Tuesday, January 31, 2017

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 time of 1:30:21 [~$17,500 USD], and 1,000,000 yen for breaking Toshihiko Seko's 1:29:32 course record from 1981 [~$8,750 USD].  The 500,000 yen 1st-place prize money is available to Githae, but the time bonuses are only payable to Japanese runners, of which make what you will.  Others in the men's race include university men Ryo Kuchimachi (Toyo Univ.) and Daisuke Doi (Hosei Univ.), corporate runner Norihide Fujimori (Chugoku Denryoku) and American Zach Hine.

Ome was the site of the fastest-ever 30 km by a Japanese woman, marathon splits aside, thanks to a 1:39:09 by Mizuki Noguchi in 2004 in preparation for her marathon gold medal-winning run at the Athens Olympics.  There's a 2,000,000 yen bonus for any woman who breaks that time, but considering that Noguchi's record is midway in quality between a 1:09:44 half marathon and 2:19:27 marathon on an extremely hilly course it'll be a major surprise if that ever happens.

Not quite as big a surprise but still a large one, track specialist Azusa Sumi (Team Universal Entertainment) is scheduled to make her 30 km debut in Ome.  6 km cross-country races aside, the 20-year-old Sumi has only raced longer than 5 km four times in her career, two of them this month.  At the Jan. 15 National Women's Ekiden she ran 32:38 for 7th on the 10.0 km anchor stage. A week later she won the 11.7 km Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden anchor stage in 36:36.  Sumi seems to be doing better as the distance increases, but it's a big jump from where she is to 30 km.  Her competition for the win comes from last year's 5th-placer Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu) and 1:15:40 half marathoner Yumi Kozasa (Team Wacoal).

51st Ome 30 km and 10 km Road Race
30 km Elite Field Highlights
Ome, Tokyo, 2/19/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Men
Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:31:37 (Ome 30 km 2016)
Michael Githae (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:31:46 (Ome 30 km 2016)
Ryo Kuchimachi (Toyo Univ.) - 1:33:40 (Kumanichi 30 km 2016)
Daichi Kamino (Konica Minolta) - 1:01:21 (Marugame Half 2015)
Norihide Fujimori (Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:04:45 (Hakodate Half 2016)
Zach Hine (U.S.A.) - 1:04:48 (Omaha Half 2014)
Daisuke Doi (Hosei Univ.) - 1:00:43 (Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km 2016)

Women
Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:48:10 (Ome 30 km 2016)
Yumi Kozasa (Wacoal) - 1:15:40 (Sanyo Ladies Half 2016)
Azusa Sumi (Univ. Ent.) - 15:17.62 (Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet 5000 m, 2015)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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. Kenta Matsumoto (Team Toyota) is an outside contender after a failed marathon debut in Hokkaido last summer.

Among the first-timers, Shota Hattori (Team Honda) leads the way with a 1:01:25 half marathon best at the 2015 National Corporate Half Marathon. Dangerous when on but usually in off mode, Hattori has been training for his debut with teammate Yuta Shitara who will be debuting at the Tokyo Marathon two weeks later.  Toshiki Sadakata and Kenta Matsubara will both be debuting off recent 62-minute half marathons, Sadakata a member of the increasingly successful MHPS corporate team and Matsubara a teammate and training partner of Matsumoto at Toyota.

In honor of Nobeoka's 55th anniversary, local Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei), the top Japanese finisher in the Rio Olympics men's marathon, will handle pacing duties in preparation for an expected return to March's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  The Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon will be broadcast live locally starting at noon on Feb. 12, with a 90-minute highlight show broadcast nationally on BS Fuji that night at midnight.

55th Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon
Elite Field Highlights
Nobeoka, Miyazaki, 2/12/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Ryoichi Matsuo (Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:11 (Nobeoka 2014)
Sora Tsukada (SG Holdings) - 2:15:16 (Osaka 2016)
Junji Katakawa (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:19 (Shizuoka 2016)
Yuji Murota (JFE Steel) - 2:15:41 (Hokkaido 2016)
Yosuke Chida (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:17:05 (Osaka 2016)
Daisuke Matsufuji (Kanebo) - 2:17:56 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Kenta Otani (JFE Steel) - 2:17:58 (Beppu-OIta 2015)
Masaki Hori (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:18:55 (Nagano 2014)
Toyoyuki Abe (NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:18:59 (Osaka 2016)
Yuya Taguchi (Toyota Boshoku) - 2:19:41 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Kenta Matsumoto (Toyota) - 2:22:42 (Hokkaido 2016)

Debut
Shota Hattori (Honda) - 1:01:25 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Toshiki Sadakata (MHPS) - 1:02:40 (Marugame Half 2016)
Kenta Matsubara (Toyota) - 1:02:50 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Masahito Sumimoto (Mazda) - 1:03:13 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Shota Miyagami (Kyudenko) - 1:03:21 (Ageo City Half 2015)
Naoki Nishio (Chudenko) - 1:03:23 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Tomohiro Shiiya (Toyota Boshoku) - 1:03:47 (Marugame Half 2016)
Shohei Kurata (GMO Athletes) - 1:03:53 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Koji Kaneko (Kurosaki Harima) - 1:04:20 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Jun Shinoto (Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 1:04:36 (Tamana Half 2014)
Takato Koitabashi (Konica Minolta) - 1:04:45 (Marugame Half 2015)
Yuma Mori (SG Holdings) - 1:04:56 (Shibetsu Half 2014)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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 post-race area an employee at the Center found him lying on the floor using his bag as a pillow.  The man was already in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest, and after being taken to a hospital he was pronounced dead.  There were no partitions or other barriers in the gymnasium blocking the view of the man's location, but all other participants were said to have already gone home when his body was found.  There were no noticeable indications of external trauma to the man's body, and Okayama prefectural police are continuing to investigate the cause of his death.

Monday, January 30, 2017

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 Shingo Igarashi last year, the winning time this year was 2:22:09 by debuting Juntendo University student Hiroki Kai.  Runner-up last year in 2:15:05, Naoki Inoue was again 2nd in 2:23:13.
  • At Tokyo's Shinjuku City Half Marathon, T20-classified runner Ryo Kaneko won overall in the men's race.  His time of 1:09:31 took 5 seconds off his own T20 national record of 1:09:36. Post-race Kaneko said, "My personal goal is to run 1:08.  I'll keep running until I reach my limit."
  • After having been beaten by national champion high school team Sera H.S. last year, the Mazda corporate men's team stepped up its game this year at the 80th running of the Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden to win by more than three minutes.  Mazda's win came in large part thanks to its Ethiopian pair Bekele Shiferaw and Teressa Nyakora.  Shiferaw won the opening stage by 4 seconds over JFE Steel Kenyan Charles Ndirangu, with Nyakora setting a new course record of 34:36 for the 11.9 km Third Stage.  African-born athletes won four of the race's seven stages, a rarity on today's ekiden circuit where restrictions on non-Japanese athletes are common.  The Japanese performance of the day came from Hayato Sonoda of the Kurosaki Harima team who followed up his 2:10:40 breakthrough in Fukuoka by running the 15.9 km Sixth Stage 36 seconds faster than the next-fastest Japanese man on the stage, the biggest margin recorded by any Japanese runner in the ekiden.
  • At the 63rd running of Saitama's Okumusashi Ekiden, Tokyo Kokusai University made up for missing the Hakone Ekiden by downing the Police Department team for the win.  Tokyo Kokusai runners won the third through fifth stages, putting them too far away for the Police to catch even with a new 9.3 km Sixth Stage record of 27:28 by Police anchor Tatsunori Sato.  Running for the Saitama Prefectural Government team, Yuki Kawauchi was only 9th on the 4.3 km Third Stage in 13:16 after coming down with a cold the day before the race.  Post-race Kawauchi told reporters that he plans to try to break his marathon PB of 2:08:14 this spring in preparation for August's London World Championships, for which he is the leading contender for the Japanese team after the first selection race.  "I'm doing everything that needs to be done," he said.  "I am training with the intention of being chosen to represent Japan.  But if other athletes outperform me in terms of results [in the remaining selection races], that would be a good thing."

