Friday, October 30, 2015

Unable to Achieve Olympic Dream, Track Star Mitsuya Finds New Life as Paralympic Pacer

http://www.nishinippon.co.jp/nnp/f_toshiken/article/203976

translated and edited by Brett Larner

A former Japanese national representative at the World Championships is getting ready to take on his second marathon.  Injuries having forced him into retirement at just age 30, this time he will be running in a new role.  With two World Championships appearances on the track behind him, Yu Mitsuya will run the Nov. 8 Fukuoka Marathon as a guide runner for blind marathoner Misato Michishita, 38, already named as a member of the women's marathon team for next year's Rio de Janeiro Paralympics.  "I want to be a source of strength that will help Michishita on her road to Rio," Mitsuya said.

A native of Kagawa prefecture, Mitsuya emerged as a star in high school before joining the Toyota Kyushu corporate team after graduating in 2003.  At Toyota Kyushu he was coached by Barcelona Olympics marathon silver medalist Koichi Morishita and trained alongside future Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru, with whom he became close friends.  In 2005, paced by Wanjiru, he ran the then-fastest-ever 10000 m on Japanese soil by a Japanese man, 27:41.10, before running at the Helsinki World Championships.  Two years later he ran 13:18.32 for 5000 m, still the fastest-ever time by a Japanese man inside Japan, before his second national team appearance at the Osaka World Championships.

But in his debut marathon at the 2010 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, aiming to win, Mitsuya faded late in the race and fell to 9th place in 2:12:59.  "It wasn't so easy," he said.  Achilles tendon pain he experienced from overuse increased year by year and, unable to achieve his dream of making this Olympics, he retired in February this year just after his 30th birthday.

Mitsuya's involvement with with Michishita as a pacer came about in late March when a member of the Toyota Kyushu booster club asked him to run with her.  Having worked with blind children during his career to share the joy of running with them, he didn't hesitate to say yes.  His first meeting with Michishita came a month later.  "I want to go to Rio," she told him bluntly, her straightforwardness about her dreams resonating with Mitsuya and stirring within him memories of his old self.

The pair began training for the Fukuoka Marathon together in October in Fukuoka's Ohori Park, united by a 45 cm loop of red rope.  Mitsuya found the job full of unexpected challenges and questions.  "Is my arm swing getting in her way?  Am I properly communicating with her?"  With an offer to run Fukuoka as a special guest Michishita chose to use it as a stepping stone in her preparations for Rio, and Mitsuya fully dedicated himself to making sure she would be able to give it her utmost.  "He's a perfect guide runner," said Michishita.  "I don't sense his presence at all and it feels like I am running alone.  When I'm getting tired and my form is breaking down he gives me accurate advice.  I trust him completely."

Mitsuya hasn't neglected the training he himself needs to do to finish the 42.195 km distance.  "This is my guide runner debut," he said.  "I want to do an impeccable job."  The Olympic dreams of a champion still burning inside him, he is looking forward to next weekend's starting gun.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Aoyama Gakuin Ready to Break Four-Time National Champion Komazawa - National University Men's Ekiden Championships Preview

by Brett Larner



After record-setting races at the Izumo Ekiden and Hakone Ekiden Qualifier earlier this month, university men’s ekiden season keeps rolling with the weekend’s biggest race, the second of the Big Three University Ekidens, Sunday’s National University Men’s Ekiden Championships. Defending champion Komazawa University returns with four-straight titles and twelve wins in the last seventeen years behind it, but even Komazawa head coach Hiroaki Oyagi admits that this is Aoyama Gakuin University’s year.

Aoyama Gakuin ended last season with a course record-breaking win at the Hakone Ekiden and has only gotten stronger since then, all in line with head coach Susumu Hara’s long-term development plan for Aoyama Gakuin to become the best in Japan this season with the full maturing of his core group of seniors. At the Oct. 12 Izumo Ekiden Aoyama Gakuin ran six seconds faster than Komazawa’s course record despite a 600 m longer course, effectively two minutes faster minus the extra section on one stage, and without the runner who gave them the Hakone record, captain Daichi Kamino.

Izumo had six stages with an average length of 7.5 km and maxing at 10.2 km. The National University Ekiden has eight stages averaging 13.4 km and a 19.7 km anchor stage that approaches the kind of half marathon distances that make up Hakone and the focus of Japanese university men’s training. Where Izumo was short and fast, Nationals requires more of a balance between 10000 m speed and half marathon stamina. With Kamino back at the top of its entry list Aoyama Gakuin dominates in both.

Top 12 team entry lists.  6 teams have 8-man 5000 m averages under 14:00, 5 have 8-man 10000 m averages under 29:00 and 3 have 8-man half marathon averages under 1:03:00.  Click to enlarge.

Aoyama Gakuin's best eight men average 28:47.29 for 10000 m and an incredible 1:02:25 for the half marathon, far ahead of Komazawa and every other school, and still with four quality alternates to back up the main lineup. Only three teams have ever won the Big Three in a single season and only Waseda University has ever done it with course records at all three. At Nationals it’s not a question of whether Aoyama Gakuin will win, but how much they are going to take off the 5:12:43 course record Komazawa set in 2012. If every team member runs up to potential the numbers say 5:11:49. From there Aoyama Gakuin’s own Hakone record awaits.

Komazawa has a solid shot for 2nd with its main challenger being Waseda. Waseda has a slight advantage on paper with stronger half marathon credentials, but at Izumo it lacked captain Koki Takada and most of its other best were sub-par. Combined with Komazawa’s superiority over 10000 m Waseda will need a perfect day to outrun Komazawa, who will need more than a perfect day to challenge Aoyama Gakuin. Toyo University and Tokai University are ranked 4th and 5th, the same places they finished in Izumo and with a similar margin.

The seeded bracket, guaranteeing a return trip to Nationals in 2016, runs six-deep, and Izumo runner-up Yamanashi Gakuin University occupies the #6 pre-race ranking with a small margin of safety. Yamanashi Gakuin’s success at Izumo came in large part thanks to a soaringly brilliant anchor run from first-year Dominic Nyairo, a sub for ailing fourth-year Enock Omwamba. Despite Nyairo’s lack of experience over longer distances the lack of sub-1:03 half marathoners in Yamanashi Gakuin’s current roster means head coach Masahito Ueda will probably run him on the 19.7 km anchor stage. If he handles it like he did Izumo look for Yamanashi Gakuin to finish much higher than 6th. If not, three more schools, Meiji University, Nihon University, and Juntendo University will be there to pick up the slack.

Because the sheer scale of Hakone prestige draws so much high school talent to the Kanto Region universities it’s very unusual to see a school from anywhere else in the country make even the top ten at Nationals. The Kansai Region’s Kyoto Sangyo University pulled it off in Izumo, taking 10th with cross-town rival Ritsumeikan University 19 seconds back in 11th, but coming into Nationals ranked 16th and 17th it will be tough for either to match Kyoto Sangyo’s 12th-place finish last year.  New on the entry list this year, the National University Select Team features Kansai Region half marathon record holder Kentaro Hirai (Kyoto Univ.) and strong Kanto Region runners Sho Tokunaga (Chuo Univ.) and Kenta Muto (Kokushikan Univ.).

The National University Men’s Ekiden Championships will be broadcast live nationwide on TV Asahi starting at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1. Look for full results and exclusive coverage on JRN post-race.

47th National University Men’s Ekiden Championships Entry List
Nagoya-Ise, 11/1/15
27 teams, 8 stages, 106.8 km
click here for complete entry lists and running order

Komazawa University (Tokyo, Kanto)
Meiji University (Tokyo, Kanto)
Aoyama Gakuin University (Tokyo, Kanto)
Toyo University (Saitama, Kanto)
Yamanashi Gakuin University (Yamanashi, Kanto)
Tokai University (Kanagawa, Kanto)
Sapporo Gakuin University (Hokkaido)
Tohoku University (Iwate, Tohoku)
Chuo Gakuin University (Chiba, Kanto)
Nihon University (Tokyo, Kanto)
Kanagawa University (Kanagawa, Kanto)
Waseda University (Tokyo, Kanto)
Teikyo University (Tokyo, Kanto)
Juntendo University (Chiba, Kanto)
Nittai University (Kanagawa, Kanto)
Daito Bunka University (Saitama, Kanto)
Koku Gakuin University (Tokyo, Kanto)
Shinshu University (Nagano, Hokushinetsu)
Gifu Keizai University (Gifu, Tokai)
Ritsumeikan University (Kyoto, Kansai)
Kyoto Sangyo University (Kyoto, Kansai)
Kwansei Gakuin University (Hyogo, Kansai)
Kansai University (Osaka, Kansai)
Hiroshima Keizai University (Hiroshima, Chugoku-Shikoku)
Daiichi Kogyo University (Kagoshima, Kyushu)
National University Select Team
Tokyo Region University Select Team

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dennis Kimetto Leads Fukuoka Field (updated)

by Brett Larner

The Dec. 6 Fukuoka International Marathon, not to be confused with the mass-participation Fukuoka Marathon four weeks earlier despite its URL, has wheeled out the elite field for this year's race, the first Japanese trials race for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic team.  World record holder Dennis Kimetto (Kenya) will be in town for a late-season payday after dropping out of this summer's Beijing World Championships, facing sub-2:06 men Bernard Koech (Kenya) and Getu Feleke (Ethiopia) and Fukuoka's last three winners Patrick Makau (Kenya), Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel).

Running five weeks after his third shot at the TCS New York City Marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) leads the Japanese field along with fellow 2:08 runner Koji Kobayashi (Team Subaru) and 2:09 former National Team member Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei).  Sub-2:06:30 is the time the JAAF is dictating for auto selection to the Rio team, but the solid pack of runners at the 2:08 to 2:10 level indicates the more likely place to expect whoever the first Japanese man across the line ends up being.  Realistically whoever comes through as the top Japanese man will be awaiting the outcome of the spring's Tokyo Marathon and Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon trial races to know his fate. 

