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Showing posts from October, 2012

Olympic Marathoner Nakamoto Returns to Roads as Grand Tour Kyushu Reaches Halfway

by Brett Larner

Japan's #1 marathoner, London Olympics 6th-placer Kentaro Nakamoto, returned to the roads Oct. 30 with the Fukuoka Prefecture team on the third day of the Grand Tour Kyushu 2012, an eight-day, 50-stage, 732.2 km ekiden around Japan's southernmost main island of Kyushu.

After dominating on the traditional 72-stage, 1056.6 km course in 2010 and at last year's scaled-back 60th running, Miyazaki Prefecture got off to a strong start on Day One, finishing the day with an 84-second lead over Fukuoka and a lead of more than 2 1/2 minutes over Nagasaki Prefecture thanks to large part to Third and Fourth Stage wins by rookie pro Tetsuya Yoroizaka and Kazuya Deguchi.

2009 winner Fukuoka fought back on Day Two, winning four of the six stages and opening a nearly 2 minute lead on Miyazaki with Nagasaki another 5+ minutes back.  Miyazaki's lone stage win of the day came thanks to 2011 World Championships marathon 7th-place finisher Hiroyuki Horibata, who won the Fo…

Two Overseas Elites Withdraw From Yokohama

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20121030/ath12103015430001-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Nov. 18 Yokohama International Women's Marathon announced Oct. 30 that two of its overseas invited elites have withdrawn.  Philes Ongori (Kenya) has pulled out with a leg injury, while Yolanda Caballero (Colombia) has withdrawn due to poor fitness.

Fujiwara "Aiming for National Record" at Tokyo Marathon

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/p-sp-tp0-20121026-1037852.html

translated by Brett Larner

Having finished 45th in the London Olympics men's marathon, Arata Fujiwara (30, Miki House) has confirmed that he is planning to go after the Japanese national record at next February's Tokyo Marathon.  Fujiwara left his training camp in Fujimi Kogen, Nagano to attend an event honoring his alma mater Takushoku University's Olympians at a Tokyo-area hotel.  Asked at the event about his future goals Fujiwara announced, "I'm strongly motivated to go after a time goal.  I want to run at least 2:06, and that means I'll be aiming for the national record.  If I'm going to go after a time, it'll be at that race."

"That race" is of course Tokyo, where he has finished 2nd three times.  This year he ran 2:07:48 in Tokyo, making him Japan's all-time 7th-fastest man.  "The way they put the race together makes Tokyo more and more suitabl…

Fukushi Leads Team Wacoal to West Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden Course Record

http://www.shikoku-np.co.jp/sports/local/20121029000154

translated and edited by Brett Larner

At the Oct. 28 West Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden, a six-stage, 42.195 km race beginning in front of City Hall in Munakata, Fukuoka, Team Wacoal set a new course record of 2:17:38 to take its first West Japan win.  One week ahead of her planned appearance at the New York City Marathon, Kayoko Fukushi set a new course record on the 10.2 km Third Stage, passing eleven opponents to give Wacoal a lead that was never cracked.  Team Daihatsu was 2nd in 2:18:43, with Athens Olympics women's marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi-led Team Sysmex 3rd in 2:19:23.

The West Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden served as the regional qualifier for December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships in Miyagi.  The top five teams in West Japan were guaranteed to qualify, with any teams clearing 2:23 also picking up places on the start line at the National Championships.  Twelve of the s…

Ritsumeikan University Wins Record-Setting Seventh National Title

http://mainichi.jp/sports/news/20121029k0000m050036000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

With 28 teams on the starting line for the six-stage, 38.6 km National University Women's Ekiden Championships on Oct. 28 in Sendai, defending national champion Ritsumeikan University celebrated the championships' 30th anniversary by running 2:06:05 to take a record-setting seventh national title.  Rival Bukkyo University was relegated to the runner-up position for the second-straight year, 1:05 behind Ritsumeikan, while Tsubuka University was 3rd in its first Nationals appearance in nine years, making the seeded top six for the first time in ten years.

