Tuesday, November 29, 2016

46 Heats of 5000 m in 14 Hours This Sunday at Nittai University Time Trials

by Brett Larner

Yokohama's Nippon Taiiku University, Nittai for short, is the site of Japan's biggest long distance track time trial series.  Held eight or nine weekends a year, Saturdays typically feature everything except the men's 5000 m, sometimes including middle distance but usually men's and women's 3000 m, women's 5000 m and men's 10000 m races.  Sundays are usually devoted exclusively to the men's 5000 m, and this Sunday's 255th edition may set a new record for sheer organizational ability.

Heat 1 begins at 7:30 a.m. sharp.  Fourteen hours and four minutes later, the fastest heat, Heat 46, is scheduled to start at 9:34 p.m.  46 heats with 45~55 runners apiece finely graded by target time, starting under 19 minutes apart on average.  Near the end of the day that's down to 17 minutes apart.  There's zero room for error on the organizers' side, but you can be sure that it will go off with the same clockwork precision as the Tokyo train system.  You can be sure too that there will be zero sympathy for runners who don't know exactly where and when they are supposed to be.  Let's hope that Nittai University shares its logistical acumen with the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee over the next three and a half years.  So far it looks like they need it.

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, November 28, 2016

Karemi Wins Third-Straight Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler, Kamino Over Imai and Kashiwabara for 2nd

http://www.daily.co.jp/general/2016/11/28/0009704327.shtml

translated and edited by Brett Larner


The 41st running of the Kumamoto Kosa 10 Mile Road Race took place Nov. 27 on a course starting and finishing in front of Kosa Town Hall.  Two-time winner Jeremiah Karemi Thuku (Team Toyota Kyushu) made it three-straight wins as he braved cold and rainy conditions to break the tape in 46:19.

All three of the Hakone Ekiden uphill Fifth Stage's superstar "Gods of the Mountain" raced, with the most recent of the troika, 2016 Aoyama Gakuin University graduate Daichi Kamino (Team Konica Minolta) outrunning the first runner to bear that title, Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), by 8 seconds for 2nd.  Toyo University graduate Ryuji Kashiwabara (Team Fujitsu) dropped out partway.

The showdown went to the youngest of the three.  In just his first pro season, Kamino was elated to have beaten the original God of the Mountain Imai, who has gone on to great success in the marathon with a 2:07:39 at last year's Tokyo Marathon.  "Beating Imai is a major confidence booster," Kamino smiled in obvious happiness.

Before the race Kamino had relaxed goals, aiming "just to make top three."  But once he was on the starting line he was itching to race, and what he delivered was unchanged from the aggression he showed in his Hakone uphill heroics in university.  Kamino dueled with Japan-based Kenyans Karemi and Edward Waweru (Team NTN), ultimately taking 2nd.

The day before the race Kamino did his final tuneups near Kumamoto Castle.  "I got a feeling for how much damage there really was in the Kumamoto Earthquake," he said.  "I hope that the affected people can find some inspiration and courage in my running."

Following the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national corporate men's championships he will run February's Ome 30 km Road Race with his marathon debut planned next season.  "I'm aiming to be ready to go for the Japanese national record my first time out," he said.

41st Kumamoto Kosa 10 Mile Road Race
Kosa, Kumamoto, 11/27/16
click here for complete results

Men's 10 Miles
1. Jeremiah Karemi Thuku (Toyota Kyushu) - 46:19
2. Daichi Kamino (Konica Minolta) - 46:38
3. Edward Waweru (NTN) - 46:44
4. Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu) - 46:46
5. Ryo Kiname (Mitsubishi HPS) - 46:47
6. Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu) - 46:50
7. Hiroto Inoue (Mitsubishi HPS) - 46:51
8. Kiyoshi Koga (Yasukawa Denki) - 46:51
9. Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.) - 46:55
10. Masaya Taguchi (Honda) - 46:57
-----
25. Yuma Eda (Toyota Kyushu) - 47:21
50. Shuhei Yamaguchi (Asahi Kasei) - 47:56
75. Toshiaki NIshizawa (SGH Group) - 48:43
100. Masahiro Uchida (Press Kogyo) - 49:41
-----
DNF - Ryuji Kashiwabara (Fujitsu)

Daito Bunka University Defends Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden Title

http://mainichi.jp/articles/20161128/ddl/k09/050/090000c

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The 3rd edition of the Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden took place Nov. 27 in Nikko, Tochigi.  Fifteen teams from fourteen universities six stage, 23.4 km course with 875 m net elevation gain, with Daito Bunka University winning for the second year in a row in 1:32:41.  Hakuoh University was the top Tochigi team at 7th. Daito Bunka started slow, in 8th at the end of the First Stage but its second runner Kasumi Yamaguchi setting a new stage record. Daito Bunka moved up gradually through the field from there, finally going from 2nd to 1st on the anchor stage.  Osaka Geijutsu University was 2nd, with the Tokyo Nogyo University A-team taking 3rd.

The Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden is organized by local businesses and the Nikko city government, who together aim to earn a name for Nikko as "The runner's holy land."  The ekiden was established in 2014 with the hope of creating a "women's Hakone Ekiden."  Its course begins at 410 m elevation at Nikko Daiyagawa Park, passing the World Heritage Site shrines of Nikko before climbing up the Irohazaka ascent to Nikko Futarasan Shrine at 1285 m elevation.  According to organizers, with an almost entirely uphill route it is one of Japan's best mountain race courses.

Translator's note: The Nikko Irohazaka course almost perfectly matches the length and elevation gain of the Hakone Ekiden's legendary Fifth Stage. However, while one university man on a ten-man team runs Hakone's Fifth, Nikko Irohazaka divides it into six short sections with no woman running longer than 5.2 km.

3rd Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden
Nikko, Tochigi, 11/27/16
15 teams, 6 stages, 23.4 km
click here for complete results


Top Team Results
1. Daito Bunka Univ. - 1:32:41
2. Osaka Geijutsu Univ - 1:33:06
3. Tokyo Nogyo Univ. A - 1:33:36
4. Kansai Gaikokugo Univ. - 1:33:47
5. Chuo Univ. - 1:34:47
6. Tokyo Nogyo Univ. B - 1:37:32
7. Hakuoh Univ. - 1:37:43
8. Toyo Univ. - 1:38:33
9. Seitoku Univ. - 1:38:35
10. Nihon Joshi Taiiku Univ. - 1:39:08

Stage Best Performances

First Stage (4.7 km, ~100 m ascent)  
1. Rino Goshima (Chuo Univ.) - 16:55

Second Stage (5.2 km, ~200 m ascent) 
1. Kasumi Yamaguchi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 18:11 -  CR

Third Stage (3.5 km, ~100 m ascent) 
1. Ayano Morita (Osaka Geijutsu Univ.) - 14:53

Fourth Stage (3.0 km, ~100 m ascent) 
1. Noe Ito (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 13:30

Fifth Stage (3.5 km, ~400 m ascent) 
1. Nana Ogawa (Tokyo Nogyo Univ. A) - 14:40

Sixth Stage (3.5 km, ~25 m descent) 
1. Saki Minakawa (Tokyo Nogyo Univ. B) - 12:10

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Yamauchi Wins IAU 100 km World Championships

by Brett Larner


Hideaki Yamauchi become the fourth Japanese man in the last ten years to win the IAU 100 km World Championships, coming from three minutes behind to outrun South Africa's Bongmusa Mthembu, Italian three-time world champion Giorgio Calcaterra and others to win Sunday's race in Los Alcazares, Spain by nearly six minutes.  Yamauchi's winning time of 6:18:22 was the fifth-fastest ever for the 100 km distance, making him the all-time #4 man worldwide just behind world record holder Takahiro Sunada.  Yamauchi's teammates Kaitaro Toike and Yoshiki Takada took 8th and 23rd, giving Japan the team silver medal by a slim margin behind South Africa.  The U.S.A. team took bronze on the strength of two top five finishes.

No Japanese women scored individual medals, but with a 5-6-7 finish separated by only 17 seconds the trio of Mikiko Ota, Aiko Kanematsu and Chiyuki Mochizuki scored the team gold medal by more than 25 minutes over silver medalist Croatia.  Teammate Mai Fujisawa was close behind in 8th in 7:48:27.  Despite no finishers in the top ten, the U.S.A. women went home with team bronze to match their men's team's.  Kirstin Bull of Australia won the individual gold medal by almost 12 minutes, leading Australia to a 5th-place team finish overall.

IAU 100 km World Championships
Los Alcazares, Spain, 11/27/16
click here for complete results

Men's 100 km
1. Hideaki Yamauchi (Japan) - 6:18:22
2. Bongmusa Mthembu (South Africa) - 6:24:05
3. Patrick Reagan (U.S.A.) - 6:35:42
4. Tomasz Walerowicz (Poland) - 6:37:23
5. Geoff Burns (U.S.A.) - 6:38:33
6. Jose Antonio Requejo (Spain) - 6:41:08
7. Giorgio Calcaterra (Italy) - 6:41:16
8. Kaitaro Toike (Japan) - 6:42:30
9. Gift Kelehe (South Africa) - 6:43:00
10. Brendan Davies (Australia) - 6:44:20
-----
23. Yoshiki Takada (Japan) - 6:54:54
56. Tatsuya Itagaki (Japan) - 7:37:41

Men's Team Results
1. South Africa - 19:51:40
2. Japan - 19:55:46
3. U.S.A. - 20:03:04
4. Norway - 20:39:06
5. Australia - 20:55:44

Women's 100 km Individual Results
1. Kirstin Bull (Australia) - 7:24:25
2. Nikolina Sustic (Croatia) - 7:36:10
3. Joasia Zakrzewski (Great Britain) - 7:41:38
4. Karin Freitag (Austria) - 7:45:58
5. Mikiko Ota (Japan) - 7:47:38
6. Aiko Kanematsu (Japan) - 7:47:41
7. Chiyuki Mochizuki (Japan) - 7:47:55
8. Mai Fujisawa (Japan) - 7:48:27
9. Veronika Jurisic (Croatia) - 7:51:19
10. Frida Sodermark (Sweden) - 7:51:22

Women's Team Results
1. Japan - 23:23:14
2. Croatia - 23:48:19
3. U.S.A. - 24:05:33
4. France - 24:46:58
5. Australia - 25:14:02

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Double Olympian-Powered Japan Post Wins First National Corporate Women's Ekiden Title

by Brett Larner


In just its third year of existence the Japan Post Group team swept to the top of Japan's corporate women's league, winning the 36th running of the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships Sunday in Sendai, Miyagi.  Featuring Rio track Olympians Ayuko Suzuki and Hanami Sekine, Japan Post was in it from the start.  Lead runner Kyoka Nakagawa got the team off in 4th as she covered the 7.0 km First Stage in 22:01, 11 seconds off leader Mao Ichiyama's 21:50 course record and 9 seconds under the old course record.  Still on the mend from the injury that hit her just before Rio, Suzuki was 5th on time on the 3.9 km Second Stage but still improved Japan Post's position to 3rd.  Sekine and fourth runner Rina Iwataka held steady in 3rd before fifth runner Rina Nabeshima got to work.

Covering 10.0 km on the Fifth Stage, Nabeshima caught leaders Yukiko Okuno (Team Shiseido) and Maki Ashi (Team Kyudenko) just as Yumi Kozasu (Team Wacoal) and Rio Olympics marathoner Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) entered orbit 2 km into the stage, forming a line five-wide across the road.  Not having any of that, Tanaka surged past and was pursued by Nabeshima.  Together they dropped the other three, Nabeshima continuing to look calm and relaxed but Tanaka starting to strain and grit her teeth.  When the time came Nabeshima effortlessly dispatched Her Olympian rival to open a 17-second lead before the handoff to the 6.795 km anchor stage.

Daiichi Seimei anchor Fumika Sasaki closed five seconds on Japan Post's Nozomi Terauchi but could get no closer before Terauchi launched into a 3:03 last kilometer to seal the win in 2:15:08.  Last year the Denso corporate team set a course record of 2:14:22.  With Suzuki still far less than 100% and running a much shorter stage than would be normal for her position on the team it's very likely Japan Post could have taken that record had she been fully operational.  The team's performance was a testament to head coach Masahiko Takahashi's ability, a new team in just its second national championships appearance winning decisively and casting the long shadow of a potential dynasty over the years to come.

Daiichi Seimei was 2nd in 2:15:21, more than a 30-second improvement over its performance last year.  Just 11th on the first stage, Yamada Denki spent the race moving forward and ended up 3rd in 2:16:08 thanks in large part to its fifth runner Sakiho Tsutsui, second on time behind Nabeshima, and anchor Kasumi Nishihara's stage-winning run.  The top eight are seeded for the following year's Nationals, and an intense battle for 8th upped the anchor stage drama.  Five teams were in the running for the last two spots, and in the end it came down to the last 100 m as Universal Entertainment's Moeno Nakamura outkicked Hokuren anchor Reno Okura in the home straight for 8th in 2:17:16.  Hokuren was 9th in 2:17:18, its third year in a row getting bumped back to the Princess Ekiden qualifier on the anchor stage.  Having lost star runner Yuka Takashima to the Shiseido team, course record holder and three-time defending champion Denso finished only 11th in 2:18:00.

More drama came earlier in the race for teams further back in the field.  Yutaka Giken's leading runner China Takano was in obvious trouble almost immediately, falling off the pack in the first kilometer and limping visibly.  Her pace slowing to almost a walk it looked doubtful that she could finish the 7.0 km First Stage, but incredibly she saw it out, staggering in to the exchange zone more than nine minutes behind stage winner Ichiyama and over five and a half minutes behind her nearest competition and immediately collapsing.  Pure guts running.


Yutaka Giken finished 21st, but they finished the race.  Not so lucky for last year's runner-up Toyota Jidoshokki.  In 3rd at the end of the First Stage, incoming Toyota Jidoshokki runner Yui Fukuda looked in vain for her outgoing runner Miho Shimada in the exchange zone, jogging forward as her momentum carried her.  Shimada leapt in from the side and grabbed the tasuki, but on review judges ruled that the exchange had happened outside the zone, resulting in Shimada and the entire Toyota Jidoshokki team's disqualifications.  Outgoing runners not being ready in time does happen at the amateur and junior levels, but it's rare to see in a pro race let alone a national championships.  The upset showed just how unpredictable the ekiden format can be, success or failure riding on every single member of the team.

Queen's Ekiden
36th National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships
Sendai, Miyagi, 11/27/16
22 teams, 6 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results - top eight seeded for 2017
1. Japan Post Group - 2:15:08
2. Daiichi Seimei Group - 2:15:21
3. Yamada Denki - 2:16:08
4. Kyudenko - 2:16:38
5. Wacoal - 2:16:44
6. Tenmaya - 2:16:50
7. Shiseido - 2:16:52
8. Universal Entertainment - 2:17:16
-----
9. Hokuren - 2:17:18
10. Sekisui Kagaku - 2:17:36
-----
DQ - Toyota Jidoshokki

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (7.0 km)
1. Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) - 21:50 - CR
2. Risa Takenaka (Shiseido) - 21:51
3. Yui Fukuda (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 21:58

Second Stage (3.9 km)
1. Tomoka Kimura (Universal Entertainment) - 12:04
2. Yuki Hori (Panasonic) - 12:10
2. Harumi Okamoto (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 12:10
----
DQ - Miho Shimada (Toyota Jidoshokki)

Third Stage (10.9 km)
1. Yuka Takashima (Shiseido) - 34:33
2. Hanami Sekine (Japan Post) - 34:50
3. Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) - 34:52

Fourth Stage (3.6 km)
1. Shure Bulo (Toto) - 11:05
2. Susan Wairimu (Denso) - 11:21
3. Ann Karindi (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 11:24

Fifth Stage (10.0 km)
1. Rina Nabeshima (Japan Post) - 32:39
2. Sakiho Tsutsui (Yamada Denki) - 32:42
3. Tomomi Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 32:47

Sixth Stage (6.795 km)
1. Kasumi Nishihara (Yamada Denki) - 21:25
2. Fumika Sasaki (Daiichi Seimei) - 21:28
2. Moeno Nakamura (Universal Entertainment) - 21:28

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kwemoi Dominates 10000 m Debut in Hachioji


by Brett Larner
photo by Tsukasa Kawarai
video by Ekiden News

1500 m junior world record holder Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.) made his claim to longer distances Saturday at western Tokyo's Hosei University, dominating his competition over the last lap to win his 10000 m debut in 27:33.94 at the Hachioji Long Distance meet.



Lacking some of the electricity of last year's Japanese national record shot, 24 athletes from four countries lined up in Hachioji's A-heat, some tuning up for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships, others chasing the 27:45.00 standard for the 2017 London World Championships. Normally reliable as a pacer, despite a perfect 2:46.00 opening kilometer Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC) struggled to keep it steady after just 3000 m. Some of the field went ahead of him for several laps before he rallied to take the field through 5000 m in 13:56.50, four seconds off target.

The pack stuck with him for another 2000 m before saying goodbye. James Mwangi (Team NTN), the fastest half marathoner in the world this year on a record-eligible course with his 59:07 win at September's Copenhagen Half Marathon, dropped a 2:41.64 for the eighth kilometer than put him ahead of a chase group of four or five.  American Chris Derrick (Nike) spent the next kilometer pulling Mwangi back, but despite taking the lead with 500 m to go Derrick couldn't match Kwemoi or Mwangi's closing speed.

Showing his roots in middle distance, Kwemoi put over four seconds on Mwangi and Derrick over the last 200 m.  Mwangi and Derrick battled to the line, Mwangi taking 2nd in 27:38.24 with Derrick 3rd in 27:38.69.  The top eight all cleared the London standard, Japanese national record holder Kota Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) causing heart attacks for the home crowd as he just barely made the standard in 27:44.39 with a 56-second final lap.  The B-heat was also fast, both David Njuguna (Team Yakult) and Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Team Kanebo) clearing 27:50 with Njuguna getting the win in 27:49.57.


Across town at Keio University, Izumo Ekiden and National University Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University took six of the top ten spots in the A-heat at the Kanto Region University 10000 m Time Trials meet.  Third-year Kazuki Tamura led the way, outrunning Ethiopian Workneh Derese (Takushoku Univ.) for the win in a PB 28:18.31 that cleared the JAAF's 28:20.00 qualifying standard for next summer's National Championships.  Five more Aoyama Gakuin runners followed him under 29 minutes, continuing to up the ante in an arms race with rivals Waseda University, who were nearly as dominant at last weekend's Ageo City Half Marathon, and the ascendant Tokai Universtiy.

In the women's 10000 m A-heat, Saki Fukui (Josai Univ.) led the top ten under 33 minutes, winning in 32:38.29.  Eight universities from across the country were represented in the top ten, with Kyoto's Ritsumeikan University and Osaka's Osaka Gakuin University each landing two in the top ten.  Notable absences included National University Ekiden champion Matsuyama University and top-ranked Kanto region program Daito Bunka University, who are running tomorrow's Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden as the course record holders and defending champions.

Hachioji Long Distance
Hosei University, Hachioji, Tokyo, 11/26/16
click here for complete results

10000 m Heat 7
1. Ronald Kwemoi (Kenya/Komori Corp.) - 27:33.94
2. James Mwangi (Kenya/NTN) - 27:38.24
3. Chris Derrick (U.S.A./Nike) - 27:38.69
4. Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) - 27:39.25
5. Patrick Muendo Mwaka (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 27:41.28
6. Teresa Nyakola (Ethiopia/Mazda) - 27:42.75
7. Kassa Mekashaw (Ethiopia/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 27:43.55
8. Kota Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 27:44.39
9. Samuel Mwangi (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 27:45.27
10. Minato Oishi (Ethiopia/Toyota) - 27:48.56
11. Bernard Kimani (Kenya/Yakult) - 27:51.67
12. Mamiyo Nigusse (Ethiopia/Yasukawa Denki) - 27:52.69
13. Rodgers Shumo Kemwoi (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 27:53.49
14. Simon Kariuki (Kenya/Nihon Yakka Univ.) - 27:53.50
15. Shuho Dairokuno (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 27:54.75
16. Daniel Kipkemoi (Kenya/Nishitetsu) - 27:58.32
17. Andrew Bumbalough (U.S.A./Nike) - 28:09.35
18. Alfred Ngeno (Kenya/Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:14.10
19. Takashi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 28:14.40
20. Mitsunori Asaoka (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 28:16.95

10000 m Heat 6
1. David Njuguna (Kenya/Yakult) - 27:49.57
2. Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Kenya/Kanebo) - 27:49.89
3. Bekele Shiferaw (Ethiopia/Mazda) - 28:10.54
4. Shun Inoura (Japan/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 28:10.62
5. Hironori Tsuetaki (Japan/Fujitsu) - 28:16.49

10000 m Heat 5
1. Sota Hoshi (Japan/Fujitsu) - 28:12.70
2. Kazuma Ito (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) - 28:28.92
3. Hideyuki Tanaka (Japan/Toyota) - 28:29.61
4. Tatsuya Maruyama (Japan/Senshu Univ.) - 28:32.03
5. Yusuke Ogura (Japan/Yakult) - 28:33.59

10000 m Heat 4
1. Hiroki Nagayama (Japan/Waseda Univ.) - 28:25.85
2. Tatsuya Oike (Japan/Toyota Boshoku) - 28:28.50
3. Atsushi Yamato (Japan/Kanagawa Univ.) - 28:29.43
4. Chihiro Miyawaki (Japan/Toyota) - 28:30.09
5. Kosei Yamaguchi (Japan/Aisan Kogyo) - 28:34.19


Kanto Region University 10000 m Time Trials
Keio University, Hiyoshi, Kanagawa, 11/26/16
click here for complete results

Men's 10000 m Heat 10
1. Kazuki Tamura (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:18.31
2. Workneh Derese (Ethiopia/Takushoku Univ.) - 28:19.16
3. Takato Suzuki (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:31.66
4. Kensuke Horio (Japan/Chuo Univ.) - 28:34.54
5. Tadashi Isshiki (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:36.51
6. Titus Wambua (Kenya/Musashino Gakuin Univ.) - 28:41.43
7. Yuta Shimoda (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:42.88
8. Yuta Bando (Japan/Hosei Univ.) - 28:48.61
9. Yuya Ando (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:49.73
10. Ryuya Kajitani (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:52.94

Women's 10000 m Heat 2
1. Saki Fukui (Japan/Josai Univ.) - 32:38.29
2. Maki Izumida (Japan/Rikkyo Univ.) - 32:39.18
3. Kanna Tamaki (Meijo Univ.) - 32:40.28
4. Yuri Karasawa (Nittai Univ.) - 32:40.57
5. Kureha Seki (Japan/Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 32:40.79
6. Yukari Wada (Japan/Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 32:47.74
7. Maho Shimizu (Japan/Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 32:49.18
8. Saori Imamura (Japan/Juntendo Univ.) - 32:53.41
9. Sakie Arai (Japan/Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 32:59.30
10. Moeno Shimizu (Japan/Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 32:59.91

text © 2016 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
Kwemoi photo © 2016 Tsukasa Kawarai, all rights reserved

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Weekend Preview: Five Big Races in 48 Hours

by Brett Larner

A big weekend of racing on the track and roads lies ahead.

Saturday the Tokyo area hosts not one but two massive 10000 m time trial meets.  The Hachioji Long Distance meet at Hosei University has grown to become one of the world's leading races at that distance over the last few years, the site of a 27:29.69 Japanese national record by Kota Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) last year.  The A-heat at this year's race will be targeting 27:45 ahead of next summer's London World Championships with pacing by Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC) and features the tantalizing debut of Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.).

At the same time as Hachioji, many of Japan's best collegiate men who didn't race at last weekend's record-setting Ageo City Half Marathon will be taking on 10000 m at Keio University's Kanto Region University Time Trials. Last year Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University put eight of its men under 29 minutes in one heat at Keio.  This year seven of its best are entered in the A-heat, so expect more.  Unlike Hachioji, Keio also features women's races, with the A-heat set to go for sub-32:30.  Click here for a more detailed preview of both meets.

The next morning a solid field lines up at the Kumamoto Kosa 10-Mile Road Race.  A tuneup for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national corporate men's championships, Kosa is far and away the world's #1 10-miler.  This year's field includes sub-61 half marathoner Keijiro Mogi (Team Asahi Kasei), 2:07:39 marathoner Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), Rio Olympians Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.), Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) and Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda), former Hakone Fifth Stage star Daichi Kamino (Team Konica Minolta) and many more.

Many university women not racing at Keio will instead be running the second of the season's three big university women's ekidens, the Nikko Irohazaka Ekiden.  All uphill, Irohazaka is an interesting event that puts the women's season on almost an equal footing with the three-race university men's ekiden season.  Course record holder and defending champion Daito Bunka University returns as the favorite after taking 5th at last month's National University Women's Ekiden, the top placer there entered in Irohazaka.

Further to the north, corporate women will run the Queens Ekiden, their national championship race.  Moved up several weeks this year from its traditional mid-December date, the Queens Ekiden is now in direct conflict with the Saitama International Marathon, one of the races the JAAF uses to pick its national team.  22 teams will race the six-stage, 42.195 km ekiden where defending champion Denso set a 2:14:22 course record last year.  Japan Post features Rio Olympians Ayuko Suzuki and Hanami Sekine, but with the fitness of both a question mark its chances look tough.  Yamada Denki may be a more solid pick for a breakthrough this year.  JRN will cover the race live on @JRNLive starting at 11:50 a.m. Japan time on Sunday.

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Gunji, Yoshitomi, Kawauchi and Tokoro Win National Holiday Marathons

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2016/11/24/kiji/K20161124013780460.html
http://www.ryoutan.co.jp/news/2016/11/23/010999.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

4,544 people were entered in the 29th Ohtawara Marathon in Ohtawara, Tochigi on the Nov. 23 national holiday.  Takahiro Gunji (25, Team Komori Corp.) won the men's division in 2:22:56, with Hiroko Yoshitomi (32, Team Memolead) winning the women's division for the second year in a row in 2:37:20.  Both runners were awarded the Sponichi Cup.

Gunji came from far behind to score his first Ohtwara win in the last kilometer. Five minutes behind the leader at halfway, he left the chase pack near 30 km and began to pick up the pace.  Running into a strong headwind Gunji was discouraged by the distance to the leader, but, he said, "People on the side of the road kept shouting at me not to give up."  Doing exactly that, he drew closer and closer to the lead and around 41 km moved into the top position.  It was a dramatic way to win his first marathon, but, he said, "When I won it felt strange, more like 'What?!?' than 'Alright!'"

Yoshitomi put more than five minutes on 2nd place to pick up her second-straight win, running alone from start to finish in a masterpiece performance that shut out all competition.  "I slowed down a bit in the second half, but I didn't give in to the wind and kept running strong," she commented.  Having felt the pressure to repeat last year's win she laughed as she said, "I was totally relieved when it was finally over."  In May she joined a corporate league team in order to be able to focus on her training.  Her next race will be January's Osaka International Women's Marathon.  "I'm aiming to break 2:30 there," she said.

Far to the southwest in Fukuchiyama, Kyoto, 10,000 people were entered in the 26th Fukuchiyama Marathon.  Koki Kawauchi (Team Monteroza), the younger brother of course record holder Yuki Kawauchi, won the men's race in 2:27:22.  Koki ran the race after his older brother told him, "The crowd support in Fukuchiyama is really strong.  It's a great event."

The race started at 10:30 a.m. with temperatures of 9 degrees and a north-northeasterly headwind bringing dark clouds and light rain that turned the first half into a waiting game.  The eleven contenders in the lead pack ran conservatively until the turnaround, when the wind shifted from headwind to tailwind and Kawauchi and one other athlete pulled away.  "I got on board and rode the wind," he said.

His lone remaining rival Yosuke Maeda (Panasonic E) put on a surge around 30 km that put him 12 seconds ahead of Kawauchi by 35 km, but Kawauchi came back and by 37 km was right behind Maeda.  His older brother had told Kawauchi, "The uphill in the last 2 km is tough," and knowing that he wasn't strong on uphills he told himself, "I have to drop him here," and attacked. With a single sudden move he was away, running alone the rest of the way to the finish win.

Kawauchi has won five marathons to date, but last month at the Toyama Marathon he was 2nd for the first time.  "I never knew how disappointing finishing 2nd was, and I wanted to get some revenge in Fukuchiyama," he smiled in satisfaction.  Joining him on the winners' podium, Saki Tokoro (Kansai Gaikokugo Univ.) won the women's race in 2:50:24.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Athletics New Zealand to Hold National Team Training Camp in Saga

http://www.saga-s.co.jp/news/saga/10105/379587

translated by Brett Larner

On Nov. 22 Athletics New Zealand signed an agreement with the Saga prefectural government to hold its national team training camp in Saga ahead of August's 29th World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan.  New Zealand has held pre-games camps in Saga since August last year.  Athletics New Zealand representatives were positive about the possibility of holding its pre-2020 Tokyo Olympics camp in Saga as well.

Athletics New Zealand athlete performance support manager Michelle Wood met with Saga governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi.  Before last year's Beijing World Championships the New Zealand national team trained in Saga, and Wood had previously visited Saga two years ago.  "I felt that Saga was not too big, quiet and with wonderful hospitality that made it feel like home," she told Governor Yamaguchi of the deciding factor in Athletics New Zealand's decision.

Looking toward the future she was positive about the relationship, saying, "I hope to see us return in four years before the Tokyo Olympics."  Governor Yamaguchi welcomed the decision, saying, "I hope that our children will have the opportunity to experience athletics firsthand.  It will be a priority to maintain our tracks and other facilities."

The World University Games will take place in Taiwan August 19-30 next year. 30 athletes and support staff from New Zealand plan to train at Saga Prefectural Sports Park Field and other facilities from August 5 to 20.  Of the potential participation of Rio de Janeiro women's pole vault bronze medalist Eliza McCartney, 19, and other medalists, Wood commented, "The chances are definitely not zero."

Monday, November 21, 2016

'Joshua Cheptegei Wins Netherlands Race'

https://www.kawowo.com/2016/11/20/joshua-cheptegei-wins-netherlands-race/

Zevenheuvelenloop 15 km Road Race
Netherlands, 11/20/16
click here for complete results

Women
1. Susan Krumins (Netherlands) - 49:30
2. Jip Vastenburg (Netherlands) - 50:42
3. Kanade Furuya (Japan) - 52:10
4. Yomogi Akasaka (Japan) - 52:23
5. Honoka Tanaike (Japan) - 52:41
-----
20. Misaki Ogata (Japan) - 57:03

Men
1. Joshua Cheptegei (Uganda) - 42:08
2. Abrar Osman (Eritrea) - 43:04
3. Hiskel Tewelde (Eritrea) - 43:06
4. Geoffrey Ronoh (Kenya) - 43:28
5. Abdallah Kibet Mande (Uganda) - 43:35
-----
8. Kengo Suzuki (Japan) - 44:18
11. Homare Morita (Japan) - 45:24
14. Yuki Nakamura (Japan) - 46:10
15. Akira Tomiyasu (Japan) - 46:14
20. Shiki Shinsako (Japan) - 47:38

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Takeda Follows Osako as Fourth Man to Break 62 Minutes at Ageo City Half, Leading 197 Under 66

by Brett Larner
video by Ekiden News



Waseda University fourth-year Rintaro Takeda became just the fourth man and third Japanese collegiate runner in the 29-year history of the Ageo City Half Marathon to break 62 minutes on the Ageo course, running a PB of over a minute to win in 1:01:59 in a tight sprint finish on the track.

Just about the last major university race before the January 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, Ageo serves to help coaches of the twenty Hakone-bound schools sort out their final rosters for Japan's biggest race.  With most schools fielding around thirty runners apiece this has made Ageo into the deepest half marathon in the world, and over the last five years an invitation for the top two finishers to run March's United Airlines NYC Half Marathon has taken the front end of the race to another level.

Despite predicted hot weather the day dawned with thick fog and temperatures under 10 degrees.  Running his first half marathon, 18-year-old Chuo Gakuin University first-year Takumi Yokokawa made the most of it, hauling off with a measurable lead in the first km and stretching it out from there.  Hitting 5 km around 14:25, well under pace for 1:01, his lead over the main pack was up to 20 seconds.  And what a pack, with runners from Waseda, Toyo University, Tokai University and elsewhere leading a mass that stretched back without breaks as far as the fog made it possible to see.

Yokokawa held on to his lead looking smooth and comfortable, but after 8 km it was clear that the front end of the pack was ready to bring him back. Picking up the pace a group of around 20 broke away in pursuit, and at 11 km they swallowed Yokokawa whole.  He held on until around 16 km when the next move came via Takumi Komatsu of Nittai University, a move that took the leading contenders down to a dozen or so.

And from there it was a fast-paced pack run, the back end falling off one by one as the group worked together at 62-flat pace.  Nine runners, eight of them university men and one a corporate runner, were still together on the last main corner with just under a kilometer to go.  Komatsu made another move coming off the corner, but approaching the curve into the stadium Kenta Ueda, the son of Yamanashi Gakuin University head coach Masahito Ueda, went for it.  Takeda was right behind, with Komatsu and Toyo's debuting first-year Akira Aizawa a few steps back and Tokai first-year Shota Onizuka, likewise running the half for the first time, just behind them.  Ueda looked to have it, but in the same kind of finish seen the last three years in Ageo Takeda overtook him with less than 200 m to go to kick in for the win.


Takeda, who came to Ageo with a PB of 1:03:12, followed course record holder Bekele Gebretsadik (Ethiopia/Team Honda), Masato Kihara (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) and Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) in going under the 62-minute mark, winning in 1:01:59.  Ueda's new PB was even bigger, taking 2nd in 1:02:01.  Right behind him, Onizuka kicked past Komatsu and Aizawa for 3rd in 1:02:03, the #2 all-time Asian junior time and a Tokai University school record.  Komatsu took 4th in 1:02:04, a school record for Nittai, with Aizawa's 1:02:05 for 5th the #3 Asian junior mark.  Early leader Yokokawa faded over the last 5 km but still managed a 1:03:05 for 23rd in his debut.

The list of PBs and incredible debuts went deep into the field.  The top fourteen broke 63 minutes, one of the better years in Ageo history.  66 broke 1:03, 124 going under 1:05 and 197 under 1:06, all new Ageo records.  With only nine men ever having broken 1:02:30 in Ageo's first 28 years the top ten this year all did it, 10th-placer Takaya Sato of Yamanashi Gakuin crossing the line with a PB of 1:02:28.  And even some world records for depth, with the fastest-ever 77th through 81st-place finishes in a half marathon.  All this without Hakone champ Aoyama Gakuin University or most teams' best runners, who will be lining up next weekend at either the Kanto or Hachioji 10000 m time trial meets.  Takeda and Ueda earned the New York invitations, the New York Road Runners' Sam Grotewold on-hand to present them with the invitations. Takeda follows 2014 Ageo winner Koki Takada as the second Waseda runner to make the NYC cut, Ueda the first Yamanashi Gakuin runner to do it.  The NYC invite includes the runners' coaches, meaning a potential father-son trip for the Uedas come March.

In the more immediate future, the massive wave of new half marathon bests reshapes the Hakone landscape a month and a half out.  With wins at the Izumo Ekiden and National Universtiy Ekiden behind it Aoyama Gakuin University, absent from Ageo, is the heavy favorite to win Hakone, its top ten half marathon average of 1:02:47 putting it far head of the field pre-Ageo.  But with Takeda's win, his teammates Kazuma Taira and Yohei Suzuki clearing 1:02:20, and other teammates further down through the top 50 also scoring solid debut and PBs Waseda has passed Aoyama Gakuin by.

Second at Nationals earlier this month and only losing midway through the anchor stage there, post-Ageo Waseda now has a top ten average of 1:02:42. Tokai, Yamanashi Gakuin and Komazawa University also zeroed in on a sub-63 average with their Ageo results.  With no school currently holding the kind of uphill specialist who has made Hakone's Fifth Stage the deciding factor for over a decade Hakone now looks like it could be close.  Not wide open, but not the kind of blowout it looked like it would be 24 hours ago.  Only three schools have ever pulled off the Izumo-Nationals-Hakone triple crown. Waseda was the last one to do it, and they may be the ones who stop Aoyama Gakuin from joining the club.

Ageo's women's field doesn't feature the same depth, but in most years one or two good university women will be there to take the top position.  After back-to-back national record wins the last two years from Hong Kong's Kit Ching Yiu, this year the title returned home as 18-year-old Asumi Kato of Keio University narrowly beat Taiwan's Chun Yu Tsao for the win in 1:16:55.  Tsao was part of a large group of elite-level Taiwanese men and women who raced Ageo this year, following national record-breaking runs there by Yiu and Singapore's Mok Ying Ren.  Post-race the Taiwanese contingent met marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), who ran conservatively starting at the very back of the field after sustaining a calf injury a week earlier.


29th Ageo City Half Marathon
Ageo, Saitama, 11/20/16
click here for complete results

Men
1. Rintaro Takeda (Waseda Univ.) - 1:01:59 - PB
2. Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:01 - PB
3. Shota Onizuka (Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:03 - debut
4. Takumi Komatsu (Nittai Univ.) - 1:02:04 - PB
5. Akira Aizawa (Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:05 - debut
6. Shoji Takada (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:02:11 - PB
7. Kazuma Taira (Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:14 - PB
8. Yohei Suzuki (Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:16 - debut
9. Junnosuke Matsuo (Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:17 - debut
10. Takaya Sato (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:28 - PB
11. Shun Sakuraoka (Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:44 - PB
12. Tomoki Ota (Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:48 - debut
13. Tomoya Koda (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:49 - PB
14. Hidaka Hayashi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 1:02:54 - PB
15. Sho Nagato (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:01 - PB
-----
25. Chihaya Kasuga (Tokai Univ.) - 1:03:10 - PB
50. Hirohito Yokoi (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:03:47 - PB
66. Takuma Shibata (Heisei Kokusai Univ.) - 1:03:59
75. Yuto Katayama (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:07 - debut
100. Kenta Asakura (Kanagawa Univ.) - 1:04:42
124. Wataru Hino (Heisei Kokusai Univ.) - 1:04:59
150. Masahiko Shiranaga (Nittai Univ.) - 1:05:28 - debut
197. Taiga Hosobuchi (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:05:59
200. Keiya Arima (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:06:11
250. Takahiro Ishitobi (Asia Univ.) - 1:06:55
260. Takahiro Watanabe (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:06:59
296. Shin Sen To (Taiwan) - 1:07:58
300. Hironari Fujita (Asia Univ.) - 1:08:20
330. Kohei Kawamura (Asia Univ.) - 1:08:59
361. Ryosuke Iwasaki (Tokyo Univ.) - 1:09:57
973. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:34:26

Women
1. Asumi Kato (Keio Univ.) - 1:16:55 - debut
2. Chun Yu Tsao (Taiwan) - 1:17:23
3. Chih Hsuan Chang (Taiwan) - 1:20:59

All-Time Top Ten Marks at Ageo City Half Marathon
1. 1:01:26 - Bekele Gebretsadik (Honda) 2006 (non-university division)
2. 1:01:47 - Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) 2010
3. 1:01:50 - Masato Kihara (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) 2006
4. 1:01:59 - Rintaro Takeda (Waseda Univ.) 2016
5. 1:02:01 - Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) 2016
6. 1:02:02 - Koki Takada (Waseda Univ.) 2014
7. 1:02:03 - Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) 2014
8. 1:02:03 - Shota Onizuka (Tokai Univ.) 2016
9. 1:02:04 - Takumi Komatsu (Nittai Univ.) 2016
10. 1:02:05 - Akira Aizawa (Toyo Univ.) 2016
11. 1:02:08 - Hideaki Date (Tokai Univ.) 2004

text and photos © 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, November 18, 2016

Izu Marathon Cancelled As Organizers Unable To Cope With Rapid Increase in Popularity

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20161117-00000011-at_s-l22

translated by Brett Larner

On Nov. 16 the organizers of the Izu Marathon, an event put on jointly by four local city governments, revealed that they are cancelling the race's tenth anniversary edition scheduled for February 2017.  The news came to light during an interview with a connected party.  The source said that organizers were unable to cope with the increased safety and security demands created by the event's rapid growth into a race with thousands of participants.

According to the source, while roughly 700 people ran the Izu Marathon's first edition, last year's ninth running saw 4000 entrants.  In the face of such an increase in the event's scale, organizers determined that they were unable to make adequate plans for dealing with problems like bad weather or injuries, resulting in their decision to cancel the race.  Organizers plan to review their operating methodology and the marathon's course and hope to hold the race again in 2018.

In an interview with the Shizuoka Newspaper, organizing committee chair Tokuo Suda commented, "After extensive discussion the decision to postpone the race was made.  We hope to work closely with all relevant organizations in order to be able to stage the event's tenth anniversary edition in the future."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Double Dose of 10000 m - Hachioji and Kanto Entry Lists

by Brett Larner
videos by naoki620



Hosei University's Hachioji Long Distance meet has quickly risen to become one of the world's most competitive 10000 m events, its late November date out of season by most of the world's standards but a perfect tuneup for national championship ekiden season in Japan and a chance to knock out qualifying standards for whatever international championships come the next year.  Last year's meet was highlit by a double national records, teammates Kota Murayama and Tetsuya Yoroizaka of the Asahi Kasei powerhouse team both clearing 27:30 in a thrilling photo finish.  Murayama returns this year as the top placer from last year, winner William Malel (Team Honda) serving as pacer in the B-heat and runner-up Johana Maina (Team Fujitsu) having passed away unexpectedly earlier this year back home in Kenya.

With seven heats gradated from sub-29 to sub-27:45 on the program Kenyans James Mwangi (Team NTN) and Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Team Aisan Kogyo) and Ethiopian Mamiyo Nigussie (Team Yasukawa Denki) make up the top three spots on the entry list in the A-heat, which features four men under 27:30 in the last three years, ten men under 27:45, and eighteen men under 28:00.  And that's not including the debuting 1500 m world junior record holder Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.) or sub-27 pacer Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC).  Murayama's strongest domestic competition comes from his twin brother Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), who told JRN that breaking Kota's 27:29.69 is his #1 priority for 2016 after having missed the Rio Olympics with injury.  Another set of twins, Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) and Keita Shitara (Team Konica Minolta), along with half of yet another set, Takashi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei), all likewise feature prominently among the sub-28 set.  The world record for most men sub-28 in a single race, twenty, could well be under threat.



The B-heat is also solid, with Malel set to take a couple dozen men out on track to break 28.  And that's not even the only race the same day at that level.  Across town at Keio University, the Kanto Region University Time Trials meet features twelve men's 10000 m and two women's 10000 m heats, and its men's A-heat will also see some of Japan's best collegiate runners going for sub-28.  Izumo Ekiden and National University Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University is well on the way to completing the triple crown with a win at January's Hakone Ekiden.  Last year Aoyama Gakuin put eight men sub-29 in one race at the Kanto meet.  This year they're looking to go one better and score a sub-28 via star senior Tadashi Isshiki, but with seven of its best men in the A-heat it could come close to last year's incredible results.  And it's not alone.  Tokai University is locked in an arms race for depth at quality with Aoyama Gakuin, and many of its best, notably star first-year Ryoji Tatezawa, will be lining up in the same race. Likewise for Izumo and Nationals rival Yamanashi Gakuin University, which fields three of its best men led by senior Takaya Sato.

The Kanto meet also features women's races, and the 10000 m A-heat is packed with members of 2016 National University Women's Ekiden champion Matsuyama University.  The women will be targeting 32:25, and Matsuyama senior Ayumi Uehara comes closest with a 32:36.25 best.  Look for competition from her teammate Anna Matsuda and rivals Yuri Karasawa (Nittai Univ.), Saki Fukuro (Josai Univ.), Nanako Kanno (Ritsumeikan Univ.) and very promising first-year Natsuki Sekiya (Daito Bunka Univ.).

Hachioji Long Distance Entry List Highlights
Hosei Univ., Hachiojji, Tokyo, 11/26/16
click here for complete entry lists
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Men's 10000 m A-Heat - sub-27:45
pacer - Bedan Karoki (Kenya/DeNA RC) - 26:52.36 (Eugene 2014)
James Mwangi (Kenya/NTN) - 27:23.04 (Kobe 2016)
Mamiyo Nigusse (Ethiopia/Yasukawa Denki) - 27:24.85 (Kobe 2016)
Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 27:25.23 (Bydgoszcz 2016)
Kota Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 27:29.69 (Hachioji 2015)
Bernard Kimanyi (Kenya/Yakult) - 27:36.60 (Hachioji 2014)
Patrick Muendo Mwaka (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 27:37.67 (Yamaguchi 2014)
Teressa Nyakora (Ethiopia/Mazda) - 27:38.93 (Hachioji 2015)
Kassa Mekashaw (Ethiopia/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 27:38.93 (Hachioji 2014)
Kenta Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 27:39.95 (Nobeoka 2015)
Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 27:42.71 (Nobeoka 2015)
Shuho Dairokuno (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 27:46.55 (Hachioji 2015)
Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) - 27:47.20 (Kobe 2016)
Samuel Mwangi (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 27:50.92 (Hachioji 2015)
Daniel Kipkemoi (Kenya/Nishitetsu) - 27:53.19 (Gifu 2015)
Takashi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 27:53.59 (Abashiri 2016)
Patrick Mathenge Wambui (Kenya/Nihon Univ.) - 27:54.98 (Abashiri 2015)
Keita Shitara (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 27:56.60 (Hachioji 2014)
Mitsunori Asaoka (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 27:59.72 (Abashiri 2016)
Cyrus Kingori (Kenya/SGH Group) - 28:01.76 (Kobe 2016)
Simon Kariuki (Kenya/Nihon Yakka Univ.) - 28:03.65 (Abashiri 2016)
Minato Oishi (Japan/Toyota) - 28:04.65 (Abashiri 2015)
Shogo Nakamura (Japan/Fujitsu) - 28:09.86 (Abashiri 2015)
Chris Derrick (U.S.A./Nike) - 28:18.18 (Sacramento 2014)
Andrew Bumbalough (U.S.A./Nike) - 27:56.78 (Stanford, June 2013) (no mark in last three years)

Debut
Ronald Kwemoi (Kenya/Komori Corp.) - 13:16.14 (Nobeoka 2015)
Alfred Ngeno (Kenya/Nissin Shokuhin) - 13:19.38 (Yokohama 2016)

Men's 10000 m B-Heat - sub-28:00
pacer - William Malel (Kenya/Honda) - 26:54.66 (Eugene 2016)
Kensuke Takezawa (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) - 28:02.70 (Hachioji 2015)
Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Japan/Kanebo) - 28:02.79 (Yokohama 2013)
Masato Kikuchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 28:04.25 (Hachioji 2014)
Tsubasa Hayakawa (Japan/Toyota) - 28:06.10 (Hachioji 2015)
Shun Inoura (Japan/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 28:14.20 (Abashiri 2016)
Ryo Matsumoto (Japan/Toyota) - 28:15.42 (Tajima 2016)
Naohiro Domoto (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 28:18.81 (Hachioji 2015)
Chiharu Nakagawa (Japan/Toenec) - 28:19.46 (Hachioji 2015)
Keigo Yano (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:21.89 (Hachioji 2015)
Naoki Kudo (Japan/Komazawa Univ.) - 28:23.85 (Yokohama 2015)
Naoki Aiba (Japan/Chudenko) - 28:26.96 (Hachioji 2015)
Masaki Toda (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:28.27 (Hachioji 2015)
Hironori Tsuetaki (Japan/Fujitsu) - 28:31.84 (Hiyoshi 2015)
David Njuguna (Kenya/Yakult) - 28:35.03 (Hachioji 2015)
Hideto Yamanaka (Japan/Honda) - 28:54.33 (Yokohama 2015)
Hazuma Hattori (Japan/Toyo Univ.) - 28:55.31 (Saitama 2014)

Kanto Region University Time Trials Entry List Highlights
Keio University, Hiyoshi, Kanagawa, 11/26/16
click here for complete entry lists

Men's 10000 m A-Heat - 28:30 - 28:00
Tadashi Isshiki (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:23.40
Takaya Sato (4th yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:26.70
Yuta Shimoda (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:33.77
Titus Mumo Wambua (1st yr., Musashino Gakuin Univ.) - 28:36.32
Workneh Derese (2nd yr., Takushoku Univ.) - 28:43.21
Kazuki Tamura (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:46.81
Kenta Ueda (3rd yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:48.92
Hayato Ozawa (4th yr., Senshu Univ.) - 28:55.11
Ryutaro Ichitani (3rd yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:55.14
Gen Hachisuka (4th yr., Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 28:55.95
Ryoji Tatezawa (1st yr., Tokai Univ.) - 13:48.89
Ryusei Yoshinaga (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:49.83
Yuya Ando (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:51.66
Takato Suzuki (1st yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:53.20
Ryota Motegi (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:53.46
Shuto Mikai (2nd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 13:55.08
Ryunosuke Hayashi (4th yr., Tokai Univ.) - 13:56.69
Reo Kuniyuki (3rd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 13:59.14

Women's 10000 m A-Heat - sub-32:25
Ayumi Uehara (4th yr., Matsuyama Univ.) - 32:36.25
Yuri Karasawa (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 32:40.81
Saki Fukuro (3rd yr., Josai Univ.) - 32:45.47
Anna Matsuda (4th yr., Matsuyama Univ.) - 32:54.41
Nanako Kanno (4th yr., Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 32:55.97
Kanade Furuya (2nd yr., Matsuyama Univ.) - 32:56.78
Natsuki Sekiya (1st yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 15:33.96
Honoka Yuzawa (4th yr., Meijo Univ.) - 15:44.72
Misuzu Nakahara (4th yr., Matsuyama Univ.) - 15:48.16
Misaki Ogata (2nd yr., Matsuyama Univ.) - 15:49.26
Akane Fujiwara (2nd yr., Matsuyama Univ.) - 15:56.72
Hitomi Mizuguchi (2nd yr., Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 15:57.73
Kanna Tamaki (2nd yr., Meijo Univ.) - 15:58.83

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

New JAAF Development Project Leader Toshihiko Seko After Saitama: "Our Marathoners Don't Train Enough. Toughen Up."

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2016/11/14/kiji/K20161114013722210.html

translated by Brett Larner

With the major corporate league women giving it a miss due to the conflict with ekiden season, Sunday's Saitama International Marathon had predictably disappointing results.  Newly appointed leader of the JAAF's long distance and marathon development project Toshihiko Seko commented, "You might call it old-fashioned, but they're simply not training enough.  We need people who can run tough in both the marathon and the ekiden."  Articulating the sense of crisis, development project director Tadasu Kawano warned, "We won't necessarily be filling all three spots [on the national team for next summer's London World Championships marathon]."

Translator's note: In an interview moderated by JRN, Takayuki Nishida, a former Seko-coached athlete who ran 2:08:45, told Finnish writer Tuomas Zacheus, "Seko is a great man. What should I say about him as a coach, though? He judges things by feeling. He remembers how it felt when he was doing well as a runner, and he wants people to replicate that. Seko tells his runners to do the same training he did, really, really hard stuff. But not everyone can do the same thing as Seko. The only one who ever pulled it off was Tomoaki Kunichika. He did all Seko's workouts and won Fukuoka in 2:07 in 2003. It would've been great if he'd been able to keep going like that, but by the time the Athens Olympics came around he was overtrained and spent."

Monday, November 14, 2016

Kuira and Karoki Top Road and Track Action

by Brett Larner
Karoki photo by Tsukasa Kawarai


Marathons and ekidens aside, this weekend also saw high-level half marathon and track action.  At Tokyo's Setagaya 246 Half Marathon Japan based-Kenyan Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta) scored the third win in four half marathons in his career to date, setting a course record 1:02:27.  Kuira and university runners Takato Suzuki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and Yusuke Nishiyama (Komazawa Univ.) went out fast, ahead of the pack within the first few km and staying together through 15 km before Kuira put them away.  For Kuira it was a solid tuneup for his marathon debut in three weeks at the Fukuoka International Marathon.  For Suzuki, 2nd in 1:02:55, it was his first time breaking 1:03 in the half marathon, a result sure to elevate his position on the deep roster of Hakone Ekiden favorite Aoyama Gakuin University.  Nishiyama, who ran this year's United Airlines NYC Half with support from JRN, took 3rd in 1:03:08.


Across the Tamagawa river, the Nittai University Time Trials meet saw Tokyo-based Rio Olympian and World XC and World Half Marathon silver medalist Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC) deliver a spectacular double.  Running Saturday night's 10000 m A-heat Karoki ran 27:07.30, his best since last year's Beijing World Championships, beating two-time World Junior Championships 3000 mSC gold medalist Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) and John Maina (Team Fujitsu), both of whom went under 27:30 for the first time.  24 hours later Karoki returned to take down Rio 1500 m runner Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.) and a deep field over 5000 m, winning in 13:25.64.  The top 19 all broke 14 minutes, including Kenyan high schoolers Luka Musembi (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) and Peter Mwangi (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) and Japanese high schoolers Ryota Natori (Saku Chosei H.S.), Yuhi Nakaya (Saku Chosei H.S.) and Hyuga Endo (Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.).  Of particular interest was Kenyan Nganga Waweru, 5th in 13:39.69.  Photographer Tsukasa Kawarai reports that Waweru is 15 years old and trains with support from the Young Champs program, in Japan for experience before returning to Kenya.

11th Setagaya 246 Half Marathon
Tokyo, 11/13/16

1. Paul Kuira (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 1:02:27 - CR
2. Takato Suzuki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ) - 1:02:55
3. Yusuke Nishiyama (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:03:08
4. Ryusei Yoshinaga (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:36
5. Keisuke Hayashi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:52
6. Kinari Ikeda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:53
7. Yuya Yoshida (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:55
8. Fuminori Shimo (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:04:01
9. Kosuke Yamada (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:04
10. Takumi Hirose (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:04:47

254th Nittai University Time Trials
Yokohama, Kanagawa, 11/12-13/16
click here for complete results

Men's 10000 m Heat 6
1. Bedan Karoki (Kenya/DeNA) - 27:07.30
2. Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 27:11.23
3. John Maina (Kenya/Fujitsu) - 27:21.97
4. Joseph Onsarigo (Kenya/ND Software) - 28:25.93
5. Shohei Kurata (GMO Athletes) - 28:32.91

Men's 5000 m Heat 41
1. Bedan Karoki (Kenya/DeNA) - 13:25.64
2. Ronald Kwemoi (Kenya/Komori Corp.) - 13:27.77
3. Kassa Mekashaw (Ethiopia/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 13:31.08
4. Tonosa Hiko (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) - 13:31.09
5. Nganga Waweru (Kenya) - 13:39.69
6. Samuel Mwangi (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 13:40.86
7. Ezekiel Chebotibin (Kenya/Toho Refining) - 13:43.45
8. Luka Musembi (Kenya/Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 13:46.08
9. Peter Mwangi (Kenya/Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 13:47.28
10. Alfred Ngeno (Kenya/Nissin Shokuhin) - 113:50.27
-----
13. Ryota Natori (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 13:52.61
15. Yuhi Nakaya (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 13:54.65
17. Hyuga Endo (Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.) - 13:57.57

text © 2016 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
Karoki photo © 2016 Tsukasa Kawarai, all rights reserved

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Four-Ekiden Day

by Brett Larner


The fall ekiden season continued with not one or two or three but four top-level races across the country Sunday.  With places at the New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships on the line corporate teams in Chugoku and Kansai lined up in their regional championship races.  To the apparent surprise of everyone including anchor Koji Matsuoka, pictured above, the Mazda men broke the Chugoku Region course record to hold off perpetual powerhouse Chugoku Denryoku by 30 seconds for the win. Otsuka Seiyaku claimed the Kansai Region title, outrunning SGH Group by over a minute to take the top spot.

In women's action, Yamada Denki successfully defended its Fukui Super Ladies Ekiden title, taking the lead on the second of six stages and never threatened after that as its third through sixth runners, led by Kasumi Nishihara, won their individual stages.  With three Rio Olympians in its field, the East Japan Women's Ekiden was the highest-level of the day.  Featuring 5000 m Olympian Misaki Onishi, defending champion Chiba Prefecture was the probable favorite.  But with a lineup made entirely of junior high school, high school and university runners Nagano Prefecture proved better. Nagano's Yui Takayasu went to the front on the Third Stage and neither Chiba nor Tokyo, featuring Rio teammates Miyuki Uehara and Tomomi Tanaka, could catch up.  Nagano anchor Kanna Tamaki, a second-year at Meijo University, had 40 seconds on pro Rui Aoyama of Chiba at the start of the 10.0 km anchor stage, more than enough for her to work with as she brought Nagano home 33 seconds up on Chiba.

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Cheyech Daniel Wins Saitama International Marathon in 2:23:18 Course Record

by Brett Larner

2010 National Corporate Half Marathon champion Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) negative split her way to the win in the second edition of the Saitama International Marathon.  The four invited Africans and two pacemakers in the race went out on track to go under 2:22:30, but without even a single top-level Japanese woman in the race the leading Japanese contenders were out of it within the first km.  A familiar face in Japan, Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) ground down compatriot Atsede Habtamu and Monica Jepkoech (Kenya) over the first 20 km before Daniel in turn said goodbye after the 24.6 km turnaround.  From there on in it was a race against the clock, Daniel on track to go close to her 2:22:46 PB at 35 km but unable to keep it up alone.  Her time of 2:23:18 was a sizable new course record and one of the better times in her career.  Gobena, Jepkoech and Habtamu trundled in over the next 6 1/2 minutes, the top four the only ones to clear 2:30.

Saitama counts as a selection race for the 2017 London World Championships team, but with the National Corporate Women's Ekiden scheduled just two weeks later this year there was no chance any Japanese woman with a realistic chance of making the team would be in Saitama.  Last year Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) returned from an EPO suspension to take top Japanese honors in a PB 2:28:43, and as the only Japanese woman in the field to have cleared 2:30 in the last three years everyone expected her to do the heavy lifting.  Yoshida obliged, a pack including 36-year-old Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.), indy Akane Sekino (Imabari Zosen) and Japan-based Kenyan Winfrida Kebaso (Team Nittori) forming around her for the first stretch of the race.  Kebaso went ahead and was replaced by Cassie Fien (Australia), only for Yoshida to unexpectedly drop.  Sekino was next, leaving only Nasukawa and Fien in pursuit of Kebaso.

Joined by a straggling lead group pacer, Nasukawa surged after 25 km to drop Fien and began to focus on those ahead.  But Fien wasn't done, catching back up before 40 km and running side-by-side until just before the final righthand corner.  Just before the corner Nasukawa pointed to the left, Fien seeming to take this as an indication that they were going to turn left and starting to move in that direction.  Before Fien realized it Nasukawa gunned it at the righthand corner and got a short lead that she managed to keep over the last few hundred m.  Nasukawa took 5th in 2:33:16 as the top Japanese finisher, Fien a step behind in a PB of 2:33:17.

In terms of its status as a national team selection race, there is close to no chance at all that Nasukawa will be picked for the London team off a performance that saw her finish 10 minutes behind the leader.  And that's no criticism of her.  With a long career behind her Nasukawa ran a tough race with an exciting finish for her best time in many a year.  Saitama was set up in a way that it was an inevitable outcome that she would finish so far behind the winner.  Four strong Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes up front running the kind of pace that international-level Japanese women can run, but not a single woman that caliber in the field because the event conflicts with the ekiden national championships.  What was the point, really?

The JAAF needs to maintain this event, the far lesser descendant of the Tokyo and Yokohama International Women's Marathons, for the money it generates from broadcaster NTV and other sponsors, but with a race like this how much value did it bring to the broadcaster?  Again, no criticism implied of Nasukawa or the other Japanese women; Nasukawa's race against Fien was great, but at ten minutes behind the winner it couldn't have been that much fun of a watch for the home crowd, and it created a false impression that the top Japanese women are bound to get destroyed by that kind of margin.  Olympian Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) ran 2:23:19, one second slower than Daniel's time, in Nagoya in March, and her Rio teammate Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) was even faster in Osaka in January.  Athletes that level could have been in it to win in Saitama, but they never will be thanks to its timing relative to the ekiden.  So, a national team selection race set up as though national team quality runners were there but timed such that none could be, almost a parody of what this event used to be.  Not much question about where the JAAF's priorities are.

2nd Saitama International Marathon
Saitama, 11/13/16

1. Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) - 2:23:18 - CR
2. Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) - 2:25:58
3. Monica Jepkoech (Kenya) - 2:28:56
4. Atsede Habtamu (Ethiopia) - 2:29:44
5. Mizuho Nasukawa (Japan/Univ. Ent.) - 2:33:16
6. Cassie Fien (Australia) - 2:33:17 - PB
7. Maryna Damantsevich (Belarus) - 2:34:50
8. Winfrieda Kebaso (Kenya/Nitori) - 2:35:53
9. Kaori Yoshida (Japan/RxL) - 2:38:37
10. Deborah Toniolo (Italy) - 2:41:39
11. Aki Odagiri (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:45:56

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fukuoka International Marathon to Go Ahead As Planned After Road Collapse

http://www.daily.co.jp/general/2016/11/09/0009652134.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

After a major sinkhole opened Nov. 8 on the road in front of Hakata Station, the organizers of the Dec. 4 Fukuoka International Marathon, a selection race for the men's marathon team for next year's London World Championships, commented on their official Twitter feed that, "Since yesterday's events we have received many inquiries about whether the Fukuoka International Marathon will be impacted by the sinkhole.  As the site is not on the marathon course the race will go ahead as planned."  However, as the location of the sinkhole is very close to the course the organizers said, "Since this accident occurred in the neighborhood of the course we will take all necessary precautions to ensure safety both on the course itself and for spectators along the course."  Civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and others are entered in the race.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Japan Sports Agency Final Report Finds Serious Shortage of Qualified Anti-Doping Personnel in Japan

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2016/11/09/kiji/K20161109013687370.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Nov. 8 the Japan Sports Agency issued the final report of a special investigative team.  The report revealed a serious shortage of anti-doping personnel within Japan who would be capable of performing the large volume of testing expected at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and pointed out the urgent need for training additional personnel.  The report also articulated the need for legislation governing the collection of information used to detect doping violations.  The bipartisan Sports Parliamentary Association will consider related bills and plans to submit them in an ordinary session of the Diet next year.

Translator's note: A possibly related Japanese state media story from earlier this year.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Yamamoto 4th at New York City Marathon, Kawauchi 2nd in Porto

by Brett Larner


Running just his second career marathon, Toyo University graduate Hiroyuki Yamamoto followed up on his 2:11:48 debut at Beppu-Oita last year with a 2:11:49 for 4th at the New York City Marathon.  Always in the lead pack until he wasn't, always looking smooth, confident and relaxed, Yamamoto's placing was the best-ever by a Japanese man in New York, his time also up near the top of the Japanese lists in New York.

2015 World Champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (Eritrea) smoked a 2:07:51 for the win, the third-fastsest winning time in NYC history, while this year's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon winner Lucas Rotich (Kenya) was 2nd.  The perpetual Abdi Abdirahman (U.S.A.) held Yamamoto off for 3rd in 2:11:23.  In an admittedly weaker than usual field, Yamamoto's best-ever Japanese placing was also arguably the best performance by a Japanese man in any of the World Marathon Majors events since Kurao Umeki's 3rd-place finish at the 2006 Berlin Marathon.  In the women's race, Mary Keitany (Kenya) scored her third-straight New York City Marathon win in 2:24:26.  Sally Kipyego (Kenya) ran a 2:28:01 best for 2nd, while in 3rd Molly Huddle (U.S.A.) ran a good 2:28:13 debut.

Elsewhere, after saying that he planned to break the Porto Marathon's 2:09:51 course record, serial marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) took 2nd in just 2:14:32, nearly three minutes behind winner Samuel Theuri Mwaniki (Kenya). The pre-race favorite, Kawauchi lost touch with the lead pack within the first 10 km, running as low as 8th overall before inching his way up through the field over the last 10 km.  "I don't know," he told JRN post-race.  "After this I don't know if I can run 3:00/km pace at Fukuoka."

The Porto women's race was more dramatic.  Running her third career marathon and first outside Africa, Loice Chebet Kiptoo (Kenya) ran side-by-side with #1-ranked Guteni Shone (Ethiopia) through 20 km before pulling away on the most technical part of the course.  Kiptoo pushed on until 27 km when she began to show signs of trouble, her stride changing and pace fading. Running with a cadre of 3~4 male pacers behind her, local Filomena Costa (Portugal) began to make up ground, pulling to within 10 seconds.  After the 31 km turnaround to the long straightaway to the finish, however, Costa stalled, never able to close the last 10 seconds to the win.  Kiptoo dug deep to fight Costa off, breaking the course record in 2:29:13, the first win in her short marathon career to date.  Costa slowed and was run down by compatriot Catarina Ribeiro, both breaking 2:31 and clearing the London World Championships qualifying standard.  On the podium Kiptoo wept openly, the personal significance of her first European win clear to every person in attendance.

New York City Marathon
New York, USA, 11/6/16
click here for complete results

Men
1. Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (Eritrea) - 2:07:51
2. Lucas Rotich (Kenya) - 2:08:53
3. Abdi Abdirahman (U.S.A.) - 2:11:23
4. Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:11:49
5. Shadrack Biwott (U.S.A.) - 2:12:01

Women
1. Mary Keitany (Kenya) - 2:24:26
2. Sally Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:28:01
3. Molly Huddle (U.S.A.) - 2:28:13
4. Joyce Chepkirui (Kenya) - 2:29:08
5. Diane Nukuri (Burundi) - 2:33:04

Porto Marathon
Porto, Portugal, 11/6/16
click here for complete results

Men
1. Samuel Theuri Mwaniki (Kenya) - 2:11:48
2. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:14:32
3. Jose Moreira (Portugal) - 2:16:11
4. Matthew Kipkore Kiprotich (Kenya) - 2:17:38
5. Gilbert Kipkemboi Maina (Kenya) - 2:19:25

Women
1. Loice Chebet Kiptoo (Kenya) - 2:29:13 - CR
2. Catarina Ribeiro (Portugal) - 2:30:10
3. Filomena Costa (Portugal) - 2:30:27
4. Pamela Kipchoge (Kenya) - 2:36:42
5. Guteni Shone (Ethiopia) - 2:38:23

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Aoyama Gakuin Runs Down Waseda on Anchor Stage for First-Ever National University Ekiden Title

by Brett Larner


Izumo Ekiden winner Aoyama Gakuin University went one step closer to becoming just the fourth school in Japanese history to win the Big Three University Ekiden triple crown, running down unexpected challenger Waseda University on the anchor stage to win its first-ever National University Men's Ekiden Championships title.

Defending champ Toyo University came out swinging, putting its best runner, Hazuma Hattori, on first.  Hattori put Toyo 11 seconds out front, but without the talent this year to follow that up Toyo fell to 6th on the Second Stage and spent the rest of the eight-stage race struggling to stay in the six-deep bracket of teams that would score places at next year's Nationals.

Waseda, the last team to pull off the triple crown back in the 2010-11 season, was the next team into the first exchange zone 11 seconds behind Toyo, while heavy favorite Aoyama Gakuin was another 19 seconds back in 8th as its leading runner Yuta Shimoda struggled.  Aoyama Gakuin's Kazuki Tamura turned it around on the Second Stage, running its fastest individual time to put Aoyama Gakuin into 1st by just a single second at the second exchange.

Aoyama Gakuin now out front, from there it should have been a blowout.  But nothing is ever 100%.  Just 8th at Izumo, Waseda pulled away from Aoyama Gakuin on the Third Stage, Yohei Suzuki opening a 14 second lead.  Fourth man Hiroki Nagayama scored Waseda's only individual stage title, extending Waseda's lead over Aoyama Gakuin to 1:07.  Over the next three stages Waseda's advantage waxed and waned, and at the start of the 19.7 km anchor stage it was 49 seconds up on the favorites.

But it wasn't enough.  On anchor Aoyama Gakuin had fourth-year Tadashi Isshiki, with PBs ranging from 13:39.65 for 5000 m to 2:11:45 for the marathon arguably Japan's best all-around current university runner.  Quickly Isshiki cut down the distance to Waseda's Yuichi Yasui, passing with confidence and turning a 49 second deficit around into a 56 second margin of victory.  Aoyama  Gakuin's problems on the First and Third Stages showed in its 5:15:15 winning time, 2 1/2 minutes slower than Komazawa University's course record from 2012.  But a win is a win, and with better half marathon credentials than any other team there's little doubt that Aoyama Gakuin can pull off the Hakone Ekiden victory come January to complete its triple crown.


Despite the disappointment of an anchor stage loss after leading most of the race, Waseda outperformed all expectations for its solid runner-up finish.  Kenyan 2nd-year Dominic Nyairo did the expected for Izumo runner-up Yamanashi Gakuin University, moving them up from 5th to 3rd on the anchor stage.  Its #1 man Keisuke Nakatani still out with injury, course record holder Komazawa was 4th, a day they should feel good about.  Chuo Gakuin University repeated its miraculous performance at Izumo, brilliantly exceeding its 13th-place ranking to take 5th.  Toyo held on to the final seeded spot in 6th, an improvement on its 9th-place finish at Izumo but still far down on last yea's winning run.

The young Tokai University team was the unlucky 7th-placer, its large contingent of talented 1st and 2nd-years not quite able to handle the longer distances at Nationals yet.  But in another year or two that they will be the favorite to replace Aoyama Gakuin on top of the hill.

The Tokyo-area Kanto Region pulls in most of the high school talent from across the country, the season-capping Hakone Ekiden limited to Kanto universities.  Fifteen Kanto Region teams ran Nationals, and unsurprisingly they took the top fifteen spots.  The Tokai Region University Select Team was the 16th team across the line, almost 2 1/2 minutes behind Kanto last-placer Daito Bunka University.  Kyoto's Ritsumeikan University was the top non-Kanto university team, outrunning cross-town rivals Kyoto Sangyo University for 17th.

From here it's nearly two months until the last of the Big Three, Hakone.  In the meantime most top teams will line up at the Ageo City Half Marathon in two weeks to help solidify their coaches' picks for the lucky few who will make their Hakone rosters.

48th National University Men's Ekiden Championships
Nagoya-Ise, 11/6/16
27 teams, 8 stages, 106.8 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Resultstop six seeded for 2017
1. Aoyama Gakuin University - 5:15:15
2. Waseda University - 5:16:11
3. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 5:16:50
4. Komazawa University - 5:17:41
5. Chuo Gakuin University - 5:19:36
6. Toyo University - 5:19:49
-----
7. Tokai University - 5:20:55
8. Takushoku University - 5:21:16
9. Koku Gakuin University - 5:22:11
10. Teikyo University - 5:22:30
11. Meiji University - 5:23:19
12. Nihon University - 5:23:45
13. Nittai University - 5:23:51
14. Kokushikan University - 5:27:02
15. Daito Bunka University - 5:27:46

Top Individual Stage Performances
First Stage (14.6 km)
1. Hazuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 43:34
2. Rintaro Takeda (Waseda Univ.) - 43:45
3. Naoki Kudo (Komazawa Univ.) - 43:47

Second Stage (13.2 km)
1. Kazuki Tamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 38:07
2. Kazuma Taira (Waseda Univ.) - 38:27
3. Workneh Derese (Takushoku Univ.) - 38:41

Third Stage (9.5 km)
1. Ryoji Tatezawa (Tokai Univ.) - 27:15
2. Yohei Suzuki (Waseda Univ.) - 27:28
3. Shogo Hata (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 27:30

Fourth Stage (14.0 km)
1. Hiroki Nagayama (Waseda Univ.) - 40:37
2. Tomofumi Uda (Takushoku Univ.) - 40:54
3. Taichi Takasago (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 41:00

Fifth Stage (11.6 km)
1. Yuji Onoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 35:07
2. Shiki Shinsako (Waseda Univ.) - 35:12
3. Taiju Nakashima (Meiji Univ.) - 35:26

Sixth Stage (12.3 km)
1. Homare Morita (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 35:39
2. Reo Kuniyuki (Tokai Univ.) - 35:54
3. Shigeki Fujiwara (Waseda Univ.) - 36:04

Seventh Stage (11.9 km)
1. Masaya Komachi (Nittai Univ.) - 34:54
2. Ryota Sato (Teikyo Univ.) - 34:55
3. Tomoki Ota (Waseda Univ.) - 35:05

Eighth Stage (19.7 km)
1. Dominic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 56:43
2. Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 57:48
3. Shohei Otsuka (Komazawa Univ.) - 58:03

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved