Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Kawauchi Makes Catalan Debut at Barcelona's Cursa dels Nassos

Yuki Kawauchi ran the New Year's Eve Cursa dels Nassos 10 km in Barcelona with support from JRN and the Zurich Marat√≥ Barcelona.  Local media covered his appearance heavily.

Race expo appearance:



Profile and interview:


Kawauchi ran in the lead group through 4 km before a twisted ankle forced him to drop back. He ultimately finished 12th in 30:30.  Moroccan Illias Fifa won in 28:57, with Spain's Lidia Rodriguez Sierra winning the women's race in 32:47.

Complete race footage:


News report:



Another news report:



Click here for other TV news reports, official race photos and more.

2014 Cursa dels Nassos 10 km
Barcelona, Spain, 12/31/14
click here for complete results

Men
1. Illias Fifa (Morocco) - 28:57
2. Carles Castillejo (Spain) - 29:10
3. Abdelaziz Merzoughi (Spain) - 29:17
4. Ibrahim Ezzaydouni (Spain) - 29:19
5. Driss Lakhouaja (Spain) - 29:24
-----
12. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 30:30

Women
1. Lidia Rodriguez Sierra (Spain) - 32:47
2. Jacqueline Martin (Spain) - 34:02
3. Marta Galimany Guach (Spain) - 34:07
4. Montse Mas Sanz (Spain) - 34:45
5. Fatima El Aouja (Spain) - 34:57

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Only Komazawa Can Beat Komazawa - 2015 Hakone Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner
follow @JRNLive for live coverage of the 2015 Hakone Ekiden on Jan. 2 and 3



If you've never seen the Hakone Ekiden it's hard to really understand what you're missing.  It's what the sport of running should be.  Utterly gripping, pure and dedicated racing from 21 teams of ten university men each totally focused on running to their absolute limit on their share of the ten-stage, 217.1 km road relay.  A live broadcast that skillfully brings every nuance of the format, the strategy involved in the team order, the multiple story lines and races-within-races instead of just whoever is in front, to the tens of millions of avid fans across the country who watch every year.  Every runner counts, every runner gets his screen time, his moment of recognition for giving his best.  To give anything less would be to sacrifice everyone else's gifts.  One for all, all for one.

Komazawa University comes to the 91st running of Japan's biggest sporting event with all the power of destiny behind it.  From 1998 to 2009 it was almost unstoppable in the two most important of the Big Three university ekidens, winning eight titles at November's National University Ekiden and five times taking the crown jewels of Japanese distance running at Hakone including four-straight wins from 2002 through 2005.  2006 was a rocky year but the next season Komazawa returned for another three-straight national titles and Hakone win.  After two more rough years today's senior class started their collegiate careers with the first of four-straight wins at Nationals, working their way up to a win this year at the season-opening Izumo Ekiden for the first time since 1998.

But a Hakone win has eluded Komazawa for six years.  Head coach Hiroaki Oyagi has pioneered building up teams with incredible depth at quality, eight to ten men with 5000 m bests under 14 minutes and 10000 m bests under 29 minutes, recognizing that rival Toyo University's domination of Hakone from 2009 to 2014 was largely a product of its mastery of the uphill Fifth Stage, 23.4 km with almost 900 m of climb in the middle 10 km, and responding by training specialists capable of running the Fifth in under 80 minutes, the basic benchmark for the best.

But with an average length of 21.71 km for its ten stages Hakone also requires mastery of the half marathon, and at that distance Komazawa has lagged behind Toyo and 2011 Hakone winner Waseda University.  Last year both Toyo and Waseda came to Hakone with ten-man half marathon averages under 63 minutes, but Komazawa had an average of only 1:03:01.  Despite beating Waseda, despite a sub-80 minute run by Fifth Stage man Shota Baba, despite running the fastest time ever at Hakone except for Toyo's 2012 course record, Komazawa still couldn't match Toyo and took 2nd.

Oyagi pinned much of the blame for that loss on star junior Kenta Murayama, an ambitious talent with a 1:01:19 half marathon at age 19 who went out too fast in pursuit of the 23.2 km Second Stage's 1:06:04 course record and faded badly to finish in 1:08:27, a time loss relative to Toyo that destroyed Oyagi's strategy for his placement of later runners.  They needed the margin that Murayama would bring with a solid performance, and without it they simply couldn't catch Toyo after the mountain stages.



This year Komazawa returns with a more mature Murayama and a stronger, even deeper lineup.  Sure to have won the Izumo Ekiden if it hadn't been cancelled due to a typhoon, and a fourth-straight national title in November.  Eight of its 16-man entry roster have sub-14 5000 m bests topped by Murayama's 13:34.53.  Eight have sub-29 10000 m times, led again by Murayama's 27:49.94.  And most importantly, eight have sub-63 half marathons, led by Murayama's all-time #3 Japanese 1:00:50 in Marugame this year but also spearheaded by senior Shogo Nakamura's 1:01:57 best at the 2014 World Half Marathon Championships and the 1:02:18 run by unknown first-year Naoki Kudo for 3rd at November's Ageo City Half Marathon.  Komazawa comes in with an unprecedented ten-man half marathon average of 1:02:29.  Ten.  University runners. 1:02:29.  It's safe to say that that we're not just talking about winning Hakone, we're talking about what kind of course record they're going to set, that the only ones who can beat them are themselves.  But a big part of what makes Hakone what it is is that that often happens.

The most likely to take over from a Komazawa breakdown is the likable Aoyama Gakuin University team.  33 years after its last team to make Hakone broke the chain with an anchor-stage DNF, Aoyama Gakuin, led by new head coach Susumu Hara, squeezed into the 2009 Hakone Ekiden in one of the three extra spots granted for Hakone's 85th anniversary, finishing 22nd of 23.  A year later it took 8th, making the top ten seeded bracket for the first time since 1969, and steadily improving to its first-ever Izumo Ekiden win in 2012 and a school-record 5th at Hakone last year.  With a solid third-year class this year Aoyama Gakuin comes in with good numbers, five men sub-14 and six sub-29, hurt by the loss of National University Ekiden stage winner Yuki Kawasaki to injury and only junior Daichi Kamino having broken 63 for the half but with momentum and an air of positivity born out of the team's belief in Hara's long-term development plan.  At the press conference announcing the Aoyama Gakuin entry roster Hara said, "There is no pressure at all this time.  We can win, but if we don't we still have next year.  Maybe there'll be pressure then, but not this time."  Hara is putting Kamino on the uphill Fifth Stage, where he thinks Kamino can run 1:17:30, a time that would put him 2nd all-time behind Toyo legend Ryuji Kashiwabara.

Last year's winner, Toyo University is down on strength this year following the graduation of its star twins Keita and Yuta Shitara.  In their place junior Yuma Hattori and his younger brother Hazuma Hattori have stepped up into leadership roles, Yuma running a Japanese collegiate record 1:28:52 for 30 km in February that included a 1:02:06 half marathon split and Hazuma running a 1:02:31 PB in Ageo.  But only two other Toyo runners, fourth-year Ryu Takaku and second-year Shun Sakuraoka, have broken 63, and despite Toyo's depth at the 63-minute level and history of success and stability at Hakone it looks like head coach Toshiyuki Sakai simply doesn't have the numbers to compete with Komazawa.

Waseda University is in a better position despite the graduation of #1 man Suguru Osako, with seven runners under 63 led by junior Koki Takada's 1:02:02 win in Ageo, and a ten-man average of 1:02:44, its best-ever.  It also has the added motivation of trying to send out head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe, one of the most popular runners in Hakone history during his days as an athlete in the 90's and who recently made the surprise announcement that he will retire at the end of this season, with honor.  Waseda has rarely been able to live up to potential at Hakone, but with the extra motivation this year it could be the one where it puts it together.

Likewise for Meiji University, always solid on the track and with incredible numbers for 5000 m and 10000 m on paper but never putting it together into a successful ekiden.  Despite the absence of sub-13:30 senior Genki Yagisawa, Meiji comes in with seven sub-14 men and eight sub-29.  It has weaker credentials over the half marathon, with only senior Shuho Dairokuno having gone under 63, but at Nationals in November it turned in its best Big Three ekiden performance in over ten years with a runner-up placing behind Komazawa thanks to brilliant runs from Yagisawa and junior Ken Yokote.  It will need a combination of a step up over Hakone's longer distances and something going wrong for Komazawa to compete for the win, but Meiji looks like solid top three material at worst if it can run like it did at Nationals.

A large part of what makes Hakone so exciting to watch, especially on the second day, is the focus on the battle further back beyond the favorites, where the best of the rest race each other for a place in the seeded top ten.  A top ten finish in Hakone has two important results.   First, it guarantees the team a place at the following year's Hakone Ekiden.  Second, as a product of this the team also gets to run in the first of the Big Three university ekidens, October's Izumo Ekiden.  A placing outside the top ten means that instead of Izumo they have to run the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai, a 20 km qualifier road race in October against all the other Kanto-region schools looking for a piece of the Hakone glory.