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Karoki Retains Title in Eldoret En Route to Marathon Debut'

https://www.iaaf.org/competitions/iaaf-world-cross-country-championships/news/cross-country-eldoret-san-sebastian

Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC) is based in Tokyo and trains on Yoyogi Park's cross-country loop almost every morning when in town.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

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 team for frontrunning Osaka in 2015 before crashing and burning in the second half, duly following JAAF instructions to frontrun at all costs.  This the time the JAAF was saying they would value a negative split, and Shigetomo was happy to oblige.

The unscheduled departure of pacer Eloise Wellings of Australia after just 10 km left second pacer Filomena Cheyech Daniel of Kenya to take the lead group through halfway around 1:12 flat.  From 12 to 13 km Cheyech went from 3:25 to 3:17 per km, dropping all but three Japanese women, 2016 Gold Coast Airport Marathon course record breaker Misato Horie (Team Noritz), 2016 Hokkaido Marathon winner Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) and the ambitious young Misaki Kato (Team Kyudenko).  Shigetomo fell as far as 25 seconds back, the lead group hitting halfway in 1:11:46 with Shigetomo and a small chase group clocking 1:12:10.

After Cheyech's departure Yoshida took over, Kato soon losing touch just before Horie went to the front at 25 km.  From 25 to 30 km Horie split a hard 16:51, but behind her Shigetomo began to close. By 29 km Shigetomo was up to 2nd, and by 35 km she had closed the gap to just 7 seconds.  500 m she flew past into the lead, and from there it was basically over.  Shigetomo ran almost exactly even splits, just 2 seconds slower over the second half as she took the win in 2:24:22.  Horie fell far behind  but still managed a PB of nearly a minute for 2nd in 2:25:44, with Hanae Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) running a 16-minute PB of 2:26:19 for 3rd in her first serious marathon.  A big surprise came in 4th as American Serena Burla, out of sight of the leaders for most of the race, ran down most of the frontrunners with a 7-second negative split for 4th in a PB of 2:26:53.  Kato faded to 10th in 2:31:28, with Yoshida dropping out after 35 km.

Shigetomo now stands as the leading contender for the London women's team.  It's an unusual situation in many respects.  Tenmaya runners often run what ends up being their career best in their first or second marathon, never again able to run up to the same level.  Up to now Shigetomo has followed the familiar never pattern, never coming within 3 minutes of her 2012 win, her second marathon, until today.  Her time today was just 59 seconds from her 5-year-old PB, a rarity in the Tenmaya stable.  It's also a bittersweet irony that she will probably be named to the London team for running exactly the kind of race that kept 2014 Yokohama International Women's Marathon winner Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) off the Beijing team in favor of Shigetomo.

In that race Tanaka ignored an unrealistic surge by an inexperienced pacer, running down everyone who went with her and defeating a tough international field that included the defending Olympic gold medalist, while two months later Shigetomo went out at a blazing pace only to fade to a distant 2nd-place finish.  In choosing Shigetomo over Tanaka they cited Shigetomo's frontrunning, seeming to characterize Tanaka's smart come-from-behind win as gutless.  Today Shigetomo was farther back against a weaker field, admittedly faster overall but still coming up short of the JAAF's goal of a negative split despite JAAF development director Toshihiko Seko saying post-race that Shigetomo had run "exactly the kind of race we wanted."

It's a complicated situation that highlights the problems with selection based on subjective criteria, especially when the coach of the athlete involved just so happens to be a senior Federation executive. Whatever the outcome, Japanese women's selection for London wraps up in March with the Nagoya Women's Marathon.

Along with the women's half marathon, Osaka also features a men's half marathon that has continued to grow into one of the better early-year races. This year a large pack of 11 went through halfway well on track for a new course record, splitting 29:46 at 10 km.  By 15 km it was down to two, Osaka police officer Shunsaku Shibata and corporate league runner Akifumi Ueki (Team Toenec).  Shibata proved to have the stronger finish, breaking the course record as he won by 5 seconds over Ueki in 1:03:05.  No doubt he'll be getting more work patrolling on foot.  The top 7 all cleared the old course record, with high-profile Tokyo Marathon entrant Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei) 6th in 1:03:24.

Osaka Half Marathon
Osaka, 1/29/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Shunsaku Shibata (Osaka Police) - 1:03:05 - CR
2. Akifumi Ueki (Toenec) - 1:03:10
3. Koki Tanaka (Kanebo) - 1:03:17
4. Masamichi Yasuda (Aichi Seiko) - 1:03:20
5. Yuichi Okutani (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:03:21

Women
1. Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) - 1:10:02
2. Rika Toguchi (Route Inn Hotels) - 1:10:54
3. Asami Kato (Panasonic) - 1:11:39
4. Honoka Tanaike (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 1:12:53
5. Runa Tabuchi (Wacoal) - 1:13:04

Osaka International Women's Marathon
Osaka, 1/29/17
click here for complete results

1. Risa Shigetomo (Tenmaya) - 2:24:22
2. Misato Horie (Noritz) - 2:25:44 - PB
3. Hanae Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 2:26:19 - PB
4. Serena Burla (U.S.A.) - 2:26:53 - PB
5. Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) - 2:28:36
6. Risa Takenaka (Shiseido) - 2:28:44
7. Iwona Bernardelli (Poland) - 2:29:37
8. Muluhabt Tsega (Ethiopia) - 2:30:38
9. Asami Furuse (Kyocera) - 2:30:44 - PB
10. Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) - 2:31:28
-----
DNF - Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, January 27, 2017

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 Ito, Shigetomo, Horie and others are not exactly up to the same level of ability as half marathon national record holder Fukushi.  More likely they will be chasing the JAAF's B-criteria for making London, finishing within the first three Japanese women with an aggressive race to stay in range of the overall winner.  Young talents Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido), Misaki Kato (Team Kyudenko) and Hanae Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) are pretty good bets to factor into that sort of race, Takenaka and Kato poised for breakthroughs after ambitious running in Osaka last year and Tanaka, a training partner of Rio Olympian Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), making her serious marathon debut after an easy 2:42:23 tuneup win at December's Kakogawa Marathon.  Already in the ring for possible London selection after winning August's Hokkaido Marathon, Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) will be looking to erase the black mark next to her name from a bad run at November's Saitama International Marathon selection race.

