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Hakone Ekiden Star Kashiwabara to Appear as Guest Runner at Hometown Iwaki Sunshine Marathon

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/news/20120130-OYT1T01091.htm

translated by Brett Larner

The organizers of the 3rd Iwaki Sunshine Marathon to be held Feb. 12 in Iwaki, Fukushima, announced Jan. 30 that Iwaki native Ryuji Kashiwabara, 22, the captain of 2012 Hakone Ekiden winners Toyo University, will run as a special guest at this year's race.  Kashiwabara commented, "I hope that I can give even a little encouragement to everyone in my hometown to help them take another step toward rebuilding."

Kashiwabara is entered in the full marathon, which starts at the Iwaki Civic Track & Field Grounds, and plans to run around 8 km with the other entrants.  Iwaki mayor and race committee director Takao Watanabe* said, "I want to extend my thanks to Kashiwabara for keeping all of us back home in his thoughts ever since the disasters."

*Translator's note: This is not the same Takao Watanabe who coached Samuel Wanjiru and currently coaches Megumi Kinukawa.

Ndirangu, Tsumurai, Komazawa University Set Course Records in Weekend Ekiden Action

by Brett Larner

Along with marathoner Yuki Kawauchi's anchor stage win at the Okumusashi Ekiden, three other ekidens around the country on Sunday saw significant action.

At the biggest of them, the 75th Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden, Team Mazda had a surprise upset over local stronghold Team Chugoku Denryoku thanks to a spectacular anchor run from ace Akihiko Tsumurai.  Starting the 11.1 km Seventh Stage 43 seconds behind Chugoku Denryoku anchor Takumi Kiyotani, Tsumurai ran him down and won by three seconds, with Mazda finishing in 4:11:49 for the seven-stage, 84.4 km course to Chugoku Denryoku's 4:11:52.  Tsumurai clocked a new stage record of 31:21, a flat conversion to 28:07 for a road 10 km, just two seconds offthe national record held by Chugoku Denryoku's Atsushi Sato.  2011 national champion Sera H.S. was a surprise 3rd in 4:14:13, one second ahead of the pro Team Sagawa Express thanks to a sizeable lead from opening Kenyan John Gasaya and a new stage record of 45:24 fo…

Kawauchi Wins Okumusashi Ekiden Anchor Stage

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/f-sp-tp0-20120129-896429.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

A contender for the London Olympics men's marathon team, Yuki Kawauchi (24, Saitama Pref.) had a strong run at the amateur Okumusashi Ekiden on Jan. 29 in Hanno, Saitama.  Anchoring his coworkers' Saitama Prefectural Government team, Kawauchi won the 9.283 km Sixth Stage with a time of 27:15, just four seconds off the course record, and advancing his team from 84th to 66th place.  As he ran cheers of, "Go Kawauchi!" and "The Olympics!" followed him along the course.

"The distance today was short, so I treated it as a speed workout, a time trial," Kawauchi said after the race, satisfied with his performance.  "I went out hard and tried to catch people who were slowing down, then in the second half I tried to hang on.  It was a good run."

Shigetomo Wins Osaka International Women's Marathon in 2:23:23, Koda and Murayama Take Half

by Brett Larner

After heavy pre-race favorite Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) faltered soon into the second half of the Jan. 29 Osaka International Women's Marathon, second-time marathoner Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) was there to pick up the pieces as she took eight minutes off her debut time from last year's London Marathon to win in 2:23:23, the fastest time by a Japanese woman since Mizuki Noguchi's 2:21:37 course record at the Nov., 2007 Tokyo International Women's Marathon.   Shigetomo's performance puts her as the leading contender for a spot on the Olympic team with one selection race to go, and barring a slew of spectacular runs at the Mar. 11 Nagoya Women's Marathon she is likely to become the fourth-straight Tenmaya runner to make an Olympic team.  Ukrainian Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko and former pro XC skiier Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) also ran well, both running new PBs under 2:25 to take 2nd and 3rd after Gamera-Shmyrko ran a solid negative split…

Fukushi Shooting for the Marathon in London

http://www.daily.co.jp/general/2012/01/28/0004773977.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

Fukushi at 26 miles in Chicago. Photo (c) 2011 Dr. Helmut Winter

The pre-race athletes' press conference for the Jan. 29 Osaka International Women's Marathon Olympic selection race took place Jan. 27.  Aiming for her long-hoped-for appearance on the Olympic marathon stage, half-marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (29, Team Wacoal) appeared confident of her chances of punching her ticket.  Four years ago in Osaka Fukushi went out at a blazing speed in her debut only to slow dramatically after 30 km.  Fully prepared this time, Japan's queen of the track is ready for payback.

Fukushi looks confident because she feels it.  At the press conference her face was relaxed.  "My goal is to beat myself," she said.  "What's different this time?  Maybe I've grown up a little, as people do."  It's been four years since her "Breakdown of the Century" a…

Watch the 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon Live Online - Preview

by Brett Larner

The 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon, the second of Japan's three-race domestic Olympic marathon team selection races, is on for this Sunday, Jan. 29.  Broadcast live on Fuji TV starting at noon Japan time, overseas viewers have the chance to catch the race via Keyhole TV.  Schedule permitting, JRN plans to cover the race via Twitter @JRNLive.

The 2012 Osaka International Women's Marathon was to be about one thing: the return of marathon national record holder and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) in a showdown against half-marathon national record holder and ascendant marathoner Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) for a place on the Olympic team.  Nobody else in the field stood a realistic chance of competing in Noguchi and Fukushi went at it full-strength.  With Noguchi's last-withdrawal after a reported injury to her left leg the race remains a single-plot story: how fast will Fukushi go?

And that's it, really.  Even more …

Akaba to Settle Selection Race Plans After Seeing Osaka Outcome

http://www.daily.co.jp/newsflash/2012/01/26/0004770377.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

After the announcement of her name as an invited elite at the Feb. 26 Tokyo Marathon, a race outside the set of selection races for the women's Olympic marathon team, Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) issued a statement of clarification on Jan. 26 through her representative.  "As part of my goal of making the podium at the London Olympics I intend to set a big PB this spring," she said.  After seeing the outcome of the Jan. 29 Osaka International Women's Marathon Olympic team selection race she will make the final decision as to whether she will run Tokyo or the Mar. 11 Nagoya Women's Marathon selection race.  Akaba placed 5th as the top Japanese finisher at last year's World Championships, opening up the possibility that she may be able to skip the selection races.

Tokyo Marathon Announces 2012 Elite Men's and Women's Fields

by Brett Larner

The organizers of the 2012 Tokyo Marathon have announced the elite men's and women's fields for the Feb. 26 Olympic-year race, and on both sides the fields are the best since the Tokyo Marathon began in 2007.  Former world record holder Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) lines up alongside last year's winner Hailu Mekonnen (Ethiopia), 2010 winner Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda), 2008 winner Viktor Rothlin (Switzerland), 2:05 man Jafred Chirchir Kipchumba (Kenya), 2:06 runners Gilbert Kipruto Kirwa (Kenya) and Michael Kipkorir (Kenya), top-ranked Japanese man Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) and more.  For the Japanese men a spot or two on the London Olympic team is at stake, and vying for an Olympic ticket along with past winner Fujiwara and fan favorite Kawauchi are last year's 4th-placer Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota), two-time Tokyo runner-up Arata Fujiwara (Tokyo T&F Assoc.), 2009 3rd-placer Kazuhiro Maeda, former 30 km world record holder Takayuki Matsumiy…

Noguchi Out of Osaka With Injury to Left Thigh (updated)

http://sankei.jp.msn.com/sports/news/120125/oth12012515000009-n1.htm
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/f-sp-tp0-20120125-894574.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The organizers of the 31st Osaka International Women's Marathon and the Sysmex Women's Distance Running Team announced on Jan. 25 that invited athlete Mizuki Noguchi, 33, has pulled out of this Sunday's London Olympics selection race edition of Osaka with inflammation in the back of her left thigh.

Noguchi has been training at 1600 m altitude in Boulder, Colorado since Dec. 24.  She returned to Japan on Jan. 19, saying, "I did almost 100% of what was on the training menu.  I'm ready to drop a big one."

Noguchi, the 2004 Athens Olympics marathon gold medalist, was forced to pull out of defending her title at the 2008 Beijing Olympics after an injury to her left hip joint.  Since then she has suffered serial injuries but has persevered in trying to return to competition through h…

Shimahara's Verdict After Osaka Course Tour: "Looks Fast"

http://sankei.jp.msn.com/west/west_sports/news/120124/wsp12012418010006-n1.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Jan. 24 ahead of her final race at the 31st Osaka International Women's Marathon this Sunday, Jan. 29, Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) toured the new course that was introduced last year, helping with her mental preparations for the main event.  At the same time, Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Constantina Dita (Romania) did some light running in Osaka Castle Park near the athletes' village.

Shimahara started her tour at around 6 a.m., checking out the section of the course from the turnaround at Dotonboribashi Minamizume on Midosuji Street to the finish at Nagai Stadium by car.  Comparing the new course to the old one, on which she finished 3rd at the 2006 Osaka International Women's Marathon, Shimahara said, "It's very fast and looks fast.  It made me think of the 2007 World Championships," [where she placed 6th].

Noguchi Ahead of First Marathon in 4 Years, 2 Months: "It's Good to Be Back"

http://sankei.jp.msn.com/sports/news/120122/oth12012219000029-n1.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

In the backdrop to west of Boulder, Colorado are the Rocky Mountains.  Looking at the line of snow tens of thousands of years old painted red by the post-workout evening light, the surge of unexpected feeling is almost enough to bring tears to the eye.  "I can train hard again now," says 2004 Olympic marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex).  "It's good to be back."

The last time Noguchi put on a show of bravado in the marathon was at the Nov. 2007 Tokyo International Women's Marathon, where she set the course record of 2:21:37.  Overcoming a blank slate of four years, two months, Noguchi is now once again ready to stand on the start line and face the full 42.195 km.  This Sunday, Jan. 29 she will race the Osaka International Women's Marathon in search of a ticket to the London Olympics.

Noguchi pulled out from her planned Olympic title d…

Russian Tatyana Aryasova Stripped of 2011 Tokyo Marathon Title After Testing Positive for Masking Agent

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/news/20120124-OYT1T00932.htm?from=main6
http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/120124/spg1201241730001-n1.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The Tokyo Marathon Foundation announced on Feb. 24 that a doping test performed at the Feb. 27, 2011 Tokyo Marathon on women's winner Tatyana Aryasova of Russia returned positive for HES (hydroxyethyl starch), a banned substance typically used to conceal use of other banned performance-enhancing substances.  As a result of the positive test Aryasova has been stripped of her 2011 title.  Runner-up Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) has been elevated to the winner's place and will be paid the difference in prize money from her previous finishing position.

According to the Japan Anti-Doping Agency, HES is used to conceal blood doping carried out to improve aerobic performance.  This is the first time the substance has been detected at a race within Japan, but the number of athletes caught using it in overseas cyclin…

Olympic Champion Dita Voices Support for Noguchi Ahead of Sunday's Osaka Int'l Women's Marathon

http://www.sanspo.com/smp/sports/news/120124/spg1201240502000-s.htm

translated by Brett Larner

The athletes' village for the Jan. 29 London Olympics selection year Osaka International Women's Marathon opened Jan. 23 at an Osaka-area hotel.  The first invited athlete to arrive was 2008 Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Constantina Dita (Romania).  Speaking on her 42nd birthday, Dita commented on her preparation and plans for her third appearance in Osaka after an absence of four years.  "Compared to four years ago my overall volume is down, but I've trained enough to challenge my body," she said.  Of her friend and predecessor as Olympic gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (33, Team Sysmex) Dita voiced her support as she said, "She's still young.  She's at a perfect age for winning another medal at the Olympics.  I hope she has a great performance."

Kitamura, Tsukisawa Win 15,000-Strong Chiba Marine Half-Marathon

http://photo.sankei.jp.msn.com/kodawari/data/2012/01/0122chiba/
http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/120123/spg1201230505006-n1.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The 36th Chiba Marine Half-Marathon took place Jan. 22 in Mihama, Chiba.  From the family fun run to the half-marathon division, a total of over 15,000 people took part, enjoying themselves despite the cold rain that fell during the race.

In the federation-registered women's half-marathon division, 2010 champion Saori Kitamura of Juntendo University returned to win again in 1:15:51.  In the federation-registered men's half-marathon division, Tokyo Keizai University senior Sho Tsukisawa won for the first time in 1:06:39. Beijing Olympics triathlete Ai Ueda (Inage Inter AC) won the open women's half-marathon for the third-straight year.  Popular running personalities Mari Tanigawa and Yoshio Koide were also on hand to give a talk to participants and to cheer them on.

Only 11 seconds separated men's winner Tsu…

Takezawa Anchors Hyogo to National Men's Ekiden Championship Title

by Brett Larner

Kensuke Takezawa runs down the win for Hyogo Prefecture at the 2012 National Men's Ekiden Championships. Click photo for video highlights via race broadcaster NHK.

Pre-race favorite and 2010 champion Hyogo Prefecture lived up to expectations, taking the 2012 National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden Championships title on the strength of stage wins by opening man Keisuke Nakatani and anchor Kensuke Takezawa.  High schooler Nakatani made a bold surge with 2 km to go on the 7 km opening stage to put Hyogo ahead by 10 seconds.  Hyogo's Chikashi Ikeda maintained the lead through the 3 km Second Stage, but Third Stage runner Fuminori Shikata fell victim to a 2:37 opening km by Tokyo's runner Yuta Takahashi and dropped to 7th.  Hyogo spent the rest of the race playing catchup, not regaining the lead until 8 km into the 13 km Seventh Stage, where anchor Takezawa caught up to and then dropped Aichi Prefecture's Yuta Ito to take the win by 22 seconds.  Takezawa…

Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. and Tenmaya Win Kitakyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden

by Brett Larner

The 2012 Kitakyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden came close to an upset as Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. came close to running down the leading pro teams, as close as 18 seconds to taking the lead spot.  Ritsumeikan Uji started off in 7th overall and 3rd among high school teams, but a strong Second Stage run by Nanami Aoki moved them up to 3rd overall and the lead high school position.  Team ace Nanako Kanno won the 5.1 km Third Stage outright in a solid 16:26,  overtaking the pro Team Kyocera and coming within 22 seconds of leader Team Kyudenko, no small feat considering that Kyudenko's Second Stage runner Sally Chepyego (Kenya) won her leg by 26 seconds.

Past Olympian Naoko Sakamoto (Team Tenmaya) overtook Ritsumeikan Uji's Asaka Iwai by 2 seconds on the 5.9 km Fourth Stage, but both advanced on Kyudenko, Tenmaya to within 16 seconds and the high schoolers to 18 seconds.  Kyudenko anchor Mika Okunaga needed a big run to stay ahead of Tenmaya's Rei Ohara but cam…

Watch the National Men's Ekiden Live Onine - Preview

by Brett Larner

The last major national ekiden of the season takes place this Sunday in Hiroshima with the 17th running of the seven-stage, 48.0 km National Men's Interprefectural Ekiden Championships.  Like last weekend's women's race the National Men's Ekiden features 47 teams from each of Japan's prefectures made up of runners all the way from junior high school students to pros, and like the women's ekiden it will be broadcast live nationwide and commercial-free on NHK beginning at 12:15 p.m, with the action getting underway at 12:30.  Overseas viewers should be able to watch online for free via Keyhole TV with the password NHK, and English-language commentary will again be available via Twitter @JRNLive.

The National Men's Ekiden entry lists are notoriously unreliable as predictors of final starting order, but based on what is available at this point 2010 champion Hyogo Prefecture is the clear champion, with all seven of its athletes ranked among the b…

Seino to Step Down as Head Coach at Sendai Ikuei H.S. Following 12th-Place Finish

http://www.kahoku.co.jp/news/2012/01/20120119t14025.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Jan. 18 Junichi Seino, 27, head coach of Sendai Ikuei High School's ekiden team, announced that he intends to resign from both his position as coach and as a member of the school's teaching staff following the completion of the academic year at the end of March.

At the Dec. 25 National High School Ekiden Championships in Kyoto, Sendai Ikuei H.S. was one of the favorites for the win but finished only 12th.  According to a source connected with the situation, following the race Seino took full personal responsibility for the team's poor performance. The school proposed a plan under which previous head coach Takao Watanabe, under whose leadership Sendai Ikuei won six national titles including the still-standing course record with ace Samuel Wanjiru, would return to take over with Seino remaining to work in tandem with him.  Seino flatly rejected the proposal.  Parents of the team&…

Batochir, Hunt, Njenga, Njoroge, Ramadhani Headline 61st Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon

http://sp.mainichi.jp/m/news.html?cid=20120118k0000m050038000c

translated by Brett Larner

On Jan. 17 the organizers of the Feb. 5 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon announced the elite field for this year's 61st running.  The six Japan-based invited athletes include last year's runner-up Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Team Yakult) and 6th-place finisher Yuki Moriwaki (Team JFE Steel), last summer's Asian Championships bronze medalist Kenji Takeuchi (Team Toyota Kyushu) and 2011 Hokkaido Marathon winner Harun Njoroge (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.).

Among the seven  overseas elites are 2010's 3rd-placer Jeff Hunt (Australia), 2007 Biwako Mainichi Marathon winner Samson Ramadhani (Tanzania) and two-time Hofu Yomiuri Marathon winner Serod Batochir (Mongolia).

The general division includes 2011 Grand Tour Kyushu ekiden MVP Takehiro Arakawa (Team Asahi Kasei) and Takaaki Tanaka of 2012 Hakone Ekiden course record setters Toyo University, both making their marathon debuts.  Comedian Hiroshi Neko …

Chepchirchir, Ito, Kawauchi, Kisorio and Sato Headline Elite Field of 53 at Marugame International Half Marathon

http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2012011600713
http://sankei.jp.msn.com/sports/news/120116/oth12011619010032-n1.htm
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2012/01/16/kiji/K20120116002445470.html
http://sankei.jp.msn.com/region/news/120117/kgw12011702170000-n1.htm
http://www.shikoku-np.co.jp/sports/local/20120117000111

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Jan. 16 the organizers of the 66th Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon, scheduled for Feb. 5, announced the 36 men and 17 women making up this year's elite field.  Headlining the overseas men's field are 58:46 all-time #3 half marathoner Matthew Kisorio (Kenya) and course record holder Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya).  The top domestic draws in the men's race are national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Olympic hopeful Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) in his final tuneup for the Tokyo Marathon.  Two-time World Championships marathoner Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) will also run, and 2012 Hakone Ekide…

Osaka Wins First National Women's Ekiden Championships Title in 19 Years

Yuka Tokuda gives Osaka the National Women's Ekiden win in 2:16:37. Click photo for video highlights courtesy of broadcaster NHK.

by Brett Larner

The Osaka women's team emerged from nowhere to take a surprise win at the 30th anniversary National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden Championships Jan. 15 in Kyoto, leading wire to wire to score its first national title in 19 years.  First Stage runner Ryoko Kizaki, winner of November's Yokohama International Women's Marathon Olympic selection race, got things off on the right by taking the 6.0 km opening leg by a margin of 2 seconds.  Chizuru Ideta followed up on the 4.0 km Second Stage, second-fastest on time but holding on to the narrow lead, but Third Stage junior high school runner Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu, half-Japanese daughter of Kenyan 2001 Nagano Marathon winner Maxwell Musembi, deserves much of the credit for opening up a permanent lead despite only running 3.0 km.  Takamatsu was second on her stage on time but …

Kinukawa May DNS at Olympic Marathon Selection Race After Training Setback

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2012/01/15/kiji/K20120115002431060.html

translated by Brett Larner

Targeting the London Olympics marathon, 5000 m national champion Megumi Kinukawa (22, Mizuno) may withdraw from the Mar. 11 Nagoya Women's Marathon Olympic selection race.  The news came out following the Jan. 14 opening ceremonies for Sunday's National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden Championships that Kinukawa began experiencing pain in her right Achilles tendon in early December and was forced to take 20 days off training.  As a result of her training being far behind schedule, she switched places on the Gunma team at the Jan. 15 ekiden from her planned debut on the 10.0 km anchor stage to the 4.0 km Fourth Stage.  "I've only just started running, so I'm at about 50%," she said with obvious discouragement.  "I hope to improve on that in the race tomorrow."

Watch the 2012 National Women's Ekiden Live Online - Preview

by Brett Larner

The last national championship women's ekiden of the season takes place this Sunday, Jan. 15 in Kyoto.  The National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden Championships have one of the most interesting formats on the circuit, with teams of nine women ranging from junior high schoolers to pros running for teams representing Japan's 47 prefectures.  The open stages are one of the few chances to see the best high school, university and pro women battle it out, while the stages reserved for junior high and high school runners often feature breakout performances by unknowns.  The commercial-free national broadcast and outstanding online coverage begins on NHK at 12:15 p.m.  Overseas viewers should be able to watch live online via Keyhole TV using the password NHK, with English-language commentary available once again via Twitter @JRNLive.

Final start lists at the men's and women's National Interprefectural Ekidens are notoriously unpredictable compared to the …