At least eight schools look to be in competition for the five seeded spots left behind Komazawa, Aoyama Gakuin, Toyo, Waseda and Meiji.  2013 Hakone winner Nittai University, 3rd in 2014, is in the most precarious position of these after the graduation of most of its best runners and the absence of 2014 National University Half Marathon champion Hideto Yamanaka with injury.  Likewise, last year's 9th-placer Takushoku University looks to be down in strength and could suffer a fall from grace.  2014 top ten finishers Nihon University and Teikyo University should be set to repeat in the seeded bracket.  10th-placer Daito Bunka University is right on the cusp, graduating sub-29 twins Hiroshi and Takashi Ichida hoping to leave a seeded finish as their legacy for next year's team that will have a hard time achieving it without them.

Coming up from the Yosenkai, Kanagawa University had an outstanding day to win there and should be in position to gun for Nittai, Takushoku and Daito Bunka.  Tokai University, now coached by one of Japan's greatest high school coaches, former Saku Chosei H.S. head coach Hayashi Morozumi, is solid on paper with seven sub-29 men and good half marathon credentials and, despite only finishing 3rd at the Yosenkai, should be a lock for the top ten.

The other main contender, Yamanashi Gakuin University, is a top-tier school that had a trip back to the Yosenkai after star Kenyan Enock Omwamba suffered a stress fracture on the Second Stage at last year's Hakone and could not finish, knocking YGU out of the race.  Omwamba is back to near 100% alongside 1:01:39 senior Hiroto Inoue and three first-year graduates of 2013 National High School Ekiden champion Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S., Ryutaro Ichitani, Tomoki Kawamura and, son of YGU head coach Kiyoshi Ueda, Kenta Ueda.  Head coach Ueda has yet to utilize his star recruits this season and despite its higher-tier status YGU finished only 4th at the Yosenkai, raising some questions about its chances of breaking back into the top levels.

Koku Gakuin University, Chuo Gakuin University, Jobu University, Chuo University, Juntendo University and Josai University led by Yosenkai winner Kota Murayama, the twin of Komazawa star Kenta Murayama, round out the rest of the regular field.  Despite the public opposition of prominent former team member Yuki Kawauchi, the Kanto Region University Select Team made up of top-placing individuals at the Yosenkai from schools that do not qualify for Hakone as teams returns this year newly formatted and renamed the Kanto Region University Student Alliance, its members given the chance to run Hakone but their results not counting in scoring as the Select Team's results were.  It's a reflection of the same attitude among the older coaches and bigwigs that handicaps Japan's corporate marathoners when they race outside Japan, that it's enough just to have the "experience" of being in a race without really being there to compete in it, that somehow not really being in it is going to help you become an Olympic marathon medalist someday.  The new Alliance's non-presence opens the door for one more scoring team to take a place on the Hakone start line, and at the Yosenkai Soka University took that honor, qualifying for Hakone for the first time in the school's history.

NTV's world-class production of the Hakone Ekiden sets the standard for live race broadcasting.  The broadcast starts at 7:00 a.m. both Jan. 2 and 3, with the race starting at 8:00 a.m. and running for roughly six hours each day, with additional post-race analysis and coverage.  A premium key on Keyhole TV is one of the few widely-available options for watching online from outside Japan, but be sure to follow @JRNLive for detailed coverage during and after the race.

And now, on to the best two days of the year.

91st Hakone Ekiden Field
Tokyo-Hakone-Tokyo, Jan. 2-3, 2015
click here for complete entry lists
bib number, school name, top ten-man half marathon average time
click here for a list of university uniform and tasuki colors

1. Toyo University - 1:02:55
2. Komazawa University - 1:02:29
3. Nittai University - 1:03:45
4. Waseda University - 1:02:44
5. Aoyama Gakuin University - 1:03:16
6. Meiji University - 1:03:30
7. Nihon University - 1:04:30
8. Teikyo University - 1:04:05
9. Takushoku University - 1:04:23
10. Daito Bunka University - 1:04:36
11. Kanagawa University
12. Koku Gakuin University
13. Tokai University
14. Yamanashi Gakuin University
15. Chuo Gakuin University
16. Jobu University
17. Chuo University
18. Juntendo University
19. Josai University
20. Soka University
21. Kanto Region University Student Alliance

text and photo (c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Battle of Past Champions - 2015 New Year Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner

The New Year Ekiden national championship road relay is the raison d'√™tre for Japan's corporate league men, the key race around which the entire year revolves.  37 teams battle it out over 100 km divided into 7 stages with a 6 1/2 hour live nationwide broadcast to millions of fans.  Most of the top corporate men in Japan, both Japanese and African, will be there, and you can follow highlights of the action via @JRNLive.

Two-time defending champion Konica Minolta comes in strong.  Stronger than ever, in fact, with a major boost from rookie Keita Shitara, sub-28 and sub-62 while at Toyo University where he won the 2014 Hakone Ekiden's uphill Fifth Stage before graduating this year.  Konica's chances largely rest on the recovery of star Tsuyoshi Ugachi from the Fukuoka International Marathon earlier this month, his third marathon in his first year taking on the distance.

Ready to take over from Konica Minolta is 2012 winner Nissin Shokuhin.  Already featuring World XC junior medalist Leonard Barsoton and sub-27:40 man Yuki Sato, Nissin, 3rd last year, has a major influx of talent this year from 3000 m national record holder and Nike Oregon Project quasi-member Suguru Osako and 2014 Hakone Ekiden Ninth Stage winner Keigo Yano.  With its star recruit last year Akinobu Murasawa showing signs of finally rounding into good form after two years of injury trouble Nissin is looking like the favorite.  Fans will be happy to see Murasawa, Osako, Sato and Yano, all graduates of 2014 National High School Ekiden runner-up Saku Chosei H.S., all on the start list.

The toughest competition for Konica and Nissin from outside East Japan is Chubu region winner Toyota, the 2011 New Year Ekiden champion.  Komazawa University anchor stage specialist Shinobu Kubota joined Toyota this year and has brought it the kind of advantage it needs to improve on its 7th-place finish last year.  Splitting its team into two squads at the Chubu qualifier Toyota's A squad featuring Kubota won by a five-minute margin.  Its B-squad, headed by injured star Chihiro Miyawaki, was good enough for 3rd even though its results did not count in New Year Ekiden qualifying.  With both squads combined and Miyawaki anywhere close to his form over the last two years Toyota would be a major threat to both Konica and Nissin.

Last year's runner-up Toyota Kyushu has picked up Toyo's solid Kento Otsu, but without top two Masato Imai and Ryuji Watanabe finished only 4th at the Kyushu regional qualifier.  If both are back then the Koichi Morishita-coached Toyota Kyushu should be a solid top three contender.

Likewise, 4th-placer Asahi Kasei, on paper the best all-Japanese team, was only 5th in Kyushu and will need things in better alignment to finish near the front of the field again.  But regardless of how AK plays out this time the rest of the field, and AK's current older members, should be worried.  Asahi Kasei has pulled off a recruiting coup and will pull in most of the best members of the 2015 university graduating class including Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.), his twin Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.), twins Hiroshi and Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.), 2014 National University Ekiden stage winners Yuki Arimura (Meiji Univ.) and Shuho Dairokuno (Meiji Univ.) and more.  Nationalistic Asahi Kasei leader Takeshi Soh's fantasy of putting together an all-Japanese team capable of winning the New Year Ekiden before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics looks like it could come true next year just with the incoming new members.

The Honda team picked up two solid recruits this year, Keita Shitara's twin Yuta Shitara and 2013 Hakone Ekiden champion Nittai University captain Shota Hattori and finished 3rd at the East Japan qualifier behind Konica Minolta and Nissin Shokuhin.  Honda assistant coach Satoshi Ogawa tells JRN that Honda's current focus is on the marathon rather than the ekiden, but with even an only decent performance Honda is top five material.  Other top teams include Kansai region winner Otsuka Seiyaku, Chugoku region winner Chugoku Denryoku, Kyushu region winner Kyudenko and Hokuriku region winner YKK.

In terms of individual racing, most of the top Japanese athletes will feature on the 12.3 km First Stage, the 13.6 km Third Stage, and especially the 22.0 km Fourth Stage.  But it's no secret that the best runners in the race will run its shortest leg, the 8.3 km Second Stage to which non-Japanese athletes are restricted.  With a relatively close start after just one stage before them the Second Stage features the likes of sub-27 Kenyans Bedan Karoki (DeNA) and Paul Tanui (Kyudenko), world level medalists Leonard Barsoton (Nissin Shokuhin) and Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu), emerging 1500 m talent Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.) and many, many more, all chasing one another down for the lead and stage best honors.  Look for detailed coverage of this stage and the rest of the race on @JRNLive and here on JRN.  Course details, start lists and more are available here via broadcaster TBS.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Top Ten Japanese Men of 2014

by Brett Larner
click here for Japanese women's 2014 rankings

There was a lot to like in Japanese men's distance running this year, from national records for 3000 m and 50 km and a sensational Hakone Ekiden win to six men sub-28 to a dozen sub-14 high schoolers to university men breaking 61 minutes in the half marathon to ten men running sub-2:10 marathons a total of eleven times.  Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) continued to define his own category, setting a Japanese record with his seventh and eighth career sub-2:10 marathons on the way to totalling thirteen marathons for the year, going sub-2:20 in all of them to break Doug Kurtis' record of twelve.  All of it happening with record-setting depth at all levels, a reflection of how much motivation the 2020 Tokyo Olympics bring to the country's runners.

