Sunday, February 19, 2017

Ueno, Arai Win in Kumamoto, Cheboitibin and Utsunomiya Take Ome

by Brett Larner


Both of the world's two main 30 km races took place in Japan today.  In the morning, to the south in Kumamoto the Kumanichi Road Race held its 61st edition, the first since last year's powerful earthquakes caused heavy damage in the area.  2009 double 1500 m and 5000 m champion Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) went out fast, close to 30 km national record pace at 10 km in 29:27 and still on track for a 1:28 time at 20 km in 59:11.  Over the last 10 km Ueno slowed dramatically, taking 31:06 to reach the finish line in 1:30:17, but even so his margin of victory over runner-up Ryu Takaku (Team Yakult) was more than a minute.

The women's race was closer, with last year's 4th-placer Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) outrunning corporate leaguers Rie Uchida (Otsuka Seiyaku) and Yoko Miyauchi (Team Hokuren) by just 8 seconds to win in a PB of 1:46:29 just three weeks after running a PB of 2:34:40 at the Osaka International Women's Marathon.  In the associated mass-participation marathon division another collegiate runner, Tokyo Nogyo University fourth-year Haruki Okayama won the men's race in 2:22:45 with local Chigusa Yoshimatsu taking the women's title in 2:56:20.


Just after Kumanichi finished, the 51st edition of the Ome Road Race began in Tokyo's western hills. Almost all of the fan attention was on the debuting Daichi Kamino (Team Konica Minolta), a major star of the Hakone Ekiden thanks to his hill running prowess before his graduation last year.  Sparring mostly with last year's top two Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu) and Michael Githae (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and with Githae's fellow Kenyan Ezekiel Cheboitibin (Team Toho Refining), Kamino was patient on the uphill first half before springing into action after rounding the turnaround point and starting the trip back down.  Oshikawa quickly lost touch, but after 20 km Kamino had trouble sustaining his attack and began to drop back from Cheboitibin and Githae.  It was soon clear that he wasn't coming back, and in the final kilometers Cheboitibin pulled away to become the first Kenyan winner in Ome history as he crossed the finish line in 1:30:49.

5th last year in the women's race, Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu) led the entire race to win in a PB of 1:46:24.  Track star Azusa Sumi (Team Universal Entertainment) was a non-factor in her debut, 43 seconds behind Utsunomiya at 5 km and dropping out soon afterward.  Sumi's teammate Mai Shinozuka had better luck in the women's 10 km, winning in 33:53, with Yutaro Takeda (Tokyo Jitsugyo H.S.) joining her on the podium as he won the high school boys' 10 km in 30:57.

61st Kumanichi Road Race
Kumamoto, 2/19/17

Men's 30 km
1. Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA) - 1:30:17
2. Ryu Takaku (Yakult) - 1:31:18
3. Keisuke Sago (Yasukawa Denki) - 1:31:39
4. Shoya Okuno (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:31:49
5. Shota Yamaguchi (Fujitsu) - 1:31:59

Women's 30 km
1. Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:46:29
2. Rie Uchida (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:46:37

Men's Marathon
1. Haruki Okayama (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 2:22:45

Women's Marathon
1. Chigusa Yoshimatsu (Kumamoto T&F Assoc.) - 2:56:20


51st Ome Road Race
Ome, Tokyo, 2/19/17
click here for complete results

Men's 30 km 
1. Ezekiel Cheboitibin (Kenya/Toho Refining) - 1:30:49
2. Michael Gitahe (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:30:55
3. Daichi Kamino (Konica Minolta) - 1:31:33
4. Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:31:38
5. Hiroki Sugawa (DeNA RC) - 1:33:50
-----
12. Zach Hine (U.S.A.) - 1:37:20

Women's 30 km
1. Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:46:24
-----
DNF - Azusa Sumi (Univ. Ent.)

High School Boys' 10 km
1. Yutaro Takeda (Tokyo Jitsugyo H.S.) - 30:57

Women's 10 km
1. Mai Shinozuka (Univ. Ent.) - 33:53
2. Mao Komoto (Hachioji H.S.) - 34:43
3. Saki Yoshimizu (Univ. Ent.) - 34:56

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Kampala 2017: Kenya Names Team for World X-Country Championships'

http://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1446534/kampala-2017-kenya-names-team-world-country-championships

The Tokyo-based Leonard Barsoton (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC) are regulars on the Yoyogi Park XC loop when they are in town.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

'Tokyo 2020: The Heat Factor'

https://sportifycities.com/tokyo-2020-heat-factor/

An interesting read on the issues facing athletes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The 1964 Tokyo Olympics were held October 10~24 rather than at the peak of summer heat and humidity as the 2020 Games will be.

A Flatter Course for the Post-Truth Era - Running the New Tokyo Marathon Course

by Brett Larner

For its first ten years as a mass participation event the Tokyo Marathon had a good course, downhill through the first 10 km, mostly flat for the next 25 km, its unique cross shape minimizing the effect of wind from any direction but the east.  But its last 6 km were unpopular with everyone, elite and amateur alike, drab, with sparse crowds, a series of bridges and hills almost exactly once every kilometer from 36 km to the end, and a finish line hidden away like an embarrassment on the docks behind an isolated convention center on an island in the bay.  Every year the elite race took a hit over the hills in the last 6 km, and it wasn't much fun for the masses either.

Last March the Tokyo Marathon organizers announced with fanfare a new course aimed at eliminating these problems and making it faster.  Billed as a flat speed course, the new configuration reshuffled much of the old course but cut the depressing last 6 km and replaced it with a new mid-race foray into uncharted land east of the Sumida River.  A week and a day out from Tokyo's eleventh running, JRN set out to find the new lay of the land.


The new course keeps the start in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building and follows the old course through the downhills to 7 km.


At 7 km, just before the old course reached its most scenic segment along the outer perimeter of the Imperial Palace, the new course turns left and heads toward Kanda Station for 1.5 km.


At 8.5 km a righthand turn leads to Nihonbashi, a once-historic bridge and neighborhood now buried under the shadows of highway overpasses built for the 1964 Olympics.


The bridge itself is still there, and while surfaced with cobblestones and representing the first real addition of up-and-down to the course it's a privilege to run across it, something until now reserved only for the twenty-odd men on the anchor stage of the legendary Hakone Ekiden.


At 10 km the course rejoins its former self.  Where the old course headed through Ginza just after halfway before turning right to head to the Asakusa turnaround, the new course meets it from the opposite direction to turn left before following the same route to Asakusa.  In years past the Ginza/Nihonbashi section of the course, roughly halfway through 25 km, often saw the first action in the race up front.  That section will now come much earlier, just past 10 km.


The old course made an out-and-back up to Asakusa, breaching 30 km en route before making it back to Ginza.  The new course makes the pilgrimage to Asakusa but on the way back just after 16 km diverts to cross the Sumida and head out through territory previously reserved only for sumo wrestlers to a 180' turnaround at 20.5 km.  The Monzen-Nakacho neighborhood surrounding the turnaround point is a highlight of the new course.


Just over 8 km out and back from the Kuramaebashi bridge on the River Sumida, this is the section that is supposed to be a flattened improvement over the time-and-soul-destroying last 6 km of the old course.  The problem is, it's not flatter.  Just like the old course's series of bridges and bumps every kilometer over its terminal 6, the new course has six bridges and bumps on the way to the turnaround.  Then you have to run them again.  With the exception of the return trip up Kuramaebashi near 24 km none of them is especially demanding, but there are twelve of them, not six, packed into 8 km versus the old 6 km format.  According to a nonscientific look at GPS data, their combined climb is around 15 m greater than for the hilly part of the former course.  It's not much, but it's enough to call any claim of this course being flatter a misrepresentation.

The question is, will it be faster?  The hills on the old course weren't terrible but came at the worst possible time.  From the Nihonbashi intersection just before 29 km on the return trip all the way to the finish, the new course is almost totally flat.  Describing this section as flatter and faster would be accurate, as would saying that overall the course has shifted its hills from the end of the race to the middle.  Will that make it faster?  Maybe.  With few corners and only a 180' turnaround at Shinagawa Station just after 35 km there's nothing to stop someone who handles the mid-race hills well from getting into a rhythm that carries them to a very fast time.  Nothing except wind, which could be more of an issue on this course than the old one if it blows from the north or south.


Right after 41 km the course makes a quick right and then, with 1 km to go, a left.  For almost a kilometer runners will go straight ahead down a fashionable, tree-lined boulevard, worlds away from the old finish in quality and appropriateness for the event's stature.  The entire last kilometer is surfaced with brick and cobblestone, a rarity in Tokyo, but as a relatively new installation they are smooth and flat and shouldn't present any problems. More of a potential problem are the tall buildings lining both sides of the road. If there's any wind at all they will turn the last kilometer into a wind tunnel.


