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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Part Three - The Lessons of the Past Are Not Outdated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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18-Year-Old Waithaka Runs 10000 m World Leading Time at Nittai - Weekend Roundup

photo by @tsutsugo55225

For the second time in the last three weeks, a Japan-based Kenyan ran the fastest time in the world this year for 10000 m at Yokohama's Nittai University Time Trials series. On October 20th it was 2015 World U18 Championships 3000 m gold medalist Richard Kimunyan (Hitachi Butsuryu), 20, with a 27:14.70  that surpassed Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei's world-leading mark by almost five seconds. This time it was 2018 World U20 Championships 5000 m silver medalist Stanley Waithaka (Yakult), 18, taking almost two minutes off his PB to break Kimunyan's mark with a 27:13.01 win.

Both winners received support from 2014 Commonwealth Games steeplechase gold medalist Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu), who ran season bests for 2nd place each time, 27:50.38 three weeks ago and 27:28.27 on Saturday. 2013 World U18 Championships 3000 m bronze medalist Alexander Mutiso (ND Software) was also under 28 minutes, running just off his PB at 27:42.16 for 3rd. Kazuma Taira (Kan…

2018 Japanese Distance Rankings - Updated 11/11/18

JRN's 2018 Japanese track and road distance running rankings. Overall rankings are calculated using runners' times and placings in races over 5000 m, 10000 m, half-marathon and marathon and the strength of these performances relative to others in the top ten in each category. Click any image to enlarge.


Past years:
2017 ・ 2016 ・2015 ・ 2014 ・ 2013 ・ 2012 ・ 2011

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Go Ahead and Call It a Comeback - Niiya Breaks Shibui's Course Record in Return to Road Racing

Ladies and gentlemen, Hitomi Niiya is back.

You might remember Hitomi Niiya from the 2013 Moscow World Championships 10000 m, where she led the entire way only to get destroyed over the last lap and finish 5th in 30:56.70. That made her the third-fastest Japanese woman ever over that distance, but not long after that race she quit the sport entirely, getting an office job as far away from athletics as she could and not running for almost five years.

But the pull of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is strong, and, now 30, early this year she made the decision to try to make a comeback. Under the eye of former men's 800 m national record holder Masato Yokota she ran a 3000 m and two 5000 m time trials on the track between April and October before choosing the East Japan Women's Ekiden for her return to the roads and the longer distances.

The East Japan Women's Ekiden celebrated its 34th running Sunday, 9 stages totaling 42.195 km through the Fukushima countryside with teams from eac…