Monday, February 29, 2016

Hakone Champion Aoyama Gakuin University's Shimoda Breaks Under-20 Record at Tokyo Marathon

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20160229-OHT1T50037.html
http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20160229/ath16022905020006-n1.html 
http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20160229/ath16022905030007-n1.html
incorporates additional quotes given in interviews with Nippon TV

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Taking on the marathon for the first time as a second-year at Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University, Yuta Shimoda, 19, finished 10th overall and 2nd Japanese man at Sunday's Tokyo Marathon in 2:11:34, a new Japanese under-20 record. AGU head coach Susumu Hara, 48, made a strong appeal for Shimoda, already Japan's fastest-ever 18-year-old for the half-marathon, to be named to the Rio Olympics team.  Among the experienced marathoners and other pre-race favorites, Beijing World Championships marathon team member Masato Imai (31, Team Toyota Kyushu), was 13th, the debuting Kenta Murayama (23, Team Asahi Kasei) was 30th, and London Olympics marathoner Arata Fujiwara (34, Miki House) finished 44th.

Speaking to Nippon TV pre-race Shimoda had said, "When I entered AGU I was third from the bottom of the new first-years.  The kind of runner you can find anywhere.  At that point my goal for the four years there was to run 28 minutes for 10000 m and then my senior year maybe make the Hakone squad.  My first year I was just hell-bent on making my body stronger, and then I hit both of those goals this year.  I haven't really thought about whether I want to keep running after graduating.  Right now I'm not really interested in trying to be world-class.  I think there's more to life than marathons and the Olympics."

Four of its team members debuting in Tokyo, AGU's collective concept this time, "The Great Challenge Strategy," paid off big time.  With 1 km to go the 19-year-old second-year Shimoda ran down rival Toyo University captain and fourth-year Yuma Hattori, the 30 km national university record holder, to finish as the second Japanese man across the line, laughing and waving in the home straight.  His time of 2:11:34 took nearly four minutes off the 2:15:30 under-20 Japanese record set in 1992 by future 100 km world record holder Takahiro Sunada.  "I was going for the Japanese under-20 record, but I can't believe I was the second Japanese man!" Shimoda said with a big smile post-race.

"I wasn't thinking about the Olympics at all, just more like how far I could push it with my ability," he said.  "If I kept doing this another five years I wonder if it'd work out."  Shimoda's hobby is reading manga and watching anime.  The Tokyo Marathon finish area, Tokyo Big Sight, is a frequent home to big comic conventions.  "I dream about Big Sight, so when it came into sight all my power reserves came online," he said.  The prize money for 10th place was 100,000 yen [~$900 USD].  "Maybe I'll buy a computer!" he laughed with childlike enthusiasm.  "The Olympics?  Who knows?"

In contrast to Shimoda's lightheartedness about Rio, AGU head coach Hara spoke ardently.  "Shimoda should be made a major favorite for the Olympic team," he said.  "He's only 19.  Rio is still half a year away and in that time he will only keep getting stronger.  He has tremendous growth potential between now and the Tokyo Olympics, 120%, 200%.  You have to count back from 2020 and ask yourself what the most important things to do before then are.  There's no question that experiencing Rio is essential."  JAAF Strengthening Committee Vice-Chairman Katsumi Sakai, 55, replied coolly, "We do not take the future into account.  Essentially, we choose in order."

But, said, Coach Hara, the self-described maverick of Japanese long distance, "With the downturn in Japanese marathoning youth is our greatest weapon.  And Shimoda has proven himself strong in heat.  I would argue that logically he should be the superior candidate."  As with the women's Olympic marathon selection, where Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) has not been offered a spot on the Rio team despite her landslide victory at January's Osaka International Women's Marathon and as a result will run next month's Nagoya Women's Marathon, the men's selection also looks like it will be eventful to say the least.

Along with Shimoda, AGU ace third-year Tadashi Isshiki was the third Japanese man, 11th overall in 2:11:45.  Fourth-year Ryo Hashimoto won the sub-elite division, 23rd overall in 2:14:38, with fourth-year Toshinori Watanabe 3rd among sub-elites at 27th overall in 2:16:01.  Even Hara's wife Miho, 48, ran, finishing in 6:26:42.  Aoyama Gakuin University's campaign now looks to extend beyond the mountains of Hakone and on to Rio.

Yuta Shimoda - born Mar. 31, 1996 in Oyamacho, Shizuoka.  169 cm, 54 kg.  A member of his junior high school tennis team.  Began running track and field after entering Kato Gakuen H.S.  Ran the National High School Ekiden Championships his senior year, finishing 35th of 47 on the Third Stage.  Entered Aoyama Gakuin University in 2014.  Did not make AGU's starting team for the Big Three University Ekidens his first year.  As a second year finished 6th on the Izumo Ekiden Fourth Stage, then won the National University Ekiden Fifth Stage and Hakone Ekiden Eighth Stage.  

PBs
5000 m - 14:06.85
10000 m - 28:33.77
half marathon: 1:02:22 (best-ever mark by Japanese 18-year-old)
marathon: 2:11:34 (best-ever mark by Japanese under-20 runner)

No-Name 28-Year-Old Yuki Takamiya Lands Himself on Rio Stage as Top Japanese Man at Tokyo Marathon

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20160229-OHT1T50026.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

With Sunday's Tokyo Marathon serving as the second selection race for the Japanese men's Rio de Janeiro Olympic team, general elite division entrant Yuki Takamiya (28, Team Yakult) ran a smart and punchy race to finish 8th overall in a PB of 2:10:57 as the top Japanese man.  Running down Beijing World Championships team member Masato Imai (31, Team Toyota Kyushu), Hakone Ekiden ace Tadashi Isshiki (21, Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and other famous star athletes, Takamiya put himself into contention for the Rio team.  Feyisa Lilesa (26, Ethiopia) won Tokyo for the first time in 2:06:56.

Takamiya was already more than 15 seconds behind the main Japanese pack by 10 km and was over 40 seconds behind at 35 km.  It all came down to the last 2 km, Takamiya's legs turning over with great drive straight from his soul.  Flying past leading Japanese man Yuma Hattori (22, Toyo Univ.), Takamiya punched the air and then broke the tape with both hands raised.  His bib number just #138, Takamiya's time beat his previous best by 4 1/2 minutes and abruptly launched him onto the Rio contender platform.  "I'm honestly as stunned as anyone.  It doesn't seem real," he said.  "I had no idea I was the top Japanese man until I finished.  Don't even mention Rio, that scares the hell out of me!"

At Fukushima's Nihonmatsu Kogyo H.S. Takamiya was a no-name.  At Josai University as well he finished 14th of 20 on the Ninth Stage at the 2008 Hakone Ekiden and a lowly 21st of 23 on the Fifth Stage a year later.  "I couldn't even touch the best guys," he said of his school days.  But after entering the Yakult corporate team he began to improve after starting to spend a lot of time on a road bike to build more stable leg strength.  With temperatures climbing to an unseasonably warm 16.7 degrees in the final kilometers Takamiya took down one after another Hakone star, Imai, Isshiki, Hattori, Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), Yuta Shimoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.).  "If you want to compare me to an animal, I was the tortoise," he said of a race that played out just like Aesop's "The Tortoise and the Hare" predicted.

Takamiya blossomed thanks to his wife.  Since university he had suffered one injury after another.  "Over the course of a single year I hurt pretty much everywhere," he said, having suffered sole and ankle problems, shin splints and sciatic nerve pain that stopped him from being able to exert himself.  On January 3 last year he married his wife Aya, 28, who has a Junior Athlete Food Meister nutrition certification.  With a new diet based on her recommendations his overall condition began to improve.  An entire year passed without a single major injury, and for the first time he was able to focus on putting in quality training.  "I've become almost fanatical about not eating things that are bad for you," he said.  Asked about his favorite foods he laughed, "There are too many to list!"

After the final men's Olympic selection race, the Mar. 6 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, the JAAF executive council is expected to announce the Olympic marathon team lineup on Mar. 17.  Takamiya is not letting his post-race happiness give him unrealistic hopes.  "I wouldn't expect them to pick me unless I had run 2:07 or 2:08.  I'll be lucky if they do."  From outside the stars' circles, one runner will be waiting for good news from Rio.

Yuki Takamiya – born Dec. 2, 1987 in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima. 173 cm, 59 kg. Lives with his wife Aya.

Athletics history: After a friend invited him, began running track and field at Nihonmatsu Daisan J.H.S. Ran Hakone Ekiden twice for Josai University.

Hobby: Road cycling. Owns a bike produced by the popular maker De Rosa. Frequently rides a 100 km circuit from his home in Toda, Saitama around Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, Chiba and back.

Favorite thing: coffee

PBs
5000 m: 13:55.38
10000 m: 29:06.71
half marathon: 1:02:31
marathon: 2:10:57

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Kiprop Crushes Tokyo Marathon Record, Lilesa Over Chumba for Men's Win

by Brett Larner

2015 Beijing World Championships marathon silver medalist Helah Kiprop (Kenya) delivered the outstanding performance of the 10th Tokyo Marathon, doing all she could to try to deliver a performance that would score her the win in the Abbott World Marathon Majors.  Leading a pack including two-time world champion Edna Kiplagat (Kenya), fellow AWMM title contenders Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) and Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia) and three other Ethiopians through halfway in 1:10:41, Kiprop kept it even and ground down the others, never really accelerating or losing pace on the hills in the last 6 km but dropping the competition one by one.

All alone by 40 km it looked like she might take down the fastest marathon ever run by a woman on Japanese soil, Mizuki Noguchi's 2:21:18 in Osaka in 2003, but despite coming up just short Kiprop succeeded in taking nearly a minute off the course record as she won in 2:21:27.  Runner-up Amane Gobena (Ethiopia), a frequent face in Japan, unexpectedly dropped more than a minute and a half off her best to take 2nd in 2:21:51, likewise clearing the course record.  Kiplagat took 3rd in 2:22:36, a return to form in her first time going under 2:23 in almost two years.

