National Women's Ekiden, and Anna Hasuike of the local Higo Ginko corporate team.

A total of 81 corporate, university and amateur runners are entered, including 10 women.  The JAAF-certified race starts in Kumamoto at Kengun Denteimae at 9:00 a.m., heading through the southwestern parts of the city before finishing at Bipuresu Kumanichi Kaikan.

59th Kumanichi 30 km Road Race Elite Field
Kumamoto, 2/15/15

Men
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (33, Mongolia/NTN) - 2:08:50 (marathon)
Shota Yamaguchi (29, Fujitsu) - 1:32:46 (30 km)
Kosuke Murasashi (32, YKK) - 1:34:32 (30 km)
Sota Hoshi (27, Fujitsu) - 1:01:18 (half)
Minato Oishi (26, Toyota) - 1:02:06 (half)
Hazuma Hattori (20, Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:31 (half)
Shohei Otsuka (20, Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:32 (half)
Hiroyuki Sasaki (24, Nissin Shokuhin) - 1:02:36 (half)
Hiroto Kanamori (21, Takushoku Univ.) - 1:03:14 (half)
Daichi Motomura (23, Nissin Shokuhin)- 1:03:14 (half)
Takayuki Tsuchiya (20, Tokai Univ.) - 1:03:47 (half)
Shoya Kurokawa (21, Komazawa Univ.) - 1:03:48 (half)
Shin Kimura (21, Meiji Univ.) - 1:04:52 (half)

Women
Kana Orino (22, Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:33:51 (marathon)
Hiromi Saito (23, Kyocera) - 2:38:23 (marathon)
Mao Kuroda (25, Wacoal) - 1:11:07 (half)
Anna Hasuike (26, Higo Ginko) - 1:13:19 (half)
Saori Noda (21, Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:15:15 (half)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Kiplimo and Nakamoto Return to Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon

http://www.jiji.com/jc/zc?k=201501/2015011500641&g=spo

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Feb. 1 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon announced the names of this year's domestic and international elite fields on Jan. 15.  Defending champion Abraham Kiplimo (Uganda) returns to lead an overseas contingent of four.  On the Japanese side, 2013 runner-up Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) and 2011 Tokyo Marathoner Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) are scheduled to run.  This year's Beppu-Oita will count in the selection procedure for the 2015 Beijing World Championships marathon team.

64th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon 
Elite Field Highlights
Beppu, Oita, 2/1/15
click here for complete field listing

Men
Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Yakult) - 2:06:16 (Chicago 2002)
Kentaro Nakamoto (Japan/Yasukawa Denki) - 2:08:35 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Yoshinori Oda (Japan/Toyota) - 2:09:03 (Tokyo 2011)
Yuko Matsumiya (Japan/Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:09:18 (Biwako 2005)
Abraham Kiplimo (Uganda) - 2:09:23 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Fekadu Lema (Ethiopia) - 2:09:50 (Hamburg 2012)
Satoshi Yoshii (Japan/Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:10:45 (Biwako 2011)
Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) -  2:11:15 (Tokyo 2013)
Tewelde Estifanos (Eritrea) - 2:11:47 (Melbourne 2014)
Ryoichi Matsuo (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:11 (Noboeka 2014)
Keisuke Wakui (Japan/Yakult) - 2:12:12 (Tokyo 2014)
Hiroki Kadota (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:12:25 (Beppu-Oita 2012)
Naoki Okamoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:31 (Biwako 2012)
Masanori Ishida (Japan/SGH Group) - 2:13:07 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Hiroki Tanaka (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:13:09 (Tokyo 2013)
Masayuki Obata (Japan/Yasukawa Denki) - 2:13:17 (Biwako 2013)
Ryo Ishita (Japan/SDF Academy) - 2:13:52 (Nobeoka 2014)
Yusei Nakao (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:14:02 (Osaka 2014)
Yusuke Takabayashi (Japan/Team Toyota) - debut - 1:01:31 (Marugame Half 2012)
Abdelmajid El Hissouf (Morocco) - debut - 1:02:47 (Marrkesh Half 2014)

Women
Mika Okunaga (Japan/Hammock AC) - 2:27:16 (Osaka Int'l 2009)
Mineko Yamanouchi (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:28:51 (Tokyo Int'l 2000)
Chiyuki Mochizuki (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:39:57 (Beppu-Oita 2011)
Haruka Yamaguchi (Japan/AC Kita) - 2:41:56 (Beppu-Oita 2014)

Withdrawals and Additions to Osaka International Women's Marathon Elite Field

http://www.sankei.com/west/news/150114/wst1501140040-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Jan. 25 Osaka International Women's Marathon announced on Jan. 14 that foreign invited elite athletes Margaret Agai (Kenya) and Karolina Jarzynska (Poland) have withdrawn with leg injuries.  With a 2:33:50 best from last year's Hannover Marathon, Kenyan Bornes Jepkirui was also named as an addition to the field.

'Tokyo 2020 Establish Programme Panel to Consider Adding New Sports'

http://www.insidethegames.biz/olympics/summer-olympics/2020/1024871-tokyo-2020-establish-programme-panel-to-consider-adding-new-sports

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Flanagan, Kamino, Koech, Makikawa and Mathathi Headline Kagawa Marugame Half Marathon

http://www.shikoku-np.co.jp/sports/local/20150114000155

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Jan. 13 the organizers of the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon released the elite field for the 69th running of the race on Feb. 1.  48 elite men and women including 9 from overseas will make up the front end of what promises to be an exciting race this year.  Former Toyo University Hakone Ekiden star twins Keita Shitara (Team Konica Minolta) and Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) feature in the domestic men's field after making big impacts in their corporate league debuts at this year's New Year Ekiden.  Several members of New Year Ekiden 3rd-placer Nissin Shokuhin also lead the large corporate contingent in the general division.

London Olympics marathoner Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) will return again this year.  Top collegiate names scheduled to run include Daichi Kamino, whose course record run on the 2015 Hakone Ekiden's uphill Fifth Stage set the stage for Aoyama Gakuin University's first-ever Hakone win, Hakone First Stage winner Shogo Nakamura (Komazawa Univ.) and 2013 Marugame Half runner-up Enock Omwamba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.).

The domestic women's field includes 2013 National Corporate Half Marathon 2nd-placer Hanae Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), 2014 Asian Games marathon 4th-placer Eri Hayakawa (Team Toto), 2013 Yokohama International Women's Marathon runner-up Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease), and, going for a second-straight win, Eri Makikawa (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC).

The overseas men's field is strong.  2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon silver medalist Samuel Tsegaye (Eritrea), 2013 Lisbon Half winner Bernard Koech (Kenya) and last year's winner Martin Mathathi (Suzuki Hamamatsu) feature among 4 men with bests under 60 minutes.  With a best of 1:08, Shalane Flanagan (U.S.A.) tops the women's list alongside 2013 Honolulu Marathon winner Ehitu Kiros (Ethiopia).

Kagawa natives on the list include 2015 Hakone Ekiden First Stage runner Shinichiro Nakamura (Waseda Univ.) and Yuki Kiyama (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) along with Akane Sekino (Imabari Zosen) who represented Kagawa at the Jan. 11 National Women's Ekiden.

This year's race will also features an elementary school ekiden the day before the half marathon.  As usual, last-minute entries for all divisions except the elementary school ekiden will be accepted from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the race stage grounds.  For more information contact the Marugame Civic Sports Center office at 0877-24-6274.

