Sunday, January 22, 2017

Nagano Wins Record Seventh National Men's Ekiden

by Brett Larner
video courtesy of NHK

Six-time national champion Nagano extended its dynasty to seven, fighting off a tough challenge by Fukuoka on the anchor stage to win the 22nd edition of the National Men's Ekiden in Hiroshima. The counterpart to last weekend's National Women's Ekiden, the men's race features 47 seven-man teams made up from the best junior high school, high school, university and corporate league runners from each prefecture, all competing over a total of 48.0 km.

Nagano got off to a strong start as its lead runner Yuhi Nakaya took 2nd on the 7.0 km high school boys' First Stage, 3 seconds behind leader Kiseki Shiozawa of Mie.  Defending national champion Aichi and Fukuoka were more than 20 seconds back in 19th and 20th, but with solid runs by their 3.0 km junior high school Second Stage runners both advanced into the top 10. Behind them, Nagasaki's Hiroto Hayashida went from 41st to 27th as he broke the course record by 9 seconds in 8:20.

The 8.5 km Third Stage featured a mix of university and corporate league talent.  A chase group of seven formed behind leaders Kyoto and Gunma, with Aichi's Kosei Yamaguchi emerging to put the defending champs into 1st by 3 seconds over Fukuoka with Mie and Nagano within 2 more seconds and another five teams close behind.

Over the next two high school stages Nagano and Fukuoka developed into the clear leaders, 12 seconds apart and a margin of nearly 45 seconds over the rest of the field by the handoff to the 3.0 km  junior high school Sixth Stage.  There Fukuoka's Safumi Sugi ran down Nagano's Ryosei Sanada and putting Fukuoka 2 seconds ahead at the start of the anchor stage.  Mid-field, Kazuki Matsuyama of Tochigi ran a course record 8:29, meaning new sub-8:30 CRs on both of the day's junior high school student stages.

The 13.0 km anchor stage featured most of the big-name university and corporate league talent.  Anchoring Fukuoka was Yuki Oshikawa, runner-up on the New Year Ekiden's Fifth Stage.  For Nagano, Yuichiro Ueno, runner-up on the Third Stage at the New Year and with multiple winning anchor runs for Nagano behind him at the National Men's Ekiden.  Oshikawa started strong and it took several kilometers for Ueno to catch him, but when he did Ueno threw in a surge to get ahead without argument.  Oshikawa did his best to hang on, but as the kilometers clicked by Ueno used his experience on the course to take full advantage of the undulations on the many bridges around Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park, edging away a second at a time.  In the end he opened 19 seconds on Oshikawa to give Nagano a record seventh national title in 2:19:09, Fukuoka still ending up with its best performance in years.

Behind them, fans got what they wanted with a four-way battle for 3rd between four popular young Hakone Ekiden stars.  2016 Aoyama Gakuin University graduate Daichi Kamino ran for Aichi, AGU 4h-year Tadashi Isshiki for Kyoto, AGU 3rd-year Yuta Shimoda for Shizuoka and Juntendo University 2nd-year and Rio Olympian Kazuya Shiojiri for Gunma.  For the first 10 km all four ran together, all but Kamino taking turns leading.  On a small bridge near 10 km Kamino suddenly attacked with a surge that dropped Shiojiri and Shimoda.  Isshiki hung on for over 2 km, but in the last km Kamino was too strong, pulling away to take 3rd in 2:20:31 to Kyoto's 2:20:37.  Not showing much sign of the 42.195 km training run he did in 2:27:35 last Sunday, Shimoda likewise dropped Shiojiri to give Shizuoka 5th in 2:20:51.

With championship ekiden season a wrap many of the top university and corporate league runners now turn to the half marathon and marathon.  Many will line up at the Feb. 5 Marugame Half Marathon.  Shimoda, the under-20 marathon national record with a 2:11:34 debut at age 19 in Tokyo last year, will run Tokyo again next month in a bid to make the London World Championships team.  Isshiki, who likewise debuted in Tokyo last year, will do the same a week later at the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  Joining Shimoda in Tokyo will be this year's National Men's Ekiden anchor stage winner, Yuta Shitara of the Honda corporate team in his debut.

22nd National Men's Ekiden
Hiroshima, 1/22/17
47 teams, 7 stages, 48.0 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Nagano - 2:19:09
2. Fukuoka - 2:19:28
3. Aichi - 2:20:31
4. Kyoto - 2:20:37
5. Shizuoka - 2:20:51
6. Gunma - 2:21:03
7. Tokyo - 2:21:18
8. Niigata - 2:21:29
9. Chiba - 2:21:32
10. Akita - 2:21:34

Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (7.0 km, H.S.)
1. Kiseki Shiozawa (Mie) - 20:14
2. Yuhi Nakaya (Nagano) - 20:17
3. Sodai Shimizu (Kyoto) - 20:17

Second Stage (3.0 km, J.H.S.)
1. Hiroto Hayashida (Nagasaki) - 8:20 - CR
2. Kaishin Hattori (Aichi) - 8:31
3. Kosuke Ishida (Fukuoka) - 8:34

Third Stage (8.5 km, univ/pro)
1. Shota Onizuka (Fukuoka) - 24:23
2. Kosei Yamaguchi (Aichi) - 24:24
2. Ryoji Tatezawa (Kanagawa) - 24:24

Fourth Stage (5.0 km, H.S.)
1. Keita Honma (Nagano) - 14:25
2. Hiroyasu Morikawa (Fukuoka) - 14:28
3. Jundai Murakami (Chiba) - 14:33

Fifth Stage (8.5 km, H.S.)
1. Ryota Natori (Nagano) - 24:19
1. Ryo Saito (Akita) - 24:19
3. Ryota Takemoto (Fukuoka) - 24:29

Sixth Stage (3.0 km, J.H.S.)
1. Kazuki Matsuyama (Tochigi) - 8:29 - CR
2. Yuichiro Baba (Aichi) - 8:41
3. Kyosuke Hanao (Nagasaki) - 8:42

Seventh Stage (13.0 km, univ/pro)
1. Yuta Shitara (Saitama) - 37:43
2. Yuichiro Ueno (Nagano) - 37:49
3. Daichi Kamino (Aichi) - 38:01

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Universal Entertainment and Osaka Kunei Win Kita-Kyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden

by Brett Larner

The women's championship ekiden season came to a close at Sunday's Kita-Kyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden in Fukuoka.  Cancelled last year due to heavy snow, Kita-Kyushu pits the country's top high school, university and pro women's teams against each other over a short five-stage, 32.8 km course, the long 11.7 km anchor stage split in two for the high school division.

With both divisions running together it was a close race throughout.  Running without star marathoner Eri Hayakawa, the Toto corporate team led almost the entire race.  Its opening pair Hana Omori and Shuru Bulo built a 36-lead over 2016 National High School Ekiden champion and 2015 high school division winner Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S., with its nearest corporate league competition Universal Entertainment almost a minute behind.

Universal's third runner Mai Shinozuka cut that down to 19 seconds, Osaka Kunei's Ayako Murao coming even closer at just 8 seconds back. Fourth Toto runner Sumina Kuroda dropped a new course record 18:38 for the 5.9 km Fourth Stage to reopen Toto's lead, but Universal anchor Azusa Sumi refused to be denied, outrunning Toto anchor Wakaba Kawakami by almost a minute and a half to give Universal Entertainment its first-ever Kita-Kyushu win in 1:47:44.  Toto was 2nd in 1:48:20, holding off 2015 winner Kyudenko by 13 seconds.

In the high school division Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. closed to within 32 seconds of Osaka Kunei thanks to a Fourth Stage win from Nozomi Tanaka, but Osaka Kunei's fifth runner Ayane Kinoshita turned that around with a stage win that gave anchor Haruka Takada the margin she needed for the victory. Osaka Kunei took its second-straight Kita-Kyushu win in 1:48:08, Nishiwaki Kogyo far back in 1:49:59 ten seconds ahead of Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.

28th Kita-Kyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden
Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka, 1/22/17
25 teams, 6 stages, 32.8 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results - Open Division
1. Universal Entertainment - 1:47:44
2. Toto - 1:48:20
3. Kyudenko - 1:48:33
4. Juhachi Ginko - 1:50:04
5. Yutaka Giken - 1:50:25

Top Team Results - High School Division
1. Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. - 1:48:08
2. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. - 1:49:59
3. Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S. - 1:50:09
4. Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S. - 1:50:39
5. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. - 1:51:48

Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (4.2 km) - Hana Omori (Toto) - 13:54
Second Stage (5.9 km) - Shuru Bulo (Toto) - 19:09
Third Stage (5.1 km) - Kaho Adachi (Kyudenko) - 16:41
Fourth Stage (5.9 km) - Sumina Kuroda (Toto) - 18:38 - CR
Fifth Stage (open - 11.7 km) - Azusa Sumi (Univ. Ent.) - 36:36
Fifth Stage (H.S. - 4. 9m) - Ayane Kinoshita (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 16:08
Sixth Stage (H.S. - 6.8 km) - Mai Misaki (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 21:06

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, January 20, 2017

Kipsang and Kabuu Headline Tokyo Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

For its 11th running as a mass-participation race the Feb. 26 Tokyo Marathon sports a new and hypothetically faster course.  Gone are both the unpopular last 6 km through the bridge-heavy wastelands of Tokyo Bay and the old course's scenic highlight, the Imperial Palace.  In their places are a flatter course with a finish outside Tokyo Station and an additional 180' turnaround. On net it's likely to be a better course, and to celebrate that Tokyo is bringing in the great Wilson Kipsang to try to better both Dickson Chumba's 2:05:42 course record and Tsegaye Kebede's 2:05:18 Japanese all-comers record.  Both Chumba and Kebede are in the race, and with support from sub-2:06 men Evans Chebet and Tadese Tola, and a half-dozen 2:06-level athletes just behind they may just get there if the always-unpredictable February Tokyo weather cooperates.

Tokyo is one of the main domestic selection races for the 2017 London World Championships men's marathon, about which Japan cares a great deal.  Last year with Olympic team places on the line race director Tad Hayano opted not to put pacers in place for the Japanese men, insisting they go with the front group or else.  Tokyo was duly the only selection race not to be represented in Rio.  The word this year is that the situation is likely to be the same.  It's a good domestic field led by 2:07:39 man Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu), with recent 2:09 runners Hiroaki Sano (Honda), Koji Gokaya (JR Higashi Nihon) and Takuya Fukatsu (Asahi Kasei) also on board along with past greats Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Kazuhiro Maeda (Kyudenko), 2:07:48 and 2:08:00 at their peaks but only at the 2:11 level of late.

Adding excitement to the veterans is a strong next-generation contingent. Yuta Shimoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and Yuma Hattori (Toyota) both ran 2:11 debuts in Tokyo last year as university students and are back for more. Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Konica Minolta) was 4th in November's New York City Marathon, the best-ever placing there by a Japanese man in just his third marathon.  Seven Japanese men with half marathon bests under 1:03 will be debuting, led by sub-1:01 man Masato Kikuchi (Konica Minolta) and 2016 National Cross-Country champion Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei).  American Andrew Bumbalough will also be making his marathon debut.

At its heart the Tokyo Marathon remains the Tokyo International Marathon, an elite men's race.  It doesn't factor into national team selection for women despite having the strongest international women's field on Japanese soil virtually every year, and as a result top-level Japanese women almost universally give it a miss.  Among the internationals Aomori Yamada H.S. graduate Lucy Kabuu leads Ethiopians Amane Beriso, Amane Gobena and Birhane Dibaba.  The 2016 Glasgow Half Marathon winner in a smoking 1:07:22, Betsy Saina will be joining them in her debut.  The top Japanese woman is club runner Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL), who will likely be spending the race dueling with American Sara Hall.

The Tokyo Marathon will be broadcast live on NTV.  For the second year in a row, JRN's Brett Larner will be announcing the international TV broadcast. Check back closer to race date for previews and other coverage.

Tokyo Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Tokyo, 2/26/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Men
Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:03:13 (Berlin 2016)
Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 204:32 (Chicago 2014)
Evans Chebet (Kenya) - 2:05:31 (Berlin 2016)
Tadese Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:05:57 (Tokyo 2014)
Bernard Koech (Kenya) - 2:06:08 (Rotterdam 2014)
Marius Kipserem (Kenya) - 2:06:11 (Rotterdam 2016)
Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:06:19 (Amsterdam 2015)
Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:06:30 (London 2014)
Shumi Dechasa (Bahrain) - 2:06:43 (Hamburg 2014)
Alfers Lagat (Kenya) - 2:06:48 (Frankfurt 2015)
Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:07:39 (Tokyo 2015)
Stephen Mokoka (South Africa) - 2:07:40 (Shanghai 2015)
Gideon Kipketer (Kenya) - 2:08:35 (Mumbai 2016)
Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza) - 2:09:18 (Tokyo 2015)
Koji Gokaya (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:09:21 (Tokyo 2015)
Geoffrey Ronoh (Kenya) - 2:09:29 (Berlin 2016)
Takuya Fukatsu (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:31 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Yohanes Ghebregergish (Eritrea) - 2:09:48 (Berlin 2016)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:03 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Yuki Takamiya (Japan/Yakult) - 2:10:57 (Tokyo 2016)
Ryo Hashimoto (Japan/GMO) - 2:11:20 (Hofu 2016)
Yuta Shimoda (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:11:34 (Tokyo 2016)
Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:11:46 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Yuma Hattori (Japan/Toyota) - 2:11:46 (Tokyo 2016)
Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:11:48 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:11:50 (Hofu 2015)
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:12:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Akiyuki Iwanaga (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:12:24 (Tokyo 2016)
Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:12:29 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Naoki Okamoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:55 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Hiroto Inoue (Japan/MHPS) - 2:12:56 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Keiji Akutsu (Japan/Subaru) - 2:13:26 (Tokyo 2015)
Soji Ikeda (Japan/Yakult) - 2:13:27 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Yasuyuki Nakamura (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:46 (Tokyo 2016)
Tomonori Sakamoto (Japan/Press Kogyo) - 2:13:49 (Nagano 2015)
Yuki Munakata (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:13:53 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Kazuaki Shimizu (Japan/Yakult) - 2:14:16 (Tokyo 2016)
Naoki Inoue (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:15:05 (Katsuta 2016)
Saeki Makino (Japan/DNPL) - 2:15:22 (Seoul 2015)
Kenichi Jiromaru (Japan/Obirin Univ. AC) - 2:15:24 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Sho Matsumoto (Japan/Nikkei Business) - 2:15:50 (Osaka 2016)

Debut
Masato Kikuchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:00:32 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Takashi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:03 (Ageo City Half 2014)
Andrew Bumbalough (U.S.A.) - 1:02:04 (New York Half 2015)
Akihiko Tsumurai (Japan/Mazda) - 1:02:11 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Naoto Uchida (Japan/Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:20 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Yuki Nakamura (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:35 (Marugame Half 2016)
Yuji Serunarudo (Japan/Soka Univ.) - 1:02:48 (Marugame Half 2016)
Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 1:02:52 (Marugame Half 2015)

Women
Lucy Kabuu (Kenya) - 2:20:21 (Dubai 2015)
Amane Beriso (Ethiopia) - 2:20:48 (Dubai 2016)
Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) - 2:21:51 (Tokyo 2016)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:30 (Tokyo 2014)
Sarah Chepchirchir (Kenya) - 2:24:13 (Lisbon 2016)
Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Team RxL) - 2:28:43 (Saitama 2015)
Sara Hall (U.S.A.) - 2:30:06 (London 2016)
Kaoru Nagao (Japan/Urayasu T&F Assoc.) - 2:30:54 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/Memolead) - 2:33:04 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hitomi Nakamura (Japan/Panasonic) - 2:33:23 (Osaka Int'l 2016)
Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 2:33:39 (Tokyo 2016)
Miya Nishio (Japan/Sapporo T&F Assoc.) - 2:34:18 (Tokyo 2016)
Saki Tabita (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:34:20 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/SWAC) - 2:35:49 (Tokyo 2015)

Debut
Betsy Saina (Kenya) - 1:07:22 (Glasgow Half 2016)
Kotomi Takayama (Japan/Sysmex) - 1:10:47 (Matsue Ladies' Half 2015)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Keny and Maruyama Lead Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Field

by Brett Larner

With just over two weeks to go the organizers of the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon have announced their elite field for their 66th running on Feb. 5. Kenyan Felix Keny fronts the field, a former 2:07 man with a best recent time of 2:09:04 in Hamburg three years ago.  Likewise, #2-ranked international Dereje Debele of Ethiopia has run 2:07 in years past, but in the last three years hasn't broken 2:10 with his 2:10:31 at the 2015 Mumbai Marathon his best recent credential.  American Jeffrey Eggleston completes the front of the overseas contingent with a 2:10:52 runner-up finish at the 2014 Gold Coast Airport Marathon.

Beppu-Oita Mainichi factors into the complicated selection process for the 2017 London World Championships men's marathon team with a slot potentially available to a Japanese winner.  The best chance of seeing that happen comes from the talented Fumihiro Maruyama of the 2017 New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei team, Maruyama having debuted in style in 2:09:39 at last year's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon with an overly aggressive surge near 30 km.  If he learned from that mistake and is near the same fitness he may become the first Japanese man to win Beppu-Oita since Yuki Kawauchi in 2013.

The runner-up in that race, Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki), is one of the best Japanese marathoners of the modern era but has been in decline since finishing 5th at the 2013 Moscow World Championships.  A comeback run would make him a definite contender.  Likewise for Maruyama's sub-2:10 teammate Tomoya Adachi (Asahi Kasei), a local who won Beppu-Oita in 2008 in his marathon debut.  Despite only having a 2:12:48 best, Ryo Kiname (MHPS) is a solid threat after winning August's Hokkaido Marathon.

Potential darkhorses include the independent Aritaka Kajiwara, who trains with three-time Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University, debuting New Year Ekiden Third Stage winner Minato Oishi (Toyota) and his teammate Tsubasa Hayakawa (Toyota), and the Koichi Morishita-coached Kento Otsu (Team Toyota Kyushu), running his second marathon after a failed debut in Hokkaido last year.

The Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon will be broadcast live by TBS on Feb. 5 starting at 11:50 a.m. Japan time.  Follow @JRNLive for coverage and live streaming details.

66th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon 
Elite Field Highlights
Oita, 2/5/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Men
Felix Keny (Kenya) - 2:09:04 (Hamburg 2014)
Fumihiro Maruyama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:39 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Tomoya Adachi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:59 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Dereje Debele (Ethiopia) - 2:10:31 (Mumbai 2015)
Hiroki Kadota (Japan/Kadota) - 2:10:46 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Jeffrey Eggleston (U.S.A.) - 2:10:52 (Gold Coast 2014)
Yoshiki Otsuka (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 2:11:40 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Kohei Ogino (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:11:42 (Nagano 2015)
Kentaro Nakamoto (Japan/Yasukawa Denki) - 2:11:58 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:12:04 (Nagano 2015)
Kazuya Ishida (Japan/Nishitetsu) - 2:12:25 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Ryo Kiname (Japan/MHPS) - 2:12:48 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Keita Akiba (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:13:12 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Solonei Da Silva (Brazil) - 2:13:15 (Milan 2015)
Yusei Nakao (Japan/Smiley Angel AC) - 2:13:23 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Shigeki Tsuji (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:13:41 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Kenta Chiba (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:14:00 (Nobeoka 2015)
Keisuke Kusaka (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:14:11 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Shogo Kanezane (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:14:15 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Junichi Tsubouchi (Japan/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:14:20 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Aritaka Kajiwara (Japan/Atsugi T&F Assoc.) - 2:14:27 (Fukuoka Int'l 2016)
Bunta Kuroki (Japan/Yasukawa Denki)- 2:14:27 (Warsaw 2014)
Yuji Iwata (Japan/MHPS) - 2:14:46 (Nobeoka 2014)
Khalil Lemiciyeh (Morocco) - 2:14:56 (Casablanca 2016)
Kaito Koitabashi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:15:03 (Hokkaido 2016)
Takafumi Kikuchi (Japan/SG Holdings) - 2:15:07 (Hokkaido 2016)
Saeki Makino (Japan/DNPL) - 2:15:22 (Seoul 2015)
Paul Pollock (Ireland) - 2:15:38 (Berlin 2015)
Takuya Suzuki (Japan/Aisan Kogyo) - 2:15:40 (Beppu-Oita 2014)

Debut / Do-Over
Kento Otsu (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 1:02:09 (Marugame Half 2016)
Minato Oishi (Japan/Toyota) - 1:02:32 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)
Tsubasa Hayakawa (Japan/Toyota) - 1:02:34 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Three People Disqualified for Cutting Course and Switching Bibs at Tokorozawa Half Marathon

http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASK1L5D1CK1LUTNB00Y.html

translated by Brett Larner

The city government in Tokorozawa, Saitama announced on Jan. 18 that three people including two podium placers at last month's 27th Tokorozawa City Half Marathon had been disqualified for offenses including cutting the course and swapping bib numbers.  It was the first time that cheating had been discovered in the event's history.

According to a spokesperson, organizers received a phone call regarding the splits of the men's 60-and-over half marathon division winner saying, "Something is wrong with his second-half 10 km split."  When officials contacted the winner he initially denied any wrongdoing, but on Jan. 10 he visited city hall and admitted, "I cut part of the course."

In a separate incident, a city official found online comments pointing out that there was a man running with a woman's bib number in online photos of the race.  The official contacted the woman registered under the women's 39-and-under bib number, who had finished 2nd in that division, and she admitted that a male friend registered in the men's 39-and-under 5 km division had switched bib numbers with her and run in her place.  The woman ran with the man's bib, finishing 266th in his division.

The organizing committee made up of city government officials and others decided to disqualify all three people and asked that they not run the race again in the future.  The City Sports Bureau commented, "We plan to add more timing mats and take other steps to help prevent cheating in the future."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Different Kind of Runner Completes Aoyama Gakuin Marathon Training Camp - Aritaka Kajiwara

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/feature/hakone/20170117-OHT1T50256.html

translated by Brett Larner

Four runners from Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University including under-20 national record holder Yuta Shimoda, a third-year at Aoyama Gakuin, completed a three-day marathon training camp in Futtsu, Chiba from Jan. 13th to 15th.  Alongside them was Aritaka Kajiwara, 28, an unsponsored independent who ran the Hakone Ekiden for straight years as part of the Kanto Region Select Team while at Shoin University and who has trained with the Aoyama Gakuin ekiden team since last year.

Kajiwara quit the Press Kogyo corporate team in 2015.  At December's Fukuoka International Marathon he ran a PB of 2:14:27.  He now plans to run both the Feb. 5 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon and the Mar. 5 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  "I'll be going for 2:12 at Beppu-Oita and 2:10 at Lake Biwa," he said.  Aoyama Gakuin head coach Susumu Hara commented, "We're currently taking applications for a sponsor for Kajiwara."

Translator's note: Kajiwara was a teammate of Yuki Kawauchi's on the Kanto Region Select Team at the Hakone Ekiden.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Osako and Murayama Twins Lead National Record Shot at Marugame Half

by Brett Larner
click here for women's field listing

As strong as its women's field looks, the men's field for the Feb. 5 Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon is something else.  The half marathon is the sweet spot of Japanese training, the distance that the top university men focus on for the Hakone Ekiden and the best corporate men at the New Year Ekiden national championships.  The official half marathon Japanese national record is 1:00:25 by Atsushi Sato at the 2007 World Half Marathon, but it's pretty common to see the top men running that kind of time on the longest half marathonish-length stages at both Hakone and New Year.  If they all got together, focused, and put the same intensity and drive into a serious half marathon the national record would surely fall, and maybe even the hour mark.  This year's Marugame looks like the best chance to date for that to happen.

Up front: 59:01 man Kenneth Kipkemoi and once-upon-a-time sub-59 man Atsedu Tsegay of Ethiopia.  Positioned just ahead of the Japanese NR: Abraham Kipyatich of Kenya and wunderkind Callum Hawkins of Great Britain.  Right at the level of the current generation of Japan's best: Bernard Kimanyi and Dominic Nyairo of Kenya.  And following them, most of the very best Japan has to offer:

  • 5000 m NR holder Suguru Osako, a member of the Nike Oregon Project with a 1:01:47 Asian junior record half marathon debut and a 1:01:10 equivalent at Hakone.
  • 10000 m NR holder Kota Murayama in his serious half marathon debut, with a 58:26 for 20 km to his name giving him mid-1:01 credentials.
  • His twin brother Kenta Murayama with a 1:00:50 best in Marugame in 2014.
  • Keita Shitara, 1:01:12 at the 2015 National Corporate Half.
  • His twin brother Yuta Shitara, 1:01:48 at the New York Half at age 20 and a 1:00:11 equivalent at last year's New Year Ekiden.
  • Daichi Kamino, 1:01:21 in Marugame two years ago following a spectacular uphill run on Hakone's Fifth Stage and just as ascendant as a young corporate runner.
  • Chihiro Miyawaki, 1:00:53 to win the 2012 National Corporate Half.

There are only two or three names missing from an otherwise perfect collection of Japanese runners to collectively go for the national record, sure to get further support from the massive number of 62 minute-range runners just behind them.  Kenta Murayama told JRN that he and Kota will be going for a time under 1:00:30, at worst under 1:00:50, and the presence of Osako, a training partner of Galen Rupp who was scheduled to go for the U.S.A. NR last weekend, suggests big things.  Marugame usually has ideal weather that contributes to world record-setting depth at quality.  The current forecast calls for cloudy skies and race time temperatures between 2 and 5 degrees Celsius, a little on the cold side but still within a range that would allow for something special.

71st Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon
Men’s Elite Field Highlights
Marugame, Kagawa, 2/5/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Kenneth Kipkemoi (Kenya) – 59:01 (Valencia 2014)
Abraham Kipyatich (Kenya) – 1:00:03 (Berlin 2015)
Callum Hawkins (Great Britain) – 1:00:24 (Glasgow 2016)
Bernard Kimanyi (Kenya/Yakult) – 1:00:41 (Den Haag 2015)
Dominic Nyairo (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) – 1:00:50 (Marugame 2016)
Kenta Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) – 1:00:50 (Marugame 2014)
Keita Shitara (Japan/Konica Minolta) – 1:01:12 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2015)
Fabiano Sulle (Tanzania) – 1:01:19 (Marugame 2016)
Daichi Kamino (Japan/Konica Minolta) – 1:01:21 (Marugame 2015)
Suguru Osako (Japan/NOP) – 1:01:47 (Ageo City 2010)
Kenta Ueda (Japan/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1 02:01 (Ageo City 2016)
Koki Takada (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) – 1:02:02 (Ageo City 2014)
Takashi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) – 1:02:03 (Ageo City 2014)
Akira Aizawa (Japan/Toyo Univ.) – 1:02:05 (Ageo City 2016)
Keita Shioya (Japan/Subaru) – 1:02:11 (Marugame 2016)
Chihiro Miyawaki (Japan/Toyota) – 1:02:18 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2015)
Masaya Taguchi (Japan/Honda) – 1:02:19 (Marugame 2016)
Kenya Sonoda (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) – 1:02:20 (Nat’l Univ. Half 2015)
Kazuki Tamura (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) – 1:02:22 (Nat’l Univ. Half 2015)
Shuji Matsuo (Japan/Kyudenko) – 1:02:25 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2015)
Gen Hachisuka (Japan/Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:26 (Marugame 2015)
Shusei Ohashi (Japan/Raffine) – 1:02:27 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Daiki Taguchi (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 1:02:30 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2014)
Yuki Oshikawa (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) – 1:02:30 (Marugame 2014)
Atsedu Tsegay (Ethiopia) – 1:02:39 (Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon 2015)
Wataru Ueno (Japan/Honda) – 1:02:39 (Marugame 2014)
Yusuke Nishiyama (Japan/Komazawa Univ.) – 1:02:43 (Nat’l Univ. Half 2015)
Natsuki Terada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) – 1:02:43 (Marugame 2015)
Masaru Aoki (Japan/Kanebo) – 1:02:45 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2015)
Rei Omori (Japan/Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:47 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Tomoki Ota (Japan/Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:48 (Ageo City 2016)
Ryuji Okada (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:02:48 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Suehiro Ishikawa (Japan/Honda) – 1:02:49 (Marugame 2016)
Shota Inoue (Japan/Toyota) – 1:02:49 (Marugame 2015)
Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) – 1:02:50 (Marugame 2014)
Taiga Machizawa (Japan/Chuo Univ.) - 1:02:52 (Nat'l  Univ. Half 2015)
Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) – 1:02:52 (Marugame 2015)
Hideaki Sumiyoshi (Japan/Kokushikan Univ.) - 1:02:53 (Marugame 2016)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) – 1:02:58 (Marugame 2016)

20 km
Kota Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) – 58:26 (Yosenkai 20km 2014)
Kazuya Shiojiri (Japan/Juntendo Univ.) – 59:36 (Takashimdaira 20km 2016)

Debut
Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya/Hitachi Butsuryu) – 27:11.23 (Nittai Univ. 2016)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kirwa Faces Flanagan and Wellings at Marugame Half

by Brett Larner
click here for men's field listing

The Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon has lined up a great women's field for its 71st running on Feb. 5.  Rio Olympics marathon silver medalist and defending champion Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) will go up against Rio 6th and 9th-placers Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg of the U.S.A., 2015 Marugame winner Eloise Wellings of Australia and 2016 Japanese National Corporate Half Marathon champion Miho Shimizu (Team Hokuren).

Flanagan's 1:07:51 on the aided San Diego course last year is the only time that tops Kirwa's then-Bahraini national record 1:08:06 in Marugame 2016, promising a close race if Flanagan doesn't repeat her 2015 DNS.  Shimizu, the only Japanese woman to break 1:10 in 2016, should likewise have a good race for 3rd against Wellings if the Australian shows a return to form following her DNF last month at the Sanyo Ladies Half.  One promising debut comes in the form of sub-31:45 track runner Riko Matsuzaki (Team Sekisui Kagaku), who ran well on the 10.0 km anchor stage at last weekend's Naitonal Women's Ekiden.

71st Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon
Women’s Elite Field Highlights
Marugame, Kagawa, 2/5/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Shalane Flanagan (U.S.A.) – 1:07:51a (San Diego 2016)
Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) – 1:08:06 (Marugame 2016)
Eloise Wellings (Australia) – 1:09:29 (Marugame 2016)
Miho Shimizu (Japan/Hokuren) – 1:09:41 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2016)
Amy Cragg (U.S.A.) – 1:09:50a (San Diego 2016)
Reia Iwade (Japan/Noritz) – 1:10:13 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2015)
Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) – 1:10:47a (San Diego 2015)
Kaho Tanaka (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) – 1:11:12 (Marugame 2015)
Akane Sekimo (Japan/Imabari Zosen) – 1:11:17 (Marugame 2016)
Kellys Arias (Colombia) – 1:11:21 (Cardiff 2016)
Moeno Nakamura (Japan/Univ. Ent.) – 1:11:33 (Marugame 2016)
Miharu Shimokado (Japan/Shimamura) – 1:11:48 (Matsue Ladies 2016)
Winfridah Kebaiso (Kenya/Nitori) – 1:12:36 (Shibetsu 2015)
Eri Tayama (Japan/Hitachi) – 1:12:44 (Matsue Ladies 2014)
Megumi Amako (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu – 1:12:49 (Nat’l Corp. Half 2014)
Mei Matsuyama (Japan/Noritz) – 1:12:58 (Marugame 2016)

Debut
Riko Matsuzaki (Japan/Sekisui Kagaku) – 31:44.86 (Abashiri 2015)
Yuko Aoki (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) – 32:58.67 (Yamaguchi 2014)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved