Tuesday, August 30, 2011

2010 Nagoya Winner Yuri Kano Quits Second Wind AC


translated by Brett Larner

Thank you very much for your continued support of Second Wind AC.  It is extremely unfortunate that I must announce that club member Yuri Kano will be leaving Second Wind AC effective August 31. Kano had been planning to run the Yokohama International Women’s Marathon in November in a bid to make the London Olympics but has been taking time off since July due to a leg injury. A few days ago I received notice from her that she wished to leave the club; in meeting with her face-to-face she said that she wishes to be in a new environment as she pursues a place at the Olympics.

Despite the great generosity of the Second Wind Supporters Club members, each of our sponsors, and the many people who have offered their support up until now, I offer my deepest apologies that the situation came to the point that I must give you this bad news. I ask that each of you continue to give her your sincere support as she pursues her dream. Please also continue to support us here at the club.

Manabu Kawagoe
Head Coach, Second Wind AC

I have decided to leave Second Wind AC as of August 31. In what’s left of my career as an athlete I want to do things the way that seems best to me, and so I have chosen to take this action. I feel regret toward all those people who have worked with me at SWAC since the beginning, and also for the sponsors and club members in SWAC who have been there for me. Thank you for the last four years. I will continue to cheer for SWAC in the future.

Yuri Kano

Niiya Advances to Daegu 5000 m Final

by Brett Larner

For the first time at this World Championships, a Japanese track runner ran an assertive race. Running the same way she did at June's National Championships 5000 m, 2007 Tokyo Marathon winner Hitomi Niiya (Team Univ. Ent.) took Heat One of the women's 5000 m out at near-PB pace, 3:03.70 for the first km, and led for the first half of the heat before being overtaken.  Niiya was rewarded for her honest effort by qualifying for the final.  10000 m national champion Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) ran more passively in the same heat, hanging back and finishing too far down to qualify.  In Heat Two Russian Elizaveta Greshichnikova ran in similar, if significantly slower, frontrunning fashion to Niiya and likewise went through to the final.  5000 m national champion Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno), who finished last in Saturday's 10000 m, stayed back in the pack, perhaps planning to rely on her characteristic long surge finish.  After a slow first half her time of 15:38.23 was not fast enough to get her through, placing her as the first woman in the combined heats not to qualify for the final.

2011 World Championships Women's 5000 m Heats
Daegu, Korea, 8/30/11
click here for complete results

Heat 1
1. Meseret Defar (Ethiopia) - 15:19.46 - Q
2. Mercy Cherono (Kenya) - 15:20.01 - Q
3. Sylvia Kibet (Kenya) - 15:20.08 - Q
4. Sentayehu Ejigu (Ethiopia) - 15:20.13 - Q
5. Yelena Zadorozhnaya (Russia) - 15:23.90 - Q
6. Amy Hastings (U.S.A.) - 15:29.49 - q
7. Hitomi Niiya (Japan/Team Univ. Ent.) - 15:31.09 - q
8. Helen Clitheroe (GBR) - 15:37.73 - q
9. Kayo Sugihara (Japan/Team Denso) - 15:41.78

Heat 2
1. Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 15:33.06 - Q
2. Tejitu Daba (Bahrain) - 15:33.67 - Q
3. Linet Masai (Kenya) - 15:33.99 - Q
4. Lauren Fleshman (U.S.A.) - 15:34.04 - Q
5. Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot (Kenya) - 15:34.80 - Q
6. Zakia Mrisho (Tanzania) - 15:35.37 - q
7. Elizaveta Grechishinikova (Russia) - 15:35.64 - q
8. Megumi Kinukawa (Japan/Team Mizuno) - 15:38.23

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, August 29, 2011

Njoroge, Morimoto Take First Hokkaido Marathon Titles

by Brett Larner

With a noon start time and temperatures peaking at 34 degrees the 2011 Hokkaido Marathon was a brutal race of attrition.  In the men's race Ibaraki-based Kenyan Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) broke away from the large pack at 30 km with veteran Seiji Kobayashi (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) and the young Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) in tow to form a trio which stuck together to maintain pace until 38 km.  Njoroge then surged again to pull away for the win in 2:14:10.  Defending champion Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Cable) could not stay with the lead trio late in the race and finished only 7th in 2:19:14.

In the women's race 2006 winner Kaori Yoshida (Amino Vital AC) frontran at PB pace against a field which included course record holder Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC), former national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) and, returning from injury, 2006 Vienna Marathon winner Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya).  Splitting as fast as 3:23/km Yoshida built up a lead of over 3 minutes, but the heat took its toll and by 37 km she was running with a pronounced limp.  By 39 km her pace was down to 4:14/km as Morimoto rolled up from far behind at 3:32/km.  Morimoto took the lead at 39.6 km and continued on to the win in 2:33:45.  Shimahara and Shibui overtook Yoshida in the final km to round out the top three, Yoshida staggering across the line in 4th in 2:35:49.

2011 Hokkaido Marathon
Sapporo, Hokkaido, 8/28/11
click here for complete results

1. Harun Njoroge (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) - 2:14:10
2. Seiji Kobayashi (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:14:22
3. Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:14.39
4. Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) - 2:16:29
5. Ryo Matsumoto (Team Sagawa Express) - 2:16:49
6. Takeshi Kumamoto (Team Toyota) - 2:18:41
7. Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Cable) - 2:19:14
8. Kenichiro Setoguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:19:20
9. Kenzo Kawabata (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:19:56
10. Yuko Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:20:33

1. Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) - 2:33:45
2. Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 2:34:26
3. Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:35:10
4. Kaori Yoshida (Amino Vital AC) - 2:35:49
5. Emi Ikeda (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 2:36:35
6. Asami Furuse (Team Kyocera) - 2:36:55 - debut
7. Sayuri Baba (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 2:40:49
8. Sumiko Suzuki (Team Hokuren) - 2:41:29
9. Chinami Fukaminato (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:43:52
10. Chihiro Tanaka (AthleC RC) - 2:45:51

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Team Honda's Ibrahim Jeilan Wins World Championships 10000 m (updated with coach's comments)

10000 m world champion Ibrahim Jeilan with Honda teammates. Photo by Takashi Horiguchi - click to enlarge.

In a tense and turbulent World Championships 10000 m full of turnover at the head of the pack, Saitama-based 2006 World Jr. 10000 m and 2008 World Jr. XC champion Ibrahim Jeilan (Ethiopia/Team Honda) pulled off a darkhorse win by running down world leader Mo Farah (Great Britain) in the home stretch to take his first senior world title.  In so doing he achieved the historic feat of becoming the first man to beat world record holder Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) over the 10000 m distance.  Jeilan's coach at Honda, Kiyoshi Akimoto, told JRN shortly after the race, "This result belongs to both Jeilan and the rest of the coaching staff.  He has taken the Japanese lifestyle and training methodology to heart deeply and is truly a superb athlete."

Jeilan also beat Japan-based Kenyans Martin Mathathi (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), the 2007 World Championships bronze medalist and 10 mile world junior record holder, and Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko), this year's World XC silver medalist.  Both Mathathi and Tanui were among the many who led the race before the final kilometer which Jeilan blazed in under 2:27.  "Japan-based Kenyan" is a common enough phrase, but Jeilan's outstanding victory may well herald the rise of the Japan-based Ethiopians.

Following the lead of the Japanese women in the 10000 m, 27:38 man Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), the sole Japanese man in the 10000 m, was second-to-last, a limp 15th in 29:04.15.

