Wednesday afternoon and evening saw the fourth meet in this year's five-part Hokuren Distance Challenge series, this time in the town of Kitami. The program included the little-raced 2000 m steeplechase as a tuneup for Monday's series-closing Abashiri meet, and in both the women's and men's races the national records went down. A top collegiate steepler while at Kyoto Sangyo University, Yui Yabuta (Otsuka Seiyaku) ran 6:27.74 to break the women's record. In the men's race 1500 m specialist Yasunari Kusu (Ami AC) surprised many by breaking the Japanese national record with a world-leading 5:31.82 despite little experience in the steeple.
The women's 3000 m in Kitami was more explicitly set up as a national record attempt, with four of the ten fastest Japanese women ever over the distance lined up to gun for the great Kayoko Fukushi's 8:44.40 record dating back to 2002. From the gun it was out at NR pace, with pacers Hellen Ekalale (Toyota Jidoshokki) an…
A global celebration of university student sports, the closing ceremonies for 30th anniversary Summer Universiade took place July 14 in Napoli, Italy to bring 12 days of competition across a range of collegiate sports. Japanese athletes took part in all 15 categories of competition, winning a total of 33 gold medals to rank #1 worldwide in the medal count standings. Japanese athletes also won 21 silver medals and 28 bronze for a total of 82 medals overall, also ranking #1. Russia scored 82 medals total but had 22 golds, with China 3rd at 22 golds and 43 medals overall. The U.S.A. was 4th.
Just before the start of the closing ceremonies, Japanese delegation leader Ichiro Hoshino gave a positive evaluation of the teams's performance, saying, "I believe that our athletes in each area of competition carried their weight to help achieve this excellent result, and that that will provide momentum in Tokyo 2020." The next Summer Universiade takes place in Chengdu, China in 2021…
Most Japanese distance teams head north to Hokkaido for the summer to escape the heat and get ready for ekiden season. Part of that summer is the Hokuren Distance Challenge, a series of track meets in different towns across the island geared toward producing fast times, a domestic alternative to the European circuit. It's been a cooler and wetter summer than usual this year, but with the Doha World Championships coming later in the calendar that in normal years this time around the HDC has expanded from four to five meets. The first three meets in the series have come and gone, and with the two biggest still to come here's a summary of some of the better results so far.
Hokuren Distance Challenge Chitose MeetChitose, Hokkaido, 7/6/19 complete results
Japan pulled off three medal sweeps in the last two days of track and field competition at the 2019 Napoli Universiade, taking all three individual medals and the team gold medals in the men's 20 km race walk and both the women's and men's half marathons.
Koki Ikeda kicked off the medal rush Friday with a 1:22:49 win in the men's 20 km race walk, opening more than 30 seconds on teammates Masatora Kawano and Yuta Koga. The next morning the Japanese women followed the walkers' lead, waiting until the third time around the three-lap course to drop the competition. Just 19, 2019 National University Half Marathon champion Yuka Suzuki (Daito Bunka Univ.) was really impressive over the last two kilometers, seeming to be going at an all-out sprint and opening more than 20 seconds on Rika Kaseda (Meijo Univ.) and Yuki Tagawa (Matsuyama Univ.) for the win in 1:14:10.
A gold medalist in the men's 4x100 m at the 2017 Universiade, Jun Yamashita (Tsukuba Univ.) was 0.03 from a bronze in the men's 200 m this time around, running 20.58 (+0.5 m/s) behind Ireland's Marcus Lawler. Paulo Andre Camilo (Brazil) won gold in 20.28. Masaki Toyoda (Hosei Univ.) was also 4th in the men's 400 m hurdles, running 49.27. Alison Santos (Brazil) led all three medalists under 49 seconds with a 48.57 for gold.
The three other Japanese finalists over the third and fourth days all finish 6th through 8th in their events. Track and…
Japan picked up three meals in the first two days of athletics competition at the 2019 Napoli Summer Universiade in Italy, including silver medals in both the women's and men's 10000 m. After three aborted starts thanks to problems with the starting gun Rino Goshima (Chuo Univ.) got things moving on July 8 in the women's 10000 m, losing out in a close finish 34:03.31 to 34:04.65 to China's Deshun Zhang, with teammate Natsuki Sekiya (Daito Bunka Univ.) just as close behind her in the bronze medal position.
Sub-28 man Hiroki Abe (Meiji Univ.) kept it going on the 9th with a silver in the men's 10000 m in an even closer finish behind South African Mokorane Milton Kekana, 29:29.43 to 29:30.01. Hakone Ekiden First Stage king Kazuya Nishiyama (Toyo Univ.) was off his game, finishing just 8th over 40 seconds back from Abe in 30:10.65.
In the other two finals featuring Japanese athletes on the first two days of the Universiade, Japan's finalists both took last place. …
The second meet in the 2019 Hokuren Distance Challenge series took place July 9 in Fukagawa, Hokkaido. Masaki Toda (Sunbelx) ran an all-time Japanese #2 mark of 3:37.90 to win the men's 1500 m A-heat, a solid performance to follow up his 1500 m national title at last month's National Championships. But, missing the Japanese national record for 1500 m by just 0.48 seconds he couldn't help being disappointed, saying, "I was optimistic about how close I could get. I guess this is just the limit of my ability right now."
After former New Year Ekiden national champion Nissin Shokuhin scaled back its team this season Toda moved to the up-and-coming Sunbelx corporate team. In the middle of this twist of fate Toda has found his way. "I've been thinking a lot about how to change myself," he said. "It looks like I'm finally on the right path."
