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JRN's Ten Most-Read Stories of 2017

In 2017 Japan Running News celebrated its 10th anniversary. From the Hakone Ekiden to the London World Championships to the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon, looking back over the year here are its top ten stories as determined by JRN readers.

1. Last-Place Finisher Named Winner After Entire Rest of Field Disqualified - Feb. 15
At a children's road race in Okayama runners were misdirected on the course and ran a shorter distance. Followed by a sweeper, only the last-place runner ran the correct 3.0 km course, and when the other 262 participants were disqualified the last-placer was named the winner.

2. Hawkins and Kirwa Win Marugame Half, Takeshita Over Muiru in Kanagawa - Feb. 5
Less than a week after his breakthrough 1:00:24 was annulled due to a short course, Scotland's Callum Hawkins won Marugame in a new national record of 1:00:00, while Rio Olympics silver medalist Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) made it two Marugame titles in a row. Men's preview and women's preview. At the Kanagawa Half Kazuki Takeshita (Toyo Univ.) became the first man to break 63 there with a 1:02:41 course record win.

3. Real Talk From Kawauchi on "Taking on the World" - Mar. 28
Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) wrote a three-part editorial for one of Japan's major sports sites, talking in detail about his run at the 2016 Fukuoka International Marathon, his plans for the 2017 London World Championships, and his hopes and expectations for the future.
Part One - The Miracle in Fukuoka
Part Two - Bringing All My Experience Into Play in London
Part Three - The Lessons of the Past Are Not Outdated

4. History Comes Calling - Kipsang and Chepchichir Run Japanese Soil Records at Tokyo Marathon - Feb. 26
On a new and improved course Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Sarah Chepchirchir each took over a minute off the records for the fastest marathons ever run in Japan, winning the Tokyo Marathon in 2:03:58 and 2:19:47. Yuta Shitara (Honda) had one of the most memorable debuts in Japanese history, going through halfway in 1:01:55 en route to a 2:09:27. 19-year-old Ayaka Fujimoto (Kyocera) ran 2:27:08 for 4th in the women's race, the fastest-ever by a Japanese teenager. Preview

5. Noguchi Downs Mungara and Kawauchi for Gold Coast Win, Bekele Breaks Women's Course Record - July 2
Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta) outkicked last year's top two Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) to win Australia's Gold Coast Airport Marathon in 2:08:59 and become the sixth member an exclusive club of Japanese men to win an overseas marathon sub-2:10. A newlywed, Noguchi's wife and 2015 Gold Coast winner Risa Takenaka (Shiseido) was 3rd in 2:28:32.

6. 17-Year-Old Biyazen Bests Hachioji in 10000 m Debut - Nov. 25
Ethiopian teenager Yeneblo Biyazen (Yachiyo Kogyo) ran 27:32.51 in his 10000 m debut to win the Hachioji Long Distance meet A-heat. Half marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda) ran a PB of 27:41.97, while Olympian Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.) ran one of the fastest times ever by a Japanese university student, 27:47.87.

7. Kawauchi Ties Sub-2:20 World Record, Kato Crushes Course Record in Hofu Yomiuri Marathon Wins - Dec. 17
In his last race of 2017, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) won the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon for the third time in 2:10:03. Top woman Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) took over 7 minutes off the course record as she won in 2:28:12. Kawauchi's win was his 75th career sub-2:20 marathon, tying the world record held by American Doug Kurtis.

8. Aoyama Gakuin University Wins Third-Straight Hakone Ekiden to Complete Triple Crown - Jan. 3
Aoyama Gakuin University became the fourth school in history to win the Izumo Ekiden, National University Ekiden and Hakone Ekiden in a single season, the sixth to win Japan's biggest race three years in a row, and the first ever to do both. For the first time Hakone featured four African-born runners, but none of the teams that fielded them made the top ten. Kanto Alliance anchor Akito Terui ran the fastest time on his stage but was not named the stage winner due to a bizarre rule.  Preview.

9. Kawauchi Breaks Mekonnen's Sub-2:12 World Record - July 5
At July's Gold Coast Airport Marathon, high-volume marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran his 23rd career sub-2:12 marathon, more than any other runner in world history. By the end of the year he had increased that to 25.

10. The MGC 6 - Inside the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Marathon Trials - Dec. 20
This year the JAAF announced a new selection procedure for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon teams, with a long series of races giving athletes the chance to make the MGC Race, a new Olympic Trials event with tough entry standards. JRN broke down the new system and explained its ins and outs.

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Breaks Nobeyama Ultra Course Record

2018 Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) won the longest race of his career to date Sunday in Nagano, taking over six minutes off the Yatsugatake Nobeyama Kogen 71 km Ultramarathon in 4:41:55.

A training run for next month’s Stockholm Marathon, Kawauchi set off solo at a steady pace around 3:45/km. Climbing from 1355 m to 1908 m as he approached 20 km he naturally slowed, but with over 1000 m of descent over the next 30 km he was soon back on track. Hitting the marathon split around 2:39, he was so far ahead of the 2nd placer that the announcer initially forget Kawauchi had already gone by and announced the next runner as the leader.

At 58 km Kawauchi was on track to clear 4:30:00, but hitting the uphills in the final 10 km and feeling the effects of the unfamiliar distance he slowed to almost 5:00/km. But with so much leeway to work with there was never any danger of the 4:48:13 course record slipping out of reach. Kawauchi stopped the clock in 4:41:55, please…

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …