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JRN's Ten Most-Read Stories of 2019

The New Year and Hakone Ekidens were big news among JRN readers as always. But in Japanese long distance, this year was all about the 2020 Olympic marathon, and especially about the Sept. 15 MGC Race, Japan's first modern attempt at a one-shot Olympic trials format for choosing its Olympic marathon lineup. Five of this year's ten most-read stories were about the MGC Race, its qualifying races, and about the Olympic marathon itself. The complete top ten stories of the year in Japanese distance as seen by JRN readers:

Tokai University Wins First-Ever Hakone Ekiden Title - Jan. 2-3
After Toyo University held off four-time defending champion Aoyama Gakuin Unviersity to lead the Hakone Ekiden at the end of its first day, Tokai University came on strong on Day Two to overtake Toyo and keep AGU at bay for its first-ever win at Japan's most prestigious race.

Nakamura and Maeda Win Japanese 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials - Sept. 15
Abandoning its black box multi-race national team selection process in favor of a clear-cut one-race trials format, Japan saw a thrilling men's race where Shogo Nakamura closed in what may have been the fastest-ever Japanese split after 40 km to win over 2018 Fukuoka champ Yuma Hattori and national record holder Suguru Osako. 2017 Hokkaido winner Honami Maeda threw it down early and ground the rest of the field into the pavement to win the women's race over favorite Ayuko Suzuki and Maeda's teammate Rei OharaPreview 1. Preview 2.

Running the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Marathon Course Part One - Women's Marathon Test Run - Aug. 2
For the second year in a row, JRN ran the Tokyo Olympics marathon course at exactly the time the event will take place in 2020, taking temperature and humidity readings every half hour along the way. Part Two featured 2018 European marathon champion Koen Naert of Belgium, with Part Three happening at the time of the men's marathon.

61-Year-Old Mariko Yugeta Becomes First 60+ Woman to Go Sub-Three - Nov. 27
At the Nov. 3 Shimonoseki Kaikyo Marathon, 61-year-old Mariko Yugeta because the first woman 60 or older to ever break 3 hours for the marathon. Two weeks later in Bangkok she ran the 100th marathon of her career. A week after that she negative split a PB 2:56:54 in Saitama to better her Shimoseki time by over 2 minutes.

Sado Over Ohara at Osaka Women's Marathon, Fukushi DNF After Bad Fall, Iwade and Tanihara Take the Half - Jan. 27
With places at Japan's new MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials on the line, Ethiopian Fatuma Sado took the top spot at the Osaka International Women's Marathon. Rio Olympian Kayoko Fukushi fell early in the race and tried to keep going, but ultimately she dropped out and regrouped to try again in Nagoya. Preview.

Beppu-Oita Marathon to Review Staff Training After Interpreter Refers to African Athletes as "Chimpanzees" - Feb. 15
A local woman working as an interpreter at the Beppu-Oita Marathon caused an outcry when she referred to invited elite African athletes at the race as "chimpanzees" and "primitive people" on a public blog. The race promised to improve its staff training.

Legese and Aga on Top, El Abbassi and Osako on the Sidelines at 2019 Tokyo Marathon - Mar. 3
Already qualified for the MGC Race Olympic marathon trials, national record holder Suguru Osako, Shogo Nakamura and Yuki Sato went through halfway in 1:02:04 at the Tokyo Marathon before the cold rain got to them. Ethiopians Birhanu Legese and Ruti Aga won the men's and women's race overall. Preview 1. Preview 2.

Shitara Rocks Fastest-Ever Marathon in Australia Two Months Out From Olympic Trials - July 7
Despite saying he was there for a training run, former national record holder Yuta Shitara went head-to-head with fellow twin Zane Robertson of New Zealand for the win at the Gold Coast Marathon, pulling away in the final kilometers to win in an Australian all-comers record 2:07:50. Rodah Tanui (Kenya) won the women's race in 2:27:56, while a large number of Japanese men tuning up for the MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials took on the half marathon. Preview.

MHPS Just Misses Stopping an Asahi Kasei New Year Ekiden Threepeat - Jan. 1
The marathon-oriented MHPS team came up just short of stopping old-school ekiden powerhouse Asahi Kasei from claiming a third-straight New Year Ekiden national title, with MHPS anchor Yuji Iwata losing out to AK's Shuho Dairokuno in the final 100 m of the 100 km race.

Keitany Leads 12 Under 28 Minutes at Hachioji Long Distance Meet, 138 Go Sub-29 - Nov. 25
Less than a week after almost 150 men broke 1:05:00 at the Ageo City Half Marathon, two Tokyo-area meets produced 138 men under 29 minutes for 10000 m. Evans Keitany (Toyota Boshoku) was the fastest, leading 12 men under 28 minutes at the Hachioji Long Distance Meet, with Tomoya Nakamura (Aoyama Gakuin University) leading the Kanto Region meet in 28:31.68.

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Yugeta Betters Own 60+ World Record

Women's 60+ marathon world record holder Mariko Yugeta , 62, bettered her 2:52:13 record Saturday at Tokyo's Itabashi Trial Marathon . Part of the Trial Marathon Series, a nationwide series of professionally-operated uncertified micro-races that has popped up during the coronavirus pandemic, the Itabashi Trial Marathon covered almost 17 laps of a flat 2.5 km course along the Arakawa River on Tokyo's northern border.  Yugeta went out at just under 4:00/km, going through halfway in 1:24:04 and making it to 30 km in 2:00:08 before her pace started to slip. Ultimately she ran 2:52:01, 1st among the 21 female finishers and 14th overall . "That's it for marathons for this season," she told JRN post-race. "I didn't make it to sub-2:50, but I'll be training hard to go for it at the Tokyo Marathon this fall." text and photo © 2021 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

25-Year-Old Kyohei Hosoya Targeting Paris Olympics Marathon

It's a fast new world in Japanese men's marathoning, and one of its exciting new stars comes to it straight out of Kyushu. His name is Kyohei Hosoya  (25, Kurosaki Harima). In just his second marathon he ran 2:06:35 for 3rd at February's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon , ranking him at all-time Japanese #6. In college he was mostly sidelined with injury, but since joining the corporate leagues his abilities have come into full flower. Now, with the 2024 Paris Olympics in his sights, he's poised to make another great leap forward. When the race in Lake Biwa began Hosoya was just an unknown 25-year-old, but when he hit the finish line he'd inked his name on the list of top candidates for the Paris Olympics. What once was just a dream is now a realistic goal. "I'd had some vague hopes before about representing Japan," he said, "but now that feeling is burning bright."  Someone who has been involved with Hosoya's athletic career had often told hi

Sato Breaks 1500 m U18 National Record - Weekend Track Roundup

It was a busy weekend on the track across Japan. At Saturday's Kanaguri Memorial Meet  in Kumamoto, the biggest news came in the men's 1500 m where 17-year-old Keita Sato (Rakunan H.S.) ran 3:40.36, a new U18 national record, the 2nd-fastest ever by a Japanese high schooler, and 3rd-fastest-ever U20 mark. Sato took 4th after leading the first three laps, with two of the three people who finished ahead of him going under 3:40. Winner Kazuki Kawamura (Toenec) broke into the all-time Japanese top ten at 3:38.83 and Keisuke Morita (Komori Corp.) was 2nd in 3:39.37. Steeplechase specialist Kazuya Shiojiri  (Fujitsu) followed up his 10000 m win last month in Nobeoka with a 5000 m PB at Kanaguri, dropping a Kenyan trio led by Justus Kevasa  (Honda) for the win in 13:22.80. A total of thirteen people broke 13:40 across heats. Joan Kipkemoi  (Kyudenko) led Japan-based Africans to sweep the top five spots in the women's 5000 m in 15:30.45, with Ethiopian Burka Desta  (Denso) taki