In preparation for Tokyo the Japanese Federation began a move to close ranks by establishing a National Team training program for its top Olympic marathon contenders, a program that in its first year did not produce the results new Federation marathon boss Takeshi Soh and others hoped for.  One of Japan's best prospects for coming years, Suguru Osako, moved to Oregon after graduating in March to train full-time with Olympic medalists Mo Farah (U.K.) and Galen Rupp (U.S.A.), but most of the corporate league runners showed a strange ineffectuality overseas.  In one string of four major international half marathons in September eleven out of thirteen corporate Japanese men, almost all with 1:01 or 1:02 bests, ran from 1:05 to 1:09, with one running 1:04 and the best just 1:03.  Results at marathons like Berlin and Chicago were not much better and there was not a single gold medal at the Asian Games, showing that for all the developing strength at the younger levels and in domestic races there are still serious problems at the top end in translating that into international competitiveness and professionalism.

Not least of which is awareness of the problem.  Change doesn't come easy in Japan and it may take another generation getting into power in the corporate leagues and Federation for that kind of problem to be resolved, but if any athletes are going to effect that kind of change it may be some of those below who made the Japanese headlines of 2014.  For the second year in a row the list is topped by a university athlete.



1. Kenta Murayama (21, Komazawa Univ.) - 399.9 pts.

5000 m: 13:34.53 - 1st, Golden Games in Nobeoka Heat 1, 5/10/14 - #3 Japanese, 2014
10000 m: 27:49.94 - 4th, Hyogo Relay Carnival Heat 1, 4/20/14 - #3 Japanese, 2014
half-marathon: 1:00:50 - 2nd, Kagawa Marugame Int'l Half Marathon, 2/2/14 - #1 Japanese, 2014, #3 Japanese all-time

Major performances:
2nd, Hakone Ekiden Second Stage (23.2 km), 1/2/14 - 1:08:27
2nd, Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon, 2/2/14 - 1:00:50 - #3 Japanese all-time 
56th, World Half Marathon, 3/29/14 - 1:03:52
4th, Hyogo Relay Carnival Grand Prix 10000 m, 4/20/14 - 27:49.94 
1st, Golden Games in Nobeoka 5000 m, 5/10/14 - 13:34.53
1st, Kanto Regional University Championships D2 10000 m, 5/16/14 - 29:03.22
4th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/7/14 - 28:39.03
2nd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 5000 m, 7/6/14 - 13:39.27
1st, National University Ekiden First Stage (14.6 km), 11/2/14 - 42:58
8th, International Chiba Ekiden First Stage (5.0 km), 11/24/14 - 13:45

Murayama has been one of the most promising young Japanese athletes in recent years even since running sub-29 for 10000 m while in still in high school.  While 2013 was a breakthrough year where he stepped up to the top ranks of Japanese distance running 2014 saw him become its best.  In February just before his 21st birthday he ran 1:00:50 at the Marugame International Half Marathon, #3 on the all-time Japanese lists and the best-ever by a Japanese-born collegiate.  In April he ran 27:49.94, the best of the year by a Japanese collegiate, duplicated that distinction over 5000 m three weeks later with a 13:34.53.  A week later he won the D2 10000 m title at the Kanto Regionals meet, his identical twin brother Kota Murayama (Josai Univ., see below for more) winning the D1 title.  An illness over the summer knocked him off-course for a few months but in November he was part of one of the most exciting ekiden stages in recent years, a head-to-head battle with Kota and Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) on the First Stage of the National University Men's Ekiden that saw Kenta get the win in a photo-finish with Kota and Ichida just a second behind.

On Jan. 2 Murayama will run the Second Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, hoping to get the course record or at least run the fastest time ever by a Japanese athlete.  One month later he will go for the Japanese national record in Marugame, a mark he missed by just 25 seconds last year.  After graduating in March he, Kota, Ichida and Ichida's identical twin Hiroshi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) will all join the Asahi Kasei corporate team led by another great twin in Japanese athletics history, Takeshi Soh.  Murayama has indicated that he plans to stick to the track for Rio and will then think about the marathon.  Whatever else happens, let's hope that the conservative and nationalistic environment at Asahi Kasei doesn't put out the sparks of individuality and fearlessness that set both Murayamas apart from the rest of today's Japanese runners.


2. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (24, Team Asahi Kasei) - 247.5 pts.

5000 m: 13:29.03 - 11th, KBC Nacht, 7/19/14, #2 Japanese, 2014
10000 m: 27:38.99 - 4th, Hachioji Long Distance A-Heat, 11/29/14 - #1 Japanese, 2014, #5 Japanese all-time

Major performances:
1st, New Year Ekiden Third Stage (13.6 km), 1/1/14 - 38:42
5th, Kanaguri Memorial Meet 5000 m, 4/5/14 - 13:54.71
13th, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10000 m, 5/4/14 - 28:05.67 
1st, Golden Games in Nobeoka 5000 m G-heat, 5/10/14 - 14:04.22
1st, Setagaya Time Trials 3000 m, 5/30/14 - 8:07.28
9th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/7/14 - 28:44.34
29th, National Championships 5000 m, 6/8/14 - 14:04.36
2nd, Guldensporenmeeting 1500 m, 7/12/14 - 3:42.21
11th, KBC Nacht 5000 m, 7/19/14 - 13:29.03
4th, National Corporate Championships 5000 m, 10/12/14 - 13:47.15
5th, Kyushu Corporate Ekiden Fifth Stage (9.2 km), 11/23/14 - 27:00
4th, Hachioji Long Distance Time Trials 10000 m, 11/29/14 - 27:38.99

Yoroizaka, a graduate of 2014 National High School Ekiden champion Sera H.S. and the fastest-ever Japanese-born collegiate over 10000 m, started the year off well with a win on his New Year Ekiden stage for the Asahi Kasei corporate team.  For most of the year he was relatively incognito, his only noteworthy mark a 13:29.03 at July's KBC Nacht 5000 m, the 2nd-best Japanese time of the year, before running the best-ever 10000 m by a Japanese man in a domestic race, 27:38.99 for 4th at November's Hachioji Long Distance Time Trials.  With that time Yoroizaka joins the swelling numbers of current Japanese athletes within a few seconds of Toshinari Takaoka's 27:35.09 national record from 2001.  It's got to fall sooner or later and Yoroizaka looks like one of the best bets to get there.


3. Masato Kikuchi (24, Team Konica Minolta) - 181.8 pts.

5000 m: 13:35.18 - 6th, Golden Games in Nobeoka Heat 3, 5/10/14 - #7 Japanese, 2014
10000 m: 28:04.25 - 14th, Hachioji Long Distance A-Heat, 11/29/14 - #9 Japanese, 2014
half-marathon: 1:01:17 - 2nd, National Corporate Championships, 2/16/14 - #2 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
2nd, New Year Ekiden Seventh Stage (15.5 km), 1/1/14 - 47:37
6th, National Men's Ekiden Third Stage (8.5 km), 1/22/14 - 24:00
5th, Marugame International Half Marathon, 2/2/14 - 1:01:50 
2nd, National Corporate Half Marathon, 2/16/14 - 1:01:17
18th, World Half Marathon, 3/29/14 - 1:01:23
6th, Hyogo Relay Carnival Asics Challenge 10000 m, 4/19/14 - 28:32.05 
8th, Oda Memorial Meet Grand Prix 5000 m, 4/29/14 - 13:38.17
6th, Golden Games in Nobeoka 5000 m C-heat, 5/10/14 - 13:35.18
4th, East Japan Corporate Championships 1500 m, 5/17/14 - 3:47.62 
4th, National Championships 5000 m, 6/8/14 - 13:44.43
33rd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Fukagawa Meet 10000 m, 6/25/14 - 29:42.38 
1st, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 1500 m, 7/6/14 - 3:44.21 
3rd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 5000 m, 7/6/14 - 13:40.40
5th, Guldensorenmeeting 1500 m, 7/12/14 - 3:43.52
10th, Great North Run half marathon, 9/7/14 - 1:04:18
19th, Nittai Univ. Time Trials 5000 m, 9/28/14 - 13:59.86
10th, National Corporate Championships 10000 m, 10/10/14 - 28:43.86
2nd, East Japan Corporate Ekiden First Stage (11.6 km), 11/3/14 - 33:31
14th, Hachioji Long Distance Time Trials 10000 m, 11/29/14 - 28:04.25

Kikuchi raced often this year, everything from 1500 m to the half marathon. On Jan. 1 he anchored the Konica Minolta corporate team to a second-straight New Year Ekiden win.  His 1:01:17 runner-up finish at February's National Corporate Half Marathon was the 2nd-fastest of the year by a Japanese man, but his biggest accomplishment was running 1:01:50 two weeks earlier in Marugame before doubling at the Corporate Half time.  To say nothing of running 1:01:23 at the Copenhagen World Half Marathon in March, the best time there by an athlete born outside Africa.  Despite all this he came up short of any really significant accomplishments, winning only one race, a minor 1500 m in July that was just a warmup for a more serious 5000 m at the same meet. 