2011 World Championships Men's 10000 m
Daegu, Korea, 8/28/11
click here for complete results

1. Ibrahim Jeilan (Ethiopia/Team Honda) - 27:13.81
2. Mohamed Farah (Great Britain) - 27:14.07
3. Imane Merga (Ethiopia) - 27:19.14
4. Zerseney Tadese (Eritrea) - 27:22.57
5. Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki AC) - 27:23.87
6. Peter Kirui (Kenya) - 27:25.63 - PB
7. Galen Rupp (U.S.A.) - 27:26.84
8. Sileshi Sihine (Ethiopia) - 27:34.11
9. Paul Tanui (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 27:54.03
10. Matthew Tegenkamp (U.S.A.) - 28:41.62
15. Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 29:04.15
DNF - Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

World Championships Day One Women's Track Results

2011 World Championships 
Women's 10000 m Final

Daegu, Korea, 8/27/11
click here for complete results

1. Vivian Cheruiyot (Kenya) - 30:48.98 - PB
2. Sally Kipyego (Kenya) - 30:50.04
3. Linet Masai (Kenya) - 30:53.59
4. Priscah Cherono (Kenya) - 30:56.43 - PB
5. Meselech Melkamu (Ethiopia) - 30:56.55
14. Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 32:32.22
15. Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) - 32:53.89
17. Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) - 34:08.37

Women's 3000 mSC Heat Two
Daegu, Korea, 8/27/11
click here for complete results

1. Sofia Assefa (Ethiopia) - 9:32.48 - Q
2. Lydia Rotich (Kenya) - 9:36.70 - Q
3. Sara Moreira (Portugal) - 9:36.97 - Q
4. Emma Coburn (U.S.A.) - 9:38.42 - Q
5. Lyubov Kharlamova (Russia) - 9:40.04 - q
8. Minori Hayakari (Kyoto Koka AC) - 10:05.34

World Championships Women's Marathon - Results

by Brett Larner

For only the third time in the last 20 years, the Japanese women's World Championships marathon team came up empty-handed, outdone by a superb team performance from Kenya who marked the first-ever sweep of a world-level marathon.  After a slow first half which saw Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) take the lead from 8 km to 15 km in a bid to get the pace on track, defending silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) faltered when the action began at 33 km, moving backwards from the front of the pack and ultimately finishing 18th as the third woman on the Japanese team.

The other four Japanese women on the team finished in PB order ranging from 5th for Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) to Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) in 22rd.  Nojiri was the first to lose touch with the leaders after the forcing the field into action, but after staying within sight of the front pack she later overtook Ito and ended up just back from Ozaki in 19th.  Akaba and the young Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) remained at the front pack until the Kenyans' big move at 33 km; when things broke apart Nakazato continued on with a group including China's Xiaolin Zhu and Jiali Wang, just cracking the top ten.

When Kenyans Edna Kiplagat, Priscah Jeptoo and Sharon Cherop surged away at 33 km with Ethiopians Aberu Kebede and Bezunesh Bekele in tow Akaba waited, not making her own move until 35 km when she set off in pursuit to try to retake a place in the medals.  After dropping a place to Kenyan-born Isabellah Andersson of Sweden while waiting to start her push Akaba moved up from 7th to 5th, her husband and coach Shuhei Akaba frantically screaming at her through a plastic megaphone from the sidelines to go faster.  Akaba ran the third-fastest split in the field from 35 km to the finish and the second-fastest, just 2 seconds slower than winner Kiplagat, from 40 km to the end, but her move came too late for her to close the gap to Cherop and Bekele.  Her tactical error in sticking to script and not responding to the move when it happened, on relying on gaman over racing sense, cost her a bronze medal; only 21 seconds from 3rd place and closing, even a marginally stronger effort to respond to the Kenyans between 33 and 35 km may have been enough for Akaba to close it.

The Japanese women also finished just seconds out of the medals in the team scoring, 4th behind Ethiopia by 38 seconds due in large part to Ozaki's disappointing performance.  China was a surprise silver, the Kenyans taking gold in a perfect sweep.

2011 World Championships Women's Marathon
Daegu, Korea, 8/27/11
click here for complete results

1. Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:28:43
2. Priscah Jeptoo (Kenya) - 2:29:00
3. Sharon Cherop (Kenya) - 2:29:14
4. Bezunesh Bekele (Ethiopia) - 2:29:21
5. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 2:29:35
6. Xiaolin Zhu (China) - 2:29:58
7. Isabellah Andersson (Sweden/Kenya) - 2:30:13
8. Jilai Wang (China) - 2:30:25
9. Marisa Barros (Portugal) - 2:30:29
10. Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) - 2:30:52
18. Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:32:31
19. Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:33:42
22. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:35:16

Team Scoring
1. Kenya - 7:26:57
2. China - 7:31:34
3. Ethiopia - 7:32:20
4. Japan - 7:32:58
5. Ukraine - 7:45:44

Thursday, August 25, 2011

'Japanese Fans Gear Up to Cheer Tanui'


The Japanese runners mentioned in the article are Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno), Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Kazuya Watanabe (Team Shikoku Denryoku).  At May's Golden Games in Nobeoka 5000 m Watanabe outkicked Sato, Ethiopian Alemu Desta (Team Yasukawa Denki) and Kenyans Edward Waweru (Team NTN), Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin), Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta) and Patrick Mwaka (Team Aisan Kogyo) to win in 13:23.15.  Click here for video.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

World Championships Men's Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

Japanese men's marathoning bottomed out in 2009-2010, abruptly going from producing three 2:06 men, another eight 2:07 athletes, dozens of 2:08 runners and ten men a year sub-2:10 to only one 2:09 per year in 2009 and 2010, both in overseas races outside the domestic circuit.  It's a mark of how little respect they receive internationally nowadays that the IAAF's official Daegu World Championships marathon preview doesn't even mention them despite the top two members of Japan's five-man squad having superior season best times to the two Moroccans the preview cites as potential "intensive" challengers.

Nevertheless, 2011 has seen things begin to turn around, with four relative newcomers going under 2:10 for the first time, the fastest of them, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) recording the first Japanese men's 2:08 since before the Beijing Olympics.  There's a long way to go toward regaining some level of their former global competitiveness, but this year's World Championships mark an important checkpoint toward that end.  Japanese men have won three individual medals in the twelve World Championships marathon to date and, with eight-deep prize money at stake, have had at least one runner in the top eight at the last six Worlds not to mention team medals virtually every time.  For this year's young squad the goals will be to get as many as possible into the top eight and to compete for one of the team medals.

2011 World Championships Men's Marathon Team

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Prefecture)
Born: Mar. 5, 1987 (24 yrs.)
PB: 2:08:37 - 3rd, 2011 Tokyo Marathon
half marathon: 1:02:40
10000 m: 29:02.33
5000 m: 13:59.73

Other major results:
2:12:36 - 4th, 2010 Tokyo Marathon
1:09:12 - 1st, 2009 P.I.C. Guam International Half Marathon - CR
1:07:15 - 1st, 2008 New Caledonia International Half Marathon

Kawauchi is the hardworking, self-training amateur with a full-time office job who picked up 2011 National Corporate Ekiden champion Team Toyota's star Yoshinori Oda and 2010 Hokkaido Marathon winner Cyrus Njui and broke them in half over his knee at 39 km on his way to a 2:08:37 at February's Tokyo Marathon.  His inspiring performance shook the Japanese marathon establishment, won Kawauchi fans around the world and earned him the top place on the Daegu World Championships team.  Although he freely admits that he is not a good hot-weather runner he has taken steps to improve in that area, steadily building up from a heat stroke-induced DNF in the last km of June's Okinoshima 50 km ultra to a 1:33:55 win at his final tuneup race, the Kushiro Shitsugen 30 km on July 31.  In many ways Kawauchi is the embodiment of an ideal, the classic story of the underdog, the nobody who goes all the way; his stated goal of a top eight finish at Worlds would be triumph enough, but raised on countless Hollywood adaptations of this story it's hard not to imagine him on the podium.  It's unrealistic.  He's not going to fire the shot that blows up the Death Star.  But what if he does it?  If you're ever going to root for a Japanese runner, this is your guy.

