Monday, February 27, 2017

Onizuka and Ichiyama Score National Cross Country Titles

by Brett Larner

Japan's main selection race for the 2017 Kampala World Cross Country Championships happened Saturday at Fukuoka's National Cross Country Championships.  On fire this season with top three finishes in every race since November and wins at both January's National Men's Ekiden and the Karatsu 10-Miler two weeks ago, Tokai University first-year Shota Onizuka won a photo finish over pro Yuma Higashi (Team Kyudenko) to score the national title in the senior men's 12 km.  Burning just as hot with top three finishes all the way since October including two wins, Mao Ichiyama (Team Wacoal) won the senior women's 8 km national title by three seconds over Yuka Hori (Team Panasonic).

The junior men's 8 km was nearly as close as the senior race.  Yuhi Nakaya of 2017 National High School Ekiden runner-up Saku Chosei H.S. won a three-way sprint finish over Ryo Saito (Akita Kogyo H.S.) and Kazuya Nishiyama (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.), running 24:02 to his rivals' 24:03.  Just two days after turning 17, the talented Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu, leader of 2017 National High School Ekiden champ Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S., soloed her way to the junior women's 6 km national title, winning by 10 seconds in 19:51.

2nd National Cross Country Championships
Fukuoka, 2/25/17
click here for complete results

Senior Men's 12 km
1. Shota Onizuka (Tokai Univ.) - 36:07
2. Yuma Higashi (Kyudenko) - 36:07
3. Kosei Yamaguchi (Aisan Kogyo) - 36:15
4. Yamato Otsuka (Kanagawa Univ.) - 36:21
5. Haruki Ono (Kanagawa Univ.) - 36:22
6. Shota Maeda (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 36:28
7. Shuhei Shirota (Kanebo) - 36:29
8. Kazuma Taira (Waseda Univ.) - 36:37
9. Katsutoshi Monoe (Komazawa Univ.) - 36:48
10. Hiroyoshi Umegae (NTN) - 36:51

Senior Women's 8 km
1. Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) - 26:46
2. Yuka Hori (Panasonic) - 26:49
3. Tomoka Kimura (Universal Entertainment) - 26:56
4. Kaori Morita (Panasonic) - 27:04
5. Natsuki Sekiya (Daito Bunka) - 27:12
6. Fumika Sasaki (Daiichi Seimei) - 27:16
7. Reno Okura (Hokuren) - 27:23
8. Misaki Sango (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 27:28
9. Anju Takamizawa (Matsuyama Univ.) - 27:37
10. Sayaka Ikegame (Hokuren) - 27:38

Junior Men's 8 km
1. Yuhi Nakaya (Saku Chosei H.S.) - 24:02
2. Ryo Saito (Akita Kogyo H.S.) - 24:03
3. Kazuya Nishiyama (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 24:03
4. Ryunosuke Chigira (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 24:09
5. Sodai Shimizu (Rakunan H.S.) - 24:12
6. Keita Yoshida (Sera H.S.) - 24:12
7. Yoji Sakai (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 24:25
8. Takumi Yoshida (Rakunan H.S.) - 24:27
9. Haruka Onodera (Kato Gakuen H.S.) - 24:28
10. Ryota Natori (Saku Chosei H.S.) - 24:35

Junior Women's 6 km
1. Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 19:51
2. Wakana Kabasawa (Tokiwa H.S.) - 20:01
3. Hayaka Suzuki (Tokoha Gakuen Kikuha H.S.) - 20:02
4. Rika Kaseda (Narita H.S.) - 20:03
5. Hikari Onishi (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 20:07
6. Yuka Sarumida (Toyokawa H.S.) - 20:08
7. Miku Moribayashi (Isehaya H.S.) - 20:13
8. Momoka Kawaguchi (Okazaki Gakuen H.S.) - 20:18
9. Yumika Katayama (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 20:23
10. Mikuni Yada (Luther Gakuin H.S.) - 20:29

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, February 26, 2017

History Comes Calling - Kipsang and Chepchirchir Run Japanese Soil Records at Tokyo Marathon

by Brett Larner


The Tokyo Marathon's investment in a new course and top-class field to match paid off with the greatest race in Japanese marathoning history as Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Sarah Chepchirchir delivered the fastest men's and women's marathons ever run on Japanese soil.  But not just them. Young Japanese runners rose to the challenge in both races, with 24-year-old Hiroto Inoue (Team MHPS) and 19-year-old Ayaka Fujimoto (Team Kyocera) making huge breakthroughs to take top Japanese honors.

Conditions were cool enough that the race went out hot, the men's front group going through the first km around 2:46 and splitting 14:14 on the downhill first 5 km, 2:00:07 pace.  But it wasn't just them.  A small chase group including debuting Japanese men Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) and Takashi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei), and second-time marathoner Inoue was close behind on WR pace with the main Japanese pack under NR pace, everyone keying into the vibe of the day and letting it flow.

By 10 km things settled down, Kipsang staying at the helm behind the pacers, flanked by Tokyo event record holder Dickson Chumba (Kenya), the up-and-coming Evans Chebet (Kenya), relative unknowns Gideon Kipketer (Kenya) and Solomon Deksisa (Ethiopia) and others, holding steady on world record pace through the hilly new middle section of the course until 25 km.  Behind him Shitara threw off the other Japanese men with an almost nihilistic fearlessness he hasn't shown since his 1:01:48 at the 2012 NYC Half and tried to close on the lead group, running 10 seconds faster than them between 10 and 15 km.  A Japanese man, debuting, on world record pace. well into the race.  Miracles and wonders.  But unable to get there before the hills began.

The last of the hills, the return trip over Kuramae Bridge, had the expected impact on the lead pack, shaking it down to just Kipsang, Chumba and Deksisa, and when 30 km came the projected finish had slipped to 2:03:00.  Kipsang and Chumba worked together to try to keep it together, but by the final turnaround point just past 35 km Kipsang was all alone and the record was out of reach.  Bearing down after 40 km he rounded the final corner right on the edge of 2:04, kicking in to deliver the first 2:03 ever run on Japanese soil in 2:03:58.  In one bound he took Tokyo and the Japanese all-comers record, from 2:05 to the 2:03 level, putting it among the very top events in the sport.  And he wasn't the only one.

Kipketer came back late to haul up to 2nd in a PB of 2:05:51, previous CR holder Chumba 3rd in 2:06:25.  Another 2:06.  A 2:07, then a 2:08.  And an aggressive battle over the last three 3 km as Yohanes Ghebregergish (Eritrea) and Inoue retook a fading Shitara.  Ghebregergish took 7th in 2:08:14, then Inoue in a more than 4 1/2 minute PB of 2:08:22 for 8th.  Three more Japanese men, all graduates of Hakone Ekiden powerhouse Toyo University, came through under 2:10, all for the first time, New York 4th placer Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Team Konica Minolta) 10th in a 2:09:12 PB, Shitara becoming the tenth Japanese man to debut sub-2:10 with a 2:09:27 for 11th, and 30 km collegiate national record holder Yuma Hattori (Team Toyota) running a 2 minute PB 2:09:46 for 13th.  But again, they weren't the only ones.

The women's race in Tokyo has always felt like an afterthought to Tokyo's legacy as an elite men's race.  This year the television coverage of the women's race was a big step up even if the field was still small and missing elite domestic women.  Deep in the middle of a massive pack of high-level amateur men and pacers, 2016 Lisbon Marathon winner Chepchirchir was in control the entire way, never relenting her position ahead of the Ethiopian quartet of Amane Beriso, Amane Gobena, Birhane Dibaba and Marta Lema and of debuting compatriot Betsy Saina.  Like the men's race they were out fast, on 2:20:31 pace at 5 km and staying under Mizuki Noguchi's 2:21:18 Japanese all-comers record pace all the way to 30 km.

There Chepchirchir said goodbye, dropping a 15:46 split from 30 to 35 km that took her projected finish down to the edge of sub-2:20 and sailing on uninterrupted to win in a new all-comers record of 2:19:47, a new PB by 5 minutes.  Like Kipsang, she skipped right over the 2:20 range to put Tokyo among the world's fastest courses.  Runner-up Dibaba ran a 1-minute PB to break the old course record for 2nd in 2:21:19, last year's runner-up Gobena taking 3rd in 2:23:09.  The biggest surprise of the day came in 4th, as the unknown teenager Fujimoto, coached by half marathon men's national record holder Atsushi Sato, ran a more than 20 minute PB of 2:27:08.  Running with three Japanese male pacers, American Sara Hall also delivered a PB, going under 2:30 for the first time in 2:28:26 for 6th.