69th Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon 
Elite Field Highlights
Marugame, Kagawa, 2/1/15
click here for complete field listing

Women
Shalane Flanagan (U.S.A.) - 1:08:31
Hanae Tanaka (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - 1:09:18
Ehitu Kiros (Ethiopia) - 1:09:38
Sayo Nomura (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - 1:10:03
Madoka Ogi (Japan/Juhachi Ginko) - 1:10:11
Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) - 1:10:13
Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 1:10:23
Misato Horie (Japan/Noritz) - 1:10:26
Eri Makikawa (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:10:27
Rui Aoyama (Japan/Univ. Ent.) - 1:10:28
Hiroko Shoi (Japan/Denso) - 1:10:48
Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Hiratsuka Lease) - 1:10:53
Aki Odagiri (Japan/Tenmaya) - 1:11:43
Mao Kiyota (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:11:50
Asami Furuse (Japan/Kyocera) - 1:12:01
Yoko Aizu (Japan/Shiseido) - 1:12:18
Seika Iwamura (Japan/Higo Ginko) - 1:12:30
Yuko Mizuguchi (Japan/Denso) - 1:13:27
Hitomi Nakamura (Japan/Panasonic) - 1:13:50
Yuki Suganuma (Japan/Smiley Angel AC) - 1:13:56
Eloise Wellings (Australia) - debut - 31:41.31 for 10000 m
Yuka Ando (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - debut - 32:24.00 for 10000 m
Kaho Tanaka (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - debut - 32:24.73 for 10000 m
Kanayo Miyata (Japan/Yutaka Giken) - debut - 32:51.00 for 10000 m
Akane Sekino (Japan/Imabari Zosen) - debut - 32:53.44 for 10000 m

Men
Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 58:56a
Bernard Koech (Kenya) - 59:10
Samuel Tsegaye (Eritrea) - 59:21
Fabiano Joseph (Tanzania) - 59:56
Jacob Wanjuki (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) - 1:00:32
Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza) - 1:01:06
Enock Omwamba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:15
Masato Kikuchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:01:17
Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) - 1:01:21
Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 1:01:34
Hiroto Inoue (Japan/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:39
Keita Shitara (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:01:45
Yuta Igarashi (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:01:46
Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 1:01:48
Yuichiro Ogawa (Japan/NTN) - 1:01:53
Shogo Nakamura (Japan/Komazawa Univ.) - 1:01:57
Kazuyoshi Shimozato (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 1:02:00
Yoshihiro Yamamoto (Japan/NTN) - 1:02:03
Edward Waweru (Japan/NTN) - 1:02:08
Kenta Iinuma (Japan/SGH Group) - 1:02:09
Masamichi Yasuda (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 1:02:10
Tomohiro Shiiya (Japan/Toyota Boshoku) - 1:02:15
Yukihiro Kitaoka (Japan/NTN) - 1:02:17
Yoshihiro Wakamatsu (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 1:02:17
Shuho Dairokuno (Japan/Meiji Univ.) - 1:02:19
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:22
Toshikatsu Ebina (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 1:02:23
Takeshi Kumamoto (Japan/Toyota) - 1:02:27
Soichiro Nakamura (Japan/Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:30
Keita Baba (Japan/Honda) - 1:02:34
Charles Wanjohi (Kenya) - 1:02:34
Takahiro Aso (Japan/Aisan Kogyo) - 1:02:36
Hideaki Tamura (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:37
Natsuki Terada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:37
Kazuaki Iwami (Japan/Kyudenko) - 1:02:38
Yohei Nishiyama (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:02:38
Keisuke Tanaka (Japan/Fujitsu) - 1:02:38
Yoshitaka Iwamizu (Japan/Shiseido) - 1:02:39
Wataru Ueno (Japan/Honda) - 1:02:39
Kenta Kitazawa (Japan/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 1:02:40
Naohiro Yamada (Japan/YKK) - 1:02:40
Hikaru Fujii (Japan/Aisan Kogyo) - 1:02:41
Daichi Kamino (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:42
Kosuke Murasashi (Japan/YKK) - 1:02:46
Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) - 1:02:47
Ryosuke Fukuyama (Japan/Honda) - 1:02:49
Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:02:50
Shota Inoue (Japan/Toyota) - 1:02:51
Ryotaro Otani (Japan/Toyota Boshoku) - 1:02:51
Masahiro Miura (Japan/Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:52
Shinichiro Tai (Japan/Fujitsu) - 1:02:54
Shoya Okuno (Japan/Nittai Univ.) - 1:02:56
Takeshi Makabe (Japan/Kurosaki Harima) - 1:02:58
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 1:03:32
Akinobu Murasawa (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - debut - 59:08 for 20 km
Paul Kuira (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - debut - 27:40.43 for 10000 m
Ken Yokote (Japan/Meiji Univ.) - debut - 28:38.73 for 10000 m
Zane Robertson (New Zealand) - debut - 13:13.83 for 5000 m