At the end of the last kilometer straightway runners explode into wide open space between the Imperial Palace and the Marunouchi red brick side of Tokyo Station.  It's very nice and scenic, but to maximize the effect the Tokyo Marathon organizers have opted to make runners take a sharp left with 100 m or less to go to the finish line.  That may make for prettier pictures at the finish line, but as an elite event it's dropping the ball.  Runners won't be visible from the finish until almost literally the very last moment, and if there's any kind of exciting head-to-head race at the end it will be interrupted by the last-second turn.  It's not a perfect course yet, but on net the changes look to be a good step in the right direction.  How it plays out in action and whether the changes are going to result in the outcomes the organizers are hoping for remains to be seen next Sunday.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, February 17, 2017

Kamino's 30 km Debut in Ome Highlights Weekend Action

by Brett Larner

This weekend is a lull in the middle of Japan's seven-week elite marathon season, but there's still plenty going on.  Both of its main 30 km road races, Kumamoto's Kumanichi 30 km and Tokyo's Ome 30 km, the world's two greatest races at the distance, happen Sunday.

Run in conjunction with the mass participation Kumamoto-jo Marathon, the Kumanichi 30 km is an elite-only event with small men's and women's fields and the home of Takayuki Matsumiya's 1:28:00 national record.  Toyo University graduate Ryu Takaku (Team Yakult) leads the field with a 1:30:32 in Kumanichi three years ago.  Current Toyo runner Shun Sakuraoka and past 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) are his main competition.  Mami Onuki (Team Sysmex) has the best 30 km time in the women's field, 1:46:37 for 2nd in last year's race, but the favorite may be the debuting Ayumi Kubo (Team Kagoshima Ginko), a 1:11:29 half marathoner.

The Ome 30 km is a longstanding mass participation event with over 15,000 participants and the women's national record, Mizuki Noguchi's stellar pre-Olympic gold 1:39:09 from 2004.  Most fans will be focused on Ome this weekend to see the 30 km debut of ultra-popular former Hakone Ekiden star Daichi Kamino (Team Konica Minolta).  Ome has a tough and hilly course that plays to Kamino's strengths, and with a bonus of over $25,000 USD on the line for beating Toshihiko Seko's 1:29:23 Ome time he has extra motivation to hit it hard.  And it may be leading to something bigger.

Ome has a longstanding relationship with the Boston Marathon, the top Japanese man in Ome getting an invitation to run Boston and top Americans in Boston likewise getting invited to run Ome the following year.  Back in the day this meant the big names, but it has been a long time since either country's best ran the other's race, the invitations usually ending up in the hands of 2nd or 3rd-tier runners.  Kamino has been talking a marathon debut next season, but he has been building up nicely enough this one.  In December he ran 46:38 for 2nd behind Kenyan Charles Ndirangu (Team JFE Steel) at the Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler.  After two good ekiden runs in January he ran a 1:01:04 half marathon PB for top Japanese man at the Feb. 5 Marugame Half.  When Seko ran his 1:29:23 in the 1981 Ome he went on to win Boston two months later in 2:09:27. The hills of the Boston course are ideal for Kamino's abilities. His teammate Tomohiro Tanigawa debuted in Boston off a solid Ome run in 2013. If Kamino breaks Seko's time, could he we see him follow Seko to Boston?

The Ome women's race is always small, but this year it has a debut almost as exciting as Kamino's lined up.  All-time Japanese junior #3 for 5000 m at 15:17.62, Azusa Sumi (Team Universal Entertainment), now age 20, is set to run her first-ever race longer than 12 km.  Sumi ran well this ekiden season, running 32:38 for 10.0 km at January's National Women's Ekiden and 36:36 for 11.7 km a week later at the Kita-Kyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden, her longest-ever race up to now.  It's a big jump from there to 30 km, especially on a hilly course, but Sumi wouldn't be taking it on if she wasn't ready.

Cross country is a minor part of the sport in Japan, with just two major races on the calendar.  Rebranded to sound cooler, the X-Run Chiba 2017 also goes down Sunday.  Serving as the Junior High School cross country championships, this year X-Run Chiba features distances all the way up to 20 km in the open division.  Most elites will opt for the Fukuoka International Cross Country meet next week, rebranded last year as the National Cross Country Championships, but it'll be interesting to see how a 20 km cross country race goes over.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Negesse, Chebii and Sasaki Lead Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Field

by Brett Larner

The Mar. 5 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, Biwako for short, is the last of the four races used to choose the three members of the Japanese men's marathon team for August's London World Championships.  Two of the three members of last summer's Rio de Janeiro Olympic team top the list of Japanese men in the race, Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) with a 2:08:56 in Fukuoka 2015 and Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) with 2:09:25 last year at Lake Biwa. The pair are the only Japanese athletes in the field with recent sub-2:10 times, a few steps ahead of six 2:10-11 men including the high-potential Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota).  Four others led by 2014 Asian Games silver medalist Kohei Matsumura (Team MHPS) have broken 2:10 in the past but would need a solid comeback to factor.  With the possible exception of Matsumura one of the five debuting sub-63 half marathoners may be more likely to end up in the front-end action, the prime candidate being 2017 New Year Ekiden Sixth Stage course record breaker Hiroshi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei).

The international field is led by Endeshaw Negesse (Ethiopia), Ezekiel Kiptoo Chebii (Kenya) and Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/Team JFE Steel). Negesse won the 2015 Tokyo Marathon but last year was caught up in the meldonium ban and sat out the rest of the year.  Chebii is a two-time winner of the Madrid Marathon and ran his PB of 2:06:07 in his last marathon, last fall's Amsterdam Marathon.  The Japan-based Ndirangu is fresh off a quality run for 3rd at last weekend's National Corporate Half Marathon and looks ready for his marathon debut.  Other sub-2:10 internationals include Tewelde Estifanos (Eritrea), Yihuniligh Adane (Ethiopia) and past Lake Biwa winner Vincent Kipruto (Kenya).

The Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon will be broadcast live and commercial-free on NHK starting at 12:30 p.m. Japan time on the 5th.  In its other race broadcasts this season NHK has offered free four channel live streaming available internationally on its website.  JRN will also cover the race live on Twitter @JRNLive.  Check back closer to race date for more info.

72nd Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
Elite Field Highlights
Otsu, Shiga, 3/5/17
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Endeshaw Negesse (Ethiopia) - 2:06:00 (Tokyo 2015)
Ezekiel Kiptoo Chebii (Kenya) - 2:06:07 (Amsterdam 2016)
Satoru Sasaki (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:08:56 (Fukuoka Int'l 2015)
Tewelde Estifanos (Eritrea) - 2:09:16 (Frankfurt 2015)
Suehiro Ishikawa (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:25 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Yihuniligh Adane (Ethiopia) - 2:09:48 (Dubai 2016)
Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:09:54 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Hayato Sonoda (Japan/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:10:40 (Fukuoka Int'l 2016)
Munyo Solomon Mutai (Uganda) - 2:10:42 (Hannover 2015)
Kazuki Tomaru (Japan/Toyota) - 2:11:25 (Berlin 2014)
Tomoyuki Morita (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:11:41 (Tokyo 2015)
Tadashi Isshiki (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:11:45 (Tokyo 2016)
Chihiro Miyawaki (Japan/Toyota) - 2:11:50 (Tokyo 2014)
Rui Yonezawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:11:59 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Taiki Yoshimura (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:12:19 (Hofu 2016)
Hiroki Yamagishi (Japan/GMO) - 2:12:27 (Tokyo 2016)
Kohei Matsumura (Japan/MHPS) - 2:12:39 (Incheon 2014)
Norikazu Kato (Japan/Yakult) - 2:13:34 (Nobeoka 2015)
Yu Chiba (Japan/Honda) - 2:13:44 (Riga 2014)
Byron Piedra (Ecuador) - 2:14:12 (Rio de Janeiro 2016)
Aritaka Kajiwara (Japan/Atsugi T&F Assoc.) - 2:14:27 (Fukuoka Int'l 2016)
Masanori Sakai (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:14:52 (Berlin 2015)
Takayuki Matsumiya (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 2:14:58 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Hideaki Tamura (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:15:00 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Mourad Maroufit (Morocco) - 2:15:24 (Guangzhou 2016)
Takumi Kiyotani (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:15:31 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Koshi Watanabe (Japan/Subaru) - 2:15:36 (Osaka 2016)
Kiyokatsu Hasegawa (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:15:42 (Lake Biwa 2016)
Tyler Andrews (U.S.A.) - 2:15:52 (Albany 2016)
Hiroyuki Horibata (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:08:24 (Fukuoka Int'l 2012)

Debut
Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/JFE Steel) - 1:00:18 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
El Hassan El Abbassi (Bahrain) - 1:02:16 (Marrakech Half 2016)
Keita Baba (Japan/Honda) - 1:02:23 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Hiroshi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:25 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Shuji Matsuo (Japan/Chudenko) - 1:02:25 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Yuta Oikawa (Japan/YKK) - 1:02:40 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)
Ryuji Okada (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:02:48 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Last-Place Finisher Named Winner After Entire Rest of Field Disqualified

http://news.tv-asahi.co.jp/news_society/articles/000094362.html

translated by Brett Larner

262 out of 263 participants in a road race were disqualified after they were misdirected, with only one person running the correct course.  The mishap occurred at a race in Kasaoka, Okayama on Feb. 5.  According to city officials, in the children's 3 km division the field of 263 elementary school students from 3rd grade through 6th grade was misdirected.  262 of them ran the wrong way, with the first child to finish covering what was estimated to be less than 2 km in 6:51. Followed by a staff member, only the last-place child ran the correct course to complete the full 3 km distance.  All the other children were disqualified, and city officials decided to honor the lone finisher as the winner.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

’La Corredora Japonesa Yuri Yoshizumi Viaja a La Palma para Participar en Transvulcania'

http://www.deporpress.com/index.php/2017/02/14/la-corredora-japonesa-yuri-yoshizumi-viaja-a-la-palma-para-participar-en-transvulcania/?platform=hootsuite

A Spanish-language article on 2012 Hokkaido Marathon winer Yuri Yoshizumi ahead of May's Transvulcania race.

Japanese Men Stuck Behind the 2:09 Wall Seven Minutes Behind the Rest of the World

http://www.nikkan-gendai.com/articles/view/sports/199496/1

translated by Brett Larner

It's turned into an era when it's hard to break even 2:09.

On Feb. 12, Yuki Kawauchi (29), the top Japanese finisher in December's Fukuoka International Marathon at 3rd overall, set a new course record of 2:09:54 to win the Ehime Marathon for the first time.  Speaking of 2:09, in Fukuoka as well Kawauchi ran 2:09:11.  On the 5th this month Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner Kentaro Nakamoto (34) ran 2:09:32 too.  And the three members of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics team did it in the selection races.  Satoru Sasaki barely broke 2:09 at 2:08:56 for 3rd in Fukuoka, and Hisanori Kitajima and Suehiro Ishikawa ran 2:09:16 and 2:09:25 for 2nd and 4th at Lake Biwa.  Even in the Olympic season when marathoners' gaze is supposed to be loftier, that was all they could do.

Even though the world standard in the men's marathon is now at the 2:02 level, Japanese haven't run 2:07 in a domestic race since Masato Imai's 2:07:39 for 7th in Tokyo back in 2015.  Maybe that's why the Tokyo Marathon, scheduled for the 26th this month, has changed its course to try to put out high-speed times.  Gone is the heartbreaking uphill, Tsukada Bridge, just after 35 km.  With the organizers having made the course easier it'll be fun to watch how much faster times might get.

Also on the 12th, Ai Utsunomiya, 21, ran a PB of 1:10:47 to win the National Corporate Women's Half Marathon, more than three minutes slower than Kayoko Fukushi's 1:07:26 Japanese national record.  But on the 10th at a half marathon in the U.A.E., Peres Jepchirchir (23, Kenya) set a new world record of 1:05:06.

Translator's note: One of JRN's purposes is to show the extent to which long distance features in the Japanese media and the ways in which they cover it. This article was translated to show that there is crap tabloid journalism and trolling in Japan too. 

Kawauchi Joins Elite Club of 11+ Sub-2:10 Marathoners

by Brett Larner

With his 2:09:54 at Sunday's Ehime Marathon Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) became the fifteenth runner in history to run sub-2:10 eleven times or more in his career.  The achievement puts him in distinguished company, including two marathon world record setters, seven Olympic marathon medalists, seven World Championships marathon medalists, three World Marathon Majors champions and eight winners of the six races now making up the World Marathon Majors.

Kawauchi is one of only three non-African athletes to make the list, one of four on the list without either an Olympic or World Championships medal or a win at one of the Big Six, one of four to have not broken 2:07, and, with a PB of 2:08:14, the only one who has not run sub-2:08.  A sub-2:08 PB and a World Championships medal remain the major goals of his career.

Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 16 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:04:38
  • 2013 World Marathon Majors champion
  • 1st, 2013 London Marathon
  • 1st, 2012 Chicago Marathon
  • 1st, 2010 London Marathon
  • bronze, 2009 Berlin World Championships
  • bronze, 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya) - 14 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:03:14
  • 2011 World Marathon Majors champion
  • 1st, 2011 London Marathon
  • silver, 2009 Berlin World Championships

Jaouad Gharib (Morocco) - 14 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:05:27
  • silver, 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
  • gold, 2005 Helsinki World Championships
  • gold, 2003 Paris World Championships

Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) - 13 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:04:48
  • silver, 2015 Beijing World Championships

Feyisa Lelisa (Ethiopia) - 13 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:04:52
  • silver, 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games
  • 1st, 2016 Tokyo Marathon
  • bronze, 2011 Daegu World Championships

Abdelkader El Mouaziz (Morocco) - 13 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:06:46
  • 1st, 2001 London Marathon
  • 1st, 2000 New York City Marathon
  • 1st, 1999 London Marathon

Stefano Baldini (Italy) - 13 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:07:22
  • gold, 2006 Goteborg European Championships
  • gold, 2004 Athens Olympic Games
  • bronze, 2003 Paris World Championships
  • bronze, 2001 Edmonton World Championships
  • gold, 1998 Budapest European Championships

Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) - 12 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:03:13
  • world record setter
  • 2014 World Marathon Majors champion
  • 1st, 2014 New York City Marathon
  • 1st, 2014 London Marathon
  • 1st, 2013 Berlin Marathon
  • bronze, 2012 London Olympic Games
  • 1st, 2012 London Marathon

Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) - 12 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:03:59
  • 2-time world record setter
  • 1st, 2009 Berlin Marathon
  • 1st, 2008 Berlin Marathon
  • 1st, 2007 Berlin Marathon
  • 1st, 2006 Berlin Marathon

Sammy Korir (Kenya) - 12 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:04:56

Bernard Kiprop (Kenya) - 12 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:06:19

Abel Kirui (Kenya) - 11 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:05:04
  • 1st, 2016 Chicago Marathon
  • silver, 2012 London Olympic Games
  • gold, 2011 Daegu World Championships
  • gold, 2009 Berlin World Championships

Benson Barus (Kenya) - 11 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:07:07

Bong-ju Lee (South Korea) - 11 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:07:20
  • gold, 2002 Busan Asian Games
  • 1st, 2001 Boston Marathon
  • gold, 1998 Bangkok Asian Games
  • silver, 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games

Yuki Kawauchi (Japan) - 11 times sub-2:10
  • PB: 2:08:14
  • bronze, 2014 Incheon Asian Games

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, February 13, 2017

Hoping for "Chemical Reaction," JAAF Invites Promising Young Athletes and Kawauchi to New Zealand Marathon Camp

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20170212-OHT1T50016.html

translated by Brett Larner

According to a JAAF spokesperson, in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the JAAF will hold a men's marathon training camp in New Zealand in March.  Along with promising young talents like "God of the Mountain III" Daichi Kamino (23, Team Konica Minolta), the JAAF is in consultation to invite London World Championships candidate Yuki Kawauchi (29, Saitama Pref. Gov't).

The camp is part of a new strategic initiative to raise the level of Japanese marathoning.  Of note are the athletes being invited.  Along with Kamino, who was the star of the Hakone Ekiden's uphill Fifth Stage while at Aoyama Gakuin University and who has continued to grow since going to the corporate leagues, this year's Hakone Second Stage winner Kengo Suzuki (21, Kanagawa Univ.) and other high-potential young distance runners without marathon experience are being invited.

In addition, the JAAF has asked Kawauchi, who on Sunday ran his 66th marathon in 2:09:54 to win the Ehime Marathon, to participate.  JAAF marathon development project leader Toshihiko Seko (60) commented animatedly, "The chance to learn from Kawauchi's approach to the marathon would be of tremendous value to our young athletes.  We would really like him to take part."

For young athletes Kawauchi is the perfect "running textbook."  There's no doubt that Kawauchi would find the chance to train together with the country's best young runners stimulating too.  One part seasoned veteran amateur runner, one part inexperienced but promising young talents.  Expect a powerful "chemical reaction."

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Kawauchi Takes Almost 7 Minutes Off Ehime Marathon Course Record With 2:09:54 Win, Matsuo Defends in Nobeoka



by Brett Larner


In his first marathon of 2017 and the last one he will run before turning 30 Yuki  Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) made history as he won the 55th edition of the Ehime Marathon in 2:09:54, taking almost seven minutes off Ehime's 2:16:49 CR set in 1965.

Saying pre-race that he thought he was in shape to run 2:13, Kawauchi split 15:11 for the first 5 km off a slow opening km, 2:08:08 pace.  Unexpectedly, he got company from Waseda University fourth-year and Ehime native Yohei Suzuki, a 1:02:16 half marathoner making his marathon debut before graduating next month.  Kawauchi responded by upping the pace to 15:08 through the next 5 km, putting the pair on track for 2:07:55 at 10 km and holding on to sub-2:09 pace through 25 km.  Suzuki lost touch near 20 km, hitting halfway in 1:04:30 to Kawauchi's 1:04:18, and from there it was a completely solo run to the end for both, with no pacers and no other competition in sight.

Ever since his solo 2:10:14 at the 2014 Kumamoto Castle Marathon Kawauchi has thought that he could solo a sub-2:10 if everything went right.  Following Suzuki's departure and now completely on his own Kawauchi's splits and projected finishing time continued to slow, going to 2:09:13 at 30 km, 2:09:48 at 35 km and ticking over to 2:10:01 at 40 km.  But with his characteristic finishing speed he had the sub-2:10 in hand, breaking the tape and a course record that had stood since the year his mother was born.  His win marked the eleventh time in his career that he has gone under 2:10, something an elite group of fifteen men and only three non-African athletes, Olympic medalists Stefano Baldini (Italy) and Lee Bong Ju (South Korea), and now Kawauchi, have ever achieved.

With a resonant run in Fukuoka last December for 3rd in 2:09:11 Kawauchi was already in contention for the London World Championships team.  Last weekend Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) won the second selection race, the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, in 2:09:32.  Kawauchi's time in Ehime was 22 seconds slower, but having come in an amateur-level mass participation race without the amentities of Japan's elite marathon circuit, no pacers, no special drinks, no real competition, just one man and the road, it surely stands on equal footing even if it doesn't count in official selection.


After losing touch with Kawauchi Suzuki faded over the second half, but spurred on by his hometown crowds, which race announcers estimated at three times the usual size, he pushed on alone through the second-half darkness that comes in an overpaced marathon debut.  Raising his fist in the air as he came to the finish line he took 2nd in 2:14:56, almost two minutes under the 52-year-old course record.  A loss to an athlete of Kawauchi's ability was no shame, and you can only hope that Suzuki takes the pride and satisfaction he should in his run.

Behind him, Komazawa University rival Yoshiki Nakamura took 3rd in a 2:18:37 debut, a time good enough to win most years in Ehime.  Amateur club runners Takehiko Gyoba and Takemaru Yamazaki both ran PBs for 4th and 5th, Gyoba getting under the 2:20 mark and Yamazaki just missing it. Kana Orino (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) ran down Anna Matsuda of local 2016 National University Women's Ekiden champion Matsuyama University to win the women's race in 2:42:36.


Also celebrating its 55th anniversary edition, the Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon saw its first back-to-back champion in over 30 years.  With Rio Olympics marathoner Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) providing pacing, a lead group of five including the debuting trio of Shota Hattori (Team Honda), Yuichi Okutani (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and Toshiki Sadakata (Team MHPS), Yosuke Chida (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) and defending champion Ryoichi Matsuo (Team Asahi Kasei) went through halfway in 1:04:51, well under the 2:11:05 course record pace.

When Sasaki stepped off at 25 km it was down to Hattori, Okutani and Matsuo, and Hattori was quick to take over.  At 30 km he was 9 seconds ahead of Okutani and 38 seconds up on Matuso.  At 35 km Okutani had come back to within 3 seconds with Matsuo falling to 50 seconds behind.  But things can change quickly in a marathon.  Hattori abruptly stalled just as Matsuo began to attack, and by 40 km Matsuo had overtaken him for second.  Just over a kilometer later he overtook Okutani to go into the lead, widening the gap all the way to the finish.  Matsuo won in 2:13:36, the first back-to-back Nobeoka winner since Chiaki Harumatsu in 1985-86.  Hattori retook Okutani for 2nd in 2:14:19, Okutani 6 seconds back in 2:14:25, both reasonably successful debut times just ahead of Suzuki's performance in Ehime.  Club runner Noriko Sato (First Dream AC) won the women's race in 2:51:11.

55th Ehime Marathon
Matsuyama, Ehime, 2/12/17

Men
1. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:09:54 - CR
2. Yohei Suzuki (Waseda Univ.) - 2:14:56 - debut (CR)
3. Yoshiki Nakamura (Komazawa Univ.) - 2:18:37 - debut
4. Takehiko Gyoba (unattached) - 2:19:12 - PB
5. Takemaru Yamazaki (unattached) - 2:20:30 - PB

Women
1. Kana Orino (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:42:36
2. Anna Matsuda (Matsuyama Univ.) - 2:45:04

55th Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon
Nobeoka, Miyazaki, 2/12/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Ryoichi Matsuo (Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:36
2. Shota Hattori (Honda) - 2:14:19 - debut
3. Yuichi Okutani (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:14:25 - debut
4. Yosuke Chida (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:15:10 - PB
5. Kenta Otani (JFE Steel) - 2:18:06

Women
1. Noriko Sato (First Dream AC) - 2:51:11

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Abinet and Utsunomiya Take National Corporate Half Marathon Titles, 19-Year-Old Onizuka Wins Karatsu 10-Miler

by Brett Larner

Alongside Sunday's record-breaking marathon action, the weekend featured three high-level road races across the country.  In Yamaguchi, Ethiopian Abiyot Abinet (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) made a strong half marathon debut to win the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships men's title. Emerging from a lead pack of seven including Kenyans Macharia Ndirangu (Team Aichi Seiko), Charles Ndirangu (Team JFE Steel) and Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Team Kanebo) plus Japanese men Taku Fujimoto (Team Toyota), Ken Yokote (Team Fujitsu) and Hiroyuki Ishikawa (Team Aisan Kogyo), Abinet ran the last two-thirds of the race alone to win in 1:01:21.  Fujimoto took 4th overall in 1:01:53 in the top Japanese position.  Kitonyi, Yokote and Ishikawa faded in the second half and were run down by 2014 National University Half Marathon champion Hideto Yamanaka (Team Honda) and Komazawa University graduate Shun Inoura (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) who set new PBs of 1:02:00 and 1:02:01.

The women's race was split between half marathon and 10 km with just 44 women starting the half.  A pack race until 15 km, Ai Utsunomiya (Team Miyazaki Ginko) and Sakiko Tsutsui (Team Yamada Denki) went head-to-head over the last 5 km for the national title.  Running a PB by over 20 seconds, Utsunomiya got the win in 1:10:47, Tsutsui pulling a credible debut in 1:10:55 for 2nd.  Coached by men's half marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato, 19-year-old Ayaka Fujimoto ran a PB of 1:11:00 for 3rd.  Yui Fukuda (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) scored the 10 km national title in style, setting a course record of 32:17 to finish 7 seconds up on Mao Ichiyama (Team Wacoal).  Japanese women regularly run faster in 10.0 km ekiden legs, but Fukuda's time put her just outside the all-time Japanese top ten for regular road 10 km.

At the Karatsu 10-Miler, Tokai University first-year Shota Onizuka unexpectedly outran a field including Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei), all-time Japanese #2 for 5000 m and 10000 m on the track and making his non-ekiden road race debut, for the win in 46:36.  Onizuka's fellow Tokai first-years Junnosuke Matsuo and Ryoji Tatezawa both made the top seven in their 10-mile debuts, further adding to Tokai's credentials as the team with the best chance of taking down three-time Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University in the 2017-18 ekiden season.  A week after superb pacing through 15 km at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, Taiki Yoshimura (Team Asahi Kasei) was 9th in 47:24.

Eijia Miyagi (Oita Tomei H.S.) won the women's 10 km in 33:30, with Sae Hanada (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) winning the high school girls' 5 km in 16:23.  The high school boys' 10 km saw the top seven break 30 minutes, Takaki Iwamuro (Omuta H.S.) getting the win in a PB 29:44.  But the high school results paled compared to what came a day earlier in Gunma.  At Saturday's Gunma Prefecture Junior Road Race, at least the top eight broke 30 minutes in the high school boys' 10 km.  Winner Keigo Kurihara (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) ran 29:22 to take more than 30 seconds off the course record of 29:54 set in 1987.  Between them, the two high school boys' 10 km races showed that the bar continues to raise as Tokyo 2020 draws closer.

45th National Corporate Half Marathon and 10 km Championships
Yamaguchi, 2/12/17
click here for complete results

Men's Half Marathon
1. Abiyot Abinet (Yachiyo Kogyo) - 1:01:21 - debut
2. Macharia Ndirangu (Aichi Seiko) - 1:01:46
3. Charles Ndirangu (JFE Steel) - 1:01:52
4. Taku Fujimoto (Toyota) - 1:01:53
5. Hideto Yamanaka (Honda) - 1:02:00 - PB
6. Shun Inoura (Yachiyo Kogyo) - 1:02:01 - PB
7. Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Kanebo) - 1:02:05
8. Ken Yokote (Fujitsu) - 1:02:15
9. Naoya Takahashi (Yasukawa Denki) - 1:02:31 - PB
10. Keita Baba (Honda) - 1:02:31

Women's Half Marathon
1. Ai Utsunomiya (Miyazaki Ginko) - 1:10:47 - PB
2. Sakiho Tsutsui (Yamada Denki) - 1:10:55 - debut
3. Ayaka Fujimoto (Kyocera) - 1:11:00 - PB
4. Maki Ashi (Kyudenko) - 1:11:12 - PB
5. Yuri Nozoe (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 1:11:14 - debut

Women's 10 km
1. Yui Fukuda (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 32:17 - CR
2. Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) - 32:24
3. Kaori Morita (Panasonic) - 32:27
4. Ryo Koido (Hitachi) - 32:39
5. Yuka Hori (Panasonic) - 32:40

57th Karatsu 10-Mile Road Race
Karatsu, Saga, 2/12/17
click here for complete results

Men's 10 Miles
1. Shota Onizuka (Tokai Univ.) - 46:36 - debut
2. Yuma Higashi (Kyudenko) - 46:39 - PB
3. Minato Yamashita (NTN) - 46:43 - debut
4. Junnosuke Matsuo (Tokai Univ.) - 46:44 - debut
5. Akinobu Murasawa (Nissin Shokuhin) - 46:46
6. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei) - 46:48 - debut
7. Ryoji Tatezawa (Tokai Univ.) - 47:04 - debut
8. Atsuya Imai (Toyota Kyushu) - 47:20
9. Taiki Yoshimura (Asahi Kasei) - 47:24
10. Akihiko Tsumurai (Mazda) - 47:25

Women's 10 km
1. Eijia Miyagi (Oita Tomei H.S.) - 33:30 - PB
2. Yuika Takaki (Fukuoka Univ.) - 33:40
3. Shoko Tsujita (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 34:36
4. Saya Terao (Nakamura Joshi H.S.) - 34:37
5. Fuka Niina (Oita Tomei H.S.) - 34:38

High School Boys 10 km
1. Takaki Iwamuro (Omuta H.S.) - 29:44 - PB
2. Kaishi Daiho (Tokai Prep Fukuoka H.S.) - 29:50 - PB
3. Hiroyasu Morikawa (Jiyugaoka H.S.) - 29:52 - PB
4. Tatsuya Takahashi (Jiyugaoka H.S.) - 29:53 - PB
5. Masaki Tsuda (Fukuoka Prep Ohori H.S.) - 29:53 - PB

High School Girls 5 km
1. Sae Hanada (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 16:23
2. Ako Matsumoto (Omuta H.S.) - 16:27
3. Maki Okubo (Saga Seiwa H.S.) - 16:53

26th Gunma Prefecture Junior Road Race
Maebashi, Gunma, 2/11/17

High School Boys 10 km
1. Keigo Kurihara (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 29:22 - CR, PB
2. Hiroki Arai (Maebashi Ikuei H.S.) - 29:23
3. Mitsuaki Takahashi (Fujioka Chuo H.S.) - 29:28
4. Ippei Hoshino (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 29:31
5. Shuto Takeuchi (Isesaki Shogyo H.S.) - 29:35

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, February 11, 2017

3000 m JHS National Record Holder Hayashida Commits to Keiho H.S.

http://www.nishinippon.co.jp/sp/nnp/nagasaki/article/307416

translated by Brett Larner

A third-year at Sakuragahara J.H.S. in Omura, 3000 m junior high school national record holder Hiroto Hayashida announced on Feb. 10 that he has committed to attend Keiho H.S. in Nagasaki.  Hayashida received offers from a number of top running schools both within and outside Kyushu, but, he said of his decision, "I want to do my part to raise the level of athletics in Nagasaki where I was born and raised."

In last October's Iwate National Sports Festival junior 3000 m Hayashida won in 8:19.14, breaking his own junior high school national record.  In January he set a new course record of 8:20 on the 3.0 k m Second Stage at the National Men's Ekiden in Hiroshima.  Keiho H.S. has competed at the National High School Ekiden five times.  Asked about his goals in high school, Hayashida replied with determination, "I want to win the 1500 m and 5000 m at the National High School Championships."

Friday, February 10, 2017

'Jepchirchir Breaks World Half Marathon Record In Ras Al-Khaimah'

https://www.iaaf.org/news/report/jepchirchir-breaks-world-half-marathon-record

The Ras Al-Khaimah Half was the fifth-straight win for Tokyo-based Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC), having won two track races in 24 hours at November's Nittai University Time Trials meet, the first a 10000 m in 27:07.30, a brilliant win in the most competitive January race in the world, the New Year Ekiden's 8.3 km Second Stage, and a tune-up for RAK with a win at the 10 km Discovery Cross meet in Kenya late last month.  Karoki is set to debut at April's London Marathon after a DNS there last year.

photo © 2017 Dr. Helmut Winter
all rights reserved

Nobeoka, Kawauchi's 2017 Marathon Debut, National Corporate Half and More - Weekend Preview

by Brett Larner

This time of year there are multiple high-level races in Japan every weekend, this one being no exception.  Sunday's Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon is one of the main developmental races for Japanese men, the place where future Olympic marathoners including Hisanori Kitajima, Kentaro Nakamoto, Shinji Kawajima and Shigeru Soh made their marathon debuts. Last year's winner Ryoichi Matsuo (Team Asahi Kasei) returns to face debuting 1:01:25 half marathoner Shota Hattori (Team Honda) and teammates Kenta Matsumoto and Kenta Matsubara (Team Toyota), training partners of Minato Oishi whose successful debut at last Sunday's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon saw him land 4th in 2:10:39.

In parallel to Nobeoka, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) will run his first marathon of 2017 at the Ehime Marathon.  Kawauchi's goal is to run 2:13, three minutes under the current Ehime course record.  His main competition is Waseda University fourth-year Yohei Suzuki, a 1:02:16 half marathoner making his marathon debut in his final race before graduating.  With ten marathons currently planned for 2017 Ehime is likely to be Kawauchi's only domestic Japanese marathon until December.

Much of the top-level corporate half marathon talent ran last weekend's Marugame Half, but the entry lists for the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships are still deep as always.  The women's field is split between the 10 km and half marathon distance.  At 32:13.55 Akane Yabushita (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) fronts a group of five women in the 10 km with recent 10000 m times under 33 minutes.  10000 m collegiate national record holder Hikari Yoshimoto (Team Daihatsu) hasn't run well since coming back from premature retirement, but with a 31:30.92 best she always has the potential for a return.

Yoshimoto's former Bukkyo University and Yamada Denki corporate teammate Kasumi Nishihara is the most interesting name in the women's half marathon, the winner of the final Kyoto City Half Marathon back in 2009 but with no half marathons on her resume since.  Japan-based Kenyan Felista Wanjugu (Team Universal Entertainment) has the best recent time in the field at 1:10:02, with six women with recent 1:11 times behind her including 10000 m national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo).

On the men's side, sub-61 Kenyans Charles Ndirangu (Team JFE Steel) and Macharia Ndirangu (Team Aichi Seiko) lead the way ahead of sun-62 Japanese men Taku Fujimoto (Team Toyota) and Ken Yokote (Team Fujitsu).  61-minute men Shuho Dairokuno (Team Asahi Kasei) and Shogo Nakamura (Team Fujitsu) are on the entry list but unlikely to start after recent injury issues.  Ikuto Yufu (Team Fujitsu), winner of last year's Karatsu 10-Miler, is set to make a return to the half marathon distance for the first time since outkicking 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi (U.S.A.) for 9th at the 2014 NYC Half.  Potentially heavy snow may be a factor, but the National Corporate Half will be broadcast on TBS Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Japan time.  Try mov3.co for streaming.

Yufu may have opted out of a title defense, but the Karatsu 10-Miler will still be going on in his absence.  It's an unusually good field this year.  All-time Japanese #2 for both 5000 m and 10000 m at 13:12.63 and 27:29.74, Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei) will be running his first-ever non-ekiden road race.  He will be facing 2:08:00 marathoner Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), 2009 Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km winner Akinobu Murasawa (59:08, Team Nissin Shokuhin), 2016 Ageo City Half Marathon 3rd-placer Shota Onizuka (1:02:03, Tokai Univ.), 2013 Ageo runner-up Kazuto Nishiike (1:02:36, Team Konica Minolta), 2009 Ageo winner Shota Hiraga (1:02:08, Team Sumitomo Denko) and Suzuki's Waseda teammates Kazuma Taira and Yuichi Yasui, both sub-63 for the half marathon win Suzuki running 1:02:14 for 7th behind Onizuka in Ageo last year.  Masanari Shintaku's 45:40 national record from the 1984 Karatsu 10-Miler is no joke, but with any luck, especially with the forecast of snow, it'll be on this talented crew's agenda. Yuika Takaki (Fukuoka Univ.) leads the women's 10 km.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Draft Outline of Japan's First Bill Designating Doping an Illegal Act Revealed

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2017/02/09/kiji/20170209s00048000050000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, an outline of the bipartisan Sports Parliamentary Council's in-progress draft for Japan's first doping countermeasure bill was revealed in an interview with a source involved in deliberations.  The bill does not establish criminal punishment for violators, but it would designate doping as an illegal act for the first time and would facilitate obtaining top athletes' personal information through a public institution in exceptional cases to aid in detecting fraudulent activities that violate anti-doping provisions.  The legislation would enhance the ability to collect information on athletes, making it a useful tool for establishing plans for investigations.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Teen Marathon Record Holder Yuta Shimoda Withdraws From Tokyo Marathon With Knee Pain

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20170208-OHT1T50033.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

After running 2:11:34 at age 19 at last year's Tokyo Marathon to become the fastest-ever Japanese marathoner under 20, Aoyama Gakuin University third-year Yuta Shimoda has withdrawn from this year's Tokyo Marathon on Feb. 26 due to pain in his right knee.  Shimoda was set to try for the London World Championships men's marathon team in Tokyo, whose organizers made the announcement of his withdrawal on Feb. 7.

Shimoda won the Hakone Ekiden Eighth Stage on Jan. 3 to help Aoyama Gakuin claim the overall title, his second-straight Hakone stage win.  On Jan. 15 he did a 2:27:35 marathon time trial on the last day of a three-day marathon training camp conceived by Aoyama Gakuin head coach Susumu Hara, 49, but after running the anchor stage of the National Men's Ekiden a week later on Jan. 22 he began to experience pain in his right knee.

Shimoda will not run the final London selection race, the Mar. 5 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, instead of Tokyo.  "We can't afford to put his future at risk by overdoing it," said Hara.  Aoyama Gakuin third-year Yuki Nakamura will still run Tokyo, with fourth-year Tadashi Isshiki running Lake Biwa and third-year Shunpei Oda running the Mar. 5 Shizuoka Marathon.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Honjo Higashi H.S. and Nihon Yakka University Win Saitama Ekiden

http://www.saitama-np.co.jp/news/2017/02/06/08.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

111 men's and women's teams took part in the 84th edition of the Saitama Ekiden on Feb. 5, running from Saitama Shintoshin to Kumagaya Sports Park Field.  Fresh from representing Saitama for the first time at December's National High School Ekiden, the Honjo Higashi H.S. girls scored their first-ever Saitama Ekiden win, covering the five-stage, 20.5 km women's course in 1:12:14.  Honjo Higashi's third, fourth and fifth runners Mayuko Saito, Nanami Ishihara and Tomomi Miyasaki each won their stages to move up their team up place by place into 1st after a slow start.

In the six-stage, 42.195 km men's race, Nihon Yakka University took the top position for the first time in 2:08:13 thanks in part to a 36:07 course record on the 12.1 km Third Stage by Kenyan Simon Kariuki.  The Musashino Ogoshi H.S. boys were the top-finishing high school position for the first time in five years, taking 5th overall in 2:11:07.  Running for the Saitama Prefecture Government team, London World Championships men's marathon team hopeful Yuki Kawauchi was 3rd on the Third Stage behind Kariuki and Titus Mumo (Musashino Gakuin Univ. A) in 36:59.

84th Saitama Ekiden
Saitama Shintoshin, Saitama, 2/5/17
men: 85 teams, six stages, 42.195 km
women: 26 teams, five stages, 20.5 km
click here for complete results

Men
Top Team Performances
1. Nihon Yakka Univ. - 2:08:13
2. Musashino Gakuin Univ. A - 2:10:23
3. Josai Univ. - 2:10:28
4. SDF Academy - 2:10:57
5. Musashi Ogose H.S. - 2:11:07

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (6.595 km) - Yuta Tameike (Nihon Yakka Univ.) - 19:37
Second Stage (3.1 km) - Kentaro Miyahira (Nihon Yakka Univ.) - 9:08
Third Stage (12.1 km) - Simon Kariuki (Nihon Yakka Univ.) - 36:07 - CR
Fourth Stage (3.9 km) - Kaito Komayama (Nihon Yakka Univ.) - 11:52
Fifth Stage (10.5 km) - Ryo Ishita (SDF Academy) - 32:56
Sixth Stage (6.0 km) - Hiromitsu Sakuraba (Nihon Yakka Univ.) - 17:56

Women
Top Team Performances
1. Honjo Higashi H.S. - 1:12:14
2. Shohei H.S. - 1:12:50
3. Sakado Nishi H.S. - 1:14:11

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (4.0 km) - Minami Takano (Saitama Sakae H.S.) - 13:54
Second Stage (3.7 km) - Rika Kaneda (Shohei H.S.) - 12:47
Third Stage (1.4 km) - Mayuko Saito (Honjo Higashi H.S.) - 4:54
Fourth Stage (5.4 km) - Nanami Ishihara (Honjo Higashi H.S.) - 19:14
Fifth Stage (6.0 km) - Tomomi Miyasaka (Honjo Higashi H.S.) - 21:19

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Nakamoto Wins Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in 2:09:32

by Brett Larner


There's a good case to be made that from 2011 to 2013 Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) was Japan's best marathoner.  9th at the 2011 World Championships, 6th at the 2012 London Olympics, 5th at the 2013 Moscow World Championships, a PB every year from his 2:13:54 debut in 2008 to his 2:08:35 in 2013 and twice under 2:09.  That 2:08:35 came at the 2013 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, one of the classic races in Japanese marathon history, a brutal smackdown duel as Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) dropped a very large stone into the tranquil pond of Nakamoto's plans for his first marathon win.  After Moscow Nakamoto looked to be on the decline, with a 2:11:58 for 12th at the 2014 Fukuoka International Marathon marking his first-ever marathon finish outside the top ten, no marathons in 2015, and just a 2:12:06 last year.  Now 34, he returned to today's 66th edition of the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in hopes of scoring a return trip to London this summer.

Japan has four selection races for the three places on the London World Championships, December's Fukuoka International Marathon, Beppu-Oita, the Tokyo Marathon and the following week's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  Kawauchi set the standard with an aggressive run for 3rd in 2:09:11 in Fukuoka, and there was no doubt that everyone had that time in mind in Beppu-Oita.  All the favorites, Nakamoto, sub-2:10 local Fumihiro Maruyama (Team Asahi Kasei), the Toshinari Takaoka-coached Hiroki Kadota (Team Kanebo) and others talked about their plans in terms of Kawauchi's performance pre-race, and throughout the live broadcast announcer's couldn't stop talking about the need to win in a time faster than his 2:09:11.

Pacer Taiki Yoshimura (Team Asahi Kasei) did an outstanding job, running 5 km splits of 15:17, 15:17 and 15:14 to take the sizable lead pack through 15 km on 2:08:50 pace before bowing out.  From there the remaining two pacers started to struggle, slowing to 15:26 and 15:35 for the next two 5 km segments. Halfway came in 1:04:36, almost dead even with Kawauchi's time, but early in the second half the pacers dropped out in quick succession ahead of schedule. The African trio of Khalil Lemiciyeh (Morocco), Felix Keny (Kenya) and Dereje Debele (Ethiopia) responded with a surge that opened a gap over the lead pack, only Maruyama staying with them and Yuji Iwata (Team MHPS) and Kohei Ogino (Team Fujitsu) trying to hang one.

Nakamoto, who had spent the first half of the race near the back of the lead pack, showed his experience by taking his time to respond, slowly moving up and bringing high-volume marathoner Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and the debuting Minato Oishi (Team Toyota) with him.  The two groups briefly coagulated before Debele began to pull away.  At 30 km he had a slim three-second lead at 2:09:18 pace, but Nakamoto and Ito soon reeled him in while Keny and Oishi strayed a few meters behind.  Ito, an experienced 2:11-level runner, soon dropped back, leaving Nakamoto and Debele to go head-to-head over the last 7 km of the race.

Debele worked the bridges, opening small leads on the downhills and forcing Nakamoto to catch up.  Side-by-side at 35 km on 2:09:14 pace, Nakamoto returned fire with a push on an uphill that got him a stride ahead.  Debele remained tucked in behind him, looking to believe in his chances of winning in a last sprint, but just before 39 km Nakamoto had had enough and went for it. In a blink he was away, and away for good as Debele receded into the background.  His first marathon win assured, all that was left for Nakamoto was the time.

Kawauchi's time, 2:09:11.  In range throughout most of the race, two slower kilometers just before his move put Nakamoto behind, and as he came onto the track it was clear that he was going to miss it.  Nakamoto broke the finish tape in 2:09:32, a brilliantly-executed win that got his name trending nationally on Twitter but a time that, with two more selection races to come, raises more questions than it answers.  Does a 2:09:32 win outweigh a 2:09:11 for 3rd against tougher competition?  Only the JAAF knows the answer.  But whatever the outcome, Nakamoto's win marked a welcome comeback for one of Japan's greatest.

Behind him, Debele held on to 2nd in 2:10:23.  Kicking from the third pack at 30 km, Ryo Kiname (Team MHPS) came up all the way to 3rd in a PB of 2:10:30 just ahead of Oishi, who overcame a series of ups and downs mid-race for 4th in a quality debut time of 2:10:39.  Ito was the surprise of the day, taking 5th in a PB of 2:10:52 after a decline in his performances in recent years.  The next four runners behind him likewise all set new bests, an indication of the quality of the conditions and race.

In the women's race, 2014 winner Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) ran almost even splits to win in a PB 2:40:31, just over 30 seconds off the course record. Club runner Chika Tawara (Team RxL) was 2nd in 2:49:00.  Four-time winner and course record holder Chiyuki Mochizuki, now retired from the local Canon AC Kyushu team, was 4th in 2:53:29.

66th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
Oita, 2/5/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) - 2:09:32
2. Dereje Debele (Ethiopia) - 2:10:23
3. Ryo Kiname (MHPS) - 2:10:30 - PB
4. Minato Oishi (Toyota) - 2:10:39 - debut
5. Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:10:52 - PB
6. Khalil Lemiciyeh (Morocco) - 2:11:58 - PB
7. Takuya Suzuki (Aisan Kogyo) - 2:12:08 - PB
8. Yuji Iwata (MHPS) - 2:12:15 - PB
9. Keisuke Kusaka (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:12:42 - PB
10. Felix Keny (Kenya) - 2:13:33
11. Fumihiro Maruyama (Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:49
12. Junichi Tsubouchi (Kurosaki Harima) - 2:13:51 - PB
13. Kenta Chiba (Fujitsu) - 2:13:53 - PB
14. Ryoma Takeuchi (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:14:28 - PB
15. Kei Goto (Nishitetsu) - 2:14:38 - PB
16. Kohei Ogino (Fujitsu) - 2:15:10
17. Kazuya Ishida (Nishitetsu) - 2:15:26
18. Paul Pollock (Ireland) - 2:15:30 - PB
19. Toshinori Watanabe (GMO) - 2:15:48
20. Jo Fukuda (Nishitetsu) - 2:16:16
21. Hiroki Kadota (Kanebo) - 2:16:57
22. Shota Saito (JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:17:21
23. Tomoya Adachi (Asahi Kasei) - 2:17:30
24. Yoshiki Otsuka (Aichi Seiko) - 2:17:58
25. Keita Akiba (Komori Corp.) - 2:18:07
26. Kento Otsu (Toyota Kyushu) - 2:18:13 - PB
27. Jeffrey Eggleston (U.S.A.) - 2:18:42
28. Go Nakagawa (NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:19:26
29. Yuki Maeda (Honda) - 2:19:38 - PB
30. Yuji Hayasaka (Ishinomaki RC) - 2:19:53

Women
1. Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) - 2:40:31 - PB
2. Chika Tawara (Team RxL) - 2:49:00
3. Mai Fujisawa (Sapporo Excel AC) - 2:52:33
4. Chiyuki Mochizuki (Nagasaki T&F Assoc.) - 2:53:29
5. Junko Ishikawa (Restart) - 2:55:15

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Hawkins and Kirwa Win Marugame Half, Takeshita Over Muiru in Kanagawa

by Brett Larner


Having lost his 1:00:24 Scottish national record after the Great Scottish Run was announced earlier this week to have been almost 150 m short, Callum Hawkins was out to prove he had done it for real when he lined up at today's Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon.  Against a field including sub-60 man Kenneth Kipkemoi of Kenya and a group of Japanese athletes aiming for the 1:00:25 Japanese national record led by 5000 m national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) and 10000 m national record holder Kota Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), Hawkins went to the front from the gun and never relented.