4. Yuki Sato (28, Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 140.25 pts.

5000 m: 13:34.97 - 6th, Asian Games, 9/27/14 - #5 Japanese, 2014
10000 m: 27:46.59 - 8th, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational, 5/4/14 - #2 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
4th, New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage (22.0 km), 1/1/14 - 1:04:22
4th, Kanaguri Memorial Meet 5000 m, 4/5/14 - 13:53.63 
5th, Nittai Univ. Time Trials 5000 m, 4/13/14 - 13:43.61
8th, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10000 m, 5/4/14 - 27:46.69 
3rd, East Japan Corporate Championships 1500 m, 5/17/14 - 3:47.35
8th, East Japan Corporate Championships 5000 m, 5/18/14 - 13:57.85
1st, National Championships 10000 m, 6/7/14 - 28:32.07
2nd, National Championships 5000 m, 6/8/14 - 13:40.99
19th, KBC Nacht 5000 m, 7/19/14 - 13:59.67
6th, Asian Games 5000 m, 9/27/14 - 13:34.97

Sato's year got off to a slow start, injury problems keeping him out of February's Tokyo Marathon and his track season unremarkable except for an unexpected 27:46.69 at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational.  In June he won a 4th-straight national title in the 10000 m, for the 3rd-straight year doing it by sitting on the younger Suguru Osako (Team Nissin Shokuhin/Waseda Univ.) until the final 200 m.  Each of those 10000 m title has been slower, something Sato seemed aware of as he appeared almost defensive in his victory interview.  He doubled back the next day with a 2nd-place finish in the 5000 m, but at the Asian Games he was spent after a season-best 13:34.97 for 6th and did not start in the 10000 m.  Since then he has been out of public sight, but he is reportedly in good shape for the New Year Ekiden where his Nissin Shokuhin teammates include fellow Saku Chosei H.S. graduates Osako, Akinobu Murasawa and Keigo Yano.  Look for Nissin Shokuhin to have a solid shot at taking down Konica Minolta.


5. Suguru Osako (23, Team Nissin Shokuhin/Waseda Univ.) - 116.25 pts.

5000 m: 13:26.15 - 9th, KBC Nacht, 7/19/14 - #1 Japanese, 2014
10000 m: 28:11.94 - 2nd, Asian Games, 10/2/14 - #10 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
5th, Hakone Ekiden First Stage (21.4 km), 1/2/14 - 1:02:14
4th, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 1500 m, 5/4/14 - 3:43.19 
2nd, National Championships 10000 m, 6/7/14 - 28:33.57 
2nd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Shibetsu Meet 5000 m, 6/28/14 - 13:42.54
2nd, Runnersworld Track Meeting 3000 m, 7/11/14 - 8:02.11
9th, KBC Nacht 5000 m, 7/19/14 - 13:26.15
7th, Birmingham Grand Prix 2 Miles, 8/24/14 - 8:28.30 - all-time JPN #2
6th, Rieti Meeting 3000 m, 9/7/14 - 7:40.09 - NR
2nd, Asian Games 10000 m, 10/2/14 - 28:11.94 

Osako has been in an ambiguous position for the last two years, training on and off with the Nike Oregon Project without being a full member, signing with the Nissin Shokuhin corporate team after his graduation from Waseda University this year but moving to the U.S. to be with the NOP closer to full-time, returning to run with Nissin just for the biggest races like the New Year Ekiden where he will make his debut in 2015.  He seemed to come up short of his biggest goals, losing to Sato the same way yet again just a week after tweeting that watching Galen Rupp set a U.S. record at the Prefontaine Classic had shown him the need to change and not keep doing things the same way.  In July he ran the best 5000 m of the year by a Japanese man, 13:26.15, following up with an all-time Japanese #2 8:28.30 two-mile in August, a 7:40.09 national record for 3000 m in September, and a silver medal over 10000 m at October's Asian Games.  More national records, especially Takaoka's 10000 m mark, can't be far away.


6. Sota Hoshi (26, Team Fujitsu) - 96 pts.

5000 m: 13:38.46 - 6th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet, 7/2/14 - #11 Japanese, 2014
half-marathon: 1:01:18 - 3rd, National Corporate Championships, 2/16/14 - #3 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
2nd, New Year Ekiden Third Stage (13.6 km), 1/1/14 - 38:46
6th, National Men's Ekiden Seventh Stage (13.0 km), 1/22/14 - 38:03
3rd, National Corporate Half Marathon, 2/16/14 - 1:01:18 
53rd, World Half Marathon, 3/29/14 - 1:03:29
10th, Oda Memorial Meet Grand Prix 5000 m, 4/29/14 - 13:48.12
3rd, Golden Games in Nobeoka 10000 m, 5/10/14 - 28:50.53
6th, National Championships 5000 m, 6/8/14 - 13:46.28
25th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Fukagawa Meet 10000 m, 6/25/14 - 29:08.92 
2nd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Shibetsu Meet 1500 m, 6/28/14 - 3:49.79
6th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet 5000 m, 7/2/14 - 13:38.46
3rd, East Japan Corporate Ekiden Sixth Stage (10.6 km), 11/3/14 - 30:12

Last year's 5000 m national champion in a photo-finish with Yoroizaka, Komazawa University graduate Hoshi started the year off with a close loss to Yoroizaka at the New Year Ekiden and another near-photo-finish at the National Corporate Half Marathon where he was 3rd behind Kikuchi in 1:01:18, the year's 3rd-best Japanese time.  The rest of his year was relatively unremarkable, but a 3rd-place finish on his stage at November's East Japan Corporate Ekiden suggested he is rounding back into good shape in time for the New Year Ekiden.  Part of an untouchable quartet at Komazawa with Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei), Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota) and Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta), Hoshi was all but forgotten after senior year injuries kept him off the scene for too long.  It's long been a pet JRN belief that in the end he will have had the best career of the four, and 2014 was another step toward seeing that become a reality.


7. Kohei Matsumura (28, Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 88 pts.

marathon: 2:08:09 - 8th, Tokyo Marathon, 2/23/14 - #1 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
14th, New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage (22.0 km), 1/1/14 - 1:05:31
8th, Tokyo Marathon, 2/23/14 - 2:08:09 
3rd, Golden Games in Nobeoka 5000 m B-heat, 5/10/14 - 13:48.14
7th, Kyushu Corporate Championships 10000 m, 5/17/14 - 28:38.80
23rd, National Championships 10000 m, 6/7/14 - 28:57.18
20th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Fukagawa Meet 10000 m, 6/25/14 - 28:55.29 
2nd, Asian Games Marathon, 10/3/14 - 2:12:39
7th, Kyushu Corporate Ekiden Fifth Stage (9.2 km), 11/23/14 - 27:17
15th, Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler, 12/7/14 - 46:47

Little-known but making steady progress in the marathon, Matsumura ran the fastest time in the world in 2014 by a non-African when he took 8th at the Tokyo Marathon in 2:08:09.  He made a quick recovery and showed stability through track season before turning to October's Asian Games marathon where he took silver in a three-way sprint finish, losing to Kenyan-born Bahraini Ali Hassan Mahboob but beating notable strong finisher Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't).  Younger than many of the other current-top level Japanese men, Matsumura looks like one of the top contenders for the Rio Olympic team.


8. Yuki Yagi (25, Team Asahi Kasei) - 80.25 pts.

5000 m: 13:37.25 - 2nd, Golden Games in Nobeoka Heat 1, 5/10/14 - #9 Japanese, 2014
half-marathon: 1:01:37 - 5th, National Corporate Championships, 2/16/14 - #4 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
18th, New Year Ekiden Second Stage (8.3 km), 1/1/14 - 23:20
82nd, Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon, 2/2/14 - 1:05:21
5th, National Corporate Half Marathon, 2/16/14 - 1:01:37
2nd, Kanaguri Memorial Meet 5000 m, 4/5/14 - 13:48.12 
8th, Hyogo Relay Carnival Asics Challenge 10000 m, 4/19/14 - 28:42.36 
2nd, Golden Games in Nobeoka 5000 m, 5/10/14 - 13:37.25
10th, Kyushu Corporate Championships 10000 m, 5/17/14 - 28:51.84
32nd, Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, 9/21/14 - 1:09:03
15th, National Corporate Championships 10000 m B-heat, 10/10/14 - 29:35.70
16th, National Corporate Championships 5000 m B-heat, 10/12/14 - 14:17.88
5th, Kyushu Corporate Ekiden Third Stage (10.5 km), 11/23/14 - 30:02
48th, Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler, 12/7/14 - 47:56

A former star member of Waseda University before heading to the Asahi Kasei corporate team, Yagi was mostly off in 2014 but had a brief window from February through May where he turned in strong half marathon and 5000 m performances that got him onto the year's best lists.  With a 1:01:37 best at February's Marugame Half he ran only 1:09:03 for 32nd the Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon in September.  By December his condition had still not improved as he was 48th at the Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler in 47:56. With a massive influx of top-level Hakone talent like the Murayama twins and Ichida twins arriving at Asahi Kasei in April Yagi will need to turn things back around to keep his contract beyond next year.


9. Hiroto Inoue (21, Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 79.2 pts.

5000 m: 13:42.74 - 5th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet, 7/6/14 - #22 Japanese, 2014
10000 m: 28:19.28 - 1st, Kanto Region University Time Trials A-Heat, 11/23/14 - #16 Japanese, 2014
half-marathon: 1:01:39 - 3rd, Kagawa Marugame Int'l Half Marathon, 2/2/14 - #5 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
8th, Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage (23.4 km, 864 m climb), 1/2/14 - 1:21:11
3rd, Marugame International Half Marathon, 2/2/14 - 1:01:39 
36th, World Half Marathon, 3/29/14 - 1:02:25 
8th, Hyogo Relay Carnival Grand Prix 10000 m, 4/20/14 - 28:23.34 
2nd, Kanto Regional University D1 10000 m, 5/16/14 - 28:55.87
1st, Kanto Regional University D1 Half Marathon, 5/25/14 - 1:04:07
20th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/7/14 - 28:54.86
5th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 5000 m, 7/6/14 - 13:42.74
13th, National University Championships 10000 m, 9/5/14 - 29:45.88
5th, Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km, 10/18/14 - 59:25
3rd, National University Ekiden Fourth Stage (14.0 km), 11/2/14 - 41:28
1st, Kanto Region University Time Trials 10000 m, 11/23/14 - 28:19.28

The top Japanese member of Yamanashi Gakuin University, Inoue's 1:01:39 for 3rd in Marugame was lost in the excitement over Kenta Murayama's 1:00:50, but at the World Half Inoue was strong again, running 1:02:25 to Murayama's 1:03:52.  In May he lost to Kota Murayama in the Kanto Regionals 10000 m D1 race, 2nd in 28:55.87, but came back to win the D1 half marathon.  With two quality runs during ekiden season he ran a 10000 m best of 28:19.28 in late November to put himself into good position for his final Hakone Ekiden.


10. Shinobu Kubota (23, Team Toyota/Komazawa Univ.) - 77 pts.

5000 m: 13:41.14 - 8th, Oda Memorial Meet Heat 1,  4/29/14 - #19 Japanese, 2014
10000 m: 27:54.25 - 8th, Hachioji Long Distance A-Heat, 11/29/14 - #4 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
2nd, Hakone Ekiden Ninth Stage (23.2 km), 1/3/14 - 1:08:56
11th, National Men's Ekiden Seventh Stage (13.0 km), 1/22/14 - 38:11 
9th, Kumanichi 30 km Road Race, 2/16/14 - 1:33:17 
9th, Oda Memorial Meet Grand Prix 5000 m, 4/29/14 - 13:41.14
4th, Chubu Corporate Championships 10000 m, 5/11/14 - 28:43.03
8th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/7/14 - 28:44.34
16th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Fukagawa Meet 10000 m, 6/25/14 - 28:47.85
7th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 10000 m, 7/6/14 - 28:05.08 
1st, Chubu Corporate Ekiden Seventh Stage (13.1 km), 11/16/14 - 38:02
8th, Hachioji Long Distance Time Trials 10000 m, 11/29/14 - 27:54.25

An anchor stage specialist while at Komazawa University, Kubota headed to the Toyota corporate team after graduating in April.  Decent through track season as he made the transition to the new environment, he hit ekiden season with an anchor stage win at the Chubu Corporate Ekiden and his first sub-28 with a 27:54.25 at the Hachioji Long Distance Time Trials meet.  Having already run a marathon his junior year at Komazawa and a 30 km as a senior look for him to make an early move in that direction while at Toyota.


Honorable Mention Hyuga Endo (16, Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.)

5th, Nittai Univ. Time Trials 5000 m, 12/7/14 - 13:58.93 - #1 all-time Japanese 16-yr-old time

Endo was one of a dozen or so high schoolers to break 14 minutes for 5000 m this year, doing it at the final Nittai Univ. Time Trials meet of the year on Dec. 7.  What made it news was that Endo was only 16, running a 36-second PB of 13:58.93 to clock the fastest-ever time by a Japanese 16-year-old.  JRN readers picked Endo's run as the Japanese men's distance performance of the year.

Honorable Mention  Kota Murayama (21, Josai Univ.)

1st, Kanto Regional University Championships D1 10000 m, 5/16/14 - 28:54.85
2nd, National University Championships 1500 m, 9/5/14 - 3:39.56 - #1 Japanese, 2014, all-time #9 Japanese
5th, Asian Games 5000 m, 9/27/14 - 13:34.57 - #4 Japanese, 2014
1st, Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km, 10/18/14 - 58:26
2nd, National University Ekiden First Stage (14.6 km) - 42:58

Always in the shadow of his twin Kenta, Kota Murayama stepped out this year with a string of performances that deserve special mention.  Alongside Kenta's D2 win at May's Kanto Regionals meet Kota took the D1 title in 28:54.85.  In one six-week period in the fall he ran the fastest Japanese 1500 m time of the year, 3:39.56, was the top non-African-born athlete in the Asian Games 5000 m in a PB 13:34.57, and ran the best-ever Japanese time at the Hakone Ekiden 20 km qualifier to win in 58:26.  His battle with Kenta and Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) on the First Stage of the National University Ekiden, discussed above, was one of the year's highlights.  Kota has been slower to develop than Kenta but looks like he's going at full speed now.  Look out for more.

Honorable Mention Yuma Hattori (21, Toyo Univ.)

1st, Kumanichi Road Race 30 km, 2/2/14 - 1:28:52 - CR - collegiate NR, #3 Japanese all-time

One of the top members of 2014 Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University, the 20-year-old Hattori delivered JRN's pick for Japanese men's performance of the year at February's Kumanichi 30 km with a collegiate record performance 1:28:52, the 3rd-fastest time ever by a Japanese man.  Having never even run a half marathon he split 58:52 through 20 km, recording almost identical 5 km splits to the lead group at the simultaneous National Corporate Half Marathon where Kikuchi and Hoshi both went under 1:01:20.  Look for Hattori to make an early marathon debut at age 21 at the 2015 Tokyo Marathon.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

The Top Ten Japanese Women of 2014

by Brett Larner
click here for 2014 men's rankings

Back in 2010 JRN interviewed Tsutomu Akiyama, one of the people originally responsible for bringing Kenyans into the high school and collegiate running circuits.  One of the topics at the time was the then-recent move towards restricting non-Japanese athletes to the shortest stages in ekidens to minimize their impact on the races, and in particular the implications for women's running, where at the National Corporate Women's Ekiden African athletes run only 3.6 km instead of the longest stage, 10.9 km, where all the best Japanese athletes run.  At the time Akiyama said,
"That kind of idea of restricting runners is incredibly wrong. It’s going to lead to a weaker environment for Japanese women. If we bring a slower runner from Kenya and they train together with the Japanese runners, all the Japanese runners will get stronger from having a more competitive attitude. With just a 3 km stage it’s the same thing as saying, “Well, there’s no need for you to be in Japan.” More than the men, I think the [African] women are going to disappear. So what is the future for Japanese distance running?  In terms of Japanese athletes, at the interprefectural or junior high school level they are still improving, but otherwise it’s at a standstill. I don’t think it’s going to get better. It’s going to get weaker, in my opinion."
2014 saw things moving steadily in that direction, with outstanding results at the younger end of the spectrum and a further fall in quality among the country's pro marathoners.  16-year-old Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) ran a PB of 9:01.58 to win the Youth Olympics gold medal and was only the third-fastest Japanese high school girl of the year, all three within two seconds of the best Kenyan high schooler in Japan, Mariam Waithera (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) with a best of 8:59.60.  Five teams at the National High School Ekiden had better average 3000 m times than the best U.S. university women's teams.  19-year-old Reia Iwade (Team Noritz) ran a 2:27:12 marathon debut.

At the same time only one woman, Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) broke 1:10 for the marathon.  The fastest marathon of the year, 2:25:26 by Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) in Nagoya, would barely have cracked the top ten just three years ago.  The average of the ten fastest women's times, 2:26:26 was one of the slowest in the last 15 years, and relative to the average of the ten fastest times in the world each year it was the slowest since 1989, a full 25 years ago and 2 years before Sachiko Yamashita's silver medal at the Tokyo World Championships marked the beginning of modern Japanese women's marathoning.  In other words, since they became world class Japanese women have never been further behind the rest of the world than they are now.

It's not entirely due to the dwindling numbers of African women based in Japan, but as Akiyama suggests it's not unrelated.  It's also likely that the success at the junior level is having on impact on longevity, with a seemingly increasing number of high school stars disappearing or retiring before they ever develop into marathoners or even fully-fledged track runners at the pro level.  Hitomi Niiya's way too soon retirement announcement at the beginning of the year was only the most evident example of 2014.  So while there was no shortage of promise this year there's no way around the fact that it's a tough time for Japanese women's distance running with no obvious way out.  The ten athletes and two honorable mentions below were some of those who lit the way for those looking for one.



1. Ayumi Hagiwara (22, Team Uniqlo) - 432 pts.

5000 m: 15:21 - 1st, Matsue Ladies' Road Race, 3/16/14 - #3 Japanese, 2014
10000 m: 31:41.80 - 2nd, National Corporate Championships, 10/10/14 - #1 Japanese, 2014
half-marathon: 1:10:17 - 1st, Matsue Ladies' Road Race, 3/16/14 - #4 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
1st, Matsue Ladies' Half Marathon, 3/16/14 - 1:10:17 
2nd, Hyogo Relay Carnival Grand Prix 10000 m, 4/20/14 - 31:50.85 
2nd, Nittai Univ. Time Trials 5000 m, 4/26/14 - 15:55.98
3rd, East Japan Corporate Championships 10000 m, 5/17/14 - 32:50.22
5th, East Japan Corporate Championships 5000 m, 5/18/14 - 15:55.34
3rd, National Championships 10000 m, 6/6/14 - 32:41.56
1st, Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet 5000 m, 7/2/14 - 15:33.71 
DNF, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 5000 m, 7/6/14
3rd, Asian Games 10000 m, 9/27/14 - 31:55.67 
2nd, National Corporate Championships 10000 m, 10/10/14 - 31:41.80 
3rd, National Corporate Championships 5000 m, 10/12/14 - 15:24.56
3rd, East Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage (12.2 km), 11/3/14 - 40:35
1st, International Chiba Ekiden Sixth Stage (7.195 km), 11/24/14 - 23:02 
3rd, National Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage (10.9 km), 12/14/14 - 34:59 (CR)

After a breakthrough run at last year's Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational Hagiwara had a big year in 2014, starting off with a 1:10:17 win at March's Matsue Ladies' Half Marathon where her mid-race 15:21 5 km surge ranked as one of the best Japanese women's 5000 m times of the year, and going on to make the top three in every race she ran for the rest of 2014 except for a 5th place finish in May's East Japan Corporate Championships the day after placing 3rd in the 10000 m and a DNF at July's Hokuren Distance Challene Abashiri Meet.  She didn't win much, only taking the top spot at the Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet 5000 m and on the anchor stage at November's International Chiba Ekiden besides her Matsue title, but her the quality of her times and stability over distances from 5000 m to the half marathon and in championship situations including a 10000 m bronze medal at the Asian Games gave her the #1 ranking for the year among Japanese women.  And with an entertaining personality she stands to pick from Hitomi Niiya (Team Univ. Ent.), Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) and Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) as the media favorite among Japanese best women.


2. Tomomi Tanaka (26, Team Daiichi Seimei) - 285.6 pts.

10000 m: 32:29 - 1st, National Corporate Championships, 2/16/14, #25 Japanese, 2014
half-marathon: 1:09:24 - 1st, National Corporate Championships, 2/16/14 - #1 Japanese, 2014
marathon: 2:26:05 - 5th, Nagoya Women's Marathon, 3/9/14 - #4 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
8th, National Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage (10.0 km), 1/12/14 - 32:52
1st, National Corporate Half Marathon, 2/16/14 - 1:09:24 
5th, Nagoya Women's Marathon, 3/9/14 - 2:26:05
7th, Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, 9/21/14 - 1:12:05
1st, East Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Fifth Stage (10.0 km), 11/3/14 - 33:51
1st, Yokohama International Women's Marathon, 11/16/14 - 2:26:57
2nd, National Corporate Women's Ekiden Fifth Stage (10.0 km), 12/14/14 - 32:49

Tanaka won her second National Corporate Half Marathon title in February, at 1:09:24 the only Japanese woman of the year to break 70 minutes.  Although ranked #1 for the Copenhagen World Half Marathon team she bowed out of consideration in favor of making her marathon debut at March's Nagoya Women's Marathon where she got off to a decent start by taking 5th in 2:26:05.  Her follow-up at September's Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon was only lukewarm, but in her 2nd marathon she won the final edition of November's Yokohama International Women's Marathon in 2:26:57.  A few years ago those times would not have made the top ten for the year for Japanese women, but given the current state of things Tanaka ended the year ranked 4th in the marathon with a stable record and room for improvement.


3. Kasumi Nishihara (25, Team Yamada Denki) - 154 pts.

5000 m: 15:29.02 - 1st, National Sports Festival, 10/18/14 - #7 Japanese, 2014
10000 m: 31:53.69 - 3rd, Hyogo Relay Carnival, 4/20/14 - #2 Japanese, 2014

Other major performances:
3rd, National Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage (10.0 km), 1/12/14 - 32:22
1st, National Corporate 10 km Road Race, 2/16/14 - 32:27 
3rd, Hyogo Relay Carnival Grand Prix 10000 m, 4/20/14 - 31:53.69 
2nd, Oda Memorial Meet Grand Prix 5000 m, 4/29/14 - 15:31.28
9th, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10000 m, 5/4/14 - 32:09.84
1st, East Japan Corporate Championships 5000 m, 5/18/14 - 15:32.55
1st, National Championships 10000 m, 6/6/14 - 32:37.23
14th, National Championships 5000 m, 6/8/14 - 16:00.49
1st, Gunma Championships 5000 m, 6/28/14 - 16:14.02 - MR
8th, Asian Games 10000 m, 9/27/14 - 32:41.49 
13th, National Corporate Championships 5000 m, 10/12/14 - 15:47.72 
1st, National Sports Festival 5000 m, 10/18/14 - 15:29.02
10th, East Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden First Stage (6.795 km), 11/3/14 - 22:17
11th, National Corporate Women's Ekiden Second Stage (3.9 km), 12/14/14 - 12:41

Nishihara, the road 10 km national record holder, had a very strong first half of the year, running the second-fastest 10000 m time of the year, 31:53.69, at April's Hyogo Relay Carnival and winning the National Corporate Road 10 km, East Japan Corporate 5000 m and National 10000 m titles before having problems over the summer.  With the exception of a 15:29.02 win at October's National Sports Festival she didn't reach the same level during the fall, finishing 8th in the Asian Games 10000 m and in the double digits in the rest of her races.  Her corporate team Yamada Denki was a favorite to win December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden but with Nishihara at far less than 100%, 11th on the second-shortest stage of the race, the team took only 3rd.


4. Yuka Takashima (26, Team Denso) - 147.5 pts.

5000 m: 15:31.66 - 1st, Nittai Univ. Time Trials Heat 5, 11/15/14 - #8 Japanese, 2014
10000 m: 31:55.81 - 1st, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet, 7/6/14 - #3 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
2nd, Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden Fifth Stage (11.7 km), 1/19/14 - 37:57
1st, Kumanichi 30 km Road Race, 2/16/14 - 1:44:19 
9th, Hyogo Relay Carnival Grand Prix 10000 m, 4/20/14 - 32:26.50 
1st, Chubu Corporate Championships 10000 m, 5/10/14 - 33:28.14
7th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/6/14 - 32:45.24
1st, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 10000 m, 7/6/14 -31:55.81
4th, National Corporate Championships 10000 m, 10/10/14 - 31:56.81 
1st, Central Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage (10.2 km), 10/19/14 - 32:54 - CR
1st, Nittai Univ. Time Trials 5000 m, 11/15/14 - 15:31.66
1st, National Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage (10.9 km), 12/14/14 - 34:40 - CR

Takashima didn't get much attention this year but was consistently outstanding, winning six out of her ten main races including February's Kumanichi 30 km road race and setting stage records at both the Central Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden and the National Corporate Women's Ekiden.  At the latter she ran 34:40 for 10.9 km, breaking 5000 m and half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi's course record by 24 seconds and running the equivalent to a world-class 31:48 road 10 km time at a flat conversion.


5. Riko Matsuzaki (22, Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 138.6 pts.

5000 m: 15:18.95 - 5th, Asian Games, 10/2/14 - #2 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
10th, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 5000 m, 5/4/14 - 15:22.67
3rd, East Japan Corporate Championships 3000 m, 5/18/14 - 9:17.10 
8th, National Championships 5000 m, 6/8/14 - 15:41.12
3rd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet 3000 m, 7/2/14 - 9:06.95
3rd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 5000 m, 7/6/14 - 15:36.65
5th, Asian Games 5000 m, 10/2/14 - 15:18.95
5th, East Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage (12.2 km), 11/3/14 - 40:40
3rd, East Japan Women's Ekiden First Stage (6.0 km), 11/9/14 - 19:06
19th, National Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage (10.9 km), 12/14/14 - 36:58

Matsuzaki was another runner who flew under the radar throughout 2014, steadily turning in quality performances without really shining.  Her best run of the year came at October's Asian Games where she took 5th in 15:18.95, a four-second PB and the second-best Japanese women's time of the year.  Her season ended on a down note as she was only 19th on the National Corporate Women's Ekiden's most competitive stage, but look for more from her in 2015.


6. Ryoko Kizaki (29, Team Daihatsu) - 130 pts.

half-marathon: 1:12:30 - 2nd, Asian Games, 10/2/14 - #25 Japanese, 2014
marathon: 2:25:26 - 3rd, Nagoya Women's Marathon, 3/9/14 - #1 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
1st, National Women's Ekiden First Stage (4.0 km), 1/12/14 - 12:40 - CR
3rd, Nagoya Women's Marathon, 3/9/14 - 2:25:26 
14th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet 5000 m, 7/2/14 - 15:57.92 
2nd, Asian Games Marathon, 10/2/14 - 2:25:50
1st, West Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Sixth Stage (6.495 km), 10/26/14 - 20:27 - CR
1st, National Corporate Women's Ekiden Fifth Stage (10.0 km), 12/14/14 - 32:47

Kizaki didn't race much in 2014 but when she did she was almost always on.  She won all three ekiden stages she ran, setting course records on two, ran the fastest Japanese women's marathon time of the year, 2:25:26, while finishing 3rd at the Nagoya Women's Marathon in March, and pushed the tempo near PB pace after a slow start to take silver at the Asian Games marathon in an exciting run.  It says a good deal about the state of today's Japanese women's marathoning that in 2011 Kizaki's Nagoya time would have been #9 among Japanese women, but for what things are now she is the best Japan has.


