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Koike Runs Japan's Third Sub-10, Niiya Clears Doha 5000 m Standard - Weekend Track Highlights

Japanese athletes were busy on the track overseas this weekend. At Friday's Stumptown Twilight meet in Portland, indoor mile Asian record holder Nanami Arai (Honda) took 2nd in the men's 1500 m in 3:39.58, his second time this season breaking 3:40. It used to be a rarity to see a Japanese man clear 3:40, something that happened once every couple of years, but so far this season four Japanese men have done it a total of six times. If the distance had even a fraction of the prestige of the Hakone Ekiden, or of that it has in the U.S., there's no doubt there'd be more.

Speaking of distances with prestige, on the first day of London's Muller Anniversary Games Diamond League spectacular Yuki Koike (Sumitomo Denko) became the third Japanese man to join the sub-10 club, running 9.98 (+0.5 m/s) for 4th in the men's 100 m final. Koike also ran 2nd on the Japanese men's 4x100 m relay team, which clocked a season best 37.78 for 2nd despite featuring only two regulars, Shuhei Tada (Sumitomo Denko) and Yoshihide Kiryu (Nihon Seimei). Making his debut on anchor as a late sub for 100 m national record holder Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (Univ. of Florida), Kirara Shiraishi (Cerespo) brought the team home safely to join the growing ranks of potential members of the squad's roster for next year's Tokyo Olympics. Koike also returned on Day 2 of London to 20.24 (+0.9 m/s) for 4th in the 200 m, the 2nd-fastest by a Japanese man so far this year and just off his PB.

Having skipped June's National Championships 5000 m to focus on the London Diamond League, Hitomi Niiya (Nike Tokyo TC) switched to Saturday's KBC Nacht van de Atletiek meet in Belgium at the last minute after feeling that she wouldn't be able to reach her goal in London. In Belgium she ran 15:20.03 for 6th, becoming the fourth Japanese woman to clear the Doha World Championships standard and just missing the 15:19.99 year-leading Japanese time held by Tomoka Kimura (Shiseido). Nanaka Kuraoka (Denso) and Mai Shoji (Denso) took 9th and 11th in 15:33.45 and 15:35.54, with 3000 mSC U20 national record holder Reimi Yoshimura (Daito Bunka Univ.) handling pacing duties in the early going.

One of the four men to have broken 3:40 for 1500 m so far this year, Hideyuki Tanaka (Toyota) came up agonizingly short of joining Niiya under the Doha 5000 m standard in Belgium, running an all-time Japanese #11 13:22.72 but missing the Doha standard by 0.22. Hazuma Hattori (Toenec) finished last in 13:58.49. Tanaka has shown tremendous range this year, running 3:39.98 for 1500 m, this 13:22.72 for 5000 m, and a 1:01:33 half marathon. All that's left is a solid 10000 m for him to seal up the title of Japan's best non-marathon man.

800 m and 1500 m national champion Ran Urabe (Nike Tokyo TC) followed up a 3rd-place finish a few days ago in the 1500 m at the Meeting to Liege with another 1500 m at KBC Nacht. Unable to regain her form after having caught a cold post-Nationals, Urabe was only 4th in 4:21.01. Runner-up at Nationals, men's 800 m national record holder Sho Kawamoto (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) won the 800 m B-Heat in 1:46.93 after having gone 0.60 faster a few days ago in Barcelona.

© 2019 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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2020 Olympic Marathon Trials Winner Shogo Nakamura Wins First Race of Year in PB Time

2020 Olympic marathon trials winner Shogo Nakamura (27, Fujitsu) ran a course record 1:01:40 to win the Jan. 12 Takanezawa Genki Up Half Marathon in Tochigi. His time bettered his 2016 PB of 1:01:53 by 13 seconds. "I ran pretty much according to plan," he commented afterward.

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Next up Nakamura plans to run in the Mar. 29 World Half Marathon Championships. His coach Hiroaki Oyagi, 61, commented, "At the World Half we wil…

2020 Japanese Distance Rankings

2020 Japanese track and road distance running rankings. Overall rankings are calculated using runners' times and placings in races over 5000 m, 10000 m, half-marathon and marathon and the strength of these performances relative to others in the top ten in each category. Distances will be added as the season progresses. Click any image to enlarge.

Past years:
2019 ・ 2018 ・ 2017 ・ 2016・ 2015 ・ 2014 ・ 2013 ・ 2012 ・ 2011

© 2020 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Coming Down From Hakone - This Year's Race in the Cold, Hard Light of Day

Damn, has it already been a week? Time goes by so fast. Times at the HakoneEkiden this year were fast too. Eight guys broke course records on four of the five stages on Day One, and another five broke the records on three of the five stages on Day Two. Two of the three stages that didn't have new records were just seconds off. Four teams broke the Day One course record, two broke the overall course record, and one broke the Day Two record. This all mirrored what happened a day earlier at the New Year Ekiden, where eight men broke the records on four of the seven stages, at least one other missed by seconds, the top two teams broke the official overall course record and two more broke the record for the actual current version of the course.

And not just records. Some of them were historic, epoch-making marks. None more so than Tokyo Kokusai University's Vincent Yegon, who busted the greatest performance in Hakone history, a 59:25 course record for the 21.4 km Third Stage, 2:01…