For his part, Kawauchi has said publicly that he will not be aiming to be top Japanese man, but to win outright.  As shown by the scandalous omission of 2014 Yokohama International Women's Marathon winner Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) from the Beijing team this year, even that may not be enough to please the powers that be.

Fukuoka International Marathon Elite Field
Fukuoka, 12/6/15
click here for detailed field listing
times listed are 2013-2015 best marks except where noted

Dennis Kimetto (Kenya) - 2:02:57 (Berlin 2014)
Bernard Koech (Kenya) - 2:04:53 (Dubai 2013)
Getu Feleke (Ethiopia) - 2:05:41 (Vienna 2014)
Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:07:16 (Fukuoka Int'l 2013)
Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:08:14 (Seoul Int'l 2013)
Amanuel Mesel (Eritrea) - 2:08:17 (Valencia 2013)
Patrick Makau (Kenya) - 2:08:22 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Serhiy Lebid (Ukraine) - 2:08:32 (Seoul Int'l 2014)
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:08:50 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Koji Kobayashi (Japan/Subaru) - 2:08:51 (Tokyo 2014)
Joseph Gitau (Kenya/JFE Steel) - 2:09:00 (Fukuoka Int'l 2013)
Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza) - 2:09:18 (Tokyo 2015)
Satoru Sasaki (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:47 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe) - 2:09:52 (Prague 2014)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:03 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Kenichi Shiraishi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:36 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Hiroki Kadota (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:10:46 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Dylan Wykes (Canada) - 2:10:47 (Rotterdam 2012)
Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:11:15 (Tokyo 2013)
Chris Thompson (Great Britain) - 2:11:19 (London 2014)
Kazuki Tomaru (Japan/Toyota) - 2:11:25 (Berlin 2014)
Yoshiki Otsuka (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 2:11:40 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Paulo Roberto Paula (Brazil) - 2:11:40 (Moscow World Championships 2013)
Ryoichi Matsuo (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:11 (Nobeoka 2014)
Masashi Hayashi (Japan/Yakult) - 2:12:17 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Shota Yamaguchi (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:13:13 (Nagano 2015)
Etsu Miyata (Japan/Saitama T&F Assoc.) - 2:14:09 (Nobeoka 2013)
Yuri Chechun (Russia) - 2:14:10 (Kazan 2015)
Dmitriy Safronov (Russia) - 2:14:16 (Kazan 2015)
Makoto Harada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:14:40 (Tokyo 2013)
Samuel Tsegay (Eritrea) - 2:14:41 (Moscow World Championships 2013)
Yasushi Yamamoto (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:15 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Saeki Makino (Japan/DNPL Ekiden Team) - 2:15:22 (Seoul 2015)
Jose Amado Garcia (Guatemala) - 2:15:52 (Torreon 2012)
Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) - 2:22:34 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Universal Entertainment Wins New-Format National Corporate Women's Ekiden Qualifier

by Brett Larner



While the university women's ekiden circuit continues to expand, the corporate women's calendar faced another cutback this year.  From roughly a half dozen corporate league regions, each of which holds a separate New Year Ekiden national corporate men's championships qualifying ekiden in November, corporate women's teams had already seen their regional qualifiers compressed to three qualifying races, West Japan, Central Japan and East Japan.  This year those three races were further combined into a single qualifying race in Munakata, Fukuoka with 24 teams competing for 14 "princess" places at next month's National Corporate Women's Ekiden alongside the seeded top 8 "queens" from last year's Nationals.

From the East Japan region, Universal Entertainment took the top position in 2:17:02 for 42.195 km in 6 stages, leading from the Second Stage to the end with stage bests from second runner Tomoka Kimura and fifth runner Mirai WakuSekisui Kagaku, also from East Japan, led on the First Stage thanks to Beijing World Championships 5000 m runner Misaki Onishi but spent most of the rest of the race in 2nd where it finished in 2:18:10.  Qualifying for Nationals for the first time, Japan Post Group made it an East Japan sweep of the top 3 thanks to a brilliant 32:13 win on the 10.3 km Third Stage from Onishi's Beijing teammate Ayuko Suzuki that saw Japan Post move up from 19th to 4th.  By race's end Japan Post had a solid grasp on 3rd in 2:19:49, and after outrunning multi-national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) for the stage win in spectacular style Suzuki had a likewise solid grasp on the title of Japan's next big hope.



Most teams finishing from 4th through 12th were lumped together in two groups, but some of the best racing happened further back around the Nationals cutoff line between 14th and 15th.  At the handoff to the anchor only 5 seconds separated the Sysmex, Shiseido, Juhachi Ginko and Toto teams.  A strong run from Juhachi Ginko's Yuka Koga put them up safely into 11th, while Shiseido dropped out of the fold into 16th as its anchor Mutsumi Ikeda struggled.  Sysmex and Toto were left racing each other for the last two qualifying spots, 13th and 14th, but behind them, starting 40 seconds behind in 18th, Canon AC Kyushu anchor Yuka Takemoto was tearing through the field.  Catching first the Edion team, then Otsuka Seiyaku, then Shiseido, Takemoto closed on Sysmex's Rui Nishida and Toto's Ayame Kazu in the last kilometer.  Nishida managed to stay ahead for 13th in 2:21:45 but in the final straight Takemoto came up almost even with Kazu.  After running the second-fastest time on her stage to get there it looked like Takemoto might succeed in taking Canon to Nationals, but Kazu summoned up just enough of a kick to hang on to 14th in 2:21:49, Takemoto just 1 second behind and out of the qualifying bracket in 2:21:50.  Many of the smaller teams' fortunes rest on making the national championship ekidens, so that single second was full of meaning for the Canon runners.

Princess Ekiden
National Corporate Women's Ekiden Qualification Race
Munakata, Fukuoka, 10/25/15
24 teams, 6 stage, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Overall Results - top 14 qualify for National Corporate Women's Ekiden
1. Universal Entertainment (East Japan) - 2:17:02
2. Sekisui Kagaku (East Japan) - 2:18:10
3. Japan Post Group (East Japan) - 2:19:49
4. Tenmaya (Chugoku) - 2:20:04
5. Noritz (Kansai) - 2:20:08
6. Route Inn Hotels (East Japan) - 2:20:11
7. Hitachi (East Japan) - 2:20:23
8. Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo (East Japan) - 2:20:42
9. Wacoal (Kansai) - 2:20:58
10. Hokuren (East Japan) - 2:21:10
11. Juhachi Ginko (Kyushu) - 2:21:19
12. Panasonic (East Japan) - 2:21:22
13. Sysmex (Kansai) - 2:21:45
14. Toto (Kyushu) - 2:21:49
-----
15. Canon AC Kyushu (Kyushu) - 2:21:50
16. Shiseido (East Japan) - 2:22:04

Individual Stage Results
First Stage - 7.0 km
1. Misaki Onishi (Sekisui Kagaku) - 22:50
2. Saori Noda (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 22:53
3. Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) - 22:55

Second Stage - 4.0 km
1. Tomoka Kimura (Universal Entertainment) - 12:37
2. Risa Kikuchi (Hitachi) - 12:43
3. Chiaki Morikawa (Starts)

Third Stage - 10.3 km
1. Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post Group) - 32:13
2. Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal) - 32:22
3. Miho Shimizu (Hokuren) - 32:48

Fourth Stage - 3.8 km
1. Pauline Kamulu (Route Inn Hotels) - 11:39
2. Doricah Obare (Hitachi) - 11:53
3. Felista Wanjugu (Universal Entertainment) - 11:59

Fifth Stage - 10.4 km
1. Mirai Waku (Universal Entertainment) - 34:51
2. Sayaka Kuwahara (Sekisui Kagaku) - 35:25
3. Misato Horie (Noritz) - 35:48

Sixth Stage - 6.695 km
1. Miho Ihara (Sekisui Kagaku) - 21:40
2. Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu) - 21:47
3. Mizuho Nasukawa (Universal Entertainment) - 21:48

2015 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships Field
Denso
Daihatsu
Yamada Denki
Toyota Jidoshokki
Daiichi Seimei
Kyudenko
Uniqlo
Shimamura
Universal Entertainment
Sekisui Kagaku
Japan Post Group
Tenmaya
Noritz
Route Inn Hotels
Hitachi
Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo
Wacoal
Hokuren
Juhachi Ginko
Panasonic
Sysmex
Toto

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Kosgei and Damantsevich Win Osaka Marathon

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/20151025-OYT1T50034.html

translated by Brett Larner

Daniel Kosgei (Kenya) won the fifth running of the Osaka Marathon on Sunday, running 2:13:46 for the 42.195 km course.  Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) was 2nd in 2:15:32.  In the women's race, Maryna Damantsevich (Belarus) won in a 2:32:28 course record with Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) 2nd in 2:37:48.  Temperatures were 19 degrees Celsius with 39% humidity and 1.3 m/s easterly winds.

5th Osaka Marathon
Osaka, 10/25/15
click here for top results

Men
1. Daniel Kosgei (Kenya) - 2:13:46
2. Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:32
3. Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/Team NTN) - 2:15:35
4. Sho Matsumoto (Team Nikkei Business) - 2:16:28
5. Yuko Matsumiya (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:16:40

Women
1. Maryna Damantsevich (Belarus) - 2:32:28 - CR
2. Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) - 2:37:48
3. Yumiko Kinoshita (Second Wind AC) - 2:38:17
4. Chika Tawara (Kyushu E-Runners) - 2:39:44
5. Yoshiko Sakamoto (Mie T&F Assoc.) - 2:44:46

Ritsumeikan Dominates With Record-Setting Fifth-Straight National University Women's Ekiden Win

by Brett Larner

Four-time defending National University Women's Ekiden champion Ritsumeikan University delivered one for the record books, winning a fifth-straight title Sunday in Sendai as it broke the 38.0 km course record in 2:02:52.  With all six of its runners winning their individual stages including a 29:24 record for the 9.2 km Fifth Stage from Kotona Ota, the sheer quality of Ritsumeikan's win had fans talking on social media about the need for ekiden terminology like baseball's no-hitters and perfect games.  Regardless, this was about as dominant a performance as you could hope to see in an ekiden, every team member hitting it 100% running entirely alone with an unbreakable lead.

Last year's runner up Daito Bunka University was 2nd again after a great battle throughout the race with Kanto Region rival Nittai University and Aichi's Meijo University, one of only two schools to crack Ritsumeikan in the last 12 years.  But despite good performances from most of its runners, in particular its Fifth Stage ace Sakurako Fukuuchi, Daito Bunka was simply no match for Ritsumeikan as it finished nearly a kilometer behind in 2:05:40.  Matsuyama University came up late in the race to overtake Nittai and Meijo for 3rd in 2:06:24, with less than a minute and a half separating them from 8th-place Kansai University.  Fukuoka University was the unlucky 9th-placer, shut out of the 8-deep seeded bracket for next year's Nationals in 2:08:57.

Like recent Hakone Ekiden-winning teams Aoyama Gakuin University and Toyo University, the Ritsumeikan women were so dominant that there is little doubt they would be solid contenders against the best of the corporate leagues in December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden.  Probably not much doubt about how they would do in the NCAA XC Championships next month either.  Look for Ritsumeikan to clean up at the year-ending Mt. Fuji University Women's Ekiden and beyond.

National University Women's Ekiden Championships
Sendai, Miyagi, 10/25/15
26 teams, 6 stages, 38.0 km
complete results coming shortly

Overall Results - top 8 seeded for 2016
1. Ritsumeikan University (Kyoto) - 2:02:52 - CR
2. Daito Bunka University (Saitama) - 2:05:40
3. Matsuyama University (Ehime) - 2:06:24
4. Nittai University (Kanagawa) - 2:06:28
5. Meijo University (Aichi) - 2:06:35
6. Osaka Gakuin University (Osaka) - 2:07:18
7. Tokyo Nogyo University (Tokyo) - 2:07:46
8. Kansai University (Osaka) - 2:07:53
-----
9. Fukuoka University (Fukuoka) - 2:08:57
10. Josai University (Saitama) - 2:09:20

Individual Stage Results
First Stage - 6.4 km
1. Natsuki Omori (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 20:42
2. Moeno Shimizu (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 20:49
3. Ami Hirose (Kansai Univ.) - 20:51

Second Stage - 5.6 km
1. Kureha Seki (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 17:45
2. Rina Koeda (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 18:16
3. Maho Shimizu (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 18:17

Third Stage - 6.8 km
1. Ena Kagayama (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 21:58
2. Fuyuka Kimura (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 22:14
3. Yuri Karasawa (Nittai Univ.) - 22:26

Fourth Stage - 4.8 km
1. Ai Ikemoto (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:47
2. Soyoka Segawa (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 16:03
3. Karin Yasumoto (Nittai Univ.) - 16:04

Fifth Stage - 9.2 km
1. Kotona Ota (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 29:24 - CR
2. Sakurako Fukuuchi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 30:13
3. Honoka Yuzawa (Meijo Univ.) - 30:15

Sixth Stage - 5.2 km
1. Yukari Wada (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 17:16
2. Kimiko Sato (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 17:28
3. Shiho Yahagi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 17:36

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Ritsumeikan Set to Make it Five-Straight - National University Women's Ekiden Championships Preview

by Brett Larner



With the men's Big Three University Ekiden season well underway, Japan's university women kick off their own Big Three this Sunday at Sendai's Morinomiyako Ekiden, the National University Women's Ekiden Championships. With six stages totalling 38.0 km, a longest stage of 9.2 km, 26 teams from across the country and a live nationwide broadcast on NTV Morinomiyako is similar in scale to the men's season-opening Izumo Ekiden.

Defending champion Ritsumeikan University of Kyoto comes in ranked #1 again with four-straight national titles and nine wins in the last twelve years.  With the #1 and #3 ranked runners in the field, third-year Natsuki Omori and second-year Kotona Ota, and the fastest top-six 5000 m average, 15:45.73, there is almost no chance Ritsumeikan will lose.  The last team to beat them, 2009-2010 national champion and crosstown Kyoto rival Bukkyo University, has long since faded from glory with the departure of head coach Kenichi Morikawa for the Yamada Denki corporate team.  The only other team to beat Ritsumeikan in the last decade, Nagoya's Meijo University, is ranked #5 with a top-six average of 15:57.91, meaning it's up to some newer blood to take them on.

2015 National University Women's Ekiden Championships top 12 rankings. Click to enlarge.

Last year runner-up Daito Bunka University of Saitama gave Ritsumeikan a run for it, finishing just 21 seconds back.  This year Daito Bunka looks almost equally strong with a top-six average of 15:51.04, but just eclipsing them is Kanagawa's Nittai University, winner of last month's Kanto Region qualifier.  Nittai has a top-six average of 15:50.61, enough to put them in range of Ritsumeikan alongside Daito Bunka should anything go wrong up front, and Morinomiyako's longest stage being 9.2 km it could come down to 10000 m credentials in a race for 2nd.  Nittai's best woman, second-year Yuri Karasawa, has run 33:03.25, while Daito Bunka third-year Fuyuka Kimura has run 33:02.54.  It's just too close to call, but the joint Nittai and Daito Bunka chase after Ritsumeikan should be the highlight of the race.  And with four of Nittai's top six being first-years they may be at the start of a progression that could see them topple the Ritsumeikan dynasty two or three years down the road.  Rounding out the five schools with sub-16:00 top-six averages, Ehime's #4-ranked Matsuyama University 15:57.11 top-six average sets it up for another good race against #5-ranked Meijo.

The top eight at Morinomiyako are seeded for the following year, meaning they don't have to run September's regional qualifiers.  With a top-six average of 16:07.54 Tokyo Nogyo University looks like a lock for a seeded finish at #6, but the 7th through 12th-ranked teams including last year's third-placer Osaka Gakuin University are all close at the 16:12-16:18 level.  Between Josai University (Saitama), Kansai University (Osaka), Juntendo University (Chiba), Toyo University (Saitama), Kanoya Taiiku University (Kagoshima) led by 2015 National University 10000 m champion Rina Nabeshima, and #12-ranked Osaka Gakuin likewise led by 2015 National University 5000 m champion Sakie Arai, any two of them could take the final seeded places in 7th and 8th.

By comparison, in the NCAA where university women spend the fall season focusing on 6 km cross-country, almost identical in distance to Morinomiyako's 6.33 km average stage length, 2014 NCAA XC national champion Michigan State University had a top-six average of 16:11.16 at the time of its win, putting it right in with the group of six Japanese schools contending for 7th and 8th place.

The Morinomiyako Ekiden will be broadcast live nationwide on NTV starting at noon on Sunday, October 25.  Check back on JRN for results and report post-race.

Morinomiyako Ekiden
33rd National University Women's Ekiden Championships Entry List
Sendai, Miyagi, 10/25/15 
click here for complete field listing

1. Ritsumeikan University (Kyoto)
2. Daito Bunka University (Saitama)
3. Osaka Gakuin University (Osaka)
4. Matsuyama University (Ehime)
5. Kanoya Taiiku University (Kagoshima)
6. Kyoto Sangyo University (Kyoto)
7. Meijo University (Aichi)
8. Fukuoka University (Fukuoka)
9. Hokusho University (Hokkaido)
10. Tohoku Fukushi University (Miyagi)
11. Ishinomaki Senshu University (Miyagi)
12. Nittai University (Kanagawa)
13. Tokyo Nogyo University (Tokyo)
14. Juntendo University (Chiba)
15. Hakuoh University (Tochigi)
16. Josai University (Saitama)
17. Toyo University (Saitama)
18. Niigata Iryo Fukushi University (Niigata)
19. Chukyo University (Aichi)
20. Kansai University (Osaka)
21. Bukkyo University (Kyoto)
22. Kansai Gaikokugo University (Osaka)
23. Kobe Gakuin University (Hyogo)
24. Toa University (Yamaguchi)
25. Meio University (Okinawa)
26. Tohoku Region University Select Team

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Why Tokyo Kokusai University's First-Ever Ekiden Tasuki Will Be Deep Blue When it Makes Hakone Debut

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/feature/hakone/20151018-OHT1T50196.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Oct. 17 at the 92nd Hakone Ekiden qualifier 20 km road race in Tachikawa, Tokyo, Tokyo Kokusai University finished 9th to make Hakone for the first time in its short five-year existence.  On Oct. 18th head coach Shuji Oshida, 53, revealed that the color of the team's first-ever tasuki [sash] will be Deep Blue, a term also meaning konjo, symbolizing pure guts and spirit.  Like the fearless Dokonjo Gaeru [Big Guts Frog] anime character, these Dokonjo Runners will target making the seeded top ten in their Hakone debut.

The morning after achieving its historic accomplishment of making the sport's biggest stage in their school's 50th anniversary year, the runners gathered to make even bigger plans.  Meeting at 10 a.m. at the team's training facility in Sakado, Saitama, they listened as coach Osuda told them with conviction and a grin, "We're the 19th-ranked team, but we have a chance to make the seeded bracket.  Your New Year's journey to Hakone is yet to come."

The team's tasuki, the heart and soul of the ekiden, is already ready.  Immediately after the team secured its qualification, Tokyo Kokusai University president Nobuyasu Kurata presented them with a blue tasuki.  "This color shall be known as Deep Blue, a term also meaning courage and spirit," he told them, his face profoundly serious.

Aoyama Gakuin University Fresh Green, Komazawa University Wisteria, Toyo University Iron Blue, Waseda University Scarlet.  Each of the powerhouse schools' tasuki color is synonymous with its name.  Deep Blue is also known as Prussian Blue, the name associated with Yamanashi Gakuin University.  In its fifth year as a program this ascendant team is ready to take its first step to carve a place in Hakone history for Tokyo Kokusai University Deep Blue.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Naoko Takahashi Named New Chairperson of Olympic Organizing Committee Athletes' Commission

http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXLSSXK10569_Z11C15A0000000/

translated by Brett Larner

On Oct. 19 a number of sources confirmed that 2000 Sydney Olympics women's marathon gold medalist and former world record holder Naoko Takahashi, 43, was named the new chairperson of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizing committe's Athletes' Commission, charged with presenting athletes' opinions and needs to the event organizers.  The committee promoted Takahashi following the resignation of current chairperson and 1988 Seoul Olympics men's swimming gold medalist Daichi Suzuki after his appointment to the Sports Services Agency.  Newly added to the commission was Sydney Olympics women's swimming team member Tomoko Hagiwara, 35.

The Athletes' Commission's duties include contributing an athlete's point of view to activities designed to promote the Olympic and Paralympic Games and to assist young athletes in making a positive social contribution.  Its next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 26.  Paralympic Association president Junichi Kawai serves as its vice-chairperson.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Saitama International Marathon Announces First Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The new Nov. 15 Saitama International Marathon is the inheritor of the defunct Yokohama International Women's Marathon, itself the lesser offspring of the great Tokyo International Women's Marathon that folded under the pressure of the big new mass-participation Tokyo Marathon.  At the time of the event's "relocation" to Yokohama JRN published an editorial questioning whether The Yokohama International Women's Marathon was an idea whose time had passed.  History bore that out, unfortunately, as Yokohama was constantly beset with problems including its first winner Inga Abitova of Russia testing positive, a circuit course popular with spectators but unpopular with runners that underwent extensive changes, a date change into the next year in its second running, the welcoming back of Lithuanian Zivile Balciunaite within virtually days of the end of her doping suspension, and a growing sense of irrelevance highlighted by its winners and top Japanese women not being named to national teams including the scandalous omission of 2014 winner Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) from this year's Beijing World Championships team.

If the move from the central streets of Tokyo to the docklands and highway underpasses of Yokohama was symbolic of the event's loss of prestige, with absolutely no disrespect whatsoever intended to the people of Saitama, the move out to the near-rural northwestern suburbs can only be all the more so.  The inaugural elite field bears this out.  Most of Japan's small elite-only marathons follow a familiar construction, with one marquee athlete to generate media attention and legitimacy and a small cadre of internationals to meet IAAF label race requirements and provide targets for the top Japanese, who this year in Saitama will be going for places on the Rio de Janeiro Olympic team.  Saitama has this setup covered.  Aomori Yamada H.S. graduate Lucy Wangui Kabuu (Kenya) is the big name with a sub-2:20 best and a 2:20:21 in Dubai last January that puts her a mile ahead of the competition, at least.  Five internationals at the 2:25 to 2:29 level including 2012 London Olympics bronze medalist Tatyana Arkhipova (Russia) are there for the Japanese to follow.

Which leads to the main problem.  Although the field includes sub-2:20 great Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), now 36, in the interest of truth in advertising there is not a single Japanese woman in the field who has broken 2:30 since 2012.  Zero.  Not one.  In an Olympic selection race.  With the JAAF dictating a sub-2:22:30 standard for auto Olympic qualification.  It's a dire situation.  It would be great to see Remi Nakazato (Team Nitori), high-potential at the 2:24 level in her first few marathons and on the comeback from a cancer diagnosis last fall, or one of the other young 2:30-level women smash a major breakthrough, but realistically there is almost no chance that anyone from this field will make the Rio team with two other Olympic Section races left to determine the two team spots still available alongside Beijing World Championships 7th-placer Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku).

Why is the Saitama field so weak?  The level of Japanese women's marathoning has fallen, but it's not just that.  The constant cutbacks in the corporate women's ekiden schedule, which this year is down to two races, means that Saitama's timing has more and more of an impact.  It's about halfway between this weekend's National Corporate Women's Ekiden Qualifier and December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden, a problem for anyone training for Saitama and a problem for any team that needs them to turn around and run Nationals.  And, maybe most significantly, other runners and coaches have to be looking at what happened to Tomomi Tanaka.  The JAAF big heads have explicitly said, "We don't care if you win a selection race.  We're only going to put you on the team if you ran the kind of race we want to see."

Run for time on an untested course in the middle of ekiden season and face a likelihood of still not making the team even if you win?  Easy to see why the best people have said, "No thank you."  The JAAF is setting the event up to fail.  The elite segment of it, at least.  Gone is the "Women's" part of the race name, as the elite race is being tacked onto a new mass-participation race that includes men and has the backing of Saitama's most famous citizen, Yuki Kawauchi.  The mass race is bound to be a big success despite the conflict of date with the famed Ageo City Half Marathon held simultaneously in the neighboring town of Ageo.  Never fear, though.  A source involved with the Saitama International Marathon tells JRN that next year it is likely to move to the Nov. 23 national holiday date cleared up by the untimely demise this year of the International Chiba Ekiden, ensuring Ageo's survival on its traditional date.  The circle of life.

The issues facing the Saitama International Marathon are real and have not changed for the better in the six years since JRN questioned whether the format of the Yokohama International Women's Marathon was still relevant.  As an Olympic selection race the level of the Saitama field is an almost scandalous indication of its irrelevance.  Yes, they still want to have a race, but this isn't the right way.

The obvious solution: make the Tokyo Marathon women's field, the best on Japanese soil but effectively closed to elite Japanese women, into a selection race.  Make Saitama a U.S.-style Trials race for World Championships and Olympic men's and women's teams, with the existing selection races and top placings or times in IAAF label races qualifying Japanese runners for the Trials.  Like in recent Kenyan practice, name the top five to the national teams with the final lineup to be settled in the summer based on evidenced fitness and whatever other criteria the JAAF wants to apply. The two not named to the team run the Hokkaido Marathon.  Presumably the fittest three men and women will be on the national team, but, critically, the JAAF still has room in its final decision for the kind of mucky-muck it constructed the current system to enable.  Everybody wins this way, even the broadcast sponsors who cling to the current system instead of doing something that would enhance its value.

The chances of that happening?  Roughly the same as one of the Japanese women lining up in Saitama also being on the Rio start line.  The Saitama International Marathon will no doubt be immaculately organized, Kabuu could well run a Japanese all-comers record if she were properly motivated, and the close level among the Japanese women promises an exciting race at its own level.  But as an Olympic selection race, this is about as far from what you'd hope to see as could be.

1st Saitama International Marathon
Saitama, 11/15/15
click here for complete elite field listing
times listed are best within 2013-2015

Lucy Wangui Kabuu (Kenya) - 2:20:21 (Dubai 2015)
Atsede Baysa (Ethiopia) - 2:25:14 (London 2013)
Rebecca Kangogo Chesir (Kenya) - 2:25:22 (Dubai 2015)
Sylvia Jebiwot Kibet (Kenya) - 2:26:16 (Hamburg 2015)
Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova (Russia) - 2:28:42 (London 2015)
Askale Tafa (Ethiopia) - 2:29:37 (Dubai 2015)
Aki Odagiri (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:30:24 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Mizuho Nasukawa (Japan/Univ. Ent.) - 2:30:27 (Yokohama Women's 2013)
Rasa Drazdauskaite (Lithuania) - 2:30:32 (Zurich European Championships 2014)
Nastassia Ivanova (Belarus) - 2:30:45 (Tokyo 2013)
Agnieszka Mierzejewska (Poland) - 2:30:55 (Lodz 2015)
Asami Furuse (Japan/Kyocera) - 2:30:57 (Nagoya Women's 2013)
Yoko Shibui (Japan/Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:31:15 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:33:14 (Sapporo 2015)
Remi Nakazato (Japan/Nitori) - 2:33:24 (London 2013)
Winfridah Mochache Kebaso (Kenya/Nitori) - 2:45:00 (Hokkaido 2015)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Valencia Half Marathon - Japanese Results

Valencia, Spain, 10/18/15
click here for complete results

Women
1. Netsanet Gudeta Kebede (Ethiopia) - 1:07:31
2. Worknesh Degefa Debele (Ethiopia) - 1:07:51
3. Genet Yalew Kassahun (Ethiopia) - 1:08:12
4. Rose Chelimo (Kenya) - 1:08:54
5. Peninah Jerop (Kenya) - 1:10:08
-----
8. Mao Kiyota (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:10:31

Men
1. Abraham Nambei Cheroben (Kenya) - 59:10
2. Matthew Kipkoech Kisorio (Kenya) - 59:52
3. Dawit Weldeslasie Hagos (Eritrea) - 1:00:26
4. Hiskel Tewelde Gebru (Eritrea) - 1:00:31
5. Simon Cheprot (Kenya) - 1:00:56
-----
21. Kaido Kita (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:05:19
26. Yuji Osuda (Japan/Mazda) - 1:06:51

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Kawauchi Scores Runaway Win, Yiu Sets National Record at Takashimadaira 20 km (updated)

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/1554422.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/1554651.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner
photo by STITCHrunner

1430 people ran in the 40th anniversary Takashimadaira Road Race 20 km on Oct. 18 on a 5 km loop course in northwestern Tokyo.  Women's winner Kit Ching Yiu (Hong Kong), coached by Japan's Shinetsu Murao, set a national record 1:10:49 to win, at least her third national record on Japanese soil in the last year.  In the men's race invited athlete Yuki Kawauchi (28, Saitama Pref. Gov't) broke away on the last lap for a solo win in 1:00:57 just a week after setting a course record at the Kitakami Marathon.  His next race is the Nov. 1 TCS New York City Marathon, followed by the Dec. 6 Fukuoka International Marathon where he hopes to secure a place on the Rio Olympic team.

Kawauchi ran well in warm temperatures of 23 degrees, keeping his cool in a lead pack of five until 15.5 km just into the fourth and final lap.  "I picked it up a little and nobody could go with me," he said.  In just 4.5 km he opened a lead of 28 seconds over runner-up Koichi Miyashita (Komazawa University).

At the end of December last year Kawauchi sprained his ankle, leading to problems with his calf muscles and elsewhere.  He has only really started to recover in the last two months, saying, "I'm only back to about 85% right now."  Even so, bearing down in the home straight he told himself, "Well, let's at least break 61 minutes," before launching his powerful last kick.

As a tune-up for his upcoming marathons it was a solid performance.  "The last 5 km were the fastest, so it was a good race," he said.  "In New York I want to make top 10 at the absolute least.  Masato Imai (31, Team Toyota Kyushu) was 7th there last year, so hopefully better than that.  In Fukuoka I don't want to just be the top Japanese man.  I'll be going as far as I can to win."

40th Takashimadaira Road Race
Takashimadaira, Tokyo, 10/18/15
click here for complete results

Men's 20 km
1. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:00:57
2. Koichi Miyashita (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:01:25
3. Kento Ando (Tokai Univ.) - 1:01:30
4. Kentaro Inoue (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:01:48
5. Kei Takeshita (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:01:54

Women's 20 km
1. Kit Ching Yiu (Hong Kong) - 1:10:49 - NR

photo (c) 2015 @tetsujiman, all rights reserved

Mukai Runs 5000 m World Youth Leading Time at Challenge Games in Oita

by Brett Larner

Yuka Mukai, an 11th-grader at Hiroshima's Sera High School ran a world youth leading time of 15:31.92 to win Saturday's Challenge Games in Oita women's 5000 m.  Mukai led the race together with 12th-grade teammate Shinobu Koyoshigawa unchallenged by the university and corporate runners in the field, and both were rewarded with places in the all-time Japanese high school top ten.  Mukai's winning time was good for all-time #6, with Koyoshigawa's 15:36.96 coming at all-time #9.

The Sera H.S. boys, the defending National High School Ekiden champions, likewise led the way in the 5000 m A-heat, sweeping the top five and taking seven of the top nine places.  12th-grader Paul Kamais was 1st with a meet record 13:42.90, but 11th-grader Keita Yoshida made bigger news in 3rd place with his time of 13:50.67, all-time #10 on the Japanese high school lists.  Sera H.S. now has a top seven runner 5000 m average of 14:01.96, putting them in range of the legendary 2:01:32 National High School Ekiden course record set by Sendai Ikuei H.S. in 2004 during future Olympic gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru's senior year.

The women's 10000 m was an intramural for the Daiichi Seimei corporate team in preparation for next weekend's National Corporate Women's Ekiden qualifier.  Miyuki Uehara led the six Daiichi Seimei runners in the race with a meet record 32:16.66.  Four broke 33 minutes, putting the team in a good position leading into ekiden season.

Challenge Games in Oita
Oita Ginko Dome, Oita, 10/17/15
click here for complete results

Women's 5000 m Heat 2
1. Yuka Mukai (Sera H.S.) - 15:31.92 - WYL
2. Shinobu Koyoshigawa (Sera H.S.) - 15:36.96
3. Ayumi Uehara (Matsuyama Univ.) - 15:44.59
4. Ami Hirose (Kansai Univ.) - 15:45.38
5. Kanade Furuya (Matsuyama Univ.) - 15:46.09
6. Chisaki Takegami (Canon AC Kyushu) - 15:48.12
7. Yuki Munehisa (Yamaguchi Saikyo Prep H.S.) - 15:49.37
8. Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu) - 15:50.66
9. Madoka Mitsueda (Daiichi Seimei) - 15:53.03
10. Misaki Mishima (Matsuyama Univ.) - 15:53.07

Men's 5000 m Heat 12
1. Paul Kamais (Sera H.S.) - 13:42.90 - MR
2. David Grey (Sera H.S.) - 13:43.91
3. Keita Yoshida (Sera H.S.) - 13:50.67
4. Shiki Shinsako (Sera H.S.) - 14:14.26
5. Takumi Uemura (Sera H.S.) - 14:16.97
6. Yuma Kaiki (Tsurusaki Kogyo H.S.) - 14:17.68
7. Taiju Nakashima (Sera H.S.) - 14:19.18
8. Chihiro Ono (Tsurusaki Kogyo H.S.) - 14:19.95
9. Kazuya Yamaguchi (Sera H.S.) - 14:23.02
10. Tsuyoshi Miyamoto (Oita City Hall) - 14:23.31

Women's 10000 m
1. Miyuki Uehara (Daiichi Seimei) - 32:16.66 - MR
2. Hanae Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 32:19.36
3. Sakiko Matsumi (Daiichi Seimei) - 32:22.92
4. Kaho Nishizawa (Daiichi Seimei) - 32:55.34
5. Kaho Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 33:10.58

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Daniel Kitonyi 58:20 to Lead Nihon University to the Win at World Record-Setting Hakone Ekiden Qualifier 20 km

by Brett Larner
videos by naoki620


Another week, another world record-setting Japanese collegiate race.

Virtually every major Japanese university men's distance race since Tokyo won the 2020 Olympic bid has seen incredible new course records and world records set for depth at quality.  Today's Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai, the 20 km road race qualifier for the season-capping January 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, was no exception.

49 schools from around the Kanto Region lined up in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park to try to be one of the lucky 10 programs to join those who had already reserved their place at the 2016 Hakone Ekiden by finishing in the top 10 in Hakone this year.  Each of the schools at the Yosenkai qualifier fielded 10 to 12 runners with the team scored on the aggregate time of its first 10 finishers.  The 10 fastest schools go on to Hakone, clean and simple.

After heavy rain with 5 minutes to go 2015 Kanto Region DI Half Marathon champion Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Nihon University), 2nd in 58:00 in his last Yosenkai appearance 2 years ago, made sure things got off right by taking the field through the 1st km in 2:51.  A large group went with him, but when they hit 3 km without the pace slackening all let go to leave Kitonyi alone on track to break the 57:01 course record.



Kitonyi hit 5 km in 14:10, the chase group of 8 including last year's 6th-placer Shuhei Yamaguchi (Soka Univ.) and 7th-placer Stanley Siteki (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.), Ethiopian 1st-year Workneh Derese (Takushoku Univ.) and 5 other Japanese men 18 seconds further back in 14:28 and the main group led by 2015 World University Games half marathon bronze medalist Yuta Takahashi (Teikyo University) skimming well under the typical 3 min/km pace in 14:50.

Kitonyi pushed on through the next 5 km, hitting 10 km still on CR pace in 28:30, before slowing slightly heading into the hilly 2nd half of the course on his way to a 43:11 split at 15 km.  The 8-man chase group and main pack likewise slowed incrementally, Kitonyi's lead maxing out at 1:11 at the 15 km mark.  From there he started to fade, while behind him Derese went on the attack.

Pulling ahead of the chase group at 15 km, Derese repeatedly turned and gestured for 4th-year teammate Hiroto Kanamori to follow him, waiting for nearly a kilometer before gunning it to get rid of Siteki and rival teams' Japanese men.  Siteki, a 2nd-year, did his best to follow, his performance critical to the chances of his school Tokyo Kokusai University to make the Hakone grade in just its 5th year as a program.  Every second counted.



Up front, Kitonyi slowed nearly 30 seconds over the last 5 km, especially in the final km as he showboated to the crowds and celebrated his win.  Bad form in a race scored on aggregate time, but his winning time of 58:20 gave Nihon a comfortable margin over the competition.  Siteki closed on Derese in the last km but couldn't catch him, Derese making a solid university road debut in 59:10 for 2nd with Siteki improving on his own debut from last year by 14 seconds for 3rd in 59:14.

Just back from him, 4th-year Sho Tokunaga (Chuo Univ.) was the top Japanese finisher in a school record 59:17, leading Kanamori, Yamaguchi and 10 other Japanese men under 60 minutes.  All told 16 men cleared the hour mark, the 2nd-most in Yosenkai history.  But there were records to fall.  Already the world record course for depth, the Yosenkai field set new best-time-for-place records for 46th place and up, breaking new world records for depth with 72 men under 61 minutes, 119 under 61:30, 163 under 62 minutes and an incredible 190 men under 62:30.  With unexpectedly ideal conditions, all told it was the greatest 20 km race in history, again.



But the Yosenkai achieves that status due to its position as a team effort to get into Japan's biggest sporting event.  The post-race announcement of the qualifying teams before a crowd of tens of thousands of supporters is one of the tensest moments in the ekiden year.  Thanks to Kitonyi's boost Nihon University comfortably took 1st, well under last year's winning time in 10:06:00.  Teikyo University lived up to its 2nd-place ranking in 10:07:20, with #1-ranked Nittai University a very tight 3rd in 10:07:37 despite a recent exodus of many of its best runners from the teamJuntendo University, Kanagawa University and Takushoku University were all within a minute of Nittai before a gap to 7th place.  2:36 separated 1st and 6th, 0.78 seconds/km per runner.

Hosei University returned to the Hakone fold, qualifying again at 7th in 10:11:03 after bombing out last year.  The once-mighty Chuo University pulled itself through in 8th not far behind Hosei in 10:11:32, while the biggest surprise came just behind them.  Its ekiden program launched just 5 years ago, Tokyo Kokusai University was 9 seconds behind Chuo in 9th, making Hakone for the 1st time in an almost unheard-of progression from its still-fresh beginnings.

Which brought things to the final team spot.  In contention were 3 of last year's Hakone schools, Koku Gakuin University, Jobu University and then-1st-timer Soka University, last year's 11th-placer Tokyo Nogyo University with its Fighting Radish cheerleaders, and onetime Hakone regular Kokushikan University.  A hush and dramatic pause for effect flowed across the packed field in front of the stage before the announcer called out the Jobu name in 10th in 10:12:04.

The hush and tension multiplied before the unlucky Kokushikan was named to 11th, the crowd crying out in dismay at its time of 10:12:14.  1 second for each of its 10 men.  1 second over 20 km.  Heartbreak as the entire team cried on live national television.  Kokushikan's 10th man was faster than Jobu's 7th, but without a star runner to match Jobu's 1st finisher Morihiro Higashi, top Kokushikan man Kenta Muto running 1:00:14 to Higashi's 59:53, Kokushikan was digging itself out of a hole from the start.  It's a cliche ekiden runners usually drop that they "wanted to get the tasuki to the next runner even just 1 second faster."  In this case that really was all it would have taken.  Small consolation to Muto and Kokushikan, or to Koku Gakuin and Soka sent down from Hakone glory, that he and others on top-placing teams from outside the magic top 10 will still get to run in Hakone as part of the Kanto Region University Student Alliance select team.

University men's ekiden season continues Nov. 1 with the 2nd of the Big Three University Ekidens, the National University Ekiden Championships.  2 weeks later more world record-setting collegiate depth awaits at the Ageo City Half Marathon.


92nd Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai Qualifier 20 km Road Race
Showa Kinen Park, Tachikawa, Tokyo, 10/17/15
49 teams
click here for complete results

Individual Results
1. Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (4th yr., Nihon Univ.) - 58:20
2. Workneh Derese (1st yr., Takushoku Univ.) - 59:10
3. Stanley Siteki (2nd yr., Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 59:14
4. Sho Tokunaga (4th yr., Chuo Univ.) - 59:17
5. Hiroto Kanamori (4th yr., Takushoku Univ.) - 59:21
6. Shuhei Yamaguchi (4th yr., Soka Univ.) - 59:26
7. Masaki Toda (4th yr., Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 59:34
8. Kazuya Shiojiri (1st yr., Juntendo Univ.) - 59:38
9. Kengo Suzuki (2nd yr., Kanagawa Univ.) - 59:44
10. Takumi Koyama (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 59:44
11. Shinnosuke Ogino (4th yr., Nihon Univ.) - 59:51
12. Atsumi Ashiwa (3rd yr., Hosei Univ.) - 59:52
13. Morihiro Higashi (4th yr., Jobu Univ.) - 59:53
14. Shoya Okuno (4th yr., Nittai Univ.) - 59:54
15. Taiga Machizawa (3rd yr., Chuo Univ.) - 59:55
16. Masaya Komachi (2nd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 59:58
-----
25. Yuji Serunarudo (3rd yr., Soka Univ.) - 1:00:18
50. Keita Murase (4th yr., Reitaku Univ.) - 1:00:40
75. Sho Sakuma (4th yr., Asia Univ.) - 1:01:02
100. Shinji Watanabe (4th yr., Juntendo Univ.) - 1:01:19
125. Ryosuke Niizeki (2nd yr., Nihon Univ.) - 1:01:35
150. Yushi Kunisawa (2nd yr., Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:52
175. Kohei Kawaguchi (2nd yr., Surugadai Univ.) - 1:02:10
200. Jo Fujimura (2nd yr., Reitaku Univ.) - 1:02:34

Top Team Results
aggregate time of top 10 finishers; top 10 qualify for 2016 Hakone Ekiden
1. Nihon University - 10:06:00
2. Teikyo University - 10:07:20
3. Nittai University - 10:07:37
4. Juntendo University - 10:07:58
5. Kanagawa University - 10:08:01
6. Takushoku University - 10:08:36
7. Hosei University - 10:11:03
8. Chuo University - 10:11:32
9. Tokyo Kokusai University - 10:11:41
10. Jobu University - 10:12:04
-----
11. Kokushikan University - 10:12:14
12. Tokyo Nogyo University - 10:12:57
13. Koku Gakuin University - 10:13:28
14. Soka University - 10:14:13
15. Senshu University - 10:16:29

2016 Hakone Ekiden Field
Tokyo-Hakone-Tokyo, January 2-3, 2016
Aoyama Gakuin University
Komazawa University
Toyo University
Meiji University
Waseda University
Tokai University
Josai University
Chuo Gakuin University
Yamanashi Gakuin University
Daito Bunka University
Nihon University
Teikyo University
Nittai University
Juntendo University
Kanagawa University
Takushoku University
Hosei University
Chuo University
Tokyo Kokusai University
Jobu University
Kanto Region University Student Alliance Team

text and photos (c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, October 15, 2015

University Ekiden Season Part Two at Saturday's Hakone Ekiden Qualifier - Preview

by Brett Larner


Just five days after a record-breaking start to Japan's university men's ekiden season at the Izumo Ekiden the next big race is set to go off Saturday in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park at the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai qualifying race.  The January 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, where 20 universities from around the Tokyo-area Kanto Region send 10-man teams to race roughly a half marathon distance each, is Japan's biggest sports event.  The first 10 schools to cross the finish line on Hakone's second day score places at both the following season's Izumo Ekiden and Hakone Ekiden.  The rest line up with 40 other Kanto teams at the Yosenkai to try to make it back onto the Hakone start line.

This year 49 teams will start the Yosenkai, a 20 km road race in and around Showa Kinen Park in the western Tokyo suburb of Tachikawa.  Each school runs 10 to 12 men from a 14-deep entry list and is scored on the aggregate time of its first 10 finishers.  The 10 fastest teams go to Hakone.  10 of the fastest individuals from the teams that don't make it are chosen to round out the Hakone Ekiden field on a Select Team.  Every other runner at the Yosenkai is obliged to support the ones who did make it by volunteering as marshals and support staff along the 217.1 km Hakone course come January 2-3.



The atmosphere at the Yosenkai is unlike any other race in Japan, the park and course packed with dozens of school marching bands and cheerleader squads, tens of thousands of students, alumni and fans carrying school banners and soaking the runners in deafening noise.  Millions more watch at home thanks to the live TV broadcast, which includes the tense and dramatic announcement of the top 10 teams.  Winning individual times are usually in the 57 to 58-minute range, 60 to 61 minutes equivalent for the half marathon, and in terms of depth the size and quality of the field makes the Yosenkai historically the biggest and best 20 km road race in the world.



In terms of the team competition 11 schools come in with good chances of making the 10-deep Hakone bracket.  4 of them, Nittai University, Teikyo University, Chuo University and Koku Gakuin University, have 10-man half marathon averages under 1:04:00, Nittai with a slight lead over the others at 1:03:39 despite a recent exodus of most of its best runners under new head coach Masaaki Watanabe.  Last year's Yosenkai winner Kanagawa University is ranked 5th at 1:04:10 but has a history of performing well at this race and should contend with the faster top 4.  Things get interesting at 8th to 11th, where just 4 seconds separate the 4 schools shooting for the last 3 spots, Takushoku University, Jobu University, Hosei University and Nihon University.  Last year Hosei was the one who didn't make the grade, but this year it could be any of them.

In the individual race the winner is bound to be whichever of its two Kenyans Nihon University fields.  4th-year Daniel Muiva Kitonyi ran 58:00 at the Yosenkai two years ago and has better credentials over this kind of distance, but 1st-year Patrick Mathenge Wambui has the fastest current 10000 m best in the entire Kanto Region after running 27:54.98 this summer.  Takushoku University 1st-year Workneh Derese, a rare Ethiopian addition to the Kanto mix, is an unknown factor with a 10000 m best of just 28:46.37.  2015 World University Games half marathon bronze medalist Yuta Takahashi of Teikyo University leads the Japanese list with a half marathon best of 1:02:13, Tokyo Nogyo University 4th-year Masaki Toda right behind him in 1:02:14.



Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai Entry List Highlights
Showa Kinen Park, Tachikawa, Tokyo, 10/17/15
click here for complete entry list
school times listed are average half marathon PBs of top 10 members
individual times listed are half marathon PBs unless otherwise indicated

Nittai University - 1:03:39
Shoya Okuno, 4th yr. - 1:02:26
Akira Tomiyasu, 2nd yr. - 28:49.53 (10000 m)

Teikyo University - 1:03:40
Yuta Takahashi, 4th yr. - 1:02:13
Yusei Tsutsumi, 4th yr. - 1:02:37

Chuo University - 1:03:48
Sho Tominaga, 4th yr. - 1:02:52
Taiga Machizawa, 3rd yr. - 1:02:52

Koku Gakuin University - 1:03:55

Kanagawa University - 1:04:10
Ryohei Nishiyama, 4th yr. - 1:02:38
Kazuma Ganaha, 4th yr. - 1:02:45
Kengo Suzuki, 2nd yr. - 28:53.67

Juntendo University - 1:04:16
Hiroki Matsueda, 4th yr. - 28:46.42 (10000 m)

Tokyo Nogyo University - 1:04:16
Masaki Toda, 4th yr. - 1:02:14

Takushoku University - 1:04:27
Workneh Derese, 1st yr. - 28:46.37 (10000 m)

Jobu University - 1:04:29
Hiroya Inoue, 2nd yr. - 13:55.47 (5000 m)

Hosei University - 1:04:29

Nihon University - 1:04:31
Daniel Muiva Kitonyi, 4th yr. - 1:01:11
Soma Ishikawa, 3rd yr. - 1:02:46
Patrick Mathenge Wambui, 1st yr. - 27:54.98 (10000 m)
Shinnosuke Ogino, 4th yr. - 28:50.97

Soka University - 1:04:54
Shuhei Yamaguchi, 4th yr. - 1:02:41
Kodai Gozawa, 4th yr. - 28:51.87

Tokyo Kokusai University
Stanley Siteki, 2nd yr. - 1:02:44

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, October 12, 2015

Aoyama Gakuin University Smashes Izumo Ekiden Course Record (updated)

by Brett Larner



Despite missing its best runner, 2015 Hakone Ekiden course record setter Aoyama Gakuin University delivered a thrilling anchor stage win over defending champion Komazawa University to win the 2015 Izumo Ekiden in a course record 2:09:05, leading the top five teams on to faster-paced runs than Komazawa's 2013 record-setting win.

For almost the entire race, returning after a typhoon-induced cancellation last year with a 45.1 km course 600 m longer than Komazawa's 2:09:11 course record win version in 2013, Aoyama Gakuin and Komazawa dueled head to head for the title in the first of the Big Three University Ekidens, the crown jewels of Japan's racing schedule.  Komazawa's Keisuke Nakatani, this year's World University Games 10000 m bronze medalist, went to his limit against AGU rival Yusuke Ogura, the World University Games half marathon gold medalist, beating him by 15 seconds to put Komazawa well ahead on the 8.0 km First Stage. 

Komazawa's second man Kenya Sonota extended the lead to 24 seconds over the day's shortest run, the 5.8 km Second Stage, but ultra-reliable AGU senior Kazuma Kubota turned it around on the 8.5 km Third Stage with a course record 24:11 to run down Komazawa's Naoki Kudo, 3rd at last year's Ageo City Half Marathon.  Kubota's version of the stage included the 600 m addition to the course, meaning that translated to the old 7.9 km length his time was equivalent to 22:29, 7 seconds under the old course record held by sub-1:01 half marathoner Kenta Murayama, then of Komazawa.  Likewise for Toyo's 2015 National University Championships 5000 m champion Hazuma Hattori, just 2 seconds slower than Kubota further back in the field.

Komazawa's fourth man Shota Baba cut down AGU's lead from 5 seconds to 1 second over the 6.2 km stage against Yuta Shimoda, the fastest-ever Japanese 18-year-old half marathoner after a 1:02:22 PB at March's National University Half Marathon Championships, setting up a thrilling final two stages.  On the 6.4 km Fifth Stage Komazawa's Yusuke Nishiyama was far ahead of AGU's Shun Yamamura on paper, but Yamamura stayed locked to Nishiyama stride for stride, only 2 seconds slower by stage's end.  Kubota earned most respect for his MVP-quality performance, but Yamamura deserves almost as much credit for running well beyond his potential to keep AGU right at the front.

With just a 3 second lead, Komazawa anchor Shohei Otsuka, a 28:34.31 runner over 10000 m on the track, faced 2015 National University Half Marathon champion and World University Games half marathon silver medalist Tadashi Isshiki, 28:23.40 for 10000 m, over the 10.2 Sixth Stage.  Isshiki quickly closed the gap to Otsuka, and through halfway the pair ran close together.  Immediately after crossing halfway Isshiki threw down, gapping Otsuka and never looking back.

Isshiki sailed on solo to cross the finish line in 2:09:05, 6 seconds better than Komazawa's 2013 course record despite a course 600 m longer.  Scaling it to the old 44.5 km course AGU's time was equivalent to 2:07:22, almost two minutes better than Komazawa's old record and mirroring the stunning quality of its record-setting win at January's Hakone Ekiden, even without star member Daichi Kamino.


Otsuka flailed after losing ground on Isshiki, dropping in pace as behind him Kenyan first-year Dominic Nyairo, a replacement for ailing Yamanashi Gakuin University fourth-year Enock Omwamba, gained ground.  With less than than a kilometer to go Nyairo overtook Otsuka for 2nd, bringing much consternation to Komazawa head coach Hiroaki Oyagi.  Thanks in part to Nyairo, whose 28:41 stage-winning time was faster than his track 10000 m best of 28:11.49, Yamanashi Gakuin, sporting a young team of mostly first and second-years, took 2nd 38 seconds back from AGU in 2:09:43, Komazawa another 7 seconds back in 2:09:50.  Along with AGU, both schools' times were under the old course record when adjusted for the extra 600 m.

Top three contender schools Toyo University, Tokai University and Waseda University took 4th through 6th, with Chuo Gakuin University outrunning the strong Meiji University for 7th thanks to a 15:51 course record for the 5.8 km Second Stage run by this year's 3000 m steeplechase national champion Hironori Tsuetaki.  Toyo and Tokai joined the top three in breaking the old course record on adjusted time, an indication of the both the high quality of the field and the luck of many of the best schools to be racing head to head throughout the entire ekiden.

With lead off runner Sam Pons running 23:20, faster than the stage winning time the last two Izumo Ekidens but only good enough for 9th this year, the American Ivy League Select Team ran in 11th through most of the race before unexpectedly returning to 9th thanks to a strong run from anchor James Leakos.  Kyoto Sangyo University scored a moral victory of sorts with a 10th-place finish, outrunning Kanto region schools Daito Bunka University and Josai University to finish as the best non-Kanto school in Japan.


University ekiden season continues on Saturday with the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai qualifying race in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park.  AGU, Komazawa and the top Kanto region schools will next meet up at the Nov. 1 National University Ekiden.  After such a dominant performance there's little doubt that AGU is well on its way to a rare triple crown win this season.

27th Izumo Ekiden
Izumo, Shimane, 10/12/15
21 teams, 6 stages, 45.1 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Aoyama Gakuin University - 2:09:05 - CR
2. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 2:09:43
3. Komazawa University - 2:09:50
4. Toyo University - 2:10:40
5. Tokai University - 2:10:55
6. Waseda University - 2:12:06
7. Chuo Gakuin University - 2:12:32
8. Meiji University - 2:12:53
9. Ivy League Select Team - 2:15:20
10. Kyoto Sangyo University - 2:15:24

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (8.0 km)
1. Keisuke Nakatani (Komazawa Univ.) - 22:34
2. Yusuke Ogura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 22:49
3. John Kariuki (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 22:51
-----
9. Sam Pons (Ivy League) - 23:20

Second Stage (5.8 km)
1. Hironori Tsuetaki (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 15:51 - CR
2. Kenya Sonota (Komazawa Univ.) - 15:59
3. Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 16:03
-----
13. Tyler Udland (Ivy League) - 16:57

Third Stage (8.5 km)
1. Kazuma Kubota (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 24:11 - CR
2. Hazuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 24:13
3. Takaya Sato (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 24:38
-----
14. Chris Bendtsen (Ivy League) - 26:10

Fourth Stage (6.2 km)
1. Ryo Kuchimachi (Toyo Univ.) - 17:49
2. Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 17:56
3. Kazuma Taira (Waseda Univ.) - 18:01
-----
10. Alejandro Arroyo Yamin (Ivy League) - 18:38

Fifth Stage (6.4 km)
1. Yusuke Nishiyama (Komazawa Univ.) - 18:34
2. Shun Yamamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 18:36
3. Shunya Nomura (Toyo Univ.) - 18:41
-----
10. Will Geiken (Ivy League) - 19:39

Sixth Stage (10.2 km)
1. Dominic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:41
2. Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:11
3. Yasutaka Ishibashi (Tokai Univ.) - 29:53
-----
7. James Leakos (Ivy League) - 30:36

Alternates' 5000 m
1. Kazuma Tashiro (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 14:02.86
2. Jeffrey Mukule (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 14:06.66
3. Tatsuhiko Hori (Toyo Univ.) - 14:07.26
-----
23. George Galasso (Ivy League) - 15:03.86

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Chicago Marathon - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner
photo by Dr. Helmut Winter

2013 World Championships bronze medalist and half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) ran arguably her most confident marathon to date in Chicago, hanging with the lead pack throughout the race and doing her share of pushing the tempo but ultimately unable to handle winner Florence Kiplagat's big move.  Kiplagat took the win in 2:23:33 over Ethiopian Yebrgual Melese, with Fukushi coming up just short of Ethiopian Birhane Dibaba, 2:24:24 to 2:24:25, just 4 seconds off Fukushi's best from Osaka Women's two years ago.  Contemporary Japanese women's marathoning being what it is, Fukushi's time was still good for #2 this year behind the 2:22:48 run by Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu) in Nagoya in March.

Chicago Marathon
Chicago, U.S.A., 10/11/15
click here for complete results

Women
1. Florence Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:23:33
2. Yebrgual Melese (Ethiopia) - 2:23:43
3. Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:24:24
4. Kayoko Fukushi (Japan/Wacoal) - 2:24:25
5. Mulu Seboka (Ethiopia) - 2:24:40

Men
1. Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:09:25
2. Sammy Kitwara (Kenya) - 2:09:50
3. Samuel Ndungu (Kenya) - 2:10:06
4. Girmay Birhanu (Ethiopia) - 2:10:07
5. Luke Puskedra (U.S.A.) - 2:10:24
-----
21. Satoshi Yoshii (Japan/Juhachi Ginko) - 2:20:33
22. Shogo Kanezawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:20:40

photo (c) 2015 Dr. Helmut Winter, all rights reserved
text (c) 2015 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Battle of Champions - Izumo Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner


The road ahead awaits.  Back after a typhoon-induced cancellation last year, the Izumo Ekiden kicks off the 2015-16 university men's ekiden season on Oct. 12.  Short and sweet with six stages averaging 7.5 km, Izumo is an indication of things to come in the buildup to the biggest of them all, January's season-ending Hakone Ekiden.

2015 Hakone winner Aoyama Gakuin University and defending Izumo champion Komazawa University are the clear favorites, with preceding champs Toyo University and Waseda University and darkhorse Yamanashi Gakuin University conceivably in the game.  Back again this year, the Ivy League Select Team fields a lineup that could see it equal its best-ever 8th-place finish if all goes perfectly.

No typhoon is on the horizon, but the forecast does call for strong winds straight out of the west, meaning a tailwind on the first half of the course and a powerful headwind in the second half.  In the pre-race coaches' press conference almost all the top teams' coaches indicated that they had stacked their teams accordingly with their best runners on the first three stages, meaning a blazing fast pace early on shifting to more strength-oriented runners through the back half.

2015 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Yusuke Ogura leads off on the 8.0 km First Stage for AGU ranked #1, but apart from Kenyan John Kariuki, the one hit on Kyushu's Daiichi Kogyo University team, Ogura's main competition is 2015 World University Games 10000 m bronze medalist Keisuke Nakatani of Komazawa.  Waseda, Toyo and YGU will likely all be struggling to hang on to this lead trio as Ogura and Nakatani battle it out for pride.

30 km collegiate national record holder Yuma Hattori should make up whatever deficit Toyo has on the 5.8 km Second Stage, the day's shortest, where he has a clear advantage over Komazawa's Kenya Sonota and AGU's Yuki Nakamura.  Also likely to make up ground is this year's 3000 mSC national champion Hironori Tsuetaki, who AGU head coach Susumu Hara recently called the strongest current Japanese collegiate athlete.

AGU's Kazuma Kubota leads the 8.5 km Third Stage on paper and, given his past reliability, should be a key player for the team's chances.  Komazawa's Naoki Kudo and Toyo's Hazuma Hattori don't look Kubota's equal on paper, but since his breakthrough at last year's Ageo City Half Marathon Kudo has quickly risen to become the most aggressive Japanese collegiate on the circuit right now, while Hattori delivered a stunning win over all the Kenyan favorites at last month's National University Championships 5000 m and has yet to have the opportunity to do the same over longer distances.  If Hattori is not in the lead when he takes the tasuki from his holder brother look for him to kick someone down at the end.  The Ivy League's Chris Bendtsen is ranked third on the Third Stage, the best pre-race ranking on anyone on the team, and could also make up some ground into the top eight after the first two stages.

From there things get more unpredictable given the impending effects of the wind.  Komazawa's Shota Baba is the likely favorite, but despite his relatively slow track times AGU's Yuta Shimoda shouldn't be ignored.  Although he wasn't good enough to make AGU's 2015 Hakone-winning team just two months later Shimoda ran 1:02:22 at the National University Half Marathon Championships, the best-ever by a Japanese 18-year-old.  It could be time for him to break through on the ekiden circuit.

Komazawa and AGU lead the Fifth Stage, where runners will be plowing straight into the wind the entire way without interruption.  On the 10.2 km Sixth Stage, the day's last and longest, AGU has 2015 National University Half Marathon champion and World University Games half marathon silver medalist Tadashi Isshiki versus Komazawa's Shohei Otsuka, 11 seconds slower than Isshiki over 10000 m on the track.  Faster than both of them is YGU first-year Dominic Nyairo, a fill-in for ailing fourth-year Enock Omwamba.  At a recent time trial meet YGU had five men run sub-14 for 5000 m, most for the first time, so despite the absence of its best Japanese man Kazuma Tashiro if the YGU team lives up to head coach Kiyoshi Ueda's expectations of a strong team performance and Nyairo is anywhere near in range of the leaders look for him to make it an exciting hunt for the top in the final kilometers.

JRN will be on-site at the Izumo Ekiden covering the race live on Twitter @JRNLive and @JRNHeadlines, and after the fact for Meter magazine and Ivy League sponsor Tracksmith.  If you are in Japan watch the race live on Fuji TV starting at 1:05 p.m.  Check back post-race for exclusive coverage.


27th Izumo Ekiden Start List Highlights
Izumo, Shimane, 10/12/15

First Stage - 8.0 km
Yusuke Ogura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:55.97 / 28:27.73
John Kariuki (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 13:54.07 / 28:29.87
Keisuke Nakatani (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:38.08 / 28:30.52
Shin Kimura (Meiji Univ.) - 13:51.76 / 28:37.33
Kazuto Kawabata (Tokai Univ.) - 13:49.33 / 28:44.71
Daisuke Uekado (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 14:19.91 / 28:48.22
Jinnosuke Matsumura (Josai Univ.) - 13:50.63 / 28:57.47
Rintaro Takeda (Waseda Univ.) - 13:58.83 / 29:04.20
Naoya Takahashi (Toyo Univ.) - 13:59.10 / 29:06.60
Ryutaro Ichitani (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 13:51.46 / 29:15.14
Sam Pons (Ivy League) - 14:14.55 / 29:17.54

Second Stage - 5.8 km
Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 13:36.76
Hironori Tsuetaki (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 13:42.16
Toshiyuki Yanagi (Waseda Univ.) - 13:47.96
Kenya Sonota (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:50.14
Haruki Minatoya (Tokai Univ.) - 13:54.07
Shogo Hata (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 13:55.69
Yuki Nakamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:57.40
Tyler Udland (Ivy League) - 13:58.52

Third Stage - 8.5 km
Kazuma Kubota (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:49.27 / 28:30.78
Takaya Sato (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 13:53.15 / 28:46.02
Chris Bendtsen (Ivy League) - 13:57.46 / 28:49.08
Shinichiro Nakamura (Waseda Univ.) - 13:54.09 / 28:52.80
Naoki Kudo (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:52.97 / 28:54.40
Hazuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 13:38.45 / 28:55.31
Keita Shioya (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 14:00.21 / 28:59.55
Chihaya Kasuga (Tokai Univ.) - 13:52.92 / 29:33.34

Fourth Stage - 6.2 km
Kazuma Taira (Waseda Univ.) - 13:45.74 / 29:07.12
Yuki Muta (Meiji Univ.) - 13:47.58 / 28:43.20
Shota Baba (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:57.25 / 28:37.21
Ryo Kuchimachi (Toyo Univ.) - 13:58.16 / 29:13.64
Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 13:58.85 / 28:48.92
Alejandro Arroyo Yamin (Ivy League) - 13:59.21 / 29:19.08
Yuki Hirota (Tokai Univ.) - 14:05.55 / 28:44.34
Yuta Shimoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 14:06.85 / 29:12.92

Fifth Stage - 6.4 km
Yusuke Nishiyama (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:57.04 / 28:58.01
Shun Yamamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 14:00.06 / 29:13.05
Ryota Tanaka (Meiji Univ.) - 14:01.10 / 29:49.23
Ryunosuke Hayashi (Tokai Univ.) - 14:07.23 / 29:43.44
Tomoki Kawamura (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 14:07.34 / 29:29.77
Will Geiken (Ivy League) - 14:16.99 / 29:47.91

Sixth Stage - 10.2 km
Dominic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:11.49
Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:23.40
Shohei Otsuka (Komazawa Univ.) - 28:34.31
Yasutaka Ishibashi (Tokai Univ.) - 28:52.69
Koki Ido (Waseda Univ.) - 28:54.84
James Leakos (Ivy League) - 29:26.83

text and photos (c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kawauchi Breaks Kitakami Marathon Course Record - "This Was a Good Race"

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20151011-OHT1T50053.html

translated by Brett Larner

Civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (28, Saitama Pref. Gov't) won the Kitakami Marathon in Iwate today, smashing the course record with a mark of 2:13:21.  "This year I haven't been able to run good times because of my injury problems," he said.  "This is the first time in a long time that I've been able to run like myself.  This was a good race.  I was targeting 2:14, so I think running 2:13 was very good."

Despite heavy rain and a tough, hilly course Kawauchi ran with strength, picking up the pace over the second half.  Lingering effects of the ankle sprain he suffered last December were nowhere to be seen.  2nd place was 7 minutes behind.  The Rio Olympics lie ahead.  "Before that," he said, "there are the selection races.  I've been feeling a lot of anxiety about them, but today, without any pace makers, I ran my best time this season, so I'm confident I can perform in my selection race too."

Including the 5 km and 10 km division, a total of 3088 people took part in the Kitakami Marathon.

Translator's note: This was Kawauchi's second-fastest marathon of 2015, his fastest having come in April at the Zurich Marathon where he ran 2:12:13 for 2nd.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Hakone Ekiden Champ Aoyama Gakuin University Student Managers Run 42.195 km to Check Course Before Full-Team Training Run

http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASH9Z01PPH9YOIPE039.html

by Shizuka Kaneshima
translated by Brett Larner

2015 Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University wrapped up its primary training camp for the upcoming Big Three University Ekiden season with its annual 42.195 km team run.  Surprisingly, even team members not even considering doing a marathon were smiling and laughing as they ran.  Making it possible behind the scenes of this unique training run were the preparation and support of the team's student managers.

Their hard work started the day before this annual tradition took place.  While the team's runners had lunch and rested up for that evening's practice session the managers gathered in front of the team's lodgings.  For some reason they looked unhappy.  "We're going to go run the course now to check it out," third-year Ibuki Yoshida said.  This was the fourth year that the team was doing the 42.195 km run.  The course was the same every year.  Why did they need to go see it again?  "We have to check whether there are any potholes or whether any of the kilometer mark signs on the side of the road are missing," he said.  No kidding.  But if you want to check for trouble spots why not do it by bicycle?  There's no need for everyone to run it, right?  "Well," laughed Yoshida, "there's kind of silent peer pressure from the runners that we should have to enjoy suffering like they do too."

All five male student managers are former runners, but all have been off running for different amounts of time.  The longest-serving among them, fourth-year Hitoshi Mine, has been a manager for two years.  Yoshida became a manager after the Hakone Ekiden in January this year and has mostly not run since then.  Team captain Daichi Kamino smiled down from a window in the team's rooms as the five started their long slog over the course.  As they ground it out, the team's female student managers were also busy getting ready for the main workout.  Head coach Susumu Hara had said, "Just 35 or 40 km is not good enough.  Even if it's not official it's very important to actually cover the actual full marathon distance."  Taking that to heart, the women used a measuring device to count off exactly 195 m, stretching a roll of toilet paper across the mark as a finish line tape. 

Back out on the roads, early on in the male managers' run they were smiling and waving.  According to leader Ryo Uchimura, a fourth-year, "Hitoshi was the most energetic one when we started, but he was the first one to die."  3 hours and 45 minutes after they started all five finished the run more or less on schedule.  Yoshida slumped to the ground and had trouble making it up the steps back inside the team's residence.  He and the other four were all filled with a deep sense of accomplishment after finishing the workout a day earlier than the athletes on the team, but the female managers were quick to yank them back to reality.  "Hey, you have to work tomorrow too, so get it together and stop sitting around!" they scolded the men.

Truth.  Making sure that all the runners on the team could safely complete the full marathon distance the next day was one of the managers' biggest responsibilities.  Uchimura was scheduled to lead the runners by bicycle with the other four male managers covering drink station duties, handing off bottles to the large pack of athletes running 4:00/km pace at every station.

The next morning, sure enough, Yoshida was in a world of hurt.  "I can't move my legs..." he moaned before the decision was made to leave him behind at the accommodations.  "If you can't work for the main workout then why are you even here?" the female managers said as they shot him icy cold glares.  In his absence one of the women with no experience as a runner struggled to fill his place, gasping for breath as she paced the team's men at water stations to get their bottles to them.

When their run was finished the entire team posed for a memorial picture while their heightened sense of unity was still fresh and vital.  They asked me to take the picture.  A sea of smiles just as fresh and vital.  But I couldn't help thinking, "I'd like to ask all the managers to be in this picture too."