Friday, October 31, 2014

Komazawa Shooting for Fourth-Straight Title at National University Ekiden - Preview (updated)

by Brett Larner

update: Alternates have been confirmed for the final start list.  As expected, Komazawa's Kenta Murayama will be on First Stage and Toyo's Yuma Hattori on Second (see below).

The weekend's biggest race next to the TCS New York City Marathon is Sunday's National University Men's Ekiden, an 8-stage, 106.8 race from Nagoya to Ise pitting the 14 best universities in the Kanto Region against the 12 best from the rest of the country in the second stop on the Big Three University Ekiden tour that leads to Japan's biggest sporting event, the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden.  With the first of the Big Three, October's Izumo Ekiden, having been cancelled this season thanks to a major typhoon and big performances at the Yosenkai 20 km Hakone qualifier, where the field set new world records for depth and Josai University senior Kota Murayama ran the fastest-ever time there by a Japanese athlete, 58:26, it's safe to say that the millions of college distance running fans across the nation are pumped for Sunday's live broadcast on TV Asahi.  Overseas fans will have to look for live coverage on @JRNLive starting at 8:00 a.m. Japan time on Nov. 2.

And they're going to get something good.  Komazawa University set the course record last year in winning its third-straight Nationals, its eleventh national title under head coach Hiroaki Oyagi.  This year Komazawa goes for one more to try to make it an undefeated record for its two star seniors, 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon team members Kenta Murayama and Shogo Nakamura.  On paper Komazawa is the heavy favorite, but there are cracks.  Nakamura has been injured, and Murayama, the identical twin of Josai's Kota, was sick late in the summer and has not raced yet this fall.  Nakamura is listed to run the 14.0 km Fourth Stage, where Murayama set the astounding stage record of 39:24 last year, while Murayama is currently listed as an alternate.  With both of them at full strength Komazawa will be almost untouchable.  If either or both are missing it will be a wild and unpredictable race.

Komazawa's toughest competitors in the last five years, 2014 Hakone Ekiden winner Toyo University and previous Nationals course record holder Waseda University, have both fallen in strength this year and would need Murayama or Nakamura missing to compete.  Waseda has good depth but lacks the star power it has had in people like Suguru Osako and Kensuke Takezawa in recent years, while Toyo is currently in the opposite situation of its overall strength dropping as its star brothers Yuma and Hazuma Hattori continue to get better and better.  Yuma Hattori has struggled since setting the 30 km national university record of 1:28:52 and like Komazawa's Murayama is listed as an alternate.  Toyo's chances depend largely on what happens to him.

Meiji University is solid on paper but is missing its top man Genki Yagisawa and has often underperformed in the big ekidens, meaning that Komazawa's toughest competition is likely to come from Aoyama Gakuin University, steadily ascending from nothing over the last five years under head coach Susumu Hara toward being a legitimate contender for the win.  It has at least six men with sub-14 and sub-29 bests on the track, numbers only Komazawa can match, and has solid credentials over 20 km and the half marathon.  What's key is its depth of quality, its next tier of men far exceeding Komazawa's and giving it a modularity that always proves important in overcoming injuries to key team members.  If Komazawa is missing Murayama or Nakamura it will be a major blow, but if AGU leaves out its best runners like sophomore Tadashi Isshiki or junior Yusuke Ogura it has another half dozen who can fill their places without a major loss to its overall quality.

Surprise Yosenkai winner Kanagawa University is also at Nationals, but given the competition a top five placing would be a great day for it.  Yamanashi Gakuin University was the favorite for the Yosenkai win but placed only 4th, not running any of its large group of first-years recruited from 2013 National High School Ekiden champion Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.  YGU should be stronger than they looked at the Yosenkai, but whether they have pulled it together over the last two weeks remains to be seen.

Schools from outside the Kanto Region can rarely compete with Kanto's best, especially over longer distances like the 13.35 km average stage length at Nationals, but Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto Sangyo University and Chukyo University will be giving it a shot at taking down Kanto's bottom end.  The biggest feelgood story of this year's Nationals is the academically elite Kyoto University, sort of the Yale of Japan, qualifying for the first time in 42 years with exactly the sort of ragtag bunch of misfits you see in the typical underdog-makes-good sports movie: self-coached nonconformist star Kentaro Hirai, 2013 World Youth Championships racewalk gold medalist Toshikazu Yamanishi, grad students and more.  Hirai, who beat all but one of the Kanto stars for 2nd in the 10000 m at this year's National University Track and Field Championships, is a legitimate talent and should do big things on his stage, but even if the rest of Kyoto isn't good enough to do much at Nationals it's always nice to see a team with a story and personality make it to the big game.

Hirai is entered on the 14.6 km First Stage where most of the big names will run.  Coaches do use the alternate list to keep their cards close to their chest until the deadline for final changes, but based on the current entry list Hirai will face many of the runners already mentioned, including Yosenkai winner Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.), Hazuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) and Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.), along with the likes of 2013 Ageo City Half Marathon winner Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) and Kenyan John Kariuki (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.).

The 13.2 km Second Stage also has a solid lineup including 2014 Hakone Ekiden Second Stage winner Koki Takada (Waseda Unv.), sub-13:40 sophomore Keisuke Nakatani (Komazawa Univ.), and arguably the most talented runner at AGU, Kazuma Kubota.  2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon Championships teammates Shogo Nakamura (Komazawa Univ.) and Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin University) lead the 14.0 km Fourth Stage along with Waseda captain Shuhei Yamamoto.

Most of the rest of the big names are entered for the final and longest leg, the Eighth Stage which at 19.7 km is the only one to approach the 21.7 km average stage length at Hakone.  2014 National University 1500 m and 5000 m champion Enock Omwamba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin University), sub-58 for 20 km at last year's Yosenkai, leads the way for Masaya Taguchi (Toyo Univ.), Shuho Dairokuno (Meiji Univ.), Daichi Kamino (Aoyama Gakuin University) and more.

Sub-61 half marathoner Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) and 30 km national university record holder Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) are the biggest names on the alternate list and will have major impacts if they are put into play.  In Murayama's case the 14.6 km First Stage, where Komazawa has the relatively inexperienced Kenya Sonota entered, looks like the most obvious place.  Given that his twin brother Kota is entered on the First Stage for Josai that is something everybody would like to see.  Hattori is harder to read, with Toyo already having solid runners entered on First, Fourth and Eighth.  If he runs the 13.2 km Second Stage seems like the most likely place given the presence of Nakatani, Takada and Kubota on that stage.

2014 National University Men's Ekiden Championships Entry List
Nagoya-Ise, 11/2/14
click here for complete entry lists

1. Komazawa University (Tokyo)
2. Toyo University (Saitama)
3. Meiji Universiy (Tokyo)
4. Waseda University (Tokyo/Saitama)
5. Yamanashi Gakuin University (Yamanashi)
6. Aoyama Gakuin University (Tokyo)
7. Sapporo Gakuin University (Hokkaido)
8. Tohoku University (Iwate)
9. Nittai University (Kanagawa)
10. Kanagawa University (Kanagawa)
11. Juntendo University (Chiba)
12. Tokai University (Kanagawa)
13. Jobu University (Gunma)
14. Daito Bunka University (Saitama)
15. Josai University (Saitama)
16. Chuo Gakuin University (Chiba)
17. Shinshu University (Nagano)
18. Chukyo University (Aichi)
19. Ritsumeikan University (Kyoto)
20. Kwansei Gakuin University (Hyogo)
21. Kyoto Sangyo University (Kyoto)
22. Osaka Keizai University (Osaka)
23. Kyoto University (Kyoto)
24. Hiroshima Keizai University (Hiroshima)
25. Daiichi Kogyo University (Kagoshima)
26. Tokai Region University Select Team (Tokai)

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Twelve Universities Confirmed for Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden

http://www.fuji-news.net/data/report/sports/201410/0000003415.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Oct. 27 twelve of the twenty university teams to compete in the Dec. 23 Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden national invitational were announced.  The top twelve placing teams at last weekend's National University Women's Ekiden in Sendai received invitations to race the Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden:
  1. Ritsumeikan University
  2. Daito Bunka University
  3. Osaka Gakuin University
  4. Matsuyama University
  5. Kanoya Taiiku University
  6. Kyoto Sangyo University
  7. Meijo University
  8. Fukuoka University
  9. Tokyo Nogyo University
  10. Saitama University
  11. Hakuoh University
  12. Bukkyo University
Six of the remaining spots will go to other schools with the fastest average official 5000 m times and will be determined by Dec. 1.  On Dec. 5 two select teams will also be announced, one from East Japan featuring members of other universities from the Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto and Hoku-Shinetsu regions and one from West Japan featuring members of schools in the Tokai, Kansai, Chugoku-Shikoku and Kyushu regions.  According to the city sports department, the final list of schools and entered athletes will be published shortly before the race and will be available in newspapers and fliers in the towns of Fuji and Fujinomiya.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Makau, Mathathi, Gitau and Nakamoto Headline Fukuoka International Marathon

by Brett Larner

For its first running following the launch of the new mass-participation Fukuoka Marathon on Nov. 9, the hallowed Fukuoka International Marathon has pulled in former world record holder Patrick Makau (Kenya) to make a go at a comeback against 2013 winner Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and surprise 2012 winner Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) in its 68th edition on Dec. 7.  Until this summer Makau hadn't run at quality over any distance since 2012, but a sub-28 road 10k in the U.S.A. in August suggests he has been getting back toward full fitness, something he'll need to bring to compete against Mathathi and Gitau.  2:06:24 Ethiopian Raji Assefa is a potential darkhorse, #2 on paper but without a good marathon to his name since running his PB in 2012.

Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki), 6th in the London Olympics and 5th in the Moscow World Championships, leads the domestic hopes alongside 2:08 Moscow teammate Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda), track and half marathon star Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) making his domestic debut after running 2:13 and 2:12 overseas earlier this year, and former 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) and college indy Hideyuki Ikegami (Kyoto Kyoiku Univ.) in their marathon debuts.

A solid overseas second pack is also in place to boost Japanese chances.  The aging internationals include 2005 Fukuoka winner Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine), perpetual pacemaker Isaac Macharia (Kenya) and national record holders Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) and Henryk Szost (Poland).  Fresher blood includes Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/Team NTN), Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe), Jeffrey Eggleston (U.S.A,), Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Team Monteroza).

Fukuoka is one of the four races used to set up the three-person team for the 2015 Beijing World Championships, with Federation bigwigs calling for Japan's corporate runners to step up and run sub-2:06:30 to get there.  Considering that only one Japanese man has ever done that it seems like they might as well call for a 2:05 or 2:04, but the sub-2:08 standard for the Moscow World Championships team was at least partially responsible for all five team members clearing 2:09 and the fastest getting down to 2:08:00 and Fukuoka has seen a sub-2:07 by a Japanese man in older times, so who knows?  With a decent pack of overseas competition staging things at mid-2:06 pace maybe fans will be treated to something special.

68th Fukuoka International Marathon
Elite Field and Open Division Highlights
Fukuoka, Dec. 7, 2014

Patrick Makau (Kenya) - 2:03:38 (Berlin 2011)
Raji Assefa (Ethiopia) - 2:06:24 (Paris 2012)
Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) - 2:06:58 (Fukuoka 2012)
Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine) - 2:07:15 (Fukuoka 2006)
Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:07:16 (Fukuoka 2013)
Isaac Macharia (Kenya) - 2:07:16 (Dubai 2008)
Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) - 2:07:27 (Chuncheon 2011)
Henryk Szost (Poland) - 2:07:39 (Lake Biwa 2012)
Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda) - 2:08:12 (Lake Biwa 2003)
Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 2:08:35 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/Team NTN) - 2:09:00 (Hofu Yomiuri 2013)
Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 2:09:03 (Tokyo 2011)
Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe) - 2:09:52 (Prague 2014)
Tomoya Adachi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:10:22 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Chiharu Takada (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:39 (Fukuoka 2013)
Jeffrey Eggleston (U.S.A,) - 2:10:52 (Gold Coast 2014)
Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 2:11:02 (Tokyo 2013)
Takaaki Koda (Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:08 (Tokyo 2011)
Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:11:15 (Tokyo 2013)
Noriaki Takahashi (DeNA RC) - 2:12:04 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:12:18 (Sydney 2014)
Makoto Fukui (Team Fujitsu) - 2:13:57 (Muenster 2012)
Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Team Monteroza) - 1:01:06 (Marugame 2012)
Hideyuki Ikegami (Kyoto Kyoiku Univ.) - debut - 1:03:09 (Tanigawa Mari 2014)
Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) - debut - 28:01.71 for 10000 m (Kobe 2014)

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, October 27, 2014

Unstoppable Ritsumeikan University Wins Fourth-Straight National University Women's Ekiden Title - Weekend Road Review

by Brett Larner

With ekiden season in full swing it was the busiest weekend so far this fall as high schools across Japan competed in regional qualifiers for December's National High School Ekiden.  At the university level, the dynastic Ritsumeikan University women led start to finish to win their fourth-straight National University Women's Ekiden, bringing the school's total record to nine national titles.  With the last team to have beaten them, crosstown Kyoto rival Bukkyo University, having faded away following the departure of head coach Kenichi Morikawa for the Yamada Denki corporate women's team and Kanto Region rivals Tsukuba University likewise a ghost of their former selves with the decline of twin stars Haruka and Moe Kyuma, it fell to last year's runner-up Daito Bunka University to give Ritsumeikan a go for the title.

DBU's leading runner Rina Koeda was only a second behind Ritsumeikan's Natsuki Omori to get things off to a promising start, but on the 5.6 km Second Stage the combination of a new stage record of 17:29 from Ritsumeikan's Kotona Ota and a breakdown by DBU's Eri Tayama put DBU over a minute behind, a margin it spend the rest of the race trying to close.  Osaka Gakuin University got into the mix with a Fifth Stage record of 29:40 for 9.2 km by Saori Noda to get into 2nd, but DBU anchor Chikako Mori ran another stage record 17:06 for 5.2 km to retake 2nd and come within 21 seconds of Ritsumeikan's Ayaka Kikuchi.  Despite the big performance Mori couldn't carry the race entirely by herself as Ritsumeikan won in 2:04:36 to DBU's 2:04:57, Osaka Gakuin just 3 second back in 2:05:00 for 3rd.  Although Kanto is the dominant region in university men's distance running thanks to the legendary Hakone Ekiden, DBU was the only Kanto region women's program to make the top 8 and get seeded for 2015.

At the corporate level, West Japan's regional qualifier for December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden was also packed with new records.  Team Kyudenko led the entire way, Yuka Miyazaki leading off strongly just 2 seconds from the First Stage record and 2014 World Half Marathon bronze medalist Sally Chepyego taking 4 seconds off the record for the 3.5 km Second Stage in 10:26 to put Kyudenko into a relatively safe position against its toughest rival, Team Daihatsu led by Asian Games marathon silver medalist Ryoko Kizaki.  Daihatsu fought back with a Third Stage win by star rookie Sairi Maeda and a new record of 20:27 for the 6.495 km anchor stage by Kizaki, but Kyudenko was too far ahead and took the win in 2:17:08, a new record for the six-stage, 42.195 km course.  The entire field of twelve teams cleared the 2:23:00 qualifying time for Nationals, last-place Team Juhachi Ginko cutting it close in 2:22:29.

Marathons were also on the menu, with the Osaka Marathon approaching the Tokyo Marathon in scale with over 28,000 finishers.  Last year's men's winner Jackson Limo (Kenya) became the first man in Osaka's short history to repeat as he set a new course record of 2:11:43.  2008 World Half Marathon 5th-placer Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) outran independent Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business) for 2nd in a PB 2:14:02, Matsumoto also just clearing 2:15. Maryna Damantsevich (Belarus) won the women's race in 2:33:04 over Japanese amateur Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall), a distant 2nd in 2:39:33.

The fastest Japanese men's marathon of the weekend came at the Frankfurt Marathon where 2013 Hokkaido Marathon winner Koji Gokaya (Team JR Higashi Nihon) got under 2:12 for the first time, running 2:11:43 for 12th to beat favorite Vincent Kipruto by 26 seconds.  Gokaya previously showed aptitude for racing overseas with a 2:12:15 for 7th at the 2011 Chicago Marathon, and a promising performance in one of the deepest marathons so far this year is reason for optimism in a season that has seen mostly amateuristic international performances from Japan's best corporate men.

text (c) 2014 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
photo (c) 2014 Dr. Helmut Winter, all rights reserved

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Plans Announced to Move Yokohama International Women's Marathon to Saitama With Mass-Participation Race

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20141024-OHT1T50300.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Oct. 24 it was announced that plans are in their final stages for a successor event to the Yokohama International Women's Marathon, facing its final running on Nov. 16, to be held in Saitama beginning next year.  The new event is planned as a joint operation between the Saitama metropolitan and Saitama prefectural governments with a course beginning and ending at Saitama Super Arena.  With a cherished history as a selection race for Olympic and World Championships teams, the women's marathon will be born again in Saitama.

According to a Saitama metropolitan government official, the new event's first running is planned for mid-November, 2015.  The proposal for the race to begin and end at Saitama Super Arena is the current favorite, with the course passing Saitama Stadium, the Saitama Prefectural Government offices and Saitama City Hall.  The JAAF has also weighed in, saying, "We would like to see a course conducive to fast times."  The 2015 running will be restricted to elite athletes as usual, but with its second running in 2016 it will switch formats to include a mass-participation race.  Full details will be announced next month.

The JAAF had previously announced on Oct. 23 that the Yokohama International Women's Marathon would be cancelled due to financial problems following its sixth running on Nov. 16.  Established in 1979 in its previous incarnation as the Tokyo International Women's Marathon, it was the world's first IAAF-certified women's only marathon and came to serve as a selection race for Olympic and World Championships teams.  However, with the launch of the Tokyo Marathon in 2007 it experienced problems with the Tokyo police and was reincarnated Yokohama following its 30th running in 2008.

The JAAF approached the Saitama Prefectural Government in April this year.  A joint operation by the Saitama metropolitan and prefectural governments would allow costs to be split between the two, and discussions are underway with the Saitama Police Department with regard to road closures and providing security.  Saitama city was already looking at expanding the Saitama City Half Marathon held every February or March to a full marathon format, but both the city and prefectural governments have long hoped to work under JAAF leadership in organizing a major marathon event.  That dream looks set to come true by taking the reins of an international women's marathon with 36 years of history in two of the country's biggest metropolises.

Translator's note: The Saitama Police Department is very strict with regard to road closure permits and was largely responsible for the demise of the 1990s-era Saitama Marathon along with other races in the prefecture after it began stopping runners on the course to let cars pass.  In that regard the move to Saitama could spell trouble for another long-standing mixed elite and mass-participation event, the Ageo City Half Marathon, traditionally held the same day as Yokohama/Tokyo International in the town of Ageo, Saitama neighboring the Saitama metropolitan area.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yokohama International Women's Marathon to be Discontinued After November's Sixth Running

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20141022/ath14102221220003-n1.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Oct. 22 the organizers of the Nov. 16 Yokohama International Women's Marathon revealed that the event, jointly operated by the JAAF and the Asahi Newspaper group, will be discontinued after this year's sixth running due to ongoing financial difficulties with the race.  As a continuation of the former Tokyo International Women's Marathon it played an important role in establishing the prosperity of Japanese women's distance running over its 36-year history, a history on which the curtain is now set to fall after this year's race.

Established in 1979 to encourage the participation and development of female athletes, the Tokyo International Women's Marathon was the first women-only marathon in the world to be officially certified by the IAAF and led directly to the introduction of a women's marathon to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.  It laid the foundations for Japanese women to win marathon medals at four straight Olympics from Barcelona in 1992 through Athens in 2004.  In 2009 the event was relocated from Tokyo to Yokohama.

In recent years the JAAF has changed its direction, focusing on supporting the launch of new marathons in cities across the country.  As mass-participation marathons like the Tokyo Marathon continue to gain popularity they have sought to continue to support elite women-only races, but the weakening performances of Japanese women in recent years has led to declining interest from sponsors.

Translator's note: Sad but unsurprising news.  The Yokohama International Women's Marathon's move from Tokyo to Yokohama was a direct result of the expansion of the Tokyo Marathon from an elite men's race to a mass-participation format and was due in large part to issues with obtaining road closure permits from the Tokyo police.  The move to Yokohama itself killed off the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden, another long-standing event, in favor of the marathon.  

This article does not mention that Yokohama will also begin to host a mass-participation marathon, the Yokohama Marathon, in March 2015, but that is surely also related to the discontinuation of Yokohama International.  With Fukuoka launching a mass-participation marathon next month there have to be concerns about the future of the Asahi Newspaper-organized Fukuoka International Marathon, an historic elite men's race just four weeks later which has struggled in recent years to attract top Japanese men due to the increasing importance of the New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships and has already examined moving from its traditional date at the beginning of December to February.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Comparing the Incomparable: The Wisconsin adidas Invitational Cross-Country Meet and the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km Road Race

by Brett Larner
videos by sk002000 and naoki620



The world's two leading university men's distance running systems each held some of their fall seasons' major events this weekend.  In the U.S.A.'s NCAA, 36 university teams lined up at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational 8 km cross-country meet, with other top teams competing at the Pre-Nats meet later in the weekend.  In Japan's KGRR, the 11th through 58th ranked university teams in the Kanto Region were at the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km road race, with the top 10 teams in the region scattered elsewhere on the track and road.



It's not really fair to compare cross-country to road racing and even less so to compare 8 km to 20 km, but how do the results from Wisconsin and the Yosenkai look in relation to each other despite the inequalities?  Click to enlarge the tables below to find out.


In NCAA cross-country, teams run 7 men with the top 5 placers scoring. Team scores are based on placing instead of time, creating some irregularities where teams with a faster average finishing time can place lower than slower teams.  Winner Syracuse's 5 scorers averaged 3:00.6/km for the 8 km course, with 7th-place UCLA averaging 3:02.3/km and 10th-place Florida State averaging 3:02.9/km.

Teams at the Yosenkai run from 10 to 12 men with their top 10 scoring.  Team scores are determined by total time of all 10 men, meaning the finish order mirrors how fast they actually ran.  Winner Kanagawa's top 10 averaged 3:02.2/km for the 20 km course, 5th-place Chuo Gakuin averaging 3:02.8/km and 10th-place Soka averaging 3:04.2/km.

In other words, although NCAA teams were at a relative disadvantage in running on a cross-country course, the average pace of Kanagawa's top 10 men over 20 km was faster than UCLA's top 5 men over 8 km, while the top 5 schools at the Yosenkai all averaged faster than 10th-place Florida State with teams twice as big running 2.5 times as far.  Reducing the variables by one and looking at just the top 5 scorers on the Yosenkai teams and reordering both races' results by average pace produces a better, if still not perfect, comparison.


Yamanashi Gakuin's 5 fastest men averaged nearly a second per km faster than Wisconsin Invitational winner Syracuse's 5 scorers.  The second-fastest Yosenkai team, Koku Gakuin, was also faster than Wisconsin Invitational runner-up Iona, and likewise all the way down the top 10 each of the KGRR teams' top 5 scorers averaged faster over 20 km on the roads than the equivalent NCAA team's 5 scorers did over 8 km cross-country.


At the individual level, 124 men in the Wisconsin Invitational averaged 3:05/km or better for the 8 km cross-country course, while at the Yosenkai 138 men did the same for 20 km on the roads. The top 3 finishers in Wisconsin averaged 2:57/km, 2:58/km and 2:58/km for 8 km, while the top 3 at the Yosenkai averaged 2:55/km, 2:55/km and 2:57/km for 20 km.  While only the top 3 in Wisconsin ran under 2:59/km, all of the top 10 at the Yosenkai were 2:58/km or better.  40 Wisconsin finishers ran 3:01/km or better to only 37 at the Yosenkai, but by 3:02/km Yosenkai numbers were again greater.  While more schools did run the Yosenkai the lower end of the field there performed at a lower level than the bottom schools in Wisconsin, and the number of teams represented in the totals above was similar.

The main objection here is bound to be that cross-country is far tougher than road racing.  The Wisconsin 8 km course features at least 10 sharp turns and a series of hills with a maximum elevation difference of roughly 30 m and a net climb of around 5 m, all run on soft surfaces.  The Yosenkai 20 km road course does feature a large proportion of flat and straight sections but also includes at least 19 sharp turns and 2 more 180-degree turns, with small hills over the final 5 km and a net climb of around 10 m.  The Wisconsin course was no doubt harder, but the key question is whether the difficulty of the course was enough of an issue to offset the fact that Yosenkai competitors had to run 2.5x farther than their U.S. counterparts.

This doesn't seem likely as a sole explanation for the consistent pattern of slower performances at Wisconsin seen in the second table above, especially considering the unseasonably hot and sunny conditions at this year's Yosenkai.  To put it differently, if the Yosenkai teams were to run 8 km cross-country in a week or two, could they perform similarly to how they did over 20 km on the roads?  That seems reasonable.  If the Wisconsin Invitational teams ran 20 km on the roads in a week or two, could they replicate their performances over the much longer distance?  That seems much less achievable.  Taken together with the fastest-ever winning time by a Japanese man at this year's Yosenkai and its world record-setting depth both this year and last, overall the results seem to point to increasing success in long-distance development in the KGRR relative to the NCAA where, as Race Results Weekly's David Monti documented last year, considerable success has come in middle distances.

The question of whether what's happening in the KGRR is too much too young is a good one that will see its definitive answer 6 years from now in Tokyo.  In the meantime, the question could be better put this way: if you are a high schooler looking at colleges and dreaming of being internationally competitive as a miler, which system is more likely to get you there?  If your dream is to be internationally competitive as a marathoner which system will give you a better chance?

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ngandu Repeats at Takashimadaira 20 km

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/f-sp-tp0-20141019-1384249.html

translated by Brett Larner

1229 people ran in the 39th edition of the Takashimadaira Nikkan Sports Road Race Oct. 19 on a 5 km loop course in Takashimadaira, Tokyo.  In the men's open division, last year's winner Benjamin Ngandu (23, Team Monteroza) ran solo from the first lap to defend his title in 1:00:01.  His next race is the Dec. 7 Fukuoka Marathon, where he made an unsuccessful debut last year.  "This year I want to break 2:10," he said with conviction.

39th Takashimadaira Nikkan Sports Road Race
Takashimadaira, Tokyo, 10/19/14

Men's 20 km
1. Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Team Monteroza) - 1:00:01
2. Shohei Hayakawa (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:00:14
3. Yuta Takahashi (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:00:21
4. Yusei Tsutsumi (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:00:22
5. Takayuki Tsuchiya (Tokai Univ.) - 1:00:29
6. Hiroki Takemoto (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:00:30
7. Kenta Ando (Tokai Univ.) - 1:00:38
8. Kodai Matsushita (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:00:49
9. Nanami Arai (Tokai Univ.) - 1:00:53
10. Hidetoshi Yamashita (Tokai Univ.) - 1:01:05

Women's 20 km
1. Eri Okubo (Miki House) - 1:13:18

Men's 10 km
1. Kinya Hashira (Tokyo Police Dep't) - 29:44
2. Tatsunori Sato (Tokyo Police Dep't) - 29:47
3. Yuji Sezaki (Tokyo Police Dep't) - 29:48
4. Sho Tsuisawa (Tokyo Police Dep't) - 29:49
5. Masatomi Tsutsui (Tokyo Police Dep't) - 29:53

Women's 10 km
1. Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) - 35:39

Men's 5 km
1. Yuto Hashimoto (Daito Bunka Univ. Alumni Club) - 15:05

Women's 5 km
1. Miyuki Hara (Kinjo Gakuen H.S.) - 17:06

Feeling Free Despite Hate Mail Burying Him at Work, Kawauchi Wins Chiba Aqualine Half

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20141019-00000091-spnannex-spo

translated by Brett Larner

Enough with the hate mail.  Marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (27, Saitama Pref. Gov't) returned to the Chiba Aqualine Marathon, where he is the course record holder, to run its half marathon on Oct. 19, winning in 1:04:22 and beating 2nd place by more than 5 minutes.  "I had fun today!  I was grinning the whole time I was running," he said with a smile.  "I held my pace steadily and even picked it up at the end."

His shot for a gold medal in the Asian Games marathon ending in bronze, Kawauchi has excused himself from running any of the domestic selection races for the Japanese team for next summer's World Championships marathon in Beijing, China.  Taking himself out of contention for the national team for the time being has lightened Kawauchi's load and left him feeling free.  "Up to now I've always had to worry about my time and place when I ran," he said with honesty.  "Now's it's like, 'Enough of that!  It's got nothing to do with me!'"

After the Asian Games Kawauchi received hate mail at work addressed to the "civil shithead" and saying things like, "Never run the marathon again!"  Nobody has felt the responsibility of wearing the Rising Sun more than Kawauchi, but this time was different.  "I've removed myself from national team contention, so I don't deserve to be told things like that," he said.  "Until I'm good enough to be selected [for the national team] why don't you say them to the people who are on the Japanese national team instead?"  It was clear that the pleasant sea breeze wasn't enough to cool down the heat boiling up inside the civil servant runner.  He next races at the Nov. 2 New York City Marathon.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fearless Murayama Front-Runs to Fastest-Ever Japanese Win at Yosenkai 20 km (updated)

by Brett Larner
videos by naoki620

After hammering each other to rare Japanese collegiate sub-3:40 PBs to go 1-2 in last month's National University Track & Field Championships 1500 m, defending Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km winner Enock Omwamba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) and last year's top Japanese finisher Kota Murayama (Josai University) were back at it to turn this year's race into a two-man show.



The qualifying race for the second tier of schools trying to make it into the Hakone Ekiden, Japan's most prestigious race, the Yosenkai is the world's biggest and most competitive 20 km.  Kenyan Omwamba won last year in 57:57, with Murayama 4th overall in 59:17.  This time Omwamba took things out fast enough, leading a front group including Hironori Tsuetaki (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) and first-year Kenyans Stanley Siteki (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) and Lazarus Motanya (Obirin Univ.) through a 2:50 km as Murayama sat a stride or two back at the front of the 2nd pack.

Just before 5 km Murayama took off, crossing the timing line 1st in 14:30 with Omwamba just behind and opening a steadily growing gap over the others.  Just before 6 km Omwamba briefly caught up and Murayama gestured for him to run next to him.  Omwamba shook his head, both laughed, and when Murayama surged again it was all but over.  Murayama, this year's Kanto Region 10000 m champion, 5th behind four African pros in a PB 13:34.57 late last month in the Incheon Asian Games 5000 m and the twin brother of #1-ranked Japanese collegiate Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.), covered the next 5 km in 14:15, one hour-flat marathon pace, to hit 10 km in 28:45 just off his 28:42.09 track best.



Considering what was at stake, not just his own failure but his entire team's chances of qualifying for the legendary Hakone Ekiden, it was an incredibly risky move.  As temperatures continued to climb under cloudless skies he slowed but still pulled away from Omwamba, hitting 15 km on sub-58 pace in 43:26 with Omwamba 17 seconds back and the rest of the field almost another minute further behind.  A 57-minute time slipped away in the final 5 km, but Murayama was free and clear as he crossed the finish line in 58:26, the fastest time ever by a Japanese man at the Yosenkai by 14 seconds and the first Japanese win in five years.  A PB by nearly a minute, equivalent to a 1:01:38 half marathon.

And what was most notable was the way Murayama did, taking a huge risk in a critically important race, fearlessly attacking the best Kenyan on the college circuit and having the faith in himself to go it alone with none of the usual sit-behind-whatever-foreigner-is-in-the-race-and-try-to-hang-on Japanese mentality, the polar opposite of the kind of running seen from Japan's top pros around the world this fall in Berlin, Chicago, the Great North Run, Philadelphia and elsewhere.  And his twin Kenta is the same way.  Let's hope they don't have it crushed out of them when they head to the Asahi Kasei corporate team after graduating next spring.

Omwamba, solid this season after recovering from the stress fracture that knocked both him and Yamanashi Gakuin out of this year's Hakone, closed on Murayama but was too far back to catch him, disappointed at taking 2nd in 58:34.  The next seven men worked together throughout the race, Masaya Kakihara (Kanagawa Univ.) getting away late in the race to take 3rd in 59:17.  Newcomer Siteki was 7th in 59:28, while Motanya, this year's Kanto Region D2 1500 m champion, faded to 58th in 1:00:57 in his debut over this kind of distance.



Mid-pack the field set new world records for depth, surpassing even last year's world record-setting race.  But more than the individual results the Yosenkai is about the team race, the ten teams that fight for their right to Hakone.  All throughout the race, at each checkpoint, team scores determined by the cumulative time of each school's best ten finishers were close, and in the final tally four schools finished within 46 seconds of each other on total time, less than 5 seconds per runner.  Ranked right on the cusp of picking up the tenth and final Hakone qualifying spot pre-race, Kanagawa University pulled off a shocker as it won the team race in 10:07:11 with a superb all-around team performance.  Pre-race darkhorse Koku Gakuin University also pulled off the hoped-for team performance to take 2nd in 10:07:18, while pre-race favorites Tokai University and Yamanashi Gakuin University went 3-4 in 10:07:31 and 10:07:57.

The post-race team score announcement ceremony in front of a crowd of tens of thousands and a live TV audience in the millions is the most dramatic part of the Yosenkai, and nothing is more dramatic about it than the announcement of the last of the ten qualifying spots for Hakone.  The tension built after the announcement of the top four led on to the next five, Chuo Gakuin University, the always-Yosenkai-ready Jobu University, Chuo University making a return after breaking a 67-year streak of Hakone appearances last year, Juntendo University and Murayama's Josai University.

With one place to go last year's Yosenkai winner Tokyo Nogyo University and 2014 Hakone qualifiers Hosei University and Kokushikan University were still waiting with hearts in throats, but after an extended pause all got a shock as the minor Soka University, a pre-race longshot led by 6th-place finisher Shuhei Yamaguchi, took 10th to qualify for Hakone for the first time in its history.  Defending Yosenkai champ Tokyo Nogyo University was only 49 seconds back in 11th.  5 seconds faster per runner over the 20 km Yosenkai course and they would have been back in Hakone.  It was exactly the kind of surprise that makes the Yosenkai what it is, and the new blood can only add to the Hakone story in its 91st running on Jan. 2-3.



91st Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km Road Race
Showa Kinen Park, Tachikawa, Tokyo, 10/18/14

Top Individual Results
click here for complete individual results
1. Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.) - 58:26
2. Enock Omwamba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 58:34
3. Masaya Kakihara (Kanagawa Univ.) - 59:17
4. Mitsunori Asaoka (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 59:22
5. Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 59:25
6. Shuhei Yamaguchi (Soka Univ.) - 59:25
7. Stanley Siteki (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 59:28
8. Gen Hachisuka (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 59:29
9. Ryo Shirayoshi (Tokai Univ.) - 59:34
10. Satoshi Okimori (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 59:37
-----
25. Takaya Sato (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:00:31
50. Kotaro Kashiwabe (Kanagawa Univ.) - 1:00:49
58. Lazarus Motanya (Obirin Univ.) - 1:00:57
100. Masatoshi Sakata (Hosei Univ.) - 1:01:26
150. Yuki Tagomori (Kanto Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:11
200. Toru Tajima (Heisei Kokusai Univ.) - 1:03:12

Top Team Results - top ten qualify for 2015 Hakone Ekiden
click here for complete team results
1. Kanagawa University - 10:07:11
2. Koku Gakuin University - 10:07:18
3. Tokai University - 10:07:31
4. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 10:07:57
5. Chuo Gakuin University - 10:09:17
6. Jobu University - 10:10:20
7. Chuo University - 10:11:37
8. Juntendo University - 10:11:55
9. Josai University - 10:12:09
10. Soka University - 10:14:03
-----
11. Tokyo Nogyo University - 10:14:52
12. Hosei University - 10:16:53
13. Tokyo Kokusai University - 10:18:24
14. Heisei Kokusai University - 10:22:19
15. Kokushikan University - 10:25:28

2015 Hakone Ekiden Field
Tokyo-Hakone-Tokyo, Jan. 2-3, 2015

Toyo University
Komazawa University
Nittai University
Waseda University
Aoyama Gakuin University
Meiji University
Nihon University
Teikyo University
Takushoku University
Daito Bunka University
Kanagawa University
Koku Gakuin University
Tokai University
Yamanashi Gakuin University
Chuo Gakuin University
Jobu University
Chuo University
Juntendo University
Josai University
Soka University

text and photos (c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, October 17, 2014

'On the Run ... With Brett Larner'

http://rendezvoo.blogspot.ca/2014/10/on-run-with-brett-larner.html

University Ekiden Season Round Two At the World's #1 20 km - Yosenkai Preview

by Brett Larner



The Japanese university ekiden season, the highlight of the year for distance fans, peaks with the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, Japan's biggest and best race.  Hakone determines everything for the following year, with the top 10 of its 20 teams guaranteed a place on the starting lines of both the next Hakone and the season-starting Izumo Ekiden.  For the bottom 10 it means their season gets going a week at the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai, a 20 km qualifying road race in and around Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park where they must face off against 40 to 50 other university teams joining the ranks of the Hakone-bound and where school cheerleaders and marching bands and tens of thousands of fans bearing school color flags assemble before a live TV broadcast to create one of the greatest race atmospheres in the sport.

With the first-ever cancellation of the Izumo Ekiden last weekend after a typhoon swept through race day, the millions of ekiden fans across the country are eager for the Yosenkai to give them what they've been waiting for.  Thanks to simplified rules this year the Yosenkai's format is straightforward: 48 teams run at least 10 and no more than 12 men in a single-start 20 km road race.  The times of each school's first 10 finishers are added, and the schools with the 10 fastest aggregate times qualify for Hakone.  Given what's at stake it all adds up to the world's deepest and one of its fastest 20 km races.

Yamanashi Gakuin University, 2nd last year, was knocked back to the Yosenkai after Kenyan ringer Enock Omwamba DNF'd on the Second Stage at Hakone this year with a stress fracture and eliminated the entire team.  Omwamba is back to full strength, and with sub-62 minute half marathoner Hiroto Inoue and a major influx of over half of Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.'s 2013 National High School Ekiden champion team they are looking very tough to beat, featuring 3 men with sub-63 minute half marathon bests and 7 sub-65 with 12 of its 14 entrants having sub-30 bests for 10000 m.

Last year's 3rd-placer Tokai University looks like the only school really able to mount a challenge for the team win, with all 14 of its entrants holding sub-30 10000 m times, six with sub-65 half marathons and 2 sub-63.  A darkhorse is Koku Gakuin University, only 5th last year and light on top-level talent but rock-solid in depth with 13 sub-30 men, 7 of them also sub-65.

6 schools make up the next tier, almost all with 8 men sub-30 and 4 to 7 sub-65 half marathoners.  Led by last year's top Japanese finishers, Kanto Region 10000 m champion Kota Murayama, Josai University leads this group along with Chuo Gakuin UniversityHosei University is missing its star runner Kazuto Nishiike, mostly injured since his 2nd-place finish at last November's Ageo City Half Marathon, but is solid on depth and could challenge both Josai and CGU.  Juntendo University, Chuo University and last year's team title winner Tokyo Nogyo University fill out the bottom of the second group, both Chuo and TNU seriously relying on depth to get them where they want to go.

The one-by-one announcement of the team results is always tense and dramatic, never more than when it comes down to the final slot.  4 schools have chances of making the grade, Hakone regular Jobu University leading the way.  Kanagawa University stands at only 11th on paper, but with a similar ranking last year they finished 4th and can't be counted out.  Sometime qualifier Kokushikan University is also in the mix, while Soka University, led by sub-29 man Shuhei Yamaguchi, looks to bring some new blood with its first-ever Hakone qualification.  Distant outliers who might break into the top 10 with a miracle day include Senshu University, Asia University, and the brand-new Tokyo Kokusai University.

57-minute winning times at the Yosenkai have become commonplace, and last year's winner Omwamba returns the favorite to do it again after running both 1500 m and 10000 m bests this fall.  Murayama and Inoue, last year's top Japanese pair at 4th and 5th overall, are probably the only ones who could take him on, Murayama just a step behind when Omwamba ran his 3:39.01 and Inoue saying he thinks he can take it.  Wildcards in their debuts over this kind of distance are Kenyan first-years Stanley Shiteki of Tokyo Kokusai University and Lazarus Motanya of the Stephen Mayaka-coached Obirin University.

The Yosenkai will be broadcast live on Nihon TV starting at 9:25 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 18.  JRN will be on-hand to cover the race.  If in Tokyo you are strongly encourage to go out to Showa Kinen Park and soak in the spectacle.  Click here for a course map and checkpoint times, and here for entry lists.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

London Olympic Gold Medalist Tiki Gelana Leads Yokohama International Women's Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The 6th running of the Yokohama International Women's Marathon brings in a good field headed by formerly Japan-based London Olympic marathon gold medalist Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia), lending credibility to its struggle to remain relevant.  The equally formerly Japan-based Philes Ongori (Kenya) tops a trio of 2:23 women including Caroline Rotich (Kenya) and Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine) who should give Gelana a swing of it, with Marisa Barros (Portugal), 2014 Nagano Marathon winner Alina Prokopeva (Russia), Irvette Van Zyl (South Africa) and, welcomed back to Yokohama again after her drug suspension, Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania), rounding out the international field in Yokohama's usual boutique style.

The Japanese field is thin, with only three or four contenders for the top ten.  Independent 2014 Hokkaido Marathon winner Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) is the top Japanese woman on paper, but the better bet to factor into the race is her former teammate Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), a two-time National Corporate Half Marathon winner coached by Tokyo World Championships marathon silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita and who made a decent debut in Nagoya this spring in 2:26:05.  Nanami Matsuura (Team Tenmaya), coached by Japan's main Olympian generator Yutaka Taketomi, had a weaker debut in Osaka in 2:33:24 but should stand to improve on that.  The most interesting domestic product is 19-year-old Reia Iwade (Team Noritz), following through on her plans to debut before turning 20 in December after making this year's World Half Marathon team off a sub-70 debut at last December's Sanyo Women's Half just after her 19th birthday.

The Yokohama International Women's Marathon will be broadcast live nationwide.  Check back closer to race date for more info on following the race live.

Yokohama International Women's Marathon Elite Field
Yokohama, Kanagawa, 11/16/14
click here for complete field listing

Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) - 2:18:58 (Rotterdam 2012)
Caroline Rotich (Kenya) - 2:23:22 (Chicago 2012)
Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine) - 2:23:32 (Berlin 2012)
Philes Ongori (Kenya) - 2:24:20 (Rotterdam 2011) / 2:23:22a (Boston 2014)
Azusa Nojiri (Japan/Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:24:57 (Osaka Int'l 2012)
Marisa Barros (Portugal) - 2:25:04 (Yokohama 2011)
Kiyoko Shimahara (Japan/SWAC) - 2:25:10 (Hokkaido 2009)
Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:25:15 (Tokyo Int'l 2005)
Tomomi Tanaka (Japan/Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:26:05 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Mayumi Fujita (Japan/Team Juhachi Ginko) - 2:29:02 (Yokohama Int'l 2012)
Alina Prokopeva (Russia) - 2:30:56 (Nagano 2014)
Irvette Van Zyl (South Africa) - 2:31:26
Nanami Matsuura (Japan/Team Tenmaya) - 2:33:24 (Osaka Int'l 2014)
Tomomi Higuchi (Japan/Team Daihatsu) - 2:33:48 (Daegu 2011)
Kumi Ogura (Japan/Kochi T&F Assoc.) - 2:34:01 (Nagoya Women's 2013)
Maki Inami (Japan/Wings AC) - 2:37:34 (Tokyo 2011)
Reia Iwade (Japan/Team Noritz) - debut - 1:09:45 (Sanyo Women's Half 2013)

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Izumo Ekiden Organizers Lose $1,000,000 in Typhoon Cancellation

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/society/news/2014/10/14/kiji/K20141014009096510.html
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/10/13/kiji/K20141013009095960.html
http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20141013-OHT1T50215.html?from

translated and edited by Brett Larner

After making landfall Oct. 13 in Makurazaki, Kagoshima and travelling across Kyushu, the massive Typhoon #19 again struck land in Sukumo, Kochi.  On the morning of the 14th its status was downgraded as it headed back out to sea in the northeast.  JR Nishi Nihon cancelled all trains in the Kinki region the afternoon of the 13th, and other events including a concert by Namie Amuro were also cancelled one after another.  At the time of writing 82 people had been injured in the typhoon, with one person missing.

Shimane prefecture, the birthplace of tennis star Kei Nishikori and having just celebrated the royal wedding of the Izumo Oyashiro shrine's Kunimaro Senge and Princess Noriko, was hit by unexpected flooding.  One of the consequences of the worsening conditions was the cancellation of the 26th running of the Izumo Ekiden in Izumo, Shimane, a move that raised unhappy voices among the athletes.  It was the first cancellation in the event's history, and no plans were announced for it to be held at an alternate date or time.  Organizers lost roughly 100 million yen [~$1 million USD] from their operating budget due to the cancellation, the money simply gone with the typhoon's winds.

The race was scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m. on the 13th.  At 8:00 that morning organizers issued an initial statement.  Because the winds were weak at that point, the statement on their website said, "The race will go ahead as planned," but included a caveat that there was a chance the race would be stopped after it started depending on changing weather conditions.  However, at 9:30 heavy rain arrived, and at just past 10:00 they released a second statement saying the ekiden would be called off.  IUAU director Masanobu Wada explained the events leading to the cancellation, saying, "It was difficult to ensure the safety of athletes, fans [along the course] and volunteers.  In light of the conditions it would also have been difficult to have the usual support and assistance from the police."  Given the overall situation around the storm it was decided that it would not be possible to conduct the race.

In the history of the Big Three University Ekidens, the key university road racing series made up of the Izumo Ekiden, November's National University Ekiden and January's Hakone Ekiden, it was the first time that one of the events had been cancelled due to bad weather.  At the pre-race coaches' meeting on Oct. 12 many teams' head coaches had said that as the start of the season they wanted the Izumo Ekiden to go ahead, and Director Wada was apologetic as he said, "It would have been better if we had come to a decision sooner."  A decision will be made later concerning what to do about the seeded places for the 2015 Izumo Ekiden that were available to the top three finishers this year.

Targeting a rare Big Three sweep this season, defending champion and course record holder Komazawa University head coach Hiroaki Oyagi was crushed, saying, "We were going to win all of the Big Three this year, so it's very disappointing.  The only one here we couldn't beat was this storm."  Komazawa's #1 man, senior Kenta Murayama, commented, "We were looking to repeat, so it's really too bad."  After the announcement of the race's cancellation Komazawa's team headed to Izumo's Hamayama Park Field for full-on track practice.  Head coach Oyagi said, "We will be going for our fourth-straight Nationals victory.  That race will be here soon enough."

Also shooting for a Big Three sweep, Susumu Hara, head coach of Komazawa's toughest competitor Aoyama Gakuin University, likewise showed his disappointment as he said, "We planned our peak very carefully to be ready for this race, so its cancellation hurts.  The first jewel in the triple crown goes to Typhoon #19."  Like Komazawa, the AGU squad did not simply pack and go home after the cancellation, instead heading out for a 21 km training run in the heavy rain to continue their preparations for the Nov. 2 National University Men's Ekiden and the Hakone Ekiden on Jan. 2-3.  "I'm a little nervous about whether we have the distance in to be competitve at Nationals and Hakone," said Hara.  "We have to refocus on that as quickly as possible after this."

2014 Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University's star junior Yuma Hattori said, "Safety is the most important thing.  It's disappointing that Izumo was cancelled, but we have to take that and channel it into the next race."  Toyo's head coach Toshiyuki Sakai commented, "We are now going to concentrate on winning both Nationals and Hakone."  The Toyo crew went to a covered shopping arcade in central Izumo to run a workout on its central promenade.  Team member Shinya Saito, having finally worked his way onto Toyo's A-roster for his university ekiden debut at Izumo as a senior, cried throughout the workout.

Yasuyuki Watanabe, head coach of last year's 4th-place Waseda University, commented, "The top schools are very close in level this year so I think a lot of teams wanted to do it anyway, but we have to put safety first.  There's nothing we can do about it."  There's no telling who might have won in Izumo, but none of them can afford to stand around as the season rolls on to Nationals and Hakone.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Izumo Ekiden Cancelled Due to Typhoon #19

by Brett Larner

After an initial announcement at 8:00 a.m. that the 26th running of the Izumo Ekiden, the first major race of the university men's ekiden season, would go ahead as scheduled in the face of the approaching Typhoon #19 with the possibility of later cancellation in the event of worsening conditions, the IUAU issued a statement at 10:15 a.m. that the race had been cancelled.
Because rapidly changing weather conditions mean that we cannot guarantee the safety of athletes and volunteers, we hereby cancel the 26th running of the Izumo National University Invitational Ekiden.
The cancellation was the first in Izumo's history and the first time that one of the Big Three University Ekidens, Izumo, the National University Men's Ekiden and the Hakone Ekiden, have been cancelled since Hakone was suspended during World War II.  Last year Izumo narrowly escaped the same fate when a large typhoon hit Japan the day after the race.

Weekend Track Roundup - A National Record for Suzuki, Fast Veterans and Faster High Schoolers

by Brett Larner

Japan's track circuit was busier than usual this weekend with the move of the National Corporate Track and Field Championships from mid-September this year along with time trial meets nationwide as teams prepare for ekiden season.  At the Corporate Championships, Team Kyudenko's Kenyan ringers Selly Chepyego Kaptich and Paul Tanui were the stars of the show, doubling with wins in the fastest heats of the 5000 m and 10000 m.  Chepyego, the Copenhagen World Half Marathon bronze medalist started things off on Friday night with a 31:38.54 win over Asian Games 10000 m bronze medalist Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo), who ran a PB 31:41.80, the best time this year by a Japanese woman, to lead three Japanese women under the Beijing World Championships standard of 32:00.00.  Chepyego returned Sunday to win the 5000 m in 15:14.45 just ahead of ascendant first-year pro Ayuko Suzuki (Team JP Post) whose 15:14.96 was also the best this year by a Japanese woman.  Hagiwara took 3rd in 15:24.56.

On the men's side, Moscow World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Tanui had a close one against 2013 World XC junior silver medalist Leonard Barsoton (Team Nissin Shokuhin), winning in 27:17.82 to Barsoton's 27:20.74 PB.  All told five Kenyans and two Ethiopians broke 28 minutes, with former Tokai University ace Tsubasa Hayakawa (Team Toyota) taking the top Japanese position at 10th in 28:23.64.  Like Chepyego, Tanui was back on Sunday to win the fastest 5000 m heat in 13:22.51 for the double national title.

Other distance news at the Corporate National Championships came in the junior women's 3000 m, where Aomori Yamada H.S. graduate Rosemary Monica Wanjiru (Team Starts) ran a meet record 8:48.44 to win by 19 seconds.  In other events, Yusuke Suzuki (Team Fujitsu) became the first Japanese man to go under 39 minutes in the 10000 m racewalk, taking over 40 second off the old mark to set a new national record of 38:27.09.  Team Sumitomo Denko set a men's 4x100 m relay meet record 38.94, with runner-up Mizuno also under the old record.  Asian Games men's 3000 mSC 4th-place Jun Shinoto (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) made up for his disappointment and just missing the medals in Incheon, winning in 8:34.37.  London Olympics men's javelin throw competitor Genki Dean (Mizuno), struggling with injury since going pro, did not start in the javelin but instead turned up in the discus, finishing 14th of 18 with a throw of 42.28 m.

Elsewhere, 39-year-old Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz), the world record holder for most sub-16 minute 5000 m performances, added at least #76 to her legacy with a 15:54.91 win at the Nighter Time Trial in Marugame.  Virtually all of the other women in the top ten were high school or collegiate athletes half her age, several of them also breaking 16 minutes.  The best high school performances came at the Shizuoka Long Distance Time Trials meet, where Toyokawa H.S. senior Azusa Sumi and Tokiwa H.S. junior Harumi Okamoto just missed joining the small Japanese sub-9 club in the 3000 m, battling to the line with Sumi winning in 9:00.89 and Okamoto 2nd in 9:00.91.  Both bumped 2014 Youth Olympics 3000 m gold medalist Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) out of the all-time Japanese high school top five, Sumi coming in at 4th and Okamoto at 5th.

Following His Own Road, Kawauchi Starts Next Phase With Win in Kitami

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/10/13/kiji/K20141013009092370.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The civil servant runner has pushed the reset button.  In his first race since his Asian Games men's marathon bid ended in a bronze medal nine days ago, Yuki Kawauchi (27, Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran the Kitami Half Marathon in Kitami, Hokkaido on Sunday, crossing the line first in 1:04:33.  Because he missed winning the gold medal at the Asian Games and its accompanying place on the Japanese team for next summer's World Championships in Beijing, China, Kawauchi will sit out the rest of the domestic selection races for the Beijing team.  Instead he will next race November's New York City Marathon, following his own route to becoming a better athlete.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Chicago Marathon - Japanese Results

photo c/o Dr. Helmut Winter

Japanese results in this year's Chicago Marathon were pretty consistent with those seen at the Berlin Marathon and at major international half marathons elsewhere this fall.  On average, the five Japanese men in the race ran 4:18 slower than their PBs, with Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) the closest at 2:48 off his best.  National Team members Koji Kobayashi (Team Subaru) and Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) ran 2:11:43 and 2:15:25.

2014 Chicago Marathon
Chicago, U.S.A., 10/12/14
click here for complete results

Men
1. Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) - 2:04:11
2. Sammy Kitwara (Kenya) - 2:04:28
3. Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:04:32
4. Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) - 2:05:51
5. Bernard Koech (Kenya) - 2:08:30
6. Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (Eritrea) - 2:09:08
7. Lani Rutto (Kenya) - 2:10:42
8. Wesley Korir (Kenya) - 2:11:09
9. Bobby Curtis (U.S.A.) - 2:11:20
10. Koji Kobayashi (Japan/Team Subaru) - 2:11:43
-----
16. Naoki Okamoto (Japan/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:15:19
17. Satoru Sasaki (Japan/Team Asahi Kasei) - 2:15:25
18. Ryosuke Fukuyama (Japan/Team Honda) - 2:15:33
21. Rui Yonezawa (Japan/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:17:30

Women
1. Rita Jeptoo (Kenya) - 2:24:35
2. Mare Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:25:37
3. Florence Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:25:57
4. Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:27:02
5. Amy Hastings (U.S.A.) - 2:27:03
-----
83. Yuri Yoshizumi (Aoyama Care Support) - 2:56:07

photo (c) 2014 Dr. Helmut Winter
all rights reserved

Friday, October 10, 2014

Chicago Marathon - Japanese Elites

by Brett Larner
photo by Dr. Helmut Winter

Five Japanese men and one woman are scheduled to run Sunday's Chicago Marathon led by two members of the Japanese Federation's new National Team project, Koji Kobayashi (Team Subaru) and Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei).  Coached by 2:08:49 marathoner Wataru Okutani, Kobayashi has been improving gradually since his 2:12:52 debut at the 2012 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon, running 2:10:40 in Chicago later that year and 2:11:31 the next in Berlin before taking it down to 2:08:51 in Tokyo this spring.  Sasaki, a graduate of Daito Bunka University and guided by the legendary Takeshi Soh, has progressed even more steadily since his 2:14:00 debut in 2009, outrunning Daegu World Championships silver medalist Vincent Kipruto (Kenya) for 2nd in 2:09:47 at March's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  Of the 146 sub-2:10 marathons run so far by Japanese men only 22 have ever been done outside Japan, but although they will likely end up running most of the race solidly in the gap between the course record-targeting lead pack and the large home soil group Kobayashi and Sasaki, with an emphasis on Kobayashi, should have a chance of adding to that list on the course where the current Japanese national record of 2:06:16 was set a dozen years ago.

Along with two others who have withdrawn, the other three Japanese men in the field, Ryosuke Fukuyama (Team Honda), Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Rui Yonezawa (Team Chugoku Denryoku), are part of a group sent to Chicago each year to get "keiken," "experience."  Less the experience of racing your best against international competition than simply the experience of travelling overseas, being there, finding conveniently-located laundromats, and running with jet lag with other Japanese athletes in an unfamiliar environment, the idea being that this "experience" is eventually going to translate into a World Championships or Olympic medal.  The athletes in this category in Chicago are typically at the 2:12-2:15 level and usually perform about the same.  Kobayashi was one example of someone who took the opportunity to really try hard when he first ran Chicago as part of this program in 2012 and at the 2:10-2:12 level the three athletes this year are one notch higher than usual, but while that may raise hopes of an overall solid showing by the Japanese contingent the overwhelming mediocrity of the performances by similar group junkets this fall at the Great North Run, Usti nad Labem Half Marathon, Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon and Berlin Marathon doesn't do much to suggest that the fires that seem to have been lit by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are likely to translate into a drive to represent overseas.  Time will tell, but it's just as likely they will serve as cannon fodder for the large number of Americans at the 2:13-2:16 level.  Of the three Yonezawa, with just a 2:11:59 debut from this spring, seems the best bet for a breakthrough, his teammate Okamoto having struggled to make it happen in the marathon despite solid improvement at shorter distances and Fukuyama approaching the twilight of his career.

The lone Japanese woman in the field, Yuri Yoshizumi (Aoyama Care Support), is a high-level amateur who won a place at Chicago by finishing 2nd in 2:41:00 at last fall's Kobe Marathon.  Yoshizumi, a Yuki Kawauchi-style full-time-working high-volume racer, gained some fame by winning the 2012 Hokkaido Marathon in 2:39:07 alongside Kawauchi, returning there a year later to run a PB 2:37:56 for 5th.  A bike accident around the time of last January's Osaka International Women's Marathon has left Yoshizumi somewhat struggling to get back to full fitness, her best since then just a 2:52:20 for 10th in Hokkaido in August.  Anything under 2:50 would be a good day for her this time around.  Under 2:40 a miracle.

Chicago Marathon - Japanese Entrants
Chicago, U.S.A., 10/12/14
click here for complete elite field listing

Koji Kobayashi (Team Subaru) PB: 2:08:51 (Tokyo, 2014)
marathon history:
2:08:51 - 9th, 2014 Tokyo Marathon
2:11:31 - 8th, 2013 Berlin Marathon
2:14:11 - 20th, 2013 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
2:10:40 - 14th, 2012 Chicago Marathon
2:12:52 - 4th, 2012 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon

Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) PB: 2:09:47 (Lake Biwa, 2014)
marathon history:
2:09:47 - 2nd, 2014 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
2:13:12 - 9th, 2013 Fukuoka International Marathon
2:11:28 - 16th, 2013 Tokyo Marathon
2:12:42 - 14th, 2011 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
2:14:00 - 7th, 2009 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon

Ryosuke Fukuyama (Team Honda) PB: 2:10:59 (Lake Biwa, 2013)
marathon history:
2:11:18 - 5th, 2014 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
2:23:48 - 25th, 2013 Hokkaido Marathon
2:10:59 - 11th, 2013 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
2:15:49 - 6th, 2012 Muenster Marathon
2:13:55 - 18th, 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
2:18:32 - 19th, 2009 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon

Rui Yonezawa (Team Chugoku Denryoku) PB: 2:11:59 (Lake Biwa, 2014)
marathon history:
2:11:59 - 6th, 2014 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon

Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) PB: 2:12:31 (Lake Biwa, 2012)
marathon history:
2:14:08 - 17th, 2014 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
2:12:31 - 15th, 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
2:13:54 - 13th, 2011 Tokyo Marathon

Yuri Yoshizumi (Aoyama Care Support) PB: 2:37:56 (Hokkaido, 2013)
marathon history:
2:52:20 - 10th, 2014 Hokkaido Marathon
3:00:25 - 1st, Kasumi Geopark Marathon
2:57:48 - 11th, 2014 Wanjinshi Marathon
2:45:13 - 19th, 2014 Osaka International Women's Marathon
2:46:21 - 1st, 2013 Nara Marathon
2:41:00 - 2nd, 2013 Kobe Marathon
2:37:56 - 5th, 2013 Hokkaido Marathon
2:39:07 - 1st, 2012 Hokkaido Marathon
2:40:31 - 3rd, 2011 Osaka Marathon
2:43:14 - 7th, 2010 Hokkaido Marathon
2:42:15 - 1st, 2009 Fukuchiyama Marathon

text (c) 2014 Brett Larner, all rights reserved 
photo (c) 2012 Dr. Helmut Winter, all rights reserved 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

'Middle Distance Legend Kipketer Warns of Dangers of Athletes Switching Nationality'

http://www.insidethegames.biz/sports/summer/athletics/1023133-exclusive-middle-distance-legend-kipketer-warns-of-dangers-of-athletes-switching-nationality

Komazawa Ready to Repeat as Ivies Set for Izumo Ekiden Top Eight - Preview

by Brett Larner



As XC season rolls on for their NCAA counterparts, Japan's collegiate men get moving Monday with the first of the Big Three University Ekidens, the Izumo Ekiden. A six-leg road relay with an average length of 7.52 km, Izumo features the top ten teams from Japan's biggest race, the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, all based in the Tokyo-area Kanto Region, six schools from western Japan, four select teams from other parts of the country, and one select team of Ivy League graduates from the U.S.

The weekend after Izumo, Kanto Region universities that didn't make Hakone's top ten race in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park at the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km qualifier, where another ten will go on to Hakone glory.  The first weekend in November the best of Kanto and the rest of the country race from Nagoya to Ise at the eight-leg, 106.8 km National University Men's Ekiden Championships, the second of the Big Three.  Two weeks later most of the twenty schools running Hakone will send their full rosters to the Ageo City Half Marathon to pare down the contenders for their final lineup of ten men and six alternates for the biggest of the Big Three, the focus of the entire year, the ten-leg, 217.1 km Hakone Ekiden.


The top twelve teams at the 2014 Izumo Ekiden. Click to enlarge.

It's a steady progression from the 7.52 km average for the six stages at Izumo to the 13.35 km average for Nationals' eight stages to Hakone's ten-stage 21.71 km average, and compared to Hakone Izumo is short and fast.  Depending, of course, on when exactly the approaching typhoon #19 hits.  Last year's course record-setting winner Komazawa University returns as the heavy favorite.  Captain Shogo Nakamura broke 62 minutes at this year's World Half Marathon championships, sophomore Keisuke Nakatani has developed rapidly with new bests of 13:38.08 and 28:30.52, and since setting a new stage record at Izumo last year star senior Kenta Murayama has set new PBs of 13:34.53, 27:49.94 and 1:00:50.  Overall they are down very slightly from last year's course record-setting lineup but Komazawa remains the clear #1.

Their toughest competition is the previous course record holder, 2012 Izumo winner Aoyama Gakuin University.  Under head coach Susumu Hara AGU has developed steadily over the last five years from anonymity to one of the best, featuring tremendous depth and six-man averages of 13:56.78 and 28:38.56.  Despite missing its top senior Genki Yagisawa, Meiji University is the other main contender, close behind AGU on depth and average times but regularly underperforming in ekiden season.  If Meiji has it together they will be a threat to YGU and, if all goes perfectly, Komazawa.

2011 Izumo winner Toyo University and 2010 course record setter Waseda University are both down dramatically in strength this year, forming the top of a second tier with 2008-09 champion Nihon University, Teikyo University, and a strong Ivy League Select Team featuring Donald Cabral and Joe Stilin of Princeton and Dan Lowry of Brown.  The Ivies come in ranked 7th, and with a solid performance they could improve on their 8th place finishes in 2011 and 2012.

The third group of schools features 2013 Hakone Ekiden winner Nittai University, now in a rebuilding cycle after the graduation of most of its 2013 lineup, top non-Kanto Region school Ritsumeikan University, and the likable underdogs Daito Bunka University led by 2013 Ageo City Half Marathon winner Takashi Ichida and his twin brother HiroshiTakushoku University rounds out the ten schools from Kanto and should be racing further back with the Kansai Region's Kwansei Gakuin University and other lower-tier competition.

The Izumo Ekiden is broadcast live nationwide on Fuji TV starting at 1:00 p.m. Japan time on Monday, Oct. 13.  The broadcast is rarely streamed outside Japan, but follow @JRNLive for live coverage brought to you by Japan Running News.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hakone Ekiden Course Shortened 800 m After Changes and Remeasurement

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/ekiden/2015/news/20141008-OYT1T50130.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Oct. 8 the Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto (KGRR) announced that a remeasurement of the complete Hakone Ekiden course undertaken following changes to its Fifth and Sixth Stages due to new road construction revealed a discrepancy between the Seventh Stage's listed distance and actual distance, and that with the changes the distance actually run would be a total of nearly 800 m shorter than in past years.  The official new distance of the Hakone Ekiden will thus change from 217.9 km to 217.1 km.

The KGRR had previously announced that due to the changes on the Fifth and Sixth Stages, their stage records along with the Day One record, Day Two record and Overall record would all be considered historical marks with the official records to be rewritten at the 2015 race.  The KGRR clarified that the records of other stages that had not undergone course changes would be maintained despite the change in overall course distance.

According to the KGRR, the complete Hakone Ekiden course is remeasured once every ten years, and the previous measurement before the 2005 race had resulted in changes to the distance.  The current course measurement was performed by bicycle in mid-September.  KGRR officials said that the differences from earlier measurements were due to the straightening of previously winding roads.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

'Athletics Canada Names Team for 2014 Chiba Ekiden'

http://www.runnersweb.com/running/news_2014/rw_news_20141007_AC_Chiba.html#.VDPwzfhfCIk.facebook

Asian Games Silver Medalist Matsumura Appears at Press Conference Following Return to Japan

http://www.ktn.co.jp/news/2014/10/%E3%82%A2%E3%82%B8%E3%82%A2%E5%A4%A7%E4%BC%9A%E9%99%B8%E4%B8%8A%E3%81%A7%E9%8A%80%E3%81%AE%E6%9D%BE%E6%9D%91%E9%81%B8%E6%89%8B%E3%81%8C%E4%BC%9A%E8%A6%8B.php

translated by Brett Larner

The silver medal winner in the Asian Games men's marathon that took place Oct. 3 in Incheon, South Korea, Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) took part in a press conference Oct.6 at Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki Shipyard and Machinery Works following his return to Japan.

Speaking three days after the Asian Games race where he was the top Japanese finisher and won the silver medal, Matsumura said, "More than happiness the main thing I feel is disappointment," the 1-second margin between him and gold at the forefront of his mind.  "I was targeting the win, so even when I actually received the medal at the ceremony I only felt disappointment.  As time goes by that feeling is only getting stronger, to my disappointment."

The Asian Games were Matsumura's first time racing with the Rising Sun on his singlet.  The race came down to a gripping track finish, with Matsumura finishing in 2:12:39 just a single second behind the winner.  Looking at his performance Matsumura commented, "In terms of the result there was only a second between us, but in many different senses it was a massive second.  A crucial difference between us, that second."

Matsumura indicated that he felt a lack of experience and a difference in ability with the winner in this race, but he also said that he thought he had tried seriously enough and had had enough confidence.  He is already thinking about his next main event, setting the Rio de Janeiro Olympics down firmly as his goal as he told the crowd at the press conference, "The Olympics have always been my aim and I think Rio will be my best chance, so I want to set my sights on putting out the best results I can and do my best in the time left until then."

Monday, October 6, 2014

T-Minus One Week to Izumo



University men's ekiden season kicks off one week from today with the 26th edition of the short and fast Izumo Ekiden featuring 21 teams from across Japan and the U.S.A.  Look for a detailed preview later this week.

'Japan's Makoto Ozawa, Portland's Susan Smith Win the 43rd Portland Marathon'

http://www.oregonlive.com/sports/index.ssf/2014/10/japans_mokota_ozawa_portlands.html

Makoto Ozawa (Team Sekino Reform) was a member of Asia University's 2006 Hakone Ekiden champion team, running the uphill Fifth Stage where he was 4th.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Asian Games Medalists Matsumura and Kawauchi Return to Japan

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/10/04/kiji/K20141004009042500.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/asia/2014/news/p-sp-tp0-20141004-1377183.html
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/10/04/kiji/K20141004009044120.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/asia/2014/news/f-sp-tp0-20141005-1377940.html
http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/10/04/kiji/K20141004009042480.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner



Following the closing ceremonies of the Incheon Asian Games on Oct. 4, marathoners Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returned to Japan the afternoon of Oct. 5 with the main group of the Japanese delegation.  JAAF Director of Men's Marathoning Takeshi Soh commented, "Neither of them ran spectacularly.  They didn't seem to have much confidence."

In his international debut Matsumura won the silver medal in just his fourth marathon.  "I was going for gold, so I'm completely disappointed, he said."  He indicated that even while he was up front in the pack he had been wary of eventual gold medalist Ali Hassan Mahboob (Bahrain).  "He stayed all the way in the back saving up his energy and only came up at the very end," Matsumura said.  He called his own move at 35 km, "halfhearted," letting the race come down to a sprint on the track where he lost by a second.  "More than just 1 second, there was a difference in our ability.  I didn't see the win happening.  I got some confidence from meeting my minimum goal, but I'm not strong enough to be internationally competitive."

Reflecting on his bronze medal-winning race, Kawauchi spoke honestly, saying, "If I was that close I should have won.  Running in cool conditions like we had and not winning, not being able to get away even though I made some big plays, was weak in many ways.  The [Bahraini] winner really had to work, seemed to be holding back some stomach trouble, and was totally exhausted at the end.  It wasn't exactly a gathering of the world's best, but I couldn't win even a race like that.  I have to train better."

Matsumura's training included 1100 km in July and 1000 km in August with a focus on speed training in September.  Asked if there had been problems in his training Kawauchi said, "I did that 40 km time trial and lots of trail running.  There were no mistakes.  Compared to the Moscow and Daegu World Championships I ran well in training."  With regard to whether his result told him he didn't have enough speed he said, "It's not a problem of speed, it's an issue of how much you have to spare.  I would regret it if I started thinking I should leave a little in my legs [to take advantage of my closing speed]."

After finishing 18th at the 2013 Moscow World Championships, Kawauchi went for 24 km runs the morning after the race and the next day to try to shake off his disappointment.  This time he also went for morning jogs on the 4th and before leaving Incheon on the 5th, but, he laughed, "As you'd probably expect, the 24 km runs in Moscow were kind of overdoing it, so I only jogged for about an hour and a half this time."

Matsumura said that he will be going for the Beijing World Championships and Rio de Janeiro Olympics teams.  "Rio has been my goal since I was little," he said.  Before that, "I want to race overseas a bit more to get more international experience."  Regarding his future plans Kawauchi said, "I'm going to stay out of the Beijing selection races and work on getting better away from the pressure.  I'm disappointed with this bronze medal.  Gold and silver were right there before my eyes.  If I didn't feel disappointed then it would be time for me to stop being an athlete.  If Japanese men can't do better than this bronze medal then they'll never be competitive in the Beijing World Championships.  Beijing, the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the Tokyo Olympics will all look pretty bleak for Japanese men.  I hope that nightmare doesn't come true."

Men's Marathoning Director Soh called on Kawauchi to still aim for the World Championships, saying, "I hope he has the courage to try again this winter season.  You have to keep putting out results.  If you are 'waiting' you won't be on the team."