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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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Oct. 17 Tokyo Marathon Set to Cancel Due to Extension of State of Emergency

With the government set to extend the state of emergency in Tokyo and other parts of the country, as of Sept. 6 it is all but certain that the Oct. 17 Tokyo Marathon will be canceled.  The published guidelines for the 2021 race state, "In the event that a state of emergency has been issued one month prior to the event as part of the government's efforts against the coronavirus pandemic, or if the local government has issued a request not to hold the race, the Tokyo Marathon will be canceled." The current state of emergency in Tokyo runs through Sept. 12, but as it is expected to be extended 2~3 weeks it will still be in force on the 17th. This makes the chances that the Tokyo Marathon will go ahead virtually non-existent. The event's organizers, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation, plan to hold a board meeting in mid-September to make a final decision. The 2021 Tokyo Marathon was originally scheduled for Mar. 7, but in October last year in light of pandemic conditions the

Tokyo-Area Qualifier for National University Women's Ekiden Canceled

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Kikutani 4th in Vienna

Kento Kikutani  (Toyota Boshoku) added a bit of drama to the Vienna City Marathon even before the disqualification of its original winner. 9th at February's record-breaking Lake Biwa Marathon in a PB of 2:07:26, Kikutani was the only one of the four Japanese men in Vienna to go with the lead pack. He stayed with them well into the second half before dropping off, but as the lead quartet slowed to set up for the last kick he came back, just making contact with the back of the group before the move came. Kikutani went into fourth, but with less than 2 km to go he suddenly stopped, walked, and then appeared to stretch out a cramp of other issue.  He dropped back to 5th by the time he made it across the line in 2:10:37, still good enough for the fastest time by a Japanese man overseas since Kenta Murayama 's 2:08:56 at the 2019 Berlin Marathon. It was a promising start to the post-Tokyo 2020 continuum. When initial winner Derara Hurisa  (Ethiopia) was disqualified for wearing non