All told the day was a major step for Tokyo's credibility as a world-event, the combination of 2:03 and 2:19 course record putting it among a small handful of races that can boast both.  Kipsang marked what may have been his last serious marathon with a return to his unstoppable winning ways of days five years gone, winning hearts in his post-race interview when he expressed his hope that Japan's marathoners would take it to the next level in the leadup to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

And if Tokyo showed one thing on the home front it was that they are trying.  Inoue, Shitara and Ichida going out on world record pace with no fear, 1:01:55 through halfway for Shitara, 1:02:58 for Inoue, both hanging on for quality times.  Fujimoto going from nobody to the top level of the domestic game.  A clear generational change as runners age 25 and under mopped the road with the likes of greats Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko).  All adding momentum to an event tipped to greatness by a totally unexpected and totally brilliant run by Chepchirchir.  Long the minor major to its five elder siblings, in its eleventh running the Tokyo Marathon has finally come into its own as one of the world's leading marathons.  With three years until the Tokyo Olympics its stature can only grow.

11th Tokyo Marathon
Tokyo, 2/26/17
click here for super-detailed results

Men
1. Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:03:58 - ACR
2. Gideon Kipketer (Kenya) - 2:05:51 - PB
3. Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:06:25
4. Evans Chebet (Kenya) - 2:06:42
5. Alfers Lagat (Kenya) - 2:07:39
6. Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:08:10
7. Yohanes Ghebregergish (Eritrea) - 2:08:14 - PB
8. Hiroto Inoue (Japan/MHPS) - 2:08:22 - PB
9. Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:08:45
10. Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:09:12 - PB
11. Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:27 - debut
12. Solomon Deksisa (Ethiopia) - 2:09:31
13. Yuma Hattori (Japan/Toyota) - 2:09:46 - PB
14. Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:11:02
15. Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:11:04 - PB
16. Yuki Takamiya (Japan/Yakult) - 2:11:05
17. Geoffrey Ronoh (Kenya) - 2:11:20
18. Yuki Nakamura (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:12:58 - debut
19. Akihiko Tsumurai (Japan/Mazda) - 2:13:27 - debut
20. Ryo Hashimoto (Japan/GMO) - 2:13:29
21. Naoki Okamoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:13:33
22. Koji Gokaya (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:13:52
23. Marius Kipserem (Kenya) - 2:13:53
24. Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:13:57
25. Andrew Bumbalough (U.S.A.) - 2:13:58 - debut
-----
DNF - Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza)
DNF - Bernard Koech (Kenya)
DNF - Tadese Tola (Ethiopia)
DNF - Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House)

Women
1. Sarah Chepchirchir (Kenya) - 2:19:47 - ACR, PB
2. Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:21:19 - PB
3. Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) - 2:23:09
4. Ayaka Fujimoto (Japan) - 2:27:08 - PB
5. Marta Lema (Ethiopia) - 2:27:37
6. Sara Hall (U.S.A.) - 2:28:26 - PB
7. Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 2:33:00 - PB
8. Kotomi Takayama (Japan/Sysmex) - 2:34:44 - debut
9. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:35:11
10. Mitsuko Ino (Japan/CR2 Nishi Nihon) - 2:39:33 - PB
11. Kana Unno (Japan/Noritz) - 2:40:32
12. Dawn Grunnagle (U.S.A.) - 2:41:04 - PB
13. Mitsuko Hirose (Japan/Tokyo Wings) - 2:41:51
14. Kumiko Tanno (Japan/Nitori) - 2:41:57 - PB
15. Mayumi Uchiyama (Japan/Nitori) - 2:42:54
-----
DNF - Betsy Saina (Kenya)
DNF - Amane Beriso (Ethiopia)
DNF - Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Team RxL
DNF - Kaoru Nagao (Japan/Urayasu T&F Assoc.)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, February 24, 2017

Kipsang Predicts 2:02:50 - Tokyo Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

2017 Tokyo Marathon top elites Wilson Kipsang, Dickson Chumba, Tsegaye Kebede, Amane Bersio, Amane Gobena, Birhane Dibaba, Masato Imai, Kazuhiro Maeda and Yuma Hattori.

The Tokyo Marathon celebrates its eleventh edition as a mass-participation race this year on a new course with relocated hills to make it faster for the front end and a scenic finish for the masses.  To try to bring its event records more into line with the rest of the Abbott World Marathon Majors Tokyo has brought in some big guns, none bigger than former world record holder Wilson Kipsang (Kenya).  Fresh from a 2:03:13 PB at September's Berlin Marathon, Kipsang brought Friday's press conference to a boil when he predicted in writing a 2:02:50 world record on the new Tokyo course.

Kipsang predicting a 2:02:50 world record.

That may be a stretch, but looking at the depth and quality of the competition the 2:05:42 Tokyo record held by Dickson Chumba (Kenya) looks vulnerable, with the 2:05:18 Japanese all-comers record set by Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) in range if all goes well and the weather cooperates.  It was a rare and mostly unrecognized moment in Japanese marathoning history at the press conference when Kipsang, the course record holder at the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, shared the stage with Tokyo course record holder Chumba and Fukuoka course record holder Kebede, the three kings of Japan's three greatest men's marathons all united.  Kebede boldly predicted a 2:03:50 PB, with Chumba more circumspect in estimating a 2:05:20 to better his own record.  The front group, which includes seven other men with recent sub-2:07 times, is scheduled to go out at 2:55/km, 2:03:04 pace.  If Kipsang is serious he may not have much company for long.  If it turns into a 2:05 race, look for Evans Chebet (Kenya) to surprise off his 2:05:33 and 2:05:31 pair of 2016 marathons.

When we were kings - Kipsang, Chumba and Kebede, CR holders of Japan's three major men's marathons.

For the Japanese men Tokyo is mostly about qualifying for the London World Championships team, a murky selection process of four races to chose three places made more complicated by Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) running 2:09:32 to win the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon earlier this month, slower than the 2:09:11 by Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) in Fukuoka in December but bettering his placing by two.  The JAAF will auto-select one Japanese man in Tokyo if he breaks 2:07:00, a time only three have ever cleared.  Next week the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon will bring qualifying to a close, the men there having the luxury of keying off Kawauchi, Nakamoto and whoever runs fastest in Tokyo.

Yuma Hattori all business with a 2:08:00 prediction for his second marathon.

1:28:52 collegiate 30 km national record holder Yuma Hattori (Team Toyota) was the most outwardly ambitious of the Japanese men at the press conference, estimating a 2:08:00, but he has competition from Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), Arata Fujiwara (Miki House), the debuting pair Takashi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei) and Yuta Shitara (Team Honda), and many more.  When it comes to the 2:09~2:11 range there are always surprises in Japanese men's marathoning with relatively unknown athletes dropping breakthroughs.  Yuki Takamiya (Team Yakult), then an unknown 2:15-level runner, did it last year with a 2:10:57 for top Japanese honors and will be back again to try to follow up.  Along with Ichida and Shitara, American Andrew Bumbalough will be debuting after a decent run at November's Hachioji Long Distance meet.

Ethiopian power trio Beriso, Gobena and Dibaba.

The women's field took a hit with the withdrawal of #1-ranked Lucy Kabuu (Kenya) and another with a flight delay that had the debuting Betsy Saina (Kenya) arriving in Japan less than 48 hours before the start, leaving a likely three-way Ethiopian race up front.  Amane Beriso has the fastest women's time in the field with a 2:20:48 Dubai debut last year, but with only a 2:39:38 follow-up in Boston there's a large question mark hanging over her.  Amane Gobena was 2nd last year in a PB 2:21:51 and has a truckload of experience racing in Japan including a win in Osaka and a runner-up placing in Saitama. Birhane Dibaba set her 2:22:30 PB in Tokyo in 2014, won it in 2015 and was 5th last year.  Barring a spectacular debut from Saina it's hard to see anyone else challenging them, especially with the Amanes both predicting 2:20:00 finish times at the press conference.  If they come even close to that they will take down both the 2:21:27 Tokyo record set last year by Helah Kiprop (Kenya) and the 2:21:18 Japanese all-comers record held by Athens Olympics gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Japan).

American Sara Hall will also be running, hoping to break 2:30 for the first time.  Because Tokyo doesn't factor into national team selection for women there are essentially no top-level Japanese women in the field, the fastest being Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) with a 2:28:43 best.  Along with Kaoru Nagao (Urayasu T&F Assoc.), Hiroko Yoshitomi (Team Memolead) and the debuting Kotomi Takayama (Team Sysmex) Yoshida may give Hall some company, but if any Japanese woman succeeds in breaking 2:30 on the course it will be a big day.