Kiprop's time was the fastest in the last year's cycle of AWMM races by nearly two minutes and, combined with her 2:24:03 for 2nd in Tokyo last year gave her the fastest two-race average among the three contenders for the AWMM title, herself Mary Keitany (Kenya) and Mare Dibaba (Ethiopia).  Despite this, the AWMM race directors voted to give the $500,000 bonus to Keitany, winner of November's 2015 New York City Marathon in 2:24:25 and runner-up in London in 2:23:40.  Tokyo still has its work cut out for it to be taken as a true equal by the more well-established powers that be and not just a brand presence in a major Asian market, and the absence of any Japanese women in its elite field doesn't help.  General division entrant Yukiko Okuno (Team Shiseido) was the top Japanese woman, 10th overall in a PB of 2:31:17.

There was no absence of top-level Japanese men in Tokyo, however, with the race counting in the opaque Rio Olympics Japanese men's team selection process.  And like Kiprop in the women's race, course record holder Dickson Chumba (Kenya) had to win and win fast to have a chance of snatching the AWMM title and bonus from series leader Eliud Kipchoge.  Tokyo Marathon race director Tad Hayano set up three pacers scheduled to go around 2:58/km, low-2:05 pace, and only that pace.  Good for most of the top-level African competition in the field but leaving the aspiring Japanese Olympians, who needed to chase the JAAF's 2:06:30 Rio standard, pretty much high and dry.  Need to target a time only one Japanese man has ever run in order to make the Olympics?  You'd better go out over a minute faster than that or you're on your own, suckers.  The results were predictable, if more dramatic than expected, and apart from the runners themselves the responsibility for it lies squarely on Hayano.

After a relatively conservative downhill first 5 km in 14:59 with both the international and domestic contingents united, the #1-bibbed Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya) got the pacers to up their game as they hit the flat near 7 km.  A gap immediately severed the pack into two, the top seven-ranked Africans in pursuit of the pace trio and everyone else behind.  Sensing that they weren't coming back, the ambitious Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), the twin brother of 10000 m NR holder Kota Murayama and making his debut just five days after turning 23, left the chase pack to enter the orbit of the greats just before 10 km.  The lead octet split 29:37 through 10 km, 2:04:58 pace, while the mostly-Japanese chase pack, led by last year's 2:07:39 breakthrough wonder Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), hit an entirely reasonable 29:57, 2:06:22 pace.

The problem was, there were too many of them together, exerting drag by mutual consensus without a single pacer to keep them on track.  Yes, pacers in an Olympic trial race may be questionable, but so is demanding that they run a national record to make the team.  While Mutai, Chumba, Murayama and the others up front continued to sail on to higher ground the second pack dropped farther and farther behind.  Over a minute by 15 km.  Nearly two minutes by 20 km.  The leaders 1:02:52 through halfway, exactly on track for the 2:05:42 course record, the chasers 1:04:42, a lowly 2:09:24 pace.

The first big change came after halfway on the trip up to the Asakusa turnaround, with Murayama losing touch before 25 km.  After the turnaround at 28 km the pace up front slowed by roughly 5 seconds a kilometer, and with the pacers' departure Chumba took control to try to get it back on track.  Only Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia), tucked at the back of the pack up to that point, followed, with first Eliud Kiptanui (Kenya) and then Mutai losing touch to leave Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) and London Olymipcs gold and silver medalists Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) and Abel Kirui (Kenya) in pursuit.  Chumba's move proved real, he and Feyisa pulling away and never again challenged.  Almost.

Further back, the dismally slow Japanese men's race took a turn for the chaotic and interesting as Arata Fujiwara (Miki House), the fastest Japanese man at the last two Olympic selection-year Tokyos, surged before 30 km to cull the ranks.  Imai followed, along with debuting Hakone Ekiden stars Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.), Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and Yuta Shimoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.), Javier Guerra (Spain) and a few others.  Hattori, the 30 km national university record holder, took the next big action, dropping a 14:54 split from 30 km to 35 km to get rid of his competition and try to close the gap to Murayama, who began to come back into sight rapidly.  Near 35 km he kicked past Murayama, a replay of the 2015 Hakone Ekiden Second Stage, and went up the hills looking strong and confident.  Guerra and Shimoda were next to overtake Murayama, who felt the sting to his pride of the 19-year-old Shimoda going past and tried briefly to rally.

Up front, Chumba and Lilesa worked the hills, Chumba taking the lead on the climbs and Lilesa going by on the descents.  Near 39 km Lilesa clipped Chumba's foot and immediately apologized, seeming to ask if Chumba was OK.  Just over a kilometer later he said goodbye, flexing his biceps at the top of the last hill and cruising on to the win in 2:06:56.  Chumba had absolutely nothing left to respond when Lilesa's move came, so little that with just a few meters to go he could only watch as Kipyego went by to steal 2nd in 2:07:33 by a stride.  Kiprotich and Kirui took 4th and 5th a short way back, another solid Tokyo showing from Kiprotich and a big step back in the right direction from Kirui.

Back in the Japanese race, Guerra and Shimoda began to gain unexpectedly on Hattori, who went suddenly from smiling and pumping his fist to ghost-faced, but even more unexpectedly the unknown Yuki Takamiya (Team Yakult), a 2:15:38 runner, zoomed into focus and tore past both.  Guerra went after him and together they ran down Hattori, but Takamiya was too much for Guerra to take that late in the race.  Like Lilesa Takamiya began celebrating at the peak of the last hill before running in unchallenged to take 8th in 2:10:57, a PB by almost five minutes in an Olympic selection race.

Guerra was next across the line in 2:11:01.  In the last kilometer Shimoda, already Japan's fastest-ever 18-year-old half marathoner with a 1:02:22 last year, looking fresh and unfazed passed the locked-up Hattori, smiling and waving as he came in to cross the finish line in 10th in 2:11:34, a new under-20 Japanese record by nearly four minutes.  His AGU teammate Isshiki, the 2015 World University Games half marathon silver medalist and National University Half Marathon champion, bore down in the home straight to get Hattori on the line for 11th in 2:11:45.  With two Hakone Ekiden titles in a row and now two of the top three Japanese runners in an Olympic selection race World Marathon Major there's not much doubt AGU head coach Susumu Hara is the best coach currently working in Japan.  Toyo's Hattori clocked 2:11:46, his first-ever loss to his former Sendai Ikuei H.S. teammate Isshiki, with Murayama doing the death march in five minutes later and learning what happens when you go out faster than you're ready for as he staggered home in 2:16:58 for 30th.

For the home team it was a very hard race to interpret.  On the one hand, an unknown had an exciting breakthrough and a large number of university stars had good runs in ambitious debuts.  On the other hand, all the experienced pre-race hopefuls, every single one, Imai, Fujiwara, 2:08:09 man Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki) and last year's 2:09 breakthroughs Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda) and Koji Gokaya (Team JR Higashi Nihon), faltered despite good conditions.  Takamiya's 2:10:57 was a great breakthrough, but as the fastest Japanese man in an Olympic selection race it had to have been one of the weakest times in many a long year.  Even though it made for great racing late in the game the Japanese men bear responsibility for how slow it got, nobody stepping up to keep it moving.  And they were spanked by a teenager and other college kids in return.  But 2:06:30 is no joke, not even winner Lilesa able to clear it on the Tokyo course, and Hayano simply offered Japan's best no realistic options that would help them achieve it. 

The wheelchair division also turned in great races, with Tokyo serving as both men's and women's selection events for the Rio Paralympics.  Japan's Wakako Tsuchida (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) went head-to-head with Tatyana McFadden (U.S.A.) through 40 km in the women's race before breaking free on the final hill to win by 10 seconds in 1:41:04.  Tsuchida's time easily cleared the Japanese Rio standard of 1:46:00, meaning that in contrast to her marathon compatriots she is guaranteed a place in Rio.

The men's race saw a large pack that whittled down from eight to four after 25 km, Japanese favorite Kota Hokinoue (Yahoo) pushing the pace in pursuit of the 1:28:30 time standard for Rio autoselection.  Right behind him, greats Kurt Fearnley (Australia), Ernst Van Dyk (South Africa) and Masazumi Soejima (Japan).  On the final righthand corner at 42 km Fearnley attacked, getting past Hokinoue and away for the win in 1:26:00.  Van Dyk drew abreast and in the final meters got a hand-width margin for 2nd in 1:26:01, Hokinoue outlasting Soejima for 3rd in 1:26:01 as well.  Clearing the time standard as well as the top-Japanese-man-in-the-overall-top-three criteria for Rio selection, Hokinoue likewise guaranteed himself a place this summer.  At the pre-race press conference Fearnley said that he had been considering retiring post-Rio, but that with the wheelchair races slated to earn equal billing in the Abbott World Marathon Majors starting with April's Boston Marathon, the chance to score the jackpot bonus just might be enough to keep him on the circuit another year.

10th Tokyo Marathon Top Results
Tokyo, 2/28/16
click here for complete results

Women
1. Helah Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:21:27 - CR, PB
2. Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) - 2:21:51 - PB
3. Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:22:36
4. Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:23:01
5. Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:23:16
6. Shure Demise (Ethiopia) - 2:25:04
7. Ashete Bekele Dido (Ethiopia) - 2:25:50
8. Maja Neuenschwander (Switzerland) - 2:27:36
9. Isabellah Andersson (Sweden) - 2:30:02
10. Yukiko Okuno (Japan/Shiseido) - 2:31:17 - PB
11. Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 2:33:39 - PB
12. Miya Nishio (Japan/Hokuren) - 2:34:18 - PB
13. Ayano Kondo (Japan/Noritz) - 2:35:13 - PB
14. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/First Dream AC) - 2:39:30
15. Yuri Kano (Japan/WCF RC) - 2:39:37
16. Risa Suzuki (Japan/Art Sports) - 2:39:57 - PB
17. Ruth Charlotte Croft (New Zealand) - 2:40:59 - PB
18. Kana Unno (Japan/Noritz) - 2:42:06
19. Mitsuko Ino (Japan/Kyuhoji RC) - 2:42:23 - PB
20. Shinobu Ayabe (Japan/Dream AC) - 2:43:37 - PB
21. Sakie Ishibashi (Japan/Kumagaya T&F Assoc.) - 2:44:00
22. Jane Moloney (Australia) - 2:44:23
23. Mitsuko Hirose (Japan/Tokyo Wings) - 2:45:04
24. Maiko Tani (Japan/Morino AC) - 2:45:18 - PB
25. Kasumi Sato (Japan/SRC904) - 2:47:08 - PB

Men
1. Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) - 2:06:56
2. Bernard Kiprop Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:07:33
3. Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:07:34
4. Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:07:46
5. Abel Kirui (Kenya) - 2:08:06
6. Eliud Kiptanui (Kenya) - 2:08:55
7. Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya) - 2:10:23
8. Yuki Takamiya (Japan/Yakult) - 2:10:57 - PB
9. Javier Guerra (Spain) - 2:11:01
10. Yuta Shimoda (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:11:34 - debut
11. Tadashi Isshiki (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:11:45 - debut
12. Yuma Hattori (Japan/Toyo Univ.) - 2:11:46 - debut
13. Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:12:18
14. Akiyuki Iwanaga (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:12:24 - PB
15. Hiroki Yamagishi (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:12:27 - PB
16. Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:12:45
17. Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Sunbelx) - 2:12:55
18. Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:13:10
19. Kohei Matsumura (Japan/Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki) - 2:13:46
20. Yasuyuki Nakamura (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:46 - PB
21. Kazuaki Shimizu (Japan/Yakult) - 2:14:16
22. Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:14:29
23. Ryo Hashimoto (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:14:38 - debut
24. Satoshi Kikuchi (Japan/Josai Univ.) - 2:14:54 - debut
25. Ryohei Nishiyama (Japan/Kanagawa Univ.) - 2:15:42 - debut
26. Takehiro Deki (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:15:49
27. Toshinori Watanabe (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 2:16:01 - debut
-----
30. Kenta Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:16:58 - debut
38. Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza) - 2:19:11
40. Masashi Hayashi (Japan/Yakult) - 2:19:29
44. Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:20:23
45. Satoru Kasuya (Japan/Toyota Boshoku) - 2:20:38
47. Koji Gokaya (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:21:05
57. Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) - 2:22:36 - debut
80. Jun Hiratsuka (Japan/Team RxL) - 2:26:58
93. Martin Fiz (Spain) - 2:28:29
98. Michael Wardian (U.S.A.) - 2:29:16
117. Koki Kawauchi (Japan/Monteroza) - 2:31:32
153. Yoshiki Kawauchi (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:34:27
173. Yusuke Inoue (Japan/Marathon Guru) - 2:35:21 - PB
-----
DNF - Samuel Ndungu (Kenya)
DNF - Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Japan/Konica Minolta)

Women's Wheelchair
1. Wakako Tsuchida (Japan) - 1:41:04
2. Tatyana McFadden (U.S.A.) - 1:41:14
3. Kazumi Nakayama (Japan) - 1:56:58
4. Amanda McGrory (U.S.A.) - 2:10:55
DNF - Mizuki Takasaki (Japan)

Men's Wheelchair
1. Kurt Fearnley (Australia) - 1:26:00
2. Ernst Van Dyk (South Africa) - 1:26:01
3. Kota Hokinoue (Japan) - 1:26:01
4. Masazumi Soejima (Japan) - 1:26:02
5. Tomoki Suzuki (Japan) - 1:26:11

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, February 26, 2016

Tokyo Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

In its tenth edition as a mass-participation race Sunday's Tokyo Marathon comes packed with story lines.  With the weather forecast looking good both the men's and women's course records, 2:05:42 and 2:22:23, are in danger.  The Japanese all-comers' records of 2:05:18 and 2:21:18 may not be safe either.  The Abbott World Marathon Majors wraps up the first iteration of its new one year/seven race +1 format in Tokyo; 2014 Tokyo winner Dickson Chumba (Kenya) stands a chance of tying men's series leader Eliud Kipchoge after winning in Chicago last fall, sending the win to a vote, while on the women's side Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia), Helah Kiprop (Kenya) and Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia) all have a chance at taking the AWMM title if the win goes their way.  Even 2nd would get Dibaba into the running.

Along with Chumba, Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya) and Eliud Kiptanui (Kenya) will be pushing the race toward record territory with a first half planned in the 1:02:30-1:03:00 range.  Defending Olympic gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) is also back to a race that has always been kind to him.  Along with the three AWMM title contenders, 2013 World Champion Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) and a support crew of Ethiopians will be leading the women's race through halfway in 1:10:00-1:10:30.

But for the home crowd the highlight will be the domestic men.  Amid swirling controversy surrounding the convoluted Japanese selection process for the Rio Olympics, Japanese men will be contending for a Rio spot in Tokyo, the second of three designated qualifying races.  Nothing they do in Tokyo can guarantee them a place in Rio, but clearing the JAAF's modest standard of sub-2:06:30, something only one Japanese man has ever done, would give them a modicum of priority in the JAAF's all-knowing eyes.  Most of the top men in the field are thinking in terms of 2:07, and with two of them, Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) and Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) having done it in Tokyo before and three others, Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki), Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda) and Koji Gokaya (Team JR Higashi Nihon), having run sub-2:10 in Tokyo in the last two years there's every reason to see it happening again.  And what makes it even more exciting is the tension of change, of a new generation about to drop and wash over everything that came before.

As JRN wrote earlier this year, there has been an incredible explosion in Japanese university men's distance running since 2012-13.  Over the last 20 years the quality of Japanese men's marathoning has tracked closely with the quality at the Hakone Ekiden university men's championships, and given the level university men have hit in the last 4 years it looks like there is something special coming in the marathon.  Sunday will be the first marathon to feature a major contingent of leaders of the collegiate revolution, with Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), the fastest-ever Japanese collegiate half marathoner at 1:00:50, 1:28:52 30 km university national record holder Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.), 2015 World University Games half marathon silver medalist Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.), Japan's fastest-ever 18-year-old half marathoner Yuta Shimoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and at least four others slated to debut.  Murayama, Hattori and Isshiki are all talking very fast times.  The Japanese debut marathon record is 2:08:12.  The university record is likewise 2:08:12.  The fastest under-20 marathon is 2:15:30.  All these could go.

And don't think the older established guys don't know it.  In pre-race comments almost all of them said, "There are a lot of incredibly good young guys coming up.  The marathon is a different story, but even so we can't let them beat us."  The greatest marathon in Japanese history, the 2003 Fukuoka International Marathon, saw six Japanese men race each other under 2:10 in hopes of making the Athens Olympic team, three running 2:07, two 2:08 and the last 2:09.  Could Sunday top that?  Definitely maybe.

The Tokyo Marathon will be broadcast live nationwide on Nippon TV starting at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28.  Alongside Nippon TV announcer Ralph Suzuki, JRN's Brett Larner will be co-hosting Nippon TV's international broadcast to be shown live in China on LeTV, in Asia and Oceania on Eurosport Asia, in Africa on SuperSport, in South America on Claro Sports and ESPN, and in the United States on NBC Sports.  Check local listings for more information.

10th Tokyo Marathon Elite Field
Tokyo, 2/28/16
click here for complete field listing
times listed are 2013-2015 best times except where noted

Men
Emmanuel Mutai (Kenya) - 2:03:13 (Berlin 2014)
Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:04:32 (Chicago 2014)
Eliud Kiptanui (Kenya) - 2:05:21 (Berlin 2015)
Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:06:19 (Amsterdam 2015)
Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) - 2:06:33 (Tokyo 2015)
Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) - 2:06:35 (Dubai 2015)
Masato Imai (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:07:39 (Tokyo 2015)
Kohei Matsumura (Japan/Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki) - 2:08:09 (Tokyo 2014)
Samuel Ndungu (Kenya) - 2:08:21 (Lisbon 2014)
Abel Kirui (Kenya) - 2:09:04 (Tokyo 2014)
Hiroaki Sano (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza) - 2:09:18 (Tokyo 2015)
Koji Gokaya (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:09:21 (Tokyo 2015)
Javier Guerra (Spain) - 2:09:33 (London 2015)
Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:03 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:10:50 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Sunbelx) - 2:11:02 (Tokyo 2013)
Takehiro Deki (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:11:14 (Tokyo 2015)
Shun Sato (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:11:39 (Tokyo 2015)
Yoshiki Otsuka (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 2:11:40 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:11:48 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Arata Fujiwara (Japan/Miki House) - 2:11:50 (Hofu 2015)
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:12:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Masashi Hayashi (Japan/Yakult) - 2:12:17 (Biwako 2013)
Hiroki Yamagishi (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:12:48 (Sydney 2015)
Kazuaki Shimizu (Japan/Yakult) - 2:12:49 (Nobeoka 2013)
Yasuyuki Nakamura (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:48 (Hofu 2015)
Yasuhiro Ikeda (Japan/NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:13:49 (Tokyo 2014)
Etsu Miyata (Japan/Saitama T&F Assoc.) - 2:14:09 (Nobeoka 2013)
Atsushi Hasegawa (Japan/Kawasaki T&F Assoc.) - 2:14:20 (Kasumigaura 2014)
Takanori Ide (Japan/Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 2:14:22 (Biwako 2014)
Shingo Igarashi (Japan/Josai Univ. Coaching Staff) - 2:14:24 (Hofu 2015)
Kazuyoshi Tokumoto (Japan/Monteroza) - 2:14:35 (Berlin 2014)
Makoto Harada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:14:40 (Tokyo 2013)
Ryota Matoba (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:15:00 (Nobeoka 2015)
Saeki Makino (Japan/DNPL Ekiden Club) - 2:15:22 (Seoul 2015)
Kenichi Jiromaru (Japan/Obirin Univ. Coaching Staff) - 2:15:24 (Biwako 2014)
Tomohiko Takenaka (Japan/NTT Nishi Nihon) - 2:15:28 (Beppu-Oita 2014)
Yuki Takamiya (Japan/Yakult) - 2:15:38 (Biwako 2014)
Satoru Kasuya (Japan/Toyota Boshoku) - 2:16:47 (Biwako 2013)
Yuki Nanba (Japan/Kameoka AC) - 2:20:37 (Beppu-Oita 2015)

Debut
Yuma Hattori (Japan/Toyo Univ.) - 1:28:52 (Kumanichi 30 km 2014)
Kenta Murayama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:00:50 (Marugame Half 2014)
Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) - 1:01:47 (Lisbon Half 2014)
Tadashi Isshiki (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:09 (Marugame Half 2015)
Yuta Shimoda (Japan/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:22 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Satoshi Kikuchi (Japan/Josai Univ.) - 1:02:23 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)

Women
Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:20:21 (London 2014)
Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:20:48 (Berlin 2015)
Shure Demise (Ethiopia) - 2:20:59 (Dubai 2015)
Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:30 (Tokyo 2014)
Amane Gobena (Ethiopia) - 2:23:29 (Paris 2015)
Ashete Bekele Dido (Ethiopia) - 2:23:43 (Dubai 2015)
Helah Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:24:03 (Tokyo 2015)
Isabellah Andersson (Sweden) - 2:26:05 (Dubai 2013)
Maja Neuenschwander (Switzerland) - 2:26:49 (Berlin 2015)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan/First Dream AC) - 2:31:28 (Tokyo 2013)
Yukiko Okuno (Japan/Shiseido) - 2:32:41 (Osaka Int'l 2015)
Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/Y.W.C.) - 2:36:29 (Osaka Int'l 2015)
Kana Unno (Japan/Noritz) - 2:36:48 (Paris 2015)
Madoka Nakano (Japan/Noritz) - 2:37:43 (Izumisano 2015)

text and photos © 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Nagoya Women's Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The last chance for Japanese women to make the Rio de Janeiro Olympic team, the Mar. 13 Nagoya Women's Marathon has announced the elites who will front the largest women-only marathon field in the world, more than 17,000-strong in its 2015 edition.  Last year's winner Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) is back with a World Championships bronze medal under her belt, facing formerly Japan-based Betelhem Moges (Ethiopia), Valeria Straneo (Italy) and most of Japan's best.

The controversial selection process for the Japanese Olympic team, in which outside of finishing in the top eight at the previous year's World Championships there is no way to guarantee yourself a place on the team no matter how you run in any of the three domestic selection races, has resulted in the top Japanese women at both of the other selection races, Kaori Yoshida (Runners Pulse), 2nd in November's Saitama International Women's Marathon in 2:28:43, and Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), winner of January's Osaka International Women's Marathon in 2:22:17, entering Nagoya in the general division.  The JAAF has voiced its unhappiness about Fukushi running again, but with a history of people like Akemi Matsuno, Naoko Takahashi and most recently Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) having been screwed out of places on National Teams by the JAAF's opaque decision-making process it's not hard to understand why Fukushi doesn't trust them.

There aren't many people in the Nagoya field who could conceivably beat Fukushi's 2:22:17.  Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) is the strongest possibility with a 2:23:24 in Nagoya three years ago, but with her only race of 2015 having been a lowly 13th-place finish on her stage at December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden she has a lot of ground to make up.  Last year's best half marathoners Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) and Michi Numata (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) also look promising, Ohara returning to the marathon after a bad fall in her debut at last year's Nagoya and Numata making her own debut this year.  National record holder Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) is giving it one last shot, with 2014 Asian Games team member Eri Hayakawa (Team Toto), 2014 Yokohama winner Tanaka, 2015 Rotterdam Marathon winner Asami Kato (Team Panasonic), Japan's fastest-ever under-20 marathoner Reia Iwade (Team Noritz) and the debuting Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) round out the domestic field.

Nagoya Women's Marathon - Elite Field
Nagoya, 3/13/16
click here for detailed field listing
times listed are 2013-2016 bests except where noted

Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) - 2:22:08 (Nagoya 2015)
Kayoko Fukushi (Japan/Wacoal) - 2:22:17 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Ryoko Kizaki (Japan/Daihatsu) - 2:23:34 (Nagoya 2013)
Mizuki Noguchi (Japan/Sysmex) - 2:24:05 (Nagoya 2013)
Betelhem Moges (Ethiopia) - 2:24:29 (Dubai 2015)
Valeria Straneo (Italy) - 2:25:27 (Zurich Euro Champs 2014)
Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) - 2:25:31 (Nagoya 2014)
Tomomi Tanaka (Japan/Daiichi Seimei) - 2:26:05 (Nagoya 2014)
Asami Kato (Japan/Panasonic) - 2:26:30 (Rotterdam 2015)
Reia Iwade (Japan/Noritz) - 2:27:21 (Yokohama Women's 2014)
Monica Jepkoech (Kenya) - 2:27:26 (Toronto Waterfront 2015)
Iwona Lewandowska (Poland) - 2:27:47 (London 2015)
Kaori Yoshida (Japan/Runners Pulse) - 2:28:43 (Saitama 2015)
Rei Ohara (Japan/Tenmaya) - 3:05:21 (Nagoya 2015)

Debut
Michi Numata (Japan/Toyota Jidoshokki) - 1:09:27 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Mao Kiyota (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:10:31 (Valencia 2015)

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Eritrean National Record Holder Yared Asmerom Meets Local Kindergartners as Part of New Exchange Program Between Kanagawa and Eritrea

http://www.sankei.com/region/news/160224/rgn1602240057-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Feb. 23 Kanagawa prefecture, slated to host the northeastern African country Eritrea's pre-2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games training camps, announced the launch of the Sky Project exchange program.  As the first event in the program, Beijing and London Olympic marathoner Yared Asmerom, 36, participated in an interactive event with local kindergarteners.  Future activities will include similar events and promotion of Eritrea within Kanagawa.

On the 23rd, Yared visited nursery schools and kindergartens in two different locations in the prefecture.  At one, the Seisa Group Aobadai Nursery School and Kindergarten in Aobadai, Yokohama, children enjoyed running together with Yared, who laughed and smiled as he high-fived each student.  Yared told the children, "If you keep practicing seriously, then in sports or whatever other area you pursue, every one of you can become a champion."  Aobadai kindergartener Chika Tenkawa, 5, commented, "Yared outran me, but it was fun.  I want to get better at running."

Yared began running seriously at age 24.  As a marathoner he was a late bloomer, but with accomplishments like the Eritrean national record of 2:07:27 to his name he has had a long reign as his country's best.  With the goal of making his third-straight Olympic team this summer in Rio de Janeiro he plans to run the Czech Republic's Prague Marathon in May, one of the races used in selecting the Eritrean national team.

According to Yared, Eritrea's capital Asmara is ideally suited for long-distance training, being located at 2300 m elevation.  At last summer's World Championships Ghirmay Ghebreslassie became Eritrea's first men's marathon gold medalist.  "We have raised a talented young athlete who is achieving great things in the world," Yared said.

About Japan Yared told the children, "I love the Japanese people for their hard work and mutual respect for each other.  I'll be 40 years old when the Tokyo Olympics happen, but even though my mind says, 'I want to run there!' it's all up to the health of my body."   Despite the brief dip in his spirits in the face of the realities of aging, he added with wide, bright eyes, "But I will have the Kanagawa training camp to look forward to!"

Translator's note: Asmerom ran Sunday's Ome 30 km, finishing 4th in 1:33:24 behind marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't).

Monday, February 22, 2016

JAAF to Fukushi on Nagoya Plans: "Don't Run"

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/1607599.html

translated by Brett Larner

With regard to her entry in the final Rio de Janeiro Olympics women's marathon selection race, the Mar. 13 Nagoya Women's Marathon, on Feb. 21 JAAF Strengthening Committee Chairman Kazunori Asaba, 55, sent a message to Kayoko Fukushi (33, Team Wacoal): "We do not want you to run."

Fukushi won the second Rio selection race, January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, in 2:22:17, one of the fastest times ever run by a Japanese woman, but because the JAAF would not confirm her spot on the Rio team, the next day she indicated that she would run Nagoya as well.  Chairman Asaba seeks to persuade Fukushi that if she hopes to contend for an Olympic medal she should not run Nagoya, but at the same time refuses to change the JAAF's stance that it will not confirm that she is definitely on the Rio team.

Attending the 20 km racewalk national championships in Kobe, Chairman Asaba issued the highly unusual request when he spoke for the first time about Fukushi feeling forced to run in Nagoya despite knowing the risk of injury.  "Fukushi met all of our criteria with a superb, flawless run," he said.  "We do not want her to run Nagoya.  If there were anything we could do to make that happen, we would do it.  She has reached the level of being a medal contender.  If she is going to go for an Olympic medal then we want to see her preparation be rock-solid."

It is very unusual for JAAF executives to touch upon the race plans of individual athletes let alone try to talk someone out of running a race.  Saying both, "Nothing has been decided for certain," and "We can't just stand by and do nothing about this," Asaba showed the first signs of trying to influence Fukushi.

He also admitted the lack of definitive and clear qualification criteria in the Olympic selection guidelines.  Fukushi cleared the JAAF's sub-2:22:30 Olympic qualifying standard in winning Osaka, meaning that realistically she should be a lock for the Olympic team.  However, the JAAF's Olympic selection guidelines do not specify a procedure for what would happen if multiple people cleared the JAAF's Olympic standard, and as a result the JAAF cannot confirm Fukushi's position on the team.

With regard to the possible scenario in which two Olympic team members are chosen from Nagoya after running fast times there, Fukushi's coach Tadayuki Nagayama has stated the problem clearly: "The second Japanese finisher in Nagoya will have lost to the first Japanese finisher.  There is no way it should even be possible that the 2nd-placer in Nagoya could be picked over Fukushi, who won."  Chairman Asaba commented, "I can understand that line of thought," and, admitting that there was a gap in the rules, said, "With the level of Japanese running in mind we set 2:22:30 as the standard.  We did not put anything into place to account for the possibility that more than one athlete might run that time."

But with regard to giving Fukushi a green light Asaba remained unmoved from the JAAF's position.  "That is a difficult area," he said.  "We cannot say that we will choose her for the team.  Other athletes are still going to run Nagoya.  Until all three selection races are finished we cannot do that, but we do want to do everything we can right up to the end of the end."  Just like in politics, even if you are the frontrunner, when it comes down to the rules a lot of things can end up being empty promises.

A timeline of the women's marathon Olympic selection problem:

Jan. 31: Fukushi solos a win at the Osaka International Women's Marathon. Her time of 2:22:17 clears the JAAF's sub-2:22:30 Olympic standard.

Feb. 1: Fukushi's camp indicates she is considering running the Nagoya Women's Marathon.  Coach Nagayama says, "The JAAF hasn't said a word to us about her being on the [Olympic] team."

Feb. 6: At an event the day before the Marugame International Half Marathon, JAAF Strengthening Committee Vice-Chairman Katsumi Sakai says, "We can't say that she will be on the team.  Under the selection guidelines there is a possibility she might not be chosen."

Feb. 8: Coach Nagayama announces that preparations are underway for Fukushi's training for Nagoya, saying, "This is life or death for us.  All we can do is go on the offense."

Feb. 21: JAAF Strengthening Committee Chairman Asaba makes the unusual request for Fukushi not to run Nagoya.

Feb. 25: Announcement of Nagoya Women's Marathon entry list.

Mar. 13: Nagoya Women's Marathon

Mar. 17: JAAF executive council meeting, Olympic team lineup expected to be decided.

Meter Issue #03 - 'The Ivy League at the Izumo Ekiden'

Meter magazine published an in-depth article on ekidens and the Ivy League Select Team's run at the last Izumo Ekiden in its third issue.  Text by JRN's Brett Larner, photos by Androniki Christodoulou and Kazuyuki Sugimatsu. Order copies here.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Double 30 km Day: Shitara and Matsumi Win Kumanichi, Oshikawa and Shimokado Take Ome

by Brett Larner
Former national university record holder Keita Shitara (Team Konica Minolta) returned to Japan's biggest 30 km, the Kumanichi Road Race, for the first time in three years to pick up the win in Kumanichi's 60th edition.  A graduate of 2014 Hakone Ekiden winner Toyo University, Shitara took the race in hand from the start, leading through 5 km in 14:38 just 2 seconds off the pace for the 1:28:52 course record set in 2014 by Toyo's Yuma Hattori.  Early company included Shitara's Konica Minolta teammate Masato Kikuchi, Toyo grad Kento Otsu (Team Toyota Kyushu) and current Toyo students Ryo Kuchimachi and Shun Sakuraoka.  Over the next 10 km the pack whittled down to just Shitara and Sakuraoka, 20 seconds off CR pace at 15 km in 44:15 with Otsu another 20 seconds back.

Around 21 km Shitara got a few strides on Sakuraoka, who began to fade rapidly and was overtaken by Otsu and others.  Otsu initially closed, but even as Shitara slowed dramatically Otsu was unable to keep up the chase.  Shitara took the win in 1:30:45, 50 seconds off his 2013 time but a big improvement over last year's race.  Otsu was 2nd in 1:31:16 to make it a Toyo alum 1-2, Ryo Matsumoto (Team Toyota) moving up to 3rd in 1:31:24.

Coached by 1991 World Championships marathon silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita, Sakiko Matsumi (Team Daiichi Seimei) won the women's division in in 1:45:59 in her first 30 km race.  Matsumi pushed the pace start to finish, getting company from Mami Onuki (Team Sysmex) and Chika Ihara (Team Higo Ginko) through 20 km but covering the last 10 km alone.  Matsumi will run next month's Nagoya Women's Marathon in a shot at the Rio Olympics marathon team.
Further north in Tokyo's western hills Japan's other big 30 km celebrated its 50th running.  The Ome Road Race saw its field chasing a 3 million yen bonus for breaking the antique 1:29:32 course record set back in 1981 by the great Toshihiko Seko.  A lead quintet developed early, with Otsu's teammate Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu), Kenyan Michael Githae (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC),  marathoners Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) and university runner Jinnosuke Matsumura (Josai Univ.) breaking away in the first 5 km.  Kawauchi was quick to drop, followed first by Matsumura and then Asmerom.  For nearly 20 hilly km Oshikawa and Githae ran side-by-side, but heading back onto flatter ground with around 2 km to go Oshikawa kicked away for a 9-second win in 1:31:37.  Kawauchi clawed his way back up through the field, advancing to 3rd in 1:32:40.

The women's race played out similarly, with marathoner Kaoru Nagao (Team Univ. Ent.) leading a quartet that included her younger teammate Mirai Waku (Team Unv. Ent.), Miharu Shimokado (Team Shimamura) and Kotomi Takayama (Sysmex) through a quick first 5 km before people began to drop.  By 15 km it was down to Shimokado and Waku, who ran against each other through 20 km before Shimokado worked one of the biggest hills on the course to get a lead of almost 10 seconds.  Waku fought back on the flat and closed to within 2 seconds but couldn't seal the deal as Shimokado took the win in 1:43:55.  Takayama was a distant afterthought in 3rd in 1:46:12.  Rio Olympics marathon team contender Kaori Yoshida (Runners Pulse), the top Japanese woman at the Saitama International Marathon selection race and due to line up again in Nagoya, was an apparent DNF, dropping out somewhere after 10 km.

60th Kumanichi 30 km Road Race
Kumamoto, 2/21/16
click here for complete results

Men
1. Keita Shitara (Konica Minolta) - 1:30:45
2. Kento Otsu (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:31:16
3. Ryo Matsumoto (Toyota) - 1:31:24
4. Masato Kikuchi (Konica Minolta) - 1:32:09
5. Shun Sakuraoka (Toyo Univ.) - 1:32:15

Women
1. Sakiko Matsumi (Daiichi Seimei) - 1:45:59
2. Mami Onuki (Sysmex) - 1:46:37
3. Chika Ihara (Higo Ginko) - 1:47:06
4. Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:47:53
5. Yoko Miyauchi (Hokuren) - 1:50:44

50th Ome 30 km Road Race
Ome, Tokyo, 2/21/16
click here for complete results

Men
1. Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:31:37
2. Michael Githae (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:31:46
3. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:32:40
4. Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) - 1:33:24
5. Takaya Hamato (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 1:35:00

Women
1. Miharu Shimokado (Shimamura) - 1:43:55
2. Mirai Waku (Universal Entertainment) - 1:43:57
3. Kotomi Takayama (Sysmex) - 1:46:12
4. Megumi Amako (Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:47:39
5. Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:48:10
-----
DNF - Kaori Yoshida (Runners Pulse)

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, February 19, 2016

JAAF Names World Half Marathon and Asian XC Teams

http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXLSSXK40674_Y6A210C1000000/

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Feb. 18 the JAAF named the five men and five women on the Japanese team for the Mar. 26 World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff, U.K.  Additionally, they also announced the lineup for the Feb. 29 Asian Cross-Country Championships in Manama, Bahrain, with Shuho Dairokuno (Team Asahi Kasei) leading the senior men's team.

The World Half Marathon Championships team:

Men
Keijiro Mogi (Asahi Kasei) - 1:00:54 (Marugame Half 2016)
Keisuke Nakatani (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:01:21 (Marugame Half 2016)
Naoki Kudo (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:01:25 (Marugame Half 2016)
Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu) - 1:01:53 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)
Minato Oishi (Toyota) - 1:02:06 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2013)

Women
Miho Shimizu (Hokuren) - 1:09:41 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)
Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:09:51 (Sanyo Ladies Half 2015)
Mirai Waku (Universal Entertainment) - 1:09:56 (Sanyo Ladies Half 2015)
Hisami Ishii (Yamada Denki) - 1:10:09 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)
Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) - 1:10:25 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)

The Asian Cross-Country Championships team:

Senior Men
Shuho Dairokuno (Asahi Kasei) - 27:46.55 (Hachioji 2015)
Tsubasa Hayakawa (Toyota) - 28:06.10 (Hachioji 2015)
Naohiro Domoto (JR Higashi Nihon) - 28:16.92 (Hachioji 2012)
Mitsutaka Tomita (Tokai Univ.) - 28:56.78 (Keio Univ. 2015)

Senior Women
Yuka Miyazaki (Kyudenko) - 15:16.43 (Sayagatani 2015)
Rina Yamazaki (Panasonic) - 15:38.88 (Kitami 2014)
Kyoko Koyama (Juntendo Univ.) - 16:26.84 (Chiba 2015)

Junior Men
Hyuga Endo (Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.) - 13:50.51 (Shibetsu 2015)
Shota Onizuka (Omuta H.S.) - 13:58.43 (Sayagatani 2014)
Taiju Nakashima (Sera H.S.) - 14:04.13 (Miyoshi 2015)
Kiseki Shiozawa (Iga Hakuho H.S.) - 14:05.61 (Wakayama 2015)
Tomoki Ota (Hamamatsu Nittai Prep H.S.) - 14:05.92 (Wakayama 2015)

Junior Women
Yuka Mukai (Sera H.S.) - 9:04.81 (Izumo 2015)
Nana Kuraoka (Kagoshima Joshi H.S.) - 9:09.89 (Wakayama 2015)
Shinobu Koyoshigawa (Sera H.S.) - 9:14.34 (Wakayama 2015)
Rika Kaseda (Narita H.S.) - 9:15.64 (Wakayama 2015)
Nozomi Tanaka (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 9:17.65 (Amagasaki 2015)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Police Preparing to Charge Owner of Dog Involved in New Year Ekiden Incident

http://www.jomo-news.co.jp/ns/4514557221513282/news.html

translated by Brett Larner



In a Feb. 17 interview, an official involved with the Takasaki Police Department's investigation of an incident at the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national corporate men's championships in which a roadside spectator's dog jumped out into the course causing a runner to fall confirmed that police are preparing to file charges against a 69-year-old male resident of Takasaki on suspicion of violating Gunma prefecture's Animal Welfare and Management ordinance with regard to requirements for keeping pets under control.

According to the police official, the incident occurred around 10:00 a.m. on Jan. 1 in the town of Kamiorui roughly 3.6 km into the Second Stage.  Running in the second pack, Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta) tripped and fell when a small dog suddenly jumped out into the course directly in front of him.  The owner is suspected of not having had control of the dog at the time, resulting in the dog entering the course and tripping the athlete.  A 60-year-old male eyewitness commented, "He was also holding a baby.  When he was as paying attention to the baby he let go of the dog's leash."  When questioned by police the owner admitted his role in what had happened.

The Konica Minolta team finished 2nd in the New Year Ekiden, 21 seconds behind winner Toyota.  The incident was captured on the live television broadcast and became a major topic on the internet and in the media, apparently spurring the police to pursue criminal charges.  No official complaint report was filed with the police relating to the incident.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

An Honest Look at American Marathoning

by Brett Larner
special thanks to Dr. Helmut Winter for assistance with graphics

It's fitting that last weekend's U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials brought American marathoning back to Los Angeles.  In the years leading up to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics American men and women paved the way as the world's best marathoners, but the L.A. Olympics marked the start of a long decline on both sides that has only recently started to turn around.  With Galen Rupp making a massively anticipated debut and Los Angeles launching its bid for the 2024 Olympics the 2016 L.A. Trials may come to be looked back upon as another turning point.  It's worth taking an honest look at the last 50 years or so of history to understand where that turning point may take American marathoning.

Looking at the average of the ten fastest marathons per year by American men, for the 16 years between the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics American men's marathoning developed at a rate much faster than the world standard.  For a period from the mid-70's through the early 80's, the golden years of Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Dick Beardsley, Alberto Salazar, Greg Meyer and others, the U.S.A. led the world as its dominant men's marathoning power.  1983 marked the height of this power, with four sub-2:10 performances and a top ten average of 2:10:11 that still stands as the best in American history.

The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, however, seemed to pop the bubble.  For the next 16 years from L.A. to the 2000 Sydney Olympics American marathoning went into a steep decline, not just relative to the world standard but in absolute terms.  In that 16 year period there were only four sub-2:10 marathons run by American men, the same number as in 1983 alone, and the top ten average slowed by more than five minutes.  All the while the world standard continued to improve steadily, leaving the U.S.A. farther and farther behind.

Around the time of Sydney things began to turn around, and in the 16 years since then American marathoning has shown erratic but progressive improvement.  Sub-2:10 marathons became a regular occurrence, with the five run in 2012, including four at the Houston Olympic Trials alone, breaking 1983's record.  2012's top ten average of 2:10:20 came up short of the 1983 record but was still 2nd in American history.  The average level has yet to return to the peak years just before the L.A. Olympics over 30 years ago, but in absolute terms American marathoning has improved over the last 16 years.  At the same time, the rate of improvement during this period almost exactly paralleled the worldwide rate, meaning that overall American men are still treading water relative to the rest of the world.

The question of what happened after the L.A. Olympics raises a lot of possibilities that have been talked about for years: a generational gap, changes in training, priorities in university, a shift in focus to other distances as Kenya and Ethiopia came to the forefront of worldwide marathoning, the support systems in place for athletes trying to compete in an era of faster performances that demand more than in earlier generations, some combination of these and other reasons.  It's an equally good question to ask what brought about the turnaround after Sydney.  Many of the factors above that might have changed post-L.A. swung back around, not least among them the arrival of a new generation including Ryan Hall and Dathan Ritzenhein.  Another factor was significantly higher contributions from naturalized citizens.

Looking at the ten fastest marathon times per year from 1968 to 1983, to the best of my knowledge six of the 160 performances were by naturalized citizens, 3.75% of the total number.  From 1984 to 1999 five of the 160 fastest performances were by naturalized citizens, 3.125%.  From 2000 to 2015 this number jumped to 40 out of 160, a major increase to 25%.  In 2004, six of the ten fastest times including the four fastest were by naturalized citizens, with Eritrean-born Meb Keflezighi winning silver in the Athens Olympics.  Looking at the 2000-2015 numbers adjusted to percentages similar to the two previous 16-year cycles, i.e. only the six fastest of the 40 performances by naturalized citizens, the top ten average still shows moderate improvement, indicating that other factors were involved in the turnaround.  But, in keeping with what makes the United States what it is, a large part of recent American men's gains has come thanks to those born abroad who came to the U.S. to contribute what they have.  Some like Keflezighi came while young, others to run in the NCAA and taking citizenship after graduating, others like national record holder Khalid Khannouchi becoming citizens after having raced professionally for their native countries, but regardless of their reasons in the modern era of marathoning naturalized citizen runners have never played as important a role in the U.S. as in the last 16-year cycle.

Both in the U.S.A. and worldwide, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics more or less marked the starting point of modern women's marathoning.  In the years leading up to L.A. women's marathoning worldwide matured rapidly, most of its growth driven by American women who, like the men, led the way in the early 80's.  Joan Benoit Samuelson's gold medal in L.A. resonated around the world, but while women in the rest of the world took it as a starting point for over 30 years of progressive development American women's marathoning came to a standstill after L.A.  With some generational fluctuation along the way, for the 20 years after L.A. the average level among women in the U.S.A. showed no overall improvement, even regressing slightly relative to where it had been at the time of L.A.

There were signs of improvement around the time of the 2000 Sydney Olympics but nothing outside the range of what had come before.  The real turning point came four years later in Athens with Deena Kastor's bronze medal.  The fastest year in U.S. women's history up to that point, 1989, had a top ten average of 2:30:40.  In 2004 this went to 2:30:15 and continued to trend faster with almost every year since then averaging under 2:32:00.  2011 saw the average go under 2:30 for the first time to 2:29:24, and a year later with the 2012 London Olympics it went to 2:27:18.  The average is still well behind the world standard, but the American women's rate of improvement over the last 12 years has been significantly faster than the worldwide rate.

So the question is, with both American men and women going in the right direction, will this year's U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials mark another turning L.A.-based point?  If L.A. does win the 2024 Olympic bid, will American marathoning be ready to represent?  U.S. women are already better than they've ever been and have a solid group of talent at the top instead of just one star runner as in years past.  If the trend continues or accelerates they look set to become a global power for the first time in over 30 years.

For men the challenge is tougher.  Keflezighi pulled off a miracle in L.A. and made the Rio Olympic team at age 40, but none of the other top four at the Houston Trials, Hall, Abdi Abdirahman, and Ritzenhein, all runners who played large roles in the improvements since Sydney, were factors in L.A., Hall retiring, Abdirahman a DNS and Ritzenhein a DNF.  It's clear that another generational change is in progress with under-30 runners who hadn't started marathoning yet four years ago at the Houston Trials taking the other five spots in the top six around Keflezighi.  Winner Rupp definitely looks like he has the ability to go faster than his 2:11:10 debut time in the heat at the L.A. Trials, but as American men enter the next 16-year cycle it will take others stepping up for them to start bringing the U.S. closer to the world standard for the first time since before the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, to maintain the holding pattern of the last 16 years, or even to stop a swing back in the direction of the 1984-1999 years.

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The elite field for the Mar. 6 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, the last selection race for the Japanese men's Rio Olympics team, is finally out, and it is a monster.  Fifteen men with sub-2:10 times in the last three years including nine Japanese men.  Tadese Tola leads the six quality internationals with a 2:04:49 at the 2013 Dubai Marathon, with the other five perfectly positioned from 2:06:43 to 2:08:55 to pull the massive Japanese field along to fast times.

2:08 men Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) lead the nine sub-2:10 Japanese men, but there are dozens more one level down from that who could step up including 2015 Sydney Marathon winner Hisanori Kitajima (Team Yasukawa) and 2014 Riga Marathon winner Yu Chiba (Team Honda). 

More potential can be found on the list of runners taking a second shot at the marathon after failed debuts.  Former Hakone Ekiden stars Shinobu Kubota (Team Toyota) and Ryuji Kashiwabara (Team Fujitsu) lead the way among the domestics, with Japan-based Ethiopian Kassa Mekashaw (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) making a quick turnaround after debuting in Hofu in December.

But some of the most exciting names are on the deep list of first-timers.  Sub-1:02:00 half marathoners Fumihiro Maruyama (Team Asahi Kasei), Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu) and Hiroto Inoue (Team Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki) front this part of the field, but like in Tokyo a week earlier there is a big contingent of current collegiate men making their debuts led by Shohei Otsuka (Komazawa Univ.), Koki Ido (Waseda Univ.) and Shin Kimura (Meiji Univ.).

By Japanese standards it's one of if not the best domestic fields ever, and it's safe to say that no other country except Kenya or Ethiopia could put together a domestic field this good.  With the exception of Kawauchi the top Japanese finisher will have a good shot at being picked for the Rio team, aided by being able to gun for whatever the top Japanese man runs in Tokyo, the second of the three selection races.  Having already run in the first selection race, December's Fukuoka International Marathon, Kawauchi must run sub-2:06:30 or he will not be picked for the Rio team.  Kawauchi turned down a generous offer to run this year's London Marathon in order to enter himself in the general division in Lake Biwa with the motivation of finishing as the top Japanese man and forcing the JAAF to pick someone he had beaten, a move that would add to the ongoing controversy over the current poorly thought-out or intentionally opaque Olympic selection system.

The field in Tokyo looks like it may have a shot at topping the greatest marathon in Japanese history, the 2003 Fukuoka International Marathon Athens Olympics selection race where three Japanese men ran 2:07, two more 2:08 and a sixth 2:09.  Three other marathons have seen five Japanese man under 2:10, two of those in Olympic selection years and both of those at Lake Biwa.  This year's Lake Biwa field looks like it has the potential to far surpass those records and whatever happens the week before in Tokyo.  Don't miss NHK's commercial-free live broadcast of what should be a classic.

71st Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
Elite Field Highlights
Otsu, Shiga, 3/6/16
click here for complete field listing
times listed are 2013-2015 bests except where noted

Tadese Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:04:49 (Dubai 2013)
Shumi Dechasa (Bahrain) - 2:06:43 (Hamburg 2014)
Lucas Rotich (Kenya) - 2:07:17 (Hamburg 2015)
Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:08:00 (Tokyo 2013)
Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:08:14 (Seoul 2013)
Kentaro Nakamoto (Japan/Yasukawa Denki) - 2:08:35 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:08:50 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Shura Kitata (Ethiopia) - 2:08:53 (Shanghai 2015)
Henryk Szost (Poland) - 2:08:55 (Warsaw 2014)
Ryo Yamamoto (Japan/SGH Group) - 2:09:06 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Hirokatsu Kurosaki (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:09:07 (Tokyo 2014)
Masanori Sakai (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:09:10 (Tokyo 2014)
Suehiro Ishikawa (Japan/Honda) - 2:09:10 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Takayuki Matsumiya (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 2:09:14 (Tokyo 2013)
Tomoya Adachi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:09:59 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Munyo Solomon Mutai (Uganda) - 2:10:42 (Hannover 2015)
Hideaki Tamura (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:10:54 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Soji Ikeda (Japan/Yakult) - 2:10:59 (Tokyo 2014)
Ryosuke Fukuyama (Japan/Honda) - 2:10:59 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Kazuki Tomaru (Japan/Toyoa) - 2:11:25 (Berlin 2014)
Noritaka Fujiyama (Japan/Sumitomo Denko) - 2:11:34 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Tomohiro Tanigawa (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:11:39 (Nagano 2015)
Tomoyuki Morita (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:11:41 (Tokyo 2015)
Kohei Ogino (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:11:42 (Nagano 2015)
Takuya Fukatsu (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:11:48 (Nagano 2015)
Rui Yonezawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:11:59 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Noriaki Takahashi (Japan/DeNA) - 2:12:00 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Alphonce Felix Simbu (Tanzania) - 2:12:01 (Gold Coast 2015)
Hisanori Kitajima (Japan/Yasukawa Denki) - 2:12:28 (Nobeoka 2015)
Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:12:29 (Lake Biwa 2015)
Ryo Kiname (Japan/Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki) - 2:12:48 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Naoki Okamoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:12:55 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Tadashi Suzuki (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:10 (Hofu 2015)
Yu Chiba (Japan/Honda) - 2:13:19 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Yusei Nakao (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:23 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Masahiro Kawaguchi (Japan/Yakult) - 2:13:27 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Norikazu Kato (Japan/Yakult) - 2:13:34 (Nobeoka 2015)
Dishon Karukuwa Maina (Kenya/Omokawa Zaimoku) - 2:13:38 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Sho Matsumoto (Japan/Nikkei Business) - 2:13:38 (Nobeoka 2013)
Shigeki Tsuji (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:13:41 (Lake Biwa 2014)
Tomonori Sakamoto (Japan/Press Kogyo) - 2:13:49 (Nagano 2015)
Liam Adams (Australia) - 2:13:49 (Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014)
Ryo Ishita (Japan/SDF Academy) - 2:13:52 (Nobeoka 2014)
Bunta Kuroki (Japan/Yasukawa Denki) - 2:14:27 (Warsaw 2014)

Second Marathon
Shinobu Kubota (Japan/Toyota) - 2:15:48 (Lake Biwa 2013)
Kassa Mekashaw (Ethiopia/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 2:16:38 (Hofu 2015)
Kazuya Deguchi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:17:59 (Nobeoka 2013)
Ryuji Kashiwabara (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:20:44 (Sydney 2015)
Daisuke Matsufuji (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:21:08 (Beppu-Oita 2013)
Yusuke Takabayashi (Japan/Toyota) - 2:21:27 (Beppu-Oita 2015)
Yuichiro Ueno (Japan/DeNA) - 2:22:34 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Kenta Murozuka (Japan/DeNA) - 2:30:38 (Lake Biwa 2015)

Debut
Fumihiro Maruyama (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 1:01:15 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2013)
Sota Hoshi (Japan/Fujitsu) - 1:01:18 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Hiroto Inoue (Japan/Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki) - 1:01:39 (Marugame Half 2014)
Kenta Kitazawa (Japan/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 1:02:32 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Shohei Otsuka (Japan/Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:32 (Ageo Half 2014)
Koki Ido (Japan/Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:33 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2014)
Hiroyuki Sasaki (Japan/Nissin Shokuhin) - 1:02:36 (Marugame Half 2012)
Shin Kimura (Japan/Meiji Univ.) - 1:02:45 (Marugame Half 2015)
Jun Sato (Japan/Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:49 (Ageo Half 2014)
Yuta Takahashi (Japan/DeNA) - 59:23 (Yosenkai 20 km 2009)
Yuki Matsuoka (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 27:59.78 (Fukuoka 10000 m, 2012)

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, February 15, 2016

'Japanese Duo Finish 1-2 in Austin Marathon'

http://www.mystatesman.com/news/sports/japanese-duo-finish-1-2-in-austin-marathon/nqQGd/

Chiba, Karatsu, Corporate Championships and Nobeoka - Weekend Race Roundup

by Brett Larner

Strong winds made for tough conditions and slow times at most of the weekend's main races.  The newly-formatted X-Run Chiba, a retooling of the longstanding Chiba International Cross-Country Meet, saw Yusuke Nishiyama (Komazawa Univ.) emerge on top of the day's longest race, the university men's 12 km.  Nishiyama outkicked Kenta Ueda, son of Yamanashi Gakuin University head coach Masahito Ueda, by 5 seconds to take the win in 37:48.  Maki Izumida (Rikkyo Univ.) had an even closer win in the university women's 6 km, running 20:54 to beat Ai Hosoda (Nittai Univ.) by just 3 seconds.  Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Kenya/Team Aisan Kogyo) won the men's 8 km by nearly a minute in 25:05, Yuki Kanehira (Team Sysmex) joining him at the top of the women's 8 km podium in 29:04.  With the junior high school races now serving as the National Junior High School Cross-Country Championships Maebashi Fujimi J.H.S. easily dominated, taking both the boys' and girls' titles.

At the Karatsu 10-Mile Road Race, Japan's main spring 10-miler following the conversion of the Himejijo 10-Miler to a mass-participation marathon, Komazawa University graduate Ikuto Yufu (Team Fujitsu) got away from a large lead pack to take the win in 47:47, the top ten all finishing within 11 seconds of him.  Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) was 13th in 48:09, just over 30 seconds off his 10 mile best.  Rina Yamashita (Oita Tomei H.S.) won the women's 10 km division in 33:52, Sae Hanada (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) setting a course record of 16:05 to win the high school girls' 5 km.  In the event's biggest race, Kazuki Noda (Saikyo H.S.) won the high school boys' 10 km in 29:56 by a second over Oita Tomei's Sota Ito.

At the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships, defending men's champion Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/JFE Steel) made it two in a row, winning in 1:01:00.  Japan-based Kenyans swept the top five, with another Komazawa University graduate, Shogo Nakamura (Team Fujitsu) landing 6th in a PB 1:01:53 to take the top Japanese spot.  Arguably Japan's best contemporary marathoner, Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) landed just 6 seconds off his half marathon best in 1:02:35 despite the conditions.  Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei), the current frontrunner for the Rio men's marathon team, was likewise only 4 seconds off his best in 1:02:59.

Continuing a solid streak of recent improvement, Miho Shimizu (Team Hokuren) won the women's race in 1:09:41 to join Nakamura as a probable addition to this year's Japanese World Half Marathon Championships team.  Rio Olympics marathoner Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) was 10th in 1:12:02.  Naoko Koizumi (Team Denso) won the women's 10 m in 33:04.

The day's wind showed its impact most strongly at the Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon.  With the lead pack going through halfway in 1:05:35, local Ryoichi Matsuo (Team Asahi Kasei) outlasted all to take the win in 2:15:09.  Teammate Taiki Yoshimura (Team Asahi Kasei) faded more than a minute to take 2nd in 2:16:15 by two seconds over Ayumu Sato (Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki).  Misato Hokama (Team Starts) won the tiny women's race in 2:54:57.

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, February 12, 2016

Yoshida to Join Fukushi in Nagoya Showdown for Rio

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20160212-OHT1T50034.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Feb. 11 it was learned that Kaori Yoshida (34, Runners Pulse), the top Japanese woman at 2nd overall in the first Rio Olympics domestic selection race at last November's Saitama International Women's Marathon, has entered the final Rio selection race, the Mar. 13 Nagoya Women's Marathon.  Also entered is Kayoko Fukushi (33, Wacoal), who ran 2:22:17 to break the JAAF-mandated sub-2:22:30 Olympic standard and win the second Rio selection race, January's Osaka International Women's Marathon.  With both already in contention for the Rio team the pair's entries creates a highly unusual situation at the final selection race.

The final selection race for the Olympic women's marathon team looks set to become a one-shot battle.  Appearing as part of a radio event in Tokyo on the 11th, Yoshida said, "I've been planning all along to run either Tokyo or Nagoya, but when I saw Fukushi's time in Osaka I immediately decided to run Nagoya."  Along with Fukushi, Yoshida's entry throws down a challenge to tough competition like national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (37, Sysmex) and London Olympian Ryoko Kizaki (30, Daihatsu) who are focused solely on Nagoya.

Fukushi's entry into Nagoya, her second selection race in just over a month and a half, is controversial, but for Yoshida the challenge is tougher.  In Saitama her time of 2:28:43 was a PB, but with Mai Ito (31, Otsuka Seiyaku) having scored a place on the Rio team by finishing 7th at last summer's World Championships Yoshida is third in line behind Ito and Fukushi's Osaka run.  There is a chance she could still be chosen for the team without running Nagoya, but for the last four years the winning time in Nagoya has been in the 2:22-2:24 range.  Every time, the fastest Japanese woman in Nagoya has also been much faster than Yoshida's 2:28.  With the JAAF looking primarily at whether athletes hit their standard and at how they do in the first selection race they run, unless Yoshida's rivals run badly in Nagoya the only route open to her is to break 2:22:30.

There are only two places left on the Olympic team.  Not belonging to a corporate team, the 34-year-old Yoshida got where she did on her own.  Yoshida will take a big step toward her dream of making the Olympics when she runs the Feb. 21 Ome 30 km in preparation for Nagoya.

Kaori Yoshida - born Aug. 4, 1981 in Sakado, Saitama.  34 years old.  156 cm, 41 kg.  Began running her first year of junior high school and joined the Sekisui Kagaku corporate team after graduating from Kawagoe Joshi H.S. in 2000.  Passing through other teams including Shiseido and Amino Vital AC, last fall she joined the Runners Pulse amateur running club.  Her marathon achievements include wins at the 2006 Hokkaido Marathon and 2010 and 2012 Gold Coast Marathons.

Translator's note: The article and in particular the bio at the end fail to mention that Yoshida is the only Japanese athlete to have ever been publicly suspended for doping after testing positive for EPO at the 2012 Honolulu Marathon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Kawauchi, Asmerom, Nagao and Waku Headline 50th Anniversary Ome 30 km

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20160210-00000045-sph-spo

translated by Brett Larner

On Feb. 10 the Ome Road Race organizing committee announced the elite field and guest starters for its 50th anniversary running on Feb. 21.  The fastest man ever over the historic Ome course, marathon great and DeNA corporate team executive head coach Toshihiko Seko will serve as starter in the 30 km, with former marathon world record holder and Sydney Olympics marathon gold medalist Naoko Takahashi starting the 10 km.  A $30,000 bonus will be offered to any runner who can beat Seko's 1981 winning time of 1:29:32, with $20,000 offered for breaking the all-time second-fastest winning time in Ome history, 1:30:21 by Masaki Ito (Konica Minolta) in 2013.

50th Ome Road Race Elite Field
Ome, Tokyo, 2/21/16

Men's 30 km
Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:29:31 (2013 Kumanichi 30 km)
Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) - 1:30:16 (2008 Biwako Mainichi Marathon)
Shota Yamaguchi (Fujitsu) - 1:01:42 (2012 Marugame Half)
Michael Githae (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:02:27 (2015 Gifu Seiryu Half)
Jinnosuke Matsumura (Josai Univ.) - 1:02:46 (2015 Nat'l Univ. Half)
Takaya Hamato (Tokyo Int'l Univ.) - 1:01:06 (2015 Yosenkai 20 km)

Women's 30 km
Kaoru Nagao (Univ. Ent.) - 1:42:05 (2011 Yokohama Int'l Women's Marathon split)
Mirai Waku (Univ. Ent.) - 1:09:56 (2015 Sanyo Ladies' Half)
Kaori Yoshida (Runners Pulse AC) - 1:10:18 (2001 Chiba Marine Half)
Megumi Amako (Canon AC Kyushu) - 1:12:44 (2013 Sanyo Ladies' Half)
Yukari Abe (Panasonic) - 1:13:31 (2013 Marugame Half)

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Aoyama Gakuin's Isshiki Ready for Tokyo Marathon Debut After Top-Class Double

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20160208-OHT1T50020.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Two-time Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University's star third-year Tadashi Isshiki, last year's National University Half Marathon champion and World University Games half marathon silver medalist, won Sunday's Kanagawa Half Marathon in 1:03:03, just two seconds short of his own course record.  In training to make his marathon debut at age 21 at the February 28 Tokyo Marathon in a shot at the Rio Olympic team, Isshiki ran a full marathon time trial just four days before his Kanagawa win, making his time truly top-class for a university athlete.  Aoyama Gakuin head coach Susumu Hara, 48, was full of optimism post-race, saying, "Rio has come into sight."

The first thing Isshiki said after his solid win was, "That was a nice jog out there today."  On Wednesday, Feb. 3 in Futtsu, Chiba he ran a 42.195 km marathon time trial in 2:31:02.  With a 1:02:09 half marathon best at age 20 his potential in the marathon remains unknown.  His target in Tokyo is the 2:08:12 university national record held by Masakazu Fujiwara (then Chuo Univ., now Team Honda).  "I feel like I can do it, and I feel like I can't," he laughed.  If he succeeds in breaking the 13-year-old record there's not much doubt he'll factor into selection for the Olympic team.  "I've got nothing to lose, so I'm going to run big time," he said.  If he follows through then in three weeks' time Isshiki will stand as a new star of Japanese marathoning.

Along with Isshiki, fourth years Toshinori Watanabe and Ryo Hashimoto, third-year Yasunari Ikeda and second-year Yuta Shimoda will also debut at the Tokyo Marathon.  In Kanagawa Hashimoto was 2nd, Shimoda 4th and Watanabe 5th.  Setting a new of PB 1:03:33, Hashimoto said, "That felt easier than I expected."  The kings of Hakone look set to make their presences felt in Tokyo too.

Saitama Sakae H.S. Takes Both Saitama Ekiden Titles

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/local/saitama/news/20160208-OYTNT50000.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

105 teams competed in four different divisions at the 83rd Saitama Ekiden on Feb. 7.  Saitama Sakae H.S., the overall winner at last weekend's Okumusashi Ekiden, ran the six-stage, 42.195 km men's course in 2:10:14, faster than any of the corporate or university teams in the race, to seal a fourth-straight high school division win.  Following up its Hakone Ekiden debut last month, Tokyo International University was close behind in 2:10:20 to win the general division, with the Saitama T&F Assoc. team winning the local team division.  The Saitama Sakae H.S. girls ran 1:12:59 for the five-stage, 20.5 km women's race to win for the third year in a row.

The Saitama Sakae boys' opening runner Takahisa Mitsui and third runner Ryoji Tatezawa both scored overall stage wins, Tatezawa outran marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) by 31 seconds over 12.1 km.  Three of the four other Saitama Sakae boys also ran the fastest high school times on their stages.  On the track in Kumagaya Sports Park Stadium, Saitama Sakae anchor Hidekazu Tsujikata ran down Tokyo Kokusai's Tatsuki Ishii to steal the win.  Post-race Saitama Sakae head coach Yoichi Kamiyama commented, "I figured that the race would be against the universities that had run the Hakone Ekiden, but I knew that if we could show up and be competitive then we'd have the chance to win."

Monday, February 8, 2016

After Debut Marathon Win in Beppu-Oita Abera Gets Instant Contract Extension: "I Love Japan!"

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/1601917.html

translated by Brett Larner

Smiling after winning his marathon debut, 21-year-old Ethiopian Melaku Abera (Kurosaki Harima) told reporters, "I love Japan!  Thanks to this I can stay here a bit longer."  Running in a lead pack of Kenyans, Ethiopians and other invited international athletes, Abera threw in a surge at 35 km that put him out front alone.  While frontrunning he blew kisses at the TV cameras and talked to them in Japanese.  "I was saying thank you to my coach and teammates," he said, a sign of how much he likes the Kitakyushu-based Kurosaki Harima ekiden team.

Abera came to Japan four years ago to join Kurosaki Harima where he was expected to serve as the ekiden team's ringer, but in the New Year Ekiden and other important races he didn't produce the hoped-for results.  His contract was not renewed, meaning he was scheduled to return to his home in Ethiopia at the end of the fiscal year in March.  But winning his marathon debut brought a quick change in his fortune in the form of a one-year contract extension from Kurosaki Harima.  "I'm really happy to be able to keep running on the team," Abera said.  "I'm overjoyed to be able to stay where I love here in Japan."  He vowed to run his best for the team in the year to come.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Abera and Yoshitomi Take 65th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Wins, Akutsu Gets Ehime Marathon Course Record

by Brett Larner

Shut out of inclusion in the selection races for the Rio Olympics men's team the 65th running of the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon was largely a developmental race, the small international field and large field of second-tier and debuting Japanese men setting out in hopes of sub-2:10 times.  #1 seed Evans Ruto (Kenya), the only athlete in the field to have broken 2:09, was an early casualty, dropping out just past 15 km as the pace accelerated from high 2:09 to low 2:08 territory.  Over a dozen were still in touch at halfway in 1:04:22, including #2 and #3-ranked Shume Hailu (Ethiopia) and Anthony Maritim (Kenya), Japanese men Naohiro Yamada (YKK), Kenichi Shiraishi (Asahi Kasei) and Shogo Kanezane (Chugoku Denryoku), 22-year-old Myeung Jun Son (South Korea) and debuting Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima), Yuki Munakata (Kanebo) and Keisuke Kusaka (Hitachi Butsuryu).

Past the halfway point Kiflom Sium (Eritrea) was the next main casualty, and just after 25 km a surge on a corner from remaining pacer Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Sunbelx) dropped everyone but Haile, Maritim and Abera.  Yamada was quick to catch up, Son leading Munakata and Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) back into contact a kilometer or two later.  When Mogusu stepped off at 30 km the lead group was on 2:08:53 pace, with Maritim, Abera and Shume side-by-side, Yamada a few strides back and Son slipping away.

The Japan-based Abera, making his marathon debut at age 21 after setting the course record at last year's Oita City Half Marathon, pushed the pace to crack first Shume and then Maritim.  By 35 km he was free and clear in the lead, smiling, blowing kisses and talking to the camera, waving and giving peace signs.  That lasted all of about 3 km before the marathon caught up with him.  Still on sub-2:09 pace at 40 km, his stride shortened dramatically and he began to look back with gritted teeth.  Luckily for him Maritim and Shume were nowhere to be seen, and Abera held on for the win in 2:09:27.  Maritim was next, almost two minutes back in 2:11:17, with Shume rounding out the top 3 in 2:11:41.

More dramatic action was happening further back.  Yamada, looking strong at 30 km, slowed almost to a jog after 32 km and was overtaken by both Munakata and Son.  At 38 km Son dropped Munakata to move into 4th, but with 1.5 km he was caught by former Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage runner Kazuya Ishida (Nishitetsu), off the lead pace early but closing hard to advance through the field and take a surprise 4th in 2:12:25 as the top Japanese man.  In just his third marathon Son was 5th in a PB 2:12:34, the best Korean men's time since 2012.

In the women's race Japan's #1-ranked amateur Hiroko Yoshitomi (First Dream AC) scored her fourth-straight marathon win in the last three months, outrunning Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) and Hisayo Matsumoto (unattached) for the win in 2:45:07.  Yoshitomi's season goal is a sub-2:30 PB at the Tokyo Marathon later this month where she is again the #1-ranked Japanese woman.

Beppu-Oita did count in qualification for the Rio Paralympics team visually impaired division.  Masahiro Okamura (Runweb) secured himself a place with a 2:27:24 win at age 45.  Misato Michishita (JBMA), already on the Rio team, set out in search of a world record but fell off pace late in the race, winning 3:03:42.

A much faster time than Yoshitomi's came at the 54th Ehime Marathon, where 21-year-old Yuka Akutsu (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) ran 2:35:31 to take over a minute and a half of the course record.  Defending men's winner Sohei Wada (Tokushima T&F Assoc.) made it two in a row, bettering last year's winning time by 42 seconds in 2:21:00.

65th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
Oita, 2/17/6
click here for complete results

Men
1. Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:09:27 - debut
2. Anthony Maritim (Kenya) - 2:11:17
3. Hailu Shume (Ethiopia) - 2:11:41
4. Kazuya Ishida (Nishitetsu) - 2:12:25
5. Myeong Jun Son (South Korea) - 2:12:34 - PB
6. Kenichi Shiraishi (Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:07
7. Ihor Olefirenko (Ukraine) - 2:13:33
8. Yuki Munakata (Kanebo) - 2:13:53 - debut
9. Keisuke Kusaka (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:14:11 - debut
10. Shogo Kanezane (Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:14:15 - PB
-----
DNF - Evans Ruto (Kenya)
DNF - Kiflom Sium (Eritrea)

Women
1. Hiroko Yoshitomi (First Dream AC) - 2:45:07
2. Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) - 2:48:27
3. Hisayo Matsumoto (unattached) - 2:48:51

Visually Impaired - Men
1. Masahiro Okamura (Runweb) - 2:27:24
2. Shinya Wada (JBMA) - 2:33:46
3. Yutaka Kumagai (AC Kita) - 2:34:06

Visually Impaired - Women
1. Misato Michishita (JBMA) - 3:03:42
2. Hiroko Kondo (JBMA) - 3:18:05
3. Yumiko Fujii (Biwako Timers) - 3:24:06

54th Ehime Marathon
Matsuyama, Ehime, 2/7/16
complete results coming shortly

Men
1. Shohei Wada (Tokushima T&F Assoc.) - 2:21:00

Women
1. Yuka Akutsu (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:35:31 - CR

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