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Showing posts from December, 2007

The Hakone Ekiden: A Brief History and Preview

by Brett Larner What are the world`s great races? Great in the sense of history, atmosphere and something intangible which can`t be bought by PR-savvy race directors with bottomless checkbooks. Races like Comrades and Boston come to mind first. Comparatively unknown outside Japan but standing alongside these races is the Hakone Ekiden . The Hakone Ekiden is the East Japan university men`s championship, a 10-stage, 217.9 km relay race from central Tokyo to the mountain resort town of Hakone and back, held every year on Jan. 2 and 3. The ekiden began in 1920 and has continued uninterrupted apart from a hiatus during World War II. In post-war years Hakone was quickly reinitiated despite the shortage of young men to run; during those years university athletes from other sports were enlisted to run in order to help the tradition continue. The Hakone Ekiden has grown over the decades into a central position within the Japanese distance running world. In the last 20 years it has expanded beyo

Hakone Ekiden Preview on the Way

I am generally staying away from writing about my own running in Japan. That said, this morning I did my annual run up the Hakone Ekiden 5th stage, a 23.4 km course starting at sea level, peaking at 874 m after 19 km, then dropping 100 m or so to finish next to a lake in the mountains. It was an inspirational run and doubly exciting as preparations were underaway all along the course for the 84th Hakone Ekiden Jan. 2-3. For those unfamiliar with the Hakone Ekiden, it is nominally the East Japan University Men`s championship race, featuring 19 schools and one all-star team running a 10-stage, 217.9 km course from Tokyo into the mountains and back over the course of 2 days. I say nominally in that Hakone has become the center of much of the Japanese running world, with the top Hakone schools attracting the best runners from throughout Japan, many of whom make this ekiden the focus of their lives and thus do not continue on as professionals after graduation. The level of public enthusias

Takahashi Consults With Koide One Last Time; Heads to Kunming for Nagoya Prep translated and edited by Mika Tokairin and Brett Larner Sydney Olympics gold medalist Naoko Takahashi (Team Phiten) left Japan on Dec. 25 for a high-altitude training camp in Kunming, China as part of her preparation for trying to qualify for the Beijing Olympic marathon team at the Nagoya International Women`s Marathon on Mar. 9. In the early morning while on the way to Narita Airport, Takahashi discovered that her ticket was actually for Dec. 26, not Dec. 25. Fortunately, she was able to fly on the 25th. In the past Takahashi has always had trouble before her good races, so this may have been a good omen. Shortly before Takahashi won the 2000 Nagoya International Women`s Marathon to qualify for the Sydney Olympics, she suffered food poisoning while at a training camp in Tokunoshima, Kagos

2007 As Seen By JRN Readers

JRN's most-read articles of 2007 by month: July Takayuki Matsumiya sets Japanese 5000 m national record.   - July 29 August Kano, Oshima and Ozaki finish in top 10 at NY Half-Marathon.   - Aug. 6 September 'Perhaps the Japanese have Lydiard right.'   - Sept. 4 October Atsushi Sato sets new Japanese and Asian half-marathon record. -  Oct. 16 November 397 under 70 minutes: the 20th Ageo City Half-Marathon.   - Nov. 20 December The Hakone Ekiden: a brief history and preview.   - Dec. 31 (c) 2007 Brett Larner all rights reserved

Tosa Named Athlete of the Year by Japanese National Track and Field Association Photo of Tosa, Fukushi and Noguchi at the Rikuren Awards in Tokyo, Dec. 26, 2007. translated and edited by Brett Larner Rikuren, the JAAF, held its 1st annual Athletics Awards on Dec. 26 in Tokyo. In attendance were 3 women who each have a chance to win the gold medal in the Beijing Olympics women`s marathon. Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) was named Athlete of the Year for her bronze medal performance in the women`s marathon at the World Championships, a run which has already secured Tosa a place on the Olympic team. "The home-country support I received from everyone during the Osaka World Championships truly pushed me to make the medals. I will do my best in Beijing to run a good race," Tosa told the audience with characteristic nervousness during her acceptance speech. Also honored for her victory at the Tokyo International Women`s Marathon was M