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Their Father a Kenyan, Distance Star Takamatsu Sisters Power Osaka to National Title

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20150111-OHT1T50282.html

translated by Brett Larner

Rising stars in the women's long distance world, the Takamatsu sisters powered Osaka to its first National Women's Ekiden win in three years on Jan. 11 in Kyoto.  Their father a Kenyan, Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu (3rd year, Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin J.H.S.) ran the fastest time on the 3.0 km Third Stage to pass five people and put Osaka in 2nd before handing off to older sister Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu (2nd year, Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) who, even though losing ground, kept the team in contention with the leaders.  Both played important roles in Osaka winning over defending champion Kyoto by 1 second.

Just before the finish and Osaka's come-from-behind win both Takamatsu sisters were all smiles.  Having repeated her stage win from last year, Tomomi said, "I had a lot of strong competition on the Third Stage so I'm really happy to win it again."  Getting a shout of, "Go get 'em!" from her younger sister along with the tasuki, Nozomi was disappointed at having lost spirit and dropped from 2nd to 6th, saying, "My little sister put us into such a good position and everything...I wanted to win having run my best."

At August's Youth Olympics in China Nozomi won the gold medal in the girls' 3000 m.  Tomomi was 2nd in the National Junior High School Track and Field Championships girls' 1500 m last summer.  Both aspire to futures as Olympians.  In the spring Tomomi will enter the same high school as her older sister.  "I want to do my best while we have this important chance to be together," she said.  Nozomi agreed, saying, "At home we're ordinary sisters, but in races we're rivals.  I want to keep improving my times while competing with her."

Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu - Born Aug. 31, 1997.  17 years old, 160.5 cm tall.  Came to Japan from her father's hometown in Kenya when she was 3.

Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu - Born Feb. 23, 2000.  14 years old, 144.5 cm tall.

Monday, January 12, 2015

18-Year-Old Shimoda Sets Takanezawa Half Marathon Course Record

by Brett Larner

An alternate for Aoyama Gakuin University's course record-setting team at last week's Hakone Ekiden, 18-year-old Yuta Shimoda led the field with a 1:03:16 course record at the 42nd running of the Takanezawa Genki Up Half Marathon on Jan. 11 in Takanezawa, Tochigi.  Shimoda's time was a PB by over 3 minutes and was enough to beat fellow AGU first-year alternate Yuki Nakamura by more than 45 seconds.  AGU runners took the top four spots, with Hakone 6th-placer Tokai University alternate Ryunosuke Hayashi 5th in 1:04:28, also under the old course record.  Nami Iwahara (Gazelle AC) won the women's division in 1:23:22.



Course records also fell at the Oita City Half Marathon in Kyushu.  2014 Kita-Kyushu Marathon winner Yuka Yano led a Canon AC Kyushu sweep of the top four spots in the women's race with a course record 1:13:41.  Ethiopian Melaku Aberu, a runner for the locally-based Kurosaki Harima team, outran Oita native and sub-2:10 marathoner Tomoya Adachi (Team Asahi Kasei) for the win in the men's race in another course record of 1:02:47.

Solid women's results also turned up at the 16th Tanigawa Mari Half Marathon in Tokyo, where Eri Okubo (Miki House) beat her former teammate Yumiko Kinoshita (Second Wind AC) by nearly 30 seconds in 1:15:31.  Minor league corporate runners Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business) and Yusuke Kodama (Comodi Iida) went head-to-head in the men's race, Matsumoto getting the win by 8 seconds in 1:06:25.

42nd Takanezawa Genki Up Half Marathon
Takanezawa, Tochigi, 1/11/15

Men
1. Yuta Shimoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:16 - CR, PB
2. Yuki Nakamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:02 - PB
3. Koki Ito (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:20 - PB
4. Kinari Ikeda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:25 - PB
5. Ryunosuke Hayashi (Tokai Univ.) - 1:04:28
6. Kokoro Watanabe (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:58
7. Nanami Arai (Tokai Univ.) - 1:05:02
8. Nozomi Okoshi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:05:31
9. Kento Tamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:05:53
10. Shu Ogasawara (Tokai Univ.) - 1:05:58

Women
1. Nami Iwahara (Gazelle AC) - 1:23:22

16th Tanigawa Mari Half Marathon
Arakawa, Tokyo, 1/11/15

Men
1. Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business) - 1:06:25
2. Yusuke Kodama (Team Komodi Iida) - 1:06:33

Women
1. Eri Okubo (Miki House) - 1:15:31
2. Yumiko Kinoshita (Second Wind AC) - 1:15:55

Oita City Half Marathon
Oita, 1/12/15

Men
1. Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Team Kurosaki Harima) - 1:02:47 - CR
2. Tomoya Adachi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:19
3. Tatsuya Oshinomi (Team Nishitetsu) - 1:04:46
4. Junichi Tsubouchi (Team Kurosaki Harima) - 1:04:56
5. Kaoru Nakahara (Team Kurosaki Harima) - 1:05:06

Women
1. Yuka Yano (Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:13:41 - CR
2. Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:14:19
3. Megumi Amako (Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:16:09
4. Chiyuki Mochizuki (Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:7:56

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kawauchi Leads 18,000 to Win Kagoshima's Ibusuki Nanohana Marathon

http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASH1C3S25H1CTLTB00N.html

translated by Brett Larner
click photo for video highlights via asahi.com

The 34th Ibusuki Nanohana Marathon took place in Ibusuki, Kagoshima on Jan. 11.  18,150 runners from across the country took part, basking in the warm color of 10 million rapeseed flowers and cheers from local residents along the course.

2014 Asian Games bronze medalist and civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (27, Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran as an invited athlete.  Due to a sprained left ankle Kawauchi ran a conservative 2:24:10 but was still first across the finish line.  "The crowd support along the course was wonderful and I took strength from it," he said.  Chika Tawara (Fukuoka Pref.) won the women's race in 2:51:51.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Osaka Outkicks Kyoto on the Track for National Women's Ekiden Win

by Brett Larner
video highlights courtesy of race broadcaster NHK

2012 National Women's Ekiden champion Osaka returned with a vengeance, running down defending champion Kyoto on the anchor stage to win the 2015 national title by one second with fast-closing rivals Hyogo and Aichi coming in within the next two seconds.

The National Women's Ekiden features teams from all 47 of Japan's prefectures, each team made up of its territory's best J.H.S., H.S., university and pro runners.  Kyoto got off to a rough start when its opening runner Nanako Kanno, 2nd on the 6.0 km First Stage last year, tripped and fell mid-stage, handing off in 10th 25 seconds behind leader Yuka Ando of Shizuoka.  Osaka was even rockier, last year's First Stage winner Natsuki Omori 8 seconds behind Kanno in 15th.  Undefeated in nearly a year, high schooler Azusa Sumi just missed the course record on the 4.0 km Second Stage to move the Aichi team into 1st by 3 seconds over Kagoshima.  The strong Hyogo team advanced to 3rd, Kyoto and Osaka climbing to 6th and 7th just over 30 seconds off the lead.