Results 2010-2011:
1:33:55 - 1st, 2011 Kushiro Shitsugen 30 km Road Race
1:06:24 - 4th, 2011 Shibetsu Half Marathon
1:07:12 - 63rd, 2011 Sapporo International Half Marathon
DNF - 2011 Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon
14:10.32 - 7th, 2011 Nittai Univ. Time Trials 5000 m Heat 25
1:04:44 - 13th, 2011 Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon
14:02.49 - 11th, 2011 Nittai Univ. Time Trials 5000 m Heat 24
2:08:37 - 3rd, 2011 Tokyo Marathon - PB
1:02:40 - 9th, 2011 Marugame International Half Marathon - PB
39:57 - 41st, 2011 National Men's Ekiden 7th Stage (13.0 km)
2:17:54 - 10th, 2010 Fukuoka International Marathon
14:01.89 - 23rd, 2010 Nittai Univ. Time Trials 5000 m Heat 39
29:03.94 - 11th, 2010 Nittai Univ. Time Trials 10000 m Heat 9
29:02.33 - 10th, 2010 Hokuren Distance Challenge Shibetsu Meet 10000 m - PB
14:01.91 - 11th, 2010 Nittai Univ. Time Trials 5000 m Heat 24
48:39 - 1st, 2010 Kasumigaura 10 Mile Road Race
2:12:36 - 4th, 2010 Tokyo Marathon
1:06:49 - 1st, 2010 Mari Tanigawa Half Marathon

Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota)
Born: Dec. 5, 1980 (30 yrs.)
PB: 2:09:03 - 4th, 2011 Tokyo Marathon (Japanese debut marathon all-time #3)
half marathon: 1:01:41
10000 m: 27:53.55
5000 m: 13:42.67

Other major results:
1:03:09 - 28th, 2009 World Half Marathon Championships, Birmingham, UK
1:05:03 - 16th, 2004 World Half Marathon Championships, New Delhi, India

Oda is the oldest runner on the Japanese team, the most talented, and the least experienced marathoner.  Late last year he kicked off his training cycle for his marathon debut by breaking 28 minutes for 10000 m for the first time, then at February's Tokyo Marathon he ran a precision effort, clocking the 3rd-fastest Japanese debut with a 2:09:03.  The quality of Oda's debut went all but unnoticed in the attention heaped on Kawauchi, but it was noteworthy for the focus and discipline with which he came to the race.  Since then Oda has run well on the track, but his final tuneup did not go as planned as he barely broke 67 minutes in hot and humid conditions at July's Sapporo International Half Marathon.  He should be a solid bet for a scoring position on the Japanese team, but his lack of marathon experience and his Sapporo performance raise questions.

Results 2010-2011:
1:06:57 - 58th, 2011 Sapporo International Half Marathon
28:32.68 - 8th, 2011 National T&F Championships 10000 m
13:51.08 - 12th, 2011 Kanaguri Memorial T&F Meet 5000 m Heat 3
28:24.59 - 27th, 2011 Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10000 m, Stanford, CA
2:09:03 - 4th, 2011 Tokyo Marathon - debut
1:04:26 - 7th, 2011 New Year Ekiden National Corporate Championships 4th Stage (22.0 km)
45:17 - 1st, 2010 Chubu Corporate Ekiden Championships 3rd Stage (15.4 km)
27:53.55 - 5th, 2010 Shizuoka Prefecture Time Trials 10000 m Heat 2 - PB
28:16.73 - 10th, 2010 National Corporate T&F Championships 10000 m
1:07:03 - 45th, 2010 Sapporo International Half Marathon
28:20.09 - 2nd, 2010 Hokuren Distance Challenge Shibetsu Meet 10000 m
29:07.58 - 10th, 2010 National T&F Championships 10000 m
13:58.63 - 7th, 2010 Chukyo Univ. Time Trials 5000 m
1:03:52 - 9th, 2010 New Year Ekiden National Corporate Championships 4th Stage (22.3 km)

Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei)
Born: Oct. 28, 1986 (24 yrs.)
PB: 2:09:25 - 3rd, 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
half marathon: 1:04:11
10000 m: 28:30.32
5000 m: 13:53.07

Other major results:
2:11:47 - 9th, 2008 Tokyo Marathon

Horibata had a promising 2:11:47 debut at age 21 at the 2008 Tokyo Marathon, but the following years saw a steady decline in his performances as he marked year bests of only 2:18:27 in 2009 and 2:26:55 in 2010.  Something of a big, clumsy oaf by Japanese standards, he suffered falls or water station collisions in every marathon he ran.  Coached by legendary 2:08 marathoner Takeshi Soh, Horibata found out he was running March's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon only a few weeks beforehand, but despite lack of conditioning and at least two more near-falls he came through with a big PB of 2:09:25 to make the Daegu team.  Afterwards federation officials told him to lose weight before Worlds, calling him a "heavyweight division" runner.  He has run 5000 m and 10000 m PBs since then, has been consistently performing far beyond where he was a year ago in the leadup to his dismal 2:26:55 in Hokkaido and looks fit and lean in recent training photos, so Horibata seems ready for a good run if he can handle the heat.

Results 2010-2011:
13:53.07 - 1st, 2011 Golden Games in Nobeoka 5000 m Heat 4 - PB
28:56.00 - 10th, 2011 Kyushu Corporate T&F Championships 10000 m Heat 3
28:30.32 - 6th, 2011 Nobeoka Spring Time Trials 10000 m Heat 2 - PB
28:48.38 - 13th, 2011 Hyogo Relay Carnival 10000 m
13:59.76 - 17th, 2011 Kanaguri Memorial T&F Meet 5000 m Heat 3
2:09:25 - 3rd, 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - PB
48:45 - 30th, 2010 Kumamoto Kosa 10 Mile Road Race
55:17 - 4th, 2010 Kyushu Isshu Ekiden Day Nine 4th Stage (18.0 km)
53:03 - 1st, 2010 Kyushu Isshu Ekiden Day Six 2nd Stage (17.6 km)
1:01:17 - 3rd, 2010 Kyushu Isshu Ekiden Day Three 5th Stage (20.0 km)
34:24 - 1st, 2010 Kyushu Isshu Ekiden Day One 7th Stage (11.4 km)
29:17.96 - 7th, 2010 Nobeoka Fall Time Trials 10000 m
2:26:55 - 20th, 2010 Hokkaido Marathon
14:15.07 - 7th, 2010 Hokuren Distance Challenge Shibetsu Meet 5000 m Heat 2
29:07.32 - 18th, 2010 Hokuren Distance Challenge Fukagawa Meet 10000 m Heat 2
14:21.81 - 18th, 2010 Hokuren Distance Challenge Sapporo Meet 5000 m Heat 2
29:28.90 - 14th, 2010 Japanese National T&F Championships 10000 m
28:34.40 - 8th, 2010 Kyushu Corporate T&F Championships 10000 m
29:49.80 - 15th, 2010 Nobeoka Spring Time Trials 10000 m
14:19.35 - 13th, 2010 Nobeoka Spring Time Trials 5000 m
30:55 - 3rd, 2010 Asahi Ekiden 3rd Stage

Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki)
Born: Dec. 7, 1982 (28 yrs.)
PB: 2:09:31 - 4th, 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
half marathon: 1:02:29
10000 m: 29:04.24
5000 m: 14:04.31

Other major results:
2:11:42 - 8th, 2010 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
2:13:53 - 9th, 2009 Tokyo Marathon
2:13:54 - 3rd, 2008 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon
2:15:21 - 2nd, 2008 Hokkaido Marathon

We're going to go out on a limb and say that Nakamoto, whose bio picture suggests a twee singer-songwriter more than an elite marathoner, may end up being the surprise star of the Japanese team.  His credentials are not especially impressive, but look at the numbers more closely.  He has PB'd steadily every year since debuting at the marathon in 2008, ran well in heat with a 2nd place finish at the 2008 Hokkaido Marathon, has PB'd at 5000 m and 10000 m since making the Daegu marathon team with a sub-2:10 PB at March's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, and beat top-ranked Daegu teammates Kawauchi and Oda by a wide margin at last month's sweltering Sapporo International Half Marathon.  A university teammate of 2010's Japanese year leader Arata Fujiwara (Remo System AC), Nakamoto appears focused and quietly confident in video interviews shot during his summer training.  All of that adds up to good potential for a darkhorse breakthrough.

Results 2010-2011:
1:05:02 - 17th, 2011 Sapporo International Half Marathon
14:04.31 - 6th, 2011 Sayagatani Time Trials 5000 m Heat 10 - PB
29:15.36 - 7th, 2011 Kyushu Corporate T&F Championships Heat 2
29:04.24 - 15th, 2011 Nobeoka Spring Time Trials 10000 m Heat 2 - PB
2:09:31 - 4th, 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - PB
1:04:27 - 8th, 2011 New Year Ekiden National Corporate Championships 4th Stage (22.0 km)
49:04 - 10th, 2010 Fukuoka Prefecture 10 Mile Championships
2:11:42 - 8th, 2010 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon

Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN)
Born: Nov. 2, 1982 (28 yrs.)
PB: 2:10:51 - 4th, 2010 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
half marathon: 1:02:17
10000 m: 28:41.90
5000 m: 14:15.99

Other major results:
2:12:46 - 2nd, 2010 Asian Games Marathon, Guanzhou, China
1:02:50 - 21st, 2009 World Half Marathon Championships, Birmingham, UK
1:06:26 - 32nd, 2008 World Half Marathon Championships, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

After a strong 2009 which saw him run under 63 for the half marathon at least three times, Kitaoka had a good debut at the 2010 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon to pick up a spot on the Japanese team at the Asian Games.  He then disappeared from competition, surfacing only for a relatively weak tuneup effort at the Hakodate Half Marathon before the Asian Games marathon where he ran well, never out of the top three and running down defending gold medalist Mubarak Hassan Shami of Qatar in the final kilometer for silver.  At this stage Kitaoka has not raced since January, a hamstring strain keeping him out of a planned run at May's Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon.  With no media reports on his condition it's impossible to say how he stands coming into the World Championships, but the facts as they stand now suggest the prognosis is not good.

Results 2010-2011:
DNS - 2011 Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon
1:05:49 - 22nd, 2011 New Year Ekiden National Corporate Championships 4th Stage (22.0 km)
2:12:46 - 2nd, 2010 Asian Games Marathon, Guanzhou, China
1:04:19 - 7th, 2010 Hakodate Half Marathon
2:10:51 - 4th, 2010 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon - debut

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

World Championships Long Distance Preview

by Brett Larner

Japan's medal chances in the long distance events at the Daegu World Championships may be very slim at best, but the country is nevertheless sending a strong contingent including three national record holders and some of the best young talent to have emerged in recent years.  Chief among them are Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), on the cusp of a national record in the last two years, and the resurgent Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno), the women's 10000 m junior national record holder coached by Samuel Wanjiru's high school-era coach Takao Watanabe.

2011 World Championships Japanese Long Distance Team

Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - Men's 10000 m
2011 national champion, 10000 m
Born: Nov. 26, 1986 (24 yrs.)
PB: 27:38.25 (2009; all-time Japanese #3)
3000 m: 7:44.63 (2010; all-time Japanese #2)
5000 m: 13:23.57 (2006)

In university Sato was described by his competitors as a monster, breaking Hakone Ekiden stage records his first three years and just missing a fourth as an injured senior.  Along with 2011 World University Games 10000 m champion Suguru Osako a graduate of Nagano's Saku Chosei H.S., Sato has come very close to setting national records in the 3000 m and 10000 m since joining the corporate ranks in 2009 but has shown peaking problems both years.  This year he has shown a more gradual approach, focusing on 1500 m early in the season, running a perfunctory sub-28 at the Cardinal Invitational, then winning his first national title with a superb kick.  Everything points to him peaking for Worlds, and if that is the case then it may be time for Sato to claim his first national record.

Kazuya Watanabe (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - Men's 5000 m
2011 national champion, 5000 m
Born: July 7, 1987 (24 yrs.)
PB: 13:23.15 (2011; all-time Japanese #8)
1500 m: 3:38.11 (2008/2011; all-time Japanese #2)
10000 m: 27:47.79 (2011)

Prior to this spring Watanabe was best-known for this.  This year, having changed corporate teams, he has come on very strong, making the all-time Japanese top ten for 5000 m with a win at the Golden Games in Nobeoka meet, winning the 5000 m national title, breaking 27:50 for 10000 m and exactly tying his all-time Japanese #2 1500 m PB.  Watanabe's biggest strength is his last kick, a trait that may serve him well in picking up places in the carnage of the last lap at Worlds.

Minori Hayakari (Kyoto Koka AC) - Women's 3000 mSC
2011 national champion & national record holder, 3000 mSC
Born: Nov. 29, 1972 (38 yrs.)
PB: 9:33.93 (2008; national record)
5000 m: 15:11.42 (2005; all-time Japanese #7)

The only member of the Daegu long distance squad over age 30, the veteran Hayakari's accomplishments on the track outside her steeplechase national record are under-appreciated but impressive.  The pioneer of the Japanese women's steeplechase, Hayakari has started to see competition from younger runners but still maintains enough of an edge to take the national title this year.

Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) - Women's 5000 m, 10000 m
2011 national champion, 5000 m; junior national record holder, 10000 m
Born: Aug. 7, 1989 (22 yrs.)
PBs: 5000 m: 15:09.96 (2011; all-time Japanese #6)
10000 m: 31:10.02 (2011; all-time Japanese #4)

Kinukawa is the story of this year's team, a high school prodigy and schoolmate of Samuel Wanjiru who lost most of the last three years to illness and injury.  With a tentative comeback underway this spring, Kinukawa suddenly took off following Wanjiru's death with a series of sensational runs that earned her the 5000 m national title and put her on the Japanese all-time lists for both 5000 m and 10000 m, runs she dedicated to Wanjiru and to the coach they shared, Takao Watanabe.  If anyone on the Japanese team has a chance of a medal it is Kinukawa, more likely in the 10000 m where, should she choose to double, she is a good bet to become the third Japanese woman to break 31 minutes.  Her characteristic racing style is to negative split, so if all goes well look for her to be moving up late in the race.

Hitomi Niiya (Team Universal Entertainment) - Women's 5000 m
Born: Feb. 26, 1988 (23 yrs.)
PB: 15:13.12 (2011; all-time Japanese #10)

Niiya has had one of the more interesting careers in recent years, a high school star who won the first Tokyo Marathon in her debut at age 18 and has struggled with ups and downs ever since and who was fired from her corporate team this spring when she wanted to remain with legendary coach Yoshio Koide rather than move to the team's new base hundreds of km to the south.  Running a big 5000 m PB as an independent she looked to be the favorite for the Japanese 5000 m national title but despite going out at national record pace she fell victim to Kinukawa's surprise return and finished 2nd.  Returning a few weeks later she broke the 5000 m World Championships A-standard and cracked the all-time Japanese top ten list to earn a spot alongside Kinukawa in Daegu.

Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) - Women's 10000 m
2011 national champion, 10000 m
Born: Feb. 24, 1983 (28 yrs.)
PB: 31:34.35 (2011)
5000 m: 15:15.34 (2007)

The least-known member of the Japanese team, Sugihara has had a steady progression in her times over the last few years but has constantly remained below the radar.  She led the second pack in the 10000 m at this year's Cardinal Invitational on her way to a PB and then won the national title in a well-paced strategic effort.  Sugihara has an unusual, mechanical running form that should stand out at the World Championships.

Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo University) - Women's 10000 m
collegiate national record holder, 10000 m
Born: Jan. 14, 1990 (21 yrs.)
PB: 31:30.92 (2010; collegiate national record)
5000 m: 15:26.72 (2010)

The youngest member of the Japanese long distance crew, Yoshimoto is the #1-ranked university runner in Japan.  After a brilliant 2010 she has struggled this season, her best performance being Nationals where she led the 10000 m the entire race before being outkicked by Sugihara and marathon team member Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu).  Picked for the Worlds team over all-time Japanese #2 Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), if Yoshimoto is healthy she should be capable of improving on her collegiate record, but based on her season to date Daegu looks more likely to end up an experiential run.

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, August 22, 2011

World Championships Women's Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

A few months ago JRN had dinner with an executive member of an IAAF gold label overseas marathon.  "The World Championships marathon doesn't matter," this colleague told us.  "Nobody cares about it."  That may be true many places, but in Japan, where most athletes receive regular salaries and do not have agents pushing them into overseas big money races, patriotism still counts for more than the shot at a big payday and the country's best marathoners regularly line up for the chance to represent their country at the World Championships.  Even more so in years like this which precede an Olympics because if a Japanese athlete scores an individual marathon medal at Worlds their place on the Olympic team is secure.  The results speak for themselves.  In the last 20 years Japanese women have scored nine individual marathon medals at eight out of ten World Championships and the men at three along with team medals from both sides virtually every time.  For better or for worse, in the court of Japanese public opinion these medals mean far more than an equivalent placing at any of the World Marathon Majors would.

This year's team is no exception.  2009 World Championships silver medalist and 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon winner Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) and 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) lead a team of five supported by three youngers runners each in her third marathon, Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu), Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) and Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku).  Read on for detailed profiles and season reviews of each athlete.

2011 World Championships Japanese Women's Marathon Team

Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei)
Born: July 1, 1981 (30 yrs.)
PB: 2:23:30 - 1st, 2008 Tokyo International Women's Marathon (all-time Japanese #10)
half marathon: 1:09:26
10000 m: 31:47.23
5000 m: 15:28.55

Other major career results:
2:23:56 - 1st, 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon - CR
2:25:25 - 2nd, 2009 Berlin World Championships Marathon
2:26:19 - 2nd, 2008 Nagoya International Women's Marathon

Ozaki, coached by 1991 World Championships silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita, scored her silver medal at the 2009 World Championships the same way she won the 2008 Tokyo International Women's Marathon, with a long drive over the final kilometers, losing out only to a blazing last kick from China's Xue Bai.  Relatively flat throughout 2010, she suffered a bad fall in training late in the year but came back to win February's Yokohama International Women's Marathon in course-record time with a powerful long surge over the final three kilometers.  Since then she has rounded back into shape nicely, with a long training camp in Boulder culminating in a 50 km run with a focus on a long push at the end.  All systems appear to be go at this stage, so look for Ozaki to be shooting for gold with another long surge.

Results 2010-2011:
20:52 - 3rd, 2011 Steamboat Classic 4-Miler, Peoria, IL
33:30 - 13th, 2011 New York Mini 10 km, NY, NY
2:23:56 - 1st, 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon - CR
1:11:02 - 9th, 2010 World Half Marathon Championships, Nanning, China
2:32:26 - 13th, 2010 London Marathon, London, UK
1:10:06 - 2nd, 2010 National Corporate Half Marathon Championships
32:19 - 5th, 2010 National Women's Ekiden 9th Stage (10 km)

Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren)
Born: Oct. 18, 1979 (31 yrs.)
PB: 2:24:09 - 6th, 2011 London Marathon
half-marathon: 1:08:11 (all-time Japanese # 3)
10000 m: 31:15.34 (all-time Japanese # 5)
5000 m: 15:06.07 (all-time Japanese # 4)

Other major career results:
2:26:29 - 1st, 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon
2:24:55 - 6th, 2010 London Marathon
2:25:40 - 2nd, 2009 Osaka International Women's Marathon - debut

Akaba returned in late 2007 from having a baby to become one of the best track runners in Japanese history.  Although she has the ambition and potential for 2:21 or better her marathon time has not yet matched her other bests in quality.  Nevertheless, since debuting in 2009 she has made gradual, steady improvement, taking 45 seconds off in 2010 and another 46 seconds this year.  Daegu will be her third marathon of the year after a 2:26:29 win at January's windy Osaka and a 2:24:09 PB for 6th at London in April.  Akaba has not raced since London but has been training steadily at altitude in Boulder and the reports on her coach's blog are positive.  Two strokes against her are her disastrous performances on the track at the Beijing Olympics and in the marathon at the Berlin World Championships, but like Ozaki, at this stage it looks like a green light for Akaba to be in medal contention.

Results 2010-2011:
2:24:09 - 6th, 2011 London Marathon, London, UK - PB
2:26:29 - 1st, 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon
31:55 - 2nd, 2010 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships 3rd Stage (10 km)
32:26.25 - 4th, 2010 National Corporate T&F Championships 10000 m
1:12:57 - 3rd, 2010 Shibetsu Half Marathon
1:13:30 - 7th, 2010 Sapporo International Half Marathon
15:41.96 - 4th, 2010 National T&F Championshiops 5000 m
32:36.32 - 3rd, 2010 National T&F Championships 10000 m
2:24:55 - 6th, 2010 London Marathon, London, UK
1:11:09 - 2nd, 2010 Matsue Ladies' Half Marathon
DNF - 2010 Osaka International Women's Marathon

Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu)
Born: June 24, 1988 (23 yrs.)
PB: 2:24:29 - 2nd, 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon
half-marathon: 1:10:03
10000 m: 31:53.22
5000 m: 15:38.50

Other major career results:
2:34:29 - 12th, 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon - debut
1:10:40 - 16th, 2009 World Half Marathon Championships, Birmingham, UK
1:10:03 - 4th, 2009 National Corporate Half Marathon Championships - PB

The youngest member of the team, Nakazato was very impressive in her 2nd-place finish at Yokohama in February as she stuck with the more-experienced Ozaki and Portugal's Marisa Barros in the late stages of the race on track for a ten-minute PB.  Nakazato tried to go with Ozaki's crushing surge with 3 km to go, but while she may have come up short she exhibited clear potential to run faster.  Since then her major performance was a 2nd-place finish at June's National T&F Championships 10000 m, not far off her PB despite humid conditions.  There have been no media reports on her World Championships preparations but it looks as though there is reason to be optimistic about her chances.

Results 2010-2011:
32:20.81 - 2nd, 2011 National T&F Championships 10000 m
2:24:29 - 2nd, 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon - PB
33:50 - 15th, 2011 National Women's Ekiden 9th Stage (10 km)
38:25 - 5th, 2010 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships 5th Stage (11.6 km)
15:38.50 - 1st, 2010 Nittai Univ. Time Trials 5000 m - PB
31:53.22 - 2nd, 2010 Niigata Big Athletics Festa 10000 m - PB
33:43 - 2nd, 2010 Shibetsu 10 km Road Race
32:12.10 - 2nd, 2010 Hokuren Distance Challenge Fukagawa Meet 10000 m
2:34:29 - 12th, 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon - debut

Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei)
Born: June 6, 1982 (29 yrs.)
PB: 2:25:29 - 12th, 2011 London Marathon
half marathon: 1:10:53
5000 m: 15:43.94

Other major career results:
2:29:12 - 8th, 2010 Osaka International Women's Marathon - debut
1:11:35 - 13th, 2010 World Half Marathon Championships, Nanning, China
1st, 2003-2005 Fuji Mountain Race (21 km with 3006 m climb)

Also coached by Yamashita at Daiichi Seimei, Nojiri has had a very interesting career path on the way to Worlds, a former champion mountain racer and national team-level pro XC skiier who only made the switch to full-time running in August, 2008.  Caught in the Christchurch earthquake along with Akaba and Ito while training for March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon and returning to Japan only to go through the Tohoku disasters and Nagoya's subsequent cancellation, Nojiri was forced to run London in order to qualify for the Daegu team.  Despite all these setbacks she clocked a nearly four-minute PB in London, attacking late in the race to overtake two-time World Championships team member Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) and secure her spot on the team.  Easily recognizable thanks to her bouncy, energetic form, Nojiri could be in contention for a top ten finish after training with Ozaki in Boulder.

Results 2010-2011:
2:25:29 - 12th, 2011 London Marathon - PB
38:14 - 2nd, 2010 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships 5th Stage (11.6 km)
1:11:35 - 13th, 2010 World Half Marathon Championships, Nanning, China
15:58.50 - 12th, 2010 National Corporate T&F Championships 5000 m
1:12:02 - 2nd, 2010 Sapporo International Half Marathon
2:29:12 - 8th, 2010 Osaka International Women's Marathon - debut
32:49 - 13th, 2010 National Women's Ekiden 9th Stage (10 km)

Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku)
Born: May 23, 1984 (27 yrs.)
PB: 2:26:55 - 2nd, 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon
half marathon: 1:11:11
10000 m: 32:14.43
5000 m: 15:48.35

Other major career results:
2:29:13 - 4th, 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon - debut
1:11:11 - 1st, 2006 Kyoto City Half Marathon - PB

Ito has the weakest PB on the team, but her times in her two marathons to date don't tell the full story of her potential in the marathon.  In both her debut at the 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon and her follow-up in Osaka this past January she was the most aggressive runner in the field, attacking the better-credentialed leaders after 30 km before fading.  She lasted longer running into the headwind in Osaka than she did in Nagoya, so although she has not raced particularly well since then a similar progression in her stamina in Daegu would put her up with the best on the team.  Her coach Tadasu Kawano, who coached Takayuki Inubushi to Japan's first 2:06 men's marathon back in the 90's on a diet of higher quality and lower quantity than 'standard' Japanese training, had Ito do a hilly 30 km run on one of Boulder's hottest days of the summer to prepare for the Daegu conditions.  Ito sounds positive despite a disappointing showing at July's hot Shibetsu Half Marathon.