Ritsumeikan sat in 4th at the end of the First Stage, 13 seconds behind the lead before junior Akane Yabushita took over with a stage-best run to put Ritsumeikan into the lead.  The team sustained the lead through the Third Stage and was unchallenged all the way to the finish.  After starting the Second Stage in the lead. Bukkyo senior Shiho …

Nakao 4th at Great Birmingham Run

IAAF Great Birmingham Run report. 2008 World Half Marathon Championships 5th-placer Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) took 4th in 1:03:16 in his first half marathon since 2009.

IAAF Amsterdam Marathon report. 2:08:38 man Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) was 15th in 2:14:37.

Kawauchi Completes Hat Trick With Win at Inaugural Chiba Aqualine Marathon

by Brett Larner

Continuing his solid buildup to a shot at 2:07 at December's Fukuoka International Marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) ran 2:17:48 to win the first running of the Chiba Aqualine Marathon on Oct. 21, his third-straight marathon win following a victory at August's Hokkaido Marathon and a course record at September's Sydney Marathon.  With second place over ten minutes back Kawauchi ran most of the race, a new mass-participation event with 13946 finishers running partially across the Aqualine bridge over Tokyo Bay, solo, splitting 1:08:37 at halfway.  "This time I focused on kicking hard after 40 km," Kawauchi told JRN after the race.  "It was good preparation for my next big race."  Chiba represented his final marathon-length tuneup for Fukuoka, with three half marathons and a 30 km race still on the menu before his attempt at a 2:07.

2012 Gold Coast Marathon winner Kaori Yoshida (Puma AC) took the women's race in 2:32:11 just four…

First-Years Kubota and Ogura 59:28 and 59:59 to Lead Aoyama Gakuin Sweep at Takashimadaira 20 km

by Brett Larner

Less than two weeks after their unexpected course record win at the Izumo Ekiden, Aoyama Gakuin University fired a serious warning shot across the bows of impending Hakone Ekiden rivals Toyo University, Komazawa University, Waseda University and Meiji University. Despite the absence of captain and course record holder Takehiro Deki, Aoyama Gakuin runners swept the top ten at the Takashimadaira 20 km in Tokyo on Oct. 21. First-years Kazuma Kubota and Yusuke Ogura, key elements in their team's Izumo win, led the way with solid 59:28 and 59:59 clockings for 1-2, but the team as a whole was impressive as its tenth finisher was under 1:00:30. Even without 58:51 man Deki. Any questions about Aoyama Gakuin's ability to translate its improvement over the relatively short distances at Izumo to the longer half-marathon stages of Hakone appear to be answered two and a half months out from the main event.

2012 Takashimadaira Road Race 20 km
Takashimadaira, Tokyo, 10/21/1…

Benjamin Gandu 57:47 Overall Win, Nittai University Takes Top Team Spot at Hakone Ekiden Qualifier

by Brett Larner

At the second big race of the university ekiden season Nihon University senior Benjamin Gandu continued to develop into one of the hottest properties on Japanese soil, following his 1:01:06 best at February's Marugame Half Marathon with a 57:47 win at the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km road race, the qualifying race for January's Hakone Ekiden for schools that fell outside the top ten at this year's Hakone.  With a nearly one and a half minute lead over the closest competition Gandu became the second-fastest man ever at the Yosenkai, leading Nihon University back to Hakone after the team's decades-long streak was broken last year.

With 2009 Yosenkai winner Akinobu Murasawa out with an Achilles injury Gandu easily broke his closest Kenyan competition, Duncan Muthee (Takushoku Univ.), with a surge at 10 km after the pair dueled their way through 14:22 and 28:40 opening 5 km splits.  Muthee in turn barely held off Keisuke Fujii (Chuo Gakuin Univ.), the only …

'World Champion Tadese Faces Tough Challenge in Birmingham'

http://www.iaaf.org/Mini/LRR12/News/NewsDetail.aspx?id=67999

2008 World Half Marathon Championships 5th-placer Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) is appearing in the Great Birmingham Run with assistanace from JRN.  Nakao will be running December's Fukuoka International Marathon in pursuit of the sub-2:08 time requirement for the 2013 Moscow World Championships Japanese marathon team.

