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Showing posts from 2021

2022 Hakone Ekiden Preview

It's four days until the biggest race of the year, the 98th Hakone Ekiden  on Jan. 2 and 3. 21 university men's teams race 10 legs from central Tokyo to the mountains and back over the course of two days, each leg roughly a half marathon in distance and the total course adding up to 217.1 km.  65 million people watched at least part of the 2021  NTV Hakone broadcast  broadcast, so you know they must be on to something. The broadcast, the best in the world, starts at 7:00 a.m. both days, and as you'd expect they keep it a locked-down secret only for Japanese audiences. A VPN or  are probably the best bets for trying to watch from abroad, but JRN will once again cover it all on  @JRNLive .  The 2021 race had one of the most dramatic finishes in Hakone history , with Komazawa University  anchor Takuma Ishikawa  coming from over a kilometer behind to run down Yuki Onodera  with 2 km to go and stop him from bringing Soka University  home to its first-ever Hakone win. B

Meijo Wins 4th-Straight Mt. Fuji Women's Ekiden National Title, Fuwa Strikes Again

Course record holder and 3-time defending champ Meijo University  was unstoppable again, leading start to finish to win the 2021 Mt. Fuji Women's Ekiden university women's national title Dec. 30 in Shizuoka.  1st-year Nanase Tanimoto  got things rolling with a 12:49 win on the 4.1 km opening leg to give Meijo a 7-second lead that increased to 51 seconds over the next three legs, 2nd runner Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu  holding the margin and 3rd and 4th runners  Hana Inoue  and Yuma Yamamoto running the fastest times on their stages. On the longest leg, the 10.5 km Fifth Stage, Yuna Wada  took 45 seconds off the course record to further open Meijo's lead to 1:13, and the team's last two runners Yuka Masubuchi and Narumi Kobayashi both did their parts, Masubuchi taking the lead to 1:59 and Kobayashi to 2:58 on the tough uphill anchor stage to bring Meijo in for the win in 2:22:24 for the full 43.4 km course.  But the race's main action happened far back from Meijo&#

Wanjiru and Yamanouchi Win at Year-End Half Marathon

Back from pandemic-era cancelation last year for its 4th edition, the Year-End Half Marathon took place Dec. 29 in Showa Kinen Park in the western Tokyo suburb of Tachikawa. Conceived of as a race for corporate and university teams that didn't qualify for the New Year Ekiden or Hakone Ekiden, this year it played to exactly that kind of field. イヤーエンドハーフ 11km地点 — 城西大学男子駅伝部 (@josai_ekiden) December 29, 2021 After a slow start  Peter Wanjiru , the first Kenyan to run for Daito Bunka University , and Kenta Uchida  of the SID Group corporate team went head-to-head up front, with a chase pack made up of people from Asia University , Josai University , Chiba University  and the Raffine  corporate team drifting further and further behind. Uchida, running the race as a final tune-up for next month's Chevron Houston Marathon, slipped back from Wanjiru in the final km, leaving Wanjiru to take the win in 1:03:18. Uchida, whose coach Junichi Shibata told JRN th

Four Days of Championship Ekiden Racing Ahead

The year's biggest races are just around the corner, with four days of championship ekiden racing in the space of five coming up this week. First up on Dec. 30 is the Mt. Fuji Women's Ekiden university women's national championship, 7 stages totaling 43.4 km through the foothills of Mt. Fuji. Meijo University  has won the last three years, setting the course record of 2:21:38 last year, and it's going to win again. Meijo's core quartet Narumi Kobayashi , Yuma Yamamoto , Yuna Arai  and Yuna Wada  all made the Japanese top 25 for 5000 m or 10000 m this year, more than all other universities combined, and unless Meijo has some kind of major setback there's just no way for its strongest competition, perpetual 2nd-placer Daito Bunka University , to match it.  The most exciting thing to look forward to will be seeing how Takushoku University  1st-year Seira Fuwa , 30:45.21 in her 10000 m debut earlier this month, does on a more technical course than she has raced

Hironaka and Suzuki Top 2021 Japanese Distance Rankings

Ririka Hironaka  (Japan Post) and Kengo Suzuki  (Fujitsu) topped JRN's 2021 women's and men's Japanese distance rankings. Hironaka ran big at the Olympics, making the women's 5000 m final and then running a national record 14:52.84 there for 9th. Five days later she was back with a near-miss on a rare Japanese sub-31 in the 10000 m, running 31:00.71 for 7th . Steadily improving over the last few seasons and unafraid to go further, Hironaka this year was the clear leader among the talented group of women aged 18-22 that is currently coming up to the top of the Japanese ranks. After winning the 12.1 km Sixth Stage to help  Fujitsu  win the  New Year Ekiden  Suzuki ran  a stellar 2:04:56 national record  to win February's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. But apart from a 2:08:50 for 4th at October's  Chicago Marathon  and marrying marathoner Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) that was just about all he did this year.  Ichiyama and Mizuki Matsuda  (Daihatsu) were #2 and #3 in the

Sendai Ikuei Girls and Sera Boys Win Record-Breaking National High School Ekiden Titles

Both the Sendai Ikuei H.S.  girls and the defending champ  Sera H.S.  boys led start-to-finish to win today's National High School Ekiden , Sendai Ikuei becoming the first team in the 33-year history of the girls' event to win the national title five times, and Sera extending its record as the only team in the boys' race's 72 years with double-digit wins to eleven. Cold and windy conditions with off and on snow meant no new stage records, but in both races there were  still fast times. 3rd last year, Sendai Ikuei put its three strongest runners first, leaving the last two stages to debuting first-years. Opening runner Nanaka Yonezawa  ran 19:15 for her 6.0 km stage to put Sendai Ikuei 30 seconds out front. Second runner Kokone Sugimori added 26 seconds to that, running 12:41 for 4.0975 km, with third runner Natsumi Yamanaka  putting in another 19 seconds with a 9:53 stage best on her 3.0 km leg. First-year Kurea Watanabe  added 1 last second on the 3.0 km fourth leg to

Karasawa Runs First-Ever Sub-15 T-11 Men's 5000 m

Tokyo Paralympics men's 5000 m blind division silver medalist Kenya Karasawa  set a world record 14:55.39 for the T-11 class Dec. 25 at the Nittai University Time Trials meet in Yokohama. According to Japan Para Athletics, Karasawa had run 15:09.94, better than the previous record of 15:11.07, earlier this year, but once his new time is ratified it will mark the first official improvement to the world record since the Athens Paralympics in 2004. "I was able to run hard right from the start," he commented. "I didn't win gold at the Tokyo Paralympics, so in three years my target will be gold at the Paris Paralympics." Japan Para Athletics will apply to World Para Athletics via the Japan Blind Marathon Association for world record ratification. source article: translated and edited by Brett Larner

March's Tokyo Marathon to Cancel if Government Asks

On Dec. 23, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation announced its decision that within the month prior to the planned Mar. 6 race date, if the government asks events to voluntarily refrain from going ahead as a measure against potential spread of the coronavirus it will cancel the race. The TMF also announced that it will not require runners and others involved in the event who are fully vaccinated to undergo PCR testing and will refund the 6800 yen they have already been charged for the tests.  The Tokyo Marathon was last held in March, 2020 as a small, elite-only race. The 2021 edition was initially moved from March to October of this year, then postponed again to March next year. source article: translated by Brett Larner

Osaka International Women's Marathon Elite Field

The organizers of next month's Osaka International Women's Marathon have announced the invited field of 43 for Japan's last remaining purely elite marathon. Like the 2021 race, despite the event's name it's a Japanese-only field with male pacers, kind of inevitably on the first point given Japan's ongoing border fortification but a bit regrettably on the second. For a domestic field it's pretty good, all 17 of the women in it who've run under 2:35 in the last three years having done it either here or in Nagoya. 2020 winner and unlucky Olympic alternate  Mizuki Matsuda  (Daihatsu) is the favorite, with support from Sayaka Sato  (Sekisui Kagaku), the 4th-fastest Japanese woman in 2020 and 2021, 2019's fastest Reia Iwade  (Adidas), and 2021's 3rd and 4th-placers Yukari Abe  (Shimamura) and Mao Uesugi  (Starts).  Six other women in the field have run under the 2:27:00 B-standard for qualification for the 2024 Olympic marathon trials, including curr

Kayoko Fukushi to Retire in January

 On Dec. 22 the Wacoal women's corporate team announced that former 5000 m and half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi  will retire after two final races in January, the National Women's Ekiden on Jan. 16 and the Osaka Half Marathon on Jan. 30. A four-time Olympian, Fukushi won the bronze medal in the marathon at the 2013 Moscow World Championships and is a two-time winner of the Osaka International Women's Marathon. Her debut marathon in Osaka in 2008 remains one of the wildest and most memorable in elite marathoning history. In a handwritten statement Fukushi wrote, "For these 22 years on the Wacoal team I've been nuts about running. I met a lot of people...there've been a lot of tears and a lot of many different things every day. It really was an interesting career! Thanks to all of you who've supported me over the years. I really am grateful, from the heart. I'm going to run these last two races just like I always have, a

JRN's Ten Most-Read Stories of 2021

With two big ekidens, a half marathon, two track meets and previews for two major ekidens in the first three days of 2022 still to come this year, we're going to take advantage of a bit of a lull in the action to take care of some year-end stories.  First up is a list of JRN's 10 most-read stories this year, from an inside look at life in the corporate leagues to a cool new indoor track to the end of the elite men-only marathon format in Japan. Thanks as always for your support and for making these your picks.   1.  Letting Go of Preconceived Ideas - Australian Melissa Duncan on Her Time in the Corporate Leagues - Mar. 8 Australian Melissa Duncan  ran for the Shiseido  women's corporate team for two years. After her contract was up and she returned to Australia she wrote about the highs and lows of her experience. Her article provoked strong reactions both in Japan and abroad. In the following season Shiseido finished 2nd in the Queens Ekiden corporate women's national

Photo Finishes in Hofu and Sanyo - Weekend Road Race Results

Sunday had the last two big non-ekiden Japanese road races of the year, the 52nd Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and 40th Sanyo Ladies Road Race half marathon and 10 km. In Hofu, as expected the race was all about whether former Hakone Ekiden uphill star Daichi Kamino  (Cell Source), now coached by 2:07 Olympian and past Hofu winner Arata Fujiwara , could finally pull off a good marathon. Despite strong winds, pacers Titus Wambua  and Michael Githae , the winner in Fukuoka two weeks ago and Kamino's training partner under Fujiwara, did a stellar job through 30 km, their projected finish time never varying by more than a few seconds at each 5 km split and hitting halfway in 1:04:47. When they stopped, the debuting Dominic Nyairo  (NTT Nishi Nihon), winner of Hakone's most competitive stage in 2018 while at Yamanashi Gakuin University , went to the front. Kamino was the only one to go with him, and they stayed locked together until Nyairo made a break at 41 km. It looked over, but in the

Weekend Road Race Preview

This weekend sees the last big marathon of the year, the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon . A longtime lesser cousin to the dearly departed Fukuoka International Marathon, Hofu is set to step up in importance after the demise of both Fukuoka and the Saitama International Women's Marathon. The Kobe Marathon may come back, but especially for women Hofu should take on a bigger role on the calendar in the years to come. The women's race is still small at this stage but has some decent talent led by Japan's fastest woman of 2019, Reia Iwade  (Adidas). 7-time winner Hisae Yoshimatsu  (Shunan City Hall) is on the list but tells JRN that she is injured and will not run, instead refocusing on February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. The men's race, featuring pacing by Fukuoka winner Michael Githae  (Suzuki) is mostly about whether former Hakone Ekiden uphill great Daichi Kamino (Cell Source) can finally pull off a good marathon. Now coached by Olympian and 2:07 marathoner Arata Fuji

Hyogo Prefectural Government to Step Back from Organizational Role in Kobe Marathon

A draft revision of the Hyogo Prefectural Government's 2022-23 administrative and financial plan released on Dec. 16 includes elimination of the prefecture's position as a co-organizer of the Kobe Marathon . Following Kobe's 10th running, scheduled for November, 2022, the prefectural government will step back from an organizational role and will instead support part of the race's expenses as an event sponsor.  The Kobe Marathon began in November, 2011 as a celebration of the city's recovery from the major earthquake that struck it in 1995. A highly popular event, it attracts 80,000 applications for the 20,000 entries available. Operational costs are roughly 700 million yen (~$6.2 million USD)  each edition. The prefectural and city governments contributed around 90 million yen apiece (~$800,000 USD) , with the remainder covered by corporate sponsors and entry fees. The prefecture and city have also both had representatives on the race's organizing committee. In

Scandal in the Corporate Leagues: Fujitsu CEO Announces New Year Ekiden Champion Team Lost Victory Pennant, Admits it May Have Been Thrown Away

On Dec. 16, Fujitsu CEO Hiroki Hiramatsu held a press conference to announce that the company's men's ekiden team, winners of the 2021 New Year Ekiden national championships, is unable to find the traditional victory pennant it received after its win. After apologizing for the pennant's loss, Hiramatsu discussed the circumstances in response to questions.  In his apology, Hiramatsu said, "It has become apparent that the location of the pennant with which we had been entrusted for the year cannot be determined at the present time. We have been the subject of harsh words from the National Corporate Federation. Safeguarding this important championship pennant is a responsibility that the national champion must take seriously, and it is something that must not be lost.  I would like to extend our deepest apologies for causing this situation while a thing of such honor and prestige was in our possession." The champion's pennant was the original in use since the f

Marathon Great Nakayama: "The Marathon is a Drama Without a Script - Without a Protagonist Nobody Feels It"

The Fukuoka International Marathon has come to an end, but some races in its 75-year history remain deeply engraved in fans' memories. One of those is Takeyuki Nakayama 's fearless solo run at the 41st running in 1987. Less than a week out from his 62nd birthday on Dec. 20, this legendary runner looks back on that day. "In the marathon you have to create the drama," he says. "When it's just the same old script it's boring as hell." To Nakayama, the marathon was a means of self-expression, and never was his self-expression clearer than in Fukuoka in 1987. Standing alone on the stage without the script known in his sport as "pacers," he wrote his own and cast himself as its protagonist.  With Fukuoka serving as the main selection race for the Seoul Olympics the following year, Nakayama flew through 5 km in 14:30 and was all alone by 14 km. Going through halfway in 1:01:55, at 35 km he split 1:44:25, 49 seconds faster than the pace Portugal