Results 2010-2011:
1:16:15 - 7th, 2011 Shibetsu Half Marathon
32:59.25 - 2nd, 2011 Kansai Corporate T&F Championships 10000 m
16:10.29 - 5th, 2011 Kansai Corporate T&F Championships 5000 m
15:55.64 - 6th, 2011 Oda Memorial T&F Meet 5000 m
32:54.15 - 8th, 2011 Hyogo Relay Carnival 10000 m
2:26:55 - 2nd, 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon - PB
33:07 - 12th, 2011 National Women's Ekiden 9th Stage (10 km)
32:00 - 3rd, 2010 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships 3rd Stage (10 km)
32:21.37 - 3rd, 2010 National Corporate T&F Championships 10000 m
33:44 - 3rd, 2010 Shibetsu 10 km Road Race
9:32.56 - 2nd, 2010 Hokuren Distance Challenge Kushiro Meet 3000 m
15:48.35 - 2nd, 2010 Hokuren Distance Challenge Shibetsu Meet 5000 m - PB
33:08.38 - 7th, 2010 National T&F Championships 10000 m
32:15.91 - 4th, 2010 Hyogo Relay Carnival 10000 m
2:29:13 - 4th, 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon - debut

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Double Half Marathon Bronze on Final Day of World University Games Athletics

by Brett Larner

Click photo for video highlights of men's 5000 m.

The final day of track and field competition at the 2011 World University Games brought the biggest round of distance racing, with the women's and men's half marathon and the men's 5000 m final all taking place Aug. 21.  Both half marathons were slow and tactical as the athletes dealt with the morning heat and humidity.  The women's half went out in 18:59 for the first 5 km, a pace which kept the entire field together.  A split of 18:39 for the next 5 km dropped a few of the weaker runners, but a 17:42 split from 10 to 15 km cut the field down to seven, including all four Japanese runners.  China's Xiaoli Jiang and Japan's Shiho Takechi were unable to keep this pace and fell away from the lead pack.  Of the remaining five, only North Korean Un Ok Ro could maintain pace as she ran 17:43 from 15 to 20 km to open a narrow lead she carried all the way to gold in 1:16:38.  China's Lingling Jin and Japan's Sayo Nomura, Machiko Iwakawa and Aki Odagiri were together five seconds back at 20 km, and in the last kick Jin proved the strongest as she pulled away to take silver in 1:16:42, Nomura claiming bronze in 1:16:48.

In the men's half marathon a lead pack of fourteen went through 5 km in 16:00, the pack whittling down to ten after a 16:13 split for the next 5 km and seven after the pace picked up to 15:31 from 10 to 15 km.  As in the women's race, four of the seven runners in the game at 15 km were Japanese athletes.  After 15 km Japan's Yo Yazawa and Takehiro Deki and South Africa's Sibabalwe Gladwin Mzazi lost touch as Turkey's Fatih Bilgic pushed the pace to 15:20 from 15 to 20 km.  Only 10000 m bronze medalist Ahmed Tamri of Morocco could follow, one second behind at 20 km, Japan's Tsubasa Hayakawa and Hiromitsu Kakuage drifting back.  Hayakawa had the fastest split in the field from 20 km on to the end but could not close the gap to the lead pair and had to settle for bronze as Tamri caught Bilgic and took gold, both of the top pair clocking 1:06:20 to Hayakawa's 1:06:25.

Kakuage took 4th in 1:06:38.  His teammate at Komazawa University, Ikuto Yufu, took the men's 5000 m final out in a conservative 2:49.87 but soon ran into trouble and moved backward through the field.  Uganda's Joseph Chebet kept control through 4000 m, hitting the mark in 11:24.54, before the racing began over the last 1000 m.  Andrew Vernon of Great Britain emerged on top, taking gold in 14:00.06 just ahead of 10000 m silver medalist Evgeny Rybakov who was silver again in 14:00.60.  Italian Stefano La Rosa was just behind them for bronze in 14:02.95.  Yufu ultimately ended up finishing last in a disappointing 14:38.29.

2011 World University Games
Shenzhen, China, 8/21/11

Women's Half Marathon
click here for complete results
1. Un Ok Ro (North Korea) - 1:16:38
2. Lingling Jin (China) - 1:16:42
3. Sayo Nomura (Japan) - 1:16:48
4. Machiko Iwakawa (Japan) - 1:16:53
5. Aki Odagiri (Japan) - 1:17:02
6. Xiaoli Jiang (Japan) - 1:17:57 - PB
7. Shiho Takechi (Japan) - 1:18:16
8. Zhenzhu Li (China) - 1:18:30
9. Filomena Costa (Portugal) - 1:19:15
10. Eunyoung Chang (Korea) - 1:20:11

Men's Half Marathon
click here for complete results
1. Ahmed Tamri (Morocco) - 1:06:20
2. Fatih Bilgic (Turkey) - 1:06:20
3. Tsubasa Hayakawa (Tokai Univ.) - 1:06:25
4. Hiromitsu Kakuage (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:06:38
5. Sibabalwe Gladwin Mzazi (South Africa) - 1:07:32
6. Takehiro Deki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:07:34
7. Yo Yazawa (Waseda Univ.) - 1:08:03
8. Denis Mayaud (France) - 1:09:08
9. Qi Bian (China) - 1:09:13
10. Stsiapan Rahautsou (Belarus) - 1:10:52

Men's 5000 m
click here for complete results
1. Andrew James Vernon (U.K.) - 14:00.06
2. Evgeny Rybakov (Russia) - 14:00.60
3. Stefano La Rosa (Italy) - 14:02.95
14. Ikuto Yufu (Komazawa Univ.) - 14:38.29

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Atsushi Sato Wins Hiroshima XC Meet

by Brett Larner

Sato takes the lead. Click photo for complete photo sequence courtesy of the Rikubaka website.

Half marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) made another step toward a comeback when he won the men's 8 km division at the 12th annual Hiroshima Cross-Country Meet on a hot and humid Aug. 20.  Sato outran 2010 winner Peter Kariuki (Kenya/Team Mazda) and 2007 winner Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) over the final two km to take the win in 24:03 by a margin of 15 seconds.  Gitau finished 2nd in 24:18, Kariuki taking 3rd in 24:21.

At the nearby Central Japan Five-Prefecture Track and Field Championships Gitau's teammate Kota Otani (Team JFE Steel) broke the 25-year-old meet record with a new mark of 8:53.13 in the men's 3000 mSC, while Otani's identical twin brother Kenta Otani (Team JFE Steel) won the men's 5000 m in a modest 14:23.67.  Independent runner Kota Taniguchi (Tottori Pref.) almost broke the meet record in the steeple as well, finishing 2nd in 8:55.88 before returning 35 minutes later to finish 2nd in the 5000 m in 14:48.59.  Kariuki's teammate Akihiko Tsumurai (Team Mazda) won the men's 10000 m in 29:47.23.

Further south at the Kyushu Track and Field Championships in Miyazaki, top-ranked high schooler Tomoka Kimura (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) bypassed the junior 3000 m for the women's 5000 m, which she won in 16:38.19 a fraction of step ahead of pro Misako Kato (Team Kyudenko) who was 2nd in 16:38.26.  Kyudenko runners also took the men's 5000 m and junior women's 3000 m, while local Yoshikazu Kawazoe (Team Asahi Kasei) won a competitive if not especially quick men's 10000 m in 29:55.47.

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

10000 m Medalists Falter in World University Games Women's 5000 m

by Brett Larner

Click photo for video highlights.

The double proved difficult for the three women's 10000 m medalists in the 2011 World University Games women's 5000 m.  10000 m 4th-placer Triyaningsih of Indonesia took the race out conservatively, running 3:14.58 and 3:17.11 for the first 2000 m.  Turkey's Binnaz Uslu then took over, leading in 3:17.93 and 3:16.31 through 4000 m.  With much of the field still in the race it came down to the fastest closer.  Uslu impressed as she and Portugal's Sara Moreira broke away from the field.  Uslu cracked Moreira over the bell lap, running 2:45.22 for the last 1000 m to win gold in a PB of 15:41.15.  Moreira split 2:49.90 to finish 2nd in 15:45.83 ahead of Russian Natalia Popkova, 3rd in 15:52.55.  10000 m gold medalist Fadime Suna dropped out partway, leaving Japan's 10000 m silver medalist Hanae Tanaka (Bukkyo Univ.) as the top placer in the 5000 m, 6th in 16:04.05.  Her teammate Mai Ishibashi (Bukkyo Univ.), the 10000 m bronze medalist, was 9th in 16:14.58 ahead of Triyaningsih who ended up 10th in 16:26.06.

2011 World University Games Women's 5000 m
Shenzhen, China, 8/20/11
click here for complete results

1. Binnaz Uslu (Turkey) - 15:41.15 - PB
2. Sara Moreira (Portugal) - 15:45.83
3. Natalia Popkova (Russia) - 15:52.55
4. Stevie Leanne Stockton (U.K.) - 15:59.22
5. Layes Abdullayeva (Azerbaijan) - 16:03.13
6. Hanae Tanaka (Bukkyo Univ.) - 16:04.05
7. Alfiya Khasanova (Russia) - 16:10.60
8. Roxana Elisabeta Birca (Romania) - 16:11.94
9. Mai Ishibashi (Bukkyo Univ.) - 16:14.58
10. Triyaningsih (Indondesia) - 16:26.06
DNF - Fadime Suna (Turkey)

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, August 19, 2011

An Interview With World Championships Marathoner Kentaro Nakamoto


translated and edited by Brett Larner

What kind of training have you been doing this summer?
I've been doing mileage in Kokonoemachi, Oita, for weeks.  The course is really difficult, so the focus has been on building up my legs and improving my stamina.  It's hard before a marathon, but I feel like things have come around pretty well.

How did you feel about the Sapporo International Half Marathon?
I did it coming right off training so I had some fatigue, but the goal was to go out hard and see how long I could hang on.  That's what I did, but partway through I started to gradually lose touch and drop back.  I think working on that part of the race has been the focus of my training since then.  Foreign athletes and top-class Japanese athletes ran it, including two other guys who will run the World Championships marathon, so there were really a lot strong people there and I was pretty nervous, but it went well. [Nakamoto finished 17th in 1:05:02 ahead of World Championships teammates Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.).

What does your final training schedule look like?
[After Sapporo there was] one more training camp in Kokonoemachi, Oita, then up to Hokkaido for a week or so for another camp.  In August the same thing again, a training camp in Oita prefecture's Kokonoemachi then another in Hokkaido for my final training.  I've focused on solid mileage and getting ready to deal with the heat of a summer marathon.  Of course my main goal in the time that's left is to fine-tune my body to be absolutely ready for the marathon.

A training camp means the environment changes, but more than just being exciting it means that you can get good training done, that the quality is going to go up.  That means that you have to take good care of yourself, and Oita prefecture is famous for hot springs so I've been using them to help recover when I'm worn out.

Do you have a message for all your supporters and fans?
Things have been going according to plan and my base is there the way we wanted it, so in the time left I want to put on the finishing touches to my training and arrive at the start line in the best condition possible.  Thank you all for your support and please cheer for me in the race.

"Japan to Ferry Tanui Diehard Fans to Daegu"


Thursday, August 18, 2011

World Championships Marathoner Oda Talks About Stagnation, Perseverance and the Payoff


interview by Tatsuo Terada
translated by Brett Larner

Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - PBs:
5000 m: 13:42.67 (2007)
10000 m: 27:53.55 (2010)
half: 1:01:47 (2009)
marathon: 2:09:03 (2011)

Daegu World Championships marathoner Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) never attracted much attention as a contender.  In university he turned some heads for running in the 28:20`s for 10000 m, but he never won a Hakone Ekiden stage or a national title.  After heading to the corporate team ranks he couldn't quite manage to break 28 minutes, and the Japanese national team remained out of reach.  Once reaching his 30`s Oda made the jump to the marathon finishing February's Tokyo Marathon in 2:09:03, 4th overall and the 2nd Japanese finisher.  His time put him at all time #3 on the Japanese marathon debut lists and finally scored him a place on the Daegu team.  Coming in his eighth year as a corporate runner, what changes did Oda go through in his transformation to a marathoner, and what changes led to his 2:09:03 in particular?

Some people might point out that it's relatively "late" for someone to run their marathon debut in their 30's, but although that`s what you did you have said clearly, "I don't think that's true."  For years as a corporate runner you worked on improving your 10000 m time.  It looked as though you had stalled from 2005 to 2008, but you've said, "Those years were not a waste."
I've been able to get my body to the point where it's capable of handling serious marathon training, but the only thing about it is that it took me until my 30's.  I hear people say that was probably a bit late all the time, but it doesn't affect me in the slightest.  They say your body is at its strongest around age 25 but I don't think that's true either.  For me it's only been in the last two or three years that I've become able to train really seriously.  The glue is finally starting to take, and now is when I'm at my best.

Personally I don't think of the 10000 m and the marathon as separate things in particular either.  I trained well, got the results, and so I knew my body was ready for the marathon.  At the same time, looking at my marathon training, it increased my stamina base.  Working on my speed on top of that base let me finally break 28 minutes last fall.  If your training is solid some people can use that to get the results in the marathon, others to run 27 minutes.  I think everyone's different that way.

I don't think the stagnation I had in the 10000 m was a waste.  I think the years when I couldn't put out the times helped me develop my perseverance.  Because I endured that period of time and I reached a point where I could really train well and that's why I am where I am now.  I used the time to find out what worked best for me, and I think that's how I've come so far.

Your period of stagnation in the 10000 m was long, but from there you've suddenly broken out with a 27-minute PB and making the World Championships marathon team.    That in itself shows some of your personal traits, but what other things in your career as an athlete have led up to this?  Could you look back on your student years?
When I was at [Kanto Gakuin]  university coach Moriyuki Nakata believed in setting down a solid foundation of mileage, so we did a lot of 30 km runs and slow distance training.  I don't mean to say that we didn't do intervals, but it wasn't like after I entered the corporate team and we hit them hard all the time.  I think the reason I was able to run in the 28:20's on that kind of training was that coach would add speedwork before important races.  At the time I wasn't conscious that it wasn't enough speed training; I thought more, "If I do this training then it'll be fine."  As far as speed went, I thought that when it came to the race if I could just keep going until the end then I could be competitive.  I started feeling that way the fall or winter of my senior year of high school.

In university you won the Division 2 5000 m and 10000 m at the Kanto Regionals meet but couldn't manage to take a national title.  It was the same later in 2003 when you first joined Team Toyota.  Nevertheless, in your first and second years at Toyota you ran 10000 m PBs.  Your second year there you broke the 2004 Athens Olympics B-standard, finishing as 3rd Japanese at the Hyogo Relay Carnival just behind big names Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) and Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku).  It looked as though you had gotten to the point where a national team spot was in reach.
When I joined the corporate leagues I started doing lots of race pace intervals beginning at the start of spring, and I think that's why my 10000 m time improved.  Even so, the next year when I ran 28:03.92 I didn't think I was capable of running a time at that level.  At that stage I was just thinking of things in terms of working my way up the ladder and getting stronger, not to the point where I was seriously thinking about the Olympics or World Championships.  I ran the National Championships every year to try to make the national team, but I didn't really believe I was strong enough to do it.  I didn't think I was ready to go for it until 2008 or 2009.  That was when I started doing the training that made me feel, "This will get me there."

But from 2005 your 10000 m time slipped a bit.  It wasn't much, but it was enough to put the national team a little out of range.  You also had some injury problems.
If I thought about it now I'd say I was "just doing the training."  I had some Achilles pain and I don't think I was really consciously aiming for anything.  It wasn't that I had given up on trying to keep getting better.  I wanted to make the 2005 Helsinki and 2007 Osaka World Championships, but my training and my race results weren't matching up.  Even when I ran trial races to see what I could do, when it came to the main event I couldn't run well.

I started having Achilles pain my third year at Toyota, 2005.  I was stepping up my training each year, and as the fatigue accumulated the pain started to come out.  Even when it hurt I kept on with the planned training and never really took any long period of time off, but in the winter of '05-'06 I finally got to the point where I couldn't train for two months.  That's when I couldn't run in the New Year Ekiden.  After that I had planned to run in the 2010 Tokyo Marathon, but after the New Year Ekiden that year I had pain in my Achilles and hip so my first marathon was a season late.

Even when you weren't in contention for the national team you stayed focused on moving up the ladder, and that must have been a source of competitive confidence.  When your 10000 m times were flat from 2005-2007 you must have been impatient to make progress.  In these circumstances at the National Championships 10000 m you finished 7th, 9th and 5th those years.  That showed your persistence.
I've run in the National Championships every year since I joined Toyota.  It's the most important selection race for the Olympics and World Championships, so if I hadn't run it I wouldn't have had any chance to make the national team.  The point when I can't run them is the point when my upward progress is finished.  That's why every year I've at least broken the qualification time to get into Nationals.  No matter how bad my condition was, I've always had that as my minimum goal for the season.

It's the same even in years when there isn't an Olympics or World Championships.  Even if it's not a selection race, the result is still the result.  If you clear the qualification time it carries over to the next season, so in terms of helping to build confidence I think it's meaningful to go for that time no matter what.  Even this year when I was confirmed for the marathon team I ran track in the spring and ran in the National Championships as usual [8th in the 10000 m].

When you were recovering from your Achilles troubles what were doing with regard to nutrition and supplements?
I became very careful about having a solid balance in my diet.  I have breakfast at home and lunch at work, but I eat dinner at the dining hall as soon as possible after practice because there's a wide variety of food and I can choose a balanced menu.  It's not really something drastic, but sometimes my hemoglobin count falls so I have to take measures to deal with that.  I don't like it but I force myself to eat liver, and I take iron supplements too.

I started taking WGH Pro [Wheget Gluten Hydrolysate] two or three years ago.  After exercising your glutamine level falls, and I knew that WGH Pro was an optimal aid in helping to replenish it.  After 2008 I started increasing both the quality and quantity of my training, and as I've done intensive summer training and marathon-specific work I think WGH Pro has had an effect.  On days when I'm doing key workouts I take it both after the session and before going to bed, and on easy days I take it just before bed.  Recently they've improved the taste so it's easier to swallow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Osako Wins World University Games 10000 m

by Brett Larner

Click photo for video highlights.

2011 Hakone Ekiden champion Waseda University's star sophomore Suguru Osako, the Asian junior area record holder for the half marathon, won his first world title on the second day of the 2011 World University Games as he ran a season-best 28:42.83 to take the men's 10000 m.  Russian Sergey Rybin took the race out at a blistering speed, clocking 2:44.13 for the first 1000 m and going through halfway in 13:53.21.  The pace burned most of the competition before Rybin began to slow.  By 8000 m Rybin was running slower than 3:00 / km, and, staggering after being passed by Osako on the last lap, he dropped out with less than 200 m to go.  The 20-year-old Osako, who ran most of the race with 26-year-old South African Stephen Mokoka, executed a long kick over the last 400 m to win by more than ten seconds.  Mokoka took silver, with 26-year-old Moroccan Ahmed Tamri picking up bronze in 29:06.20.  Meiji University senior Tetsuya Yoroizaka, 21, who last month ran 27:44.30 at the Aviva UK Trials, had an off day as he finished 5th in only 29:32.21 after running together with Osako in the early stages of the race.

Osako will return Aug. 19 in the men's 5000 m where his PB of 13:31.27 from earlier this season ranks him #4 in the field.  Joining him is Komazawa University sophomore Ikuto Yufu, who ran a 10000 m PB of 28:02.46 in June.

2011 World University Games Men's 10000 m
Shenzhen, China, 8/17/11
click here for complete results

1. Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) - 28:42.83
2. Stephen Mokoka (South Africa) - 28:53.09
3. Ahmed Tamri (Morocco) - 29:06.20
4. Evgeny Rybakov (Russia) - 29:10.86
5. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Meiji Univ.) - 29:32.21
6. Sibabalwe Gladwin Mzazi (South Africa) - 29:34.65
7. Joseph Chebet (Uganda) - 30:03.52
8. Rolf Rufenacht (Switzerland) - 30:18.24
9. Stsiapan Rahautsou (Belarus) - 30:29.33
10. Paul Avila (Bolivia) - 32:13.50

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tanaka and Ishibashi Go Two-Three at World University Games 10000 m

by Brett Larner

Click photo for video highlights.

On the first day of the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen, China, Hanae Tanaka, 21, and Mai Ishibashi, 22, of 2010 national champion Bukkyo University went two-three in the women's 10000 m behind winner Fadime Suna, 25, of Turkey.  Ishibashi led Suna in a one-on-one duel through 6000 m, splitting 3:15.14 at 1000 m and 16:22.17 at halfway before Suna took over.  Ishibashi soon lost touch while Tanaka, who memorably anchored the Japanese university select team to victory at last fall's International Chiba Ekiden, moved up from behind after running more conservatively at the rear of the chase pack.  Tanaka closed the gap to within three seconds but could not match Suna's strong last lap and had to settle for silver.  Ishibashi faded badly but held on for bronze over Indonesia's Triyaningsih, 24, the 4th-placer in the marathon at last fall's Asian Games.

Both Tanaka and Ishibashi are scheduled to double in the 5000 m, with heats taking place Aug. 18.

2011 World University Games Women's 10000 m
Shenzhen, China, 8/16/11
click here for complete results

1. Fadime Suna (Turkey) - 33:11.92
2. Hanae Tanaka (Bukkyo Univ.) - 33:15.57
3. Mai Ishibashi (Bukkyo Univ.) - 33:41.90
4. Triyaningsih (Indonesia) - 34:04.92
5. Xiaoli Jiang (China) - 34:05.60
6. Danielle Maria Trevis (New Zealand) - 35:05.19
7. Giovanna Epis (Italy) - 35:46.28
8. Volha Minina (Belarus) - 36:17.46
9. Vaida Zusinaite (Lithuania) - 36:35.30
10. Annet Chebet (Uganda) - 36:47.95

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kawauchi Looking Forward to Post-Worlds Coffee


translated and edited by Brett Larner

Marathoner Yuki Kawauchi at the pre-Daegu press conference. Click photo to enlarge.

37 members of the Japanese national team for this month's World Track and Field Championships in Daegu, Korea assembled at a Tokyo hotel over the weekend for the official sendoff press conference.  Among them was the now-famous amateur runner Yuki Kawauchi (24, Saitama Prefecture) who will run the men's marathon on Sept. 4, and team captains Yukifumi Murakami (31, Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) from the men's javelin and women's 400 m hurdler Satomi Kubokura (29, Niigata Albirex AC).  Kawauchi revealed that he is aiming for a top-eight finish and that after months of limiting his consumption of coffee, his favorite drink, he plans to celebrate post-race with a fresh hot cup.

Wearing the Rising Sun on his chest for the time, Kawauchi's spirits were high as he appeared at the press conference dressed in the national uniform.  "The reality of all of this is just bubbling up inside me," he said.  "I'm going to race with a powerful sense of the responsibility that's upon me."  In his first appearance at the World Championships, Kawauchi has dangled a carrot in front of himself as extra motivation toward his goal of top-eight.  "I love coffee," he told the media, "but at the moment I'm abstaining.  If I make top eight I'll reward myself by celebrating with a cup."

Training through last year's hot summer his condition broke down due to the effects of the heat, and after considering this he stopped drinking coffee late last year as he built toward this year's Tokyo Marathon.  "I drank it without fail, morning, noon and night after every meal," he said of his love of coffee.  Since he does not drink alcohol, Kawauchi viewed each cup as a reward, a personal stimulus and a thing of beauty.

Takushoku University head coach Masahiro Okada explained, "Coffee contains caffeine, a natural stimulant.  For sprinters and other athletes in sports requiring explosive force drinking small amounts of coffee can have positive effects, but for marathoners and other long-distance athletes there is no positive effect at all.  In fact, drinking it later in the day can make it hard to fall asleep at night, so there can actually be negative effects for athletes.  It's not a banned substance, but I do not recommend it for athletes.  Rather than drinking coffee, milk is much better."

It goes without saying that since Kawauchi's restriction is self-imposed he hasn't broken it.  While other members of the national team were doing extended training camps overseas and at altitude Kawauchi was going to work at Kasukabe H.S. as usual and training in the mountains at Kawaguchiko and Nikko on the weekends to strengthen his legs.  In June he ran the Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon and collapsed just before the finish after suffering heat stroke, but finding the positive in the experience he said, "In heat and humidity I ran alone for 49 km.  That gives me a lot of confidence."  Discussing his race plan for the big day he told reporters, "The most important thing is to be able to keep my rhythm without and breaks."

East Africans from Kenya and Ethiopia dominate the men's marathon, but at the World Championships Japanese men have made the top eight six times in a row starting with Nobuyuki Sato's bronze at the 1999 Seville World Championships.  With his 2:08:37 PB ranking him #1 among the five men on the Japanese team the "Government Star" is aiming for a repeat of his shocking run at February's Tokyo Marathon as he says, "To me this all seems like I'm in a dream, but I want to prove to everyone that even an amateur can compete at the world level."