Last year's 3.0 km Third Stage winner Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu, the younger sister of 2014 Youth Olymipcs 3000 m gold medalist Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu, ran down all the competition but Aichi as she won again to move Osaka within 12 seconds of the lead.  Kyoto inched forward one place, moving 1 second ahead of Saitama to 5th just 5 seconds behind Hyogo.  Takamatsu handed off to her older sister for the 4.0 km Fourth Stage, but while the older Takamatsu quickly closed the gap to Aichi's Kanayo Miyata she lost steam over the final kilometer of the stage and was fell to 6th.

Hyogo now in the lead after a tight sprint finish on the Fourth Stage, its next runner Misaki Minami, a 1st-year at Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S., did a great job of holding onto the lead on the 4.1075 km Fifth Stage as she shook off pro Miharu Shimokado of Saitama to hand off in 1st.  Kyoto was just 1 second back in 3rd thanks to a stage-winning run from high schooler Aki Manabe, but Osaka remained stuck in 6th.  Both Kyoto and Osaka ran big on the 4.0875 km Sixth Stage, Kyoto's Maako Konishi taking the lead with a stage-best 12:58 to move 6 seconds ahead of Saitama and Osaka's Rino Maeda tying her on time to advance to 5th.

39-year-old mother Mari Ozaki, one of Japan's all-time greats, ran brilliantly on the 4.0 km Seventh Stage, outrunning the high schoolers in pursuit of her position to hand off with the same 6-second lead.  Osaka's Ena Kagayama, a member of 2014 National High School Ekiden champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S., ran 15 seconds faster to move up to 2nd but could not crack Ozaki's lead.  Kagoshima's Haruka Shimizu overtook Osaka's Rina Ohara for 2nd on the 3.0 km Eighth Stage, closing to 5 seconds behind leader Kyoto's Ayaka Murao by stage's end.  Further back, last year's Eighth Stage winner Nozomi Tanaka of Hyogo, daughter of 2013 Kobe Marathon course record-setter Chihiro Tanaka, did it again with a 9:58 stage win to move into 4th.

At the start of the 10.0 km Ninth Stage, the last of the race, Kagoshima, Osaka, Hyogo, Saitama and Aichi were all within exactly one minute of Kyoto.  In training for her marathon debut later this month, Kyoto's Yukiko Okuno ran steadily without signs of trouble.  By halfway she had opened 12 more seconds on Kagoshima's Ayano Ikemitsu but unexpectedly found company from Osaka anchor Mizuki Matsuda.  The two regional rivals ran side-by-side the rest of the way, never slowing but still saving up for the last lap of the track.  But they were not alone.

Behind them, Hyogo's Misaki Hayashida moved up to 3rd and began to close.  Further back, Aichi's Ayuko Suzuki, sub-9 for 3000 m last year and one of Japan's highest-potential talents, reeled Hayashida in on her own.  At 8 km Hayashida was 13 seconds behind and Suzuki another 8 seconds back.  Just before 9 km Suzuki went by into 3rd, just 8 seconds behind the lead pair with 1 km to go.  As Okuno and Matsuda went onto the track they slowed, saving up for the last 200 m and not realizing Suzuki was coming up fast behind them with Hayashida in tow.

Going into the back corner the gap was down to 2 seconds before it turned into an all-out sprint.  Matsuda couldn't get by Okuno until the home straight but got far enough away to point to the Osaka logo on her chest and shoot her hands defiantly into the air as she crossed the finish line for the win in 2:17:26.  Okuno held onto 2nd for defending champion Kyoto in 2:17:27, while Hayashida surprisingly came back with a major kick to overtake Suzuki by one second for an excellent 3rd for the Hyogo team in 2:17:28.