Nippon TV's live broadcast of the Tokyo Marathon will be shown worldwide, with JRN's Brett Larner hosting for the second year in a row.  Check your local listing for availability.  The Japanese-language broadcast is also viewable in many locations via mov3.co.  Athlete tracking options are listed here, with the lead men's live leaderboard here.  Check JRN post-race for complete results and more exclusive coverage.

Tokyo Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Tokyo, 2/26/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are athletes' best within 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)
Solomon Deksisa (Ethiopia) - 2:06:22 (Rotterdam 2016)
Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:06:30 (London 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)
Yuki Takamiya (Japan/Yakult) - 2:10:57 (Tokyo 2016)
Ryo Hashimoto (Japan/GMO) - 2:11:20 (Hofu 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)
Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 1:01:19 (Marugame Half 2017)
Takashi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:03 (Ageo City Half 2014)
Andrew Bumbalough (U.S.A.) - 1:02:04 (New York 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)
Akihiko Tsumurai (Japan/Mazda) - 1:03:39 (Boston Half 2016)

Women
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)
Marta Lema (Ethiopia) - 2:24:32 (Xiamen 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)

text and photos © 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rio Silver Medalist Kirwa Returns to Nagoya Women's Marathon

by Brett Larner

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, with 19,112 finishers last year.  It was also the deepest elite women's marathon in the world next to the Rio Olympics, with more women sub-2:27 than in Rio and only three fewer under 2:30.  Many of the main people who made it what it was last year are set to return, led by course record holder and two-time defending champion Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) who comes back to Nagoya as an Olympic silver medalist.  Japan's Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya), Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), Reia Iwade (Team Noritz), Sayaka Kuwahara (Team Sekisui Kagaku) and Shiho Takechi (Team Yamada Denki) all ran sub-2:26 PBs in Nagoya last year, Ohara's 2:23:30 just missing her a place on the Rio Olympic team.  Ohara is Kirwa's closest competition, but with a nearly two-minute difference in their recent half marathon wins Ohara will have a very tough battle facing her to stay in contact.  At stake for her and for the other top Japanese woman is a place at the London World Championships, Nagoya serving as the last selection race for the Japanese women's team.

Fatuma Sado (Ethiopia), 2nd in Toronto in 2015, is the other main front-end contender.  Mid-pack, interesting names include 2015 Rotterdam Marathon winner Asami Kato (Team Panasonic), Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (U.S.A.) and 2016 Osaka Marathon winner Yoshiko Sakamoto (Y.W.C.).  Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL), Cassie Fien (Australia) and Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.)  are all set to double after having run January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, Arai off a win at last weekend's Kumanichi 30 km and Yoshida also entered in this weekend's Tokyo Marathon.  2016 and 2017 National Corporate Half Marathon champions Miho Shimizu (Team Hokuren) and Ai Utsunomiya (Miyazaki Ginko) are down to make their marathon debuts, as are equally talented half marathoners Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and Hisami Ishii (Team Yamada Denki).

The Nagoya Women's Marathon will be broadcast live on March 12.  JRN will cover the race live on @JRNLive.  Check back closer to race date for livestreaming details and other info.

Nagoya Women's Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Nagoya, 3/12/17
click here for detailed field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) - 2:22:08 (Nagoya 2015)
Rei Ohara (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:23:20 (Nagoya 2016)
Fatuma Sado (Ethiopia) - 2:24:16 (Toronto Waterfront 2015)
Mao Kiyota (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:24:32 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Reia Iwade (Japan/Noritz) - 2:24:38 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Sayaka Kuwahara (Japan/Sekisui Kagaku) - 2:25:09 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Valeria Straneo (Italy) - 2:25:27 (Zurich European Championships 2014)
Shiho Takechi (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 2:25:29 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) - 2:25:31 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Asami Kato (Japan/Panasonic) - 2:26:30 (Japan/Rotterdam 2015)
Monica Jepkoech (Kenya) - 2:27:26 (Toronto Waterfront 2015)
Keiko Nogami (Japan/Juhachi Ginko) - 2:28:19 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Yuko Watanabe (Japan/Edion) - 2:28:36 (Osaka Int'l 2015)
Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Team RxL) - 2:28:43 (Saitama Int'l 2015)
Alessandra Aguilar (Spain) - 2:29:45 (London 2015)
Aki Otagiri (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:30:24 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (U.S.A.) - 2:31:14 (L.A. Olympic Trials 2016)
Haruna Takada (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 2:31:17 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Yukiko Okuno (Japan/Shiseido) - 2:31:17 (Tokyo 2016)
Winfridah Kebaso (Kenya/Nitori) - 2:32:08 (Saitama Int'l 2015)
Yui Okada (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:32:10 (Hokkaido 2015)
Kikuyo Tsuzaki (Japan/Noritz) - 2:32:23 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Cassie Fien (Australia) - 2:33:01 (Osaka Int'l 2017)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:33:04 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Kana Orino (Japan/Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:33:51 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Mayumi Fujita (Japan/Nagasaki T&F Assoc.) - 2:34:13 (Yokohama Int'l 2014)
Sinead Diver (Australia) - 2:34:15 (Melbourne 2014)
Mei Matsuyama (Japan/Noritz) - 2:34:35 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Sakie Arai (Japan/Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 2:34:40 (Osaka Int'l 2017)
Anna Nosenko (Ukraine) - 2:34:57 (Krakow 2016)
Yoko Miyauchi (Japan/Hokuren) - 2:35:09 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/Y.W.C.) - 2:36:02 (Osaka 2016)
Ai Inoue (Japan/Noritz) - 2:36:35 (Nagoya Women's 2016)

Debut
Miho Shimizu (Japan/Hokuren) - 1:09:41 (Nat'l Corporate Half 2016)
Yuka Ando (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:09:51 (Sanyo Women's Half 2015)
Hisami Ishii (Japan/Yamada Denki) - 1:10:09 (Nat'l Corporate Half 2016)
Ai Utsunomiya (Japan/Miyazaki Ginko) - 1:10:47

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Where Runners With the Highest Ambitions Come Together" - Fujiwara in Iten Ahead of Tokyo Marathon

text and photos by Tsukasa Kawarai
translated and edited by Brett Larner

2012 London Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) has had some of his greatest races at the Tokyo Marathon, finishing 2nd three times: an explosive 2:08:40 breakthrough there in 2008, 2:12:34 in sleet and strong wind in 2010, and his 2:07:48 PB in 2012 to make the London team. He has also done some of his worst marathons there, running 2:29:21 in 2011, dropping out in 2013, 2:30:58 in 2014, 2:19:40 in 2015 and 2:20:23 last year. The blindfolded-shot-in-the-dark quality of Fujiwara’s history in Tokyo has always made him unpredictable but entertaining. In preparation for this year’s Tokyo Marathon Fujiwara trained in Kenya for nearly two months. Tsukasa Kawarai spent time at Fujiwara’s training camp in January, and ahead of Sunday’s race he wrote a report for JRN on what he saw of Fujiwara’s preparations.


Starting in mid-December last year Arata Fujiwara trained in Iten, Kenya for about two months. It was his second time to train in Iten, his goal this time to build up a solid base in preparation for the Tokyo Marathon. Fujiwara injured his knee in June last year while training for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. The injury that kept him from doing the kind of running he wanted for several months, but he came to Iten to make a full recovery from that setback.

It takes several weeks to adapt to high altitude training at 2400 m. Being the dry season it hardly ever rained in Iten, meaning very dry conditions. In the rough terrain around Iten, a passing car leaves you completely covered with dust. Amid this kind of tough environment, Fujiwara worked hard alongside the Kenyans.


In Iten Fujiwara chose locals Edwin Kiprop and Benerd Koech, a different athlete from Tokyo Marathon invited elite Bernard Koech, as his training partners. He ran together with them and in a larger training group during interval workouts at Kamariny Stadium and for long runs.


I accompanied Fujiwara to Kamariny Stadium for a high-quality interval session of 600 m x 15 led by Kenyan runners. With weeks of that kind of training behind him in Iten he looked to me like the Fujiwara of old, when he was in his best shape.


Fujiwara wasn’t the only one training at Kamariny Stadium. Many Olympians regularly do tough workouts there, a daily fact of life that makes Iten “The Home of Champions.” At the same time that Fujiwara was doing his interval workout, Wilson Kipsang was also training with a group in prep for Tokyo. Paul Chelimo was there from the U.S.A. too with a group of his own. “This is where runners with the highest ambitions from here and abroad come together,” Fujiwara said.

After the workout Fujiwara chatted with Kipsang. They both ran the London Olympics marathon. Both of them will run the Tokyo Marathon deadly focused on making this year’s London World Championships. To run again in the city of London.

The Tokyo Marathon has changed its course this year to what is being called a “high-speed course.” The late-stage hills of the old course are gone, and the expectation is that people will be slowing down less in the second half. With highly-developed racing intuition born from long experience I expect to see Fujiwara run an aggressive race and a long-overdue sub-2:10.


text and photos © 2017 Tsukasa Kawarai
all rights reserved

'Andrew Bumbalough Goes to Tokyo For Good Vibes...and His Marathon Debut'

http://www.bowermantc.com/btc-news/2017/2/19/andrew-bumbalough-goes-to-tokyo-for-good-vibesand-his-marathon-debut

Monday, February 20, 2017

3000 m JHS National Record Holder Hayashida Runs 7:51 Road 3 km Course Record

http://www.ktn.co.jp/news/20170219116552/

translated and edited by Brett Larner


On the final day of the three-day Nagasaki Intraprefecture Ekiden on Feb. 19, the Seihi-Saikai municipal team scored its first overall win in three years. Seihi-Saikai led both of the first two days of the race before leading the way to the finish line on day three.  The city of Nagasaki team was 2nd,  with the Omura-Higashi Sonogi municipal team 3rd.

3000 m junior high school national record holder Hiroto Hayashida, a third-year at Sakuragahara J.H.S., ran the 3.0 km Seventh Stage for Omura-Higashi Sonogi.  Having set a new 3.0 km course record at last month's National Men's Ekiden, Hayashida did it again as he passed three people en route to a new course record of 7:51, an amazing 31 seconds off the old record.

"This was the last ekiden I'll run as a junior high school student," Hayashida commented post-race. "I wanted to maintain the flow that our team had going and do everything I could to keep us within range of the podium."  The runner-up on the same stage, the Shimabara Hanto team's Kaito Takeshita, was also under the old record by 7 seconds in 8:15.

Weekend Marathon Breakdown

By Brett Larner

Sunday was a break in the elite Japanese marathon calendar, but there were at least seven quality amateur marathons across the country, two with over 10,000 finishers ranking them among the world’s largest full marathons. Winning times were as fast as 2:20:32 for men and 2:38:51 for women, with one race featuring a rare European winner. A nationwide breakdown of the Feb. 19 marathons:

Kyoto Marathon, Kyoto
Total finishers: 15,714
Men: 1. Kosuke Murasashi 2:20:32
Women: 1.Yuria Ikuno 2:45:15

Kumamoto Castle Marathon, Kumamoto
Total finishers: 10,944
Men: 1. Haruki Okayama 2:22:45
Women: Chigusa Yoshimatsu 2:56:20

Kochi Ryoma MarathonKochi
Total finishers: 9,589
Men: 1. Daisuke Ikemoto 2:28:06
Women: 1. Chiho Matoba 2:58:51

Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka
Total finishers: 9,434
Men: 1. Shuji Tsukamoto 2:22:31
Women: 1. Marie Imada 2:38:51

Okinawa MarathonOkinawa
Total finishers: 8,303
Men: 1. Thomas Frazer (Ireland) 2:27:09
Women: 1. Eri Suzuki 2:47:40

Senshu International Marathon, Osaka
Total finishers: 4,505
Men: 1. Mitsutaka Imura 2:22:53
Women: 1. Mitsuko Ino 2:44:21

Kaifugawa Furu Marathon, Tokushima
Total finishers: 1,584
Men: 1. Takumi Matsumoto 2:26:10
Women: 1. Chika Niki 2:48:25

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Ueno, Arai Win in Kumamoto, Cheboitibin and Utsunomiya Take Ome

by Brett Larner


Both of the world's two main 30 km races took place in Japan today.  In the morning, to the south in Kumamoto the Kumanichi Road Race held its 61st edition, the first since last year's powerful earthquakes caused heavy damage in the area.  2009 double 1500 m and 5000 m champion Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) went out fast, close to 30 km national record pace at 10 km in 29:27 and still on track for a 1:28 time at 20 km in 59:11.  Over the last 10 km Ueno slowed dramatically, taking 31:06 to reach the finish line in 1:30:17, but even so his margin of victory over runner-up Ryu Takaku (Team Yakult) was more than a minute.

The women's race was closer, with last year's 4th-placer Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) outrunning corporate leaguers Rie Uchida (Otsuka Seiyaku) and Yoko Miyauchi (Team Hokuren) by just 8 seconds to win in a PB of 1:46:29 just three weeks after running a PB of 2:34:40 at the Osaka International Women's Marathon.  In the associated mass-participation marathon division another collegiate runner, Tokyo Nogyo University fourth-year Haruki Okayama won the men's race in 2:22:45 with local Chigusa Yoshimatsu taking the women's title in 2:56:20.


Just after Kumanichi finished, the 51st edition of the Ome Road Race began in Tokyo's western hills. Almost all of the fan attention was on the debuting Daichi Kamino (Team Konica Minolta), a major star of the Hakone Ekiden thanks to his hill running prowess before his graduation last year.  Sparring mostly with last year's top two Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu) and Michael Githae (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and with Githae's fellow Kenyan Ezekiel Cheboitibin (Team Toho Refining), Kamino was patient on the uphill first half before springing into action after rounding the turnaround point and starting the trip back down.  Oshikawa quickly lost touch, but after 20 km Kamino had trouble sustaining his attack and began to drop back from Cheboitibin and Githae.  It was soon clear that he wasn't coming back, and in the final kilometers Cheboitibin pulled away to become the first Kenyan winner in Ome history as he crossed the finish line in 1:30:49.

5th last year in the women's race, Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu) led the entire race to win in a PB of 1:46:24.  Track star Azusa Sumi (Team Universal Entertainment) was a non-factor in her debut, 43 seconds behind Utsunomiya at 5 km and dropping out soon afterward.  Sumi's teammate Mai Shinozuka had better luck in the women's 10 km, winning in 33:53, with Yutaro Takeda (Tokyo Jitsugyo H.S.) joining her on the podium as he won the high school boys' 10 km in 30:57.

61st Kumanichi Road Race
Kumamoto, 2/19/17

Men's 30 km
1. Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA) - 1:30:17
2. Ryu Takaku (Yakult) - 1:31:18
3. Keisuke Sago (Yasukawa Denki) - 1:31:39
4. Shoya Okuno (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:31:49
5. Shota Yamaguchi (Fujitsu) - 1:31:59

Women's 30 km
1. Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:46:29
2. Rie Uchida (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:46:37
3. Yoko Miyauchi (Hokuren) - 1:46:41
4. Erika Ikeda (Higo Ginko) - 1:46:53
5. Mami Onuki (Sysmex) - 1:47:05

Men's Marathon
1. Haruki Okayama (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 2:22:45

Women's Marathon
1. Chigusa Yoshimatsu (Kumamoto T&F Assoc.) - 2:56:20


51st Ome Road Race
Ome, Tokyo, 2/19/17
click here for complete results

Men's 30 km 
1. Ezekiel Cheboitibin (Kenya/Toho Refining) - 1:30:49
2. Michael Gitahe (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:30:55
3. Daichi Kamino (Konica Minolta) - 1:31:33
4. Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:31:38
5. Hiroki Sugawa (DeNA RC) - 1:33:50
-----
12. Zach Hine (U.S.A.) - 1:37:20

Women's 30 km
1. Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:46:24
-----
DNF - Azusa Sumi (Univ. Ent.)

High School Boys' 10 km
1. Yutaro Takeda (Tokyo Jitsugyo H.S.) - 30:57

Women's 10 km
1. Mai Shinozuka (Univ. Ent.) - 33:53
2. Mao Komoto (Hachioji H.S.) - 34:43
3. Saki Yoshimizu (Univ. Ent.) - 34:56

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Kampala 2017: Kenya Names Team for World X-Country Championships'

http://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1446534/kampala-2017-kenya-names-team-world-country-championships

The Tokyo-based Leonard Barsoton (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC) are regulars on the Yoyogi Park XC loop when they are in town.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

'Tokyo 2020: The Heat Factor'

https://sportifycities.com/tokyo-2020-heat-factor/

An interesting read on the issues facing athletes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were held October 10~24 rather than at the peak of summer heat and humidity as the 2020 Games will be.

A Flatter Course for the Post-Truth Era - Running the New Tokyo Marathon Course

by Brett Larner

For its first ten years as a mass participation event the Tokyo Marathon had a good course, downhill through the first 10 km, mostly flat for the next 25 km, its unique cross shape minimizing the effect of wind from any direction but the east.  But its last 6 km were unpopular with everyone, elite and amateur alike, drab, with sparse crowds, a series of bridges and hills almost exactly once every kilometer from 36 km to the end, and a finish line hidden away like an embarrassment on the docks behind an isolated convention center on an island in the bay.  Every year the elite race took a hit over the hills in the last 6 km, and it wasn't much fun for the masses either.

Last March the Tokyo Marathon organizers announced with fanfare a new course aimed at eliminating these problems and making it faster.  Billed as a flat speed course, the new configuration reshuffled much of the old course but cut the depressing last 6 km and replaced it with a new mid-race foray into uncharted land east of the Sumida River.  A week and a day out from Tokyo's eleventh running, JRN set out to find the new lay of the land.


The new course keeps the start in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building and follows the old course through the downhills to 7 km.


At 7 km, just before the old course reached its most scenic segment along the outer perimeter of the Imperial Palace, the new course turns left and heads toward Kanda Station for 1.5 km.


At 8.5 km a righthand turn leads to Nihonbashi, a once-historic bridge and neighborhood now buried under the shadows of highway overpasses built for the 1964 Olympics.


The bridge itself is still there, and while surfaced with cobblestones and representing the first real addition of up-and-down to the course it's a privilege to run across it, something until now reserved only for the twenty-odd men on the anchor stage of the legendary Hakone Ekiden.


At 10 km the course rejoins its former self.  Where the old course headed through Ginza just after halfway before turning right to head to the Asakusa turnaround, the new course meets it from the opposite direction to turn left before following the same route to Asakusa.  In years past the Ginza/Nihonbashi section of the course, roughly halfway through 25 km, often saw the first action in the race up front.  That section will now come much earlier, just past 10 km.


The old course made an out-and-back up to Asakusa, breaching 30 km en route before making it back to Ginza.  The new course makes the pilgrimage to Asakusa but on the way back just after 16 km diverts to cross the Sumida and head out through territory previously reserved only for sumo wrestlers to a 180' turnaround at 20.5 km.  The Monzen-Nakacho neighborhood surrounding the turnaround point is a highlight of the new course.


Just over 8 km out and back from the Kuramaebashi bridge on the River Sumida, this is the section that is supposed to be a flattened improvement over the time-and-soul-destroying last 6 km of the old course.  The problem is, it's not flatter.  Just like the old course's series of bridges and bumps every kilometer over its terminal 6, the new course has six bridges and bumps on the way to the turnaround.  Then you have to run them again.  With the exception of the return trip up Kuramaebashi near 24 km none of them is especially demanding, but there are twelve of them, not six, packed into 8 km versus the old 6 km format.  According to a nonscientific look at GPS data, their combined climb is around 15 m greater than for the hilly part of the former course.  It's not much, but it's enough to call any claim of this course being flatter a misrepresentation.

The question is, will it be faster?  The hills on the old course weren't terrible but came at the worst possible time.  From the Nihonbashi intersection just before 29 km on the return trip all the way to the finish, the new course is almost totally flat.  Describing this section as flatter and faster would be accurate, as would saying that overall the course has shifted its hills from the end of the race to the middle.  Will that make it faster?  Maybe.  With few corners and only a 180' turnaround at Shinagawa Station just after 35 km there's nothing to stop someone who handles the mid-race hills well from getting into a rhythm that carries them to a very fast time.  Nothing except wind, which could be more of an issue on this course than the old one if it blows from the north or south.


Right after 41 km the course makes a right and then, with 1 km to go, a quick left.  For almost a kilometer runners will go straight ahead down a fashionable, tree-lined boulevard, worlds away from the old finish in quality and appropriateness for the event's stature.  The entire last kilometer is surfaced with brick and cobblestone, a rarity in Tokyo, but as a relatively new installation they are smooth and flat and shouldn't present any problems. More of a potential problem are the tall buildings lining both sides of the road. If there's any wind at all they will turn the last kilometer into a wind tunnel.


At the end of the last kilometer straightway runners explode into wide open space between the Imperial Palace and the Marunouchi red brick side of Tokyo Station.  It's very nice and scenic, but to maximize the effect the Tokyo Marathon organizers have opted to make runners take a sharp left with 100 m or less to go to the finish line.  That may make for prettier pictures at the finish line, but as an elite event it's dropping the ball.  Runners won't be visible from the finish until almost literally the very last moment, and if there's any kind of exciting head-to-head race at the end it will be interrupted by the last-second turn.  It's not a perfect course yet, but on net the changes look to be a good step in the right direction.  How it plays out in action and whether the changes are going to result in the outcomes the organizers are hoping for remains to be seen next Sunday.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, February 17, 2017

Kamino's 30 km Debut in Ome Highlights Weekend Action

by Brett Larner

This weekend is a lull in the middle of Japan's seven-week elite marathon season, but there's still plenty going on.  Both of its main 30 km road races, Kumamoto's Kumanichi 30 km and Tokyo's Ome 30 km, the world's two greatest races at the distance, happen Sunday.

Run in conjunction with the mass participation Kumamoto-jo Marathon, the Kumanichi 30 km is an elite-only event with small men's and women's fields and the home of Takayuki Matsumiya's 1:28:00 national record.  Toyo University graduate Ryu Takaku (Team Yakult) leads the field with a 1:30:32 in Kumanichi three years ago.  Current Toyo runner Shun Sakuraoka and past 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) are his main competition.  Mami Onuki (Team Sysmex) has the best 30 km time in the women's field, 1:46:37 for 2nd in last year's race, but the favorite may be the debuting Ayumi Kubo (Team Kagoshima Ginko), a 1:11:29 half marathoner.

The Ome 30 km is a longstanding mass participation event with over 15,000 participants and the women's national record, Mizuki Noguchi's stellar pre-Olympic gold 1:39:09 from 2004.  Most fans will be focused on Ome this weekend to see the 30 km debut of ultra-popular former Hakone Ekiden star Daichi Kamino (Team Konica Minolta).  Ome has a tough and hilly course that plays to Kamino's strengths, and with a bonus of over $25,000 USD on the line for beating Toshihiko Seko's 1:29:23 Ome time he has extra motivation to hit it hard.  And it may be leading to something bigger.

Ome has a longstanding relationship with the Boston Marathon, the top Japanese man in Ome getting an invitation to run Boston and top Americans in Boston likewise getting invited to run Ome the following year.  Back in the day this meant the big names, but it has been a long time since either country's best ran the other's race, the invitations usually ending up in the hands of 2nd or 3rd-tier runners.  Kamino has been talking a marathon debut next season, but he has been building up nicely enough this one.  In December he ran 46:38 for 2nd behind Kenyan Charles Ndirangu (Team JFE Steel) at the Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler.  After two good ekiden runs in January he ran a 1:01:04 half marathon PB for top Japanese man at the Feb. 5 Marugame Half.  When Seko ran his 1:29:23 in the 1981 Ome he went on to win Boston two months later in 2:09:27. The hills of the Boston course are ideal for Kamino's abilities. His teammate Tomohiro Tanigawa debuted in Boston off a solid Ome run in 2013. If Kamino breaks Seko's time, could he we see him follow Seko to Boston?

The Ome women's race is always small, but this year it has a debut almost as exciting as Kamino's lined up.  All-time Japanese junior #3 for 5000 m at 15:17.62, Azusa Sumi (Team Universal Entertainment), now age 20, is set to run her first-ever race longer than 12 km.  Sumi ran well this ekiden season, running 32:38 for 10.0 km at January's National Women's Ekiden and 36:36 for 11.7 km a week later at the Kita-Kyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden, her longest-ever race up to now.  It's a big jump from there to 30 km, especially on a hilly course, but Sumi wouldn't be taking it on if she wasn't ready.

Cross country is a minor part of the sport in Japan, with just two major races on the calendar.  Rebranded to sound cooler, the X-Run Chiba 2017 also goes down Sunday.  Serving as the Junior High School cross country championships, this year X-Run Chiba features distances all the way up to 20 km in the open division.  Most elites will opt for the Fukuoka International Cross Country meet next week, rebranded last year as the National Cross Country Championships, but it'll be interesting to see how a 20 km cross country race goes over.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Negesse, Chebii and Sasaki Lead Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Field

by Brett Larner

The Mar. 5 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, Biwako for short, is the last of the four races used to choose the three members of the Japanese men's marathon team for August's London World Championships.  Two of the three members of last summer's Rio de Janeiro Olympic team top the list of Japanese men in the race, Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) with a 2:08:56 in Fukuoka 2015 and Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) with 2:09:25 last year at Lake Biwa. The pair are the only Japanese athletes in the field with recent sub-2:10 times, a few steps ahead of six 2:10-11 men including the high-potential Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota).  Four others led by 2014 Asian Games silver medalist Kohei Matsumura (Team MHPS) have broken 2:10 in the past but would need a solid comeback to factor.  With the possible exception of Matsumura one of the five debuting sub-63 half marathoners may be more likely to end up in the front-end action, the prime candidate being 2017 New Year Ekiden Sixth Stage course record breaker Hiroshi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei).

The international field is led by Endeshaw Negesse (Ethiopia), Ezekiel Kiptoo Chebii (Kenya), Munyo Solomon Mutai (Uganda) and Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/Team JFE Steel). Negesse won the 2015 Tokyo Marathon but last year was caught up in the meldonium ban and sat out the rest of the year. Chebii is a two-time winner of the Madrid Marathon and ran his PB of 2:06:07 in his last marathon, last fall's Amsterdam Marathon.  Mutai is the 2015 Beijing World Championships bronze medalist.  The Japan-based Ndirangu is fresh off a quality run for 3rd at last weekend's National Corporate Half Marathon and looks ready for his marathon debut.  Other sub-2:10 internationals include Tewelde Estifanos (Eritrea), Yihuniligh Adane (Ethiopia) and past Lake Biwa winner Vincent Kipruto (Kenya).

The Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon will be broadcast live and commercial-free on NHK starting at 12:30 p.m. Japan time on the 5th.  In its other race broadcasts this season NHK has offered free four channel live streaming available internationally on its website.  JRN will also cover the race live on Twitter @JRNLive.  Check back closer to race date for more info.

72nd Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
Elite Field Highlights
Otsu, Shiga, 3/5/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Endeshaw Negesse (Ethiopia) - 2:06:00 (Tokyo 2015)
Ezekiel Kiptoo Chebii (Kenya) - 2:06:07 (Amsterdam 2016)
Satoru Sasaki (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:08:56 (Fukuoka Int'l 2015)
Tewelde Estifanos (Eritrea) - 2:09:16 (Frankfurt 2015)
Suehiro Ishikawa (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:25 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Yihuniligh Adane (Ethiopia) - 2:09:48 (Dubai 2016)
Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:09:54 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Hayato Sonoda (Japan/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:10:40 (Fukuoka Int'l 2016)
Munyo Solomon Mutai (Uganda) - 2:10:42 (Hannover 2015)
Kazuki Tomaru (Japan/Toyota) - 2:11:25 (Berlin 2014)
Tomoyuki Morita (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:11:41 (Tokyo 2015)
Tadashi Isshiki (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:11:45 (Tokyo 2016)
Chihiro Miyawaki (Japan/Toyota) - 2:11:50 (Tokyo 2014)
Rui Yonezawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:11:59 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Taiki Yoshimura (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:19 (Hofu 2016)
Hiroki Yamagishi (Japan/GMO) - 2:12:27 (Tokyo 2016)
Kohei Matsumura (Japan/MHPS) - 2:12:39 (Incheon 2014)
Norikazu Kato (Japan/Yakult) - 2:13:34 (Nobeoka 2015)
Yu Chiba (Japan/Honda) - 2:13:44 (Riga 2014)
Byron Piedra (Ecuador) - 2:14:12 (Rio de Janeiro 2016)
Aritaka Kajiwara (Japan/Atsugi T&F Assoc.) - 2:14:27 (Fukuoka Int'l 2016)
Masanori Sakai (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:14:52 (Berlin 2015)
Takayuki Matsumiya (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 2:14:58 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Hideaki Tamura (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:15:00 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Mourad Maroufit (Morocco) - 2:15:24 (Guangzhou 2016)
Takumi Kiyotani (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:15:31 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Koshi Watanabe (Japan/Subaru) - 2:15:36 (Osaka 2016)
Kiyokatsu Hasegawa (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:15:42 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Tyler Andrews (U.S.A.) - 2:15:52 (Albany 2016)
Hiroyuki Horibata (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:08:24 (Fukuoka Int'l 2012)

Debut
Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/JFE Steel) - 1:00:18 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
El Hassan El Abbassi (Bahrain) - 1:02:16 (Marrakech Half 2016)
Keita Baba (Japan/Honda) - 1:02:23 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Hiroshi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:25 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Shuji Matsuo (Japan/Chudenko) - 1:02:25 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Yuta Oikawa (Japan/YKK) - 1:02:40 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)
Ryuji Okada (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:02:48 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Last-Place Finisher Named Winner After Entire Rest of Field Disqualified

http://news.tv-asahi.co.jp/news_society/articles/000094362.html
http://www.j-cast.com/2017/02/15290700.html?in=news.yahoo.co.jp

translated and edited by Brett Larner

262 out of 263 participants in a road race were disqualified after they were misdirected, with only one person running the correct course.  The mishap occurred at a race in Kasaoka, Okayama on Feb. 5.  According to city officials, in the children's 3 km division the field of 263 elementary school students from 3rd grade through 6th grade was misdirected.  262 of them ran the wrong way, with the first child to finish covering what was estimated to be less than 2 km in 6:51. Followed by a staff member on a bicycle, only the last-place child ran the correct course to complete the full 3 km distance.  All the other children were disqualified, and city officials decided to honor the lone finisher as the winner.

The race, the 20th Bayfarm Kasaoka Road Race, featured 30 different divisions including a half marathon, 10 km and separate 3 km races for junior high school and elementary school students.  Both the junior high and elementary school races followed the same course, the junior high school students starting first and the elementary school students five minutes later. In the past the elementary school students have chased after the junior high students and there has never been a problem with them getting lost on the course, but with only 40 people in the junior high division this year the lead group of elementary school runners lost sight of them.  Although there were guidance signs on the course they were described as "hard to understand," and volunteer staff along the route were mainly focused on safety and security and didn't notice the elementary school runners had gone the wrong way.

As a result, although all the junior high school division runners ran the correct 3 km course, 262 of the 263 elementary school runners were estimated to have run only 1.8 km.  Staff members surprised at their early arrival at the finish line confirmed that they had gone off-course.  The race could not be run again, so in addition to the official winner the first six finishers were still recognized at the award ceremony.  "They tried," commented race officials.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

’La Corredora Japonesa Yuri Yoshizumi Viaja a La Palma para Participar en Transvulcania'

http://www.deporpress.com/index.php/2017/02/14/la-corredora-japonesa-yuri-yoshizumi-viaja-a-la-palma-para-participar-en-transvulcania/?platform=hootsuite

A Spanish-language article on 2012 Hokkaido Marathon winer Yuri Yoshizumi ahead of May's Transvulcania race.

Japanese Men Stuck Behind the 2:09 Wall Seven Minutes Behind the Rest of the World

http://www.nikkan-gendai.com/articles/view/sports/199496/1

translated by Brett Larner

It's turned into an era when it's hard to break even 2:09.

On Feb. 12, Yuki Kawauchi (29), the top Japanese finisher in December's Fukuoka International Marathon at 3rd overall, set a new course record of 2:09:54 to win the Ehime Marathon for the first time.  Speaking of 2:09, in Fukuoka as well Kawauchi ran 2:09:11.  On the 5th this month Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner Kentaro Nakamoto (34) ran 2:09:32 too.  And the three members of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics team did it in the selection races.  Satoru Sasaki barely broke 2:09 at 2:08:56 for 3rd in Fukuoka, and Hisanori Kitajima and Suehiro Ishikawa ran 2:09:16 and 2:09:25 for 2nd and 4th at Lake Biwa.  Even in the Olympic season when marathoners' gaze is supposed to be loftier, that was all they could do.

Even though the world standard in the men's marathon is now at the 2:02 level, Japanese haven't run 2:07 in a domestic race since Masato Imai's 2:07:39 for 7th in Tokyo back in 2015.  Maybe that's why the Tokyo Marathon, scheduled for the 26th this month, has changed its course to try to put out high-speed times.  Gone is the heartbreaking uphill, Tsukada Bridge, just after 35 km.  With the organizers having made the course easier it'll be fun to watch how much faster times might get.

Also on the 12th, Ai Utsunomiya, 21, ran a PB of 1:10:47 to win the National Corporate Women's Half Marathon, more than three minutes slower than Kayoko Fukushi's 1:07:26 Japanese national record.  But on the 10th at a half marathon in the U.A.E., Peres Jepchirchir (23, Kenya) set a new world record of 1:05:06.

Translator's note: One of JRN's purposes is to show the extent to which long distance features in the Japanese media and the ways in which they cover it. This article was translated to show that there is crap tabloid journalism and trolling in Japan too. 

Kawauchi Joins Elite Club of 11+ Sub-2:10 Marathoners

by Brett Larner

With his 2:09:54 at Sunday's Ehime Marathon Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) became the fifteenth runner in history to run sub-2:10 eleven times or more in his career.  The achievement puts him in distinguished company, including two marathon world record setters, seven Olympic marathon medalists, seven World Championships marathon medalists, three World Marathon Majors champions and eight winners of the six races now making up the World Marathon Majors.

Kawauchi is one of only three non-African athletes to make the list, one of four on the list without either an Olympic or World Championships medal or a win at one of the Big Six, one of four to have not broken 2:07, and, with a PB of 2:08:14, the only one who has not run sub-2:08.  A sub-2:08 PB and a World Championships medal remain the major goals of his career.

Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 16 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:04:38
  • 2013 World Marathon Majors champion
  • 1st, 2013 London Marathon
  • 1st, 2012 Chicago Marathon
  • 1st, 2010 London Marathon
  • bronze, 2009 Berlin World Championships
  • bronze, 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya) - 14 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:03:14
  • 2011 World Marathon Majors champion
  • 1st, 2011 London Marathon
  • silver, 2009 Berlin World Championships

Jaouad Gharib (Morocco) - 14 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:05:27
  • silver, 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
  • gold, 2005 Helsinki World Championships
  • gold, 2003 Paris World Championships

Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) - 13 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:04:48
  • silver, 2015 Beijing World Championships

Feyisa Lelisa (Ethiopia) - 13 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:04:52
  • silver, 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games
  • 1st, 2016 Tokyo Marathon
  • bronze, 2011 Daegu World Championships

Abdelkader El Mouaziz (Morocco) - 13 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:06:46
  • 1st, 2001 London Marathon
  • 1st, 2000 New York City Marathon
  • 1st, 1999 London Marathon

Stefano Baldini (Italy) - 13 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:07:22
  • gold, 2006 Goteborg European Championships
  • gold, 2004 Athens Olympic Games
  • bronze, 2003 Paris World Championships
  • bronze, 2001 Edmonton World Championships
  • gold, 1998 Budapest European Championships

Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 12 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:03:13
  • world record setter
  • 2014 World Marathon Majors champion
  • 1st, 2014 New York City Marathon
  • 1st, 2014 London Marathon
  • 1st, 2013 Berlin Marathon
  • bronze, 2012 London Olympic Games
  • 1st, 2012 London Marathon

Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) - 12 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:03:59
  • 2-time world record setter
  • 1st, 2009 Berlin Marathon
  • 1st, 2008 Berlin Marathon
  • 1st, 2007 Berlin Marathon
  • 1st, 2006 Berlin Marathon

Sammy Korir (Kenya) - 12 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:04:56

Bernard Kiprop (Kenya) - 12 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:06:19

Abel Kirui (Kenya) - 11 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:05:04
  • 1st, 2016 Chicago Marathon
  • silver, 2012 London Olympic Games
  • gold, 2011 Daegu World Championships
  • gold, 2009 Berlin World Championships

Benson Barus (Kenya) - 11 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:07:07

Bong-ju Lee (South Korea) - 11 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:07:20
  • gold, 2002 Busan Asian Games
  • 1st, 2001 Boston Marathon
  • gold, 1998 Bangkok Asian Games
  • silver, 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games

Yuki Kawauchi (Japan) - 11 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:08:14
  • bronze, 2014 Incheon Asian Games

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, February 13, 2017

Hoping for "Chemical Reaction," JAAF Invites Promising Young Athletes and Kawauchi to New Zealand Marathon Camp

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20170212-OHT1T50016.html

translated by Brett Larner

According to a JAAF spokesperson, in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the JAAF will hold a men's marathon training camp in New Zealand in March.  Along with promising young talents like "God of the Mountain III" Daichi Kamino (23, Team Konica Minolta), the JAAF is in consultation to invite London World Championships candidate Yuki Kawauchi (29, Saitama Pref. Gov't).

The camp is part of a new strategic initiative to raise the level of Japanese marathoning.  Of note are the athletes being invited.  Along with Kamino, who was the star of the Hakone Ekiden's uphill Fifth Stage while at Aoyama Gakuin University and who has continued to grow since going to the corporate leagues, this year's Hakone Second Stage winner Kengo Suzuki (21, Kanagawa Univ.) and other high-potential young distance runners without marathon experience are being invited.

In addition, the JAAF has asked Kawauchi, who on Sunday ran his 66th marathon in 2:09:54 to win the Ehime Marathon, to participate.  JAAF marathon development project leader Toshihiko Seko (60) commented animatedly, "The chance to learn from Kawauchi's approach to the marathon would be of tremendous value to our young athletes.  We would really like him to take part."

For young athletes Kawauchi is the perfect "running textbook."  There's no doubt that Kawauchi would find the chance to train together with the country's best young runners stimulating too.  One part seasoned veteran amateur runner, one part inexperienced but promising young talents.  Expect a powerful "chemical reaction."

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Kawauchi Takes Almost 7 Minutes Off Ehime Marathon Course Record With 2:09:54 Win, Matsuo Defends in Nobeoka



by Brett Larner


In his first marathon of 2017 and the last one he will run before turning 30 Yuki  Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) made history as he won the 55th edition of the Ehime Marathon in 2:09:54, taking almost seven minutes off Ehime's 2:16:49 CR set in 1965.

Saying pre-race that he thought he was in shape to run 2:13, Kawauchi split 15:11 for the first 5 km off a slow opening km, 2:08:08 pace.  Unexpectedly, he got company from Waseda University fourth-year and Ehime native Yohei Suzuki, a 1:02:16 half marathoner making his marathon debut before graduating next month.  Kawauchi responded by upping the pace to 15:08 through the next 5 km, putting the pair on track for 2:07:55 at 10 km and holding on to sub-2:09 pace through 25 km.  Suzuki lost touch near 20 km, hitting halfway in 1:04:30 to Kawauchi's 1:04:18, and from there it was a completely solo run to the end for both, with no pacers and no other competition in sight.

Ever since his solo 2:10:14 at the 2014 Kumamoto Castle Marathon Kawauchi has thought that he could solo a sub-2:10 if everything went right.  Following Suzuki's departure and now completely on his own Kawauchi's splits and projected finishing time continued to slow, going to 2:09:13 at 30 km, 2:09:48 at 35 km and ticking over to 2:10:01 at 40 km.  But with his characteristic finishing speed he had the sub-2:10 in hand, breaking the tape and a course record that had stood since the year his mother was born.  His win marked the eleventh time in his career that he has gone under 2:10, something an elite group of fifteen men and only three non-African athletes, Olympic medalists Stefano Baldini (Italy) and Lee Bong Ju (South Korea), and now Kawauchi, have ever achieved.

With a resonant run in Fukuoka last December for 3rd in 2:09:11 Kawauchi was already in contention for the London World Championships team.  Last weekend Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) won the second selection race, the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, in 2:09:32.  Kawauchi's time in Ehime was 22 seconds slower, but having come in an amateur-level mass participation race without the amentities of Japan's elite marathon circuit, no pacers, no special drinks, no real competition, just one man and the road, it surely stands on equal footing even if it doesn't count in official selection.


After losing touch with Kawauchi Suzuki faded over the second half, but spurred on by his hometown crowds, which race announcers estimated at three times the usual size, he pushed on alone through the second-half darkness that comes in an overpaced marathon debut.  Raising his fist in the air as he came to the finish line he took 2nd in 2:14:56, almost two minutes under the 52-year-old course record.  A loss to an athlete of Kawauchi's ability was no shame, and you can only hope that Suzuki takes the pride and satisfaction he should in his run.

Behind him, Komazawa University rival Yoshiki Nakamura took 3rd in a 2:18:37 debut, a time good enough to win most years in Ehime.  Amateur club runners Takehiko Gyoba and Takemaru Yamazaki both ran PBs for 4th and 5th, Gyoba getting under the 2:20 mark and Yamazaki just missing it. Kana Orino (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) ran down Anna Matsuda of local 2016 National University Women's Ekiden champion Matsuyama University to win the women's race in 2:42:36.


Also celebrating its 55th anniversary edition, the Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon saw its first back-to-back champion in over 30 years.  With Rio Olympics marathoner Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) providing pacing, a lead group of five including the debuting trio of Shota Hattori (Team Honda), Yuichi Okutani (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and Toshiki Sadakata (Team MHPS), Yosuke Chida (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) and defending champion Ryoichi Matsuo (Team Asahi Kasei) went through halfway in 1:04:51, well under the 2:11:05 course record pace.

When Sasaki stepped off at 25 km it was down to Hattori, Okutani and Matsuo, and Hattori was quick to take over.  At 30 km he was 9 seconds ahead of Okutani and 38 seconds up on Matuso.  At 35 km Okutani had come back to within 3 seconds with Matsuo falling to 50 seconds behind.  But things can change quickly in a marathon.  Hattori abruptly stalled just as Matsuo began to attack, and by 40 km Matsuo had overtaken him for second.  Just over a kilometer later he overtook Okutani to go into the lead, widening the gap all the way to the finish.  Matsuo won in 2:13:36, the first back-to-back Nobeoka winner since Chiaki Harumatsu in 1985-86.  Hattori retook Okutani for 2nd in 2:14:19, Okutani 6 seconds back in 2:14:25, both reasonably successful debut times just ahead of Suzuki's performance in Ehime.  Club runner Noriko Sato (First Dream AC) won the women's race in 2:51:11.

55th Ehime Marathon
Matsuyama, Ehime, 2/12/17

Men
1. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:09:54 - CR
2. Yohei Suzuki (Waseda Univ.) - 2:14:56 - debut (CR)
3. Yoshiki Nakamura (Komazawa Univ.) - 2:18:37 - debut
4. Takehiko Gyoba (unattached) - 2:19:12 - PB
5. Takemaru Yamazaki (unattached) - 2:20:30 - PB

Women
1. Kana Orino (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:42:36
2. Anna Matsuda (Matsuyama Univ.) - 2:45:04

55th Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon
Nobeoka, Miyazaki, 2/12/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Ryoichi Matsuo (Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:36
2. Shota Hattori (Honda) - 2:14:19 - debut
3. Yuichi Okutani (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:14:25 - debut
4. Yosuke Chida (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:15:10 - PB
5. Kenta Otani (JFE Steel) - 2:18:06

Women
1. Noriko Sato (First Dream AC) - 2:51:11

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Abinet and Utsunomiya Take National Corporate Half Marathon Titles, 19-Year-Old Onizuka Wins Karatsu 10-Miler

by Brett Larner

Alongside Sunday's record-breaking marathon action, the weekend featured three high-level road races across the country.  In Yamaguchi, Ethiopian Abiyot Abinet (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) made a strong half marathon debut to win the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships men's title. Emerging from a lead pack of seven including Kenyans Macharia Ndirangu (Team Aichi Seiko), Charles Ndirangu (Team JFE Steel) and Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Team Kanebo) plus Japanese men Taku Fujimoto (Team Toyota), Ken Yokote (Team Fujitsu) and Hiroyuki Ishikawa (Team Aisan Kogyo), Abinet ran the last two-thirds of the race alone to win in 1:01:21.  Fujimoto took 4th overall in 1:01:53 in the top Japanese position.  Kitonyi, Yokote and Ishikawa faded in the second half and were run down by 2014 National University Half Marathon champion Hideto Yamanaka (Team Honda) and Komazawa University graduate Shun Inoura (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) who set new PBs of 1:02:00 and 1:02:01.

The women's race was split between half marathon and 10 km with just 44 women starting the half.  A pack race until 15 km, Ai Utsunomiya (Team Miyazaki Ginko) and Sakiko Tsutsui (Team Yamada Denki) went head-to-head over the last 5 km for the national title.  Running a PB by over 20 seconds, Utsunomiya got the win in 1:10:47, Tsutsui pulling a credible debut in 1:10:55 for 2nd.  Coached by men's half marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato, 19-year-old Ayaka Fujimoto ran a PB of 1:11:00 for 3rd.  Yui Fukuda (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) scored the 10 km national title in style, setting a course record of 32:17 to finish 7 seconds up on Mao Ichiyama (Team Wacoal).  Japanese women regularly run faster in 10.0 km ekiden legs, but Fukuda's time put her just outside the all-time Japanese top ten for regular road 10 km.

At the Karatsu 10-Miler, Tokai University first-year Shota Onizuka unexpectedly outran a field including Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei), all-time Japanese #2 for 5000 m and 10000 m on the track and making his non-ekiden road race debut, for the win in 46:36.  Onizuka's fellow Tokai first-years Junnosuke Matsuo and Ryoji Tatezawa both made the top seven in their 10-mile debuts, further adding to Tokai's credentials as the team with the best chance of taking down three-time Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University in the 2017-18 ekiden season.  A week after superb pacing through 15 km at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, Taiki Yoshimura (Team Asahi Kasei) was 9th in 47:24.

Eijia Miyagi (Oita Tomei H.S.) won the women's 10 km in 33:30, with Sae Hanada (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) winning the high school girls' 5 km in 16:23.  The high school boys' 10 km saw the top seven break 30 minutes, Takaki Iwamuro (Omuta H.S.) getting the win in a PB 29:44.  But the high school results paled compared to what came a day earlier in Gunma.  At Saturday's Gunma Prefecture Junior Road Race, at least the top eight broke 30 minutes in the high school boys' 10 km.  Winner Keigo Kurihara (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) ran 29:22 to take more than 30 seconds off the course record of 29:54 set in 1987.  Between them, the two high school boys' 10 km races showed that the bar continues to raise as Tokyo 2020 draws closer.

45th National Corporate Half Marathon and 10 km Championships
Yamaguchi, 2/12/17
click here for complete results

Men's Half Marathon
1. Abiyot Abinet (Yachiyo Kogyo) - 1:01:21 - debut
2. Macharia Ndirangu (Aichi Seiko) - 1:01:46
3. Charles Ndirangu (JFE Steel) - 1:01:52
4. Taku Fujimoto (Toyota) - 1:01:53
5. Hideto Yamanaka (Honda) - 1:02:00 - PB
6. Shun Inoura (Yachiyo Kogyo) - 1:02:01 - PB
7. Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Kanebo) - 1:02:05
8. Ken Yokote (Fujitsu) - 1:02:15
9. Naoya Takahashi (Yasukawa Denki) - 1:02:31 - PB
10. Keita Baba (Honda) - 1:02:31

Women's Half Marathon
1. Ai Utsunomiya (Miyazaki Ginko) - 1:10:47 - PB
2. Sakiho Tsutsui (Yamada Denki) - 1:10:55 - debut
3. Ayaka Fujimoto (Kyocera) - 1:11:00 - PB
4. Maki Ashi (Kyudenko) - 1:11:12 - PB
5. Yuri Nozoe (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 1:11:14 - debut

Women's 10 km
1. Yui Fukuda (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 32:17 - CR
2. Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) - 32:24
3. Kaori Morita (Panasonic) - 32:27
4. Ryo Koido (Hitachi) - 32:39
5. Yuka Hori (Panasonic) - 32:40

57th Karatsu 10-Mile Road Race
Karatsu, Saga, 2/12/17
click here for complete results

Men's 10 Miles
1. Shota Onizuka (Tokai Univ.) - 46:36 - debut
2. Yuma Higashi (Kyudenko) - 46:39 - PB
3. Minato Yamashita (NTN) - 46:43 - debut
4. Junnosuke Matsuo (Tokai Univ.) - 46:44 - debut
5. Akinobu Murasawa (Nissin Shokuhin) - 46:46
6. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei) - 46:48 - debut
7. Ryoji Tatezawa (Tokai Univ.) - 47:04 - debut
8. Atsuya Imai (Toyota Kyushu) - 47:20
9. Taiki Yoshimura (Asahi Kasei) - 47:24
10. Akihiko Tsumurai (Mazda) - 47:25

Women's 10 km
1. Eijia Miyagi (Oita Tomei H.S.) - 33:30 - PB
2. Yuika Takaki (Fukuoka Univ.) - 33:40
3. Shoko Tsujita (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 34:36
4. Saya Terao (Nakamura Joshi H.S.) - 34:37
5. Fuka Niina (Oita Tomei H.S.) - 34:38

High School Boys 10 km
1. Takaki Iwamuro (Omuta H.S.) - 29:44 - PB
2. Kaishi Daiho (Tokai Prep Fukuoka H.S.) - 29:50 - PB
3. Hiroyasu Morikawa (Jiyugaoka H.S.) - 29:52 - PB
4. Tatsuya Takahashi (Jiyugaoka H.S.) - 29:53 - PB
5. Masaki Tsuda (Fukuoka Prep Ohori H.S.) - 29:53 - PB

High School Girls 5 km
1. Sae Hanada (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 16:23
2. Ako Matsumoto (Omuta H.S.) - 16:27
3. Maki Okubo (Saga Seiwa H.S.) - 16:53

26th Gunma Prefecture Junior Road Race
Maebashi, Gunma, 2/11/17

High School Boys 10 km
1. Keigo Kurihara (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 29:22 - CR, PB
2. Hiroki Arai (Maebashi Ikuei H.S.) - 29:23
3. Mitsuaki Takahashi (Fujioka Chuo H.S.) - 29:28
4. Ippei Hoshino (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 29:31
5. Shuto Takeuchi (Isesaki Shogyo H.S.) - 29:35

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved