Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2022

Who Is 100 km World Champ Haruki Okayama?

The 100 km ultramarathon World Championships took place in Germany on Aug. 27. Japanese national team member Haruki Okayama (27, Comodi Iida) went in with the fastest time in the world this year, the favorite for the gold medal. And he ran like it, winning in 6:12:10, less than 3 minutes from the world record. Okayama is a non-elite, someone who dreamed of running the Hakone Ekiden but couldn't make his university's team, someone who ran with a corporate team as an ordinary employee. Where did this miracle breakthrough come from? Sportswriter Masato Sakai talked to him before Berlin about his "never give up no matter what" attitude and training. In the world of sports, where ability is everything, there's a man who came all the way from the bottom to stand atop Japan. His name is Haruki Okayama. In 10 years he's gone from being turned away by one of the old school Hakone Ekiden universities teams to representing Japan on its national team. Aug. 27 was the d

Musembi and Yamaguchi Win Hokkaido Marathon, Five Qualify for Olympic Marathon Trials

Sapporo's Hokkaido Marathon is always a key developmental race on the Japanese calendar, giving top-level people experience training for and running a summer marathon, and in some recent years serving as a route to the MGC Race, Japan's Olympic marathon trials. That was the case in the race's return this year after cancelations in 2020 and 2021, with four men and one woman making the cut for the the 2024 Olympics MGC in September next year. The top 3 Japanese men had to clear 2:14 and 4th-6th needed 2:12 or better to make it. Pacers took a lead group of almost 50 through halfway on a steady pace around 2:10:30 in good conditions by summertime Sapporo standards, cool and thinly cloudy. Just past the half mark, debuting college student Luka Musembi (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) took off, taking his projected finish down to mid-2:09 and gapping the rest of the field. Dominic Nyairo (NTT Nishi Nihon) was the next to make a move, closing to within 10 seconds of Musembi but unable to

Okayama and Yamaguchi Gold and Silver, JPN Men and Women Team Gold and Bronze at IAU 100 km World Championships

Relative newcomers Haruki Okayama and Jumpei Yamaguchi ran big PBs to take the top two spots in the men's race at the IAU 100 km World Championships Saturday in Berlin. 2018 world champ Hideaki Yamauchi was a last-minute scratch after testing positive for COVID-19, leaving Okayama, Yamaguchi and world record holder Nao Kazami to take things out hard in a quintet with Brazilian Felipe Silva and French athlete Guillaume Ruel . Ruel soon broke away to open a lead of around 2 minutes by halfway. Behind him, a South African trio caught up to the Japanese group, prompting Yamaguchi to take off in pursuit of the lead. On every 7.5 km lap he closed around 30 seconds on Ruel, finally coming within 20 seconds at around 70 km. But just as he was about to take the lead, Yamaguchi ran into trouble, at exactly the time that Okayama drove by hard to move into 1st instead of him. Running the 100 km distance for only the second time, by 77.5 km he had almost a minute lead over Ruel and never

IAU 100 km World Championships Preview and Streaming

The IAU 100 km World Championships are this Saturday in Berlin, Germany, and Japan has sent strong teams with every woman under 7:40 and 2 of the 3 men under 6:20 for the 100 km distance. 2018 gold medalist Hideaki Yamauchi (Hamamatsu Hotniks RC) is out after testing positive for coronavirus, but world record holder Nao Kazami (Aisan Kogyo) remains to lead the men. The fastest non-Japanese athlete on the entry list is American Rajpaul Pannu at 6:28:31. Considering that 3rd Japanese man Junpei Yamaguchi (Eldoreso) has run 6:22:35 it looks like the potential for a Japanese men's podium sweep is there, but things are never that easy. 2018 bronze medalist Mai Fujisawa (Sapporo Excel AC) and 7:27:46 runner Miho Nakata (Chiba T&F Assoc.) lead the women. Only three other women in the field, European record holder Dominika Stelmach (Poland), Radka Churanova (Czech Republic) and Camille Chaigneau (France), have broken 7:30, giving Nakata a good shot at an individual medal if

Uesugi and Ikeda Out of Sunday's Hokkaido Marathon

On Aug. 24 the organizing committee of Sunday's Hokkaido Marathon announced that elite women Mao Uesugi (Starts) and Chiharu Ikeda (Hitachi) have withdrawn from the race. Uesugi has tested positive for coronavirus, while Ikeda sustained an injury to her left ankle during training. Translator's note: This news follows last week's announcement that 2020 Olympic marathon trial winner Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) had withdrawn from Hokkaido with COVID-19. With a 2:22:29 in Osaka in January Uesugi was the fastest woman in the original field , with Maeda 3rd at 2:23:30 and Ikeda 5th at 2:26:50. Uesugi is also entered in November's New York City Marathon. Still on the women's list in Hokkaido, a major chance to qualify for next year's Olympic marathon trials, are: Natsumi Matsushita (Tenmaya) - 2:23:05 (3rd, Osaka Int'l 2022) Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) - 2:26:35 (7th, Osaka Int'l 2020) Miharu Shimokado (SID Group) - 2:29:20 (12th, Tokyo 2022) Yui Okada (Otsuka Se

10,000-Runner Shizuoka Marathon Discontinued Over Financial Issues After Three Years of Cancelation

A popular race that brought in 10,000 participants every year pre-pandemic, the organizers of the Shizuoka Marathon have announced that the event is being discontinued due to the difficulties of handling coronavirus protocols and of covering race expenses. Launched in 2014, the Shizuoka Marathon's course passed local landmarks related to shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa and offered views of Mt. Fuji, leading to its popularity as a mass-participation race. But amid the coronavirus pandemic its last three editions were all canceled. On Aug. 23 the Shizuoka Marathon's executive committee, made up of members of the Shizuoka Chamber of Commerce and Industry and of the city government, announced that the race would be discontinued indefinitely. The committee cited the difficulty of preventing crowded conditions and of taking other measures against the coronavirus, as well as paying for the expenses involved in putting the race on amid soaring labor and material costs. A spokesperson for the

25 Years in Japan

Today's the 25th anniversary of when I first moved to Japan. It's been interesting. If I had to pick one highlight, this pic was probably it. Glad as always I decided to move somewhere guns aren't part of day-to-day life. Re: the pic, it's of Barcelona '92 Olympic silver medalist Koichi Morishita , me, and Spanish '92 Olympian Jose Esteban Montiel running the 2017 Barcelona Marathon. I started running marathons in '93 after watching Morishita vs. Hwang Young-cho at the Barcelona Olympics. Somehow, 25 years later Barcelona hired me to bring Morishita, Hwang and Yuko Arimori to the marathon for the 25th anniversary celebration of the Olympic marathon with the other three medalists. I was going to run, and Morishita, who doesn't really run any more, decided the night before to jump in and run the first 11.5 km with me . I tend to be a pretty lucky person and have had a lot of good things happen these 25 years, and some not so good, but of all of them t

An Interview With Japan's Top Amateur Woman Haruka Yamaguchi, 2:26:35

An interview with 1:09:50/2:26:35 club runner Haruka Yamaguchi  ahead of Sunday's Hokkaido Marathon where she and others will be trying to qualify for the 2023 MGC Race, Japan's trials for the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

ASICS and NTV Buy Operators of Japan's Largest Running Magazine and Race Entry Service

On Aug. 18 ASICS announced that together with Nippon Television Holdings it will acquire all shares in ownership of sports media and sports event planning and management company R-bies as of Aug. 31. After the acquisition ASICS will own 65% and NTV 35%, with R-bies becoming an ASICS subsidiary and NTV affiliate. R-bies publishes Japan's largest running magazine, Runners, and operates the country's largest online race entry service Runnet with 3.5 million registered users. ASICS plans to take advantage of R-bies existing connections with Japan's running community to strengthen its product development, sales promotion and branding activities. Translator's note: The official press release on the acquisition states twice that "nothing will change" about the way R-bies operates, but it's hard to see how that could play out for Runners magazine and other aspects of R-bies' business. It's also interesting given ASICS' previous acquisition of the

Tokyo Prosecutors Arrest Former Olympic Committee/Dentsu Executive and Ex-Aoki Chairman in Olympic Contract Bribery Case

Fukuoka International Marathon Qualifying Standards

Last year the Fukuoka International Marathon went under, taking its 75-year history with it. Literally. The old race website with 75 years' worth of results, splits, photos and recaps of each year's race is gone. All that remains is Inside the Outside , the documentary JRN made last year featuring 75 of the international athletes who made Fukuoka what it was.  But in case you missed it, in March they announced that there would be a new Fukuoka International Marathon, seamlessly picking up where the old one left off. Same date, same course, same format, more or less the same name, but with original organizers the Asahi Newspaper having bowed out, nominally a "new" race instead of the 76th edition of the original. The new race site has been very slim on details, but qualification standards and other concrete info has finally been posted, in Japanese only as of this writing, of course. A breakdown of the most important points: Date and time: Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022 at

2020 Olympic Marathon Trials Winner Honami Maeda Out of Hokkaido Marathon With Corona

On Aug. 15 the organizing committee of the Aug. 28 Hokkaido Marathon announced that 2020 Olympic marathon trials winner and 30 km national record holder  Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) has withdrawn from the race after contracting COVID-19. Maeda became the first woman to qualify for the 2020 trials when she won Hokkaido in 2017. This was to be her first marathon since the Tokyo Olympics marathon in Sapporo last summer. A win would have qualified her for next year's Olympic trials.  The remainder of the Hokkaido field is listed here . Translator's note: Another major blow for Japanese marathoning. Maeda has been running well this season, with two half marathon PBs. She was a leading contender for the win in Hokkaido. Her withdrawal with COVID-19 follows the last-second withdrawals of women-only NR holder Mao Ichiyama , women's half-marathon NR holder Hitomi Niiya , and men's NR holder Kengo Suzuki from last month's Oregon World Championships marathons after testing posi

Sapporo Gakuin Women Make 6th-Straight National University Ekiden, Men Qualify for 5th Time

The Hokkaido Region University Ekiden took place Aug. 13 in Moerenuma Park in Sapporo, women running 35.86 km in 6 stages and men 101.06 km in 8 stages. In the women's race, Sapporo Gakuin University won for the 6th year in a row, running 2:15:08 and qualifying for the Oct. 30 National University Women's Ekiden in Sendai. All 6 SGU runners won their stages, definitively beating 2nd-placer Hokkaido University by over 9 minutes. Anchor Hazuki Kurokawa said, "It was my first time to break a tape at the finish line, and I loved it." SGU's Nei Tsu took the lead 2 km into the first stage, opening a gap of over a minute on 2nd. Rikako Hamada and Yuno Ishikawa handled the next two stages before the tasuki went to captain Akane Yatame on the fourth stage. The only 4th-year on the team, post-race Yatame said, "I had a lot of responsibility out there today. The younger runners really helped out." Third runner Ishikawa had suffered fractures in her left fibu

Takashi Doi Wins Trans Japan Alps Race in Course Record Time

by Koichi Iwasa for photos by Sho Fujimaki and Hao Moda Five days after it began, the Trans Japan Alps Race 2022 (TJAR) welcomed its first finisher to Ohama Beach in Shizuoka on the Thursday, Aug. 11 Mountain Day public holiday. That first finisher this year was Takashi Doi , arriving at the finish line amid heavy rain 4 days, 17 hours and 33 minutes after he started. Doi beat the previous course record of 4 days, 23 hours and 52 minutes set in 2016 by Shogo Mochizuki by 6 hours and 19 minutes. Doi arrived at the Chosugoya checkpoint marking the beginning of the descent out of the Southern Alps 301 km from the starting point at 12:45 a.m. on the 11th. At around 5:20 a.m. he crossed the Hatanagi Otsuri bridge at 307 km, emerging onto a paved forest road with 88 km to go. Even though he'd been skipping long naps up to then, Doi still looked fresh and light when he arrived at the Ikawa Auto Camp checkpoint with 69 km to go at 8:04 a.m. From there on out he continue

Bears Announces New Women's Team Coached by Hakone Winner

Housekeeping services provider Bears Co., Ltd. held a press conference in Tokyo to formally announce the launch of its new women's track and field team Bears Camellia . The new's team starting lineup features five athletes and head coach Yuya Takayanagi , 31, a member of Nittai University 's 2013 Hakone Ekiden champion team. At the press conference Takayanagi discussed athletes' "second career," talking about how after they retire from competition most corporate league athletes leave the company they run for. Based on his own experience, he said that he hoped to help guarantee team members a future through working for the company in tandem with competitive life. Bears VP Yuki Takahashi commented, "I hope that this will be an opportunity for team members to develop as people, as professionals, and as athletes." In the future, athletes on the team will be categorized into three levels according to their achievements, "Top," "Development

Olympic Marathoner Yuma Hattori Marries TV Announcer Miyabi Hirayama

On Aug. 8 Tokyo Olympics marathoner Yuma Hattori (28, Toyota), announced on his Twitter and Instragram feeds that he had gotten married with Chukyo TV announcer Miyabi Hirayama , 31. Along with a picture of the two of them in Nagoya's Hisaya Odori Park dressed in jeans and t-shirts he wrote, "We submitted our registration of marriage today, August 8." Hirayama tweeted, "My married life will be a new source of energy in my devotion to my work!" On Instragam she wrote, "He is always looking forward and gives everything in pursuit of his goals. I respect him completely. He is incredibly kind and gentle toward me and it makes me smile just to be around him. It's a joy to be able to walk the rest of my life's road with him." The Chukyo TV Athlete Friends program on which Hirayama had interviewed Hattori in April tweeted, "Miyabi Hirayama and Yuma Hattori, congratulations on your marriage. May your happiness last forever." Along with a cl

Distance Highlights From 75th National High School Track and Field Championships

The 75th edition of Japan's National High School Track and Field Championships took place last Wednesday through Sunday at Pocari Sweat Field in Naruto, Tokushima. Kenyan Caroline Kariba (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) was the star of the meet on the girls' side, winning all four races she started over the course of the week. On the first day of the meet Kariba ran the fastest time in the four 1500 m qualifying heats, 4:20.08. The next day she was back to win the final in a PB 4:08.72, almost 3 seconds head of runner-up Janet Nyiva  (Kurashiki H.S.) and nearly 9 seconds ahead of 3rd-placer Kana Mizumoto (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.). After a day off racing on Friday, Kariba was back Saturday to lead 3000 m qualification in 9:12.17, the fastest time in the 3 heats. Sunday she took the final, just missing the meet record in 8:52.04. Nyiva was 2nd again in 8:56.20, just holding off Lucy Nduda (Aomori Yamada H.S.) who took 3rd in 8:56.91. Mizumoto was the top Japanese woman again at 4

Takigahara SDF Base Wins Mt. Fuji Ekiden Again

Along with Akita's Towada Hachimantai Ekiden another midsummer classic returned Sunday after cancelations in 2020 and 2021, the 47th edition of the  Mt. Fuji Ekiden . An eleven-stage race featuring 82 teams of six, the Mt. Fuji Ekiden sees the first five runners on each team work their way up the slopes of Mt. Fuji, first on roads and then on trails. The sixth runners climbs the final few kilometers to the summit 3258 m above the race's starting point, has his tasuki sash stamped by a priest at the shrine waiting there, then begins the descent. The first five runners then have to each a second time, downhill this time. Some of the downhill stages are wild, with powdery gravel covering steep slopes, and scenes like this one from 2014 at the exchange from the Seventh to Eighth Stage, are legendary. Spectators make the climb to the exchange zones just to see it happen. Doesn't it look like fun? The video up top is from the last edition in 2019 , when the Takigahara SDF Base

Towada Hachimantai Ekiden Returns After 3 Years

Covering a course from Lake Towada to Hachimantai, the Towada Hachimantai Ekiden returned Sunday for the first time in 3 years. 19 men's team and 3 women's teams took part in the classic elite race, this year celebrating its 75th anniversary. The East Japan Corporate Federation team won the 71.4 km men's race finishing at Hachimantai Onuma, with Nitori winning the 28.3 km women's race ending at Hachimantai Chuzaijo. East Japan runners broke the stage records for the Fourth and Fifth Stages, Nitori's Esther Muthoni also breaking the women's Fourth Stage record. The race will be broadcast Aug. 27 on Akita TV. 75th Towada Hachimantai Ekiden Kazuno, Akita, 7 Aug. 2022 men: 19 teams, 5 stages, 71.4 km complete men's results women: 3 teams, 5 stages, 28.3 km complete women's results Top Men's Team Results 1. East Japan Corporate Federation - 3:46:24 2. Comodi Iida - 3:48:10 3. Tokyo Police Department - 3:51:47 4. Komori Corporation - 3:54:20 5. Fukush

Cali 22 World U20 Championships Day 6 Japanese Results

16-year-old Yuya Sawada continued her climb through the ranks of Japanese women's middle distance, building on her 4:15.29 PB in the 1500 m heats with a 4:12.87 PB for 6th in the final on the last day of the Cali 22 World U20 Championships . With Ethiopian Birke Haylom setting a championships record 4:04.27 and Kenyans Brenda Chebet and Purity Chepkirui both under 4:08 Sawada was still far off the medals, but having come to Cali with a best of 4:17.75 she bridged half the gap.  Her time was just 0.02 off the U18 NR held by Yuriko Kobayashi and moved her up behind Kobayashi to all-time #2 on the Japanese U20 and high school lists. And having done it with two big performances in high-pressure races Sawada is now one of the highest-potential young athletes Japan has. Strangely enough, though, none of the others were entered in the 5000 m, mirroring Japanese women's absence from the 3000 m. The two men in the 3000 m steeplechase final couldn't match Sawada's performanc

Cali 22 World U20 Championships Day 5 Japanese Results

Japan finally got onto the medal board at the Cali 22 World U20 Championships with medal-winning performances in two of the country's strongest events bookending the fifth day of the meet and one more unexpected one to punctuate them. In the day's first event, Ai Oyama and Ayane Yanai took silver and bronze in the women's 10000 m race walk. It almost literally couldn't have been closer up front, with Mexican Karla Ximena Serrano beating Oyama by just 0.09 to take gold in a PB 46:24.35. Yanai was all alone in the bronze position in 46:43.07, almost a minute ahead of 4th-placer Olivia Sandery of Australia. The Japanese men were expected to medal in the day's last event, the 4x100 m relay where they had led the qualifying round. First three runners Kowa Ikeshita , Hiroto Fujiwara and Shunki Tateno lacked the same kind of spark in the final, and when anchor Hiroki Yanagita took the baton he was back in a group around 4th~6th. But with a brilliant run he ran down

Cali 22 World U20 Championships Day 4 Japanese Results

Atsushi Haraguchi was the only Japanese athlete in action in a final on day four of the Cali 2022 World U20 Championships , taking 7th in the men's pole vault final. Haraguchi only made one successful clearance, passing on 4.90 m and 5.05 m before making 5.15 m on his second attempt. Passing again on 5.25 m, he took three shots at 5.35 m. Success there would have tied his PB, but Haraguchi missed all three to end up 7th. Anthony Ammirati of France took gold with a 5.75 m clearance, Finland's Juho Alasaari in silver with a 5.60 m U20 NR and Poland's Michal Gawenda bronze at 5.45 m. In qualifying rounds, the men's 4x100 m team of Koki Ikeshita , Hiroto Fujiwara , Shunki Tateno and Hiroki Yanagita led the qualifiers with a season best 39.12, the only team to score an auto-qualifying time. Jamaica was next at 39.24 and Nigeria 3rd at 39.41. Tateno seemed to be in good shape after a DNS in yesterday's 200 m heats, with Yanagita turning in a solid anchor leg run. Ho