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Watch the National University Men's Ekiden Championships Live Online With First-Ever English Commentary - Preview

by Brett Larner

The 2009 National University Ekiden takes place this Sunday, Nov. 1. Twenty-five teams will line up in the eight-stage 106.8 km championships to try to take the crown away from three-time defending champion Komazawa University. TV Asahi will broadcast the ekiden live nationwide from 8:00 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. Japan time, and international viewers will be able to watch online by clicking here. For the first time ever, JRN will offer live English-language commentary on a major Japanese race broadcast. Click here to follow live raceday commentary via Twitter feed.

Komazawa is without a doubt the school to beat. By far the most dominant team in the country over the past ten years, Komazawa's poor performance at the 2009 Hakone Ekiden proved to be just a glitch as it returned in force earlier this month to win the Hakone Ekiden Qualifier 20 km where its top three runners broke one hour with several more less than 10 seconds off. Head coach Hiroaki Oyagi's priorities are s…

'Yuri Kano Leads Elite Japanese Runners’ Return to New York'

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/sports/global/29marathon.html

Yuri Kano's NYCM debut has gotten some mainstream attention in the U.S. Coming as it does just days before the regional qualifying ekidens for the national corporate ekiden championship events it is extremely rare for teams to allow their runners to compete in New York, and almost never their best runners. Kano's team Second Wind AC exists outside the corporate team circuit, a fact which gives her more latitude to compete overseas.

The New York City Marathon will be broadcast live online by Universal Sports. Universal's webcasts are usually blocked in Japan, but NYCM will apparently be available to view in Japan by clicking here.

"No Bridges, No Fun" - Speed, Beauty and Mystery at The Venice Marathon

by Brett Larner

Japan Running News was invited to the 2009 Venice Marathon to cover the race for Runners, Japan's largest running magazine, from a Japanese marathon tourism perspective. Below is an English translation of the first draft of the Runners article, along with photos by JRN's Mika Tokairin and Brett Larner. Click photos for full-sized versions. For a report on the course record-setting elite race click here. Special thanks to the Venice Marathon's Mara Carraro for extending the invitation and organizing JRN's trip, to Angelo Sagramora for local expertise and to the Copenhagen Marathon's Gavin Doyle for his part in making JRN's coverage possible.

“The Venice Marathon?” “Where can you run?” “Is it an aquathlon?” “An open-water swim?” These are the natural reactions to hearing the words ‘Venice Marathon,’ the image of running through the historic Italian city of canals sounding like something from a fantasy. But the race is very real, a spectacularly colo…

Bukkyo Breaks Ritsumeikan For First National Title

by Brett Larner

It was a familiar story: clocking an unprecedented fourth-straight new stage record at the major national university women's championship Morinomiyako Ekiden, ace senior Kazue Kojima led Ritsumeikan University, except for 2005 when it was 2nd the national champion every year since 2003, to break its own course record by nearly two minutes. But there was something strange. TV cameras showed Ritsumeikan's women crying and devastated at the finish. What had gone wrong? The answer: cross-town rival Bukkyo University had beaten them by another margin of nearly two minutes to take its first-ever national title.

Bukkyo's performance was just a few degrees off perfection. First Stage runner Mai Ishibashi took a slow first half before taking off in the second half to win the leg by 2 seconds over Ritsumeikan's Hanae Tanaka. From there on every Bukkyo runner just went out hell-bent at 100% from the start, recklessly running stage-record pace and daring Ritsumeikan …

Morinomiyako Ekiden Preview: Kojima and Nishihara - Watch Online

by Brett Larner

While the popularity and prestige of the Hakone Ekiden has concentrated Japan's university men's distance talent within the Tokyo-centered Kanto Region, women's university runners are more geographically dispersed. If there is one stronghold it must be the Kansai Region around Kyoto and Osaka, home of the dominant Ritsumeikan University women's team and their cross-town rivals Bukkyo University. The two schools meet again this weekend at the six-stage, 38.6 km Morinomiyako Ekiden, the first of the season's two national university women's ekidens.

Ritsumeikan is the three-time defending Morinomiyako champion and has qualified more than any other school in the field, running in the last twenty of Morinomiyako's twenty seven editions. Ritsumeikan's winning streak exactly coincides with the career of its ace runner Kazue Kojima. Kojima is the best university runner of her generation, a multiple national champion who has never lost an ekiden st…

Training for the Hakone Ekiden With Josai University

by Jason Lawrence

As the results of last Saturday's Hakone Ekiden Qualifier 20 km road race continue to reverberate, the inevitable questions about how Japanese runners train have resurfaced. In the summer of 2006 Kiwi runner Jason Lawrence had a rare opportunity to attend 2007 and 2008 Hakone Qualifier winner Josai University's summer gasshuku, an intensive training camp in the remoteness of northern Hokkaido. Josai is coached by former Hakone star Jun Hiratsuka and one hour run national record holder Seiji Kushibe. Among the runners Lawrence trained alongside at the camp was Yuta Takahashi, the 2nd place finisher at this year's Hakone Qualifier in 59:23. Lawrence, now the top runner in Singapore, shared his diary from the training camp with JRN.

Summer Training Camp Diary

August 6, 2006:

I flew up to Hokkaido to join the Josai University distance squad for their summer training camp. 12 days of just running - it's going to be tough. In the afternoon after my flight I wen…

Yokohama International Women's Marathon Announces Elite Field for Its First Edition

http://www.asahi.com/sports/spo/TKY200910210174.html

translated by Brett Larner

The first running of the new Yokohama International Women's Marathon, sponsored by the Asahi Newspaper Group and others, takes place Nov. 15. On Oct. 20 the event's organizing committee announced the lineup of the elite field of eleven. 2007 World Championships 6th place finisher Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC), the Ominami twins Hiromi and Takami (Team Toyota Shatai) top the domestic contenders, while Beijing Olympics gold and silver medalists Constantina Dita (Romania) and Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) will be the main overseas competition.

The domestic field consists of five invited athletes. Shimahara, 3rd at last year's Chicago Marathon and 3rd in the 2006 Osaka International Women's Marathon, is an experienced veteran. In August she set the Hokkaido Marathon course record of 2:25:10, her PB. At age 32 she is at the peak of her powers. The Ominami twins, both past winners of the Rotterdam M…

Yokota Breaks 15 Year-Old 800 m National Record

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/091018/spg0910182237004-n1.htm
http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/091018/spg0910182238005-n1.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

At a track meet at Nittai University in Yokohama on Oct. 18, 21 year old Masato Yokota (Keio Univ.) set a new men's 800 m national record of 1:46.16. His time broke Yusei Ono's 15 year old record of 1:46.18 set in 1994. Having run in the 2007 World Championships and won June's National Championships, Yokota was already the #1-ranked middle-distance runner in Japan.

Unusually for a race in Japan, the Nittai 800 m featured a pacemaker for the first half. Yokota ran precisely according to his planned splits to smash his previous best of 1:47.04. "The pacemaker helped me get into a good rhythm over the first 400 m," commented Yokota. "After that I just tried to keep it. With 200 m to go I knew it was going to be close, so I had to struggle pretty hard. Next up I'm going to target 1:45."

University Men's Weekend in Review: NCAA Pre-Nats vs. Hakone Ekiden Qualifier

by Brett Larner

Click here for video of the 2009 Hakone Ekiden Qualifier.

Japan's Monday morning network news talk programs devoted lengthy segments to discussing the outstanding results from Saturday's university men's Hakone Ekiden Qualifier 20 km road race, which featured the 9th through 55th-ranked schools in the Kanto region. At the same time, American fan websites were buzzing with discussion of the results of Saturday's big university pre-National cross-country meets. How did the results compare between the top schools and runners in the two countries?

The first table below shows the top ten men, times and paces in the two 8 km NCAA Pre-National XC races, the 10 km Chile Pepper Invitational XC race, and the 20 km Kanto Regional Hakone Ekiden Qualifying Road Race. Click for full-sized version.


While the races in the U.S.A. were cross-country and thus suffered a disadvantage in terms of pace relative to a road race, the distance in the Hakone Qualifier was twice to 2.…

The Hakone Ekiden Trials From the Inside

by Christian Sommer

Swiss runner Christian Sommer is a graduate student at Tokyo University, the only school with a graduate team elligible to run in the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km qualification race. Sommer made Tokyo's team this year and ran the Oct. 17 Yosenkai, finishing as one of the squad's ten scorers. It was an extremely rare event for a foreign runner to appear in the Yosenkai race, all the more so in that Sommer is not a Kenyan brought in as a ringer. Sommer wrote an account of his race for JRN.

On October 17 I was given the unique opportunity and big honor to run the Hakone Ekiden Trials. This is a brief report of what happened in the Tokyo University Grad School team on race day from a foreigner's persepctive.

Our team meets two hours before the start at the park entrance and so do many other teams. Approaching the meeting point, I feel overwhelmed by the atmosphere: each team, on top of the twelve participating runners, brings a large support group wearing the…

Toyo's Kawahara Takes Takashimadaira 20 km

by Brett Larner



In the wake of yesterday's stunning Hakone Ekiden qualifier 20 km road race, three seeded Hakone schools, defending champion Toyo University, 2008 winner Komazawa University and Meiji University, sent their B-squads to run the Takashimadaira 20 km Road Race as a mid-season tuneup. Toyo's now-graduated Tomoya Onishi (Team Asahi Kasei) won Takashimadaira the last two years in an hour flat, and Tokai University's great Hideaki Date (Team Chugoku Denryoku) set the course record for the four-loop criterion race the year before. This year the absence of a single big name coupled with unusually hot and sunny conditions, minus Takashimadaira's usual wind, meant relatively conservative times.

A large group of university runners ran together through 12 km before Toyo's Katsuya Honda broke away, pursued by teammate Kentaro Kami and Komazawa's Yoshihiro Tetsuka. Takanori Kawahara of Toyo hung back with Meiji's Junpei Tahara until after 15 km, when he made…

First-Year Murasawa Leads 11 Under an Hour at Hakone Ekiden Qualifier

by Brett Larner

Click here for an explanation of scoring for the Hakone Ekiden qualifying race.



Aided by ideally cool, cloudy and windless conditions, Tokai University first-year Akinobu Murasawa, the star runner of 2008 national high school champion Saku Chosei H.S., served notice to the big guns at the Oct. 17 Hakone Ekiden-qualifying Yosenkai 20 km road race with a 59:08 win, just 28 seconds shy of the best mark ever recorded at the race by a Japanese athlete. Running in his first university road race and his first-ever longer than 10 km, Murasawa took down defending champ Kazuki Tomaru (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) and two other ace seniors, Yuta Takahashi (Josai Univ.) and Takuya Fukatsu (Komazawa Univ.), over the final five kilometers to seal his win. In a race which rarely sees more than one or two runners break the hour mark, eleven athletes succeeded this year with another two just a second off from joining them. It may well have been the most competitive race in Yosenkai history. Beyond…

Hakone Ekiden Qualifier and Takashimadaira Road Race Preview - Watch Online

by Brett Larner

Watch the 2009 Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai online on Nihon TV on Oct. 17 from 3:30-5:00 p.m. Click here for more info.


As the American NCAA cross-country season chugs along, the home of the world's most competitive university men's distance running, Japan's Kanto region, gets into full swing this weekend with two major 20 km races, the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai qualifying race on Oct. 17 and the Takashimadaira Road Race on Oct. 18.

Each year at the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, the Kanto region's university men's ekiden championships and an event with mass popularity on the scale of the World Series or Superbowl, the top ten teams out of the field of twenty score seeded positions for the following year's Hakone. The remaining ten teams must battle it out with all the other Kanto universities at October's Yosenkai 20 km road race to earn the honor of a place in Hakone.

At the Yosenkai teams can field up to twelve runners meeting tough qualification standards, …

Bringing Back the Classic pt. II: Fujita Sets the NR in 2000

JRN reader Juan Jose Martinez recently posted video highlights of Atsushi Fujita's national record 2:06:51 win at the 2000 Fukuoka International Marathon on his website. Fujita, who at the time had already broken Toshihiko Seko's long-standing university marathon record, outran several Olympic medalists to set the then-national record. His time after the 35 km point remains the fastest finish ever run in Fukuoka, faster than the marks set by Haile Gebrselassie, Samuel Wanjiru, Tsegay Kebede, Jaouad Gharib, Deriba Merga or anyone else. Click here to watch the classic video.

Gitau Delivers Another Izumo Ekiden Win - Updated

by Brett Larner

Daniel Gitau in another stage-record win. Click photo for full-sized version.






Running in his final Izumo Ekiden on Oct. 12, Kenyan senior Daniel Gitau delivered Nihon University the win for the second year in a row. Last year Gitau started the 10.2 km anchor stage 1:29 behind the lead and won by a margin of 14 seconds. The only sub-28 minute 10000 m runner in the field, this year he confidently predicted before the race that if he was within two minutes of the leader at the start of the anchor stage he would again take first. He was clearly thinking of his Japanese rivals and not of another Kenyan.

Nihon University first-year Kenyan Benjamin Gando made his ekiden debut on the first stage, putting Nihon into 3rd. The rest of the Nihon team kept the school toward the front of the field, with only fifth stage runner Kentaro Ikeya slipping back to 5th. Things looked set for an easy ride for Gitau except that Yamanashi Gakuin University's Kota Otani delivered a stage-best …

No Fireworks Overseas

by Brett Larner

Mizuho Nasukawa at 40 km in Chicago. Photo by Dr. Helmut Winter.










2009 Tokyo Marathon winner Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Aruze), a former training partner of the great Naoko Takahashi, made her overseas marathon debut Oct. 11 at the Chicago Marathon. Nasukawa ran patiently in the lead pack of seven throughout the slow early stages of the race, but when the pace picked up at 33 km she was the second runner to fall off following the early departure of American record holder Deena Kastor. Nasukawa was eventually reeled back in by Kastor and finished 7th in 2:29:22, an improvement on her PW 2:34:17 at August's Hokkaido Marathon but equally far from the potential she showed when she won Tokyo in 2:25:38. Click here for complete results from the 2009 Chicago Marathon.

The young Japanese teams at the World Half Marathon in Birmingham, U.K. on Oct. 11 likewise failed to make an impact. The reliable Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) once more had the top Japanese result, finishing 12th …

Watch the Izumo Ekiden Live - Preview

by Brett Larner

Japan's ekiden season begins each year with the university men's Izumo Ekiden, a 44 km six-stage course pitting the Kanto-region Hakone Ekiden schools against the best the rest of the country has to offer and a team made up of Ivy League alumni. With individual stages ranging from 5.0 to 10.2 km Izumo is completely different in character from other university ekidens, with less emphasis on strategy and endurance and more on pure speed.

This was clear at last year's Izumo when Kenyan Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) made up a 1:29 deficit on leaders Komazawa university over the 10.2 km anchor stage to steal the win with a stage-record 28:28. Gitau returns to lead Nihon, but despite the graduation of top Japanese member Takuma Sasaya Nihon must be viewed as the favorite once again, particularly if it fields but Gitau and first-year Benjamin Gando. It is unusual for a Japanese race to allow a team to field two foreign runners, but at last year's Izumo 4th-placers …

Tokyo Winner Nasukawa Debuts in Chicago

by Brett Larner

Mizuho Nasukawa wins the 2009 Tokyo Marathon in 2:25:38.

2009 Tokyo Marathon winner Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Aruze) makes her overseas marathon debut this weekend at the Chicago Marathon. Nasukawa is the top marathon protege of Yoshio Koide, the coach who led Naoko Takahashi to Olympic gold and the world's first sub-2:20 women's marathon. A career track runner with two Asian Games bronze medals from 2002 to her name, Nasukawa made a tentative move to the marathon in 2004 and 2005, her best result of that time being a 2:29:49 fourth place finish at the 2004 Osaka International Women's Marathon.

Following this move Nasukawa returned to the track, recording her 5000 m PB of 15:23.00 in 2006 and experimenting with steeplechase, but her resume remained largely a blank until March's Tokyo Marathon. In Tokyo she ran a race which should have put her on the list for the Berlin World Championships, recording a sizeable PB of 2:25:38 in extremely windy conditions to win…

A New Hope in the Marathon: Ryo Yamamoto

http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/sports/0002409811.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

A new hope has taken wing from deep in the heart of the distance running kingdom of Hyogo Prefecture. He is Kobe native Ryo Yamamoto, at age 25 a third-year member of Team Sagawa Express. In his debut marathon at August's Hokkaido Marathon Yamamoto was the top Japanese finisher, showing great promise of being able to take on the world as he came close to running down winner Daniel Njenga (Team Yakult). We talked to him about race, his background, and his plans and dreams for the future.

Your time was 2:12:10. It was a brilliant performance.
Right when I finished I was pretty crushed that the win got away from me, but now that some time has passed I think it's great that I was able to run with some power in my first marathon. They say a marathon starts at 35 km so I tried to hold off [on speeding up] and that's why I was able to run the last part way harder than I expected.

You beat Athens Olym…