Tuesday, March 31, 2015

More Details Released on Marathon National Record Bonus Plan as Project Sponsors Sought

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2015/03/30/kiji/K20150330010082020.html

translated by Brett Larner

The Japan Industrial Track and Field Association (JITA) national corporate federation held a press conference on Mar. 30 in Tokyo to announce the establishment of its "Project Exceed" marathon development project.  Targeting the ultimate goal of marathon medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, new Japanese marathon national record bonus and corporate league Japanese marathon national record attempt incentive policies were revealed at the press conference.  With the Japan Business Federation coming on board in a sponsorship capacity, the JITA is looking widely to recruit a broad spectrum of sponsors.  Project Exceed is expected to get off the ground with as much of the necessary funding as possible in place following the JITA's general assembly in July and to run until the end of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A 100 million yen bonus [~$1 million USD at normal exchange rates] will be paid to any Japanese citizen athlete whose marathon time is certified as a new Japanese national record regardless of whether or not the athlete is registered as a corporate league runner, with the athlete's coach and team being awarded a 50 million yen [$500,000] bonus if the athlete is a registered corporate league runner.  If another Japanese citizen athlete also breaks the national record in the same race, the lower-placing athlete will also receive 10 million yen [$100,000] and their coach and team 5 million yen [$50,000].

The corporate league Japanese marathon national record attempt incentive will only be paid to registered corporate league runners.  In any of a tentative seven designated domestic Japanese marathons, any corporate league Japanese citizens who run 2:06:59 or better for men or 2:21:59 or better for women will receive a 10 million yen bonus [$100,000], with their coach and team receiving 5 million yen [$50,000].  Men who run 2:07 and women who run 2:22 will also be paid 5 million yen [$50,000], their coaches and teams getting 2.5 million yen [$25,000].  The time standards for these bonuses will be reviewed every two years.

In addition to the marathon, an accompanying "Project Proceed" will offer bonuses to athletes who set records in other disciplines.  Bonus levels and other details are scheduled to be fixed later this year.

"Mr. 9.87" Kiryu Returns to Japan Saying "Next Time I'll Do It For Real"

http://www.sankei.com/sports/news/150330/spo1503300043-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

Having run a wind-assisted 9.87 in the men's 100 m at the Texas Relays track meet in the United States, Yoshihide Kiryu (1st yr, Toyo Univ.) arrived back in Japan at Narita International Airport on Mar. 30, saying, "Next time I'll do it officially."  At the airport Kiryu was surrounded by throngs of reporters and other people on the scene, laughing as he said, "Things were pretty normal in the States, so I'm surprised to see so much buzz now that I'm back in Japan."

This season Kiryu has moved the position of his left and right feet in the starting blocks 10 cm further apart, leading to a smoother first step or two.  Of the race where he beat London Olympics 5th placer Ryan Bailey (U.S.A.) Kiryu said, "I'm feeling more familiar with what it's like overseas and picked up a little confidence that I'm not going to lose to foreign athletes."

Kiryu's coach Hiroyasu Tsuchie commented, "Running leaves an intense sensation.  Up to now he has only seen 9-second running on TV, so now that he has experienced it for himself the question is how much it is going to affect his consciousness.  This was a major step."  Thanks to a solid base of running over the winter, Kiryu said, "After the race I haven't had any pain anywhere at all."  His next race will be at the April 18 Oda Memorial Meet where he is entered in the 100 m and 200 m.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Kawauchi Wins First Running of Nerima Kobushi Half Marathon

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20150329-00000002-minkei-l13
http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20150329-00000091-spnannex-spo
http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20150329-OHT1T50062.html
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2015/03/30/kiji/K20150330010080090.html



translated and edited by Brett Larner

The first half marathon to be held in Tokyo's Nerima ward, the Nerima Kobushi Half Marathon went off at 8:00 a.m. on Mar. 29.  Starting at Hikarigaoka Municipal Park, the course offered a tour of the area's major roads before returning to finish at the park.  With more than 90% of the course run on public roads including a section of highway passing through Nerima, the route gave runners the chance to run on roads normally closed to them.

At the opening ceremony Nerima mayor Akio Maekawa gave his support to participants, telling them, "I want to see the results of all the work you put into your running every day and hope that you have fun running this course."  Around 5000 people were entered in the race, with special guests including #1 amateur runner Yuki Kawauchi, former marathon great Mari Tanigawa and comedians Tetsu and Tomo.  Turning in a masterful solo performance, Kawauchi was first across the finish line in 1:05:39.  Still recovering fitness after a long-lasting sprain to his left ankle, Kawauchi said, "Compared to a month ago I'm able to run more now.  I'm back to about 75% of normal."  Even at that level he dropped his nearest competition in Nerima by the 2 km point.  "My result today wasn't bad," he smiled.  "One day at a time."  Kaori Yoshida, 33, won the women's race in 1:16:12.

Earlier in the morning at the U.S.A. at the Texas Relays track meet in Austin, Texas, Kawauchi's fellow Saitama prefecture resident Yoshihide Kiryu (19, Toyo University) ran a wind-assisted time of 9.87 in the men's 100 m.  Kawauchi didn't hear about Kiryu's run until after his own race but was very excited when he heard the time, saying, "He finally did it!  I had no idea."  When told that the wind reading was 3.3 m/s Kawauchi sighed, "Gah!" but sent Kiryu his encouragement, saying, "This will serve as a major stimulus for him.  Even if his time wasn't legal because of the wind, it's really important that he got the experience of running that kind of speed once.  The Asian Games [where Kiryu was a DNS due to injury] are probably an unhappy memory, but I hope that he shines at the Beijing World Championships."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

'Kiryu Clocks Wind-Assisted 9.87 in 100 m at Texas Relays'

http://www.iaaf.org/news/report/texas-relays-2015-kiryu-bromell-barber

After the race Kiryu posted the following Tweet:


This was my first 100 m race in 8 months.  The wind was a 3.3 m/s tailwind so the time wasn't legal, but I still ran 9.87, my first time achieving a 9-second time.  The time was good, but what was even better was that running against 9-second athletes I was competitive and beat them for the win.  This was just the first race of the season and I want to keep going this year without injury.  This was a great meet.  :-)
-- Yoshihide Kiryu, March 29, 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015

World XC Championships - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

Japan came up empty-handed at the 2015 World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China as its perennial best hope for a medal, its junior women's squad, could do no better than 5th.  Junior women's team leader Azusa Sumi took 16th overall, 1:07 behind winner Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia but still the top-placing non-African born athlete in any of the day's races along with China's Changqin Ding in the senior women's race.  Although shy of a medal the junior women still topped the Japanese team results, the junior men and senior women finishing 9th.  With only three runners in the senior men's race Japan did not field a complete team of four scorers in that event.

World Cross Country Championships
Guiyang, China, 3/28/15
click here for complete results

Junior Women's 6 km
1. Letesenbet Gidey (Ethiopia) - 19:48
2. Dera Dida (Ethiopia) - 19:49
3. Etagegn Woldu (Ethiopia) - 19:53
4. Daisy Jepkemei (Kenya) - 19:59
5. Mihret Tefera (Ethiopia) - 20:02
-----
16. Azusa Sumi (Japan) - 20:55
21. Nana Kuraoka (Japan) - 21:25
29. Wakana Kabasawa (Japan) - 21:48
32. Yuri Nozoe (Japan) - 21:55
38. Miho Shimada (Japan) - 22:12
61. Yuka Sarumida (Japan) - 22:57

Team Results
1. Ethiopia - 11
2. Kenya - 33
3. Bahrain - 52
4. Uganda - 65
5. Japan - 98

Junior Men's 8 km
1. Yasin Haji (Ethiopia) - 23:42
2. Geoffrey Kipkirui Korir (Kenya) - 23:47
3. Alfred Ngeno (Kenya) - 23:54
4. Dominic Kiptarus (Kenya) - 24:00
5. Evans Rutto Chematot (Bahrain) - 24:03
-----
35. Hiroyuki Sakaguchi (Japan) - 25:46
49. Shota Onizuka (Japan) - 26:16
55. Junnosuke Matsuo (Japan) - 26:27
61. Haruki Minatokya (Japan) - 26:34
81. Ryota Tatezawa (Japan) - 27:14
87. Fuminori Shimo (Japan) - 27:18

Team Results
1. Kenya - 19
2. Ethiopia - 33
3. Eritrea - 52
4. Bahrain - 70
5. Uganda - 76
-----
9. Japan - 200

Senior Women's 8 km
1. Agnes Jebet Tirop (Kenya) - 26:01
2. Senbere Teferi (Ethiopia) - 26:06
3. Netsanet Gudeta (Ethiopia) - 26:11
4. Alemitu Heroye (Ethiopia) - 26:14
5. Stacy Chepkemboi Ndiwa (Kenya) - 26:16
-----
23. Miho Shimizu (Japan) - 28:26
39. Mai Shoji (Japan) - 29:09
43. Erika Ikeda (Japan) - 29:17
54. Yui Fukuda (Japan) - 29:45
56. Maki Izumida (Japan) - 29:50
63. Tomoka Kimura (Japan) - 30:01

Team Results
1. Ethiopia - 17
2. Kenya - 19
3. Uganda - 101
4. China - 122
5. U.S.A. - 128
-----
9. Japan

Senior Men's 12 km
1. Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor (Kenya) - 34:52
2. Bedan Karoki Muchiri (Kenya) - 35:00
3. Muktar Edris (Ethiopia) - 35:06
4. Hagos Gebrhiwet (Ethiopia) - 35:15
5. Leonard Barsoton (Kenya) - 35:24
-----
52. Hiroki Matsueda (Japan) - 38:24
85. Kazuma Kubota (Japan) - 40:08
88. Kento Hanazawa (Japan) - 40:19

Team Results
1. Ethiopia - 20
2. Kenya - 20
3. Bahrain - 54
4. Eritrea - 91
5. Uganda - 92

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, March 27, 2015

World Cross Country Championshps - Japanese Team Roster

by Brett Larner

Japan's team for this weekend's World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China features 21 athletes.  As always, its strongest contingent is its junior women, in this case led by 9:00.89 high schooler Azusa Sumi, undefeated since 2013, and teammate Yuka Sarumida of Toyokawa H.S.  The junior men's team features three athletes with 5000 m bests under 14 minutes including 2014 World Junior Championships team member Shota Onizuka (Omuta H.S.).

