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Aiming to Make 100th Hakone Ekiden, Rikkyo University Names Track Star Yuichiro Ueno as Head Coach

On Nov. 13 Rikkyo University, which will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2024, announced its new "Rikkyo Hakone Ekiden 2024" project, naming DeNA corporate team runner Yuichiro Ueno, 33, as head coach of its ekiden program.

A graduate of Nagano's Saku Chosei H.S. and Hakone powerhouse Chuo University, Ueno has been well-known for his unique personality as well as his achievements both at those schools and at the SB and DeNA teams. He will leave DeNA at the end of November and take over at Rikkyo effective Dec. 1 to lead its ekiden team to qualify for the 100th Hakone Ekiden in 2024. He plans to remain active as an athlete, training directly alongside the athletes he will supervise.

If successful it will be Rikkyo's first time qualifying for the Hakone Ekiden since 1968. For a school more than half a century removed from the Hakone frontlines Rikkyo's new development project is an ambitious one, and the appointment of the idiosyncratic Ueno as head coach adds …
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Yoshitomi and Matsumura Lead Osaka Marathon Elite Field

One of the world's ten biggest marathons with nearly 30,000 finishers, his year's Osaka Marathon takes place Nov. 25. At the elite level Osaka has carved an interesting place for itself as a sort of unofficial amateur Japanese women's national championships, with just about all of Japan's sub-2:40 amateur women entered. 2017 winner Yumiko Kinoshita (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) leads 6 of last year's top 7 including Mitsuko Ino (Linkstyle), who finished just 1 second behind Kinoshita in the last edition, and 2016 Osaka winner Yoshiko Sakamoto (F.O.R.). But they have serious competition ahead of them this time in the form of quasi-corporate leaguer Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead), fresh from a 2:30:09 PB and CR win at the Nov. 11 Fukuoka Marathon, and 2:31:09 Moroccan Soud Kanbouchia. First-timer Felista Wambui (Kenya) is a wildcard. The high-volume racer Yoshitomi is the heavy favorite, the only question really being whether she can finally break 2:30 for the first time.

The…

Yoshitomi Breaks Fukuoka Marathon Course Record by Over 7 Minutes

The 2018 Fukuoka Marathon took place Nov. 11 on a course from downtown Fukuoka to Itoshima. In the women's race winner Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) ran 2:30:09, taking 7:01 off the course record and 7 seconds off her PB. Surprised and elated, she told reporters, "I never thought I'd run this kind of time here!"
Coming in the early part of the marathon season, Yoshitomi said, "This race was mostly about confirming my condition. I wasn't thinking about running a PB." Until 5 km she was running slower than the kind of pace that would make her tired in training. Mid-race she came across one of her regular training partners, Hiroaki Iwanaga (GGRC Kumamoto) and thought to herself, "If you run with him you might be able to just break 2:30." Never slowing down all the way until the end, Yoshitomi's run turned out what she called "unexpectedly" well.
Yoshitomi will run the 4th Saitama International Marathon on Dec. 9 as part of its invite…

18-Year-Old Waithaka Runs 10000 m World Leading Time at Nittai - Weekend Roundup

photo by @tsutsugo55225

For the second time in the last three weeks, a Japan-based Kenyan ran the fastest time in the world this year for 10000 m at Yokohama's Nittai University Time Trials series. On October 20th it was 2015 World U18 Championships 3000 m gold medalist Richard Kimunyan (Hitachi Butsuryu), 20, with a 27:14.70  that surpassed Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei's world-leading mark by almost five seconds. This time it was 2018 World U20 Championships 5000 m silver medalist Stanley Waithaka (Yakult), 18, taking almost two minutes off his PB to break Kimunyan's mark with a 27:13.01 win.

Both winners received support from 2014 Commonwealth Games steeplechase gold medalist Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu), who ran season bests for 2nd place each time, 27:50.38 three weeks ago and 27:28.27 on Saturday. 2013 World U18 Championships 3000 m bronze medalist Alexander Mutiso (ND Software) was also under 28 minutes, running just off his PB at 27:42.16 for 3rd. Kazuma Taira (Kan…

Go Ahead and Call It a Comeback - Niiya Breaks Shibui's Course Record in Return to Road Racing

Ladies and gentlemen, Hitomi Niiya is back.

You might remember Hitomi Niiya from the 2013 Moscow World Championships 10000 m, where she led the entire way only to get destroyed over the last lap and finish 5th in 30:56.70. That made her the third-fastest Japanese woman ever over that distance, but not long after that race she quit the sport entirely, getting an office job as far away from athletics as she could and not running for almost five years.

But the pull of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is strong, and, now 30, early this year she made the decision to try to make a comeback. Under the eye of former men's 800 m national record holder Masato Yokota she ran a 3000 m and two 5000 m time trials on the track between April and October before choosing the East Japan Women's Ekiden for her return to the roads and the longer distances.

The East Japan Women's Ekiden celebrated its 34th running Sunday, 9 stages totaling 42.195 km through the Fukushima countryside with teams from eac…

Kobe Marathon Elite Field

Next weekend's Kobe Marathon is the latest Japanese race to acquire an IAAF road race label, something we'll probably be seeing a lot more of both in Japan and abroad with the IAAF's shift to a world ranking-based system that rewards performance in labeled races. The field this year perfectly follows the same boutique pattern as most other Japanese races' tiny international fields, one athlete each from the widest range of nationalities possible within a field of six to eight, plus some home soil people. With the IAAF dropping the nationality variety requirement starting in 2019 it'll be interesting to see how that impacts races like Kobe, Fukuoka International and Saitama International.

Last year's men's winner Khalil Lamciyeh of Morocco returns as the third-fastest man in the field behind newly-minted nationality transfer Weldu Negash of Norway and Kenyan Cosmas Kyeva. Saidi Juma Makula of Tanzania and Australian Liam Adams could be in range of the win, …

A Mid-Ekiden Season's Weekend Preview

Ekiden season rolls on. Sunday in Fukushima is the 34th running of the East Japan Women's Ekiden, a miniature version of January's National Women's Ekiden featuring teams made up of the best J.H.S., H.S., university, corporate and club runners from each of the 18 prefectures in eastern Japan. Most notable on the entry list is Tokyo's Hitomi Niiya, all-time Japanese #3 for 10000 m and working her way back from a five-year retirement in hopes of making the Tokyo 2020 team. Fuji TV will broadcast the race live from noon to 2:30 p.m. Japan time.

Following last weekend's East Japan and Kyushu corporate men's regional New Year Ekiden national championships qualifiers, the Kansai and Chugoku regions hold their qualifiers Sunday in Wakayama and Hiroshima. Top-placing teams from each region will go on to the New Year Ekiden on January 1st, with Sumitomo Denko and Chugoku Denryoku, featuring 2018 Hokkaido Marathon winner Naoki Okamoto, the favorites. The Kansei Corporat…

Field of 22 Teams Announced for National Corporate Women's Ekiden

The team rosters for the 22 teams entered in the Nov. 25 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships were announced on Nov. 7. The field includes last year's top 8 plus the teams who placed in the top 14 at the Oct. 21 qualifying race. Among the each team's 10 entrants are some of the country's best distance runners.

Last year's national champion Panasonic features 2018 Jakarta Asian Games national team member Yuka Hori. Going for its second national title ever, 2016 winner Japan Post will field 2018 Hokkaido Marathon winner Ayuko Suzuki and 2018 Nagoya Women's Marathon 3rd-placer Hanami Sekine. In quest of its first national-level win, 2017 runner-up Daihatsu counts 2018 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Mizuki Matsuda among its lineup.
38th National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships FieldSendai, Miyagi, 11/25/18

Panasonic
Daihatsu
Japan Post
Daiichi Seimei
Tenmaya
Yamada Denki
Shiseido
Toyota Jidoshokki
Wacoal
Kyocera
Kyudenko
Seki…