Friday, February 28, 2014

Kipruto, Worku, Gitau and Kawauchi - Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

It’s still early in the year, but the Japanese men’s major domestic spring marathon season is already reaching its peak with Sunday’s Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Lake Biwa was Japan’s first IAAF gold label marathon and is one of its oldest continuous races, but with last weekend’s Tokyo Marathon having joined the Fukuoka International Marathon in 2:05 course record territory it is due for an improvement on Wilson Kipsang’s 2:06:13 course record. To get there it has enlisted defending champion and Daegu World Championships silver medalist Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) and former junior world record holder Bazu Worku (Ethiopia), both with 2:05 bests. The pair’s duel, or teamwork, up front should be one of this year’s main story lines.

Another is Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) and his quest for a 2:07. Kawauchi is the lone A-list Japanese man in the field this year, at Lake Biwa for the sole purpose of joining Japan’s sub-2:08 club. Since his world record-setting pair of 2:09 marathons in December he has mostly focused on shorter distances, from 5 km ekiden stages to half marathons, running his best times on some of his regular early-season race courses and a 10-mile PB before scorching an almost laughable 2:10:14 course record completely solo at the amateur-level Kumamoto Castle Marathon three weeks ago, twelve minutes ahead of 2nd place. Everybody seems to think he’s ready to do it, including Kawauchi. “If I can run like I did in Kumamoto,” he told JRN, “then I know 2:07 is achievable.” If Kipruto and Worku go out at 2:05 pace it’s debatable whether Kawauchi will roll with them, but regardless he should have company from at least 2012 Fukuoks winner Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel), holder of a 2:06:58 best.  From there it’s a bit of a gap to a solid pack at the 2:08-2:11 level. Formerly Japan-based Kenyan James Mwangi leads at that level with a 2:08:38 best, followed by Japan’s Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) Moroccan Hafid Chani and Qatari Essa Ismail Rashed.

Which leads to the third main story line, a place on the 2014 Asian Games marathon team at stake for the top Japanese men, Oda, six 2:10 men led by the very promising Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda),  second-time marathoners Tomohiro Tanigawa (Team Konica Minolta) and Muryo Takase (Team Nissin Shokuhin), the debuting Tatsunori Hamasaki (Team Komori Corp.) and Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu) and many more will be gunning to at least equal the five Japanese men who ran between 2:08:09 and 2:09:29 in Tokyo last weekend.  The fastest of the Tokyo men, Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) leads the Asian Games team consideration, followed by Kawauchi’s 2:09:05 from Fukuoka. Federation officials have said that although they hope to see him run 2:06:30 Kawauchi’s result in Lake Biwa will not impact his standing, meaning that there should be a solid group behind him competing for consideration.  If all goes well we’ll see a replay of the historic race in Tokyo.

There are also plenty of interesting darkhorses who could factor into any of the three main plots.  Particularly worth keeping an eye on are Agato Yashin Hassan (Ethiopia/Team Chuo Hatsujo), making his debut off a strong ekiden season, Rio World Half 5th-placer Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), in good shape after an on-target run at the Marugame Half last month, and Vibram-wearing 2011 International Chiba Ekiden Third Stage winner Harry Summers (Australia).

Lake Biwa will be broadcast live and commercial-free nationwide by NHK beginning at 12:15 p.m on Sunday, Mar. 2. The broadcast may be available locally overseas, with online streaming potentially available on a variety of online streaming sites. Keyhole TV is another option, with more reliable streaming available with a premium key.  JRN will also cover the race live on Twitter via the @JRNLive feed.

Lake Biwa is not the only elite-level marathon in Japan this weekend. The long-running Shizuoka Sunpu Half Marathon has switched names and formats this year to become the Shizuoka Marathon, a mass-participation full marathon format with a small elite field. 2:11:15 runner Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), 2nd behind Kawauchi at last summer’s Gold Coast Airport Marathon, leads the men’s field with his teammate Yuki Sakata (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) making her debut in the women's race.

69th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Field Highlights
Otsu, Shiga, Mar. 2, 2014
click here for complete field listing

Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:05:13 (Rotterdam 2010)
Bazu Worku (Ethiopia) - 2:05:25 (Berlin 2010)
Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 2:06:58 (Fukuoka 2012)
Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:08:14 (Seoul 2013)
James Mwangi (Kenya) - 2:08:38 (Fukuoka 2011)
Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 2:09:03 (Tokyo 2011)
Hafid Chani (Morocco) - 2:09:11 (London 2013)
Essa Ismail Rashed (Qatar) - 2:09:22 (Amsterdam 2012)
Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda) - 2:10:29 (Chicago 2013)
Kazuki Ikenaga (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:10:44 (Lake Biwa 2008)
Satoshi Yoshii (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:10:45 (Lake Biwa 2011)
Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - 2:10:51 (Lake Biwa 2010)
Keita Akiba (Team Komori Corp.) - 2:10:53 (Beppu-Oita 2009)
Ryosuke Fukuyama (Team Honda) - 2:10:59 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:28 (Tokyo 2013)
Solonei Da Silva (Brazil) - 2:11:32 (Padova 2011)
Noritaka Fujiyama (Team Sumitomo Denko) - 2:11:34 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:31 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 2:12:37 (Tokyo Int'l 2001)
Tatsunari Hirayama (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:12:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
Wirimai Juwawo (Zimbabwe) - 2:12:38 (Danzhou 2010)
Yoshiki Otsuka (Team Aichi Seiko) - 2:12:51 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Masanori Ishida (Team SGH Group Sagawa) - 2:13:07 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Kohei Ogino (Team Fujitsu) - 2:13:12 (Hofu 2013)
Yoshihiro Yamamoto (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 2:13:22 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Raul Pacheco (Peru) - 2:13:37 (Chunchon 2010)
Takanori Ide (Team Kyudenko) - 2:13:41 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Shingo Igarashi (Team Subaru) - 2:13:46 (Nobeoka 2011)
Noriaki Takahashi (DeNA RC) - 2:14:13 (Gold Coast 2011)
Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:14:23 (Tokyo 2009)
Makoto Harada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:14:40 (Tokyo 2013)
Shigeki Tsuji (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:14:45 (Hokkaido 2013)
Shinji Suzuki (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:15:12 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Yasushi Yamamoto (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:15 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Atsushi Hasegawa (Team Subaru) - 2:15:25 (Paris 2013)
Osamu Ibata (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:15:41 (Tokyo 2011)

Trying to get it right
Tomohiro Tanigawa (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:16:57 (Boston 2013)
Muryo Takase (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:20:49 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Hideto Takamine (Team Fujitsu) - 2:21:26 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Rui Yonezawa (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:24:13 (Beppu-Oita 2013)

Debut
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Team Komori Corp.) - 1:01:45 (Marugame Half 2012)
Masamichi Shinozaki (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 1:01:58 (Marugame Half 2012)
Shuji Yoshikawa (Team Kyudenko) - 1:01:58 (Marugame Half 2012)
Kenta Inuma (Team SGH Group Sagawa) - 1:02:09 (Marugame Half 2012)
Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 1:02:30 (Marugame Half 2014)
Yuki Takamiya (Team Yakult) - 1:02:31 (Marugame Half 2013)
Taichi Takase (Team JFE Steel) - 1:02:32 (Marugame Half 2014)
Takuji Morimoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:02:38 (Corporate Half 2012)
Naohiro Yamada (Team YKK) - 1:02:40 (Marugame Half 2013)
Harry Summers (Australia) - 1:03:34 (Brisbane 2012)
Agato Yashin Hassan (Ethiopia/Team Chuo Hatsujo) - 27:46.35 (Hachioji Distance 2013)

Matsumoto, Shimizu and Yoshizumi Feature in New Taipei City Marathon

by Brett Larner


Along with the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, the National University Half Marathon Championships and other domestic action, this weekend, one overseas features noteworthy elite Japanese athletes. In pursuit of an IAAF bronze label and the goal of becoming one of Asia’s premier spring marathons the New Taipei City Wanjinshi International Marathon has expanded its international field this year to include runners from nine countries, among them independents Sho Matsumoto and Yuri Yoshizumi, both running with support from JRN, and corporate league runner Shoko Shimizu (Team Aichi Denki).  A surprise addition to the field is Hokkaido Marathon course record holder Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC), appearing via race sponsor Mizuno.

Three men in the field have bests under 2:09, Gudisa Shentema (Ethiopia), Hassane Ahouchar (Morocco) and Paul Kosgei (Kenya), but with none of them having approached that level in the last three years the favorite is likely David Kiprono (Kenya) with a 2:12:53 best from the 2012 Debno Marathon. Close behind is Matsumoto in 2:13:38 at last year’s Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon. Matsumoto hopes to break 2:13 for the first time, a time that should put him in contention for the win, but given the overall level of the field and the race organizers’ ambitions there's no doubt the modest 2:19:13 course record is up for serious revision no matter what happens.

Shoko Shimizu adds Japan 's piece to the puzzle of nations.

Likewise in the women’s race, where the entire field of nine elites is well under the 2:38:18 course record set last year. It looks like a very close-matched race between top three Tigisit Abidi Sheni (Ethiopia), Jeannette Faber (U.S.A.) and Shimizu, all of whom have run 2:32 within the last year and a half. Yoshizumi, the 2012 Hokkaido Marathon winner and a pure amateur who has said she hopes to become the Yuki Kawauchi of Japanese women’s marathoning, has the softest PB in the field but hopes for a breakthrough performance in her first major race of 2014.  Shimahara is returning from giving birth in 2012 and hopes to use New Taipei as a gauge of her progress.

New Taipei City International Marathon Elite Field
Taipei, Taiwan, 3/2/14

Men
Gudisa Shentema (Ethiopia) – 2:07:34 (Paris 2008)
Hassane Ahouchar (Morocco) – 2:08:47 (Valencia 2011)
Paul Kosgei (Kenya) – 2:09:00 (Carpi 2010)
David Kiprono (Kenya) – 2:12:53 (Debno 2012)
Sho Matsumoto (Japan/Nikkei Business) – 2:13:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
Wilson Kibet (Kenya) – 2:15:42 (Ahmedabad 2013)
Nourdine Jalal (France) – 2:14:23 (La Rochelle 2011)
Chia-Che Chang (Taiwan) – 2:15:56 (Pyongyang 2012)
Ri Yong Ho (North Korea) – 2:16:00 (Pyongyang 2013)

Women
Kiyoko Shimahara (Japan/Second Wind AC) - 2:25:10 (Hokkaido 2009)
Tigisit Abidi Sheni (Ethiopia) – 2:32:34 (Zurich 2013)
Jeannette Faber (U.S.A.) – 2:32:37 (Twin Cities 2012)
Shoko Shimizu (Japan/Team Aichi Denki) – 2:32:43 (Tokyo 2013)
Tinbit Gidey Weidegebriel (Ethiopia) – 2:34:43 (Twin Cities 2012)
Ji Hyang Kim (North Korea) – 2:35:30 (Pyongyang 2013)
Gum Hui Rim (North Korea) – 2:37:17 (Pyongyang 2013)
Tigist Worku Neri (Ethiopia) – 2:37:28 (Bucharest 2013)
Jane Fardell (Australia) – 2:37:35 (Paris 2013)
Yuri Yoshizumi (Japan/Osaka T&F Assoc.) – 2:37:56 (Hokkaido 2013)

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, February 27, 2014

National University Half Marathon Championships Entry List

by Brett Larner

The Inter-University Athletic Union of Japan has released the entry lists for Sunday's National University Half Marathon Championships in western Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park. With the rapidly increasing level of Japanese university men's distance running the once-minor half marathon championships have taken on increasing importance, three of the last four years seeing winning times under 63 minutes and 2012's race setting world records for depth with 193 men under 66 minutes.  1389 men are entered for this year's race, and with a consistent pattern of large numbers running aggressive paces throughout the season since Tokyo secured the 2020 Olympics this year's race could be the fastest and deepest yet.

On Feb. 2 Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) ran the fastest half marathon ever by a Japanese 21-year-old, 1:01:39, and with that time he heads the entry list.  Inoue is on the Japanese national team for the Mar. 29 World Half Marathon Championships, so while it is possible he may double the chances of him starting are probably less than even.  2012 national champion and last year's runner up Toshikatsu Ebina (Teikyo Univ.) returns for the last race of his university career, one of the few top-level seniors in the field.  2014 Hakone Ekiden stage winners Koki Takada (Waseda Univ.) and Hideto Yamanaka (Nittai Univ.) are also top contenders, Yamanaka in particular as he won Hakone's 21.4 km First Stage in 1:01:25, equivalent to a 1:00:33 half marathon.  Whether he can follow up on a performance like that will be one of this year's main draws.

Other contenders include sub-1:02:30 men Shuhei Yamamoto (Waseda Univ.) and Shuho Dairokuno (Meiji Univ.).  Of special note is Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.), the top Japanese man at October's Yosenkai 20 km in 59:17 and the identical twin brother of World Half team leader Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.).  Kenta ran the all-time third-fastest Japanese mark and best-ever by a Japanese 20-year-old, 1:00:50, in Marugame last month. Kota's coach at Josai, Seiji Kushibe, the one-hour run national record holder, puts a heavier emphasis on speed work than Komazawa head coach Hiroaki Oyagi whose training focuses more on stamina, and it shows.  Kota's 5000 m best of 13:41.60 is over five seconds faster than Kenta's, but in his one half marathon to date Kota has only run 1:07:51. His Yosenkai performance showed potential for him to go comfortably sub-63, but whether he can approach his brother's level is another question.

17th National University Half Marathon Championships 
Entry List Highlights
Tachikawa, Tokyo, 3/2/14
click here for complete entry list

Hiroto Inoue (3rd yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:39
Shuhei Yamamoto (3rd yr., Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:14
Shuho Dairokuno (3rd yr., Meiji Univ.) - 1:02:19
Toshikatsu Ebina (4th yr., Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:23
Koki Takada (2nd yr., Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:38
Yuta Katsumata (2nd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 1:02:39
Yusuke Nishiyama (1st yr., Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:43
Yuki Matsumura (3rd yr., Juntendo Univ.) - 1:02:44
Takayuki Maeno (3rd yr., Meiji Univ.) - 1:02:45
Daiki Taguchi (3rd yr., Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:53
Shinichiro Tai (4th yr., Hosei Univ.) - 1:02:54
Shogo Sekiguchi (3rd yr., Hosei Univ.) - 1:02:57
Shota Miyagami (2nd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:58
Takuma Sano (3rd yr., Hosei Univ.) - 1:02:58
Koki Ido (1st yr., Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:59
Kota Murayama (3rd yr., Josai Univ.) - 59:17 (20 km)
Shuhei Yamaguchi (2nd yr., Soka Univ.) - 59:54 (20 km)
Hideto Yamanaka (2nd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 1:00:37 (20 km)

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Inter-University Athletic Union Announces Japanese Team for World University XC

http://www.iuau.jp/news/2014/19wuxc_delegate.pdf

Following the selection race at last weekend's Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet, the IUAU has announced the Japanese men's and women's team lineups for the Mar. 22 World University Cross Country Championships in Entebbe, Uganda.  Hiroshi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) is the only returning member of Japan's 2012 World University XC team, where Yuta Shitara (Toyo Univ.) and Daichi Motomura (Tokai Univ.) won silver and bronze medals respectively.  Ichida was 24th.  A week before this year's Worlds his identical twin brother Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) will run the New York City Half Marathon with support from JRN.

19th World University Cross Country Championships
Entebbe, Uganda, 3/22/14

Men's 10 km
Masaya Kakihara (3rd yr., Kanagawa University) - 28:33.50
Hiroshi Ichida (3rd yr., Daito Bunka University) - 28:53.98
Mitsunori Asaoka (3rd yr., Tokyo Nogyo University) - 29:16.89
Shota Baba (2nd yr., Komazawa University) - 30:45.72

Women's 6 km
Ayumi Uehara (Matsuyama University) - 15:37.89
Maya Iino (Tokyo Nogyo University) - 15:40.95
Natsumi Ozawa (Hakuoh University) - 15:49.70
Fuyuka Kimura (Daito Bunka University) - 15:57.62

Monday, February 24, 2014

'Kenyan Double for Karoki and Wacera at World's Best 10k'

http://www.iaaf.org/news/report/worlds-best-10k-bedan-karoki-mary-wacera

Bedan Karoki is based in Tokyo where he runs for the DeNA Running Club corporate team coached by marathon legend Toshihiko Seko.  7th-placer Paul Tanui runs for the Kyushu-based Kyudenko Team alongside 2:08:00 marathoner Kazuhiro Maeda.

Migita, Sonota and Taguchi Win at Inuyama and Yutoku Half Marathons

http://www.saga-s.co.jp/news/saga_sports.0.2638394.article.html
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/e-japan/aomori/news/20140223-OYT8T00881.htm
http://www.komaspo.com/4630
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/e-japan/kyoto/news/20140223-OYT8T00902.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

A total of 1700 men and women of all ages ran in the half marathon, 10 km, 3 km and 2 km divisions at the 63rd running of the Kashima Yutoku Half Marathon on Feb. 23.  In the men's open half marathon division, Masaya Taguchi (Toyo University) took 47 seconds off the course record to win in 1:03:05.  Taguchi was responsible for getting Toyo off to a good start on the First Stage at last month's Hakone Ekiden, playing a big part in the team's win.  Bringing the same intensity to his course record run, he thoroughly dominated the men's half marathon.

Olympian and university 5000 m national record holder Kensuke Takezawa (Team Sumitomo Kaijo) was also in the race.  "He has been an inspiration since I was in junior high school," Taguchi said.  "I only found out he was running right before the race and was pretty freaked out."  Taguchi was aggressive and assertive right from the start, launching a surge at 10 km that got him away from Takezawa and keeping the momentum going all the way to the finish where he crossed the line in 1:03:05.  Takezawa took 2nd in 1:03:24, also under the old course record by almost 30 seconds.

The day before the race Taguchi ran the 10 km at the Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet.  "I still have some fatigue in me, so it was a little disappointing that I couldn't pick the second half up like I wanted to," he said, showing that he wasn't satisfied with just having set the course record.  Looking to the upcoming season he said, "I want to set some good times on the track."

Further north at the 36th Inuyama Half Marathon, Toyo's rival Komazawa University went 1-2 in the men's half marathon, second-years Kenya Sonota and Kohei Futaoka leading the 8114 finishers with Sonota winning in 1:03:44 and Futaoka six seconds back. The independent Hideyuki Ikegami (Kyoto T&F Assoc.) took 3rd in 1:04:04.  At this year's Hakone Ekiden, Sonota ran the anchoring Tenth Stage, crossing the finish line in 2nd with the disappointment of not having been able to make up any ground on winner Toyo's Kento Otsu.  His run in Inuyama was intended to help give him experience toward a Hakone win, but, he said, "I wasn't able to speed up in the second half at the point that I need to," showing his determination to improve further.

Runners from the Wacoal corporate team took the top three places in the women's half marathon at Inuyama.  Ai Migita won in 1:14:05, Satoko Mori next in 1:14:43 and Yuki Kodama 3rd in 1:16:09. Of winning her debut half marathon Migita said, "I just enjoyed myself running it."  A young member of a veteran team, Migita said with beaming eyes, "I want to get strong enough to be an athlete who can run with a smile."

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Committee President Mori Booed by Runners During Speech at Start of Tokyo Marathon

http://www.j-cast.com/2014/02/24197482.html

translated by Brett Larner

Beginning at Tokyo City Hall and finishing 42.195 km later at Tokyo Big Sight, the 2014 Tokyo Marathon took place on Feb. 23.  During the opening ceremonies before the start of the race, Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee President and former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, 76, was introduced and gave a speech.  Mori caused controversy last week when he criticized figure skater Mao Asada, the Vancouver Olympics silver medalist, saying, "She always falls when it counts the most."  According to the Twitter feeds of runners taking part in the race and other sources, when Mori appeared the crowd of runners in the starting area began booing.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chumba and Tsegaye Set Tokyo Marathon CRs as Five Japanese Men Break 2:10

by Brett Larner

You couldn't ask for much better conditions than the Tokyo Marathon had today, and when you have fields with eight to eleven athletes with best times faster than your course records, those records are bound to fall.  Dickson Chumba (Kenya) and Tirfi Tsegaye (Ethiopia) came through to beat the favorites, Chumba running a PB 2:05:42 to get the Tokyo men's course record and Tsegaye cutting more than three minutes off the women's record with the win in 2:22:23.  For Japanese men it was either the second or third-greatest marathon in history depending on your metric, five of them clearing 2:10, four for the first time, led by Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) in 2:08:09.

Daegu World Championships marathoner Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) led the women's race through a relatively conservative first 10 km in 34:18 before the pace began to quicken.  Still in the lead at 20 km, she split 33:47 for the second 10 km before giving up the lead to Tsegaye and the formerly Japan-based Caroline Rotich (Kenya) at halfway. By 25 km the front pack was down to Tsegaye, Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia), Rotich, her fellow Kenyans Janet Rono and, also formerly Japan-based, Lucy Wangui Kabuu.  Tsegaye and Dibaba worked together to push the attack, shaking off first Rono, then Kabuu, and finally Rotich until they were alone together at 40 km.  Tsegaye had the stronger finish, opening seven seconds on Dibaba for the win and course record in 2:22:23.  Kabuu overtook Rotich for 3rd in 2:24:16, with Rotich's 2:24:35 making it four under the old course record.  Ito faded, run down by Russian Albina Mayorova with 2 km to go, but still took top Japanese honors in 2:28:36 for 7th.  Former national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) was 85th in 3:11:05.

A massive men's pack with virtually all the big names went out on low-2:05 pace through the downhill first 10 km, only sub-60 half marathoner Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Abderrahime Bouramdane (Morocco) holding back on high-2:06 pace with a small constellation of second-tier Japanese men around them to form a chase group.  Despite having the flu and having publicly said his goal was only 2:10, top-ranked Japanese man Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) ran near the front of the lead group, at one point moving to the front line and urging the pacers to go faster when they seemed in danger of slackening off Japanese national record pace.

Approaching halfway the casualties began to rack up as people dropped from the lead group.  The debuting Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota), all-time Japanese #4 over the half marathon, was the first to falter, followed just past 25 km by Fujiwara.  Just before the Asakusa turnaround near 28 km four of the five Japanese men still in the lead pack backed off en masse, with only 2:12:22 man Hirokatsu Kurosaki, a graduate of 2014 Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University and member of the 2014 New Year Ekiden national champion team Konica Minolta, left to contend up front.

When the pacers departed at 30 km Peter Some (Kenya) went to work, stringing things out and dumping Kurosaki, mutliple world-level medalist Abel Kirui (Kenya) and 2010 Hokkaido Marathon winner Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Butsuryu) from contention. With six still up front at 35 km, Chumba attacked on the hills between 36 and 41 km, covering Tokyo's toughest section in a superb 14:21 that only #1-ranked Tadesse Tola could match.  With a one-second lead at 40 km, Chumba's final kick proved too much as he pulled away for the win in 2:05:42, the second-fastest time ever on Japanese soil and more than a minute better than the record set last year by Dennis Kimetto (Kenya).  Tola also broke 2:06, taking 2nd in 2:05:57, with Sammy Kitwara (Kenya) joining them under Kimetto's record in 2:06:30 for 3rd.

Further back, Kurosaki and Njui worked together to try to reel in the fading Kirui, but behind them the Japanese quartet that had earlier fallen back began to regain ground.  On the hills after 36 km, first Matsumura and then Koji Kobayashi (Team Subaru) went by, with Masanori Sakai (Team Kyudenko) and Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda), the only one among them to have run sub-2:10 before, bearing down.  As the final few kilometers went by it was clear they would all go under 2:10, the only question whether there would be a coveted 2:07.  Matsumura did what he could but just missed, crossing the line 8th in a superb 2:08:09.  Kobayashi also cleared 2:09, just two seconds short of his coach Wataru Okutani's best of 2:08:49, with Kurosaki, Sakai and Ishikawa all under 2:09:30.  It was the fourth time in history that five or more Japanese men had broken 2:10 in one race and, with only Asian Games team places at stake, the first time it had ever happened in a non-Olympic season.  Although three men broke 2:09 at the 2004 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, this year's Tokyo had the second-fastest average time ever among the top five Japanese men, earning it a solid place in Japanese marathoning history.

Fukuoka 2003 (Athens Olympics selection race) – top five average: 2:08:14
2:07:52 – Tomoaki Kunichika
2:07:55 – Toshinari Suwa
2:07:59 – Toshinari Takaoka
2:08:37 – Tsuyoshi Ogata
2:08:48 – Tadayuki Ojima
2:09:58 – Michitane Noda

Tokyo 2014 (2014 Asian Games selection race) – top five average: 2:08:57
2:08:09 - Kohei Matsumura
2:08:51 - Koji Kobayashi
2:09:07 - Hirokatsu Kurosaki
2:09:10 - Masanori Sakai
2:09:29 - Suehiro Ishikawa

Lake Biwa 2004 (Athens Olympics selection race) – top five average: 2:09:02
2:08:18 – Tadayuki Ojima
2:08:36 – Atsushi Sato
2:08:56 – Kazutoshi Takatsuka
2:09:25 – Yuko Matsumiya
2:09:55 – Shinichi Watanabe

Lake Biwa 2012 (London Olympics selection race) – top five average: 2:09:12
2:08:44 - Ryo Yamamoto
2:08:53 – Kentaro Nakamoto
2:09:12 – Tomoyuki Morita
2:09:16 – Takashi Horiguchi
2:09:55 – Masashi Hayashi

Miyawaki missed out on joining that history but continued to grind it out after losing touch with the pack before 25 km, taking 15th in 2:11:50, a good debut at any age let alone 22. Just behind him, 21-year-old Shun Sato (Jobu Univ.) turned in one of the better recent Japanese collegiate marathon times as he took 19th in 2:12:15.  After pushing on national record pace through 25 km, the still-ill Fujiwara shuffled in to the finish in 2:30:58, better days to be found elsewhere.  Matsumura's 2:08:09, five seconds faster than the best time of the popular Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), sets the stage for some fireworks at next week's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, where Kawauchi is already going for 2:07. Another corporate runner getting a leg up on him can only help.

2014 Tokyo Marathon
Tokyo, 2/23/14
click here for complete results

Men
1. Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:05:42 - CR, PB
2. Tadesse Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:05:57
3. Sammy Kitwara (Kenya) - 2:06:30
4. Michael Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:06:58
5. Peter Some (Kenya) - 2:07:05
6. Geoffrey Kipsang (Kenya) - 2:07:37
7. Deressa Chimsa (Ethiopia) - 2:07:40
8. Kohei Matsumura (Japan/Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:08:09 - PB
9. Koji Kobayashi (Japan/Team Subaru) - 2:08:51 - PB
10. Abel Kirui (Kenya) - 2:09:04
11. Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Japan/Team Konica Minolta) - 2:09:07 - PB
12. Masanori Sakai (Japan/Team Kyudenko) - 2:09:10 - PB
13. Suehiro Ishikawa (Japan/Team Honda) - 2:09:29
14. Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:09:35
15. Chihiro Miyawaki (Japan/Team Toyota) - 2:11:50 - debut
16. Abderrahime Bouramdane (Morocco) - 2:12:09
17. Chiharu Takada (Japan/Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:12:09
18. Keisuke Wakui (Japan/Team Yakult) - 2:12:12 - PB
19. Shun Sato (Japan/Jobu Univ.) - 2:12:15 - PB
20. Yasuhito Ikeda (Japan/Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:13:49 - PB
21. Tomoya Adachi (Japan/Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:14:53
22. Kazuyoshi Tokumoto (Japan/Team Monteroza) - 2:14:59
23. Tomonori Sakamoto (Japan/Team Press Kogyo) - 2:15:13 - PB
24. Shunsuke Sakai (Japan/Team Chuo Hatsujo) - 2:16:36 - PB
25. Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:16:43
-----
DNF - Yared Asmerom (Eritrea)

Women
1. Tirfi Tsegaye (Ethiopia) - 2:22:23 - CR
2. Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:30 - PB
3. Lucy Wangui Kabuu (Kenya) - 2:24:16
4. Caroline Rotich (Kenya) - 2:24:35
5. Janet Rono (Kenya) - 2:26:03 - PB
6. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:28:18
7. Mai Ito (Japan/Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:28:36
8. Rika Shintaku (Japan/Team Shimamura) - 2:31:15 - PB
9. Manami Kamitanida (Japan/Team Hitachi) - 2:31:34 - PB
10. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/First Dream AC) - 2:32:38
11. Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:33:39
12. Atsede Baysa (Ethiopia) - 2:35:03
13. Chihiro Tanaka (Japan/Athlec AC) - 2:40:44
14. Mitsuko Hirose (Japan/Tokyo Wings AC) - 2:41:55
15. Risa Suzuki (Japan/Power Breeze AC) - 2:42:55 - PB
16. Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/Second Wind AC) - 2:43:26 - PB
17. Yuka Yamazaki (Japan/Team Kojima Press) - 2:44:06
18. Haruka Yamaguchi (Japan/AC Kita) - 2:46:03 - PB
19. Maki Inami (Japan/AC Kita) - 2:46:38
20. Toshiko Yoshikawa (Japan/NRF AC) - 2:46:48 - PB
21. Ikue Tabata (Nimono RC) - 2:47:50
22. Risa Hagiwara (Second Wind AC) - 2:47:59
23. Mineko Yamanouchi (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:48:04
24. Shinobu Ayabe (Obaria AC) - 2:48:06 - PB
25. Yuka Aoyama (Crest AC) - 2:48:10
-----
85. Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 3:11:05
-----
DNF - Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine)
DNF - Merima Mohammed (Ethiopia)

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Asian Cross-Country Championships Results

by Brett Larner

The 28th Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet played host to this year's Asian Cross Country Championships, the international championship races held within Fukuoka's regular senior men's 10 km, senior women's 6 km, junior men's 8 km and junior women's 6 km races.  In the senior men's 10 km, Japan-based Kenyan Jeremiah Karemi (Team Toyota Kyushu), two-time winner of Fukuoka's junior race, ran tough against an all-African Bahraini squad, outkicking its Aweke Yimer by 9 seconds for the win in 28:43.  Karemi's continuing development over the last year is especially noteworthy given that the last time Toyota Kyushu head coach Koichi Morishita, the Barcelona Olympics marathon silver medalist, took on a Kenyan it was future Beijing Olympics gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru. 2nd overall, Yimer took the Asian Championships gold medal with teammates Isaac Korir and Alemu Bekele taking silver and gold.  2010 5000 m national champion Yuki Matsuoka (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) was the only Japanese runner to go with the lead pack, finishing 6th overall in 29:20.  Defending champion Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) was only 9th in 29:29.

The senior women's 6km race was likewise an all-African blowout, with Ethiopian-born Tejitu Chalchissa (Bahrain) outrunning Alia Saeed (U.A.E.) for the gold medal in 19:23.  A day shy of four weeks since setting a 2:26:46 collegiate national record at the Osaka International Women's Marathon, Sairi Maeda (Bukkyo Univ.), running for the Japanese team as part of the Asian Championships, took 5th in 20:02, almost running down Bahrainis Mimi Gebreiorges and Gladys Kibiwot.  In both the senior men's and senior women's races Bahrain took the team gold medals along with the individual titles.

In the junior men's 8 km race, Paul Kamais (Kenya/Sera H.S.) and Michael Gitau (Kenya/Fukuoka Daiichi H.S.) staged a great back-and-forth battle, Kamais pulling ahead by two seconds in the home straight to take the win in 23:17.  His Sera teammate John Gathaiya took 3rd but was nearly a minute behind in 24:13, just ahead of unknown high school first-year Takuya Hanyu (Yachiyo Shoin H.S.), 4th overall and the first Japanese finisher in 24:18.  Running with frantic urgency, Yuri Nozoe (Kamimura Gakuen H.S) tried to run away with the win in the junior women's 6 km but was caught at the line by favorite Yuka Kobayashi (Tokiwa H.S.), both women given the same time but Kobayashi the clear winner.

The junior men's 4 km likewise featured a very close race, Haruki Nishimura (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) getting the win in 12:26 over Shun Yuzawa (Tokai Prep Daisan H.S.) by a second.  In the junior women's 4 km Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) returned from a bad run at last month's National Women's Ekiden with what might have been the performance of the meet, winning by 27 seconds in 13:39.

2014 Asian Cross Country Championships
and 28th Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet
Fukuoka, 2/22/14
click here for complete results

Senior Men's 10 km
1. Jeremiah Thuku Karemi (Kenya/Team Toyota Kyushu) - 28:43
2. Aweke Yimer (Bahrain) - 28:52
3. Miliyon Zewdie (Ethiopia/Team Yachiyo Kogyo) - 29:00
4. Isaac Korir (Bahrain) - 29:01
5. Alemu Bekele (Bahrain) - 29:19
6. Yuki Matsuoka (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 29:20
7. Zelalem Regassa (Bahrain) - 29:24
8. Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 29:29
9. Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko) - 29:32
10. Bilisuma Gelassa (Bahrain) - 29:58

Senior Women's 6 km
1. Tejitu Chalchissa (Bahrain) - 19:23
2. Alia Saeed (U.A.E.) - 19:30
3. Mimi Gebreiorges (Bahrain) - 19:55
4. Gladys Kibiwot (Bahrain) - 19:57
5. Sairi Maeda (Bukkyo Univ.) - 20:02
6. Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo) - 20:04
7. Miho Shimizu (Team Hokuren) - 20:12
8. Misaki Sango (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 20:16
9. Natsuki Omori (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 20:18
10. Naoko Koizumi (Team Denso) - 20:27

Junior Men's 8 km
1. Paul Kamais (Kenya/Sera H.S.) - 23:17
2. Michael Gitau (Kenya/Fukuoka Daiichi H.S.) - 23:19
3. John Gathaiya (Kenya/Sera H.S.) - 24:13
4. Takuya Hanyu (Yachiyo Shoin H.S.) - 24:18
5. Kazuto Kawabata (Ayabe H.S.) - 24:20
6. Kento Hanazawa (Yachiyo Shoin H.S.) - 24:21
7. Hiroyuki Sakaguchi (Isahaya H.S.) - 24:22
8. Chihaya Kasuga (Saku Chosei H.S.) - 24:23
9. Shota Onizuka (Omuta H.S.) - 24:28
10. Yuichi Yasui (Municipal Funabashi H.S.) - 24:32

Junior Women's 6 km
1. Yuka Kobayashi (Tokiwa H.S.) - 20:25
2. Yuri Nozoe (Kamimura Gakuen H.S) - 20:25
3. Maki Izumida (Hakuho Joshi H.S.) - 20:30
4. Kanna Tamaki (Nagano Higashi H.S.) - 20:32
5. Kureha Seki (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 20:33
6. Nodoka Aoki (Mashita Seifu H.S.) - 20:33
7. Harumi Okamoto (Tokiwa H.S.) - 20:35
8. Kotona Ota (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 20:35
9. Haruka Tobimatsu (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 20:37
10. Mai Takahashi (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) - 20:40

Junior Men's 4 km
1. Haruki Nishimura (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 12:26
2. Shun Yuzawa (Tokai Prep Daisan H.S.) - 12:27
3. Yugo Yamamoto (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 12:31
4. Naoki Nakamura (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 12:42
5. Naoto Yasunaga (Sera H.S.) - 12:44

Junior Women's 4 km
1. Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 13:39
2. Kana Sugiyama (Hakuho Joshi H.S.) - 14:06
3. Itsuki Shose (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 14:07
4. Minami Nakashima (Kitakyushu Municipal H.S.) - 14:14
5. Yuka Matsumura (Kitakyushu Municipal H.S.) - 14:21

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Arata Fujiwara Running Tokyo Marathon Despite Influenza

http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/news/20140222-OHT1T00031.htm

translated by Brett Larner

London Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) appeared at the Feb. 21 pre-Tokyo Marathon press conference.  Fujiwara revealed that he is running Tokyo on Sunday despite still feeling the effects of influenza he contracted in early February.  "I don't have good training behind me this time.  My goal is to run 2:10," he said, moderating expectations.  At the Feb. 2 Marugame Half he slowed badly and finished in 1:09:09 due to the influenza.  "I haven't caught a cold since I was in junior high school," he said.  With a fever of 38 degrees Fujiwara didn't run for an entire week and thought about pulling out of Tokyo, but taking a positive view of the situation he said, "A break from training means my body is fresh."

At December's Fukuoka International Marathon Fujiwara dropped out partway through due to hip pain, meaning he does not have a place on the Japanese team for September's Asian Games in South Korea.  "I don't know how it's going to go down, but I'm looking forward to it," he said of Sunday's race.

Translator's note: Fujiwara's college roommate and fellow London Olympian Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) withdrew from Tokyo on Thursday due to having caught the flu in early February and missing training.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Discarding Hakone Dreams in a Straight Shot for the Olympics, the Next Generation's Next Big Thing Chihiro Miyawaki Ready for Marathon Debut

http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/event/tokyomarathon/list/CK2014022002000195.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Running from City Hall to Tokyo Big Sight, the Tokyo Marathon takes place on Feb. 23.  A part of the world's ultimate series, the World Marathon Majors, and the biggest marathon in Asia, Tokyo attracts the best from around the world.  Highly anticipated to be the "golden boy" of the buildup to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, 22-year-old Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota), already all-time Japanese #4 for the half marathon and #7 for 10000 m, will make his marathon debut in Tokyo.  Having gone straight into the jitsugyodan corporate team world after graduating from high school without passing through the Hakone Ekiden he is something of a secret weapon, but on the streets of the Japanese capital he is now ready to throw off the veil.

Miyawaki's gentle, meek smile conceals the tenacity of an underdog's soul.  He is a runner with a modern, multifaceted way of thinking.  He joined the Toyota corporate team in 2010 after graduating from Chukyo H.S. in Gifu, never getting to run the hallowed Hakone Ekiden.  Or rather, he chose not to.  "Hakone is...to be honest, I never had any interest in it," he says with a laugh.  "Ever since I was little, I never even wanted to watch it on TV."  Even now, his eyes shine when Miyawaki says, "More than, 'Let's do Hakone,' the words 'world class' have a lot more appeal to me."

Before graduating from high school he had recruitment offers from countless Kanto-region universities that focus on Hakone, but Miyawaki chose the road of the corporate runner.  The reason?  The words of Toyota head coach Toshinobu Sato resonated deeply within Miyawaki: "Let's go after the best in the world together."  In high school he was nothing special, eliminated in the heats when he made the National meet, but even so he was picked up by Toyota.  That opened up new possibilities within Miyawaki of going "where I hadn't even considered."

Once he made up his mind and charted his path, Miyawaki's talent immediately began to blossom, developing rapidly after joining the Toyota team.  His first year he ran a solid 4th on the New Year Ekiden's First Stage, helping Toyota to win its first-ever team title.  His second year he went right to the cusp of becoming world-class.

At the 2012 National Track and Field Championships he placed 3rd in the 10000 m, a razor-thin two seconds from grabbing the London Olympics ticket snatched away by winner Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin).  At this year's New Year Ekiden he ran the Fourth Stage against the corporate league's best Japanese men, beating Sato and Moscow World Championships marathon 5th-placer Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) to win the stage.  The same age as current university seniors, Miyawaki has climbed to the same level as the nation's best, laying the foundations for his marathon debut.

"I'm as surprised as anybody," he says.  "Right on track the times and distances I can handle have progressed, and next is the marathon.  In Rio I want to run the marathon, not track.  I don't think I can compete with the best on the track, and if I go there it won't be just to be there."

The "Golden Generation" of Suguru Osako (Waseda University), twins Keita and Yuta Shitara (Toyo University), Shinobu Kubota (Komazawa University) and others are all graduating simultaneously this spring.  They will all be 29 years old the season of the 2020 Olympics, their generation's ultimate heyday.  The road he walks is different from theirs, but Miyawaki's focus point as he looks ahead is the same.  "I don't want to lose to other guys my age.  I want to compete with them to run in the Rio Olympics, then win a medal in the Tokyo Olympics."  With an ultimate goal of winning a medal on the same capital city streets six years distant, Miyawaki starts his journey on Sunday.

Chihiro Miyawaki
Born Aug. 28, 1991 in Komagane, Nagano.  22 years old, 175 cm, 55 kg.  He began running seriously in junior high school, attending Chukyo H.S. in Gifu before joining the Toyota corporate team.  His hobby is driving.

PBs:
5000 m: 13:35.74     10000 m: 27:41.57 (all-time Japanese #7)
half-marathon: 1:00:53 (all-time Japanese #4)     30 km: 1:29:51

Asian XC Championships Lead Weekend Action

by Brett Larner

It's yet another busy weekend in Japan with at least four quality events on the calendar. It's not every day that an international championships takes place on Japanese soil, and Saturday's Asian Cross-Country Championships, held in conjunction with the annual Fukuoka International Cross-Country Meet, tops the list in that respect.  Fresh off a bronze medal between two Qataris in the 3000 m at last weekend's Asian Indoor Championships, Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei) leads the Japanese senior men's team alongside 2013 5000 m national champion Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu), who ran a PB 1:01:18 just last weekend at the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships, and 13:28.79 junior Genki Yagisawa (Meiji Univ.).  No Qataris are on the entry list, but Bahrain is sending a squad of five Kenyan and Ethiopian-born athletes led by Olympian Bilisuma Shugi who should provide the main competition.  Also noteworthy is 2013 Southeast Asian Games marathon gold medalist Mok Ying Ren (Singapore), back in Japan for the first time since setting the Singaporean half marathon national record at November's Ageo City Half Marathon.

With the cancellation of the Chiba International Cross-Country Meet two weeks ago due to some snow on the course, the open men's 10 km accompanying the Asian championships race has been named the selection race for the Japanese team for next month's World University Cross-Country Championships in Uganda.  Defending World University XC silver medalist Yuta Shitara of 2014 Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University leads the contenders for places on that team.

The Bahrainis have a stacked team in the senior women's race as well, with Ethiopian-born Olympians Mimi Belete and Tejitu Daba leading a team of four.  Japanese hopes rest with Sairi Maeda (Bukkyo Univ.) in her first race since setting a Japanese collegiate national record of 2:26:46 last month in Osaka, track specialist Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo) and, just off a strong ekiden season, Risa Kikuchi (Team Hitachi).

The Qataris did send a junior men's team, where they face sub-14 high schooler Kenta Ueda of 2013 National High School Ekiden champion Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S. and more.  Competition is thinner in the junior women's race, where Japan's Maki Izumida (Hakuho Joshi H.S.) and Yuka Kobayashi (Tokiwa H.S.) look to be the favorites. Click here for complete entry lists for all races.  The meet will be broadcast on TBS starting at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday the 22nd.  Overseas viewers should be able to watch via Keyhole TV, for which it is worth paying for a premium key.

The cancellation of the competitive Fukaya City Half Marathon due to last week's heavy snowfall in the north half of Japan has thinned the weekend's road racing a little, but two good half marathons still remain.  Collegiate 5000 m national record holder Kensuke Takezawa (Team Sumitomo Denko), 13:19.00 and 27:45.59 at age 20, was set to make his 30 km debut at last weekend's Ome Road Race, which like Fukaya fell victim to the elements.  Instead, Takezawa has now jumped into this weekend's 63rd running of the Kashima Yutoku Half Marathon for what may be his first half marathon since winning his debut at the 2005 Ageo City Half Marathon in 1:02:27.  Considering that he has run as fast as 1:01:40 for the Hakone Ekiden's 21.5 km Third Stage, equivalent to a 1:00:31 half marathon, the chances that the Yutoku Half's 1:03:52 course record will fall look pretty good.  Takezawa's performance there will be one of the most eagerly-anticipated of the weekend for Japanese fans.

Besides having a cool website, the Inuyama Yomiuri Half Marathon has long been the place where future stars have their first real success.  Past winners have included London Olympians Arata Fujiwara (Miki House, 2003) and Ryo Yamamoto (Team SGH Group Sagawa, 2006), last year's 5000 m national champions Misaki Onishi (Team Sekisui Kagaku, 2006) and Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu, 2008), Rio World Half Marathon Championships 5th placer Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC, 2009) and 2013 World University Games half marathon bronze medalist Shogo Nakamura (Komazawa University, 2012), so the names that come out on top of Sunday's 36th running will likely be worth remembering.  Team Aichi Seiko rookie Hiroto Naito, a 2013 graduate of Tokyo Nogyo University, is the #1 seed with a best of 1:02:56, but close behind are university rivals Kenya Sonota (Komazawa Univ., 1:03:19) and Masato Terauchi (Toyo Univ., 1:03:23). With favorable weather a shot at the 1:03:07 course record set seven years ago by Hidehito Takamine (Hosei Univ.) should be in reach.  The women's course record of 1:10:00 will be harder to crack, but if anyone is capable it will be Ai Migita (Team Wacoal), making her half marathon debut off a 33:19 road 10 km best at last weekend's National Corporate Championships.  Click here for complete Inuyama entry lists.

Lastly is Sunday's Tokyo Marathon.  With an international field befitting its status as the minor Major, Tokyo looks sure to see at least its men split into two separate races.  2009 and 2011 World Champion Abel Kirui (Kenya) is Tokyo's flagship athlete, returning after a DNF in 2008 to try to get back on track after a long time off with injury.  It won't be easy, with no less than five other athletes in field holding bests under 2:06.  Tadesse Tola (Ethiopia) is the favorite with a 2:04:49 best for 3rd Dubai followed by a 2:06:33 for 2nd in Paris and a 2:07:16 win in Beijing last year.  The man who beat him in Paris, Peter Some (Kenya), will also be there, along with Chicago Marathon 3rd-placer Sammy Kitwara (Kenya), Toronto Waterfront Marathon winner Deressa Chimsa (Ethiopia) and 2:05:46 man Dickson Chumba (Kenya).  Forecast temperatures are on the cold side of ideal but with a field like this Chicago winner Dennis Kimetto's year-old course record of 2:06:50 should fall even if the 2:05:18 Japanese all-comers' record is iffy.  2011 World XC junior champion Geoffrey Kipsang (Kenya), 2012 Tokyo winner Michael Kipyego (Kenya), Eritrean national record holder Yared Asmerom and others add to the international component of the race.

The Japanese men's roster was decimated of most of its most interesting athletes yesterday, with Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki), 5th in Moscow and 6th in the London Olympics, pulling out with the flu, 2013 10000 m national champion Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) out with injury, and the popular Takehiro Deki (Team Chugoku Denryoku), scheduled to make his follow-up to the 2:10:02 he ran without marathon-specific training his junior year at Aoyama Gakuin University in 2012, likewise out.  Who is left?  Mostly a 2:09-2:12 field comparable to that at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon three weeks ago.  London Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Team Miki House), roommates with Nakamoto while at Takushoku University, is the top draw, but after catching the flu just before the Marugame Half earlier this month he has lost valuable training time and admits he is not at 100%.  2nd in Tokyo in 2008, 2010 and 2012, if he is able to do the same a fourth time it will be something very special.  2:09 men Suehiro Ishikawa and Takashi Horiguchi of the Honda team, Japan's most successful at the marathon and featuring 2010 Tokyo winner Masakazu Fujiwara on its roster, are next on the list, followed by a raft of 2:10 athletes led by the talented Koji Kobayashi (Team Subaru).

But outside Arata Fujiwara the main draw in the Japanese men's race is the marathon debut of 22-year-old Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota).  All-time Japanese #4 over the half marathon in 1:00:53 and #7 for 10000 m in 27:41.57, Miyawaki's rivalry with top corporate man Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) over the last few years has been very entertaining, Miyawaki constantly following in Ugachi's footsteps and bettering his times. Ugachi made a slightly disappointing 2:13:41 marathon debut last month, and there is no mistaking that Miyawaki will be looking to go much better than that.  He had a mediocre run in Marugame three weeks ago, 67th in just 1:04:43, but if all goes well he may have a chance of taking away Masakazu Fujiwara's 2:08:12 marathon debut national record.

If only one record falls in Tokyo it will be the 2:25:28 women's record set two years ago by Atsede Habtamu (Ethiopia).  Eleven of the twelve women on the elite entry list have run faster than that within the last two years, even former national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), so it would take a pretty lazy race indeed for there not to be a major improvement in the record.  Japanese fans will be glad to see Aomori Yamada H.S. graduate and former Suzuki corporate team runner Lucy Wangui Kabuu (Kenya) back as the favorite with a 2:19:34 best.  With a chase pack of four Ethiopians and compatriot Caroline Rotich (Kenya) not far behind it's conceivable that Kabuu could give the great Mizuki Noguchi's Japanese all-comers' record of 2:21:18 a go.

Although Tokyo counts in national team selection for men, for women it does not, meaning that despite the world-class field it is all but out of bounds for the country's best, a place for indies and those whose careers have come to Tokyo to die.  Alongside former Daiichi Seimei member Azusa Nojiri (Team Hiratsuka Lease) this year are the aging Shibui and Daegu World Championships team member Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku), who is the likely choice for top Japanese woman.  Nojiri left Daiichi Seimei two years ago to follow an independent road in the model of Arata Fujiwara but has yet to find success comparable to her 2:24:57 best under Daiichi Seimei coach Sachiko Yamashita.  A decent run in Tokyo would do wonders for her name value.  No specific word at this stage that Shibui or Ito plan to retire after Tokyo, but if they follow the pattern of Berlin World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) and 2012 10000 m national champion Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) last year, don't be too surprised.

Click here for detailed Tokyo Marathon field listings.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Toshiko d’Elia, Gritty Runner, Dies at 84'

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/sports/toshiko-delia-gritty-runner-dies-at-84.html

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Moscow World Championships 5th-Place Nakamoto and Others Withdraw From Tokyo Marathon

http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/news/20140220-OHT1T00082.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

A representative of Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki), 5th in the Moscow World Championships marathon and 6th in the London Olympics marathon, announced on Feb. 20 that he has withdrawn from the Feb. 23 Tokyo Marathon, a selection race for this fall's Asian Games marathon in South Korea.  According to the team spokesperson, Nakamoto caught the flu in early February and has not fully recovered.  He is not entered in the final Asian Games selection race, the Mar. 2 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, meaning that Nakamoto will not be able to run the marathon at the Asian Games.

Also withdrawing are 2013 10000 m national champion and London Olympian Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), former Aoyama Gakuin University captain Takehiro Deki (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and 2008 Tokyo winner Viktor Rothlin (Switzerland).

Nagoya Women's Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The Nagoya Women's Marathon continues on in its new format as the world's largest women-only marathon, having added a mass-participation field to its longstanding small elite race to stay relevant in the booming Japanese amateur marathon market.  This year sports one of the better elite fields in Nagoya history, with five sub-2:24 women, a solid sub-2:30 second pack, and a small group of noteworthy first-timers.

The #1 seed is Russian Mariya Konovalova with a best of 2:22:46 Chicago 2013, and it looks pretty clear that she and Kenyan trio Helena Kirop, Agnes Kiprop and Agnes Barsosio are there to pull Moscow World Championships 4th-placer Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) along to something better than her 2:23:34 winning time from last year. There's a gap back to the next group at the 2:25-2:27 level, where Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia), the eyebrow-raising Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania), Miranda Boonstra (Netherlands) and Ashete Dido (Ethiopia) are ideally positioned for the rest of the Japanese women, of whom Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) has the best chance of making a breakthrough.

Most promising among the first-timers is two-time National Corporate Half Marathon champion Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), a former teammate of retired Berlin World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki and coached by Tokyo World Championships silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita, but her training partner Sakiko Matsumi (Team Daiichi Seimei) also has quality half marathon credentials behind her and, working together, the pair could be a threat from the start.  Yuko Mizuguchi (Team Denso) has weaker half marathon credentials, but a solid 1:43:46 win at last year's Kumanichi 30 km suggests she has the skills to handle longer distances.

Nagoya also features a half marathon open to both men and women as part of its mass-participation component.  Sure to be missed in most coverage of the race will be the presence of Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), who won a place in Nagoya by entering online like the rest of the amateur field.  Kawauchi will run Nagoya just a week after his serious shot at running 2:07 at the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.

The Nagoya Women's Marathon will be broadcast live nationwide.  Check back closer to race date for details on live coverage options.

2014 Nagoya Women's Marathon
Nagoya, 3/9/14
click here for detailed field listing

Mariya Konovalova (Russia) - 2:22:46 (Chicago 2013)
Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:22:56 (Osaka Women's 2005)
Ryoko Kizaki (Japan/Team Daihatsu) - 2:23:34 (Nagoya Women's 2013)
Helena Kirop (Kenya) - 2:23:37 (Venice 2011)
Agnes Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:23:54 (Frankfurt 2011)
Agnes Barsosio (Kenya) - 2:24:03 (Daegu 2013)
Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:25:15 (Tokyo Women's 2005)
Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Team Toto) - 2:26:17 (Nagoya Women's 2013)
Yoko Miyauchi (Japan/Team Kyocera) - 2:26:23 (Nagoya Women's 2012)
Miranda Boonstra (Netherlands) - 2:27:32 (Rotterdam 2012)
Ashete Dido (Ethiopia) - 2:27:47 (Kosice 2013)
Mayumi Fujita (Japan/Team Juhachi Ginko) - 2:29:02 (Yokohama Women's 2012)
Asami Kato (Japan/Team Panasonic) - 2:30:26 (Nagoya Women's 2013)
Misato Horie (Japan/Team Noritz) - 2:30:52 (Nagoya Women's 2013)
Jessica Trengove (Australia) - 2:31:02 (Nagoya Women's 2012)
Korei Omata (Japan/Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 2:31:13 (Nagoya Women's 2012)

Debut
Tomomi Tanaka (Japan/Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:09:24 (National Corporate Half 2014)
Sakiko Matsumi (Japan/Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:10:10 (Marugame Half 2013)
Kumi Ogura (Japan/Team Toto) - 1:10:51 (Marugame Half 2013)
Yuka Hakoyama (Japan/Team Wacoal) - 1:11:29 (Marugame Half 2013)
Yuko Mizuguchi (Japan/Team Denso) - 1:13:27 (Matsue Women's Half 2008)

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Fukaya City Half Marathon Cancelled Due to Impossibility of Clearing Course

http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/saitama/20140220/CK2014022002000146.html

translated by Brett Larner

Scheduled for Feb. 23 in Fukaya, Saitama, the 8th running of the Fukaya City Half Marathon has been cancelled due to the impact of last weekend's heavy snow.  The event's organizing committee made the decision to cancel on Feb. 19.  According to a committee spokesperson, the cancellation is due to the impossibility of clearing the entire course of snow to guarantee a safe path for runners and to parking lots at the start and finish area not yet being cleared either.  Entry fees will not be returned, but entrants will be sent the race program and souvenir towels and notepads.  For more information contact the Fukaya City Lifelong Education Division at 048 (572) 9581.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Murayama Leads World Half Marathon Team

http://www.daily.co.jp/newsflash/general/2014/02/18/0006719014.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

On Feb. 18 the Japanese Federation announced Kenta Murayama (Komazawa University), 20,  and the other nine members of the Japanese national team for the Mar. 29 World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Note: 2011-2013 National University Ekiden champion Komazawa's Ikuto Yufu, the 2013 National University 1500 m champion and 1:02:51 at November's Ageo City Half Marathon, has also joined the Mar. 16 New York City Half Marathon field.

World Half Marathon Championships - Japanese Team
Copenhagen, Denmark, Mar. 29, 2014

Men
Kenta Murayama (Komazawa University) - 1:00:50 (Marugame Half 2014) - all-time Japanese #3
Masato Kikuchi (Team Konica Minolta) - 1:01:17 (National Corporate Half 2014)
Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu) - 1:01:18 - (National Corporate Half 2014) 2013 national champion, 5000 m
Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin University) - 1:01:39 (Marugame Half 2014)
Shogo Nakamura (Komazawa University) - 1:02:41 (National University Half 2013) - bronze medal, 2013 World University Games Half Marathon, 2013 National University Half Marathon champion

Women
Reia Iwade (Team Noritz) - 1:09:45 (Sanyo Women's Half 2013)
Sayo Nomura (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:10:03 (Sanyo Women's Half 2013)
Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido) - 1:10:10 (National Corporate Half 2014)
Rina Yamazaki (Team Panasonic) - 1:10:45 (National Corporate Half 2014)
Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:10:45 (National Corporate Half 2014)

World Championships Marathoner Nakazato Quits Daihatsu Team

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/02/18/kiji/K20140218007615820.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The Daihatsu women's corporate team, based in Ikeda, Osaka, announced on Feb. 18 that 2011 Daegu World Championships marathoner Remi Nakazato (25) will quit the team at the end of the month to become an amateur runner.  According to Daihatsu, the decision to leave the team was Nakazato's.  She plans to be based in her native Gunma Prefecture.

A graduate of Ota Shogyo High School in Gunma, Nakazato finished 12th in her debut marathon at the 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon.  At the 2011 Yokohama International Women's Marathon she was 2nd, going on to finish 10th at the Daegu World Championships and running her PB of 2:24:28 the following spring back in Nagoya.  She finished only 10th at last year's Yokohama.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

'Special K! Karoki and Kipyegon Win in Nairobi'

http://www.iaaf.org/news/report/faith-kipyegon-bedan-karoki-2014-iaaf-permitk

2014 Kenya National Cross-Country men's top two Bitan Karoki (DeNA RC) and Leonard Barsoton (Team Nissin Shokuhin) are both based in central Tokyo and regularly train on the cross-country loop in Yoyogi Park.

Hattori Sets 30 km Collegiate National Record, Kawauchi Gets CR in Kumamoto

by Brett Larner
photos by t_tsuki

While Tokyo's Ome 30 km fell victim to the major snowstorm that hit the north half of Japan on Friday, the Kumanichi 30 km near the southernmost tip of the southern island of Kyushu picked up another piece of history on Sunday.

After a spectacular four-way battle last year saw a new course record of 1:29:31 from Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and a university national record of 1:29:55 by Toyo University's Keita Shitara, this year's race was billed as a shot at Shitara's national record.  Over a half dozen of Japan's top collegiates, including 2014 Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo's Yuma Hattori and Ryu Takaku, 2013 National University Half Marathon champion Shogo Nakamura and outgoing team captain Shinobu Kubota of 2013 National University Ekiden champion Komazawa University, 2012 National University Half Marathon champion Toshikatsu Ebina (Teikyo Univ.) and ace Takumi Honda of 2012 Hakone winner Nittai University, lined up to go for the record with support from a cadre of pros including 2012 Sendai International Half Marathon winner Johana Maina (Kenya/Team Fujitsu).

Nakamura took the race out very, very fast, going 14:34 through 5 km, well ahead of Patrick Makau's 1:27:38 world record 30 km split with the entire main pack of contenders in tow.  The pace continued almost unchanged, Nakamura leading the top six through 10 km in 29:13 and the top five through 15 km in 43:55 before slowing to 20 km in 58:52.  It's worth pausing to note that although it was the 30 km debut of everyone involved and that almost all were university students, the lead quintet's splits through 20 km were almost identical to those at the simultaneous National Corporate Half Marathon Championships, where apart from winner Daniel Gitau (Kenya/Team Fujitsu) the lead group's splits went 14:34 - 29:13 - 43:52 - 58:13.  Although Hattori has never run a half marathon, his and the rest of the lead group's 58:52 split at 20 km would have meant a half marathon split of around 1:02:06, a time that would also have been a half marathon PB for Nakamura, Honda and Takaku.

After the slower pace between 15 and 20 km, Toyo second-year Hattori went to the front, only Nakamura going with him as Maina hung back with Honda and Takaku lost touch. Hitting 25 km in 1:13:54 Hattori surged and broke Nakamura, pulling away to run the last 5 km alone all the way to the finish.  Crossing the line in 1:28:52, Hattori took more than a minute off his teammate Shitara's university national record and almost 40 seconds off Kawauchi's course record, tying marathon legend Toshihiko Seko's PB to come in at all-time #3 for 30 km in the Japanese record books.  Shitara followed up his collegiate national record last year with a 27:51.54 best for 10000 m.  If Hattori broke Shitara's time by the same margin he did today it would mean 27:30, a Japanese national record.  That may not be realistic, but an all-time #3 to match his 30 km mark would mean under 27:38.25, and considering that, having just turned 20, over 10000 m he's already ahead of where Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.), the current #4 man in 27:38.31 at age 21, was at the same age, it seems within the realm of the possible.  Shitara's 1:01:45 half marathon best should also be his whenever he decides to take it.  Either way it looks at this point like Hattori's in for a hell of a year.

Further back from Hattori, Maina regrouped to drop Honda and go after the fading Nakamura, catching him in the last two kilometers to take 2nd in 1:29:55.  Nakamura just missed cracking 90 minutes, 3rd across the line in 1:30:11 with Honda and Takaku close behind.  Tokyo 2020 is still a long way away, but with Hattori just 20 years old it looks pretty clear that Japan has definite ideas about what it needs to do to bring up his generation to win marathon medals on home soil.



Race organizers hoped for Kawauchi to return this year and be part of the action, but he requested to run the 3rd edition of the event's mass-participation full marathon division instead to open his 2014 marathon season and tune up for the Mar. 2 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  With a course record of just 2:19:30 set last year by his fellow civil servant runner Shota Jige (Kumamoto Pref. Gov't) and no other elite athletes in the race there was no doubt that Kawauchi would win with a decent course record time that would last for quite a while.  But while most expected that to mean mid-low teens, caught in the flow of a smooth race in good conditions he finished in 2:10:14, more than nine minutes ahead of the old course record and twelve minutes ahead of 2nd place.  "That was a little better time than planned," he told JRN post-race, indicating that he had intended to run 2:12 to 2:13.  "I'm heading straight to the hot springs to deal with the fatigue and regroup for Lake Biwa."  Following Lake Biwa Kawauchi will run May's Hamburg Marathon against Haile Gebreselassie (Ethiopia) and Martin Lel (Kenya).

58th Kumanichi Road Race
Kumamoto, 2/16/14
click here for complete results

Men's 30 km
1. Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 1:28:52 - CR, NUR, debut
2. Johana Maina (Kenya/Team Fujitsu) - 1:29:55 - debut
3. Shogo Nakamura (Komzawa Univ.) - 1:30:11 - debut
4. Takumi Honda (Nittai Univ.) - 1:30:23 - debut
5. Ryu Takaku (Toyo Univ.) - 1:30:32 - debut
6. Yusuke Sato (Team Fujitsu) - 1:31:02 - debut
7. Shota Inoue (Team Toyota) - 1:32:14 - debut
8. Tsubasa Hayakawa (Team Toyota) - 1:32:40 - debut
9. Shinobu Kubota (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:33:17
10. Yuya Taguchi (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 1:33:27 - debut

Women's 30 km
1. Yuka Takashima (Team Denso) - 1:44:19
2. Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) - 1:44:48
3. Kana Orino (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:46:16
4. Minori Goto (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:49:16 - debut
5. Seika Iwamura (Team Higo Ginko) - 1:50:17 - PB

Men's Marathon
1. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:10:14 - CR

Women's Marathon
1. Hitomi Sakaguchi (Kagoshima Pref.) - 2:57:54

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photos (c) 2014 t_tsuki
all rights reserved

Gitau, Tanaka and Nishihara Take National Corporate Road Titles

by Brett Larner
photos by rikujolove

A month earlier than usual due to March's World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark, this year's 42nd running of the National Corporate Half Marathon and 10 km Championships was fast all around, with PB times from virtually everyone in the top in all three divisions.  The men's and women's half marathons played out with very similar plot lines.

In the men's race, Aoyama Gakuin University graduate Ryotaro Otani (Team Toyota Boshoku), running in a plain yellow Adidas sleeveless T-shirt and matching shorts and shoes after forgetting his kit bag at home, took the race out near 61-flat pace, frontrunning through 5 km before Kenyans Daniel Gitau (Team Fujitsu) and Jacob Wanjuki (Team Aichi Seiko) and 2014 New Year Ekiden national chmpion team Konica Minolta member Masato Kikuchi took over.  Gitau was quick to press ahead, opening a 25-second lead by 10 km with his teammate and 2013 national 5000 m champion Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu) tucking in behind Wanjuki and Kikuchi to form a chase trio.  Rounding the halfway mark Kikuchi, who ran a PB 1:01:50 two weeks ago in Marugame, picked it up to shake off sub-61 man Wanjuki, Hoshi holding tight behind him and looking calm.  The pair incrementally closed on Gitau but were too far back to catch him.

Gitau crossed the finish line in 1:00:59, six seconds shy of the 1:00:53 course record set last year by Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) but a narrow PB. Kikuchi and Hoshi came onto the track together, and in the home straight Hoshi tried to use the same kick that won him the 5000 m national title last summer to get by Kikuchi, but Kikuchi's superior experience over longer distances played in his favor and he got there first in another PB of 1:01:17, Hoshi just behind in a PB 1:01:18.  Both just missed making the all-time Japanese top ten by 2~3 seconds but had the consolation of almost certainly being named to the Copenhagen team.  The top eight all broke 62 minutes, six of them Japanese and all but Wanjuki and Hoshi's former Komazawa University teammate Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei) running PBs.

The women's half marathon started off with rising star Misaki Kato (Team Kyudenko), a contender for the win after a sub-71 debut at last fall's Great North Run and a very strong season ever since, leading through a relatively conservative opening 5 km before 2012 national corporate champion Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) grew impatient and picked up her pace almost 10 seconds a kilometer.  Only a handful went with her, and as Tanaka, in training for a marathon debut next month in Nagoya, sustained the higher intensity the only one to stay there was former Ritsumeikan University star Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido) in her half marathon debut. Running mid-69 pace Takenaka lasted almost another 10 km before losing touch with the relentless Tanaka, who pushed on ahead alone and made it look easy as she took a second national corporate title in a PB 1:09:24. Takenaka held on to 2nd in 1:10:10, one of the better Japanese debuts in recent year, to give her a solid chance of joining Kikuchi and Hoshi at the World Half.  Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu) took 3rd in a photo finish with Rina Yamazaki (Team Panasonic) after closing on her in the home straight, both timed at 1:10:45.

Road 10 km collegiate national record holder Kasumi Nishihara (Team Yamada Denki) won the women's 10 km, shaking off teammate Yuika Mori, Daegu World Championships marathoner Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and others for the win in a course record 32:27, just a second off her record.  Post-race Nishihara tweeted, "I won!  I guess it was a course record, but the time wasn't really all that much, there were a few little things that happened, and I finished without a really satisfactory kick, so.....But but but, a win's a win!  Thanks!"

42nd National Corporate Half Marathon and 10 km Championships
Yamaguchi, 2/16/14
click here for complete results

Men's Half Marathon
1. Daniel Gitau (Kenya/Team Fujitsu) - 1:00:59 - PB
2. Masato Kikuchi (Team Konica Minolta) - 1:01:17 - PB
3. Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu) - 1:01:18 - PB
4. Jacob Wanjuki (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko) - 1:01:32
5. Yuki Yagi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:01:37 - PB
6. Kenji Yamamoto (Team Mazda) - 1:01:47 - PB
7. Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei) - 1:01:55
8. Kenta Murozuka (SDF Academy) - 1:01:58 - PB
9. Shota Hiraga (Team Fujitsu) - 1:02:08 - PB
10. Masamichi Yasuda (Team Aichi Seiko) - 1:02:10 - PB

Women's Half Marathon
1. Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:09:24 - PB
2. Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido) - 1:10:10 - debut
3. Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:10:45
4. Rina Yamazaki (Team Panasonic) - 1:10:45 - PB
5. Miho Ihara (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 1:11:02 - PB
6. Kotomi Takayama (Team Sysmex) - 1:11:07 - PB
7. Mao Kuroda (Team Wacoal) - 1:11:07 - PB
8. Yukari Abe (Team Shimamura) - 1:11:18 - PB
9. Shiho Takechi (Team Yamada Denki) - 1:11:33 - PB
10. Haruna Takada (Team Yamada Denki) - 1:11:46 - debut

Women's 10 km
1. Kasumi Nishihara (Team Yamada Denki) - 32:27 - CR
2. Yuika Mori (Team Yamada Denki) - 32:32 - PB
3. Megumi Hirai (Canon AC Kyushu) - 32:32 - PB
4. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 32:34
5. Risa Kikuchi (Team Hitachi) - 32:45 - PB
6. Akari Ota (Team Tenmaya) - 32:47 - PB
7. Yuki Nakamura (Team Miyazaki Ginko) - 33:08 - PB
8. Sayaka Murakami (Team Daihatsu) - 33:14 - PB
9. Yui Okada (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 33:16
10. Ai Migita (Team Wacoal) - 33:19 - PB

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photos (c) 2014 M. Kawaguchi
all rights reserved

American Tapia, Caught by Ome Cancellation, Says "I'll Never Forget This"

http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/news/20140215-OHT1T00233.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Due to heavy snowfall on Feb. 14, the organizers of the 48th Ome Road Race were unable to complete their preparations for the race and were forced to cancel it on Feb. 15.  Ome had previously been cancelled in 1996 and 2008, but this was the first time it was cancelled the day before the race.  With no substitute date on the schedule, the 49th running will take place next year on Feb. 15.  Invited elite athlete Daniel Tapia, 27, a member of the U.S.A. national team in the 2013 Moscow World Championships marathon, couldn't hide his surprise at how much snow fell.

Tapia was scheduled to run the 30 km at Ome.  In response to hearing that the news of the race's cancellation at around 9 a.m., he said, "And I came all the way to Japan to run...," his shoulders dropping in disappointment.  Tapia arrived in Japan on Feb. 13 and did a test run on the Ome course as snow fell on the 14th.  He ate his favorite Japanese food, tempura, two days in a row, simply enjoying his first taste of life in Japan as he got ready to run.  "I never would have expected something like this to happen the first time I came to Japan," he said with a rueful smile.  "I'll never forget what happened today."  In order to get his training in, on the 15th he went to a fitness club.

Tapia's goal in Ome had been to get some "revenge" on Japanese athletes.  An occasional snowboarder, Tapia watched the Sochi Olympics men's half pipe on TV.  Two Japanese athletes won medals, beating American star Shaun White, 27, in his quest for a third-straight Olympic gold medal.  "The two Japanese guys were great, but I was more surprised that White didn't win," he said.  "I understood how much fear is a part of sport." Their chosen sports may be different, but in the disappointment of his nation's hero Tapia found plenty of motivation for his run.

Asked about what Japanese people he knows about, Tapia immediately answered "Kawauchi."  While training, the aspiring lawyer Tapia studies 6-7 hours a day, but even he is amazed by civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi, 26 (Saitama Pref. Gov't).  "It's incredible that he can train while working in the government," he said.  "His schedule is crazy." Having finished 2:57 behind him at the Moscow World Championships, Tapia showed great curiosity about Kawauchi.

Tapia has plenty of experience training in snow in the U.S., but, he said, resigning himself to the race's cancellation, "It's pretty hard to run when this much piles up."  He is scheduled to go back home on the 18th, but even as he enjoys all his favorite Japanese food he will continue on with his training and studying.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ome Road Race Cancelled Due to Difficulty of Clearing Heavy Snow From Course

http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASG2H315SG2HUTIL017.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Ome 30 km and 10 km Road Race, scheduled for Feb. 16 in western Tokyo's Ome area, have announced that the race has been cancelled due to the difficulty of clearing the heavy snow accumulation from yesterday's record-setting snowstorm from the course.  According to organizers, a total of 20,000 people were entered in the 10 km and 30 km divisions.  This year was to be Ome's 48th edition.  It has been cancelled due to snow twice before in its history, in 1996 and in 2008.

Current conditions in Ome:

https://twitter.com/Ome_aruaru/status/434654631998676992/photo/1

https://twitter.com/0300314/status/434465604930531328/photo/1

https://twitter.com/ssymg/status/434482889120419840/photo/1

https://twitter.com/chitbmp123/status/434487823052185600/photo/1


Friday, February 14, 2014

National Corporate Half Marathon Championships, a National Record Shot, Kawauchi's 2014 Marathon Debut and More - Weekend Preview

by Brett Larner

Three races fill out a busy weekend across Japan.  The biggest is the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships, bumped from its regular home in mid-March by this year's World Half Marathon Championships and serving as the last selection race for the men's and women's teams in Copenhagen.  Corporate-league Kenyans Jacob Wanjuki (Team Aichi Seiko) and Daniel Gitau (Team Fujitsu) for the top group of some of Japan's best current half-marathoners, including sub-62 men Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei), Yuki Iwai (Team Asahi Kasei), Tomoya Onishi (Team Asahi Kasei).  For the last few years it has taken a run into the all-time Japanese top ten to be the first Japanese man across the line at the Corporate Championships, and with Komazawa University junior Kenta Murayama having run an all-time #3 1:00:50 to make the Copenhagen team two weeks ago in Marugame it's a good bet that the best of the corporate system will be looking to go one better.  Click here for a complete men's entry list.

For the fourth year the women's race is split between a 10 km and half marathon.  Leading the half are two sub-70 women, last year's 3rd-placer Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) and 2012 winner Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), but there is plenty of competition just behind.  Kenyan Grace Kimanzi (Team Starts) and up-and-coming women Sakiko Matsumi (Team Daiichi Seimei), Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu), Misaki Kato (Team Kyudenko), Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido) and Shiho Takechi (Team Yamada Denki) all have solid shots at both the win and the World Half team.  Takechi's teammate Kasumi Nishihara (Team Yamada Denki), the road 10 km collegiate national record holder, is the favorite to win the 10 km division.  Click here for women's half marathon and 10 km entry lists.

Speaking of collegiate national records, the Kumanichi 30 km Road Race hosts what should end up being the weekend's most exciting race.  Last year Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University's captain Keita Shitara set the 30 km collegiate record of 1:29:55 in a thrilling four-way battle won by Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) in 1:29:31.  This year nine of the best university runners are lining up at Kumanichi to try to better that.  Toyo's Yuma Hattori and Ryu Takaku go up against Komazawa University captain Shinobu Kubota and his 2013 National University Half Marathon champion teammate Shogo Nakamura, 2012 National University Half Marathon winner Toshikatsu Ebina (Teikyo Univ.), 2012 Hakone Ekiden winner Nittai University ace Takumi Honda and others, with another half dozen or so corporate league runners there as sparring partners.  Kawauchi will also be there but rather than defending his Kumanichi title has opted to open his 2014 marathon season in the event's accompanying amateur-level marathon where he will be looking to better the 2:19:30 course record set last year by fellow civil servant runner Shota Jige (Kumamoto Pref. Gov't).

West of Tokyo there's one other elite-level 30 km race on the schedule, one of Japan's most popular road races, the Ome 30 km and 10 km Road Race.  With heavy snow currently falling in Tokyo and scheduled to last into Saturday it's a question mark whether Ome will go off, but if so it will see the 30 km debut of 5000 m collegiate record holder Kensuke Takezawa (Team Sumitomo Denko), finally taking long-awaited steps toward a marathon debut.  The Fujitsu and Konica Minolta corporate teams are again sending several of their top young members to run Ome in pursuit of the invitation to run April's Boston Marathon available to the Ome winner, with Komazawa University graduate Hiromitsu Kakuage and teammate Takuya Noguchi (both Team Konica Minolta) looking like the favorites to challenge Takezawa.  Independent Eri Okubo (Miki House) leads the small women's 30 km division.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Kipruto, Worku, Gitau and Kawauchi Headline Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon

http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2014021300784
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/news/20140213-OYT1T01083.htm
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/02/13/kiji/K20140213007581080.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/p-sp-tp0-20140214-1257340.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Feb. 13 the organizers of the Mar. 2 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon announced the sixteen invited elites for this year's 69th running.  Defending champion Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) returns, with his toughest overseas competition coming from 2:05:25 man Bazu Worku (Ethiopia) and 2012 Fukuoka International Marathon winner Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel). 3rd at the most recent Fukuoka, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) leads the Japanese field along with his 2011 Daegu World Championships marathon teammate Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota).

Lake Biwa is a selection race for the Japanese national team for this fall's Asian Games marathon in South Korea.  Kawauchi's 2:09:05 for 3rd in Fukuoka already puts him in contention for the Asian Games team, but, said Federation Strengthening Committee director Katsumi Sakai, "We will evaluate him based on the first time, so this time will have no relation to his selection.  We expect him to target 2:06:30."  The only person who has ever broken that time at Lake Biwa was 2011 winner and future world record holder Wilson Kipsang (Kenya), but Sakai expressed his hope that Kawauchi and other young athletes would be motivated by the expectation, saying, "By telling them that expectations are high it will serve to give incentive to the Japanese men's marathoning world."

69th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Field Highlights
Otsu, Shiga, Mar. 2, 2014
click here for complete field listing

Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) - 2:05:13 (Rotterdam 2010)
Bazu Worku (Ethiopia) - 2:05:25 (Berlin 2010)
Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 2:06:58 (Fukuoka 2012)
Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:08:14 (Seoul 2013)
James Mwangi (Kenya) - 2:08:38 (Fukuoka 2011)
Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 2:09:03 (Tokyo 2011)
Hafid Chani (Morocco) - 2:09:11 (London 2013)
Essa Ismail Rashed (Qatar) - 2:09:22 (Amsterdam 2012)
Takeshi Kumamoto (Team Toyota) - 2:10:13 (Tokyo 2012)
Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda) - 2:10:29 (Chicago 2013)
Kazuki Ikenaga (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:10:44 (Lake Biwa 2008)
Satoshi Yoshii (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 2:10:45 (Lake Biwa 2011)
Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - 2:10:51 (Lake Biwa 2010)
Keita Akiba (Team Komori Corp.) - 2:10:53 (Beppu-Oita 2009)
Ryosuke Fukuyama (Team Honda) - 2:10:59 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Takaaki Koda (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:08 (Tokyo 2011)
Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:28 (Tokyo 2013)
Solonei Da Silva (Brazil) - 2:11:32 (Padova 2011)
Noritaka Fujiyama (Team Sumitomo Denko) - 2:11:34 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:31 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 2:12:37 (Tokyo Int'l 2001)
Tatsunari Hirayama (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:12:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
Wirimai Juwawo (Zimbabwe) - 2:12:38 (Danzhou 2010)
Yoshiki Otsuka (Team Aichi Seiko) - 2:12:51 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Masanori Ishida (Team SGH Group Sagawa) - 2:13:07 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Kohei Ogino (Team Fujitsu) - 2:13:12 (Hofu 2013)
Yoshihiro Yamamoto (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 2:13:22 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Raul Pacheco (Peru) - 2:13:37 (Chunchon 2010)
Takanori Ide (Team Kyudenko) - 2:13:41 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Shingo Igarashi (Team Subaru) - 2:13:46 (Nobeoka 2011)
Noriaki Takahashi (DeNA RC) - 2:14:13 (Gold Coast 2011)
Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:14:23 (Tokyo 2009)
Makoto Harada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:14:40 (Tokyo 2013)
Shigeki Tsuji (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:14:45 (Hokkaido 2013)
Shinji Suzuki (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:15:12 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Yasushi Yamamoto (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:15 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Atsushi Hasegawa (Team Subaru) - 2:15:25 (Paris 2013)
Osamu Ibata (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:15:41 (Tokyo 2011)

Trying to get it right
Tomohiro Tanigawa (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:16:57 (Boston 2013)
Muryo Takase (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:20:49 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Hideto Takamine (Team Fujitsu) - 2:21:26 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Rui Yonezawa (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:24:13 (Beppu-Oita 2013)

Debut
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Team Komori Corp.) - 1:01:45 (Marugame Half 2012)
Masamichi Shinozaki (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 1:01:58 (Marugame Half 2012)
Shuji Yoshikawa (Team Kyudenko) - 1:01:58 (Marugame Half 2012)
Kenta Inuma (Team SGH Group Sagawa) - 1:02:09 (Marugame Half 2012)
Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 1:02:30 (Marugame Half 2014)
Yuki Takamiya (Team Yakult) - 1:02:31 (Marugame Half 2013)
Taichi Takase (Team JFE Steel) - 1:02:32 (Marugame Half 2014)
Takuji Morimoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:02:38 (Corporate Half 2012)
Naohiro Yamada (Team YKK) - 1:02:40 (Marugame Half 2013)
Harry Summers (Australia) - 1:03:34 (Brisbane 2012)
Agato Yashin Hassan (Ethiopia/Team Chuo Hatsujo) - 27:46.35 (Hachioji Distance 2013)