Even more surprisingly, Suzuki did not take the stage best title.  Starting back in 10th, collegiate marathon national record holder Sairi Maeda outran Suzuki's time by 11 seconds, running 32:14 to put Kumamoto into the final podium position in 8th in 2:18:44.  Altogether it was a classic ekiden full of turnover, exciting to the very end.  The men get their chance to live up to the same level next weekend at the final race of championship ekiden season, the Jan. 18 National Men's Ekiden in Hiroshima.  Follow @JRNLive for live coverage.

33rd National Women's Ekiden
Kyoto, 1/11/14
47 teams, 9 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Osaka - 2:17:26
2. Kyoto - 2:17:27
3. Hyogo - 2:17:28
4. Aichi - 2:17:29
5. Kagoshima - 2:17:51
6. Gunma - 2:17:52
7. Saitama - 2:18:06
8. Kumamoto - 2:18:44
9. Shizuoka - 2:19:13
10. Oita - 2:19:41

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (6.0 km)
1. Yuka Ando (Shizuoka) - 19:15
2. Miyuki Uehara (Kagoshima) - 19:19
3. Yuka Takashima (Yamaguchi) - 19:23
4. Miho Shimada (Yamanashi) - 19:24
5. Ayumi Sakaida (Hyogo) - 19:28

Second Stage (4.0 km)
1. Azusa Sumi (Aichi) - 12:13
2. Nana Kuraoka (Kagoshima) - 12:28
3. Kanami Sagayama (Osaka) - 12:29
4. Reia Iwade (Hyogo) - 12:35
4. Yuka Miyazaki (Fukuoka) - 12:35

Third Stage (3.0 km)
1. Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka) - 9:24
1. Ema Hayashi (Gunma) - 9:24
3. Mika Moribayashi (Nagasaki) - 9:34
3. Helena Mei Lindsey (Kanagawa) - 9:34

Fourth Stage (4.0 km)
1. Michi Numata (Saitama) 12:45
2. Kotona Ota (Hyogo) - 12:50
2. Hiromi Katakai (Gunma) - 12:50
4. Mao Kiyota (Shizuoka) - 12:52
5. Kureha Seki (Kyoto) - 12:53

Fifth Stage (4.1075 km)
1. Aki Manabe (Kyoto) - 13:07
2. Yurie Fujita (Okayama) - 13:12
3. Miharu Shimokado (Saitama) - 13:13
3. Yumika Miura (Yamanashi) - 13:13

Sixth Stage (4.0875 km)
1. Maako Konishi (Kyoto) - 12:58
1. Rino Maeda (Osaka) - 12:58
3. Haruka Tobimatsu (Kagoshima) - 13:00

Seventh Stage (4.0 km)
1. Ena Kagayama (Osaka) - 12:37
2. Runa Akiyama (Shizuoka) - 12:44
3. Madoka Mitsueda (Kagoshima) - 12:46
4. Mari Ozaki (Kyoto) - 12:52
4. Reina Shinozaki (Gunma) - 12:52

Eighth Stage (3.0 km)
1. Nozomi Tanaka (Hyogo) - 9:58
2. Arisu Fuwa (Gunma) - 10:05
3. Haruka Shimizu (Kagoshima) - 10:15

Ninth Stage (10.0 km)
1. Sairi Maeda (Kumamoto) - 32:14
2. Ayuko Suzuki (Aichi) - 32:25
3. Misaki Kato (Oita) - 32:34
4. Yuika Mori (Gunma) - 32:43
5. Yukari Abe (Yamagata) - 32:45
6. Yuki Mitsunobu (Saga) - 32:53
7. Misaki Hayashida (Hyogo) - 32:54
8. Hanae Tanaka (Tokyo) - 32:58
9. Keiko Nogami (Nagasaki) - 32:59
10. Risa Takenaka (Shiga) - 33:04

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved