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Oshikawa Versus Githae, Kamino and Hine, Sumi to Debut at Ome 30 km

by Brett Larner

The 15,000 runner-strong Ome 30 km and 10 km Road Race has rolled out the men's and women's elite fields for its 51st running on Feb. 19.  Coached by 1992 Barcelona Olympics marathon silver medalist Kochi Morishita, defending men's champion Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu) returns to try to become the first man since 1986 to win Ome two years in a row.  Last year Oshikawa had a narrow 9-second win over Kenyan Michael Githae (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), and this year Githae returns with a good chance of becoming Ome's first-ever Kenyan winner.  Both have tough competition in the form of celebrity runner Daichi Kamino (Team Konica Minolta), the former star of the Hakone Ekiden's famed uphill Fifth Stage.

Ome's course is a tough and hilly one that plans to Kamino's strengths, and for both he and Oshikawa there's a nice payday waiting for a solid run: 500,000 yen for the win [~$4400 USD], 2,000,000 yen for breaking Masaki Ito's 2013 winning…

Matsuo and Hattori Lead Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon's 55th Running

by Brett Larner

The Feb. 12 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon is one of Japan's main developmental races for men, not counting directly in national team selection but serving as a springboard to future success.  Much of the field is making its debut each year or looking for a step up after showing potential in Nagano, Hokkaido or Osaka.  Rio Olympian Hisanori Kitajima (Team Yasukawa Denki) got his start in Nobeoka with a win in 2015, and Nobeoka has seen 2:11 winning times three times in its 55-year history including twice in the last five years.

Last year's winner Ryoichi Matsuo (Team Asahi Kasei) returns as the top seed, the only man in the field to have broken 2:13 in the last three years.  If he wins he will be the first man since 1986 to win Nobeoka in back-to-back years. His main competition among those with experience comes from Sora Tsukada (Team SG Holdings), Junji Katakawa (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and Yuji Murota (Team JFE Steel), all 2:15 in minor domestic races last year…

33-Year-Old Man Found Dead After Finishing Race

http://mainichi.jp/articles/20170131/k00/00m/040/052000c

translated by Brett Larner

The organizers of a road race in Ibara, Okayama announced on Jan. 30 that a 33-year-old man had died after finishing the Jan. 29 event's 10 km race.  The man was found in a post-race relaxation area during the final sweep after participants had all left.  More than an hour had elapsed since the man had finished the race, but nobody had reported anything about him.

According to the local Board of Education, a total of 957 people from both inside and outside the prefecture took part in the 10 km, 5 km and 3 km events at the 35th Hoshinosato Fureai Health Road Race.  The man started the 10 km at 10:20 a.m., finishing at 11:38 a.m.  After finishing he is believed to have entered the nearby B&G Nebuta Ocean Center gymnasium where participants' bags were stored and where there were change rooms and space to relax.

Roughly 1 hour 15 minutes after the man finished, while performing a sweep of the po…

Fast High Schoolers, A National Record, and Kawauchi in an Ekiden - Weekend Road Race Roundup

by Brett Larner

The Osaka International Women's Marathon and Osaka Half Marathon were the weekend's main races, but across the country there was plenty of other action on the roads.  Highlights:

In Yamagata, Sakata Minami High School 10th-grader Masato Arao ran 29:27 for 2nd at the Yamagata Prefecture Winter Road Race 10 km, one second behind winner Shuhei Moriya.  Arao's time was 21 seconds faster than the best-ever track 10000 m time by a Japanese 10th-grade boy, Keigo Iijima's 29:48.25.Now in semi-retirement and working as an assistant coach for the Hitachi women's corporate team, former high school star Satoru Kitamura won the men's 10 km at Ibaraki's 65th Katsuta Marathon in 30:06.  Hitachi women defended their titles in both the 10 km and marathon, Ryo Koido winning the 10 km in 33:16 and Kana Kurosawa the marathon in 2:43:03 and both slightly faster than last year.  The men's marathon, by contrast, was very slow.  After a 2:13:15 course record by

Teammates Ohara and Shigetomo Dominate in Osaka, Police Officer Shibata Breaks Men's Course Record

by Brett Larner

Tenmaya teammates Rei Ohara and Risa Shigetomo won today's Osaka Half Marathon and Osaka International Women's Marathon with dominating performances.  Ohara, the fastest female Japanese half marathoner of 2015 and second-fastest last year, took the half marathon out hard, splitting 15:58 for the first 5 km, 1:07:22 pace with a 1:08 target.  She faded steadily from there but held on to win by 52 seconds in 1:10:02, bettering her fastest time of 2016 by 2 seconds.  Having missed the Rio Olympic team by 1 second despite running 2:23:20 at last year's Nagoya Women's Marathon, Ohara will line up in Nagoya again in March in hopes of joining the London World Championships team.

Her teammate Shigetomo was one step ahead in making that goal a reality.  A member of the 2012 London Olympics and 2015 Beijing World Championships marathon teams, Shigetomo won Osaka in 2012 in 2:23:23, still her PB, to make the London team, and was controversially added to the Beijing …

Osaka International Women's Marathon and Osaka Half Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

The race to make the Japanese team for August's London World Championships continues Sunday at the Osaka International Women's Marathon.  Snakebitten in recent years by the presence of Eastern European women associated with disgraced Russian agent Andrey Baranov, Osaka has noticeably toned down its international component this year.  Rio Olympian Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) leads the field, her 2:24:42 best the fastest time of any woman in the race over the last three years and nearly a minute ahead of Ethiopian-born Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain).  2012 Osaka winner Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) and last year's Gold Coast Airport Marathon course record-breaker Misato Horie (Team Noritz) make up Ito's main front end competition, where they will have to break 2:22:30 and be the top Japanese woman to be guaranteed a spot on the London team.

That's not an impossible task.  Last year Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) did it, winning outright in 2:22:17, but…

"Hell Running" - Chinese Site Calls Japanese Women's Distance Running Too Cruel

http://www.yukawanet.com/archives/5166613.html

translated by Brett Larner

High schooler Yumika Nagahama leading the Jan. 15 National Women's Ekiden for the Kanagawa team.

Since the start of the month it's been cold in Japan.  A record-breaking kind of cold that has seen snow piling up even on the Pacific side of the country, and for better or worse that word "snow" has been generating buzz around the world.  Yes, it has been a cold winter, and now that fact has become a hot topic in China.  Particularly in relation to women's distance running.

The picture above is from the "National Women's Ekiden" that took place in Kyoto on Jan. 15.  Kyoto experienced a blizzard, even "whiteout" conditions.  Far too harsh to go ahead with staging a running race in conditions like that.  It's natural to wonder why the race wasn't cancelled, but it seems likely that they weren't expecting the snow to escalate to the point that it would be enough …

Nagano Wins Record Seventh National Men's Ekiden

by Brett Larner
video courtesy of NHK

Six-time national champion Nagano extended its dynasty to seven, fighting off a tough challenge by Fukuoka on the anchor stage to win the 22nd edition of the National Men's Ekiden in Hiroshima. The counterpart to last weekend's National Women's Ekiden, the men's race features 47 seven-man teams made up from the best junior high school, high school, university and corporate league runners from each prefecture, all competing over a total of 48.0 km.

Nagano got off to a strong start as its lead runner Yuhi Nakaya took 2nd on the 7.0 km high school boys' First Stage, 3 seconds behind leader Kiseki Shiozawa of Mie.  Defending national champion Aichi and Fukuoka were more than 20 seconds back in 19th and 20th, but with solid runs by their 3.0 km junior high school Second Stage runners both advanced into the top 10. Behind them, Nagasaki's Hiroto Hayashida went from 41st to 27th as he broke the course record by 9 seconds in 8:20.

Universal Entertainment and Osaka Kunei Win Kita-Kyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden

by Brett Larner

The women's championship ekiden season came to a close at Sunday's Kita-Kyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden in Fukuoka.  Cancelled last year due to heavy snow, Kita-Kyushu pits the country's top high school, university and pro women's teams against each other over a short five-stage, 32.8 km course, the long 11.7 km anchor stage split in two for the high school division.

With both divisions running together it was a close race throughout.  Running without star marathoner Eri Hayakawa, the Toto corporate team led almost the entire race.  Its opening pair Hana Omori and Shuru Bulo built a 36-lead over 2016 National High School Ekiden champion and 2015 high school division winner Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S., with its nearest corporate league competition Universal Entertainment almost a minute behind.

Universal's third runner Mai Shinozuka cut that down to 19 seconds, Osaka Kunei's Ayako Murao coming even closer at just 8 seconds back. Fourth…

Kipsang and Kabuu Headline Tokyo Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

For its 11th running as a mass-participation race the Feb. 26 Tokyo Marathon sports a new and hypothetically faster course.  Gone are both the unpopular last 6 km through the bridge-heavy wastelands of Tokyo Bay and the old course's scenic highlight, the Imperial Palace.  In their places are a flatter course with a finish outside Tokyo Station and an additional 180' turnaround. On net it's likely to be a better course, and to celebrate that Tokyo is bringing in the great Wilson Kipsang to try to better both Dickson Chumba's 2:05:42 course record and Tsegaye Kebede's 2:05:18 Japanese all-comers record.  Both Chumba and Kebede are in the race, and with support from sub-2:06 men Evans Chebet and Tadese Tola, and a half-dozen 2:06-level athletes just behind they may just get there if the always-unpredictable February Tokyo weather cooperates.

Tokyo is one of the main domestic selection races for the 2017 London World Championships men's marathon, a…

Keny and Maruyama Lead Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Field

by Brett Larner

With just over two weeks to go the organizers of the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon have announced their elite field for their 66th running on Feb. 5. Kenyan Felix Keny fronts the field, a former 2:07 man with a best recent time of 2:09:04 in Hamburg three years ago.  Likewise, #2-ranked international Dereje Debele of Ethiopia has run 2:07 in years past, but in the last three years hasn't broken 2:10 with his 2:10:31 at the 2015 Mumbai Marathon his best recent credential.  American Jeffrey Eggleston completes the front of the overseas contingent with a 2:10:52 runner-up finish at the 2014 Gold Coast Airport Marathon.

Beppu-Oita Mainichi factors into the complicated selection process for the 2017 London World Championships men's marathon team with a slot potentially available to a Japanese winner.  The best chance of seeing that happen comes from the talented Fumihiro Maruyama of the 2017 New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei team, Maruyama having debuted…

Three People Disqualified for Cutting Course and Switching Bibs at Tokorozawa Half Marathon

http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASK1L5D1CK1LUTNB00Y.html

translated by Brett Larner

The city government in Tokorozawa, Saitama announced on Jan. 18 that three people including two podium placers at last month's 27th Tokorozawa City Half Marathon had been disqualified for offenses including cutting the course and swapping bib numbers.  It was the first time that cheating had been discovered in the event's history.

According to a spokesperson, organizers received a phone call regarding the splits of the men's 60-and-over half marathon division winner saying, "Something is wrong with his second-half 10 km split."  When officials contacted the winner he initially denied any wrongdoing, but on Jan. 10 he visited city hall and admitted, "I cut part of the course."

In a separate incident, a city official found online comments pointing out that there was a man running with a woman's bib number in online photos of the race.  The official contacted the woman reg…

A Different Kind of Runner Completes Aoyama Gakuin Marathon Training Camp - Aritaka Kajiwara

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/feature/hakone/20170117-OHT1T50256.html

translated by Brett Larner

Four runners from Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University including under-20 national record holder Yuta Shimoda, a third-year at Aoyama Gakuin, completed a three-day marathon training camp in Futtsu, Chiba from Jan. 13th to 15th.  Alongside them was Aritaka Kajiwara, 28, an unsponsored independent who ran the Hakone Ekiden for straight years as part of the Kanto Region Select Team while at Shoin University and who has trained with the Aoyama Gakuin ekiden team since last year.

Kajiwara quit the Press Kogyo corporate team in 2015.  At December's Fukuoka International Marathon he ran a PB of 2:14:27.  He now plans to run both the Feb. 5 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon and the Mar. 5 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  "I'll be going for 2:12 at Beppu-Oita and 2:10 at Lake Biwa," he said.  Aoyama Gakuin head coach Susumu Hara commented, "We're currently taking applic…

Osako and Murayama Twins Lead National Record Shot at Marugame Half

by Brett Larner
click here for women's field listing

As strong as its women's field looks, the men's field for the Feb. 5 Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon is something else.  The half marathon is the sweet spot of Japanese training, the distance that the top university men focus on for the HakoneEkiden and the best corporate men at the New Year Ekiden national championships.  The official half marathon Japanese national record is 1:00:25 by Atsushi Sato at the 2007 World Half Marathon, but it's pretty common to see the top men running that kind of time on the longest half marathonish-length stages at both Hakone and New Year.  If they all got together, focused, and put the same intensity and drive into a serious half marathon the national record would surely fall, and maybe even the hour mark.  This year's Marugame looks like the best chance to date for that to happen.

Up front: 59:01 man Kenneth Kipkemoi and once-upon-a-time sub-59 man Atsedu Tsegay of E…

Kirwa Faces Flanagan and Wellings at Marugame Half

by Brett Larner
click here for men's field listing

The Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon has lined up a great women's field for its 71st running on Feb. 5.  Rio Olympics marathon silver medalist and defending champion Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) will go up against Rio 6th and 9th-placers Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg of the U.S.A., 2015 Marugame winner Eloise Wellings of Australia and 2016 Japanese National Corporate Half Marathon champion Miho Shimizu (Team Hokuren).

Flanagan's 1:07:51 on the aided San Diego course last year is the only time that tops Kirwa's then-Bahraini national record 1:08:06 in Marugame 2016, promising a close race if Flanagan doesn't repeat her 2015 DNS.  Shimizu, the only Japanese woman to break 1:10 in 2016, should likewise have a good race for 3rd against Wellings if the Australian shows a return to form following her DNF last month at the Sanyo Ladies Half.  One promising debut comes in the form of sub-31:45 track runner Riko Matsu…

5000 m Collegiate Record Holder Kensuke Takezawa Announces Retirement

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/1766072.html
http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170116-00000213-sph-spo

translated and edited by Brett Larner



The Sumitomo Denko corporate men's team announced on Jan. 16 that Kensuke Takezawa, 30, a 2008 Beijing Olympian in the 5000 m and 10000 m, has made the decision to retire from competition.  Via a statement from the company Takezawa said, "I will retire from active competition at the end of this season.  The last few years I haven't been able to produce good results, but the strong, heartfelt support and encouragement I've received from everyone has made it possible to keep going this long.  I sincerely thank you all.  Please continue to cheer on the Sumitomo Denko team."

Takezawa graduated from Hyogo's Hotoku Gakuen H.S. before going to Waseda University, where he set the still-standing collegiate 5000 m record of 13:19.00 and as a fourth-year in 2009 broke the Hakone Ekiden Third Stage record despite a…

Aoyama Gakuin’s Shimoda Completes Marathon Training Camp With 42.195 km Run in Prep for Tokyo

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20170115-OHT1T50072.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/1765865.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Having won the January 2-3 HakoneEkiden with an unprecedented “double triple,” victories at all three Big Three University Ekidens in a single season and three-straight Hakone titles, Aoyama Gakuin University’s marathon training camp featuring under-20 marathon national record holder Yuta Shimoda (2:11:34, age 19) wrapped up Jan. 15 with a full marathon-length run in Futtsu, Chiba.

The 42.195 km run was the last workout on the schedule of the three day, two night training camp. Two days earlier on the 13th the camp’s participants ran 32.195 km, a tough schedule coming just two weeks after Hakone. Shimoda ran the first 40 km of the final workout in 2:21:18, roughly 3:32 per km, before accelerating to 2:52 per km for the final 2.195 km. His total time for the run was 2:27:35.

Aoyama Gakuin head coach Susumu Hara views the key …

2000 People Shovel Snow to Prevent National Women's Ekiden From Being Cancelled

http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASK1H63JLK1HUTQP01K.html

translated by Brett Larner

Hit by heavy snow, organizers of the National Women's Ekiden were unsure if the race could be held until just before its start.  With 10 cm of snow blanketing the ground early on the 15th they leaned toward cancelling the national championship event.  2000 people pitched in to shovel snow off the course, but at 10:30 a.m. just two hours before the scheduled start, there was still snow on Gojo Street.  Teruo Ito, executive director of the Kyoto Athletics Association, commented, "I felt that if the snow melted we would make it in time.  Thinking of the athletes' efforts, I knew that if we did our best to make the race go off as planned we'd absolutely be able to make it happen."

Hometown Kyoto Wins National Women's Ekiden in Near-Whiteout Conditions

by Brett Larner
click photo for video courtesy of NHK

Snow throughout the night and morning yielded to freak weather alternating between piercing sunlight and near-whiteout conditions at the 35th edition of the National Women's Ekiden in Kyoto. A unique format featuring teams of junior high school, high school, university and pro runners from each of Japan's 47 prefectures, the National Women's Ekiden is the peak of ekiden season for most Japanese women.

It was an unusually tight race, with the lead turning over five times over the nine-stage, 42.195 km course and 2nd place within 3 seconds of the leader at six of the eight exchanges.  Many of the favorites, including defending champion Aichi, 2015 winner Osaka and powerhouses Hyogo and Okayama, got off to a slow start, ranging from 10th to 44th on the first stage and spending the rest of the race digging themselves out of a hole.

2014 winner Kyoto, course record holder, 2013 winner Kanagawa and the always-strong Chiba wer…

Fujimoto Wins Fifth Okukuma Half Marathon

by Brett Larner
click lower photo for video courtesy of TKU

奥球磨ロードレース ハーフの部
優勝は藤本拓くん(トヨタ)
1:03:51 pic.twitter.com/wYxFOd6uoI — つきこ (@t_tsuki) January 15, 2017
Two weeks after they clashed on the New Year Ekiden's opening stage, Taku Fujimoto (Team Toyota) got payback for his one second loss to newcomer Atsuya Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), beating Imai by ten seconds to win the 5th running of the Okukuma Road Race half marathon in 1:03:51.  Imai led a solid showing of three men from the Koichi Morishita-coached Toyota Kyushu team in the top five, with only Junpei Nishi of the New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei team joining Fujimoto in breaking up the Toyota Kyushu hegemony.  Running his second half marathon of the year, last year's runner-up Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) was 6th in 1:04:17. Takeru Kobayakawa of Hakone Ekiden runner-up Toyo University was the top collegiate runner at 8th in 1:04:39.


5th Okukuma Road Race
Okukuma, Kumamoto, 1/15/17

Men's Half M…

Kumanichi 30 km Announces Elite Field

https://twitter.com/miyatoshi5/status/820025369075949568

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Jan. 13 the organizers of the Feb. 19 Kumamoto-jo Marathon announced the 19-strong elite field for the 61st running of the Kumanichi 30 km Road Race, the world's premier 30 km held alongside the marathon.  Heading the men's field are last year's 5th-placer Shun Sakuraoka (Toyo Univ.) who finished 4th on the Hakone Ekiden's Fourth Stage on Jan. 2, and New Year Ekiden Third Stage runner-up Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA).

Representing the corporate leagues alongside Ueno are his DeNA teammate Toshio Takaki who ran the competitive Fourth Stage at the New Year Ekiden, Ryu Takaku (Yakult), Shoya Okuno (Toyota Kyushu), Shuhei Yamaguchi (Asahi Kasei) and more.  Kumamoto natives include Kyushu Gakuin H.S. and Aoyama Gakuin University graduate Shun Yamamura and Keisuke Tanaka (Fujitsu).  Along with Sakuraoka, university runners include Tomofumi Uda (Takushoku Univ.) who finished one place beh…

Aoyama Gakuin's Isshiki and Shimoda Training for Marathon With "God of the Mountain" Kamino

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170113-00000096-sph-spo

translated by Brett Larner

The first school in the HakoneEkiden's 93-year history to win both three Hakone titles in a row and all three of the Big Three University Ekidens in a single season, on Jan. 13 Aoyama Gakuin University members including star senior Tadashi Isshiki and 2:11:34 under-20 marathon national record holder Yuta Shimoda trained together with 2016 Aoyama Gakuin graduate "God of the Mountain III" Daichi Kamino (Konica Minolta) in Futtsu, Chiba for upcoming marathons.  Ten days after their historic feat the strongest team in university distance running is aiming for a mountain loftier than Hakone's peak.

The 13th was the first day of Aoyama Gakuin's marathon training camp in Futtsu, with participants starting off with a 32.195 km run.  Two days later on the final day of the camp they will run 42.195 km.  At three days and two nights it's a short but dense program.  Four Aoyama Gakuin r…

'Why Does Japanese Marathoning Suck Now?"

Currently reading Why Does Japanese Marathoning Suck Now? by Toshimi Oriyama, a newly-published book in which the last seven Japanese men's marathon national record holders, Shigeru Soh (2:09:06, 1978), Toshihiko Seko (2:08:38, 1983), Takeyuki Nakayama (2:08:15, 1985), Taisuke Kodama (2:07:35, 1986), Takayuki Inubushi (2:06:57, 1999), Atsushi Fujita (2:06:51, 2000) and Toshinari Takaoka (2:06:16, 2002), and, in an afterward, Yuki Kawauchi, talk about their eras, the current situation and its future outlook.  It includes the record holders' training logs for the four months leading up to each of their seven national records.  Essential reading for anyone with Japanese literacy.  A translation would be the definitive English-language work on Japanese distance running, Rashomon to The Last Samurai.  Solid gold.