Skip to main content

An Olympic Selection Race, With an Emphasis on Time

an editorial by Tetsuhiko Kin

Kin is a television commentator, coach, and former Waseda University ekiden runner.

The battle to determine the Japanese national representatives in the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics three years from now has begun. The Marathon Grand Challenge (MGC) selection race features an unprecedented two-tier arrangement and will automatically select the Olympic team members when it is held in or after September, 2019. Athletes must first qualify in order to the run MGC race.

The first race in the MGC Series of races in which athletes can earn their spots in the MGC race took place Aug. 27 at the Hokkaido Marathon, with high school and university ekiden star Akinobu Murasawa (Nissin Shokuhin) taking the men's race and the young Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) the women's to pick up their places in the Olympic qualifier.

Both races were hesitant and passive. The men's race in particular went out slowly from the start, and with the winner needing to break 2:15 to qualify for the MGC race Murasawa barely made it, clocking 2:14:48. Maeda also ran a conservative pace from the start to win. At the Tokyo Olympics they'll need to roll right from the start to be able to get rid of their rivals, but there was none of that to be seen here.

If you think of qualifying for the MGC race as the top priority, the number of runners unwilling to aggressively go out front is bound to increase. The Series races will just become competitions between the Japanese runners, far from the current worldwide trends in marathoning.

In addition, three years is still a long way to go. This national team will have the honor of representing the Olympic host country on home soil. Athletes are going to have to expend a lot of energy on the selection race over the next two years. Even though it will be almost a year between the team lineup being set and the Olympics, there is fear that the members won't have enough time to catch their breath. The ideal solution to erase concerns is for as many athletes as possible to qualify for the MGC race on time. To do that men have to run under 2:08:30 and women under 2:24:00 at any IAAF certified race in the world.

Hopefully just making the MGC race will not prove to be a problem, and I hope to see top-level athletes, the ones with enough ability that they should be a given for the team, come forward and put all their energy into the Olympic main event. Unfortunately the results at August's London World Championships, where not a single Japanese man or woman made the top eight, and other world-level championships suggest a downward spiral. For Japan the marathon is now at the tipping point of whether it is going to become hopelessly out of range or be restored to the position of one of our national specialties.

source article: 
https://mainichi.jp/sportsspecial/articles/20170902/ddm/035/070/163000c
translated by Brett Larner

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawabata Over Kawauchi at Takashimadaira 20 km

Like a distant echo of the thunder of yesterday's Yosenkai 20 km reverberating across the city, Tokyo's other major 20 km road race took place this morning in the northwestern suburb of Takashimadaira. Narrowly surviving the loss of its main sponsor last year, the Takashimadaira Road Race offers a unique 5 km loop course that delivers fast times. Now in its 42nd year, Takashimadaira is a favorite for upper-tier universities that don't have to run the Yosenkai to requalify for the Hakone Ekiden, for other schools' second-stringers, and for top-level independents and amateurs.

This year's race was fronted by a group of runners from Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University who didn't make Tokai's final Izumo roster, by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and others from yesterday's Yosenkai winner Teikyo University and the Hakone-qualified Juntendo University and Komazawa University. In the same cool and lightly rainy…

Kawauchi and Kanematsu Win Rainy Shimantogawa 100 km

The 23rd edition of the Shimantogawa Ultramarathon took place Oct. 15 in Shimanto, Kochi. 1822 runners started the 100 km division, where Yoshiki Kawauchi (26, Saitama T&F Assoc.) and Aiko Kanematsu (37, Team RxL) took the men's and women's titles for the first time.

The 100 km division started under a heavy downpour at 5:30 a.m. in front of Warabioka J.H.S. The 576 participants in the 60 km division got off 4 1/2 hours later from Koinobori Park, with both races finishing at Nakamura H.S.

Kawauchi, the younger brother of "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi, ran Shimantogawa for the second time, improving dramatically on last year's run to win in 6:42:06. "Last time I was 21st, a total disaster," Kawauchi said afterward. "My brother told me, 'Don't overdo it on the uphills,' and his advie helped me get through it. The scenery around Iwama Chinkabashi was really beautiful."

Kanematsu began running with her husband around age 30…

Tokai University Outruns Defending Champ Aoyama Gakuin to Win First Izumo Ekiden Title in Ten Years

Kanagawa's Tokai University outran two-time defending champion Aoyama Gakuin University to win the 2017 Izumo Ekiden, its first win at one of the Big Three university men's ekidens under head coach Hayashi Morozumi and Tokai's first Izumo title since 2007.

Formerly head coach at Nagano's Saku Chosei H.S. where he produced the fastest-ever all-Japanese high school team and standout Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) on a cross-country based training regimen, since taking over at Tokai in 2011 Morozumi has set about systematically developing the Tokai program into one with the greatest depth in Japanese university running. On paper AGU had a slight advantage over Tokai over the first half of Izumo's six stages, but with Tokai's second half runners, including its top two men Shota Onizuka and Hayato Seki, ranked at the top of their stages AGU needed a decent lead by halfway to stand a chance.

From the start it wasn't to be. In hot and sunny conditions Tokai&#…