After a relatively slow 14:20 opening 5 km, the next 5 km went by in 14:07 and shook the lead group down to ten including Hawkins, Kipkemoi, Kenyan Joel Mwaura of 2016 National High School Ekiden champion Kurashiki H.S., Osako and three other Japanese men.  The 28:27 split at 10 km was hot, on pace for 1:00:01 and new national records for both Scotland and Japan. Hawkins and Kenyan Abraham Kipyatich began to pull away on the return trip, 16 seconds ahead as the pair hit 15 km in 42:37 and a shot at sub-60 in the cards.

At 15 km Hawkins attacked, dropping Kipyatich to race the clock.  On 1:00:02 pace at 20 km in 56:55, he bore down in the home straight and saluted as he crossed the finish line in 1:00:00, just short of a sub-60 but a new national record that surpassed his annulled Great Scottish Run mark and more than demonstrated his true quality.  As British Olympian Aly Dixon tweeted post-race:


Behind Hawkins, Kazuki Tamura of 2017 Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University was the first Japanese man to fall off national record pace.  Yuta Shitara (Team Honda), in training for his marathon debut in Tokyo later this month, was next, leaving Osako and former Aoyama Gakuin uphill specialist Daichi Kamino (Team Konica Minolta) to duke it out. Running with Mwaura and Ethiopian national record holder Atsedu Tsegay, Kamino dropped Osako in the final kilometers.  The pace had slowed outside range of national record range, leaving sub-61 as a goal.  Running down Kipyatich, Tsegay and Mwaura got there, Mwaura's 1:00:59 one of the fastest-ever junior marks.  Kamino took 5th in 1:01:04, a new PB that tied him for all-time Japanese #8.

Osako, Shitara and Tamura all ran new sub-62 PBs, Shitara's 1:01:19 making his Tokyo debut all the more tantalizing and Tamura's 1:01:56 redemption for his Hakone Ekiden breakdown.  Also due to debut in Tokyo, Takashi Ichida overtook Murayama to become the top finisher from 2017 New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei at 11th in 1:02:23.

In the women's race, defending champion and Rio Olympics marathon silver medalist Eunice Kirwa of Bahrain went out hard, splitting 15:35 for the first 5 km and 31:37 at 10 km.  Well on track to take the 1:07:26 course record held by Japan's Kayoko Fukushi, on the return trip Kirwa began to fade.  At 15 km she was almost dead even with Fukushi's pace, and when she slowed further over the last 5 km it was gone.  Kirwa came into the stadium to win unchallenged in 1:08:07, one second slower than her winning time last year and just three seconds off the Bahraini national record.

Like Kirwa, American Amy Cragg spent the entire race without female competition, on track for 1:08:15 at 10 km and running almost evenly to finish 2nd in a PB of 1:08:27.  Her training partner Shalane Flanagan was a DNS for the second time.  Making her half marathon debut, Japan's Riko Matsuzaki was 3rd in 1:11:04, just outkicking last year's #1-ranked Japanese woman in the half marathon, Miho Shimizu (Team Hokuren), after running the entire race together.

Marugame wasn't the only high-level half marathon of the day.  At Yokohama's Kanagawa Half Marathon, Toyo University third-year Kazuki Takeshita took 1st in a photo-finish with Kenyan Muthoni Muiru (Soka Univ.), both clocked at a course record 1:02:41.  The top seven all cleared the old 1:03:01 course record held by Aoyama Gakuin fourth-year Tadashi Isshiki, including Isshiki himself.  Having run a 2:28:10 marathon in training on Wednesday earlier this week in preparation for the Tokyo Marathon, Isshiki was 6th in 1:02:58.  His teammate Yuki Nakamura, debuting in Tokyo and having done the same Feb. 1 workout as Isshiki, took 11th in 1:03:10.  Even further to the north in Ibaraki, Futoshi Ebisawa (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) won the Moriya Half Marathon 1:04:39 by nearly a minute.  Chuo Gakuin athletes took four of the top five positions.

71st Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon
Marugame, Kagawa, 2/5/17
click here for complete results and splits

Men
1. Callum Hawkins (Great Britain) - 1:00:00 - NR
2. Atsedu Tsegay (Ethiopia) - 1:00:58
3. Joel Mwaura (Kenya/Kurashiki H.S.) - 1:00:59 - PB
4. Abraham Kipyatich (Kenya) - 1:01:00
5. Daichi Kamino (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:01:04 - PB
6. Suguru Osako (Japan/Nike Oregon Project) - 1:01:13 - PB
7. Yuta Shitara (Japan/Honda) - 1:01:19 - PB
8. Kenneth Kipkemoi (Kenya) - 1:01:27
9. Kazuki Tamura (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:56 - PB
10. Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 1:02:07 - debut
11. Takashi Ichida (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:23
12. Kazuto Kawabata (Japan/Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:23 - debut
13. Yuki Oshikawa (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 1:02:24 - PB
14. Kei Katanishi (Japan/Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:31
15. Kenya Sonota (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:02:32

Women
1. Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) - 1:08:07
2. Amy Cragg (U.S.A.) - 1:08:27 - PB
3. Riko Matsuzaki (Japan/Sekisui Kagaku) - 1:11:04 - debut
4. Miho Shimizu (Japan/Hokuren) - 1:11:07
5. Chikako Mori (Japan/Sekisui Kagaku) - 1:11:40 - debut
6. Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) - 1:11:43
7. Eloise Wellings (Australia) - 1:12:30
8. Moeno Nakamura (Japan/Univ. Ent.) - 1:13:35
9. Ami Utsunomiya (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:13:39 - PB
10. Miharu Shimokado (Japan/Shimamura) - 1:13:41
-----
DNS - Shalane Flanagan (U.S.A.)

39th Kanagawa Half Marathon
Yokohama, Kanagawa, 2/5/17

Men
1. Kazuki Takeshita (Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:41 - CR
2. Muiru Muthoni (Kenya/Soka Univ.) - 1:02:41
3. Homare Morita (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:46
4. Taisei Hashizume (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:56
5. Toshiya Sato (Hosei Univ.) - 1:02:56
6. Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:58
7. Shuichiro Kondo (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:59
8. Hiroki Koga (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:02
9. Aritaka Kajiwara (Atsugi T&F Assoc.) - 1:03:05
10. Shun Yuzawa (Tokai Univ.) - 1:03:07

33rd Moriya Half Marathon
Moriya, Ibaraki, 2/5/17

Men
1. Futoshi Ebisawa (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:39
2. Keiya Arima (Chuo Gakuin Univ) - 1:05:27
3. Masanori Sumida (Nittai Univ.) - 1:05:34
4. Naoki Kamaya (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:05:37
5. Yasuyuki Sunaga (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:05:46

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon: Fumihiro Maruyama Making Comeback From Near-Retirement

http://mainichi.jp/articles/20170202/dde/035/050/065000c

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Tormented by injuries and having been on the brink of retirement, Fumihiro Maruyama (26, Asahi Kasei) has chosen tomorrow's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon for his second marathon.  With Asahi Kasei's long legacy behind him, including Koichi Morishita's 1992 Beppu-Oita win that took him to the Barcelona Olympics and a silver medal, Maruyama's desire to succeed and earn a place on the London World Championships team is strong.  "I want to take a big step up and win so that I can compete at the world level," he said.

At last March's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Maruyama made an aggressive marathon debut, surging away from the all-Japanese chase pack at 30 km. But at 39 km he was run down and finished as the fourth Japanese man, missing the Rio de Janeiro Olympic team.  His time of 2:09:39 meant he had achieved a rare sub-2:10 debut, but, he said with lingering regret, "I didn't feel any happiness about that at all."


Maruyama is a native of Sahaku, Oita and joined Asahi Kasei eight years ago after graduating from Oita Tomei H.S.  His life as an athlete, he said, has been "a wild ride."  Taking time to develop, his breakthrough came in his fourth pro season at the February, 2013 Kumanichi 30 km where he finished 2nd by three seconds behind Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) in 1:29:34.  A month later he won the National Corporate Half Marathon in an outstanding 1:01:15, at the time becoming the eighth-fastest Japanese man ever.  "My body was finally getting to the level I'd always imagined myself at," he reflected.

But in October that year he started experiencing pain in his left knee, and for an entire year he was unable to train as the problem persisted.  He kept avoiding surgery on his leg, but, deciding that he was ready to retire, in November, 2014 he finally underwent the needed surgery.  Luck was on his side, and after a month of hospitalization and rehabilitation he was back on his feet.  Just six months after the surgery he returned to racing, winning a track 5000 m at the Asahi Kasei-hosted Golden Games in Nobeoka meet.

At Lake Biwa Maruyama ran his marathon debut with a partially ruptured right Achilles tendon.  After the race he underwent rehabilitation until August.  He is still worried about not having put in enough training over the summer, but, feeling good heading into Beppu-Oita he said, "I want to run the kind of race that will let people know I've become strong."  He is bound to get a boost in his World Championships bid from the hometown Oita crowds.  Maruyama doesn't feel that he has returned to his original pre-injury level yet, but looking forward with a positive mindset he said, "I hope my career will be one that lets me look back and think that it was a good thing that I had these periods of being injured."

Friday, February 3, 2017

Beppu-Oita, Marugame and More - Weekend Preview

by Brett Larner

Japan's short post-ekiden road season gets up to full speed this weekend.  The second of four selection races for the three spots on the London World Championships men's marathon team happens at the Sunday's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon.  Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) is the leading contender for the team after a 2:09:11 for 3rd at December's Fukuoka International Marathon, a time that puts a bullseye on his back for the best men in Beppu-Oita and the other races to come.

It's rare to see someone make a national team from Beppu-Oita, but a win there in a time better than Kawauchi's would probably put someone ahead of him in priority for the team.  With a 2:09:39 debut last year at Lake Biwa the talented but injury-prone Fumihiro Maruyama (Team Asahi Kasei) is the favorite to do just that, but Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki), Ryo Kiname (Team MHPS), Kento Otsu (Team Toyota Kyushu) and debuting Toyota teammates Minato Oishi and Tsubasa Hayakawa all have the potential to do the same.  For his part, after an ekiden last weekend Kawauchi told reporters, "I'm training based on the assumption that I'm going to be chosen for the team, but if other athletes surpass me in terms of their results it would be a good thing."  Internationals in Beppu-Oita include Felix Keny (Kenya), Dereje Debele (Ethiopia) and Jeffrey Eggleston (U.S.A.).  Try mov3.co for live streaming of TBS' broadcast starting at 11:50 local time on Sunday.

Earlier Sunday morning, the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon promises an incredible men's race and almost as good a women's race.  The women's race features three of the top ten in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics marathon, silver medalist and defending champion Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain), 6th-placer Shalane Flanagan (U.S.A.) and 9th-placer Amy Cragg (U.S.A.). 2016 National Corporate Half Marathon champion Miho Shimizu (Team Hokuren) leads Japanese hopes.

The men's race features five international men with recent sub-61 performances led by Kenneth Kipkemoi (Kenya) with a 59:01 at the 2014 Valencia Half Marathon.  But for Japanese fans it's all about the domestic race where a solid attempt at the 1:00:25 Japanese national record is in the works. On the entry list are 5000 m national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project), 10000 m national record holder Kota Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), 1:00:53 man Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota), sub-62 twins Keita Shitara (Team Konica Minolta) and Yuta Shitara (Team Honda), Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage star Daichi Kamino (Team Konica Minolta), 2017 New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage winner Takashi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei) and many, many more.  Rain is forecast for Sunday afternoon, and if it holds off this may be the day Japan finally gets its first sub-60.

Also Sunday, the Kanagawa Half Marathon and Moriya Half Marathon feature large numbers of Hakone Ekiden universities every year.  Three-time Hakone champ Aoyama Gakuin University in particular has made Kanagawa a priority in recent years, and you can expect to see some of the better people on its roster racing top men from Waseda University and Komazawa University among others.  Local Nittai University tends to send its runners further north to Moriya.

After running Saitama's Okumusashi Ekiden last weekend with a cold, Kawauchi will be back in action Sunday in another local ekiden, the Saitama Ekiden where he will again run as part of the Saitama Prefectural Government team.  Kawauchi has run the Third Stage at the Saitama Ekiden every year since 2013 and in 2014 set its course record of 36:13 for 11.9 km.  It has since been lengthened to 12.1 km, but chances are good he'll be on Third again this year.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Officer Shibata Takes Step Toward Olympic Dream With Breakthrough Win at Osaka Half

http://www.sankei.com/west/news/170202/wst1702020048-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

At the Jan. 29 Osaka Half Marathon, Osaka Prefecture police officer Shunsaku Shibata, 23, won the men's division in a course record 1:03:05.  Breaking his PB by more than 3 minutes, Shibata now turns his attention to making his marathon debut.  Interviewed after the race he expressed a strong desire "to make the Tokyo Olympics."

Shibata graduated from Hotoku H.S. and Senshu University, enrolling with the police in April, 2015.  After studying at the Police Academy and undergoing training at the Miyoshima Police Station he was assigned to the Riot Police Company #1 in October last year.  Shibata had run long distance seriously since high school and his third year of university he had the chance to realize his dream of running the Hakone Ekiden, but shortly before the race he strained a ligament and was cut from the team.  Even as a police officer he felt that he "wanted to keep running competitively," and in July last year he joined the police track and field team.  For the first time since university he resumed full-on training, ramping up his monthly mileage to 800~900 km.

The Osaka Half Marathon was his competitive debut for the Police Department.  Amid top-level corporate league competitors who had run as fast as 1:01 for the half marathon, Shibata's best was only 1:06:12 dating back to his university days.  Even so, as he stood on the starting line in Osaka Castle Park, Shibata said, "I was feeling good and had nothing to worry about."  From the side of the course Police Department head coach Naoki Kirikuri repeatedly called out to him to "stay in the race," so Shibata fought to hold on to the lead group.

With 5 km to go he was still there, and, he said, "Starting to think about when to make a break for it was both fun and stressful."  Shibata waited until just before the entrance to Nagai Stadium and the finish line to make his move, kicking away from those behind him to break the tape in 1st, shouting "Aw yeah!" almost by instinct.  Analyzing his winning run post-race he said, "Well, if you're even just 1 second faster than 2nd place then it's a success.  Coach told me to find my competitiveness and to take control of the situation myself, and I was able to put that into play."

Shibata plans to improve his speed on the track and then to tackle the marathon.  With a three-minute improvement to his PB off just a half year's worth of training coach Kirikuri was full of hope for Shibata, saying, "He still has plenty of headroom."  With polite words Shibata was also optimistic, saying, "Step by step, I want to get ready for the marathon.  Someday I will be Japan's top marathoner and run in the Olympics."  A new 'civil servant runner' may be on the way.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Paralympic Medalist Shinya Wada Runs 3-Minute Half Marathon Best: "I Have to Believe in My Potential"

http://www.sankei.com/smp/west/news/170126/wst1701260031-s1.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics marathoner and 2012 London Paralympics bronze medalist Shinya Wada, 39, ran in the Jan. 29 Osaka Half Marathon that was held at the same time as the Osaka International Women's Marathon.  With the Tokyo Olympics coming onto the horizon just three years distant his goal was to take his 1:14:29 half marathon best down to the 1:10 level.

At December's Fukuoka International Marathon Wada ran 2:32:11, breaking his own T11 category (fully blind) Japanese national record by 1:35.  Wada also holds the T11 national records on the track for 800 m, 1500 m, 5000 m and 10000 m.  At the London Paralympics he won bronze in the 5000 m. In Rio he finished in the top eight in the 1500 m, the 5000 m, and, in the T12 category (use of a guide runner optional), the marathon.  Despite such success, Wada feels pressure.  "Athletes from other countries keep producing better and better times," he said.  "Next time in Tokyo they'll be even better, and there will be new athletes too."

A passionate rugby player in his youth, Wada was diagnosed with a progressive retinal degeneration disorder while at Ikuno High School and lost his sight entirely his third year at Kansai University.  When he was 28 a friend introduced to him to the Kamogawa Partners visually impaired running team in Kyoto, a moment that marked his beginning of his career in athletics. Initially his goal was simply to overcome a lack of exercise, but his talent was soon revealed and by 2009 he had been designated a high-potential developmental athlete by the Japan Blind Marathon Association.  He currently works in the Osaka Prefectural Blind and Social Welfare Association's braille library in Osaka's Tennoji ward, working on braille transcription and transliteration while spending his free time refining running that seems unaffected by his age.

This year marked Wada's third time running the Osaka Half, back after a two-year absence.  Building toward April's 2017 World Para-Athletics Marathon World Cup in London, he set his target time at 1:10.  Falling just short of that mark, he took nearly three minutes off his PB with an official time of 1:11:37. "When I lost my eyesight I never imagined that I'd be able to run," he said. "Being able to move like this helps me feel better.  "I hope that my running can be the trigger to do something positive for anyone whose spirit has been broken by the loss of their sight."

Wada's future goals include the T11 marathon world record of 2:31:59 and making the Tokyo Paralympics team three years from now.  "I have to believe in my potential and take on my dreams," he said.  "I want today's me to be better than yesterday's me, and tomorrow's me better still. To definitively overcome my past.  For that to happen I have to make a great leap forward over the next year or two."