2015 Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet winner Mai Shoji (Chukyo Univ.) leads the senior women's squad which also includes her collegiate rival Maki Izumida (Ritsumeikan Univ.).  Once again this year, Japan's senior men are largely giving World Cross a miss, with only three entered versus six on the each of the other three squads.  Corporate runners are completely absent, with 2015 Hakone Ekiden winner Aoyama Gakuin University's Kazuma Kubota the biggest name of the three and Juntendo University teammates Hiroki Matsueda and Kento Hanazawa rounding out the roster.

Senior Women
Miho Shimizu (Team Hokuren) - 15:34.22 / 32:14.44
Mai Shoji (Chukyo Univ.) - 15:34.73 / 32:27.36
Maki Izumida (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:38.22 / 33:15.18
Tomoka Kimura (Team Univ. Ent.) - 15:44.02
Yui Fukuda (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) - 15:50.07
Erika Ikeda (Team Higo Ginko) - 15:54.01 / 34:06.75

Senior Men
Hiroki Matsueda (Juntendo Univ.) - 13:49.18 / 29:13.81
Kazuma Kubota (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:56.69 / 28:30.78
Kento Hanazawa (Juntendo Univ.) - 13:59.09 / 29:25.76

Junior Women
Azusa Sumi (Toyokawa H.S.) - 9:00.89
Yuka Sarumida (Toyokawa H.S.) - 9:08.72
Yuri Nozoe (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 9:14.72
Miho Shimada (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) - 9:15.18
Wakana Kabasawa (Tokiwa H.S.) - 9:19.84
Nana Kuraoka (Kagoshima Joshi H.S.) - 9:23.58

Junior Men
Haruki Minatoya (Akita Kogyo H.S.) - 13:57.29
Hiroyuki Sakaguchi (Isahaya H.S.) - 13:57.41 / 29:12.75
Shota Onizuka (Omuta H.S.) - 13:58.43
Fuminori Shimo (Iga Hakuho H.S.) - 14:01.59
Ryoji Tatezawa (Saitama Sakae H.S.) - 14:07.32
Junnosuke Matsuo (Akita Kogyo H.S.) - 14:11.24

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lisbon Half Marathon Japanese Results - Noguchi and Fujiwara Fade

by Brett Larner

Marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) and newly-anointed Beijing World Championships team member Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) put in an appearance at Sunday's 25th anniversary Lisbon Half Marathon.  Noguchi, who in recent years has had more DNS that starts in her scheduled races, made a rare start but proved ineffectual, opening at a conservative pace well outside the lead pack but fading badly later in the race to finish 16th in just 1:19:07.  Fujiwara, making the Beijing team off a 2:09:06 at December's Fukuoka International Marathon, started more aggressively, on track for a low 1:02 time through 10 km but struggling over the second half before finishing just outside the top 10, 11th in 1:04:10.

25th Lisbon Half Marathon
Lisbon, Portugal, 3/22/15
click here for complete results

Women
1. Rose Chelimo (Kenya) - 1:08:22
2. Sara Moreira (Portugal) - 1:09:18
3. Priscah Jeptoo (Kenya) - 1:09:21
4. Purity Cherotich Rionoripo (Kenya) - 1:10:24
5. Ana Dulce Felix (Portugal) - 1:10:27
-----
16. Mizuki Noguchi (Japan/Team Sysmex) - 1:19:07

Men
1. Mo Farah (Great Britain) - 59:32
2. Micah Kogo (Kenya) - 59:33
3. Stephen Kibet (Kenya) - 59:58
4. Idemo Guya Dola (Ethiopia) - 1:00:45
5. Edwin Kipyego (Kenya) - 1:01:48
-----
11. Masakazu Fujiwara (Japan/Team Honda) - 1:04:10

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kawauchi on the Road to Recovery With Runaway Victory in Kumagaya, Speaks Out on National Team Selection Controversy and Million Dollar Bonus Announcement

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20150322/ath15032218030002-n1.html
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2015/03/23/kiji/K20150323010033420.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

2014 Asian Games men's marathon bronze medalist and civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi, 28, ran the Mar. 22 Kumagaya Sakura Half Marathon in Kumagaya, Saitama as a special guest.  Running away from the field he scored the win in 1:04:41, his fastest time so far this year and showing that he is making progress in his recovery from the injury that has troubled him since late December.  "For the shape I'm in now, that was a good race," he said afterward.

Speaking honestly about the progression of the race, Kawauchi said, "Early on a pack came together with student runners from Daito Bunka University and some familiar faces from the general division.  I wasn't particularly planning on trying to run away from them, but....."  Mid-race he picked up the pace slightly, and one by one the others in the lead group fell off until he was left all by himself around 9 km.

Kawauchi sprained his left ankle while running in late December.  He continued running on it before it had healed, and possibly due to the strain on his ankle he developed pain in his left calf while running the Feb. 22 Fukaya City Half Marathon where he slowed to a personal worst 1:13:36.  His ankle and calf have now healed, but in Kumagaya, Kawauchi said, "I had a little pain on the outside of my foot, some lingering effects from these three months."  Given that situation, he looked happy with his winning time.

As the original ankle sprain refused to completely heal over those months, Kawauchi bought a large number of products off the Internet that looked useful for helping with recovery from overuse.  "I bought a bunch of things like different kinds of compression socks and electrical stimulation therapy machines that looked like they'd be effective," he said.  "I'm sure some of the stuff I bought was probably useless, but I'm not really in a situation where I can complain about that...."  With a laugh he added, "I spent thousands of dollars on all of it, so now I have to go win some prize money in an overseas race."

But even though he is out of the woods with his injury and the road ahead is looking bright, Kawauchi has become increasingly concerned about the selection process for next year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics team.  His plan was to sit out the selection races for this year's World Championships, working on his training himself and scoring his place on the Olympic team at December's Fukuoka International Marathon selection race.  "I consider being competitive more important than time, so I thought that winning Fukuoka would be the best way to go," he said of his plan.  "2:02 is impossible for today's Japanese athletes, but in a race where competition is the emphasis you have a shot even with a 2:06."  As a result, the development plan he put together for 2015 involved him competing overseas against a wide variety of athletes as much as possible.

However, earlier this month in the selection for the Beijing World Championships women's marathon team, Tomomi Tanaka (27, Team Daiichi Seimei), the only Japanese athlete male or female to win one of the major selection races, was left off the team in favor of Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) who ran 18 seconds faster for 3rd in another selection race.  "Looking at the women's selection process it's clear that they are prioritizing time," Kawauchi said.  "If that's the case then it is a disadvantage to run Fukuoka."

At the other two men's Olympic selection races, Tokyo and Lake Biwa, pacemakers run until 30 km, but in Fukuoka pacers only go until 20 km [purportedly at the insistence of sponsors who want less airtime showing African pacers running in front of the Japanese pack].  Naturally, that difference of 10 km without pacers affects the runners' times as they back off the pace and focus on racing each other.  "If Fukuoka were kind enough to extend their pacers' duties to 30 km it would be great, but if not I will probably have to look at shifting plans [to make the Olympic team] to the Tokyo Marathon or Lake Biwa," he said.  After his injury forced him to back off plans to run a fast time at the Seoul International Marathon this month Kawauchi's plan was to make the Olympics in Fukuoka and then to return to Seoul next year to go for time.  He doesn't want to be forced to change those plans again, but Kawauchi is giving himself until the summer to make a final decision about which race to run.

With regard to the National Corporate Federation's recent announcement of a 100 million yen bonus [~$1 million USD at normal exchange rates] for a new Japanese national record in the marathon Kawauchi said, "In the marathon they should go earn that racing in prize money races overseas.  That bonus money should be going into race walking and other minor sports where they have a chance of winning a gold medal."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Barngetuny Takes Down Wanjinshi Marathon Course Record

by Brett Larner

Despite windy conditions on the hilly seaside course Kenyan Eliud Kiplagat Bargnetuny celebrated the New Taipei City Wanjinshi Marathon's first edition as an IAAF bronze label by taking more than 4 minutes off the year-old course record to win in 2:13:14, with countrywoman Gladys Kipsoi winning a leisurely women's race just under 2:40.

After a slow start over the uphill first 5 km, Kenyans Josphat Chobei and Hosea Kosgei took off on low-2:14 pace, breaking up the large lead pack in the process.  Barngetuny and the race's other Kenyan entrant Samuel Kayla caught up by halfway to make it a four-man lead group in 1:06:00.  The group stayed together to fight headwinds over the second half before Barngetuny broke free on the downhills near the end of the race to take the win.  Chobei was next in 2:15:51, also more than a minute under the old course record.  Kalya was the only other athlete to break 2:20, taking 3rd in 2:18:30 as Kosgei faded to 6th in 2:23:08.  Starting conservatively and working his way up through the field during the first half, Japan's Etsu Miyata was caught alone in the wind in the second half and stalled at 8th in a disappointing 2:26:35.


The women's race likewise played out with a lead quartet made up of Kipsoi, the formerly Japan-based Kenyan Ruth Wanjiru, and Ethiopians Almaz Negede Fekade and Tigist Teshome Ayanu going out a conservative pace, hitting halfway in 1:19:54 before Kipsoi broke free after 30 km for the win.  Ayanu was 2 minutes behind in 2nd, Wanjiru filling the podium another minute back.


New Taipei City Wanjinshi Marathon
New Taipei City, Taiwan, 3/22/15
click here for complete results

Men
1. Eliud Kiplagat Barngetuny (Kenya) - 2:13:14 - CR
2. Josphat Kiptanui Too Chobei (Kenya) - 2:15:51 (CR)
3. Samuel Kalya (Kenya) - 2:18:30
4. Andre Sambu Sipe (Tanzania) - 2:21:45
5. Dadi Tesfaye Beyene (Ethiopia) - 2:22:37
6. Hosea Kosgei (Kenya) - 2:23:08
7. Eshetu Wendimu Tsige (Ethiopia) - 2:23:40
8. Etsu Miyata (Japan) - 2:26:35
9. Ahmed Nasef (Italy) - 2:27:54
10. Debesay Tsige (Eritrea) - 2:28:06

Women
1. Gladys Kipsoi (Kenya) - 2:39:32
2. Tigist Teshome Ayanu (Ethiopia) - 2:41:31
3. Ruth Wanjiru Kuria (Kenya) - 2:42:18
4. Rose Chekurui Kosgei (Kenya) - 2:48:09
5. Almaz Negede Fekade (Ethiopia) - 2:51:22
6. Eliana Patelli (Italy) - 2:52:36
7. Lucia Mwihaki Kimani (Bosnia & Herzegovina) - 2:58:07
8. Chen Ya Fan (Taiwan) - 3:08:32
9. Lin Yu Hsin (Taiwan) - 3:09:34
10. Aregu Lechisa Awaki (Ethiopia) - 3:09:47

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wanjiru and Wendimu Headline New Taipei City Wanjinshi Marathon

by Brett Larner


Sendai Ikuei H.S. graduate Ruth Wanjiru (Kenya) and 2:06:46 man Eshetu Wendimu (Ethiopia) headline the international field at Sunday's New Taipei City Wanjinshi Marathon, where with good weather in the forecast the 2:17:17 and 2:34:52 course records are bound to fall.  Special guests in attendance to celebrate Wanjinshi's first edition as an IAAF bronze label race, the first label race in Taiwan, include include former pole vault world record holder and IAAF vice president Sergey Bubka.

Wanjiru at the pre-race press conference.

Wanjiru leads the small women's field of seven, the only woman there to have broken 2:30 in her career with a 2:27:38 at the 2009 Osaka International Women's Marathon.  In the absence of last year's winner Ji Hyang Kim (North Korea), Wanjiru's main competition look to be her countrywoman Rose Kosgei (Kenya) and Aregu Lechisa Awaki (Ethiopia).

Miyata and Bubka.

His 2:06:46 in Dubai in 2010 makes Wendimu look like the favorite, but with a best time in the last three years of only 2:14:29 he's certainly vulnerable to others, especially in the Ethiopian contingent and Kenyan Eliud Kiplagat BarngetunyAdam Draczynski (Poland) is the best of the non-Africans in the field with a 2:10:49 in Vienna in 2010, but with nothing to show since then but a 2:15:01 at the 2012 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon his current fitness is doubtful.  Running with support form JRN, independent Etsu Miyata (Japan), with a 2:13:19 best from Nagano in 2010 and more recently a 2:14:09 in Nobeoka in 2013, hopes to be among those at the front contending for the win over the mostly downhill last 7 km.

JRN will be onhand to cover the New Taiepei City Wanjinshi Marathon live.  Check back for photos, results and more.

New Taipei City Wanjinshi Marathon Elite Field
New Taipei City, Taiwan, 3/22/15
click here for complete field listing

Men
Eshetu Wendimu Tsige (Ethiopia) - 2:06:46 (Dubai 2010)
Abdelmounaim Harroufi (Morocco) - 2:09:11 (Dubai 2014)
Andre Sambu Sipe (Tanzania) - 2:09:52 (Seoul 2004)
Eliud Kiplagat Barngetuny (Kenya) - 2:11:07 (Beijing 2014)
Adam Draczynski (Poland) - 2:10:49 (Vienna 2010)
Ahmed Nasef (Morocco) - 2:10:59 (Chongqinq 2012)
Etsu Miyata (Japan) - 2:13:19 (Nagano 2010)
Debesay Tsige (Eritrea) - 2:13:58 (Frankfurt 2012)
Dadi Tesfaye Beyene (Ethiopia) - 2:14:38 (Porto 2012)
Artur Kern (Poland) - 2:17:15 (Poznan 2011)
Chin Ping Ho (Taiwan) - 2:17:42 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Girma Hailu Firo (Ethiopia) - debut

Women
Ruth Wanjiru Kuria (Kenya) - 2:27:38 (Osaka Int'l 2009)
Rose Chekurui Kosgei (Kenya) - 2:30:52 (Toronto 2010)
Aregu Lechisa Awaki (Ethiopia) - 2:31:56 (Cannes 2012)
Lucia Mwihaki Kimani (Bosnia & Herzegovina) - 2:34:57 (Zagreb 2011)
Eliana Patelli (Italy) - 2:36:18 (Carpi 2011)
Tigist Teshome Ayanu (Ethiopia) - 2:36:29 (Marrakesh 2015)
Almaz Negede Fekade (Ethiopia) - 2:37:42 (Shanghai 2014)

text and photos (c) 2015 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Thursday, March 19, 2015

South Korea Plans to Give Citizenship to Kenyan Athlete to Ensure Marathon Gold at Rio Olympics

http://www.focus-asia.com/socioeconomy/photonews/412320/

translated by Brett Larner

According to South Korea's Dong-A Ilbo news organization, the South Korean Athletics Federation intends to go forward with a plan to offer citizenship to Kenyan Wilson Loyanae Erupe, winner of the men's race at last weekend's Seoul International Marathon, so that he can win the gold medal wearing South Korean colors at next year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics.  The news appeared in the March 18 edition of the Gyeongju Daily.

At the Seoul International Marathon on March 15 Erupe won in 2:06:11, a race he also won three years ago.  His representative, who serves as director of the South Korean Athletics Federation, commented, "Erupe wants to get South Korean citizenship so that he can run the Rio Olympics for South Korea next year."  The transfer would require the approval of Athletics Kenya, but since Erupe is not a member of the Kenyan national team, the South Korean side said, "there is no real obstacle to this happening."

Translator's note: The article does not mention that between his two Seoul wins Erupe tested positive for EPO and served a two-year suspension that ran out last month.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Kato and Obare Win Matsue Ladies' Road Race, Yiu Breaks Own Hong Kong NR

by Brett Larner

2014 Gold Coast Airport Marathon winner Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) topped what may have been the deepest women's half marathon ever run on Japanese soil, running 1:10:36 to win the last big race of the Japanese season, the 36th running of the Matsue Ladies' Half Marathon.  After a relatively conservative first half splitting 33:42 at 10 km Kato pushed the pace relentlessly, cutting the lead group down to a trio with Kotomi Takayama (Team Sysmex) and Ai Inoue (Team Noritz) by 15 km and dropping both by 20 km to win by 11 seconds.  Takami was next in 1:10:47, Inoue rounding out the top 3 in 1:11:02.

Matsue also served as the National University Women's Half Marathon Championships, this year acting as the selection race for the team for this summer's World University Games where Japanese women have medalled every time since 1985 including a sweep of the podium in 2009.  Five collegiate women led by Ayumi Uehara (Matsuyama Univ.) were in contention for the three spots on the team at 15 km, but by 20 km Sakurako Fukuuchi (Daito Bunka Univ.) and Yukiko Okuno (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) had dropped off, leaving Uehara, Nanako Kanno (Ritsumeikan Univ.) and Maki Izumida (Rikkyo Univ.) to battle it out over the last km.  Uehara took the national title in 1:11:19, Kanno next in 1:11:24 and Izumida another 2 seconds behind for 3rd.

Altogether 60 women broke 1:17, likely the most ever on Japanese soil.  Among them, Hong Kong's Kit Ching Yiu ran 1:14:55 for 34th, taking nearly 2 minutes off the national record she set at last November's Ageo City Half Marathon.  Another record came in the 10 km division where two-time Matsue Half winner Doricah Obare (Kenya/Team Hitachi) set a course record 32:37.  Hitachi runners took three of the top five spots.

36th Matsue Ladies' Road Race
18th National University Women's Half Marathon Championships

Matsue, Shimane, 3/15/15
click here for complete results

Half Marathon
1. Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) - 1:10:36
2. Kotomi Takayama (Team Sysmex) - 1:10:47
3. Ai Inoue (Team Noritz) - 1:11:02
4. Ayumi Uehara (Matsuyama Univ.) - 1:11:19
5. Nanako Kanno (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 1:11:24
6. Maki Izumida (Rikkyo Univ.) - 1:11:26
7. Yukiko Okuno (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 1:11:28
8. Mami Onuki (Team Sysmex) - 1:11:37
9. Sakurako Fukuuchi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 1:11:44
10. Miharu Shimokado (Team Shimamura) - 1:12:09
-----
34. Kit Ching Yiu (Hong Kong) - 1:14:55 - NR

10 km
1. Doricah Obare (Kenya/Team Hitachi) - 32:37 - CR
2. Reina Hayashida (Team Uniqlo) - 33:10
3. Risa Kikuchi (Team Hitachi) - 33:16
4. Reno Okura (Team Hokuren) - 33:25
5. Kana Kurosawa (Team Hitachi) - 34:20

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, March 15, 2015

United Airlines NYC Half - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

Former national high school champion teammates Koki Takada (Waseda Univ.) and Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) ran Sunday's United Airlines NYC Half with support from JRN, their last time running together before Ichida's graduation at the end of the month. With bests of 1:02:02 and 1:02:03 from last November's Ageo City Half Marathon, both were aiming for mid to high 1:01 times and went out with the lead pack running that pace through the hills of Central Park in the first half of the course. But when the pace quickened heading down 7th Avenue into the city neither could keep up with the change, first Ichida and then Takada slipping away from the front quartet led by last year's 3rd-placer Stephen Sambu (Kenya) and then from the mostly American chase pack including Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi and World Half Marathon bronze medalist Dathan Ritzenhein.

Down almost 10 seconds on Takada at one point, Ichida fought his way back with a fast finish to close to within a stride, not quite matching the near-photo finish between winner Leonard Korir (Kenya) in 1:01:06 and runner-up Sambu in 1:01:07 but still close, Takada 11th in 1:03:21 and Ichida 12th in 1:03:22.  Their times were the 9th and 10th-fastest ever by Japanese men on U.S. soil, meaning that 7 of the all-time top 10 including the two fastest have been set by university runners at the NYC Half over the last four years.

"Given the conditions I don't think their times were that bad," said Takada's coach Yasuyuki Watanabe, one of the most famous names in Japanese distance running and making his final appearance as head coach at Waseda University before retiring at the end of the school year this month.  "My only regret is that they weren't able to stay with Ritzenhein and the others in the second pack.  I think Takada could have been 5th or 6th if they had.  Next year."  Takada echoed Watanabe's words, saying, "I'm kicking myself for not staying with them.  That was a real eye opener."  Wrapping up his university career before heading to the Asahi Kasei corporate team next month with his twin brother Hiroshi, Ichida said, "I'm very grateful that I had the opportunity to run in this race and I'm sorry that I couldn't repay it with a better result."

In the women's race, won in 1:08:31 by American Molly Huddle in a performance all the more brilliant for the head/crosswind that seemed to slow most runners' times over the unprotected second half of the course along the Hudson River, Hanae Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) was quickly out of the lead pack.  A teammate but not relative of Yokohama International Women's Marathon winner Tomomi Tanaka, she spent much of the race solo and finished just outside the money in 13th in 1:12:58.

10th United Airlines NYC Half
New York, New York, 3/15/15
complete results coming shortly

Men
1. Leonard Korir (Kenya) - 1:01:06
2. Stephen Sambu (Kenya) - 1:01:07
3. Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico) - 1:01:14
4. Lusapho April (South Africa) - 1:01:21
5. Andrew Bumbalough (U.S.A.) - 1:02:04
6. Dathan Ritzenhein (U.S.A.) - 1:02:07
7. Kevin Chelimo (Kenya) - 1:02:11
8. Meb Keflezighi (U.S.A.) - 1:02:17
9. Arne Gabius (Germany) - 1:02:34
10. Wesley Korir (Kenya) - 1:03:11
11. Koki Takada (Japan/Waseda Univ.) - 1:03:21
12. Takashi Ichida (Japan/Daito Bunka Univ.) - 1:03:22

Women
1. Molly Huddle (U.S.A.) - 1:08:31
2. Joyce Chepkirui (Kenya) - 1:08:42
3. Sally Kipyego (Kenya) - 1:09:39
4. Caroline Rotich (Kenya) - 1:09:53
5. Rkia El Moukin (Morocco) - 1:10:14
6. Natasha Wodak (Canada) - 1:11:20
7. Etaferahu Temesgen (Ethiopia) - 1:11:22
8. Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton (Kenya) - 1:11:35
9. Lanni Marchant (Canada) - 1:12:05
10. Annie Bersagel (U.S.A.) - 1:12:19
-----
13. Hanae Tanaka (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - 1:12:58

text and photo (c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Seoul International Marathon - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returned to the race where he set his 2:08:14 PB two years ago, running the Dong-A Seoul International Marathon in South Korea on Mar. 15.  As Kenyan Wilson Loyanae Erupe, returning from a two-year ban for EPO, led an all-African lead pack to a 2:06:11 win, Kawauchi, working his way back from injuries originating with a sprained ankle in December, ran in the second pack with South Korea's Yu Seung Yeup and Sim Joung Seu on mid-2:12 pace.  After a slower split from 30 to 35 km Yeup dropped a surge that neither Seu nor Kawauchi could follow, running alone over the last 5 km to take 14th in 2:13:10.  Seu and Kawauchi stayed together through 40 km before Seu kicked for 15th in 2:13:28, Kawauchi coming through 5 seconds back in 2:13:33 in the fastest time he has run so far this year.

In the women's race Ethiopian Guteni Shone Imana pulled away from the lead pack near halfway, soloing the second half to win in 2:26:22.  Starting more conservatively, local Kim Seong Eun and China's Xueqin Wang ran down the pack after 30 km to take 2nd and 3rd in 2:28:20 and 2:28:39.  Japan's Megumi Amako (Canon AC Kyushu) likewise started easy and advanced late in the race to take 6th in 2:34:28.  Kaori Yoshida, returning from her own EPO ban, started in the same pack as Eun and Wang but slowed dramatically to 12th in 2:37:37.

Dong-A Seoul International Marathon
Seoul, South Korea, 3/15/15
click here for complete results

Men
1. Wilson Loyanae Erupe (Kenya) - 2:06:11
2. Felix Kipchirchir Kiprotich (Kenya) - 2:06:59
3. Jacob Kibet (Kenya) - 2:07:47
4. Dadi Yami Gemeda (Ethiopia) - 2:08:05
5. Abreham Cherkos (Ethiopia) - 2:08:14
6. Yakob Jarso (Ethiopia) - 2:09:38
7. Eliud Kiptanui (Kenya) - 2:10:11
8. Sammy Kigen (Kenya) - 2:10:36
9. Berhanu Shiferaw (Ethiopia) - 2:11:01
10. Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland) - 2:11:37
-----
16. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:13:33

Women
1. Guteni Shone Imana (Ethiopia) - 2:26:22
2. Kim Seong Eun (South Korea) - 2:28:20
3. Xueqin Wang (China) - 2:28:39
4. Chao Yue (China) - 2:29:26
5. Chaltu Chimdesa Kumsa (Ethiopia) - 2:30:28
6. Megumi Amako (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:34:28
7. Kim Jie Un (South Korea) - 2:34:41
8. Megertu Ifa Geletu (Ethiopia) - 2:34:52
9. Lee Suk Jeong (South Korea) - 2:35:25
10. Lim Eun Ha (South Korea) - 2:35:41
-----
12. Kaori Yoshida (Japan) - 2:37:37

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ichida and Takada Ready to Take on United Airline NYC Half

by Brett Larner

Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) and Koki Takada (Waseda Univ.) at Riverside State Park, New York, on Mar. 13.

For the fourth year, the top two Japanese collegiate finishers from November's super-deep Ageo City Half Marathon have been invited to run the United Airlines NYC Half as part of a collaboration set up by JRN between the Ageo city government and the New York Road Runners.  At the 2013 Ageo Half Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka University) won a five-way sprint finish in 1:02:36 to pick up his place at the 2014 NYC Half.  A stride behind him, Koki Takada (Waseda University), was the third collegiate finisher, ripping of his bib number in anger at missing out on the chance to run in a big race overseas.

A year later, Ichida and Takada were again head-to-head in Ageo, working together to push the pace and drop their competition one by one.  In another sprint finish Takada got the win this time in a PB 1:02:02 with Ichida right behind in a PB 1:02:03.  Both of them scored the NYC invite, and what made it special was that the two had been high school teammates.  Not just teammates, but members of the 2010 National High School Ekiden champion Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S. team, Ichida leading off on the first stage and Takada running down the competition on the anchor leg to give Kagoshima Jitsugyo its first-ever national title with yet another brilliant sprint finish.

Just over four years later the two are now back together in New York.  For Ichida it is his last race as a student before graduating and joining the powerful Asahi Kasei corporate team.  Takada is a year younger and will head back to his senior year at Waseda, the most prestigious running university in Japan, but for him too there is an element of finality to the race.  Waseda head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe, one of the most revered collegiate runners in Japan's history and still immensely popular as a 40-something coach who developed the Nike Oregon Project's Suguru Osako, is retiring from Waseda at the end of the school year this month, and the United Airlines NYC Half will be his final official appearance as the head of the legendary Waseda.

In the three years so far the Japanese collegiates in NYC have represented, running the two fastest half marathon times and five of the top ten ever by Japanese men on U.S. soil.  #1 on that list is 1:01:48 by Yuta Shitara (Toyo University) at the 2012 NYC Half.  Both Ichida and Takada are gunning for that time, and with a bit of luck from the weather and competition and the kind of teamwork that comes from having bookended a national champion team there's a good chance they could join the growing list of Japanese students running world-class times under 62 minutes.

Even if they don't make it, going home with the kind of experience mostly absent from contemporary Japanese methodology will help put them on the short list for 2020 Olympic marathon hopefuls.  Imagine what it's going to take to make that team.  Running against a top-level international field in their youth and finding out how good they themselves already are can only give Ichida and Takada a leg up in the game.

text and photos (c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Corporate League Federation to Put Up Million Dollar Bonus for New Japanese Marathon National Record

http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASH3F66N3H3FUTQP02J.html

translated by Brett Larner

A new Japanese national record in the marathon will now be worth 100 million yen.  To provide extra motivation to the Japanese marathoning world in the buildup to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Japan Industrial Track and Field Association overseeing the country's corporate running league has approved plans to establish the exceptional bonus [worth roughly $1 million USD at normal exchange rates] and will make the formal decision at a meeting of its board of directors in Tokyo on March 18.

The national records symbolize the stagnation of Japan's marathoning world.  They have not been touched since Toshinari Takaoka ran 2:06:16 in 2002 and Mizuki Noguchi ran 2:19:12 in 2005.  In the Olympics as well, nobody has won a medal since Koichi Morishita took silver at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and Noguchi gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

However, thanks to the popularity of the ekiden the depth of athletes has increased tremendously, and if that can be channeled into the marathon then  success at the Tokyo Olympics will become a possibility.  In addition to the bonus for athletes who break the record, their coaches will also be paid 50 million yen [~$500,000 USD] with the goal of creating an active focus not just on the ekiden but also on the marathon.

There are still issues to be faced with collecting funds for the bonus from sponsors, but plans call for the bonus to be in place by the fall with possible provisions to extend it to athletes outside the corporate league as well.

Friday, March 13, 2015

In Disbelief That Tanaka Was Not Chosen for World Championships Team After Beating Foreign Competition For The Win

http://www.sankei.com/column/news/150313/clm1503130008-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

An editorial by prominent sportswriter Tadashi Imamura on the JAAF's decision to exclude Yokohama International Women's Marathon winner Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), coached by Sachiko Yamashita, 1991 World Championships marathon silver medalist and one of the only female coaches in Japan, in favor of Osaka International Women's Marathon 3rd-placer Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya), coached by Yutaka Taketomi, one of the JAAF executives in charge of the national marathoning program.

It's often said that you can make a plausible argument for anything.  I was reminded of those words when I saw the outcome of the selection process used to select the World Championships marathon teams announced on March 11.  The three women chosen for the team were led by Sairi Maeda who a couple of days ago ran an excellent time of 2:22:48 for 3rd and top Japanese honors at the Nagoya Women's Marathon, but the winner of November's Yokohama International Women's Marathon, Tomomi Tanaka, was left off the team.

Tanaka was the only Japanese woman to win one of the three selection races.  Comparing her time of 2:26:57 to that of the third-best of the three women named to the team, Risa Shigetomo who ran 2:26:39 for 3rd and top Japanese at the Osaka International Women's Marathon, it's hard to say one was better than the other, but no matter how you look at it when you beat all foreign competition to win and are still not chosen, there is something funny going on.

Given that Tanaka was head-to-head with a Kenyan at 40 km and outkicked her to win, I'm absolutely astounded that the selection committee gave as their reason for not selecting her the fact that she didn't run up front up early and had run timidly and passively compared to Shigetomo, who went out extremely fast and faded significantly over the second half.  Tanaka's was a winning strategy.  It's one thing if you say before the race, "If you don't frontrun we're not going to put you on the team," but criticizing how she won the race is just nitpicking.

There's always an uproar inherent in every national marathon team selection.  Both in contention to get the third spot on the 1968 Mexico City Olympics team, Kenji Kimihara and Yoshiaki Unetani were forced to undergo "additional screening," Kimihara sent off to Europe and Unetani to Mexico.  In the end the veteran Kimihara was handed his Olympic ticket and went on to take the silver medal.  That's a pretty good precedent.  There's loads of time until the World Championships happen in August.  Put both Shigetomo and Tanaka through some additional testing and in the end have them both race a half marathon to decide who goes.  Do it in a clear way like that and everybody will be convinced.  My biggest concern is that if this happens again, if the Federation again says, "Even if you do your absolute best, even if you win, we're still not going to pick you," it will kill our athletes' motivation.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Does Kirin's "Harecha Tea" Contain Banned Substances? Kirin Denies Claims After Athlete Warns Others Not to Drink It

http://nlab.itmedia.co.jp/nl/articles/1503/09/news147.html

translated by Brett Larner

A prominent member of the athletics community has warned the public that Kirin World Kitchen Harecha Tea may contain banned substances, but in response to an inquiry Kirin PR issued a statement saying, "Nothing which could be referred to as a banned substance has been detected."

Kirin World Kitchen Harecha Tea is a new product that was released on Feb. 24, an herbal tea combining lemon grass, mint, rosemary and geranium with green tea.  The problem in question is the use of geranium.  Geranium includes the banned substance methylhexaneamine, leading members of the athletics world to say, "Don't drink it before competitions," on their blogs and Twitter.  In particular, two-time World Championships bronze medalist Dai Tamesue's warning on the subject has had a great impact, retweeted more than 2000 times as of this writing.

"I received information that this tea contains a banned substance called geranium and that athletes should not drink it in the 5 days before a competition. http://t.co/rgvFfLRaNz" -- Dai Tamesue (@daijapan) March 8, 2015

In response to an inquiry on the subject, Kirin's public relations department responded, "This product has been inspected and nothing that could be called a banned substance was detected."  The banned substance methylhexaneamine is often listed as "geranium oil" or a similar name on supplement ingredient lists but is typically artificially produced through chemical synthesis.  Studies seem to indicate that it has not been detected in natural geranium, and at the present time no positive doping test results have occurred as a result of drinking Harecha Tea.

All told it looks safe to say that the chance that drinking Harecha Tea will result in testing positive for doping is extremely low.  To be completely sure, athletes may be better off not drinking it before competitions, but there seems to be no problem whatsoever with drinking it in normal day-to-day life.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Japan Announces Beijing World Championships Marathon Teams

by Brett Larner

The JAAF announced its men's and women's Beijing World Championships marathon teams, staying true to its word that members of its hand-picked National Team oversight program would receive priority over non-members who performed better in the official selection races.  Left off the team are Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda) with a 2:09:12 PB for 9th in Tokyo last month, and Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), winner of November's Yokohama Women's Marathon in 2:26:57.  Those selected for the team:

Women

Sairi Maeda (Team Daihatsu) - age 23
PB/SB: 2:22:48 (Nagoya 2015)

Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) - age 27
PB: 2:23:23 (Osaka Int'l 2012)   SB: 2:26:39 (Osaka Int'l 2015)

Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - age 30
PB/SB: 2:24:42 (Nagoya 2015)

Men

Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) - age 30
PB/SB: 2:07:39 (Tokyo 2015)

Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - age 33
PB: 2:08:00 (Tokyo 2013)   SB: 2:11:46 (Biwako 2015)

Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) - age 34
PB: 2:08:12 (Biwako 2003)   SB: 2:09:06 (Fukuoka 2014)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Waseda Head Coach Watanabe at Retirement Press Conference: "I Did All I Had to Do"

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20150309-OHT1T50100.html
http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/feature/hakone/20150309-OHT1T50174.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On March 9 Waseda University held a press conference at its Shinjuku campus in Tokyo to announce the transfer of leadership at the end of the month from ekiden team head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe, 41, to incoming head coach Yutaka Sagara, 34.  Watanabe, who spent 12 years leading Waseda including one year as assistant coach, had a light and relaxed expression as he said, "I did all I had to do, and that's why I am stepping down now."

Watanabe developed two Waseda runners, 2008 Olympian Kensuke Takezawa (now 28, Team Sumitomo Denko) and 2013 World Championships team member Suguru Osako (now 23, resigning from Team Nissin Shokuhin at the end of this month) into world-class athletes, and under his leadership in the 2010-11 season Waseda achieved an unprecedented triple crown of course record wins at all of the Big Three university ekidens, Izumo, Nationals and Hakone.  A Hakone star since his own days as a collegiate athlete, Watanabe said, "The Hakone Ekiden made me what I am.  Now I want to give back to Hakone."  With a rueful smile of tribute to Hakone's uphill Fifth Stage stars Ryuji Kashiwabara (formerly of Toyo University, now 25, Team Fujitsu) and Daichi Kamino (3rd yr, Aoyama Gakuin University), Watanabe said, "Those guys really kept handing it to us on the Fifth Stage."

Incoming head coach Sagara has worked with Watanabe as assistant coach since 2005.  "From Waseda to World Class, those are our key words," the new leader of the most prestigious university team in Japan said of his aspirations.  "While we cultivate athletes who can compete at the international level we also work to help athletes who follow the difficult path of walking on as general admission students to develop.  When we can fully fuse these twin objectives then Waseda University will truly be able to deliver strength.  If we don't set a goal as ambitious and difficult as rewriting the course record [10:49:27] Aoyama Gakuin University set this year as our target then we will never win the Hakone Ekiden."

With an eye toward the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and beyond to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Watanabe will take on a new challenge in April.  At the Waseda press conference he avoided answering questions about his future plans, saying, "I'm not going to talk about what comes next here," but he confirmed that he will continue his mission of cultivating athletes who can compete against the best in the world by taking over as head coach of the Sumitomo Denko corporate team.  At Sumitomo Denko Watanabe will reunite with arguably the most talented athlete he has ever coached, Takezawa.

Translator's note: On March 11 Watanabe will travel with JRN to New York for his final official duty as Waseda head coach, overseeing Waseda star Koki Takada's U.S. debut at the March 15 United Airlines NYC Half.

Hakone Uphill Star Kamino Almost Fully Recovered From Stress Fracture

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/feature/hakone/20150309-OHT1T50178.html

translated by Brett Larner

Having played a major role in Aoyama Gakuin University taking its first Hakone Ekiden win earlier this year, on Mar. 9 third-year Daichi Kamino, Hakone's "Third God of the Mountain," went to a Tokyo-area hospital to receive the hear the result of a thorough examination of a stress fracture in his right thigh, receiving the diagnosis that the injury is almost fully healed.

Head coach Susumu Hara, 48, commented, "He will start jogging again on the 10th, working back into about half the load of the team's sessions.  If he regains full fitness Kamino will run the Kanaguri Memorial Meet 5000 m on April 4 followed by the Hyogo Relay Carnival 10000 m on April 25.

Maeda After 2:22:48 - "I'm Getting My Nails Done and Going Shopping"

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2015/03/10/kiji/K20150310009951000.html

translated by Brett Larner

A night's sleep and a day removed from her all-time Japanese 8th-best 2:22:48 at the Nagoya Women's Marathon, Sairi Maeda (23, Team Daihatsu) vowed to "recharge [her] feminine charms."  Of her upcoming plans she said, "I want a break.  I'm going to go get my nails done and then go shopping."  It was clear that she planned to reward herself, but during some light recovery exercise earlier in the day in Nagoya she continue to experience pain in her left wrist from the fall she suffered 15 km into the race, meaning that she would also have to visit a hospital for x-rays.

With Maeda's place at August's Beijing World Championships a virtual certainty, Daihatsu head coach Kiyoshi Hayashi indicated that they are already fully focused on her performance there, saying, "I want to emphasize her training.  She won't be racing much."

Monday, March 9, 2015

Sakai Over Tanigawa in 1:02:54 for Tamana Half Win

http://mainichi.jp/sports/news/20150309k0000m050030000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

At the 66th Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon on Mar. 8 starting and finishing in front of Tamana City Hall in Kumamoto, invited athlete Koichi Sakai (Team Fujitsu) scored his first win in 1:02:54.  Just 4 seconds back in 2nd was Tomohiro Tanigawa (Team Konica Minolta), with Keijiro Mogi (Team Asahi Kasei) 3rd.  Still recovering from an injury to his left calf two weeks ago, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) was 24th in 1:06:37.

Sakai won the race with an early move.  "I don't have much speed, so if it comes down to a last kick I can't win," he said of the surge he threw in at 17 km to pull away from the seven-man lead pack and open a 4-second lead over Tanigawa.  With a thick and chunky build unusual for a distance runner, the 28-year-old Sakai has had success as a road racer ever since his days at Komazawa University.  Sakai was not one of Fujitsu's starting members for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national championships, but in today's race, he said, "I was in good shape."  Sakai's next race is April's Nagano Marathon where he is targeting his PB of 2:14:29.

Kawauchi commented, "I lost touch with the lead group in the first half.  The last part was decent, but my overall time wasn't as good as I expected so I need to rethink my goals for next week's Seoul International Marathon."

66th Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon
Tamana, Kumamoto, 3/8/15
click here for complete results

Men's Half Marathon
1. Koichi Sakai (Team Fujitsu) - 1:02:54
2. Tomohiro Tanigawa (Team Konica Minolta) - 1:02:58
3. Keijiro Mogi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:03:11
4. Kazuki Iwanaga (Team Kyudenko) - 1:03:22
5. Kento Otsu (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 1:03:29
-----
24. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:06:37

Women's Half Marathon
1. Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) - 1:17:01

Women's 10 km
1. Erika Ikeda (Team Higo Ginko) - 33:20
2. Kyoka Nakagawa (Kumamoto Shinai Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 33:25
3. Rina Yamashita (Oita Tomei H.S.) - 33:44
4. Yuka Koga (Juhachi Ginko) - 34:04
5. Haruna Maekawa (Juhachi Ginko) - 34:11

High School Boys' 10 km
1. Yuma Eda (Kokura H.S.) - 30:17
2. Yusuke Baba (Kuma Kogyo H.S.) - 30:17
3. Takeshi Nishida (Fukuoka Kogyo H.S.) - 30:18

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Kirwa Wins Nagoya in 2:22:08 CR, Konovalova Gets 40+ WR, Maeda Hits All-Time Japanese #8 After Fall

by Brett Larner
photos by @rikujolove

Despite the late withdrawal of domestic favorite Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), the Nagoya Women's Marathon delivered on the promise of its interesting young domestic field and accompanying seasoned internationals, answering Japan's hunger for a new women's star to pick up the legacy of days gone by with one of the best women's marathons in years.

Kenyan-born 2014 Asian Games gold medalist Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) and 40-year-old defending champion Mariya Konovalova (Russia) pushed the Kenyan pacer from the start, the first km going by in 3:17, well ahead of the planned 3:22-3:24 pace.  Things settled to the front end of that range by 5 km with a 16:50 split, 2:22:04 pace, by the lead group including Kirwa, Konovalova, Aheza Kiros (Ethiopia), Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku), Eri Hayakawa (Team Toto), collegiate NR holder Sairi Maeda (Team Daihatsu), under-20 NR holder Reia Iwade (Team Noritz), first-timers Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya), Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido), Keiko Nogami (Team Juhachi Ginko) and Shiho Takechi (Team Yamada Denki) and many more.  Kiros and Takechi were among the first to fall off, and after a 33:30 split at 10 km, 16:40 for the second 5 km, the leaders separated into two groups, ten up front behind the pacer.

15 km came in 50:33, the toughest uphills on the course contributing to the slower 5 km split after 10 km, before the first major action came.  Heading into the 15 km drink tables, the 23-year-old Maeda, who set a collegiate national record 2:26:46 in her debut at last year's Osaka International Women's Marathon, slowed slightly to avoid clipping the towering Konovalova.  Instead she was clipped from behind by Ohara, hitting the table and going down hard and Ohara likewise tripping over her and falling.  Maeda quickly bounced up and shot back to the front of the race despite blood trickling from a large gash on her left knee and raw scrapes on her right knee.  Ohara took longer to regain contact but seemed to have it together when she did.

The jolt shook up the field, the extra energy upping the pace slightly and dropping four Japanese women from the lead group.  The 20-year-old Iwade, whose 2:27:21 debut at age 19 came just 3 1/2 months ago in Yokohama, was the next to fade, left alone as the leaders went through 20 km in 1:07:29.  With a halfway split of 1:11:08 the pace was remarkably even, keeping just below the Federation's sub-2:22:30 standard for auto selection to the Beijing World Championships Japanese women's marathon team.  While Ohara and Maeda looked to have recovered from their fall Ito, the lone experienced marathoner among the three remaining Japanese women, seemed in danger of losing touch with Kirwa and Konovalova.

Without warning Ohara came apart, slowing rapidly and looking pained as the fall 20 minutes earlier caught up with her.  Kirwa took advantage with a short surge to test Konovalova, Ito and Maeda, the Kenyan pacer going with her as Kirwa dropped a 3:17 km.  Maeda initially responded before letting go and relaxing back to the other two chasers.  Her assessment complete, by 25 km Kirwa had let them come back in time for a 1:24:15 split, 2:22:12 pace.  Ito began to struggle to keep up, losing ground at a drink table and working her way back up only to slip away again at the next table.  Kirwa and Konovalova ran side-by-side with Maeda tucked right in behind, completely composed and never letting them get a stride away.  With a 1:41:10 split at 30 km, 2:22:18 pace, the pacer dropped, and Kirwa wasted almost no time in surging to open a lead that took her on track to go just under 2:22.

Konovalova and Maeda stayed together, Konavalova applying steady pressure and finally getting a gap on Maeda at 32 km.  And with that the finish order was set, the race becoming one against the clock.  Kirwa tried to keep sub-2:22 together, never on track to break her 2:21:41 best but just skimming the line before coming into Nagoya Dome for a 2:22:08 finish, a new course record and one of the fastest times ever run in Japan.  Konavalova was steady all the way to a 2:22:27 PB for 2nd, a massive new world record for the 40+ age group.

Maeda whipped the home crowd, which had not seen a Japanese woman go sub-2:23 since 2007, into a frenzy when she hit 35 km on 2:22:45 pace.  The blood still trickling down her left leg, her projection slowed by seconds at every stress-inducing km mark.  2:22:47.  2:22:51.  2:22:58 at 40 km.  2:23:00 with 2 km to go.  It looked like she was going to miss it, but after passing the 2 km to go sign Maeda let go, kicking it under 3:20/km and coming in to ecstatic fanfare in 3rd in 2:22:48 to become the 8th-fastest Japanese woman of all time.  And surely the fastest to do it after falling.  This was the run Japan has been waiting for for a long time, all the greater in that Maeda toughed out a major setback to do it.  Let's hope that there's more to come, and that the men her age were watching and took the right message home.

Ito held on for 4th in 2:24:42, a PB by nearly a minute, with the debuting Takanaka and Nogami coming through in 5th and 6th in 2:28:09 and 2:28:19.  Italy's Anna Incerti, never a factor up front, moved up to 7th in 2:29:10, running down Iwade who faded to 2:29:16 for 8th in her second try at the marathon.  Former national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), now 35, ran a sensible race outside the lead pack and looked like she had a shot at her best marathon in years but couldn't hold on and slowed to 2:31:15 for 15th.  Ohara suffered the effects of the fall mightily over the second half, finishing 124th in 3:05:21.

Although Maeda missed the Federation's sub-2:22:30 standard, justifiably nobody seemed to care.  Like Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) in Tokyo two weeks ago, Maeda's historic result was far and above any of the other contenders and made her a lock for the Beijing team.  Ito's time was 2 minutes faster than the top Japanese women in the other main selection races, 2:26:57 by Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) in Yokohama and 2:26:39 by Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) in Osaka, giving her a good shot at being picked over one of them especially given her status as a member of the National Team project.  The criteria by which team lineups are decided are becoming less and less clear, but however it plays out the announcement of the men's and women's teams is due out this Wednesday.  With a place on the Rio de Janeiro Olympics team guaranteed to the highest-placing Japanese man and woman to make the top eight in Beijing that's no small announcement.

Nagoya Women's Marathon
Nagoya, Aichi, 3/8/15
click here for complete results and splits

1. Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) - 2:22:08 - CR
2. Mariya Konovalova (Russia) - 2:22:27 - PB - 40+ WR
3. Sairi Maeda (Japan/Daihatsu) - 2:22:48 - PB - all-time JPN #8
4. Mai Ito (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:24:42 - PB
5. Risa Takenaka (Japan/Shiseido) - 2:28:09 - debut
6. Keiko Nogami (Japan/Juhachi Ginko) - 2:28:19 - debut
7. Anna Incerti (Italy) - 2:29:10
8. Reia Iwade (Japan/Noritz) - 2:29:16
9. Olena Burkovska (Ukraine) - 2:29:45
10. Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) - 2:30:21
11. Aki Odagiri (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:30:24 - PB
12. Miho Ihara (Japan/Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 2:30:52 - debut
13. Yoko Shibui (Japan/Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:31:15
14. Shiho Takechi (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 2:31:18 - debut
15. Haruna Takada (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 2:31:23 - debut
16. Kikuyo Tsuzaki (Japan/Noritz) - 2:32:37 - PB
17. Yuka Yano (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:32:52
18. Saki Tabata (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:34:35 - PB
19. Yuka Hakoyama (Japan/Wacoal) - 2:35:23
20. Adriana da Silva (Brazil) - 2:35:28
21. Yukari Abe (Japan/Shimamura) - 2:35:47 - debut
22. Risa Takemura (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:36:10 - PB
23. Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/YWC) - 2:36:32
24. Mayumi Fujita (Japan/Juhachi Ginko) - 2:37:09
25. Kana Orino (Japan/Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:38:55
-----
124. Rei Ohara (Japan/Tenmaya) - 3:05:21 - debut
-----
DNF - Misato Horie (Japan/Noritz)
DNF - Aheza Kiros (Ethiopia)

text (c) 2015 Brett Larner, all rights reserved 
photos (c) 2015 M. Kawaguchi, all rights reserved

Saturday, March 7, 2015

'Construction on New Tokyo Olympic Stadium Set to Begin in October as Demolition on 1964 Arena Begins'

http://www.insidethegames.biz/olympics/summer-olympics/2020/1025974-construction-on-new-tokyo-olympic-stadium-set-to-begin-in-october-as-demolition-on-1964-arena-begins

Marathon National Record Holder Takaoka to Take Over as Kanebo Head Coach

http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASH3645Z2H36UTQP00B.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Mar. 6 Kanebo Cosmetics announced that Japanese men's 10000 m and marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka, 44, an assistant coach with the Kanebo distance running team, has been named head coach effective April 1.  Current head coach Masashi Otokita will retire.  Takaoka attended Kyoto's Rakunan H.S. and Ryukoku University before joining the Kanebo team in 1993.  He finished 7th in the 10000 m final at the 2000 Sydney Olympics before setting the national record of 27:35.09 the next year.  Turning his track speed to the marathon, at the 2002 Chicago Marathon he ran a national record 2:06:16.  Both records still stand.

Translator's note: Takaoka joined the Kanebo coaching staff in April, 2009 after retiring following a DNF at the 2009 Tokyo Marathon.  In the summer of 2013 the Kanebo team was suspended by its sponsor corporation after a scandal involving harmful side effects of Kanebo's cosmetic products.  The team's website remains down as of this writing.  Kanebo returned to competition at the start of the new fiscal year in April, 2014 but failed to qualify for the 2015 New Year Ekiden national championships.  Team member Hiroki Kadota is one of the contenders for the 2015 Beijing World Championships marathon team after finishing 2nd in 2:10:46 at February's Beppu-Oita Mainihi Marathon.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Nagoya Women's Marathon Preview (updated)

by Brett Larner

Update: Kizaki has withdrawn.

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is one of the Japanese races taking steps to adapt to the mass-participation boom, changing from an elite-only format but still keeping its identity by incorporating a mass field that makes it the largest women-only marathon in the world.  At the front end, like last week's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon for the men Nagoya is the last chance for Japanese women to qualify for the 2015 Beijing World Championships marathon team.  While Japanese men's marathoning has grown over the last five years, women's marathoning has been hit by an absence of new top level-names, today's top women running 2:23-2:25 where they would have been 4 minutes faster 10-15 years ago.

But Nagoya has done a great job of pulling together most of the best current women and future hopefuls for some kind of return to past success.  In the house are the fastest Japanese woman of 2013-14, Asian Games silver medalist Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), 2:25 women Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and Eri Hayakawa (Team Toto), collegiate record holder Sairi Maeda (Team Daihatsu) and under-20 record holder Reia Iwade (Team Noritz) both running their second marathons after successful debuts, debuting half marathon stars Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya), Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido) and Shiho Takechi (Team Yamada Denki) and more.

And they've also got together an international field featuring at least one name, Asian Games gold medalist Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain), that should provide some extra motivation, Kirwa having run most of the Asian Games marathon side by side with Kizaki before getting away late in the race.  The other six international women, Mariya Konovalova (Russia), Aheza Kiros (Ethiopia), Anna Incerti (Italy), Olena Burkovska (Ukraine), Woynishet Girma (Ethiopia) and Adriana Da Silva (Brazil) have PBs evenly interspersed from 2:22:46 to 2:29:17, promising competition for the Japanese field no matter how the race goes.

Kirwa and Kizaki look like the clear favorites, and ideally the race will play out as a rematch between them with Maeda and Iwade in the mix, but whether even that would be enough to bring the kinds of times that used to be the norm remains to be seen.  With the bar for the World Championships team far lower than the Federation's sub-2:22:30 standard so far, 2:26:39 by Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) in Osaka, 2:26:57 by Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) in Yokohama and 2:30:26 by Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) in Hokkaido, it wouldn't take much to feel like a step back in the right direction.

The Nagoya Women's Marathon will be broadcast live nationwide on Sunday, March 8 starting at 9:00 a.m.  Follow @JRNLive for live raceday coverage.

Nagoya Women's Marathon
Nagoya, Aichi, 3/8/15
click here for complete field listing

Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa (Bahrain) - 2:21:41 (Amsterdam 2012)
Mariya Konovalova (Russia) - 2:22:46 (Chicago 2013)
Ryoko Kizaki (Japan/Daihatsu) - 2:23:34 (Nagoya Women's 2013)
Aheza Kiros (Ethiopia) - 2:24:30 (Dubai 2013)
Mai Ito (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:25:26 (Nagoya Women's 2012)
Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) - 2:25:31 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Anna Incerti (Italy) - 2:25:32 (Berlin 2011)
Sairi Maeda (Japan/Daihatsu) - 2:26:46 (Osaka Women's 2014)
Olena Burkovska (Ukraine) - 2:27:07 (Hannover 2013)
Reia Iwade (Japan/Noritz) - 2:27:21 (Yokohama Women's 2014)
Woynishet Girma (Ethiopia) - 2:27:51 (Amsterdam 2010)
Misato Horie (Japan/Noritz) - 2:27:57 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Adriana Da Silva (Brazil) - 2:29:17 (Tokyo 2012)
Yuka Hakoyama (Japan/Wacoal) - 2:30:48 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Asami Furuse (Japan/Kyocera) - 2:30:57 (Nagoya Women's 2013)
Yuka Yano (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:31:02 (Kitakyushu 2014)
Manami Kamitanida (Japan/Hitachi) - 2:31:34 (Tokyo 2014)
Yuko Mizuguchi (Japan/Denso) - 2:31:39 (Nagoya Women's 2014)

Debut
Rei Ohara (Japan/Tenmaya) - 1:09:45 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2013)
Risa Takenaka (Japan/Shiseido) - 1:10:10 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Shiho Takechi (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 1:11:33 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Collegiate Marathon Record Holder Sairi Maeda and Mother Junko to Reunite at Sunday's Nagoya Women's Marathon

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2015/02/20/kiji/K20150220009838930.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Twenty Japanese and international elite athletes are scheduled to run Sunday's Nagoya Women's Marathon, the final selection race for the 2015 Beijing World Championships marathon team.  Among them is 23-year-old Sairi Maeda (Team Daihatsu), who in her debut marathon at last year's Osaka International Women's Marathon as a senior at Bukkyo University finished 4th overall in 2:26:46 to better the national university record by 4 minutes.  Running in the same race in the general division, her mother Junko Maeda ran 2:55:24 for a combined time of 5:22:10, a new mother-daughter world record by more than 8 minutes.  Now 52, Junko will again line up behind her daughter in the general division in Nagoya looking for another fast family outing.

Also in the field are 2014 Asian Games silver medalist Ryoko Kizaki (29, Team Daihatsu), under-20 national record holder Reia Iwade (20, Team Noritz) and 11 other domestic athletes, along with 7 international elites including Maria Konovalova (40, Russia).

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Former Marathon NR Holder Atsushi Fujita to Become Assistant Coach at Komazawa University

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20150301-OHT1T50255.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Now an assistant coach at the Fujitsu corporate team where he spent his professional career, former marathon national record holder Atsushi Fujita, 38, will return to his alma mater, 2011-2014 National University Men's Ekiden champion Komazawa University, in April to take a position as assistant coach.  Fujita has already been coaching at Komazawa twice a week but as of the start of the new academic and fiscal year in April he will leave Fujitsu and become an employee of Komazawa to focus all of his energy into helping develop the country's top collegiate talent.  "It's a great responsibility," Fujita said, facing his new position with full seriousness.

As a student at Komazawa Fujita ran the Hakone Ekiden all four years from 1996 through 1999.  As a senior he broke the course record on Hakone's competitive Fourth Stage prior to its shortening to its current length of 18.5 km.  While he was a student there Komazawa never managed to take the final step to the overall Hakone win, but the year after he graduated it finally scored that long hoped-for victory, the first of six in nine years.  Since then Fujita has been credited as the man who laid the foundations on which Komazawa became a giant.  At the Fujitsu corporate team he ran a then-Japanese national record of 2:06:51 to win the 2000 Fukuoka International Marathon.  Since his retirement in 2013 he has been gaining valuable leadership experience as a member of Fujitsu's coaching staff.

Komazawa head coach Hiroaki Oyagi, 56, commented, "Fujita is the best athlete in the history of Komazawa University.  He will make an outstanding and supportive coach," placing his full trust in Fujita.  "In terms of age," Oyagi added, "I can't keep doing this forever," suggesting that he may be grooming his former star to succeed him as head coach.  Fujita could turn out to be the secret ingredient Komazawa needs to take it back to the Hakone Ekiden victory stand for the first time in eight years.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Osako Quits Nissin Shokuhin Corporate Team For Oregon

http://sports.nissin.com/rikujo/weblog/sp/2015/03/post-52.html

translated by Brett Larner

At this time we would like to announce that Suguru Osako, who has had great success as a member of the Nissin Shokuhin Group corporate team, will resign his position with the team on Mar. 31, 2015.  We extend our thanks to all the fans who have generously given their warmest support.  All of us at Nissin Shokuhin will continue to cheer Osako on as he leaves to take on the world in pursuit of his life's dream.

Osako's comments: "During the last year in which I've been based in the United States while competing I've become confident that I can race the way I see myself racing, and I've decided that it is time to start over based in Oregon, U.S.A. as a professional athlete.  And for everyone at the Nissin Shokuhin Group who supported me this year and who are willingly letting me go, I will give it all to produce the results."

Asian Games Silver Medalist Kitaoka Announces Retirement

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2015/03/01/kiji/K20150301009898830.html

translated by Brett Larner

2010 Guangzhou Asian Games men's marathon silver medalist Yukihiro Kitaoka (32, Team NTN) announced his retirement on Mar. 1 following the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  In the future he will join NTN's coaching staff, helping to develop its next generation of athletes.

At Lake Biwa Kitaoka finished 74th in 2:27:03.  "I wanted to run one more good race, but things didn't go very well this last year," he said.  "The decision to retire leaves me feeling free and clear."

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hakone Champion AGU's Isshiki Leads 27 Under 1:03 and 265 Sub-1:06 at National University Half Marathon Championships

by Brett Larner
videos by Ekiden News



Two months after his 3rd-place finish on the Hakone Ekiden's most competitive stage helped put Aoyama Gakuin University in position for the overall win and a month after running a 1:02:09 PB at the Marugame Half, 20-year-old AGU second-year Tadashi Isshiki scored his first national title with a 1:02:11 win at the 18th National University Men's Half Marathon Championships in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park.  After record-setting depth last year when a world record 207 men broke 1:06:00 the National University Half blew minds again this year, the top 12 all breaking 1:02:30 and 27 collegiate men going under 1:03:00.  With perfect conditions today the field excelled, completely rewriting the record books as 265 men went under 1:06:00.

With places on the Japanese team for this summer's World University Games half marathon for the top three finishers and a bigger dream hovering in the distance 5 1/2 years away the massive pack went out fast and steadily, hitting 5 km in 14:45, 1:02:14 pace, and 10 km in 29:33, 1:02:20 pace, before getting onto the undulating inner loop of the park.

2014 National University Men's Ekiden champion Komazawa University first-year Naoki Kudo, on a rapid ascent since his out-of-nowhere 1:02:18 debut at November's Ageo City Half Marathon, went to the front on the hills, pushing the pace but not able to get a clear lead over the last 5 km.  Side-by-side with Isshiki at 19 km with debuting Teikyo University third-year Yuta Takahashi close behind, Kudo fell victim to Isshiki's better closing speed over the last km, taking 2nd in a PB 1:02:12.  Takahashi was another second back in 3rd in 1:02:13, Tokai University third-year Ryo Shirayoshi sealing up the World University Games team lineup as alternate in 4th in a PB 1:02:16.

The next 8 finishers all broke 1:02:30 for the first time, including Isshiki's first-year teammates Kazuki Tamura and Yuta Shimoda, whose 1:02:22 was the fastest-ever by a Japanese 18-year-old, and Daito Bunka University senior Hiroshi Ichida whose twin brother Takashi will run the Mar. 15 NYC Half.  In 13th, the academically-oriented Kyoto University's self-coached Kentaro Hirai set a new Kansai Region collegiate record of 1:02:30, a truly sensational time for a university athlete from outside the Hakone Ekiden-centric Kanto Region.

14 more runners followed Hirai under 1:03:00, and they continued to come in by the dozen after that even with most of the best Hakone collegiates not running -- out of the top 3 men on each of the 2015 Hakone Ekiden's 10 stages only 7 ran, and likewise only a dozen or so of the roughly 50 current Japanese collegiates to have already broken 1:03:00 before this race were in the field without any of the 4 who have sub-61 or sub-62 PBs.  Top general division finisher Shinichi Yamashita of the Takigahara SDF Base ran 1:04:06 and barely made the top 70.  The depth was in a different league from anything ever seen before, even at last year's Nationals or November's Ageo City Half Marathon. 

1st: 1:02:11
10th: 1:02:23
25th: 1:02:55
50th: 1:03:50
100th: 1:04:28
200th: 1:05:21
300th: 1:06:17
400th: 1:07:14
500th: 1:08:16
600th: 1:09:24

Japanese university men's running is going through an unprecedented surge in quality right now.  There's no telling where it's going to end or what the long-term outcome is going to be, especially as they hit the stolid corporate league, but there's never been a more exciting time to be here to see it happening.  Look for an in-depth article on the rise of Japanese university men's distance running over the last 20 years later this year on JRN.



18th National University Men's Half Marathon Championships
Tachikawa City Half Marathon
Tachikawa, Tokyo, 3/1/15
click here for complete university division results
general division results here

Men
1. Tadashi Isshiki (2nd yr, Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:11
2. Naoki Kudo (1st yr, Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:12 - PB
3. Yuta Takahashi (3rd yr, Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:13 - debut
4. Ryo Shirayoshi (3rd yr, Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:16 - PB
5. Naoto Uchida (2nd yr, Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:20 - PB
6. Kenya Sonota (3rd yr, Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:20 - PB
7. Shota Baba (3rd yr, Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:21 - PB
8. Kazuki Tamura (1st yr, Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:22 - PB
9. Yuta Shimoda (1st yr, Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:22 - PB
10. Satoshi Kikuchi (2nd yr, Josai Univ.) - 1:02:23 - PB
11. Hiroshi Ichida (4th yr, Daito Bunka Univ.) - 1:02:25 - PB
12. Shoya Okuno (3rd yr, Nittai Univ.) - 1:02:26 - PB
13. Kentaro Hirai (3rd yr, Kyoto Univ.) - 1:02:30 - PB
14. Naoya Takahashi (3rd yr, Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:31 - PB
15. Yusei Tsutsumi (3rd yr, Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:38 - PB
16. Ryohei Nishiyama (3rd yr, Kanagawa Univ.) - 1:02:38 - PB
17. Yuki Muta (3rd yr, Meiji Univ.) - 1:02:40 - PB
18. Yusuke Nishiyama (2nd yr, Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:43 - PB
19. Masahiro Miura (3rd yr, Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:45 - PB
20. Jinnosuke Matsumura (2nd yr, Josai Univ.) - 1:02:46 - PB
21. Rei Omori (1st yr, Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:47 - PB
22. Toshio Takaki (3rd yr, Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:51 - PB
23. Sho Tokunaga (3rd yr, Chuo Univ.) - 1:02:52 - PB
24. Taiga Machizawa (2nd yr, Chuo Univ.) - 1:02:52 - PB
25. Yuichi Yasui (1st yr, Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:55 - PB
26. Shinichiro Nakamura (3rd, Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:57
27. Kazuki Uemura (3rd yr, Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:58 - PB
-----
50. Takaya Sato (2nd yr, Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:50 - PB
57. Ryusei Yoshinaga (1st yr, Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:59 - debut 
100. Junya Matsuzaki (2nd yr, Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:28 - PB
159. Kohei Mukai (1st yr, Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:59 - PB
200. Takumi Hanazawa (1st yr, Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:05:21 - PB
265. Taiga Hosobuchi (2nd yr, Teikyo Univ.) - 1:05:59
300. Ryohei Sakamoto (3rd yr, Senshu Univ.) - 1:06:17
380. Chikato Shimoguchi (3rd yr, Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:06:59 - PB
400. Shizuya Uchimoto (2nd yr, Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:07:14
407. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:07:19
476. Masaki Kimura (3rd yr, Takushoku Univ.) - 1:07:59 - PB
500. Makoto Iwasaki (1st yr, Surugadai Univ.) - 1:08:16
568. Yuki Kujirai (4th yr, Kokushikan Univ.) - 1:08:58
600. Daichi Ohara (1st yr, Heisei Kokusai Univ.) - 1:09:24
643. Hikaru Takano (2nd yr, Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 1:09:59

Women
1. Kyoko Koyama (Juntendo Univ.) - 1:17:21
2. Miki Kobayashi (Juntendo Univ.) - 1:18:26
3. Riho Nishino (Juntendo Univ.) - 1:19:36

text and photos (c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Ndungu Back for Another Win at 70th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon

by Brett Larner

Having left Japan's corporate team system, 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon winner Samuel Ndungu (Kenya) was back to take the top spot again in Biwako's cold and rainy 70th edition.  With a target pace of 3:00/km for the front group including last year's winner Bazu Worku (Ethiopia), 2014 European champion Daniele Meucci (Italy), Mongolian national record holder Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Team NTN) and Japanese World Championships hopefuls Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) and Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta), Kenyan pacers Kimutai Kiplimo and Silas Kimutai were not even close, going through 2 km in 6:19 and hitting 5 km in 15:30, well over 2:10 marathon pace.

Collegiate runner Atsuya Hiraiwa (Meijo Univ.) pulled in front of the pacers to try to get the race moving, but although the next 10 km were decent, by 20 km they were back to another 15:30 split.  Halfway came in 1:04:39 with a pack of 40 still together, but a few meters later at the turnaround point pacer Silas Kimutai somehow didn't notice the giant cone marking the turnaround, the road ahead being blocked, or the lead vehicles making a 180' turn as he continued to run straight.  Bazu followed him as the rest of the pack made the turn, Ndungu showing a moment of hesitation before turning.

Impatient with the halfway split, Bat-Ochir took off into the lead, quickly joined by Ndungu as at least a half dozen people went by remaining pacer Kimutai Kiplimo before he reacted.  Silas Kimutai hauled it get back in front, but for most of the rest of the way it was Bat-Ochir and Ndungu doing the pacing, going in front when the pacers repeatedly slowed, gesturing and talking to them.  After another slow 15:21 split from 20 to 25 km Maeda came up and made the hand gesture for three, i.e. the target pace, to Silas Kimutai several times, but Kimutai ignored him until Ndungu again did the job himself.

Over that 5 km the lead pack lost about a third of its members, favorite Ugachi among those unable to keep up.  Silas Kimutai also couldn't keep up, off the back of the lead pack before 29 km with his colleague stepping out at 30 km.  Bat-Ochir immediately turned on, Ndungu and Maeda going with him and shortly joined by Meucci.  Just after the 31 km drink table, at exactly the spot where he made his race-winning move in similar conditions three years ago, Ndungu put a long surge into play that dropped the competition and led him all the way to the win in a slight negative split of 2:09:08.  In his post-race comments Ndungu showed some frustration with the pacers but, in still quite smooth Japanese, shared his happiness at making a successful comeback.

Bat-Ochir, Meucci and Maeda took turns leading in the chase trio, but a rush from Bat-Ochir at 36.5 km was too much for Maeda to handle.  Meucci tailed Bat-Ochir all the way back to the track, dropping him with 400 m to go but misjudging his timing and coming up 2 seconds short of his PB in 2:11:10 for 2nd.  Bat-Ochir kept 3rd in 2:11:18, as in Fukuoka beating the top Japanese man as Maeda came in far back in 4th in 2:11:46.  Last year's top Japanese man Sasaki was 9th in 2:14:27.  The other domestic favorite Ugachi, running his fourth marathon since debuting in January, 2014 in Dubai, staggered around the last lap of the track just outside the top 25.

With five Japanese men having run sub-2:10 times in the selection races in Fukuoka and Tokyo and the top Japanese man in the other selection race in Beppu-Oita, Hiroki Kadota (Team Kanebo), having run 2:10:46 for 2nd overall, Maeda's performance means Maeda would have almost no chance of making a third World Championships team if it weren't for his National Team program membership.  Kadota and Tokyo's second Japanese man Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda), 9th overall in 2:09:12, look like the two contenders for the last spot alongside Fukuoka's top Japanese man Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda), 4th in 2:09:06, and Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), 7th in Tokyo in a strong 2:07:39.  However, Kadota, Sano and Fujiwara were not named to the the 2014-15 National Team program, meaning nothing but question marks until the team lineup announcement due up after next weekend's final women's selection race at the Nagoya Women's Marathon.

70th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
Otsu, Shiga, 3/1/15
click here for complete results

1. Samuel Ndungu (Kenya) - 2:09:08
2. Daniele Meucci (Italy) - 2:11:10
3. Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:11:18
4. Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:11:46
5. Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:12:29 - debut
6. Eric Ndiema (Kenya) - 2:13:28
7. Bazu Worku (Ethiopia) - 2:13:32
8. Rui Yonezawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:14:13
9. Satoru Sasaki (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:14:27
10. Kenji Higashino (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:14:48
11. Bunta Kuroki (Japan/Sagawa Express) - 2:15:18
12. Ryoichi Matsuo (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:15:20
13. Shingo Igarashi (Japan/Subaru) - 2:15:28
14. Yusuke Sato (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:15:30 - debut
15. Takumi Kiyotani (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:15:31
16. Yuko Matsumiya (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:15:40
17. Takayuki Matsumiya (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:15:41
18. Keita Akiba (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:16:10
19. Takuji Morimoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:16:22
20. Takuya Ishikawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:16:30
21. Koji Matsuoka (Japan/Mazda) - 2:16:50
22. Noriaki Takahashi (Japan/DeNA RC) - 2:16:53
23. Masatoshi Kikuchi (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:17:14
24. Masaki Matsui (Japan/Tokyo Kogyo Univ.) - 2:17:16
25. Chin Ping Ho (Taiwan) - 2:17:42
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DNF - Fikadu Girma (Ethiopia)
DNF - Agato Yashin Hassan (Ethiopia/Chuo Hatsujo)
DNF - Wirimai Juwawo (Zimbabwe)
DNF - Stepan Kiselev (Russia)
DNF - Daisuke Shimizu (Japan/Kanebo)
DNF - Jose Antonio Uribe (Mexico)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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