Translator's note: A few hours after Toda's run, National Championships 3rd-placer Nanami Arai …
Former marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara (27, Honda) returned to Narita Airport on July 8 a day after scoring his first-ever marathon win at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon. Shitara won in an excellent course record time of 2:07:50, lending momentum to his buildup for the MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials just over two months away.
During the race Shitara suffered a mishap, bleeding from both nipples early on. "It rained right before the start," he said, "and once I started running it started chafing. I was a little worried about it, but if you want to compete at the top of the game then there are no excuses." Shrugging it off, even as his uniform soaked up the blood Shitara kept up his fast pace. "My training paid off in this result," he said with obvious satisfaction. "Winning gives me confidence, and I want to make good use of that after this."
Up to now Shitara has followed his own training program, never running longer t…
MGC Race finalist Mao Ichiyama (22, Wacoal) took 22 seconds off her PB to win the Hakodate Half Marathon in 1:08:49, moving up to all-Japanese #8 in the record books. Also MGC Race-bound, her teammate Yuka Ando, 25, was 2nd in 1:09:47 to give the Wacoal team a 1-2 finish. Men's MGC Race finalist Ryu Takaku (26, Yakult) was the top Japanese man overall at 2nd in 1:02:43.
The Wacoal team seems to thrive at northern latitudes. Ichiyama secured her place at the MGC Race at April's London Marathon. "I've been feeling better and better since London and I want to keep taking chunks off my time," Ichiyama said. Ando was cool and professional after having been beaten by her younger teammate by 58 seconds. In June she had suffered a bit from overtraining, but, she said, "I'm doing the workouts in our training camp and bit by bit things are getting more responsive."
Along with Ichiyama and Ando, the Wacoal team also has veteran half marathon national record h…
If there's one thing you can count on at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon it's the weather. Always beautiful, always cooperative. Not so this year, with powerful winds blowing from the south every day for the four days leading into the race. The winds had mostly died down come Sunday morning, but waves of rain still struck the area regularly until well into the afternoon.
While the start and finish point of the half marathon remained ideal throughout the race, just a few km to the north runners were pounded by heavy rains that took a toll on the almost all-Japanese lead men's pack, heavily populated by aspiring Olympic marathoners tuning up for September's MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials. In the end it came down to a trial between last year's winner Jack Rayner (Australia), last year's Fukuoka champ Yuma Hattori (Toyota) and former Hakone Ekiden star Yuki Sato (Nissin Shokuhin). Rayner bided his time before kicking away with ease in the last km to tak…
The second half of the worldwide marathon season kicks off Sunday at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon, and with what looks like may be the deepest-ever men's half marathon on Australian soil lined up to start an hour before the marathon it's going to be an exciting day.
Last year's winner Jack Rayner leads the way off a 1:01:01 PB in Cardiff last year, but just behind him are a slew of Japanese men, some on the Gold Coast thanks to good performances at February's National Corporate Half Marathon Championships and others as a tuneup for September's MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials. On paper Rayner's strongest competition is MGC qualifier Taku Fujimoto (Toyota) with a 1:01:31 best, but Fujimoto told JRN that he is still recovering from a stress fracture he sustained early in the year and is only using the race as a training run ahead of the MGC Race. Likewise for 2018 Fukuoka International Marathon winner Yuma Hattori (Toyota), who underwent internal sur…
On July 3 the JAAF announced that the IAAF has agreed to grant the top five finishers at Japan's Olympic trials marathon, the Sept. 15 MGC Race, Olympic qualification status. The IAAF had previously set time marks of 2:11:30 for men and 2:29:30 for women as the standards necessary for participation in the Olympic marathon, but it will now be possible for the top two finishers at the MGC Race to be named Japan's national representatives regardless of their times.
The Olympic qualifying times need to have been achieved since Jan. 1, 2019. Many of Japan's leading athletes, including men's national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike), have not meet the standards despite having easily cleared them prior to Jan. 1 this year. Due to the expected hot conditions at the MGC Race and the likelihood of a tactical race there were concerns that people may not achieve the standards in the MGC Race itself and as a result would not be able to be confirmed as national representatives. 31…
Following the weekend's National Championships, the JAAF announced the first round of athletes named to its national team for this fall's Doha World Championships. Any athlete who won their event at Nationals and had either won a gold medal at April's Doha Asian Championships or held the Doha qualifying standard was named to the team, with all other athletes, including Doha standard holders who finished 2nd or 3rd at Nationals, having to wait until the final team announcement in mid-September.
Japanese National Team, Doha World Championshipsas of July 1, 2019
The 34th Lake Saroma 100 km Ultramarathon took place June 30 on the northern shores of Hokkaido. In the women's 100 km Mai Fujisawa (Excel AC) ran 7:32:50 for her fourth Lake Saroma title with a margin of victory of over six minutes.
In the men's race Tatsuya Itagaki (Tokinosumika) ran 6:25:52 to win Lake Saroma for the third time, two years after his last victory. Runner-up Yasuyuki Nakamura (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) was just 37 seconds behind, with world champion Hideaki Yamauchi (Hamamatsu Hotniks) another six minutes back.
Between Lake Saroma's 100 km and 50 km divisions a total of 3770 people started the race, with 2861 finishing. In the 100 km division 3281 people started of which 2435 finished, a finishing rate of 74.2%.
34th Lake Saroma 100 km UltramarathonYubetsu, Hokkaido, 6/30/19
Women's 100 km
1. Mai Fujisawa - 7:32:50
2. Mikiko Ota - 7:38:53
3. Konoka Azumi - 7:53:48 Men's 100 km
1. Tatsuya Itagaki - 6:25:52
2. Yasuyuki Nakamura - 6:26:29
3. Hideaki Yamauch…