7. Risa Takenaka (24, Team Shiseido) - 128 pts.

10000 m: 32:07.08 - 3rd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet, 7/6/14 - #9 Japanese, 2014
half-marathon: 1:10:10 - 2nd, National Corporate Championships, 2/16/14 - #3 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
2nd, National Corporate Half Marathon, 2/16/14 - 1:10:10
17th, World Half Marathon, 3/29/14 - 1:10:30 
13th, Hyogo Relay Carnival Grand Prix 10000 m, 4/20/14 - 32:40.23 
5th, East Japan Corporate Championships 10000 m, 5/17/14 - 33:10.21
17th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/6/14 - 33:39.89
11th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet 5000 m, 7/2/14 - 15:55.38 
3rd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 10000 m, 7/6/14 -32:07.08
7th, Great North Run Half Marathon, 9/7/14 - 1:11:11 
11th, National Corporate Championships 10000 m, 10/10/14 - 32:32.58 
12th, East Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage (12.2 km), 11/3/14 - 42:34

Takenaka, a former star runner at the dynastic Ritsumeikan University, didn't have a great year but turned in some quality performances when they counted.  In her half marathon debut at February's National Corporate Half Marathon she aggressively attacked past champion Tomomi Tanaka, only fading near the end to take 2nd in 1:10:10.  Six weeks later she followed up with a 1:10:30 at the World Half Marathon Championships before going through a rocky track season.  In the summer she got back on track with a 32:07.08 for 3rd at the Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 10000 m in preparation for September's Great North Run half marathon, where she was 7th in 1:11:11.  Takenaka's ekiden season did not go well, with the once-strong Shiseido corporate team failing to qualify for December's National Championships.  Takenaka now plans to make her marathon debut in Nagoya in March.


8. Rina Yamazaki (26, Team Panasonic) - 127.05 pts.

5000 m: 15:38.88 - 2nd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet, 7/2/14 - #23 Japanese, 2014
10000 m: 31:56.11 - 3rd, National Corporate Championships, 10/10/14 - #4 Japanese, 2014
half-marathon: 1:10:45 - 4th, National Corporate Championships, 2/16/14 - #8 Japanese, 2014

Other major performances:
4th, National Corporate Half Marathon, 2/16/14 - 1:10:45
48th, World Half Marathon, 3/29/14 - 1:14:20 
11th, Hyogo Relay Carnival Grand Prix 10000 m, 4/20/14 - 32:36.62 
17th, Gold Games in Nobeoka 5000 m, 5/10/14 - 16:24.90
7th, East Japan Corporate Championships 5000 m, 5/18/14 - 15:58.25
1st, Nittai Univ. Time Trials 3000 m, 6/14/14 - 9:24.59
1st, Hokuren Distance Challenge Fukagawa Meet 10000 m, 6/25/14 - 32:17.25 
1st, Hokuren Distance Challenge Shibetsu Meet 3000 m, 6/28/14 - 9:21.18 
2nd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet 5000 m, 7/2/14 - 15:38.88
7th, Nittai Univ. Time Trials 5000 m, 9/27/14 - 15:47.00
3rd, National Corporate Championships 10000 m, 10/10/14 - 31:56.11
1st, East Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Third Stage (12.2 km), 11/3/14 - 40:22
1st, Fukui Super Ladies Ekiden First Stage (6.55 km), 11/9/14 - 20:58
9th, National Corporate Women's Ekiden First Stage (7.0 km), 12/14/14 - 22:38

Yamazaki was one of the most prolific and successful racers among Japanese women this year, making the Copenhagen World Half Marathon team off a 1:10:45 4th-place finish at the National Corporate Half Marathon and winning five of her nine races over distances from 3000 m to 12.2 km from June through December.  Along with 2014 Gold Coast Airport Marathon winner Asami Kato she was one of the driving forces behind the Panasonic corporate team this year.


9. Ayuko Suzuki (23, Team JP Post/Nagoya Univ.) - 126 pts.

5000 m: 15:14.96 - 2nd, National Corporate Championships, 10/12/14 - #1 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
3rd, National Women's Ekiden First Stage (6.0 km), 1/12/14 - 19:22
1st, Nittai Univ. Time Trials 3000 m, 9/27/14 - 8:58.08
2nd, National Corporate Championships 5000 m, 10/12/14 - 15:14.96
1st, International Chiba Ekiden Second Stage (5.0 km), 11/24/14 - 15:21
7th, Nittai Univ. Women's Long Distance Time Trials 10000 m, 12/20/14 - 33:23.48

The star runner at Nagoya University, Suzuki made the transition from collegiate to corporate running this year when she joined the brand-new Japan Post team after her graduation in March.  In her first major race for JP she rocked a 8:58.08 at the September edition of the Nittai Univ. Time Trials series, the first Japanese woman to break nine minutes for 3000 m in over six years and just missing the all-time Japanese top ten.  In her next race she took 2nd at the National Corporate Championships 5000 m in 15:14.96, the best time of 2014 by a Japanese woman.  With the new JP team not yet fielding enough member to run ekidens Suzuki's only appearance on the ekiden circuit came at November's International Chiba Ekiden where she won the 5.0 km Second Stage in 15:21.  The only blemish on her year was at December's Nittai Univ. Women's Long Distance Time Trials 10000 m where she ran only 33:23.48 for 7th, but given the miserable freezing rain conditions there not too much should be made of it.  Suzuki is a major talent to look out for in the buildup to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.


10. Kayoko Fukushi (32, Team Wacoal) - 120 pts.

half-marathon: 1:10:04 - 6th, Berlin Marathon, 9/28/14 - #2 Japanese, 2014
marathon: 2:26:25 - 6th, Berlin Marathon, 9/28/14 - #5 Japanese, 2014

Major performances:
2nd, National Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage (10.0 km), 1/12/14 - 31:59
14th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 10000 m, 7/6/14 -32:48.87
6th, Berlin Marathon, 9/28/14 - 2:26:25


Multiple national record holder Fukushi wasn't very active in 2014, a 2nd-place finish on her stage at January's National Women's Ekiden and a forgettable 14th-place finish in the Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet 10000 m in July her only significant runs before a shot at sub-2:20 at the Berlin Marathon in September.  Toting a large entourage in Berlin, Fukushi started off well enough, her halfway split of 1:10:04 the second-best half marathon of the year by a Japanese woman, but she wore down quickly in the second half to finish 6th in 2:26:25.  Even that far off her target, Fukushi's Berlin time was the 5th-best Japanese women's time of 2014.  In the fall she suffered a minor stress fracture that kept her out of ekiden season, announcing that she would skip the Beijing World Championships in favor of focusing on trying to put in a world-class marathon time.


Honorable mention: Reia Iwade (20, Team Noritz)

3rd, Yokohama International Women's Marathon, 11/16/14 - 2:27:14 - under-20 Japanese NR

Iwade ran 1:09:45 at the Sanyo Ladies' Half Marathon two weeks after her 19th birthday in December, 2013 to make the Copenhagen World Half team, announcing that she wanted to run her marathon debut before she turned 20.  She lived up those words at November's Yokohama International Women's Marathon, looking very strong, very determined and outright fearless as she took 3rd in 2:27:14, an under-20 Japanese national record.  How that is going to play out for her long-term remains to be seen, but Iwade's Yokohama run was good enough to be voted the Japanese women's long distance performance of the year by JRN readers.


Honorable mention: Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu (17, Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.)

1st, World Youth Olympics 3000 m, 8/25/14 - 9:01.58 - PB
4th, World Junior Championships 3000 m, 7/24/14 - 9:02.85 (PB)


Just 16 year old, Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. star Takamatsu went up against world-class competition including American Mary Cain at July's World Junior Championships in the 3000 m, where despite turning in a six-second PB of 9:02.85 Takamatsu was only 4th.  Fueled by that disappointment, a week before her 17th birthday Takamatsu ran another PB a month later to win the 3000 m gold medal at the World Youth Olympics in 9:01.58, over three seconds clear of the field.  Takamatsu later helped Osaka Kunei win its first National High School Ekiden title, making her one of the most important Japanese runners of her generation.  And there's more where she came from: her younger sister Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu, an 8th-grader at Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin J.H.S., won the 3.0 km Third Stage at January's National Women's Ekiden in 9:23.  Look for her to join Nozomi at Osaka Kunei H.S. in April.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, December 26, 2014

13 in '14: Kawauchi On the Edge of Uncharted Territory

by Brett Larner

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) came into 2014 off a legendary year that saw him set 3 world records, running 2:09 marathons 14 days apart, 2:08 marathons 42 days apart and 4 sub-2:10 marathons within one calendar year.  His main goals for 2014 were clear enough: a sub-2:08 and a gold medal at October's Asian Games.  And, not content with 11 marathons last year, this year he turned it up to 13, going sub-2:20 in all of them to surpass American great Doug Kurtis' best of 12. Italian Giorgio Calcaterra ran 16 sub 2:20 marathons in 2000, but only 6 were sub-2:17.  All 13 of Kawauchi's cleared 2:17, 9 of them faster than Calcaterra's 2000 best of 2:13:15.


Kawauchi started off with the race he identified as his best of the year, a solo 2:10:14 course record at the amateur-level Kumamoto-jo Marathon without pacers, competitors or special drinks.  Running by feel he went far faster than planned, an effort that he paid for 2 weeks later at the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon where he ran only 2:10:38, but the experience gave him the confidence that he could run 2:09 completely on his own.  Based more on his 2013 season than on these results, he was chosen as one of the 12 members of the Federation's new National Team training program.

Two more course record wins at amateur races, one including a 3-minute pit stop, led him on to his first sub-2:10 of the year with a 2:09:36 time trial effort in Hamburg with support from JRN to work out the problems he has had dealing with jet lag.  Along with clearing that goal his Hamburg performance was doubly significant, giving him a Japanese record seventh career sub-2:10 and, for the second year in a row, the fastest Japanese overseas time of the year.

After a second-straight course record win at the gravel road Chitose JAL International Marathon Kawauchi ran a 2:47:27 national best for 50 km, a distance for which there is no official national record but still one of the best times ever run for that distance worldwide, at the hilly and hot Okinoshima Ultramarathon.  Expressing his sharp sense of humor within the constraints of his art he followed up 2 weeks later by winning the Saitama Prefecture 1500 m title on the track.

A favorite to join Japan's 5-man sub-2:10 overseas win club when he returned to July's Gold Coast Airport Marathon, Kawauchi suffered some bad luck with a nasty fall near halfway but gutted his way back into a 3rd-place finish in 2:11:27.  The next month he was back in Australia with a course record win at the Perth City to Surf Marathon before heading to the National Team training camp in Hokkaido where he was obliged to run a 40 km time trial just 9 days after Perth.  Curiously, nearly half of the other National Team members were allowed to skip the run.  Kawauchi finished 2nd in 2:14:52, outkicked by rival Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) near the end and showing no qualms about sharing his opinion of the time trial, Federation and the other National Team members with the media.

Kawauchi was the favorite at October's Asian Games and went in saying that if he did not win gold he would not try for a place on the 2015 World Championships team.  Despite both this and the rest of the field keying off him he was strangely passive throughout the race.  With his experience at Kumamoto-jo and elsewhere behind him he could easily have taken the reins and forced the pace, but instead he stayed doggedly behind Kenyan Bahraini Aadam Ismail Khamis no matter how slow the pace got and entirely missed the larger threat posed by debuting Kenyan Bahraini Ali Hassan Mahboob.  Mahboob duly took advantage of the slow race to outkick both Kawauchi and the year's fastest non-African Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) on the track for gold.  It might not have ended up differently if he'd tried to run like at Kumamoto-jo, but Kawauchi's reluctance to take control suggested some further unresolved problems.

A month later again with support from JRN he did take control of a slower race, but the NYPD evidently had other ideas.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are six.







After this incident Kawauchi lost the lead he was building, ultimately ending up with his worst result of the year, an 11th-place finish in 2:16:41.  Imai, who outkicked Kawauchi at the National Team time trial, also made a break for it later in the race but escaped the close attention of New York's finest.

Bouncing back with the third-fastest half marathon of his career, a 1:02:55 at the Ageo City Half Marathon, Kawauchi set two more course records at amateur marathons, living up to his pre-Asian Games vow not to try for the World Championships team by skipping the Fukuoka International Marathon for the first time in his career.  His season-ender in Hofu was set up as a shot at 2:07, but cold weather, poor pacemaking and again a reluctance to take control of a race that was slower than planned meant only ("only") a 2:09:46 win, the only one of his eight marathon victories of 2014 that was not a course record but putting him further ahead in the record books as his eighth career sub-2:10.

What lies ahead?  Kawauchi's first marathon of 2015 is scheduled to be the Ibusuki Nanohana Marathon in Kagoshima.  It's an important race.  If he runs under 2:16 he will tie Ethiopia great Abebe Mekonnen's world records for most sub-2:17 and sub-2:16 marathons.  From there it's uncharted territory where truly no one has ever gone, each race in 2015 taking him closer to Mekonnen's other records, to the sub-2:18 record held by Sweden's Kjell-Erik Stahl, and to what may be the end of the line for his record-setting, the sub-2:11 record of 18 currently jointly held by Lee-Bong Ju (South Korea) and Tsegay Kebede (Ethiopia).  February will see Kawauchi attempt marathons on consecutive weekends for the first time with a course record shot at the elite Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon on Feb. 8 followed by another at the amateur-level Kochi Ryoma Marathon on Feb. 15.  He currently plans to run at least 6 international marathons in 2015 including a return to the race where he ran his current PB of 2:08:14, March's Seoul International Marathon, for a more serious bid at 2:07.  And, at year's end, a single shot at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic team in Fukuoka.

Longer term, it's noteworthy that this year saw Kawauchi starting to talk about the end.  In Hamburg for the first time he indicated that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are not a primary goal, saying that while he hopes to run 100 marathons by Tokyo he thinks Rio and the 2017 London World Championships will be his peak as an athlete, maybe 3 more years at his current rate, that he could see the scenario where his motivations may change after Rio and that making national teams may no longer be a priority.  Time goes by quickly.  There's no question what Kawauchi's strengths are, but he has until next December to work out some of the weaknesses that came to the surface this year.

Yuki Kawauchi's complete 2014 race results.  Click any race for reports, videos, photos and detailed results:

Jan. 12: Tanigawa Mari Half Marathon, Tokyo: 1:04:17, 2nd
Jan. 19: Okukuma Road Race half marathon, Kumamoto: 1:03:40, 2nd
Jan. 26: Okumusashi Ekiden Fifth Stage (5.294 km), Saitama: 14:42, 1st
Feb. 2: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (11.9 km), Saitama: 36:13 - CR, 1st
Feb. 9: Karatsu Road Race 10-miler, Saga: 47:28 - PB, 4th
Feb. 16: Kumamoto-jo Marathon, Kumamoto: 2:10:14 - CR, 1st
Mar. 2: Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, Shiga: 2:10:38, 4th
Mar. 9: Nagoya City Half Marathon, Nagoya: 1:04:17, 2nd
Mar. 16: Saitama City Half Marathon, Saitama: 1:04:49, 1st
Mar. 23: Ogori Road Race half marathon, Fukuoka: 1:05:21 - CR, 1st
Mar. 30: Incheon International Half Marathon, South Korea: 1:06:04, 5th
Apr. 6: Sakura Marathon, Saga: 2:13:02 - CR, 1st
Apr. 13: Yaizu Minato Half Marathon, Shizuoka: 1:04:19, 9th
Apr. 20: Tokushima Marathon, Tokushima: 2:15:25 - CR, 1st
Apr. 26: Nittai University Time Trials 1500 m Heat 11, Kanagawa: 3:54.87, 12th
May 4: Hamburg Marathon, Germany: 2:09:36, 9th
May 11: Sendai International Half Marathon, Sendai: 1:03:23, 4th
May 18: Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon, Gifu: 1:03:48, 11th
May 25: Kahoku Shinpo Kinshuko 30 km Road Race, Iwate: 1:34:01 - CR, 1st
June 1: Chitose JAL International Marathon, Hokkaido: 2:15:57 - CR, 1st
June 8: Muse no Mori Challenge Road Race 10 km, Saitama: 32:29, 1st (paced three 1.5 km children's races prior to 10 km)
June 15: Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon, Shimane: 2:47:27 - NR, 1st
June 29: Saitama Track and Field Championships 1500 m, Saitama
                 Semi-final: 3:55.18 - 1st
                 Final: 3:56.48 - 1st
July 6: Gold Coast Airport Marathon, Australia: 2:11:27 - 3rd
July 27: Kushiro Shitsugen 30 km, Hokkaido: 1:33:49 - 1st
Aug. 3: Nihonkai Melon Half Marathon, Akita: 1:06:28 - 1st
Aug. 17: Hoppo Ryodo Nosappu Misaki Half Marathon, Hokkaido: 1:06:12 - 1st
Aug. 31: Perth City to Surf Marathon, Australia: 2:12:55 - CR, 1st
Sept. 9: Marathon National Team 40 km Time Trial, Hokkaido: 2:14:52 - 2nd
Sept. 21: Tazawako 20 km Road Race, Akita: 1:01:43 - CR, 1st
Oct. 3: Incheon Asian Games Marathon, South Korea: 2:12:42 - 3rd
Oct. 12: Kitami Half Marathon, Hokkaido: 1:04:33 - CR, 1st
Oct. 19: Chiba Aqualine Half Marathon, Chiba: 1:04:22 - CR, 1st
Nov. 2: TCS New York City Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:16:41 - 11th
Nov. 16: Ageo City Half Marathon, Saitama: 1:02:55, 10th
Nov. 23: Fukuchiyama Marathon, Kyoto: 2:12:59 - CR, 1st
Nov. 29: Hasuda Road Race 3 km, Saitama: 8:47 - 1st
Nov. 30: Koedo Kawagoe Half Marathon, Saitama: 1:03:39 - 2nd
Dec. 7: Naha Marathon, Okinawa: 2:13:43 - CR, 1st
Dec. 21: Hofu Yomiuri Marathon, Yamaguchi: 2:09:46 - 1st
Dec. 31: Cursa dels Nassos 10 km, Spain: 30:30 - 12th

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved