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Showing posts from December, 2009

Watch the New Year Ekiden Live Online - Preview

by Brett Larner

The first race of the year kicks off just hours into the first day: the Japanese corporate men's national championship New Year Ekiden. 100 km split into seven stages, the New Year Ekiden is broadcast live nationwide. Now in its 54th year, it has become the main focus of the year for professional Japanese men, with October and November's regional qualifying ekidens taking the place of a fall marathon and, this year, the drive to promote team sponsors pushing the New Year Ekiden ahead of the great Fukuoka International Marathon.

Questionable as this may be, the New Year Ekiden is where you see the peak performances happening. On the ekiden's longest leg, the 22.3 km Fourth Stage on the current course, top men such as Keita Akiba (Team Komori Corp.), Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) and Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) have run times equivalent to a sub-hour half marathon, well ahead of the official national record. You rarely see the big Japanese names …

The 2010 Hakone Ekiden - Preview - Watch Live With English Commentary

by Brett Larner

It's the best time of year for distance running fans in Japan: time for the Hakone Ekiden. Hakone is the championship event for Kanto region-based university men's teams, essentially those in the Tokyo area. The race covers 217.9 km in ten stages spread over two days on Jan. 2 and 3 every year. But it is much more than a regional university race. The race is broadcast live nationwide, fifteen hours of coverage between the two days, with nationwide viewership ratings of 30%. Hakone runners are respected more than any others but Japan's Olympic marathon medalists and have a degree of fame pros in other countries can only imagine. Now in its 86th year, more than any other race the Hakone Ekiden is engrossing, dramatic, and symbolizes what is good about distance running. So much so that it has become a problem for Japanese men's marathoning, where performances have waned over the last few years just as performances at Hakone and related races have waxed to t…

2009 Japanese Women's Review - Holding Pattern

by Brett Larner

2009 had its ups and downs for Japanese women, but in sum it was a positive year. As Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) fades into memory no one has really stepped up to take her place at the top, but the trend was not limited to Japan alone. Worldwide it was a down year. The average of the top ten fastest times of the year, 2:24:09, was the slowest since 1997 and German Irina Mikitenko's 2:22:11 in London was the slowest world-leader since 1996. The average of the top ten Japanese performances, 2:26:02 this year, has not changed much in the last four years, meaning that relative to world standards 2009 was Japan's best since 1996. Top woman Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) ran 2:23:42 to win January's Osaka International Women's Marathon and was ranked 3rd worldwide. Last year the top Japanese woman, Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) ran 2:23:30 and was only ranked 9th.

Ozaki gets the best-of-the-year honors for her silver medal in the marathon at th…

2009 Japanese Men's Review - Days Have Gone By

by Brett Larner

There’s no getting around the hard facts: 2009 was one of the worst years in the modern history of Japanese men’s marathoning. In a time when the world standard has undergone remarkable improvement with the ten fastest times of the year under 2:06 for the first time, Japanese men took a large step backwards. Only one Japanese man, Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku), broke 2:10 this year, the first time this has happened since 1996. The average of the top ten Japanese times of the year, 2:11:21, was also the slowest since 1996. Relative to the world top ten average, 2:05:13, the year was Japan’s worst-ever.

To be fair, Japan did manage to take the team bronze medal at the Berlin World Championships, and all three of this year’s major Japanese spring marathons suffered windy conditions, in the case of March’s Tokyo Marathon verging on the extreme. There have also been troughs in the record before when the aging stars of one generation pass their prime before the next has…

2009 As Seen By JRN Readers

Credit Where Credit is Due Pt. 2 - American and Japanese Men Aged 18-22

by Brett Larner

Last month JRN published a comparison of the achievements of American and Japanese men aged 18-22 over the 5000 m, 10000 m, half marathon and marathon distances, part two in a periodic series occasioned by October’s simultaneous NCAA XC Pre-Nationals 8 km and Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km road race. The comparison generated a fair number of comments and emails; my thanks to all those who offered insight and additional data, suggested further ideas and lines of inquiry, or gave constructive criticism. Among the findings in the previous article:

 Using a common calculator of equivalent performances to set thresholds of 13:30, 28:03, 1:02:24 and 2:11:36 for the four distances, prior to the outstanding performances last spring by American 18 year olds German Fernandez and Chris Derrick Japanese runners led their American counterparts in speed, range, and to a lesser degree depth at ages 18 and 19. Fernandez and Derrick are exceptional young athletes who may rewrite the Ameri…

Bukkyo Ends Ritsumeikan's National Reign

by Brett Larner

With the memory of their 3-second loss at last year's National University Women's Invitational Ekiden to spur them on, Bukkyo University followed up on their win over rivals Ritsumeikan University at October's Morinomiyako Ekiden by handing Ritsumeikan their first-ever loss at the national championship ekiden. With four of its runners taking stage best titles, two setting new stage records and one equalling the existing stage record, Bukkyo covered the six-stage, 30.67 km course in Tsukuba, Ibaraki prefecture in 1:37:35, breaking Ritsumeikan's course record from last year by 58 seconds. Ritsumeikan was only two seconds slower than its record-setting performance last year but a full minute behind Bukkyo.

Bukkyo's Yuika Mori got the race started on the right note, leading a four-way breakaway on the 5.0 km First Stage and outkicking Kenyan Ann Kingori (Nihon Univ.) and 2008 National University 10000 m champion Michi Numata (Ritsumeikan Univ.) to win the…

Bukkyo vs. Ritsumeikan - Watch the National University Women's Invitational Ekiden Online

by Brett Larner

The last race of the year for university women is the National University Women’s Invitational Ekiden, a relatively young event in Tsukuba, Ibaraki prefecture with six stages covering 30.67 km. Titan Ritsumeikan University has won every year the National Ekiden has been held. This year is the final time the team’s star Kazue Kojima will wear the school’s uniform in an ekiden, one last race to complete an undefeated stage record for her university career.

Earlier in the season Ritsumeikan looked unbeatable, running better than ever at October’s Morinomiyako Ekiden, but they were easily beaten by rivals Bukkyo University, led by the talented Kasumi Nishihara. After placing 2nd by just 3 seconds at last year’s Nationals Bukkyo looks set to break Ritsumeikan’s stranglehold on the national title. Nishihara has been dealing with injuries throughout the fall and may not be in condition to challenge Kojima, but her team overall is strong, tough and ready.

There are of course more…

Osaka International Women's Marathon Announces 2010 Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The Osaka International Women's Marathon has announced the elite field for the 2010 edition of the race to be held on Jan. 31. The domestic field should prove to be quite interesting, headed by Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), including talented veterans Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) and Kayoko Obata (Team Acom) and featuring promising first-timers Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) and Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei).

An elite women's marathon in Japan wouldn't be complete without Sydney Olympics silver medalist Lidia Simon (Romania), and Simon is sure enough slated to be on the starting line again this time along with Olympian Olivera Jevtic (Serbia), 2009 Los Angeles Marathon runner-up Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) and others.

2009 Osaka International Women's Marathon - Elite Field
click here for more detailed profiles and athlete photos
Lidia Simon (Romania) - 2:22:54 (Osaka 2000)
Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - 2:23:30 (Osaka 2003)
Kayoko Obata (Team Acom) - 2:25:14 (Osaka 2000…

Yumi Hirata Takes Sanyo Women's Half Marathon

http://sankei.jp.msn.com/sports/other/091223/oth0912231444004-n1.htm
http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2009122300218

translated and edited by Brett Larner

complete results will be added when available

Yumi Hirata (Team Shiseido) took the win in the Sanyo Women's Road Race Half Marathon on Dec. 23 in Okayama. Hirata, who finished 6th in last spring's Nagoya International Women's Marathon and will run January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, clocked 1:11:13. In 2nd place in 1:12:02 was Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya), who took the stage best on the 6th leg of the National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships on Dec. 13. Kaori Akagawa (Team Suzuki) was 3rd.

In the 10 km race, Nanae Kuwashiro (Team Sysmex) won in 32:27 over November's Yokohama International Women's Marathon 9th placer Hiromi Ominami, who was 7 seconds back in 32:34. World Championships marathoners Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) and Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) were 7th and 11th.

Yuri Kano, Yurika Nakamura Lead Sanyo Women's Road Race Field

http://svr.sanyo.oni.co.jp/feature/sports/other/2009/12/01/20091201101648.html

translated by Brett Larner

The 28th Sanyo Women's Road Race is scheduled to take place Dec. 23. 65 women are entered in the elite half marathon, while the 10 km division has a field of 199. A number of athletes who competed in August's World Championships in Berlin will take their next step on the roads of Okayama.

