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JRN's Ten Most-Read Stories of 2017

In 2017 Japan Running News celebrated its 10th anniversary. From the Hakone Ekiden to the London World Championships to the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon, looking back over the year here are its top ten stories as determined by JRN readers.

1. Last-Place Finisher Named Winner After Entire Rest of Field Disqualified - Feb. 15
At a children's road race in Okayama runners were misdirected on the course and ran a shorter distance. Followed by a sweeper, only the last-place runner ran the correct 3.0 km course, and when the other 262 participants were disqualified the last-placer was named the winner.

2. Hawkins and Kirwa Win Marugame Half, Takeshita Over Muiru in Kanagawa - Feb. 5
Less than a week after his breakthrough 1:00:24 was annulled due to a short course, Scotland's Callum Hawkins won Marugame in a new national record of 1:00:00, while Rio Olympics silver medalist Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) made it two Marugame titles in a row. Men's preview and women's preview. At the Kanagawa Half Kazuki Takeshita (Toyo Univ.) became the first man to break 63 there with a 1:02:41 course record win.

3. Real Talk From Kawauchi on "Taking on the World" - Mar. 28
Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) wrote a three-part editorial for one of Japan's major sports sites, talking in detail about his run at the 2016 Fukuoka International Marathon, his plans for the 2017 London World Championships, and his hopes and expectations for the future.
Part One - The Miracle in Fukuoka
Part Two - Bringing All My Experience Into Play in London
Part Three - The Lessons of the Past Are Not Outdated

4. History Comes Calling - Kipsang and Chepchichir Run Japanese Soil Records at Tokyo Marathon - Feb. 26
On a new and improved course Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Sarah Chepchirchir each took over a minute off the records for the fastest marathons ever run in Japan, winning the Tokyo Marathon in 2:03:58 and 2:19:47. Yuta Shitara (Honda) had one of the most memorable debuts in Japanese history, going through halfway in 1:01:55 en route to a 2:09:27. 19-year-old Ayaka Fujimoto (Kyocera) ran 2:27:08 for 4th in the women's race, the fastest-ever by a Japanese teenager. Preview

5. Noguchi Downs Mungara and Kawauchi for Gold Coast Win, Bekele Breaks Women's Course Record - July 2
Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta) outkicked last year's top two Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) to win Australia's Gold Coast Airport Marathon in 2:08:59 and become the sixth member an exclusive club of Japanese men to win an overseas marathon sub-2:10. A newlywed, Noguchi's wife and 2015 Gold Coast winner Risa Takenaka (Shiseido) was 3rd in 2:28:32.

6. 17-Year-Old Biyazen Bests Hachioji in 10000 m Debut - Nov. 25
Ethiopian teenager Yeneblo Biyazen (Yachiyo Kogyo) ran 27:32.51 in his 10000 m debut to win the Hachioji Long Distance meet A-heat. Half marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda) ran a PB of 27:41.97, while Olympian Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.) ran one of the fastest times ever by a Japanese university student, 27:47.87.

7. Kawauchi Ties Sub-2:20 World Record, Kato Crushes Course Record in Hofu Yomiuri Marathon Wins - Dec. 17
In his last race of 2017, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) won the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon for the third time in 2:10:03. Top woman Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) took over 7 minutes off the course record as she won in 2:28:12. Kawauchi's win was his 75th career sub-2:20 marathon, tying the world record held by American Doug Kurtis.

8. Aoyama Gakuin University Wins Third-Straight Hakone Ekiden to Complete Triple Crown - Jan. 3
Aoyama Gakuin University became the fourth school in history to win the Izumo Ekiden, National University Ekiden and Hakone Ekiden in a single season, the sixth to win Japan's biggest race three years in a row, and the first ever to do both. For the first time Hakone featured four African-born runners, but none of the teams that fielded them made the top ten. Kanto Alliance anchor Akito Terui ran the fastest time on his stage but was not named the stage winner due to a bizarre rule.  Preview.

9. Kawauchi Breaks Mekonnen's Sub-2:12 World Record - July 5
At July's Gold Coast Airport Marathon, high-volume marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran his 23rd career sub-2:12 marathon, more than any other runner in world history. By the end of the year he had increased that to 25.

10. The MGC 6 - Inside the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Marathon Trials - Dec. 20
This year the JAAF announced a new selection procedure for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon teams, with a long series of races giving athletes the chance to make the MGC Race, a new Olympic Trials event with tough entry standards. JRN broke down the new system and explained its ins and outs.

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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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…

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…

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 …