Team Chugoku Denryoku to Battle Team Nissin Shokuhin in New Year Ekiden translated by Brett Larner 37 teams will compete Jan. 1st in the 52nd annual All-Japan Jitsugyodan Ekiden , popularly known as the New Year Ekiden. The ekiden covers a 7-stage, 100 km course through Gunma Prefecture, starting and ending in Maebashi. Team Chugoku Denryoku will be trying for its 2nd straight victory and will face tough competition from Team Nissin Shokuhin , who will be looking for its 1st victory, and past champs Team Konica Minolta , who will be trying to return to the winner`s circle. Team Chugoku Denryoku`s lineup includes Tsuyoshi Ogata, the 5th place finisher in this past summer`s World Championships marathon; Atsushi Sato, the Japanese half-marathon national record holder and 3rd-place finisher at the Fukuoka International Marathon on Dec. 2; and Shigeru Aburaya, who was 5th in the Athens Olympics marathon. Team Chugoku Denryoku does not have any foreign runners so it will likely have a comparatively slow 1st

Ritsumeikan Continues Dynasty at National University Women`s Ekiden

by Brett Larner The Ritsumeikan University women`s ekiden team extended its national championship dynasty at the 5th All-Japan University Women`s Invitational Ekiden in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture on Dec. 24, defeating 19 other teams to win the event for the 5th time. Despite a strong challenge from Bukkyo University , who set new stage records on 3 of the 6 stages, Ritsumeikan once again prevailed over this 30.67 km course. 1st Stage: 5 km All 20 runners on the first stage stayed together until the 2 km point when a few began to drift away from the back of the pack. At the 3 km point Ryoko Kisaki of Bukkyo broke away, dropping a 3:00 km between 3 and 4 km. Juntendo University`s Yuka Inatomi and Nihon University`s Kenyan 'exchange student' Ann Kingori followed, Kingori dropping Inatomi with 500 m to go. Neither was close to Kisaki, who was strong right to the finish in a new stage record time. 1. Bukkyo: 15:39 (Ryoko Kisaki, 4th yr., new stage record ) 2. Nihon: 15:50 (Ann Ki

Nittadai 10000m: Akaba Runs Olympic A-Standard PB, Fukushi Cancels to Avoid Media Hot on the heels of recovering from childbirth to defeat Catherine Ndereba in the International Chiba Ekiden last month and finish 2nd to 10000 m national record holder Yoko Shibui on the 10 km anchor leg of last week`s All-Japan Jitsugyodan Women`s Ekiden, Yukiko Akaba of Team Hokuren ran 31:23.27 in the women`s 10000 m at the Nittadai Track and Field Meet in Yokohama on Dec. 23 to meet the Beijing Olympics A standard of 31:45:00. This performance broke Akaba`s PB by 30 seconds. "I ran within myself," commented Akaba after the race. "I will do it again next year at the Olympic Trials." Kayoko Fukushi of Team Wacoal, who is scheduled to run the Osaka International Marathon in January next year, was entered in the 10000 m at the Nittadai meet but did not run. Team Wacoal coach Tadayuki Nagayama stated that Fukushi did not attend the meet in order to av

10 Japanese Races Receive IAAF 'Silver' Ranking translated by Brett Larner On Dec. 20 in London the IAAF released its worldwide ranking of marathons and other road races, with labels including 'Gold' and 'Silver.' 10 races in Japan including the Hokkaido Marathon and the 30000 runner-strong Tokyo Marathon received the 'Silver' ranking, but no domestic races received the highest 'Gold' ranking. Other 'Silver'-ranked races included the Fukuoka International Marathon, Biwako Mainichi Marathon, Tokyo International Women`s Marathon, Osaka International Women`s Marathon, Nagoya International Women`s Marathon, Nagano Marathon, the 30 km Ome Marathon, and the Marugame Half-Marathon. 12 races worldwide including the London Marathon received the 'Gold' rating. 3 races in Asia including the Beijing Marathon received a 'Gold' label. Japan`s top races were held back from the 'Gold' ranking because they do not feature both elite

150 Santas Race in Kyoto translated by Mika Tokairin and Brett Larner 150 people dressed as Santa Claus ran The Santa Claus Marathon along the Kamogawa in Kyoto on Dec. 23. Runners ranging from children to seniors wore white beards and red coats to celebrate Christmas in the old capitol. The race began 5 years ago for people who enjoy this sort of thing, quickly becoming a regular event. Its growing popularity attracts runners from Kanto and Shikoku in addition to locals. Runners in costumes such as Christmas trees and snowmen as well as people with dogs dressed as reindeer also took part. Race staff said, "We are very happy that everybody enjoyed the run this year." Translator`s note: Merry Christmas.

Ritsumeikan Uji Girls and Sendai Ikuei Boys Return to the Top in All-Japan High School Ekiden (updated)

by Brett Larner Hometown team Ritsumeikan Uji capped a strong season by winning the girls` division of the All-Japan High School ekiden for the first time in 7 years, while powerhouse Sendai Ikuei scored its seventh victory in the boys` race, returning to the top after last year`s loss to Sera. The two races were held back-to-back on the streets of Kyoto on Dec. 23 and broadcast live and commercial-free on national television. Each race featured the 47 prefectural champion high schools, the girls covering a hilly half-marathon course divided into 5 stages and the boys an even hillier full marathon course divided into 7 stages. Conditions at the start of the girls` race were 10 degrees with light rain and no wind, but the weather soon broke and the day became warm, sunny and breezy. Girls` Race The girls` race was billed as a battle between defending champions Suma Gakuen of Hyogo Prefecture and local high school Ritsumeikan Uji. Ritsumeikan had the faster qualification time leading int

3177 Run the Mita Masters Half Marathon translated by Brett Larner The 19th running of the Mita International Masters Half Marathon took place on Dec. 16 in Mita, Hyogo Prefecture with sponsorship from Yomiuri Newspapers Osaka, Yomiuri Television and Hochi Newspapers. 3177 runners entered the race, up 134 from last year. An estimated 12000 spectators lined the course to cheer in support. The Rikuren-certified 21.0975 km course commenced at Ari Prefectural High School`s sports grounds. Race director and Mita mayor Hideaki Takeuchi greeted runners with an opening speech before the race began, telling them, "This is the most important event of the year in Mita. Please have a good time in our city while you run." Weather conditions just before the start were a chilly 5.5 degrees with light rain, but the rain abated in time for the starting gun. Breaking from the lead pack at the 5 km point, Yasukaza Miyasato from Izumi ran away with the victory, winnin

Parents Cheer Children`s All-Out Running at Mukou Sports Circle Ekiden translated by Brett Larner The annual Mukou Sports Circle Ekiden took place Dec. 16 at Koyo Elementary School in Mukou, Kyoto. 150 people including baseball players, soccer players and other children from the local sports circle along with local residents who took up sports while living in Mukou ran the full marathon-length 42.195 km race. The ekiden began in 1992 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Japan Sports Circle. Since then the city has staged the race as a way to bring together Mukou Sports Circle members from different sports to help foster a feeling of camaraderie. The race started at 9:30 a.m. The 3 teams consisted of 50 members each with team members running a half lap of the 140 m course at a time. Finishing runners tagged the next team member, shouting encouragement to each other along with parents and teammates lining the course. The shouts of support urged the runners on to fast fi

Fukushi to Debut at Osaka, Shibui Abandons Olympic Quest translated and edited by Mika Tokairin and Brett Larner On Dec. 18, the organizers of the Beijing Olympics-qualifying Osaka International Women`s Marathon announced the field for next`s month`s competition. The biggest news is the inclusion of 15 km world record and Japanese 3000 m, 5000 m, and half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal). Fukushi will be running her debut marathon not as part of the invited field but as an independent runner. The word `finally` is the first to come to mind. Until now Fukushi has avoided speaking directly about her marathon plans, only making vague comments such as, "There are many options to go to the Olympics

Official Measurement of the Tokushima Marathon Course (with video) translated by Brett Larner In Tokushima city this morning, official course measurement of next April`s Tokushima Marathon took place. The Tokushima Marathon is sponsored by the prefectural government with the goal of promoting sports as a means to better health for prefectural citizens. Course measurement took place early in the morning when there was no traffic on the roads. A staff made up of Rikuren authorities, prefectural track association officials and students worked together to measure the course from the start in Tokushima Central Park to its finish at the Tokushima City Track. Workers used a wire 50 m in length, making chalk marks on the pavement to indicate the beginning and ending of each 50 m segment. Staff carefully followed all course certification regulations such as maintaining a uniform 30 cm distance from the curb while measuring around curves and corners. The course measurement will be continued and recheck

2008 Tokyo International Women`s Marathon to be the Last translated by Brett Larner Tokyo International Women`s Marathon main sponsor Asahi Newspapers announced on Dec. 17 that the 30th edition of the race to be held next year on Nov. 16 will be its final running. With the shift in the Tokyo metropolitan government`s support to the mass-participation Tokyo Marathon, the Tokyo Police Department is now unwilling to issue road closure permits for 2 marathons. A spokesperson from the JAAF commented, "There is nothing we can do to stop the race from being cancelled." With an eye to the future, "We are looking at other locations and opportunities for a new women-only marathon." The Tokyo International Women`s Marathon was founded in 1979 as the world`s first women-only marathon. 50 women ran in the first running and very few finished, leading many commentators of the time to hold the view tha

Fujioka Girls Score First Victory at National Junior High School Ekiden translated by Brett Larner At the 15th All-Japan Junior High School Ekiden in Yamaguchi`s Seminar Park, Fujioka Junior High School (Gotemba City, Shizuoka Prefecture) ran 40:40 in the girls` race to earn its 1st win in this ekiden. Fujioka`s boys` team finished 9th. The event hosted both 47 boys` and girls` teams with 1 host prefectural all-star team in each gender division making for a total 96 entries. The boys` course covered 18 km in 6 stages while the girls` course was made up of 5 stages totalling 12 km. The Fujioka girls` 1st stage runner, Saeko Yuda (3rd year), handed off to Marina Oishi (3rd year) in 2nd place just 2 seconds down from the top spot. Oishi took the lead and Fujioka maintained the top position all the way until anchor Kaede Yamazaki (3rd year) crossed the finish line. Running with the memory of last year`s race in which they finished 2nd by just 4 seconds, Fujioka defeated its demons. 3rd sta

Noguchi Plans for New World Record Before Olympics translated by Brett Larner Probable Beijing Olympics women`s marathon team member Mizuki Noguchi (29, Team Sysmex) will compete in the Kumamoto 30 km road race on Feb. 24 next year in an attempt to set a new world record at the distance. Her coach Nobuyuki Fujita (67) held a press conference today to announce the news, saying that, "Setting a world record would make a major impact leading into the Olympics." Noguchi is also scheduled to run in the All-Japan Interprefectural Women`s Ekiden on Jan. 13. She plans to leave on Dec. 27 for a training camp on Amami Oshima. Translator`s note: Mizuki Noguchi set the current 30 km world record of 1:38:49 during the 2005 Berlin Marathon. Paula Radcliffe ran 1:36:36 for 30 km while setting the marathon world record at the 2003 London Marathon, but the IAAF apparently does not consider this 30 km mark or any of the other 30 km splits run by Radcliffe and Catherin

`Team Mitsui-Sumitomo Win Again in Gifu` (updated) Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo won despite missing Osaka World Championships women`s marathon bronze medalist Reiko Tosa who has been suffering from assorted injuries since Osaka . This bodes ill for her recovery leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Similarly, Team Kyocera was missing its star runner Yumiko Hara who performed poorly in Osaka due to a leg injury. Hara is scheduled to run the Osaka International Women`s Marathon next month to attempt to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, but her absence here raises questions about her current fitness. It is also worth noting that despite most of the teams` best runners being Kenyan, foreign runners were limited to the 10 km third stage rather than being allowed to run the longest stage, the 11.6 km fifth stage. This type of restriction is also true in the men`s All Japan Jitsugyodan Ekiden. Complete results from the race website:

Team Nissin on the Track

by Brett Larner Christmas came early this year. For this morning`s Harriers practice we went over to Oda Field to do 4 x 5000 m with 5 min. recovery rather than training in Yoyogi Park as usual. Oda is the main public track in central Tokyo and there are usually some interesting people there working out. Today Keio University and Gakushuin University were both there along with a few high schools, clubs and individuals. One serious-looking woman I didn`t recognize was doing easy laps in a national team warmup uniform. About halfway through our workout one of the best professional teams in Japan, Nissin Shokuhin , showed up for some hard training. Team Nissin includes some stellar talent on its roster. Toshinari Suwa is a 2:07 marathoner, was 6th in the Athens Olympics marathon and 7th in the Osaka World Championships marathon, and is a favorite to make the Beijing Olympics marathon team . Kazuyoshi Tokumoto was a legendary university runner and is considered one of the future stars o

All-Japan Professional Women`s Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner The 27th running of the All-Japan Jitsugyodan Women`s Ekiden takes place this Sunday, Dec. 16. in Gifu Prefecture. 26 teams will race the marathon-length 6-stage course. Course record holders Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo (2:13:17, 2004) are fielding a strong team including Osaka World Championships marathon bronze medallist Reiko Tosa and former marathon national record holder Yoko Shibui and look set to retake the title from defending champions Team Shiseido who suffered a major blow early this year when their coach Manabu Kawagoe and much of the top talent on last year`s team left Shiseido to form the independent Second Wind AC . The All-Japan Jitsugyodan Women`s Ekiden has 3 regional qualification races, all full marathon distance courses. At the East Japan Jitsugyodan Women`s Ekiden in Saitama Prefecture on Nov. 3, Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo swept the field for the 8th straight year, winning in 2:13:09. Team Daiichi Seimei were 2nd in 2:15:03 and Team Hokuren 3rd

Takahashi to Run Nagoya, Hara for Osaka translated by Brett Larner On Dec. 12, Sydney Olympics women`s marathon gold medallist and former women`s marathon world record holder Naoko Takahashi (35, Team Phiten) announced that she will attempt to qualify for the Beijing Olympics at the Nagoya International Marathon next March. Until now Takahashi had not announced whether she would try to make the Olympic team at January`s Osaka International Women`s Marathon or Nagoya. Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) holds one of the three slots on the Beijing Olympic Team thanks to her bronze medal performance at this summer`s Osaka World Championships. The course record 2:21:37 victory by Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) at November`s Tokyo International Women`s Marathon makes her an almost certainty for the second position on the team, leaving one space to be decided between Osaka and Nagoya. On the same

Ekiden Team Sites

With the peak of the ekiden season coming I have been working on adding links to professional and university team sites. Check the `blog resources` tab to the right. More will be added soon, especially in the university section.

Nakamori Wins Hofu Yomiuri Marathon (updated) by Brett Larner *Updated 12/11/07 with links to photos and many more detailed articles in Japanese. Kazuya Nakamori of Team Otsuka Seiyaku ran 2:15:40 to win the 2007 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon yesterday, coming from behind in the final kilometer to stage an upset over breakaway leader Mitsuru Irifune of Team Kanebo. An early pack of 24 led by Team Toyota`s Kazuki Enoki went through 5 km in a solid time of 15:31. Enoki maintained both lead and pace, passing 10 km in 31:04, 15 km in 46:42, and 20 km in 1:02:20. By the halfway point, 1:05:47, the lead pack had dwindled to 8 runners including Korean elite Hyon Je Yon who ran his PB of 2:10:37 while finishing 2nd in the 1999 Hofu. Shortly after the halfway point, Enoki and Nakamori broke away from the other contenders, hitting 25 km in 1:18:17 compared to the remaining 6 leaders` 1:18:37. The pack broke apart between 25 and 30 km as Irifune, the younger brother of 2005 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner

Marathon Woman Akemi Ozaki 2nd in JAL Honolulu Marathon translated by Brett Larner 17,000 Japanese runners in a field of 28,000 took part in the 35th JAL Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 9. Ambesse Tolosa of Ethiopia won the men`s race for the 2nd year in a row with a time of 2:17:26, while Alevtina Biktimirova of Russia took the women`s title for the 1st time, winning in 2:33:07. Among Japanese runners, Akemi Ozaki (Second Wind AC) was 2nd in the women`s race in 2:34:22 and Satoru Hori of Yamanashi Prefecture ran 2:29:12 to finish a strong 6th in the men`s race in his first appearance at this event. Marathon-loving model Rie Hasegawa, 34, ran in the 3:30 range in her 8th time to challenge the Honolulu course. Hasegawa hoped to run a 3:15 but said afterwards, "With the hills and rain making for tough conditions in the first half I just couldn`t do it this time. I love running, though, so I plan to come back to Honlulu again next year." At 90 years plus 5 months the oldest Japane

Sakamoto Withdraws From Osaka Due to Leg Injury translated by Brett Larner On Dec. 9, Athens Olympics women`s marathon 7th place finisher Naoko Sakamoto (Team Tenmaya) announced that she has cancelled plans to compete in January`s Osaka International Women`s Marathon. Her team`s coach Yutaka Taketomi revealed that Sakamoto is recovering from a minor injury to her right leg which will take some time to heal. "At this point Osaka is impossible." Asked whether Sakamoto has plans to run in the final Beijing Olympic team selection race, March`s Nagoya International Women`s Marathon, Taketomi replied, "We`re not saying she is going to run, but we`ll be keeping it in sight as we work on coming back." As far as her participation in the All-Japan Jitsugyodan Women`s Ekiden on Dec. 16, Sakamoto said, "We haven`t decided that I won`t run but I think it looks pretty tough. At the same time I have a responsibility to my team, so I don`t know y

Mizuki Noguchi to Run National Women`s Ekiden After 7-Year Absence translated by Brett Larner Athens Olympics women`s marathon gold medallist Mizuki Noguchi (29, Team Sysmex) confirmed on Dec. 5 that she will run for Mie Prefecture in next month`s 26th All-Japan Interprefectural Women`s Ekiden, sponsored by Japan Rikuren, The Kyoto Newspaper Group, and NHK. The ekiden will be held in Kyoto on Jan. 13. Noguchi is scheduled to run the 10 km anchor stage in her first appearance at this ekiden in 7 years. Noguchi first appeared in the Interprefectural Women`s Ekiden at the 14th edition of the race in 1996 during her days as a student at Uji Yamada Vocational High School, competing for Mie Prefecture for 6 straight years. Under the ekiden`s old `Hometown Rule,` prefectural teams were allowed to field runners who lived elsewhere if such runners were originally from the prefecture. Runners who f

Hofu Yomiuri Marathon Preview

Translator`s note: Beyond the 3 elite men`s marathons used in the selection process for world-level events, Japan has a 2nd tier of elite men`s marathons which serve as development races for younger marathoners gaining experience. The most famous of these is February`s Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. Betsudai, as this race is also known, sometimes acts as a 4th selection race along with Fukuoka, Tokyo and Biwako. The others, December`s Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and March`s Chunichi Toyohashi Marathon, are lesser-known outside Japan. This year`s Hofu takes place on Sunday, Dec. 9. translated by Brett Larner and Mika Tokairin On Nov. 21 the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon announced the elite field for its 38th running on Dec. 9. The field includes 7 domestic elites, 3 invited runners from Korea, and 451 open field entrants. The 42.195 km course begins at the Hofu Civic Track in Yamaguchi Prefect