At the top of the field in the half marathon is Berlin WC 10000 m 7th place finisher and Beijing Olympics marathoner Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya). Her toughest challenge will come from Kenyan Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo), who defeated Nakamura in March's National Jitsugyodan Women's Half Marathon, and last year's runner-up Megumi Seike (Team Sysmex). Marathoner Yumi Hirata (Team Shiseido) and Nakamura's teammate Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya) are also expected to challenge for the lead.

In the 10 km, Berlin World Championships marathoners Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) an…

Toyokawa Defends, Sera Steps Up in National High School Ekiden Championships - Video Highlights (updated)

by Brett Larner

Check JRNLive for the detailed play-by-play.

Sera H.S. wins the 2009 National High School Boys' Ekiden Championships. Click photo for video highlights.

Toyokawa H.S. and Sera H.S. lived up to pre-race predictions, taking the win in the girls' and boys' races respectively at the 2009 National High School Ekiden Championships Dec. 20 in Kyoto. After an almost brutal first stage which saw three separate falls, Toyokawa, the defending champion in the girls' race, scored only its second-ever victory as it covered the five-stage, half-marathon distance in 1:08:27.

With defending boys' champion Saku Chosei H.S. in a rebuilding year, Sera stepped up thanks in large part to Kenyan ace Bitan Karoki to take the seven-stage, marathon distance boys' race in 2:04:09. It was Sera's sixth victory in the ekiden's 60 year history and its first since 2006. Sera's strategy was relatively simple: its first two runners would just keep a decent position rather…

Shibutani Wins 40th Hofu Yomiuri Marathon

by Brett Larner

Veteran Akinori Shibutani (Team Yanagawa Seiki) came within steps of breaking his nearly 10 year-old PB on Dec. 20 as he scored his first-ever win at the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon, taking the 40th anniversary edition of the race in 2:13:58. Following the departure of pacemaker Samuel Ganga (Team Mazda) at 25 km after a 1:06:38 first half Shibutani emerged from the pack to first edge and then cruise away to victory. It was a major triumph for Shibutani, a former teammate of national record holder Toshinari Takaoka at Team Kanebo, who found a position with the minor-league Team Yanagawa Seiki after losing his place on the Kanebo lineup several years ago. For his win Shibutani picks up an invitation to the 2010 Berlin Marathon.

2003 Fukuoka International Marathon winner and Athens Olympian Tomoaki Kunichika (Team S&B) initially remained behind in the pack when Shibutani broke away and was followed by Fumiyuki Watanabe (Team Asahi Kasei) and 2009 Copenhagen Marathon winner T…

National High School Ekiden Championships Preview - Watch Online

by Brett Larner

The 2009 National High School Ekiden Championships take place this Sunday, Dec. 20. The day begins with the girls' race, five stages totalling 21.0975 km, and continues with the seven-stage, 42.195 km boys' race.

On the girls' side, last year's winner Toyokawa H.S. returns with an almost identical squad now a year stronger, the main exception being the replacement of anchor Kenyan Wysela Wylim, who disappeared from the school under unknown circumstances earlier this year, with another strong Kenyan, Wainaina Murgi.

In taking its first-ever national title last year Toyokawa won by four seconds over Kojokan H.S., with Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. also within just twelve seconds. Both schools return strong this year, but perhaps the biggest threat is last year's 4th-placer Suma Gakuen H.S. which comes to the race this year ranked #1 on average 3000 m time.

In the boys' race it is a time of change. Defending champion Saku Chosei H.S. returns only one key mem…

2:07 Man Kunichika Headlines 40th Hofu Yomiuri Marathon

by Brett Larner

The last competitive marathon of the year takes place this Sunday, Dec. 20 in Hofu, Yamaguchi at the 40th anniversary Hofu Yomiuri Marathon. Long one of Japan's second-tier elite marathons, Hofu is a place where younger pros come to debut and older veterans go for one more win. The occasional first-rate race results, as in Ethiopian Hailu Negussie's course record 2:08:16 battle against future Olympic team member Satoshi Osaki (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) in 2002.

Like other elite marathons on the Japanese circuit Hofu has struggled to adapt to changes in the marathoning environment, particularly those brought on by the rise of the Tokyo Marathon. Where venerable races like the Biwako Mainichi Marathon and Beppu-Oita Marathon have redesigned their courses in the last year to improve their appeal as fast races and taken other steps to improve their image, Hofu has embraced the amateur. Beginning with this year's 40th anniversary race Hofu has relaxed its qualificatio…

'Zakharova Wins 3rd Women's Title at Age 39' - Honolulu Marathon (updated)

http://www.honolulumarathon.org/?s=raceweeknews#st_7






Kiyoko Shimahara approaching the finish in Honolulu. Photos by Dr. Helmut Winter.







After not breaking 2:30 since 2006 Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) has now done it three times in the last three and a half months, running a PB and CR of 2:25:10 to win the Hokkaido Marathon on Aug. 30, finishing 2nd in 2:28:51 on Nov. 15 in the inaugural Yokohama International Women's Marathon, and now four weeks later a 2:29:53 runner-up spot in the Dec. 13 Honolulu Marathon.






Third sub-2:30 of the season.











2009 Honolulu Marathon - Top Women's Finishers
click here for complete results with splits

1. Svetlana Zakharova (Russia) - 2:28:34
2. Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 2:29:53
3. Pamela Chepchumba (Kenya) - 2:32:41
4. Kaori Yoshida (Amino Vital AC) - 2:35:46
5. Eri Hayakawa (Amino Vital AC) - 2:44:33
6. Satoko Uetani (Kobe Gakuin Univ.) - 2:45:19
7. Akemi Ozaki (Second Wind AC) - 2:50:20
8. Mina Ogawa (Japan) - 2:50:20
9. Kozue Saito (Japan) - 2:51:…

Onishi, Takezawa and Sugihara Win in East Asian Games, Kano and Miyauchi 2-3 in Women's Half (updated)

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Update: The IAAF has a series of articles summarizing each day of the East Asian Games including the medalists in each event. Click for Day One (800 m, 20 km RW), Day Two (M 5000 m, W 10000 m, W 3000 mSC), Day Three (1500 m, M 10000 m) and Day Four (Half marathon, M 3000 mSC, W 5000 m).

Tomoya Onishi on the way to the win in Hong Kong. Click picture for sanspo.com's East Asian Games photo gallery.

The East Asian Games Half Marathon took place Dec. 13 in Hong Kong. 22 year-old Tomoya Onishi (Team Asahi Kasei) won the gold medal in the sprint-finish men's race in a time of 1:06:05. World Championships women's marathon 7th place finisher Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) was 2nd in the women's half marathon in 1:12:03 with teammate Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) close behind in 3rd.

Kano lacked her usual frontrunning race pattern, losing out to a North Korean athlete on the last lap of the track. "That wasn't how I wanted to race," s…

Shibui is Back as Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo Takes 7th National Title

by Brett Larner

Shibui rides again. Click picture for sanspo.com's National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden photo gallery.

Despite not taking a single stage best title, six-time national champion Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo returned to the top of the six-stage marathon distance 2009 National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships on Dec. 13 in Gifu with another win to make it seven. The team's chances depended largely on whether its star Yoko Shibui had recovered from the stress fracture that kept her out of the 2009 World Championships marathon. She had. Although she was far from her normal condition, Shibui's stage-4th 32:13 for the 10 km Third Stage was good enough to keep the team in position after a strong stage-2nd performance by First Stage runner Ikuyo Yamashita.

Fresh from last month's Yokohama International Women's Marathon, Miki Ohira ran the 2nd-best time on the Fifth Stage to take the lead and anchor Chisato Osaki likewise was 2nd on her stage to keep…

Yu Mitsuya to Debut at Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon

http://www.nishinippon.co.jp/nsp/item/139184

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu), a two-time World Championships track runner and former training partner of Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya), will run his debut marathon at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. Mitsuya acted as pacemaker for the first half of last Sunday's Fukuoka International Marathon as part of the serious marathon training he began in November. "I could run a half [marathon] a dozen times, but this gave me a better feeling for it," he said after Fukuoka. After eventual winner Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) started pressing the pace Mitsuya held on to precisely 3 min / km pace to bring the second pack through halfway. The experience gave him a taste of what to expect in Beppu-Oita. "Seeing this today really ups my motivation," he nodded. The expectations are high for this track star as he turns to the 42.195 km distance.

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