Yokohama International Women's Marathon Announces 2012 Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Yokohama International Women's Marathon have announced the elite field for this year's 4th running on Nov. 18.  With the Japanese federation dictating a sub-2:24 requirement for Japanese women to be considered for next year's Moscow World Championships marathon squad they have assembled a field with at least three runners potentially in range of that goal.

Kenyan Lydia Cheromei serves as the one to follow for those chasing the Moscow time, her 2:21:30 coming as part of the miracle in Dubai last January.  The main contenders to achieve the federation's target time behind her are three of this year's top ten Japanese women, 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), spring 2011 Yokohama runner-up and 2012 Nagoya International Women's Marathon 3rd-placer Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) and Nagoya 5th-placer Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku).  2009 Tokyo Marathon winner Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Uni…

Weekend Track Roundup - Kyuma Twins, Morita Twins, Murayama Twins Take Top Positions

by Brett Larner

On the quietest weekend of the fall at the cusp of ekiden season, the main action came at track time trials across the country as Japan's coaches sort out their lineups for the upcoming round of regional and national championship ekidens at the end of this month and the beginning of next.

The biggest meet of the weekend took place at Shizuoka's fast Ecopa Stadium.  Fresh from an anchor stage record at the Kanto Regional University Women's Ekiden national championships qualifier, Tsukuba University ace first-year Haruka Kyuma won the women's 5000 m A-heat by four seconds, running a solid best of 15:39.87 to just miss the Japanese top ten for the year.  Her twin sister Moe Kyuma, also of Tsukuba, was 14th, the last woman in the A-heat to break 16 minutes as she crossed the line in 15:58.07 in an off day. Another set of twins, Kaori and Shiori Morita of Eda H.S., also dominated the women's 3000 m A-heat, going 1-2 a step apart in 9:10.97 and 9:11.15.

T…

Ten Years of Cakes and Pies

Ten years ago today I wrote this song while sitting in Narita Airport.  It remains one of the things I'm proudest of.

The U.S. Team Talks After Second-Straight Izumo Ekiden Top Eight Finish

photos by Kazuyuki Sugimatsu

On Oct. 8 the U.S. team at the 24th Izumo Ekiden had its best-ever showing, tying last year's best-ever placing at 8th but running over a minute faster for the six-stage, 44.5 km course.  Fifth Stage runner Brendan Gregg was one of five men on his leg to break the standing course record, second on his stage on time and missing the win by only two seconds behind Ryu Takaku of defending champion Toyo University.  Historically an Ivy League alumni team, its makeup has shifted over the last two years to become more of an overall U.S. post-collegiate team lineup.  Taking in Tokyo for a few days post-race, the team's members gave JRN their impressions of the Izumo Ekiden, Japanese collegiate runners, the system under which they train and compete and how it compares to the NCAA, and more.


Elliott Heath (Stanford Univ., First Stage, 8.0 km – 4th, 23:33)
Running in a Japanese ekiden opened my eyes to the Japanese running culture in a way that I didn't rea…

Waithera Breaks 3000 m Meet Record at National Sports Festival

by Brett Larner

Despite a year that has seen her coach and most of her teammates depart Sendai Ikuei H.S., Kenyan Mary Waithera brought the highlight of the meet to the final day of the National Sports Festival in Gifu.  The favorite in the junior women's 3000 m, Waithera obliterated rival Rosemary Wanjiru (Kenya/Aomori Yamada H.S.) and all Japanese competitors with a meet record 8:48.16, a four-second PB and one of the upper-echelon times of the year worldwide.  Wanjiru was nearly twenty seconds back in 9:06.99, with Shiori Yano (Kitakyushu Municipal H.S.) the top Japanese finisher at 3rd overall in 9:12.91, outkicking a tight pack of four other Japanese athletes.  As she steadily improves Waithera looks set to become another in the lineage of Kenyan greats to have passed through Sendai Ikuei, most notably including the late Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru.

2012 National Sports Festival Day Four
Nagaragawa Field, Gifu Memorial Center, Gifu, 10/9/12
click here …

Izumo Ekiden Winner Aoyama Gakuin University Head Coach Susumu Hara: "We're Not Quite There Yet But We Can See It Glittering Up Ahead Now"

interview and photo by Brett Larner

Aoyama Gakuin University has had a spectacular underdog-makes-good trajectory in recent years, qualifying for the storied Hakone Ekiden four years ago for the first time in thirty-three years thanks to three extra places being available in commemoration of the event's 85th running, then rocketing all the way to its best-ever 5th place at the 2012 Hakone Ekiden.  With aces Takehiro Deki and Ryotaro Otani now seniors and an impressive class of first-year recruits led by #1-ranked Kazuma Kubota the team's goal for the 2012-2013 season is simple: the Hakone win. 

On Oct. 8 the team took an enormous step toward that goal, crushing all four teams that beat them in Hakone and breaking the six-stage, 44.5 km course record with a new record of 2:09:41.  JRN talked to head coach Susumu Hara and Deki, the team's captain this year, about their goals, the team atmosphere, Hara's coaching philosophy, and more.


In 2004 you became head coach at Aoyama …

Aoyama Gakuin University Breaks Izumo Ekiden CR in First-Ever Big Three University Ekiden Win

by Brett Larner

Far outrunning pre-race expectations, their own included, Aoyama Gakuin University pulled off an inspired win at the 2012 Izumo Ekiden as it broke powerhouse Waseda University's two-year-old course record by nearly thirty seconds to set a new mark of 2:09:41 for the six-stage, 44.5 km course in Aoyama's first-ever Big Three University Ekiden win.  Defending champion Toyo University was 2nd a minute and a half behind, Chuo University rounding out the top three just back from Toyo.  The strongest teams on paper, Waseda, Komazawa University and the nominally Ivy League U.S. Select Team, had their share of problems and went 5th, 6th and 8th.

In a solid team effort, Aoyama's first year Yusuke Ogura opened 7th on the First Stage ahead of favorites Toyo, Komazawa and Waseda.  Second Stage runner Takuya Fujikawa surprised himself and everyone else by advancing to 2nd behind leader Juntendo University, putting Aoyama's first-year star recruit, Kazuma Kubota, in …

Chicago and Twin Cities Marathon Results

by Brett Larner
photo by Dr. Helmut Winter

In a superb race led by Fukuoka Marathon course record-holder Tsegaye Kebede's world record-pace second half 2:04:38 course record win, relatively unknown 23-year-old Koji Kobayashi (Team Subaru) was the top Japanese man, 14th in a PB of 2:10:40 in his second marathon. While national record-holder Toshinari Takaoka-coached 2:12 runner Hiroki Kadota (Team Kanebo) started the race off in the first pack and 2:11 man Yuki Moriwaki (Team JFE Steel) struggled from the start, Kobayashi, 2:10 runner Takeshi Kumamoto (Team Toyota) and 2:09:16 veteran Takashi Horiguchi (Team Honda) stuck with top American hopeful Dathan Ritzenhein on low-2:07 pace. Kadota soon dropped back to join the pack, but when Ritzenhein accelerated into high-2:06 territory near halfway the pack splintered. Kobayashi, coached by 2:08 man Wataru Okutani at Subaru, was the last to hang on, losing touch just before 30 km but holding on to 2:08 pace through 40 km. Kobayashi fa…

Japanese Women Bronze, Kawauchi Shames the System Again at World Half Marathon Championships

by Brett Larner

The Japanese women took the team bronze medal at the Oct. 6 World Half Marathon Championships, year-leading national corporate champion Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) finishing 8th after running 7th throughout the race with teammate Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) only to lose out in the final sprint to a fast-closing Gemma Steel (GBR). Both Steel  and Tanaka clocked 1:11:09, Ito just back in 1:11:25 after fading in the final kilometer. 21-year-old Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) came through in the second half of the race to move up from 17th to 12th, her 1:12:11 less than a minute off her best and enough to give Japan the bronze over Great Britain. All five Japanese women cracked the top 20.  Ethiopians Meseret Hailu and Feyse Tadese went 1-2 and sub-1:09, ensuring that Ethiopia scored the team gold over Kenya, whose top finisher Paskalia Chepkorir Kipkoech took the individual bronze 9 seconds back from winner Hailu.

As for the men, what is there to say? In an outs…

Niiya Tears Up National Sports Festival 5000 m, Kiryu Under 100 m Youth World Record

by Brett Larner

After impressive runs in the Olympic 5000 m and 10000 m where she frontran her way to all-time Japanese top-ten marks at both distances, independent-spirited Hitomi Niiya (Team Univ. Ent.) made a decisive return to competitive racing on Oct. 5, smashing the meet record in the senior women's 5000 m on the first day of the 67th National Sports Festival in Gifu.  The 2012 national champion for 5000 m, Niiya characteristically set out a pace that simply nobody else could follow, winning by a margin of 17 seconds as she set a new meet record on 15:17.79.

2011 national champion Megumi Kinukawa (Mizuno) was a casuality, dropping out partway, but in the chase pack ascendant collegiate star Ayuko Suzuki (Nagoya Univ.) outran all competition for 2nd in 15:34.15, edging into the year's ten best Japanese women's times.  Just five days after setting a stage record on the anchor leg of the Kanto Region University Women's Ekiden, first year Haruka Kyuma (Tsukuba Univ…

Horiguchi Leads Japanese Men in Chicago, Hasegawa in Twin Cities

by Brett Larner

Takashi Horiguchi in last year's Chicago Marathon. Follow Horiguchi on Twitter. Photo (c) 2011 Dr. Helmut Winter

Long one of the races of choice for Japanese athletes looking to run a fast time overseas and the home of Toshinari Takaoka's 2:06:16 Japanese national record, for the second year in a row the Chicago Marathon is playing host to a group of developmental-level Japanese men.  This year's group is a step above last year's, including one 2:09 man, one 2:10, one 2:11 and two 2:12 runners.

The Japanese federation has said that a sub-2:08 in any of the Majors will put the runner into the stable for next year's Moscow World Championships marathon squad, but of the men in Chicago only veteran Takashi Horiguchi (Team Honda) looks to be in contention.  After taking eight years to break his 2:12:06 debut time Horiguchi has been on a roll for the last year and a half, PBing twice and becoming one of eight Japanese men so far this year to have broken 2:…

Can the U.S. Crack the Top Three? 2012 Izumo Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner

The best season of Japanese distance running is about to kick off.  The men's university ekiden season officially gets underway Monday, Oct. 8 with the first of the Big Three University Ekidens, the short and sweet Izumo Ekiden.  Oct. 20 sees the world's deepest 20 km road race, the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai qualifier in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park, where Kanto Region schools that didn't make the seeded cut at the last Hakone Ekiden try to pick up one of the nine remaining spots and individuals from smaller schools try to get in on the ten-man Select Team.  The seeded schools from Kanto and the best from the rest of the country square off at the National University Men's Ekiden Championships on Nov. 4.  Two weeks later the Ageo City Half Marathon, where teammates from the schools entered in Hakone square off against each other to try to make their coaches' A-roster for the main event.  Then, come Jan. 2-3, it is time for the big race, Japan's larg…