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Saitama International Marathon Elite Field

The first women's race in the 2020 Sapporo Olympic marathon team Final Challenge, the chance for a Japanese woman to pick up the third spot on the Olympic team by running 2:22:22 or better, in its 5th edition the Saitama International Marathon continues its slide toward oblivion as an elite race. The international field is good, and well-positioned to set it up for a Japanese woman to attack that kind of time with 2:21:53 Ethiopian Belaynesh Oljira and debuting 1:05:06 Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir in the foreground, but Japanese women have almost entirely given it a miss. Only one independent runner, Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) and one semi-corporate leaguer, Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) are on the  entry list, raising the obvious question of why bother?

Saitama is popular as a mass-participation race, and it is raised a little higher by the quality of internationals it attracts. But as a national team selection race, it seems like only a matter of time before it loses that status to the…

SGH Group, Toyota and YKK Win Final Three New Year Ekiden Qualifiers

The last two qualifying races for the 64th New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships on Jan.1 took place Nov. 17. At the 62nd Kansai Corporate Ekiden in Wakayama, 14 teams competed for the 4 spots available at the New Year Ekiden. The SGH Group team covered the 7-stage, 80.45 km course in 3:57:43 to claim its first win in 2 years. Sumitomo Denko was 2nd just 13 seconds back from SGH Group, with Osaka Gas taking 3rd in a team record performance. Last year's winner NTT Nishi Nihon placed 4th to round out the list of qualifiers.



At the Chubu / Hokuriku Corporate Ekiden, local powerhouse Toyota ran 3:55:38 for the 7-stage, 80.5 km course to win the Chubu region division for the sixth year in a row. On the Fourth Stage Toyota dropped back from leader Toyota Boshoku, but after getting back on track with quality runs from captain Minato Oishi on the Fifth Stage and 2020 Olympic marathon team member Yuma Hattori on the anchor stage the team succeeded in opening a 2:14 ma…

Takushoku Teammates Lemeteki and Akasaki Sub-62 For 1-2 at Ageo City Half Marathon

Takushoku University teammates Joseph Razini Lemeteki and Akira Akasaki dominated the 2019 Ageo City Half Marathon, alternating the lead throughout almost the entire race to go 1-2 in school record times.

With invitations to the 2019 United Airlines NYC Half up for grabs to the top two Japanese collegiate finishers in the unofficial intramural tryout for Japan's most prestigious race, the 2020 Hakone Ekiden, things went out very conservatively by Ageo standards at just 3:00/km for the first 2 km. Not content with that, Akasaki, 3rd on his stage at both the Izumo Ekiden in October and the National University Ekiden earlier this month, picked up the race and carried it until 15 km. From 3 km to 8 km Akasaki split 14:33, pace for 1:01:24, condensing the pack behind him down to eight.


After the 10 km turnaround Akasaki's teammate Lemeteki made a bold move to gain contact with the lead group, and when he did it shaved things down to seven serious contenders. The front group stayed …

Japanese Amateur Yamaguchi and Ugandan Kusuro Break Kobe Course Records

Amateur Japanese club runner Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) and Ugandan Geoffrey Kusuro had dominant wins at the 9th running of the Kobe Marathon Sunday, both running PBs and winning by almost 4 minutes in course record time.

Yamaguchi, who ran a PB 2:33:06 in Sydney in September and dropped a surprise 31:58 at last weekend's East Japan Women's Ekiden, slipped away early, never challenged by the pack of invited African elites or by friend and rival club runner Shiho Kaneshige (GRlab Kanto). Going through halfway faster than her half marathon PB in 1:13:08. She slowed slightly in the second half, especially on the large bridge out to the island finish line, but her win was never in doubt as she broke the tape in 2:27:39. Previously, the fastest pure amateur Japanese women's marathon performance was Chihiro Tanaka's 2:29:30 in Nagoya in 2002. Breaking that by almost two minutes, Yamaguchi staked her claim as Japan's best-ever amateur.


2nd through 5th were close together…

800 m High School National Record Holder Clay to Attend Texas A&M

2019 men's 800 m national champion and Soyo H.S. 3rd-year Aaron Tatsunami Clay will enroll in America's Texas A&M University next September, it was learned on Nov. 14. Until then he plans to remain based at Soyo in preparation to go for the win at next year's National Championships and to clear the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifying standard.

The prestigious Texas A&M is where Donovan Brazier (U.S.A.), winner of the gold medal in the men's 800 m at this fall's Doha World Championships, is enrolled. Soyo H.S. head coach Mitsuru Zeniya, 53, who accompanied Clay on a visit to see the university, was supportive of Clay's decision and goals, saying, "He just barely missed the World Championships qualifying standard. If he trains with athletes who are stronger than him he'll grow more."

Last year at the October Niigata Autumn Time Trials meet Clay set a national high school record of 1:47.51 for 800 m. At the National Championships in June this yea…

IOC's Coates Insists Sapporo 2020 Men's Marathon Be Held on Last Day of Olympics

Speaking about the relocation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics road events to Sapporo at a press conference in Sydney on Nov. 13, IOC coordination committee chairperson John Coates reiterated the IOC's insistence that the men's marathon be staged on the final day of the Olympics, Aug. 9, saying, "It is to be held on the last day of the Olympics, and the athletes must be put on a plane and returned (to Tokyo) in time for the closing ceremonies."

In response to the IOC's edict that the premier event of the Olympics, the men's marathon, be moved out of Tokyo to Sapporo, 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee head Yoshiro Mori had indicated that the date of the men's marathon would be changed in order to overcome the logistical impossibilities created by the move to Sapporo. The IOC responded by saying the marathon was still to be held on the 9th. "No final decision has yet been made, but the organizers should be prepared to hold it on the s…

Olympic Marathon Trials Winner Nakamura on Sapporo: "Decide On the Course As Soon As Possible"

2020 Olympic marathon trials winner Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu) sat for interviews with the media on Nov. 12 in Chiba. With regard to the IOC's decision to move the marathon to Sapporo he said, "All I have to do is add specific preparation for the features of the course. If they can settle on the course as soon as possible then there will be more time to prepare for it. How I train will change depending on whether it's flat or has uphills."

Nakamura said that after winning the Olympic marathon trials on Sept. 15 he took a month off to recover mentally and physically, and is now back to training. His corporate team Fujitsu finished 17th at the Nov. 3 East Japan Corporate Ekiden, meaning that Nakamura won't run in the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national championships. "That doesn't really have a big impact," he said. With regard to his upcoming plans before the Olympics he said, "I'm not planning to do another marathon. I think I'll probably do…

Mazda Wins Fifth-Straight Chugoku Corporate Ekiden

The regional qualifier for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national championships, the Chugoku Corporate Men's Ekiden took place Nov. 10. Eight teams competed for the four places at the New Year Ekiden up for grabs.

Aiming for a fifth-straight win, the Mazda team led from the start. On the Second Stage Chudenko overtook them for the top position, holding on to the lead through the Third and Fourth Stages. But with a stage record-breaking run on the Fifth Stage Mazda's Masatoshi Teranishi succeeded in turning the team's fortunes around, putting it in position for a first-ever fifth-straight Chugoku title and leading it on to the New Year Ekiden. Chudenko, Chugoku Denryoku and JFE Steel all likewise qualified.
58th Chugoku Jitsugyodan EkidenSera, Hiroshima, 11/10/19
8 teams, 7 stages, 80.8 km
complete results

Team Results - top 4 qualify for New Year Ekiden
1. Mazda - 4:00:10 - CR
2. Chudenko - 4:02:35
3. Chugoku Denryoku - 4:03:51
4. JFE Steel - 4:06:13
-----
5. Takeda Yakuhin - 4…

Osako Criticizes People Who Think He Is Doping, Calling Them "Really Simple-Minded"

On Nov. 10, men's marathon national record holder Suguru Osako took to Twitter to lash out at people who suspect him of doping. Sponsored by Nike, Osako was a longtime member of the Nike Oregon Project team. The team's head coach Alberto Salazar was recently suspended by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for four years as the result of an investigation into his misuse of restricted substances and methods.

Osako posted his opinions on his Twitter account @sugurusako at 8:46 a.m. on Nov. 10, denying that he has doped. "It seems like people seem to think that what happened with the Oregon Project means that I'm already guilty of doping, but anyone who thinks that way is really, really simple-minded," he wrote. "My coach never even once told me to take drugs or get injections that I didn't understand, and I've checked every single supplement and throat lozenge that's gone in my mouth."

At the Nike Oregon Project Osako was not coached…

Chiba Wins East Japan Women's Ekiden, Niiya 30:52 for 10 km to Break Own Anchor Stage CR

After a slow start that saw it playing catchup for the first half of the 35th anniversary East Japan Women's Ekiden in Fukushima today, the Chiba prefecture team came on strong late in the race with three straight stage wins to put anchor Rika Kaseda safely 2:45 out front with 10 km to go.

A smaller version of January's National Women's Ekiden, East Japan features 18 teams made up from the best junior high school, high school, university, club, corporate and pro runners from each prefecture in the region. With their home battered by typhoons this fall the Chiba team hoped to pull of a win to give some inspiration to the people back home. Mai Shinozuka, Chika Kosakai and Rika Minami played a big role on the 6th through 8th stages, giving Kaseda, the silver medalist in the half marathon at this year's World University Games, the margin she needed to have a chance against Tokyo's Hitomi Niiya.

Last year, in her first road race back from a five-year retirement, Niiya …

IOC Tells Olympic Organizers It Still Wants Men's Marathon Held on Final Day

2020 Tokyo Olympics organizing committee deputy secretary general Toshiro Muto met with Sapporo mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto and Hokkaido governor Naomichi Suzuki in Sapporo on Nov. 8. Just one day after organizing committee head Yoshiro Mori had said that the men's marathon would be moved from the final date of the Olympics, Muto indicated that the committee would be reexamining that idea. Faced by the need to have a marathon course ready for approval by the IOC's board of directors at its Dec. 2-4 meeting, Muto visited the three candidate locations for the course's start and finish point, Odori Park, Sapporo Dome and Maruyama Park.

In a reversal of Mori's remarks the previous day about the need to change the date of the Olympic men's marathon, Muto was forced to make a correction. At 9:00 a.m., Muto met first with Mayor Akimoto and then Governor Suzuki. Following the meetings, in response to a question from a reporter Muto commented on the situation, saying, "I …

Physical Abuse of Students by High School Ekiden Coach Uncovered

It has come to light that a male teacher who serves as the head coach of a high school boys' ekiden team in the city of Kumamoto repeatedly used corporal punishment against team members. The team is one of the top ekiden programs, having competed at the National High School Ekiden Championships three times. Kumamoto City Board of Education Deputy Director of Education Fujio Hashizume commented, "We are very sorry."

According to the Board of Education, the 37-year-old male who coaches at Chiharadai H.S. has since April this year repeatedly verbally and physically abused multiple team members during practice sessions and during the team's summer vacation training camp. The allegations came to light on Oct. 16 when the Board of Education received an anonymous report about the coach's actions. After interviewing each team member as well as the coach the Board of Education determined that abusive behavior had taken place.

The coach, who has led the Chiharadai boys…

2020 Olympics Men’s Marathon Date to Be Changed

Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizing committee head Yoshiro Mori attended meetings in Sapporo Nov. 7 with Hokkaido governor Naomichi Suzuki and Sapporo mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto to ask them for their support and cooperation in holding the Olympic marathons and race walk events in Sapporo after the IOC dictated that this happen. Indicating for the first time that neither the city nor prefecture would be asked to pay for the events, Mori said, “We want to make sure that there is no burden placed upon Hokkaido.”

At a meeting about the road events’ forced move to Sapporo between the IOC, national government, Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Tokyo Olympics organizing committee on Nov. 1, it was agreed that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government would not shoulder the costs of the IOC’s decree. The IOC had said that Hokkaido and Sapporo should share in paying for the cost of the events’ relocation, but in the meeting with Mori on Nov. 7 the Governor and Mayor reiterated their position that, “It is the …

JAAF Says Large Portion of Hokkaido Marathon Course Unusable for Olympics for Security Reasons

Speaking on the subject of the course to be used for the 2020 Olympic marathon now that the IOC has decreed it be relocated to Sapporo, JAAF long distance and marathon director Tadasu Kawano gave his honest opinion at a JAAF press conference on Nov. 5. "I don't see any issue with using the Hokkaido Marathon course as a base, but I don't think we can use the Shinkawa-dori section due to security and other issues," he said. He went on to say that that portion of the course would likely be made up using a loop segment.

"I'm not in a position to say what might be good or bad about the course," Kawano said, but with regard to the 13 km straight out-and-back section of the Hokkaido Marathon course along Shingawa-dori he said, "The security and medical access issues are difficult problems. Preventing spectators from accessing the course would be difficult. The IAAF will probably find it unacceptable."

The organizing committee is examining changing t…

Kobe and Osaka Marathon Elite Fields

Two of Japan's main fall amateur marathons are stepping up their game this year with their best-ever elite fields. Looking to upgrade its IAAF label from bronze to silver, the Nov. 17 Kobe Marathon has an elite field with three women under 2:30 and three men under 2:11 in the last three years. Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) and Betty Jepleting (Kenya) lead the women, with Eliud Barngetuny (Kenya) and Weldu Negash Gebretsadik (Norway) fronting the men.

The men's race will almost definitely see an international winner, with veteran Chiharu Takada (JR Higashi Nihon) the top Japanese man at 2:11:25 on the Gold Coast two years ago, but the women's race has a good chance of seeing a Japanese winner. Along with Yoshida, it has sub-2:30 woman Yurie Doi (Tos Planning) and amateur duo Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) and Shiho Kaneshige (GRlab Kanto), both with low-2:33 PBs earlier this fall and keen to join the sub-2:30 club.

With a field of 30,000 the Osaka Marathon is one of the world's…

Shitara to Go For National Record in Tokyo: "I Care About the 100 Million Yen Bonus More Than the Olympics"

In his first race since finishing 14th at the Sept. 15 MGC Race Olympic marathon trials, former marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda) ran the Nov. 3 East Japan Corporate Men's Ekiden, finishing 2nd on its Third Stage. "Even if you're tired, that's no excuse," he said. "I went to the starting line with confidence and ran the best I could according to how I'm feeling right now."

There's a lot of attention right now on the last remaining spot on the 2020 Olympic marathon team. The first two spots were secured by the 1st and 2nd-placers at the MGC Race, Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu) and Yuma Hattori (Toyota). To claim the last remaining spot, someone has to break the Japanese national record and run at least 2:05:49 at this winter's Fukuoka International Marathon, Tokyo Marathon or Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. If nobody succeeds, the spot will go to MGC 3rd-placer and current national record holder Suguru Osako (ex-Nike Oregon Project…

Konica Minolta and Asahi Kasei Win Regional New Year Ekiden Qualifiers

Two of the most competitive corporate men's regions held their qualifying races for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national championships this weekend.

In Saitama, Konica Minolta recovered from a slow start to take the lead on the 4th of 7 stages at the East Japan Corporate Ekiden with a pair of back-to-back stage record-breaking runs from Gen Hachisuka and Hiroyuki Yamamoto, winning in a course record 3:41:52. 5 of the 7 stages saw new records, with the top 6 teams all breaking the existing overall course record. The last of them, Hitachi Butsuryu, brought fans to their feet on the Third Stage as Keita Shitara, twin brother of half marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda), led the field in his best performance in years, finishing the stage just 1 second slower than Yuta did.

#東日本実業団駅伝#コニカミノルタpic.twitter.com/TwinhkJPeZ — Mika Tokairin Tri (@tri_chaser) November 3, 2019
Making the New Year Ekiden can mean the difference between continuing as a team or losing corporate spons…

New York City Marathon - Japanese Results

After finishing 6th at the MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials on Sept. 15, Yoshiki Takenouchi (NTT Nishi Nihon) ran the second-fastest time of his career, 2:11:18, to take 8th at the New York City Marathon. His time was one of the best-ever by a Japanese man in New York, the fastest since Masato Imai's 2:10:45 in 2013.
New York City MarathonNew York, U.S.A., 11/3/19
complete results

Men
1. Geoffrey Kamworor (Kenya) - 2:08:13
2. Albert Korir (Kenya) - 2:08:36
3. Girma Bekele Gebre (Ethiopia) - 2:08:38
4. Tamirat Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:09:20
5. Shura Kitata (Ethiopia) - 2:10:39
-----
8. Yoshiki Takenouchi (Japan) - 2:11:18

Women
1. Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya) - 2:22:38
2. Mary Keitany (Kenya) - 2:23:32
3. Ruti Aga (Ethiopia) - 2:25:51
4. Nancy Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:26:21
5. Sinead Diver (Australia) - 2:26:23

© 2019 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Tokai University Wins First National University Ekiden Title in Sixteen Years

After a rough start to the season last month at the Izumo Ekiden, Tokai University lived up to its #1 ranking as it held off defending national champion Aoyama Gakuin University on the anchor stage of the National University Men's Ekiden to win its first national title in 16 years.

In a lot of ways it was one of the more chaotic major university ekidens in recent memory, with almost every team that ended up on the eight-deep podium suffering at least one disastrous stage that saw one of its runners finish in the double digit placings on stage time. But over Nationals' full eight-stage, 106.8 km course these seemed to cancel each other out, the expected top nine teams all landing in the top ten with one unexpected interloper.

A bizarrely slow First Stage, 15:20 through 5 km, resulted in a predictably blazing last 4.5 km, with last year's Second Stage winner Tomoya Ogikubo (Josai Univ.) getting away to hand off in 1st in 27:49 almost 10 seconds up on top two-ranked Komazawa…

National University Men's Ekiden Preview

Ekiden season rolls on Sunday with the second stop on the Big Three university men's ekiden tour, the National University Men's Ekiden Championships. TV Asahi will broadcast all the action live from 7:45 to 13:40 local time, with English coverage on @JRNLive.

Last yearAoyama Gakuin University ran down favorite Tokai University on the second to last stage to score the win. AGU is down on strength this year, while Tokai is stronger than ever. It should be far ahead of every other team in the field, but at the season-opening Izumo Ekiden Tokai showed the same kind of vulnerability that lost it the national title last year. #2-ranked Komazawa University should be there ready to take over the moment Tokai falters. Tokai and Komazawa are the only two schools in the field with eight-man PB averages under 14 minutes for 5000 m, sub-29 for 10000 m, and under 63 minutes for the half marathon.

Behind the two favorites there's a gap back to 3rd. At Izumo the shorter stage lengths and …

Fukuoka International Marathon Elite Field

The first men's race in the Final Challenge wildcard series to steal the third spot on the Sapporo 2020 Olympic marathon team from national record holder Suguru Osako (ex-Nike Oregon Project), the Dec. 1 Fukuoka International Marathon has brought in just the right people to support any Japanese men ambitious enough to take a shot at breaking Osako's record. You've got 2:05:26 Moroccan El Mahjoub Dazza and pacing from longtime Japanese resident and newly minted 2:05:53 man Bedan Karoki among others. Add in Seville winner Tsedat Abeje Ayana of Ethiopia, Belgian European marathon champion Koen Naert, Pan-Am Games champ Christian Pacheco of Peru, debuting Kenyan Shadrack Kiplagat and a few others and it's a quality field up front to be sure.

Just about the only two Japanese men in the field who might give the Final Challenge a serious swing is Taku Fujimoto, a Toyota teammate and training partner of last year's winner Yuma Hattori with a 2:07:57 best to his name last …

Tokyo Governor Koike Gives Up On IOC's Sapporo Edict: "Tokyo Does Not Agree With IOC's Decree But Chooses Not to Interfere"

On the final day of the International Olympic Committee coordination commission meeting in Tokyo, top-level talks between the IOC, Tokyo Olympic Games Organizing Committee, Japan Olympic Committee, Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Japanese National Government on the IOC's plan to move the 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathons and race walks to Sapporo convened at noon.

IOC coordination commission chairperson John Coates decreed, "Regarding the marathons and race walk events, it is the IOC that has the authority to determine whether an event venue will be changed. Taking into consideration the expenses already incurred by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and local organizing committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will not be asked to pay for any additional expenses. There will be no further venue changes."

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike replied somewhat antagonistically, "Am I allowed to speak on this, sir, or am I only allowed to say yes or no?" Coates elevated t…