Habtegebrel is the only international to have broken 2:27 in the last three years, meaning the front Japanese women are not likely to have much company once the pacers bow out.  Other overseas runners include Iwona Lewandowska (Poland), Muluhabt Tsega (Ethiopia), Serena Burla (U.S.A.), Cassie Fien (Australia), Ling-Ling Jin (China) and Munkhzaya Bayartsogt (Mongolia).

Run simultaneously with the marathon in the opposite direction, the Osaka Half Marathon has gradually grown into a top-level early-season half.  The men's race is led by Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei), arguably the favorite for top Japanese man at next month's Tokyo Marathon, with 2:23 marathoner Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) leading the women's race in what is bound to be a tuneup for March's Nagoya Women's Marathon.

The Osaka International Women's Marathon will be broadcast live on Fuji TV starting at 12:00 noon Japan time.  International viewers may be able to watch live streaming via mov3.co.

36th Osaka International Women's Marathon
Elite Field Highlights
Osaka, 1/29/17
all times are best within last three years except where noted

Mai Ito (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:24:42 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) - 2:25:36 (Dubai 2016)
Risa Shigetomo (Tenmaya) - 2:26:39 (Osaka Women's 2015)
Misato Horie (Noritz) - 2:26:40 (Gold Coast 2016)
Iwona Lewandowska (Poland) - 2:27:47 (London 2015)
Risa Takenaka (Shiseido) - 2:28:09 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Yuko Watanabe (Edion) - 2:28:36 (Osaka Women's 2015)
Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) - 2:28:43 (Saitama Int'l 2015)
Muluhabt Tsega (Ethiopia) - 2:29:17 (Beirut 2014)
Mari Ozaki (Noritz) - 2:29:56 (Osaka Women's 2015)
Serena Burla (U.S.A.) - 2:30:40 (Chicago 2016)
Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:31:02 (Kitakyushu 2014)
Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) - 2:31:04 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Haruna Takada (Yamada Denki) - 2:31:17 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Aya Higashimoto (Juhachi Ginko) - 2:31:28 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Rie Uchida (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:32:25 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) - 2:32:38 (Tokyo 2014)
Hiroko Miyauchi (Hokuren) - 2:32:40 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Cassie Fien (Australia) - 2:33:17 (Saitama Int'l 2016)
Ling-Ling Jin (China) - 2:33:22 (Hengshui 2015)
Nanami Matsuura (Tenmaya) - 2:33:24 (Osaka Women's 2014)
Munkhzaya Bayartsogt (Mongolia) - 2:33:36 (Chongqing 2015)
Asami Furuse (Kyocera) - 2:34:12 (Hokkaido 2015)
Kanae Shimoyama (Noritz) - 2:35:07 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) - 2:35:46 (Hofu 2015)
Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) - 2:35:49 (Tokyo 2015)
Yoshiko Sakamoto (YWC) - 2:36:02 (Osaka 2016)
Saki Tokoro (Kansai Gaikokugo Univ.) - 2:37:08 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Hanae Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 2:42:23 (Kakogawa 2016)

Debut
Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:12:45 (Matsue Ladies Half 2016)
Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) - 1:12:50 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)
Anna Hasuike (Higo Ginko) - 1:13:19 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Wakana Hayashi (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:14:39 (Osaka Half 2015)
Haruna Maekawa (Juhachi Ginko) - 1:16:00 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Asumi Kato (Keio Univ.) - 1:16:55 (Ageo Half 2016)
Kimiko Sato (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 34:02 (West Japan Univ. Champs 10 km 2015)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"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 to stop the race.

Japanese women's distance running is being called, "hell running," "crazy" and "too cruel."  The athletes are probably so focused on their race that they can't worry about such things, but is anyone worried about whether it's OK for the people watching?  There's no telling what will happen next year, but if people are expressing concern all around the world then they have to take some sort of measures.

The original article, translated below: http://tt.mop.com/16274540.html

Unbelievable!  "Appalling" Images of Japanese Women Running Relay in Snowstorm

Recently Japan has experienced a winter of bitter cold, but although Kyoto's National Women's Ekiden was held as scheduled, anyone who watched it onscreen would feel that the snowy conditions were too cruel.  Snow fell from the Jan. 14 and through the noontime start on the 15th, but despite 10 cm accumulation and temperatures close to zero it wasn't enough to stop the race.  Never having been cancelled since its first running, the National Women's Ekiden went ahead as planned with a full live television broadcast.

During the broadcast announcers struggled to accurately cover the race, saying, "There is really too much snow," as the snow obscured runners' bib numbers.  After a total of 42.195 km the women representing Kyoto won the final victory.  Some netizens expressed admiration of the first-class resistance to the cold exhibited by the Japanese, but many viewers were distressed by seeing the "appalling" scenes on the broadcast.  It became difficult to make out the human forms on the screen.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

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.

The 8.5 km Third Stage featured a mix of university and corporate league talent.  A chase group of seven formed behind leaders Kyoto and Gunma, with Aichi's Kosei Yamaguchi emerging to put the defending champs into 1st by 3 seconds over Fukuoka with Mie and Nagano within 2 more seconds and another five teams close behind.

Over the next two high school stages Nagano and Fukuoka developed into the clear leaders, 12 seconds apart and a margin of nearly 45 seconds over the rest of the field by the handoff to the 3.0 km  junior high school Sixth Stage.  There Fukuoka's Safumi Sugi ran down Nagano's Ryosei Sanada and putting Fukuoka 2 seconds ahead at the start of the anchor stage.  Mid-field, Kazuki Matsuyama of Tochigi ran a course record 8:29, meaning new sub-8:30 CRs on both of the day's junior high school student stages.

The 13.0 km anchor stage featured most of the big-name university and corporate league talent.  Anchoring Fukuoka was Yuki Oshikawa, runner-up on the New Year Ekiden's Fifth Stage.  For Nagano, Yuichiro Ueno, runner-up on the Third Stage at the New Year and with multiple winning anchor runs for Nagano behind him at the National Men's Ekiden.  Oshikawa started strong and it took several kilometers for Ueno to catch him, but when he did Ueno threw in a surge to get ahead without argument.  Oshikawa did his best to hang on, but as the kilometers clicked by Ueno used his experience on the course to take full advantage of the undulations on the many bridges around Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park, edging away a second at a time.  In the end he opened 19 seconds on Oshikawa to give Nagano a record seventh national title in 2:19:09, Fukuoka still ending up with its best performance in years.

Behind them, fans got what they wanted with a four-way battle for 3rd between four popular young Hakone Ekiden stars.  2016 Aoyama Gakuin University graduate Daichi Kamino ran for Aichi, AGU 4h-year Tadashi Isshiki for Kyoto, AGU 3rd-year Yuta Shimoda for Shizuoka and Juntendo University 2nd-year and Rio Olympian Kazuya Shiojiri for Gunma.  For the first 10 km all four ran together, all but Kamino taking turns leading.  On a small bridge near 10 km Kamino suddenly attacked with a surge that dropped Shiojiri and Shimoda.  Isshiki hung on for over 2 km, but in the last km Kamino was too strong, pulling away to take 3rd in 2:20:31 to Kyoto's 2:20:37.  Not showing much sign of the 42.195 km training run he did in 2:27:35 last Sunday, Shimoda likewise dropped Shiojiri to give Shizuoka 5th in 2:20:51.

With championship ekiden season a wrap many of the top university and corporate league runners now turn to the half marathon and marathon.  Many will line up at the Feb. 5 Marugame Half Marathon.  Shimoda, the under-20 marathon national record with a 2:11:34 debut at age 19 in Tokyo last year, will run Tokyo again next month in a bid to make the London World Championships team.  Isshiki, who likewise debuted in Tokyo last year, will do the same a week later at the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  Joining Shimoda in Tokyo will be this year's National Men's Ekiden anchor stage winner, Yuta Shitara of the Honda corporate team in his debut.

22nd National Men's Ekiden
Hiroshima, 1/22/17
47 teams, 7 stages, 48.0 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Nagano - 2:19:09
2. Fukuoka - 2:19:28
3. Aichi - 2:20:31
4. Kyoto - 2:20:37
5. Shizuoka - 2:20:51
6. Gunma - 2:21:03
7. Tokyo - 2:21:18
8. Niigata - 2:21:29
9. Chiba - 2:21:32
10. Akita - 2:21:34

Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (7.0 km, H.S.)
1. Kiseki Shiozawa (Mie) - 20:14
2. Yuhi Nakaya (Nagano) - 20:17
3. Sodai Shimizu (Kyoto) - 20:17

Second Stage (3.0 km, J.H.S.)
1. Hiroto Hayashida (Nagasaki) - 8:20 - CR
2. Kaishin Hattori (Aichi) - 8:31
3. Kosuke Ishida (Fukuoka) - 8:34

Third Stage (8.5 km, univ/pro)
1. Shota Onizuka (Fukuoka) - 24:23
2. Kosei Yamaguchi (Aichi) - 24:24
2. Ryoji Tatezawa (Kanagawa) - 24:24

Fourth Stage (5.0 km, H.S.)
1. Keita Honma (Nagano) - 14:25
2. Hiroyasu Morikawa (Fukuoka) - 14:28
3. Jundai Murakami (Chiba) - 14:33

Fifth Stage (8.5 km, H.S.)
1. Ryota Natori (Nagano) - 24:19
1. Ryo Saito (Akita) - 24:19
3. Ryota Takemoto (Fukuoka) - 24:29

Sixth Stage (3.0 km, J.H.S.)
1. Kazuki Matsuyama (Tochigi) - 8:29 - CR
2. Yuichiro Baba (Aichi) - 8:41
3. Kyosuke Hanao (Nagasaki) - 8:42

Seventh Stage (13.0 km, univ/pro)
1. Yuta Shitara (Saitama) - 37:43
2. Yuichiro Ueno (Nagano) - 37:49
3. Daichi Kamino (Aichi) - 38:01

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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 Toto runner Sumina Kuroda dropped a new course record 18:38 for the 5.9 km Fourth Stage to reopen Toto's lead, but Universal anchor Azusa Sumi refused to be denied, outrunning Toto anchor Wakaba Kawakami by almost a minute and a half to give Universal Entertainment its first-ever Kita-Kyushu win in 1:47:44.  Toto was 2nd in 1:48:20, holding off 2015 winner Kyudenko by 13 seconds.

In the high school division Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. closed to within 32 seconds of Osaka Kunei thanks to a Fourth Stage win from Nozomi Tanaka, but Osaka Kunei's fifth runner Ayane Kinoshita turned that around with a stage win that gave anchor Haruka Takada the margin she needed for the victory. Osaka Kunei took its second-straight Kita-Kyushu win in 1:48:08, Nishiwaki Kogyo far back in 1:49:59 ten seconds ahead of Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.

28th Kita-Kyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden
Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka, 1/22/17
25 teams, 6 stages, 32.8 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results - Open Division
1. Universal Entertainment - 1:47:44
2. Toto - 1:48:20
3. Kyudenko - 1:48:33
4. Juhachi Ginko - 1:50:04
5. Yutaka Giken - 1:50:25

Top Team Results - High School Division
1. Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. - 1:48:08
2. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. - 1:49:59
3. Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S. - 1:50:09
4. Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S. - 1:50:39
5. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. - 1:51:48

Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (4.2 km) - Hana Omori (Toto) - 13:54
Second Stage (5.9 km) - Shuru Bulo (Toto) - 19:09
Third Stage (5.1 km) - Kaho Adachi (Kyudenko) - 16:41
Fourth Stage (5.9 km) - Sumina Kuroda (Toto) - 18:38 - CR
Fifth Stage (open - 11.7 km) - Azusa Sumi (Univ. Ent.) - 36:36
Fifth Stage (H.S. - 4. 9m) - Ayane Kinoshita (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 16:08
Sixth Stage (H.S. - 6.8 km) - Mai Misaki (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 21:06

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, January 20, 2017

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, about which Japan cares a great deal.  Last year with Olympic team places on the line race director Tad Hayano opted not to put pacers in place for the Japanese men, insisting they go with the front group or else.  Tokyo was duly the only selection race not to be represented in Rio.  The word this year is that the situation is likely to be the same.  It's a good domestic field led by 2:07:39 man Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu), with recent 2:09 runners Hiroaki Sano (Honda), Koji Gokaya (JR Higashi Nihon) and Takuya Fukatsu (Asahi Kasei) also on board along with past greats Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Kazuhiro Maeda (Kyudenko), 2:07:48 and 2:08:00 at their peaks but only at the 2:11 level of late.

Adding excitement to the veterans is a strong next-generation contingent. Yuta Shimoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and Yuma Hattori (Toyota) both ran 2:11 debuts in Tokyo last year as university students and are back for more. Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Konica Minolta) was 4th in November's New York City Marathon, the best-ever placing there by a Japanese man in just his third marathon.  Seven Japanese men with half marathon bests under 1:03 will be debuting, led by sub-1:01 man Masato Kikuchi (Konica Minolta) and 2016 National Cross-Country champion Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei).  American Andrew Bumbalough will also be making his marathon debut.

At its heart the Tokyo Marathon remains the Tokyo International Marathon, an elite men's race.  It doesn't factor into national team selection for women despite having the strongest international women's field on Japanese soil virtually every year, and as a result top-level Japanese women almost universally give it a miss.  Among the internationals Aomori Yamada H.S. graduate Lucy Kabuu leads Ethiopians Amane Beriso, Amane Gobena and Birhane Dibaba.  The 2016 Glasgow Half Marathon winner in a smoking 1:07:22, Betsy Saina will be joining them in her debut.  The top Japanese woman is club runner Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL), who will likely be spending the race dueling with American Sara Hall.

The Tokyo Marathon will be broadcast live on NTV.  For the second year in a row, JRN's Brett Larner will be announcing the international TV broadcast. Check back closer to race date for previews and other coverage.

Tokyo Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Tokyo, 2/26/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Men
Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:03:13 (Berlin 2016)
Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 204:32 (Chicago 2014)
Evans Chebet (Kenya) - 2:05:31 (Berlin 2016)
Tadese Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:05:57 (Tokyo 2014)
Bernard Koech (Kenya) - 2:06:08 (Rotterdam 2014)
Marius Kipserem (Kenya) - 2:06:11 (Rotterdam 2016)
Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:06:19 (Amsterdam 2015)
Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:06:30 (London 2014)
Shumi Dechasa (Bahrain) - 2:06:43 (Hamburg 2014)
Alfers Lagat (Kenya) - 2:06:48 (Frankfurt 2015)
Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:07:39 (Tokyo 2015)
Stephen Mokoka (South Africa) - 2:07:40 (Shanghai 2015)
Gideon Kipketer (Kenya) - 2:08:35 (Mumbai 2016)
Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza) - 2:09:18 (Tokyo 2015)
Koji Gokaya (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:09:21 (Tokyo 2015)
Geoffrey Ronoh (Kenya) - 2:09:29 (Berlin 2016)
Takuya Fukatsu (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:31 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Yohanes Ghebregergish (Eritrea) - 2:09:48 (Berlin 2016)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:03 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Yuki Takamiya (Japan/Yakult) - 2:10:57 (Tokyo 2016)
Ryo Hashimoto (Japan/GMO) - 2:11:20 (Hofu 2016)
Yuta Shimoda (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:11:34 (Tokyo 2016)
Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:11:46 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Yuma Hattori (Japan/Toyota) - 2:11:46 (Tokyo 2016)
Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:11:48 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:11:50 (Hofu 2015)
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:12:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Akiyuki Iwanaga (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:12:24 (Tokyo 2016)
Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:12:29 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Naoki Okamoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:55 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Hiroto Inoue (Japan/MHPS) - 2:12:56 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Keiji Akutsu (Japan/Subaru) - 2:13:26 (Tokyo 2015)
Soji Ikeda (Japan/Yakult) - 2:13:27 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Yasuyuki Nakamura (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:46 (Tokyo 2016)
Tomonori Sakamoto (Japan/Press Kogyo) - 2:13:49 (Nagano 2015)
Yuki Munakata (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:13:53 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Kazuaki Shimizu (Japan/Yakult) - 2:14:16 (Tokyo 2016)
Naoki Inoue (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:15:05 (Katsuta 2016)
Saeki Makino (Japan/DNPL) - 2:15:22 (Seoul 2015)
Kenichi Jiromaru (Japan/Obirin Univ. AC) - 2:15:24 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Sho Matsumoto (Japan/Nikkei Business) - 2:15:50 (Osaka 2016)

Debut
Masato Kikuchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:00:32 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Takashi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:03 (Ageo City Half 2014)
Andrew Bumbalough (U.S.A.) - 1:02:04 (New York Half 2015)
Naoto Uchida (Japan/Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:20 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Yuki Nakamura (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:35 (Marugame Half 2016)
Yuji Serunarudo (Japan/Soka Univ.) - 1:02:48 (Marugame Half 2016)
Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 1:02:52 (Marugame Half 2015)
Akihiko Tsumurai (Japan/Mazda) - 1:03:39 (Boston Half 2016)

Women
Lucy Kabuu (Kenya) - 2:20:21 (Dubai 2015)
Amane Beriso (Ethiopia) - 2:20:48 (Dubai 2016)
Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) - 2:21:51 (Tokyo 2016)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:30 (Tokyo 2014)
Sarah Chepchirchir (Kenya) - 2:24:13 (Lisbon 2016)
Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Team RxL) - 2:28:43 (Saitama 2015)
Sara Hall (U.S.A.) - 2:30:06 (London 2016)
Kaoru Nagao (Japan/Urayasu T&F Assoc.) - 2:30:54 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:33:04 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hitomi Nakamura (Japan/Panasonic) - 2:33:23 (Osaka Int'l 2016)
Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 2:33:39 (Tokyo 2016)
Miya Nishio (Japan/Sapporo T&F Assoc.) - 2:34:18 (Tokyo 2016)
Saki Tabita (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:34:20 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/SWAC) - 2:35:49 (Tokyo 2015)

Debut
Betsy Saina (Kenya) - 1:07:22 (Glasgow Half 2016)
Kotomi Takayama (Japan/Sysmex) - 1:10:47 (Matsue Ladies' Half 2015)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, January 19, 2017

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 in style in 2:09:39 at last year's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon with an overly aggressive surge near 30 km.  If he learned from that mistake and is near the same fitness he may become the first Japanese man to win Beppu-Oita since Yuki Kawauchi in 2013.

The runner-up in that race, Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki), is one of the best Japanese marathoners of the modern era but has been in decline since finishing 5th at the 2013 Moscow World Championships.  A comeback run would make him a definite contender.  Likewise for Maruyama's sub-2:10 teammate Tomoya Adachi (Asahi Kasei), a local who won Beppu-Oita in 2008 in his marathon debut.  Despite only having a 2:12:48 best, Ryo Kiname (MHPS) is a solid threat after winning August's Hokkaido Marathon.

Potential darkhorses include the independent Aritaka Kajiwara, who trains with three-time Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University, debuting New Year Ekiden Third Stage winner Minato Oishi (Toyota) and his teammate Tsubasa Hayakawa (Toyota), and the Koichi Morishita-coached Kento Otsu (Team Toyota Kyushu), running his second marathon after a failed debut in Hokkaido last year.

The Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon will be broadcast live by TBS on Feb. 5 starting at 11:50 a.m. Japan time.  Follow @JRNLive for coverage and live streaming details.

66th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon 
Elite Field Highlights
Oita, 2/5/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Men
Felix Keny (Kenya) - 2:09:04 (Hamburg 2014)
Fumihiro Maruyama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:39 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Tomoya Adachi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:59 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Dereje Debele (Ethiopia) - 2:10:31 (Mumbai 2015)
Hiroki Kadota (Japan/Kadota) - 2:10:46 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Jeffrey Eggleston (U.S.A.) - 2:10:52 (Gold Coast 2014)
Yoshiki Otsuka (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 2:11:40 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Kohei Ogino (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:11:42 (Nagano 2015)
Kentaro Nakamoto (Japan/Yasukawa Denki) - 2:11:58 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:12:04 (Nagano 2015)
Kazuya Ishida (Japan/Nishitetsu) - 2:12:25 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Ryo Kiname (Japan/MHPS) - 2:12:48 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Keita Akiba (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:13:12 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Solonei Da Silva (Brazil) - 2:13:15 (Milan 2015)
Yusei Nakao (Japan/Smiley Angel AC) - 2:13:23 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Shigeki Tsuji (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:13:41 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Kenta Chiba (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:14:00 (Nobeoka 2015)
Keisuke Kusaka (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:14:11 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Shogo Kanezane (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:14:15 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Junichi Tsubouchi (Japan/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:14:20 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Aritaka Kajiwara (Japan/Atsugi T&F Assoc.) - 2:14:27 (Fukuoka Int'l 2016)
Bunta Kuroki (Japan/Yasukawa Denki)- 2:14:27 (Warsaw 2014)
Yuji Iwata (Japan/MHPS) - 2:14:46 (Nobeoka 2014)
Khalil Lemiciyeh (Morocco) - 2:14:56 (Casablanca 2016)
Kaito Koitabashi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:15:03 (Hokkaido 2016)
Takafumi Kikuchi (Japan/SG Holdings) - 2:15:07 (Hokkaido 2016)
Saeki Makino (Japan/DNPL) - 2:15:22 (Seoul 2015)
Paul Pollock (Ireland) - 2:15:38 (Berlin 2015)
Takuya Suzuki (Japan/Aisan Kogyo) - 2:15:40 (Beppu-Oita 2014)

Debut / Do-Over
Kento Otsu (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 1:02:09 (Marugame Half 2016)
Minato Oishi (Japan/Toyota) - 1:02:32 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)
Tsubasa Hayakawa (Japan/Toyota) - 1:02:34 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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 registered under the women's 39-and-under bib number, who had finished 2nd in that division, and she admitted that a male friend registered in the men's 39-and-under 5 km division had switched bib numbers with her and run in her place.  The woman ran with the man's bib, finishing 266th in his division.

The organizing committee made up of city government officials and others decided to disqualify all three people and asked that they not run the race again in the future.  The City Sports Bureau commented, "We plan to add more timing mats and take other steps to help prevent cheating in the future."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

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 applications for a sponsor for Kajiwara."

Translator's note: Kajiwara was a teammate of Yuki Kawauchi's on the Kanto Region Select Team at the Hakone Ekiden.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

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 Hakone Ekiden 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 Ethiopia.  Positioned just ahead of the Japanese NR: Abraham Kipyatich of Kenya and wunderkind Callum Hawkins of Great Britain.  Right at the level of the current generation of Japan's best: Bernard Kimanyi and Dominic Nyairo of Kenya.  And following them, most of the very best Japan has to offer:

  • 5000 m NR holder Suguru Osako, a member of the Nike Oregon Project with a 1:01:47 Asian junior record half marathon debut and a 1:01:10 equivalent at Hakone.
  • 10000 m NR holder Kota Murayama in his serious half marathon debut, with a 58:26 for 20 km to his name giving him mid-1:01 credentials.
  • His twin brother Kenta Murayama with a 1:00:50 best in Marugame in 2014.
  • Keita Shitara, 1:01:12 at the 2015 National Corporate Half.
  • His twin brother Yuta Shitara, 1:01:48 at the New York Half at age 20 and a 1:00:11 equivalent at last year's New Year Ekiden.
  • Daichi Kamino, 1:01:21 in Marugame two years ago following a spectacular uphill run on Hakone's Fifth Stage and just as ascendant as a young corporate runner.
  • Chihiro Miyawaki, 1:00:53 to win the 2012 National Corporate Half.

There are only two or three names missing from an otherwise perfect collection of Japanese runners to collectively go for the national record, sure to get further support from the massive number of 62 minute-range runners just behind them.  Kenta Murayama told JRN that he and Kota will be going for a time under 1:00:30, at worst under 1:00:50, and the presence of Osako, a training partner of Galen Rupp who was scheduled to go for the U.S.A. NR last weekend, suggests big things.  Marugame usually has ideal weather that contributes to world record-setting depth at quality.  The current forecast calls for cloudy skies and race time temperatures between 2 and 5 degrees Celsius, a little on the cold side but still within a range that would allow for something special.

71st Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon
Men’s Elite Field Highlights
Marugame, Kagawa, 2/5/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Kenneth Kipkemoi (Kenya) – 59:01 (Valencia 2014)
Abraham Kipyatich (Kenya) – 1:00:03 (Berlin 2015)
Callum Hawkins (Great Britain) – 1:00:24 (Glasgow 2016)
Bernard Kimanyi (Kenya/Yakult) – 1:00:41 (Den Haag 2015)
Dominic Nyairo (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) – 1:00:50 (Marugame 2016)
Kenta Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) – 1:00:50 (Marugame 2014)
Keita Shitara (Japan/Konica Minolta) – 1:01:12 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2015)
Fabiano Sulle (Tanzania) – 1:01:19 (Marugame 2016)
Daichi Kamino (Japan/Konica Minolta) – 1:01:21 (Marugame 2015)
Suguru Osako (Japan/NOP) – 1:01:47 (Ageo City 2010)
Kenta Ueda (Japan/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1 02:01 (Ageo City 2016)
Koki Takada (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) – 1:02:02 (Ageo City 2014)
Takashi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) – 1:02:03 (Ageo City 2014)
Akira Aizawa (Japan/Toyo Univ.) – 1:02:05 (Ageo City 2016)
Keita Shioya (Japan/Subaru) – 1:02:11 (Marugame 2016)
Chihiro Miyawaki (Japan/Toyota) – 1:02:18 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2015)
Masaya Taguchi (Japan/Honda) – 1:02:19 (Marugame 2016)
Kenya Sonoda (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) – 1:02:20 (Nat’l Univ. Half 2015)
Kazuki Tamura (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) – 1:02:22 (Nat’l Univ. Half 2015)
Shuji Matsuo (Japan/Kyudenko) – 1:02:25 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2015)
Gen Hachisuka (Japan/Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:26 (Marugame 2015)
Shusei Ohashi (Japan/Raffine) – 1:02:27 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Daiki Taguchi (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 1:02:30 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2014)
Yuki Oshikawa (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) – 1:02:30 (Marugame 2014)
Atsedu Tsegay (Ethiopia) – 1:02:39 (Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon 2015)
Wataru Ueno (Japan/Honda) – 1:02:39 (Marugame 2014)
Yusuke Nishiyama (Japan/Komazawa Univ.) – 1:02:43 (Nat’l Univ. Half 2015)
Natsuki Terada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) – 1:02:43 (Marugame 2015)
Masaru Aoki (Japan/Kanebo) – 1:02:45 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2015)
Rei Omori (Japan/Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:47 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Tomoki Ota (Japan/Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:48 (Ageo City 2016)
Ryuji Okada (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:02:48 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Suehiro Ishikawa (Japan/Honda) – 1:02:49 (Marugame 2016)
Shota Inoue (Japan/Toyota) – 1:02:49 (Marugame 2015)
Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) – 1:02:50 (Marugame 2014)
Taiga Machizawa (Japan/Chuo Univ.) - 1:02:52 (Nat'l  Univ. Half 2015)
Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) – 1:02:52 (Marugame 2015)
Hideaki Sumiyoshi (Japan/Kokushikan Univ.) - 1:02:53 (Marugame 2016)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) – 1:02:58 (Marugame 2016)

20 km
Kota Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) – 58:26 (Yosenkai 20km 2014)
Kazuya Shiojiri (Japan/Juntendo Univ.) – 59:36 (Takashimdaira 20km 2016)

Debut
Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya/Hitachi Butsuryu) – 27:11.23 (Nittai Univ. 2016)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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 Matsuzaki (Team Sekisui Kagaku), who ran well on the 10.0 km anchor stage at last weekend's Naitonal Women's Ekiden.

71st Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon
Women’s Elite Field Highlights
Marugame, Kagawa, 2/5/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Shalane Flanagan (U.S.A.) – 1:07:51a (San Diego 2016)
Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) – 1:08:06 (Marugame 2016)
Eloise Wellings (Australia) – 1:09:29 (Marugame 2016)
Miho Shimizu (Japan/Hokuren) – 1:09:41 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2016)
Amy Cragg (U.S.A.) – 1:09:50a (San Diego 2016)
Reia Iwade (Japan/Noritz) – 1:10:13 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2015)
Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) – 1:10:47a (San Diego 2015)
Kaho Tanaka (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) – 1:11:12 (Marugame 2015)
Akane Sekimo (Japan/Imabari Zosen) – 1:11:17 (Marugame 2016)
Kellys Arias (Colombia) – 1:11:21 (Cardiff 2016)
Moeno Nakamura (Japan/Univ. Ent.) – 1:11:33 (Marugame 2016)
Miharu Shimokado (Japan/Shimamura) – 1:11:48 (Matsue Ladies 2016)
Winfridah Kebaiso (Kenya/Nitori) – 1:12:36 (Shibetsu 2015)
Eri Tayama (Japan/Hitachi) – 1:12:44 (Matsue Ladies 2014)
Megumi Amako (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu – 1:12:49 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2014)
Mei Matsuyama (Japan/Noritz) – 1:12:58 (Marugame 2016)

Debut
Riko Matsuzaki (Japan/Sekisui Kagaku) – 31:44.86 (Abashiri 2015)
Yuko Aoki (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) – 32:58.67 (Yamaguchi 2014)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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 an injury to his left Achilles to lead Waseda to an overall 2nd-place finish. He became the first active Hakone runner to make an Olympic team in 44 years when he ran in Beijing.  After graduating he joined the Toshihiko Seko-led S&B corporate team, leaving the team in 2013 to join Sumitomo Denko and leading it to its first New Year Ekiden appearance in 2014.  In 2015 his Waseda-era coach Yasuyuki Watanabe left Waseda to take over at Sumitomo Denko. Their reunion raising hopes that great things were on the way again, but a long-lasting injury to his left Achilles tendon and other injuries cut short his career.

Translator's note: Along with his high school and university rival Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), Takezawa was a major Hakone star and true track talent with Galen Rupp or Dathan Ritzenhein-level ability.  Always plagued by injury, his achievements on the track included:

  • 13:22.36 for 5000 m at age 19
  • the 13:19.00 collegiate 5000 m national record at age 20
  • 27:45.59 for 10000 m at age 20
  • running the 1000 m at the 2007 Osaka World Championships at age 20
  • running the 5000 m and 10000 m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics at age 21
  • 7:49.26 for 3000 m at age 22
  • winning the 10000 m national title at age 23

Despite his popularity and his stunning Hakone Ekiden Third Stage course record, 1:01:40 for 21.5 km equating to 1:00:31 for the half marathon, Takezawa was under-appreciated as a talent on the roads, where his achievements included:

  • stage wins at major ekidens like the National University Ekiden, International Chiba Ekiden and National Men's Ekiden over an 8-year span from 2007 to 2015
  • a 1:02:27 win at the 2005 Ageo City Half Marathon as a 19-year-old first-year at Waseda
  • 1:02:26 for 3rd three months later at the Marugame Half Marathon
  • a win at the 2010 Himejijo 10-Miler at age 23
  • a win at the 2013 Kumamoto Kosa 10-Mier at age 27

Although time has gone by fans still held out hope that some day Takezawa would somehow return to his past self, and judging from the reaction on Twitter his retirement is deeply felt across the country. The fact that neither he nor Sato followed a career trajectory anything remotely close to Rupp's or Ritz's is as strong an indication of the problems with the Japanese corporate system as you could ask for.  Takezawa will be missed.

Monday, January 16, 2017

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 Hakone Ekiden 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 to success as the last 2.195 km of the race. Both of the training camp’s main workouts, Friday’s 32.195 km run and Sunday’s 42.195 km run, were centered around picking up the pace to under 2:55 per km after running conservatively for the first part of the run. “It is critical to get your mind and body used to running one gear faster after 40 km,” said Hara. “That was the main purpose of this camp, to prime the mind and body to be ready to go for the last 2.195 km. It was excellent training.”

Along with Shimoda, other Aoyama Gakuin runners who did the 42.195 km included third-year Yuki Nakamura who is training for the Feb. 26 Tokyo Marathon along with Shimoda, and third-year Shunpei Oda, who will run the Mar. 5 Shizuoka Marathon. Joining the Aoyama Gakuin trio, independent runner Aritaka Kajiwara, 28, who ran Hakone all four years at Shoin University as part of the Kanto Region Select Team, also completed the camp. Star Aoyama Gakuin fourth-year Tadashi Isshiki, training for the Mar. 5 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, developed a sore throat after the 32.195 km session and sat out the main workout. “It’ll take three or four days to fully recover,” he said. “Once I’m healthy again we’ll pick up where I left off.”

Having targeted the Hakone “double triple” as a thank-you to the country’s ekiden fans, Hara views Aoyama Gakuin’s pursuit of the marathon as an extension of that mission. “We want to deliver results that will show our gratitude to marathon fans as well,” said Hara. “Our goal is to raise the level of Team Japan’s results in the buildup to the Tokyo Olympics.” A long surge may be Japanese athletes’ best hope at competing seriously with overseas runners, but Hara hopes to bring out the speed needed to stand on equal ground with foreign athletes with kicks of their own. “Our rivals are Kenya and Ethiopia,” he said.

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."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

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 were up front from the start, outrun on the 6.0 km First Stage by Saitama's Yukari Abe.  Hosts Kyoto went to the front on the 4.0 km Second Stage thanks to a 12:32 stage win by Yumika Katayama and held on to the top spot over the 3.0 km JHS student Third Stage despite a middling run from its Mahiru Kobayashi.

The first big action of the race came on the 4.0 km Fourth Stage.  Starting in 12th, Nagasaki high school first-year Ririka Hironaka ran down university and pro competition, passing eleven runners to take the top spot and just missing the 12:40 course record set by London Olympics marathoner Ryoko Kizaki.  With a bobbing head and dynamic arm carriage she drew comparisons from TV announcers to marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, and singlehandedly she put Nagasaki into the race.


Kanagawa advanced to the front on the next stage and held that position for three stages, the longest uninterrupted lead of the day.  Over the Fifth and Sixth stages, snow that had blown off and on earlier in the race reached a peak, accumulating on runners' hair and clothes and causing almost a complete whiteout.  Fighting it off, 18-year-old high schooler Yumika Nagahama gave Kanagawa the biggest lead any team had in the entire race, opening 16 seconds over Nagasaki.  Behind Kanagawa, as the race approached its penultimate stage it shook down to eight good contenders for the eight-deep podium.  The win looked like it would be a race between Kanagawa, Nagasaki and Hyogo, but a great run from JHS runner Tomo Muramatsu on the 3.0 km Eighth Stage put Kyoto just one second behind leader Chiba at the start of the anchor stage.

With 10.0 km to work with, a field including Rio Olympians Mai Ito, Hanami Sekine and Miyuki Uehara, and just 10 seconds separating the top six the stage was set for a dramatic anchor leg.  As the snow picked up again over the first half of the stage Kyoto anchor Sakiho Tsutsui edged away from Chiba's Riko Matsuzaki, turning a one second deficit into a two second lead at 5 km and dropping all chasers. Further back in 8th, 2:23:20 marathoner Rei Ohara began to overtake the competition and move forward  28 seconds behind at the exchange, at 5 km she was up to 4th but still 24 seconds behind Tsutsui. Over the next 2 km she picked up 9 seconds on Tsutsui, 15 seconds behind with 3 km to go.  With 1 km to go Ohara was up to 2nd but still 7 seconds behind.

Having lost a place on the Rio team in a last sprint in Nagoya last March, Ohara gave it everything she had in the last 500 m on the track, but with too much ground to make up she watched in frustration as Tsutsui broke the finish tape 2 seconds ahead.  Tsutsui gave Kyoto its first win in 3 years, taking the national title in 2:17:45 to Okayama's 2:17:47.  Chiba was 3rd in 2:18:24, with Nagasaki holding off defending champion Aichi and Shizuoka for 4th. Kanagawa dropped to 7th in 2:18:39, just ahead of Hyogo who rounded out the podium finishes.

35th National Women's Ekiden
Kyoto, 1/15/17
47 teams, 9 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Kyoto - 2:17:45
2. Okayama - 2:17:47
3. Chiba - 2:18:24
4. Nagasaki - 2:18:32
5. Aichi - 2:18:34
6. Shizuoka - 2:18:34
7. Kanagawa - 2:18:39
8. Hyogo - 2:18:46
9. Fukuoka - 2:19:04
10. Nagano - 2:19:32

Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (6.0 km)
1. Yukari Abe (Saitama) - 19:27
2. Mao Ichiyama (Kyoto) - 19:27
3. Kaori Morita (Kanagawa) - 19:29

Second Stage (4.0 km)
1. Yumika Katayama (Kyoto) - 12:32
2. Naruha Sato (Kanagawa) - 12:33
3. Yuna Wada (Nagano) - 12:34

Third Stage (3.0 km)
1. Seira Fuwa (Gunma) - 9:23
2. Aika Nishihara (Ehime) - 9:27
3. Akari Yamamoto (Okayama) - 9:29

Fourth Stage (4.0 km)
1. Ririka Hironaka (Nagasaki) - 12:47
2. Kanayo Miyata (Shizuoka) - 13:03
3. Maki Izumida (Kanagawa) - 13:07

Fifth Stage (4.1075 km)
1. Yume Goto (Hyogo) - 13:27
2. Fumika Sasaki (Nagano) - 13:30
3. Natsuka Sekiya (Chiba) - 13:35

Sixth Stage (4.0875 km)
1. Hikari Fukuda (Kumamoto) - 12:58
2. Mai Ota (Hyogo) - 12:59
3. Yumika Nagahama (Kanagawa) - 13:08

Seventh Stage (4.0 km)
1. Hikari Onishi (Hyogo) - 12:32
2. Yumi Fujinaka (Aichi) - 12:37
3. Maasa Sasano (Chiba) - 12:40

Eighth Stage (3.0 km)
1. Izumi Takamatsu (Nagano) - 10:04
2. Moe Shimizu (Miyagi) - 10:06
3. Natsumi Doi (Chiba) - 10:09

Ninth Stage (10.0 km)
1. Rei Ohara (Okayama) - 31:45
2. Hanami Sekine (Tokyo) - 32:03
3. Mao Kiyota (Shizuoka) - 32:06

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Fujimoto Wins Fifth Okukuma Half Marathon

by Brett Larner
click lower photo for video courtesy of TKU


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 Marathon
1. Taku Fujimoto (Toyota) - 1:03:51
2. Atsuya Imai (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:04:01
3. Kento Otsu (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:04:07
4. Junpei Nishi (Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:12
5. Daijiro Nakahira (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:04:13
6. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:04:17
7. Junichi Tsubouchi (Kurosaki Harima) - 1:04:18
8. Takeru Kobayakawa (Toyo Univ.) - 1:04:39
9. Akira Akazaki (Takushoku Univ.) - 1:04:44
10. Ikkyo Yoshidome (Soka Univ.) - 1:04:45

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, January 14, 2017

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 behind Sakuraoka at Hakone,

The women's field of 5 is led by last year's runner-up Mami Onuki (Sysmex) and 4th-placer Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.).  Erika Ikeda (Higo Ginko) will represent Kumamoto prefecture.  Along with 50 amateur runners, a total of 94 people are entered.

Kumanichi 30 km Road Race Elite Field
Kumamoto, 2/19/17
all times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Men
Ryu Takaku (24, Yakult) - 1:30:32 (Kumanichi 2014)
Shota Yamaguchi (31, Fujitsu) - 1:31:28 (Kumanichi 2015)
Shun Sakuraoka (22, Toyo Univ.) - 1:32:15 (Kumanichi 2016)
Tomofumi Uda (22, Takushoku Univ.) - 1:33:22 (Kumanichi 2016)
Yuji Nakamura (27, Aichi Seiko) - 1:35:10 (Kumanichi 2015)
Shoya Okuno (23, Toyota Kyushu) - 1:02:26 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Keisuke Tanaka (28, Fujitsu) - 1:02:38 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Shinji Yoshimoto (26, Kurosaki Harima) - 1:02:51 (Marugame 2016)
Toshio Takaki (23, DeNA) - 1:02:51 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Yuichiro Ueno (31, DeNA) - 1:03:21 (Sendai Int'l Half 2015)
Shuhei Yamaguchi (22, Asahi Kasei) - 1:03:37 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2014)
Shuhei Yamamoto (25, Toyota) - 1:04:58 (Shibetsu Half 2016)
Kazuya Deguchi (28, Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:59 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2013)

Women
Mami Onuki (25, Sysmex) - 1:46:37 (Kumanichi 2016)
Sakie Arai (22, Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:47:53 (Kumanichi 2016)
Ayumi Kubo (21, Kagoshima Ginko) - 1:11:29 (Sanyo Ladies Half 2015)
Erika Ikeda (25, Higo Ginko) - 1:12:38 (Sanyo Ladies Half 2015)
Rie Uchida (21, Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:16:57 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)

Friday, January 13, 2017

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 Hakone Ekiden'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 runners are taking part: Shimoda and third-year Yuki Nakamura in training for the Feb. 26 Tokyo Marathon, Isshiki for the Mar. 5 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, and fourth-year Shunpei Oda for the Mar. 5 Shizuoka Marathon.  Training together with his younger former teammates and exchanging motivation, Kamino plans to make his marathon debut next season.  Independent runner Aritaka Kajiwara, 28, who ran the Hakone Ekiden four years in a row as part of the Kanto Region Select Team while at Shoin University, is also part of the training group.

Aoyama Gakuin head coach Susumu Hara, 49, boasted, "It's no exaggeration to say that this is the young Japanese national training camp.  From this group will come athletes of the stature of the great Toshihiko Seko who can go head-to-head with the best in the world at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics."  Having achieved the unprecedented "double triple" in just his ninth Hakone Ekiden, this renegade coach, a powerful "shot in the arm" of the Japanese athletics world, promises to deliver the same kind of great leap forward to marathon fans that he did for fans of the ekiden.

'Remembering Tokyo's Other Scandal-Plagued Olympics'

http://asia.nikkei.com/magazine/TUNE-UP-TIME-FOR-VIETNAM/Life-Arts/Robert-Whiting-Remembering-Tokyo-s-other-scandal-plagued-Olympics

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

'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.