Monday, April 24, 2017

Ndiku Over Tanui, a World-Leader From Ekarare, and More - Weekend Track Roundup

by Brett Larner

Along with the weekend's road action there were high-level track meets and time trials all across the country.  The biggest was the two-day Hyogo Relay Carnival in Kobe.  Highlights from Hyogo:

  • In Saturday's Asics Challenge men's 10000 m, Simon Kariuki (Nihon Yakka Univ.) ran 27:55.10 to outrun Hakone Ekiden star Dominic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) for the win.  Ken Yokote (Team Fujitsu) delivered the fastest Japanese time so far in 2017, running 28:04.51 for 3rd.  In his first race since running 1:00:57 at last month's United Airlines NYC Half, Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) was 6th in 28:24.13.  Samuel Mwangi (Team Konica Minolta) stopped mid-race and was carried off the track on a stretcher.
  • Two-time World Junior Championships gold medalist Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) outkicked Rio Olympic silver medalist Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko) to win Sunday's Grand Prix men's 10000 m in 27:39.40.  Tanui was 2nd in 27:45.85, holding off 2014 World Junior Championships bronze medalist Nicholas Kosimbei (Team Toyota) who took 3rd in 27:48.51.  Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) was the top Japanese man at 4th in 28:07.23, with Tokyo Marathon debutants Takashi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei) and Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) next in 28:14.14 and 28:15.40.  National record holder Kota Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) was a DNS.
  • Yuka Hori (Team Panasonic) led the entire way in the Grand Prix women's 10000 m only to get outkicked over the last lap by Mizuki Matsuda (Team Daihatsu) and Sakiho Tsutsui (Team Yamada Denki).  Matsuda took the win in 32:15.85 with Tsutsui 2nd in 32:16.44 and Hori 3rd in 32:22.18.  Running in the same pack with the top three throughout the race, Felista Wanjugu (Team Univ. Ent.) was tripped from behind by Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) at 8800 m and fell hard, ultimately finishing 15th in 33:11.56.
  • After running the fastest-ever marathon by an under-20 Japanese woman earlier this year, 2:27:08 for 4th in Tokyo, 19-year-old Ayaka Fujimoto (Team Kyocera) returned to racing with a 16:14.24 for 8th in the Asics Challenge women's 5000 m.
  • Already all-time Japanese #4 in the women's 3000 m steeplechase, Misaki Sango (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) came 0.87 seconds short of her PB but took more than 4 seconds off her own meet record as she won in 9:50.72.  The meet record also fell in the under-18 girls' 2000 m steeplechase, with Yuka Nosue (Kitakyushu Municipal H.S.) setting a new mark of 6:40.69.
  • The top seven all broke the meet record the under-18 boys' 3000 m.  With a powerful kick over the last lap Ren Tazawa (Aomori Yamada H.S.) took the win in 8:18.05.  7th-placer Reo Sato (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) was more than a second under the old MR in 8:25.37.

At this year's first edition of the Nittai University Time Trials series in Kanagawa:

  • Helen Ekarare (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) ran a PB 8:53.70, the fastest under-20 time in the world so far this year, to win the women's 3000 m A-heat.  Shuri Ogasawara (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) was the top Japanese woman, 2nd in 9:07.85.
  • Nyairo's rival for the top Kenyan on the Hakone Ekiden circuit, Patrick Wambui (Nihon Univ.) won the 10000 m A-heat in 28:04.85 in a near photo-finish with pro Bernard Kimanyi (Team Yakult).
  • Newcomer Evans Keitany (Team Toyota Boshoku) won a four-way Kenyan sprint finish to top the men's 5000 m A-heat in 13:43.21.  Just off the leaders, Yuta Bando (Hosei Univ.) had a major breakthrough as he broke 14 minutes for the first time to take 6th in 13:49.78.  After going sub-2:10 in his second marathon at February's Tokyo Marathon, Yuma Hattori (Team Toyota) returned to the track with a 14:04.64 for 15th.
  • Kazuya Nishiyama (Toyo Univ.) won the men's 5000 m B-heat in 13:51.58.  Fresh from quitting the Konica Minolta corporate team and running as an independent, Keita Shitara, twin brother of Yuta, had his best race since last April's Nittai Time Trials, running 13:59.07 for 8th. Post-race Shitara said that he hopes to have a new corporate team lined up by June and plans to run his marathon debut in Fukuoka this December.

At Saitama's Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials:

  • All-time Asian junior #3 in the half marathon after running 1:02:05 at last November's Ageo City Half Marathon, Akira Aizawa (Toyo Univ.) edged Ethiopian pro Kassa Mekashaw (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) by less than a second for the win in the 10000 m in a PB 28:44.19.
  • Mekashaw's teammate Abiyot Abinet (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) had an easy win in the 5000 m A-heat in 13:51.24, the only runner to go under 14 minutes.

At the Cardinal Classic meet in the U.S.:

  • Takeshi Okada (Univ. of California Berkeley) won the 3000 m steeplechase in a PB of 8:53.35.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Jepkosgei Breaks Gifu Seiryu Half Course Record

by Brett Larner

Just three weeks after her world record run at the Prague Half Marathon, Joyclinie Jepkosgei blew apart the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon with one of the fastest women's half marathons ever run on Japanese soil.  Solo from the start, Jepkosgei hit 5 km in 15:08, just 12 seconds behind the second men's pack led by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't).  As in her WR run Jepkosgei faded progressively the rest of the way, but with a lead of over a minute at 10 km there was never any danger of her being caught.

Jepkosgei became the first woman to break 68 minutes in hilly Gifu, setting a new course record of 1:07:44.  Running the race a little more evenly, runner-up Belaynesh Oljira (Ethiopia) was also under the old course record, 2nd in 1:08:19.  London World Championships women's marathon team leader Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) returned to the roads for the first time since her 2:21:36 debut at last month's Nagoya Women's Marathon, running 1:12:12 for 3rd, with her London teammate-to-be Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC)  5th in 1:12:41.  Returning to Japan after breaking 2:30 for the first time at Feburary's Tokyo Marathon, Sara Hall (U.S.A.) took 7th in 1:14:40.

Despite a solid international men's field to celebrate Gifu's first edition as the first IAAF gold label half marathon in Japan, Japan-based Kenyans dominated the overseas and domestic competition.  An almost all-African lead pack of at least fifteen went through 5 km in 14:26, shaking off Japanese runners Takafumi Kikuchi (Team SGH Holdings) and Ayumu Hisaibaru (Team Kurosaki Harima) and a few others to whittle down to eleven as they hit 10 km in 29:05.  By 15 km that was down to five, and over the last five km the Japan-based pair of Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/Team ND Software) and Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) pulled away.  Battling all the way to the finish line, both clocked 1:00:57 with Mutiso given the win.  Last year's Marugame Half winner Paul Kuira (Kenya/Team Konica Minolta) took 3rd in 1:01:19.

With lower temperatures thanks to a move from May to April and the absence of perennial Gifu top Japanese man Yusei Nakao (Smiley Angel AC), Kawauchi was optimistic of scoring the top Japanese position for the first time.  Leading the second pack the entire way he ran down early front pack runner Hisaibaru but came up short of catching Kikuchi.  Kikuchi took 14th in 1:03:50 with Kawauchi 15th in 1:04:06.

Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon Top Results
Gifu, 4/23/17
click here for complete results

Women
1. Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya) - 1:07:44 - CR
2. Belaynesh Oljira (Ethiopia) - 1:08:19 (CR)
3. Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:12:12
4. Mimi Belete (Bahrain) - 1:12:22
5. Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:12:41
6. Sayo Nomura (Uniqlo) - 1:12:51
7. Sara Hall (U.S.A.) - 1:14:40
8. Marie Imada (Iwatani Sangyo) - 1:15:03
9. Yuko Mizuguchi (Denso) - 1:16:49
10. Rina Asano (Aichi Denki) - 1:17:33
11. Kie Watanabe (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:17:51
12. Lillian Partridge (Great Britain) - 1:18:14

Men
1. Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) - 1:00:57
2. Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) - 1:00:57
3. Paul Kuira (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 1:01:19
4. Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 1:01:27
5. Kenneth Keter (Kenya) - 1:01:48
6. Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) - 1:02:26
7. Goitom Kifle (Eritrea) - 1:02:27
8. Joel Mwaura (Kenya/Kurosaki Harima) - 1:02:32
9. Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) - 1:02:33
10. Patrick Muendo Mwaka (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 1:03:27
11. James Rungaru (Kenya/Chuo Hatsujo) - 1:03:45
12. Charles Ndungu (Kenya/Komori Corp.) - 1:03:48
13. Michael Githae (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:03:49
14. Takafumi Kikuchi (SGH Holdings) - 1:03:50
15. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:04:06
-----
DNF - Yonas Mebrahtu (U.S.A.)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Marathon Japanese National Team Selection Policy


http://www.jaaf.or.jp/files/article/document/10127-0.pdf

translated by Brett Larner

April 18, 2017
Japan Association of Athletics Federations

1. Selection Policy

With the aim of winning medals at the Olympic Games, we will select a Japanese national team comprised of athletes who have demonstrated the capability to perform at the maximum of their abilities in key race situations and who possess the speed necessary to compete at the world level.

2. Selection Competitions

     ( 1 ) Marathon Grand Champion Race (referred to hereafter as MGC Race), scheduled to be held Sept. 2019 or later

     ( 2 ) MGC Series

          1 ) Men
               ・71st and 72nd Fukuoka International Marathon
               ・Tokyo Marathon 2018 and 2019
               ・73rd and 74th Biwako Mainichi Marathon
               ・67th and 68th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
               ・Hokkaido Marathon 2017 and 2018

          2 ) Women
               ・3rd and 4th Saitama International Marathon
               ・37th and 38th Osaka International Women's Marathon
               ・Nagoya Women's Marathon 2018 and 2019
               ・Hokkaido Marathon 2017 and 2018

     ( 3 ) MGC Final Challenge

          1 ) Men
               ・73rd Fukuoka International Marathon
               ・Tokyo Marathon 2020
               ・75th Biwako Mainichi Marathon

          2 ) Women
               ・5th Saitama International Marathon
               ・39th Osaka International Women's Marathon
               ・Nagoya Women's Marathon 2020
               ・Hokkaido Marathon 2017 and 2018

3. Selection Criteria

Based on the above organization policy, Japanese national representatives will be selected in the following order of priority.

     ( 1 ) Winner of the MGC Race.

     ( 2 ) From among the 2nd and 3rd place finishers in the MGC Race, the higher-placing finisher who has cleared the MGC Race Selection Time Standard.

     ( 3 ) If no athletes meet selection criterion ( 2 ), the 2nd-place finisher in the MGC Race.

     ( 4 ) The highest-ranked competitor from among athletes who clear the MGC Final Challenge Selection Time Standard.  However, this is subject to having run in (finished) MGC Series races or having qualified for the MGC Race.

     ( 5 ) If no athletes meet selection criterion (4 ), the 2nd or 3rd-place finishers in the MGC Race not meeting selection criterion ( 2 ).

4. Selection Procedure

     ( 1 ) Selection according to selection criteria ( 1 ), ( 2 ) and ( 3 ) will be immediate upon the completion of the MGC Race.

     ( 2 ) Selection according to selection criteria ( 4 ) and ( 5 ) will be immediate upon the completion of all designated men's and women's MGC Final Challenge races.

5. Selection Time Standards

     ( 1 ) MGC Race Selection Time Standard
          time:     Men: 2:05:30     women: 2:21:00
          eligible period:     Aug. 1, 2017 to Apr. 30, 2019
          eligible competitions:     Races certified by the IAAF as world record-elligible.

     ( 2 ) MGC Final Challenge Selection Time Standard
          time:     To be determined by the Development Committee following the closure of qualification for the MGC Race.  Scheduled to be announced in May, 2019.
          eligible competitions:     MGC Final Challenge

6. Alternate Athletes

     ( 1 ) In the event that an athlete is selected according to selection criterion ( 4 ), the 2nd or 3rd-place finisher in the MGC Race who was not selected to the Olympic Team and the 4th-place finisher will be selected as alternates.

     ( 2 ) In the event that no athlete is selected according to selection criterion (4 ), the 4th and 5th-place finishers in the MGC Race will be selected as alternates.

7. MGC Race Qualification

Athletes who meet the following conditions will be granted qualification for the MGC Race.

     ( 1 ) MGC Series (2017 and 2018 fiscal years)
          Athletes who satisfy the following requirements for Japanese finisher placing and time in the specified races.  Athletes who have already qualified for the MGC Race will not be included in the Japanese finisher placings.  [click to enlarge]

          1 ) Men


          2 ) Women


     ( 2 ) Wildcard

          1 ) Athletes who meet either of the following two criteria in any competition certified by the IAAF as world record-eligible between Aug. 1, 2017 and Apr. 30, 2019.

               (1) Men who run faster than 2:08:30 and women who run faster than 2:24:00.

               (2) Men who average faster than 2:11:00 and women who average faster than 2:28:00 in their two fastest marathons within the eligible period above.

          2 ) Athletes who finish in the top 8 at the 16th World Championships (London, 2017)

          3 ) Athletes who finish in the top 3 at the 18th Asian Games (Jakarta, 2018)

          4 ) If not a single athlete meets the MGC Race qualifying standards due to weather or other conditions in any MGC Series competition, the Development Committee may designate individual athletes as having run the equivalent of the standards.

8. Other

     ( 1 ) In the event that any selected athlete is unable to demonstrate adequate fitness prior to the Olympic Games due to injury or other issues, they will be replaced on the National Team by designated alternates.

     ( 2 ) The above selection requirements will be confirmed pending finalization of the Olympic participation qualifications stipulated by the IOC and IAAF.

     ( 3 ) The Olympic Games marathons will be held in Tokyo between July 31 and Aug. 9, 2020.


ENDS

Commetary: 

This is the JAAF's attempt to move toward a U.S.-style one-shot Olympic Trials race for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  To summarize, within the next two years Japanese athletes have to run sub-2:11 or sub-2:28, tweaked for a few tougher races, in major domestic marathons, sub-2:08:30 or sub-2:24 in overseas marathons, or place well at the 2017 London World Championships or 2018 Jakarta Asian Games in order to get into the Olympic Trials race, aka the MGC Race.  With a few provisions for fast times, basically the top two at the MGC Race will be named to the Olympic team.  

The timing of the MGC Race during the 2019-20 winter season means that the existing series of selection races, designated above as the MGC Final Challenge, would be made irrelevant to 2020 selection.  Given that the JAAF relies heavily on those races for sponsor income, they've inserted a wildcard option for the third spot on each team to keep that season's races meaningful. Anyone who clears TBA standards that season in the MGC Final Challenge races will pick up the third spot, which will go to the 3rd-placer at the MGC Race if nobody runs fast enough.

A few observations:
  1. The Tokyo Marathon, the fastest women's marathon in Japan, remains mostly excluded as an option for Japanese women to make national teams.  This year the top Japanese woman in Tokyo, Ayaka Fujimoto, was 4th overall in 2:27:08, a performance that would meet the qualifying standards for any of the four women's MGC Series races.  However, while it has been impossible for Japanese women to make a national team in Tokyo, the new procedure does introduce a window: if a Japanese woman clears 2:24:00 in Tokyo, a record-eligible course, or averages under 2:28:00 between Tokyo and one other race, she will qualify for the MGC Race under the wildcard provisions.
  2. Overseas races are also largely excluded from the selection process.  Although Japanese athletes can theoretically qualify for the MGC Race by running sub-2:08:30 or sub-2:24:00 at record-eligible overseas races, only eight Japanese men and five Japanese women have ever run those times abroad, the most recent being Yuki Kawauchi at the 2013 Seoul International Marathon and Mizuki Noguchi at the 2005 Berlin Marathon.
  3. If run during the eligible period, high-level World Marathon Major performances such as Yukiko Akaba's 3rd-place finish at the 2013 London Marathon in 2:24:43 or Suguru Osako's 3rd-place debut earlier this week at the Boston Marathon in 2:10:28 would not by themselves qualify the athletes for the MGC Race under the wildcard criteria, not being fast enough or, in Osako's case, not having been run on a record-elligible course.  For the same reason Osako's time would also not count toward the two-race average option.
  4. There is a wild disparity in the men's and women's time standards.  The Japanese men's NR is 2:06:16, 3:19 off the WR.  The women's NR is 2:19:12, 3:47 off the WR.  Three Japanese men have run 2:06 times and three Japanese women 2:19, showing that the records are reasonably equivalent.  To qualify for the MGC Race, men must run within 4:44 of the NR, while in the main races women only have to run within 9:48 of the NR.  For the MGC Race Selection Time Standard Japanese men have to run more than 46 seconds faster than the NR, a time no non-African-born runner has ever run on a record-elligible course, while women have to run within 1:48 of the NR.  Given the lower numbers of female athletes this is no doubt intended to produce roughly equal numbers of competitors in the men's and women's MGC Races, but the fact remains that the barrier to making the Olympic team has been set far higher for Japanese men.
  5. While the qualifying standards for the U.S. Olympic Trials are arguably over-inclusive, the MGC Race standards will result in very small fields of around fifteen men and fifteen women.  In the last two-year period equivalent to the above window of eligibility, sixteen men and fifteen women met the qualifying standards.  Applying the same window to the 2016 Rio Olympics, fourteen men and twelve women qualified.  
  6. Dependent upon the TBA MGC Final Challenge Selection Time Standard, Hisanori Kitajima, the last-placing member of the Rio men's team, would not have made the Olympic team or even qualified for the MGC Race under the new procedure.  The new system is designed in part to keep inexperienced athletes like Kitajima who make a breakthrough in the Olympic year off the team.
  7. The exclusion of the 2019 Doha World Championships from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics selection procedure makes running on the national team at Doha a major minus for any top-level Japanese athletes.  Given that a strong performance in heat in Doha might be a good indicator of success in the Tokyo heat a year later it seems reasonable that there might be provisions for being named to the Tokyo team, or, as is the case for the Jakarta Asian Games at least the MGC Race, in the event of medalling in Doha, or for wildcard qualification for the MGC Race for a top eight finish in Doha the same way that has been designated for London. As a result, the Doha marathon teams may be weakest Japanese marathon squads in modern history.
  8. The MGC Race is likely be held on the Tokyo Olympics course during the winter.  The U.S. Trials for Rio in L.A. did a good job of finding people who could perform in similarly warm and sunny conditions at the Olympics.  The JAAF could stand to learn from that example and hold the MGC Race somewhere warm like Okinawa, Honolulu or Guam.  Like the U.S. Trials, pairing it with Okinawa's ~15,000-runner Naha Marathon or the ~20,000 runner Honolulu Marathon, holding the MGC Race on Saturday on a loop course so that the people running the mass-participation race the next day can come out to cheer, would go a long way toward maximizing the event's popularity along with allowing an approximation of the conditions runners will face at the Olympics.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Boston Marathon - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner


Asian junior half marathon record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) made a successful transition to the marathon at the Boston Marathon, finishing 3rd in 2:10:28 in his debut over the distance.  Always hanging near the rear of the lead pack, Osako appeared relaxed and never stressed when the pace changed, taking his time in catching back up whenever one of the frontline men threw in a surge.  Osako lost touch during the final battle between eventual winner Geoffrey Kirui (Kenya) and NOP teammate Galen Rupp but pushed on to keep 3rd, Kirui breaking the tape in 2:09:37 and Rupp 2nd in 2:09:58.

Osako's 2:10:28 was the third-fastest ever by a Japanese man on the Boston course and made him just the second to break 2:11 in Boston after fellow Waseda University graduate Toshihiko Seko's 2:09:37 win in 1981 and 2:10:13 runner-up finish in 1979.  Given the heat of the day it was an encouraging step toward representing Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Running his second marathon, Hiroki Sugawa, coached by Seko at the DeNA corporate team, ran with Osako through 10 km before dropping out.  Fellow sub-elites Kaito Iwasa (Chuo Univ.) and Hiroki Kai (Team Raffine) were non-factors, well off their bests in 2:27:11 and 2:35:51.

Sub-elite women Kana Kurosawa (Team Hitachi) and Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu), like the three sub-elite men appearing through the Boston Marathon's partnership with the Katsuta Marathon and Ome 30 km, went out with the lead group of women during the slow early miles before dropping back.  Running Boston for the second year in a row, Kurosawa missed her PB by 15 seconds as she finished in 2:43:18 for 25th, still a five-minute improvement over her time last year.  Utsunomiya, a 1:13:39 half-marathoner, was totally unprepared for the big leagues, finishing in 3:06:49.

121st Boston Marathon
Boston, U.S.A., 4/17/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Geoffrey Kirui (Kenya) - 2:09:37
2. Galen Rupp (U.S.A.) - 2:09:58
3. Suguru Osako (Japan) - 2:10:28 - debut
4. Shadrack Biwott (U.S.A.) - 2:12:08
5. Wilson Chebet (Kenya) - 2:12:35
6. Abdi Abdirahman (U.S.A.) - 2:12:45
7. Augustus Maiyo (U.S.A.) - 2:13:16
8. Dino Sefir (Ethiopia) - 2:14:26
9. Luke Puskedra (U.S.A.) - 2:14:45
10. Jared Ward (U.S.A.) - 2:15:28
-----
39. Kaito Iwasa (Japan) - 2:27:11
94. Hiroki Kai (Japan) - 2:35:51
DNF - Hiroki Sugawa (Japan)

Women
1. Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:21:52
2. Rose Chelimo (Kenya) - 2:22:51
3. Jordan Hasay (U.S.A.) - 2:23:00
4. Desiree Linden (U.S.A.) - 2:25:06
5. Gladys Cherono (Kenya) - 2:27:20
6. Valentine Kipketer (Kenya) - 2:29:35
7. Buzunesh Deba (Ethiopia) - 2:30:58
8. Brigid Kosgei (Kenya) - 2:31:48
9. Diane Nukuri (Burundi) - 2:32:24
10. Ruti Aga (Ethiopia) - 2:33:26
-----
25. Kana Kurosawa (Japan) - 2:43:18
158. Ami Utsunomiya (Japan) - 3:06:49 - debut

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, April 16, 2017

On Osako in Boston

by Brett Larner

U.S.-based for the last few years as part of the Nike Oregon Project, Suguru Osako makes his marathon debut at tomorrow's Boston Marathon.  It's had the Japanese media and other critics clucking that the choice of Boston "goes against the conventional wisdom of Japanese long distance" and that Boston's one-way, net downhill course means that he's more likely to run a fast time but that it "won't count."  The idea that Boston is a waste of time for Japanese runners because it's not record-elligible is a relatively recent one.  There's a pretty good argument to be made that the era of Japan's greatest strength as a marathon power lined up reasonably well with when the best Japanese marathoners were regularly in Boston and winning or placing, that once the powers that be decided Boston was off-limits to the best due to the risk of "wasting" a good one on a record-inelligible course Japanese marathoners stopped being competitive racers internationally as a whole.  Correlation, not causation, but it's hard to deny the history.

Osako being in the U.S. means he has other voices whispering in his ear, one of them a past Boston winner, so it's not that surprising to see him pick the United States' premier marathon for his debut.  He's got a solid cross country background, always a plus on the Boston course, going back all the way to his days at Saku Chosei H.S. under progressive head coach Hayashi Morozumi, and showed potential for longer distances with an Asian junior half marathon area record 1:01:47 win at the Ageo City Half Marathon his first year at Waseda University and some brilliant runs at the Hakone Ekiden in the next few years after that. A 1:01:13 PB at February's Marugame Half Marathon, his first half since his 2010 Ageo win, was encouraging.  How could he do in Boston?  It's tempting to read his last pre-Boston race, a 1:04:12 win at an amateur-level half marathon mid-March, as a marathon pace run, but looking again toward history, this is how the top ten Japanese performances in Boston and top ten Japanese marathon debuts line up:

All-time Japanese Boston Marathon Top Ten
  1. 2:09:27 - Toshihiko Seko, 1st, 1981
  2. 2:10:13 - Toshihiko Seko, 2nd, 1979
  3. 2:11:02 - Hiromi Taniguchi, 4th, 1993
  4. 2:11:32 - Kenjiro Jitsui, 6th, 2006
  5. 2:11:50 - Toshihiko Seko, 1st, 1987
  6. 2:13:15 - Takayuki Inubushi, 10th, 1998
  7. 2:13:40 - Tomoyuki Taniguchi, 5th, 1987
  8. 2:13:49 - Yoshiaki Unetani, 1st, 1969
  9. 2:13:55 - Akinori Kuramata, 11th, 1998
  10. 2:14:10 - Futoshi Shinohara, 9th, 1990

All-time Japanese Debut Marathon Top Ten
  1. 2:08:12 - Masakazu Fujiwara, 3rd, Lake Biwa 2003
  2. 2:08:53 - Koichi Morishita, 1st, Beppu-Oita 1991
  3. 2:09:03 - Yoshinori Oda, 4th, Tokyo 2011
  4. 2:09:12 - Tomoyuki Morita, 5th, Lake Biwa 2012
  5. 2:09:23 - Tomoya Shimizu, 5th, Lake Biwa 2008
  6. 2:09:27 - Yuta Shitara, 11th, Tokyo 2017
  7. 2:09:38 - Noriaki Igarashi, 4th, Fukuoka 1998
  8. 2:09:39 - Fumihiro Maruyama, 6th, Lake Biwa 2016
  9. 2:09:41 - Toshinari Takaoka, 3rd, Fukuoka 2001
  10. 2:09:50 - Atsushi Sato, 4th, Lake Biwa 2000

Historically speaking, anything under 2:14 would be a pretty solid performance in Boston for Osako. Under 2:12 would put him near the top of the ladder.  Only one Japanese man, fellow Waseda grad Toshihiko Seko, has ever gone sub-2:10 in Boston.  No Japanese man has ever debuted sub-2:10 outside Japan, but then again none of the ones who ran that fast the first time out was based in the States.  He's in something of a lose-lose situation; if he fails one contingent back home will say, "You see?"  If he succeeds the same people will say, "It doesn't count."  Let's hope he's got it in him not to care in the slightest either way.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Daichi Kamino Out of Gifu Seiryu Half With Achilles Injury After JAAF Marathon Training Camp

https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170414-00000013-sph-spo

translated by Brett Larner

Former Hakone Ekiden uphill star Daichi Kamino (23, Team Konica Minolta) has withdrawn from next week's Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon with pain in his right Achilles tendon after attending a JAAF marathon training camp in Nelson, New Zealand focused toward developing high-potential candidates for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics men's marathon team.  Kamino went to the training camp on Mar. 22 along with this year's Hakone Ekiden Second Stage winner Kengo Suzuki (21, Kanagawa Univ.) and other young talent.  Under JAAF direction they did marathon-specific training such as 50 km runs, but near the end of the camp Kamino sustained the injury.  He returned to Japan on Apr. 14 as originally scheduled.  Kamino will try to recover in time for his planned marathon debut at December's Fukuoka International Marathon.

Ito and Mutgaa Win Nagano Marathon

by Brett Larner

Sunny and unseasonably warm conditions meant slower than usual times at the Nagano Marathon's 19th running.  Racheal Jemutai Mutgaa took the women's race out in 17:55 for the first 5 km,  on track for a low 2:31, with early company from fellow Kenyan Mirriam Wangari and Ethiopian Fantu Eticha. By 10 km Mutgaa was on her own, sailing on unchallenged to win in 2:33:00. Wangari and Eticha stayed together until near 30 km when Eticha launched a surge that put her into 2nd.  Wangari responded and in turn opened on Eticha before 35 km, but by 40 km it had turned around one more time.  Eticha took 2nd in 2:37:10, Wangari 3rd over a minute behind in 2:38:29.  Aki Otagiri (Team Tenmaya) was the top Japanese woman at 4th in 2:41:26.

The men's pack went out comparatively slower, the large lead group running just sub-2:17 pace for the first 5 km before a breakaway surge from Tatsunori Hamasaki (Nanjo City Hall) and Junichi Shioya (Takigahara SDF Base) got things moving.  Hamasaki and Shioya opened their lead to more than 30 seconds by 20 km, but at halfway Mongolian national record holder Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Team NTN) spearheaded a move to catch back up to them.  By 25 km he had overtaken both, while the rest of the chase group remained 15 seconds behind.  At 30 km Bat-Ochir had a 32-second lead over the chase pack led by serial marathoner Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and the debuting Kazuki Onishi (Team Kanebo).  Ito began to close, and just before 40 km he overtook Bat-Ochir for the lead and the win in 2:14:39, just the second Japanese man in Nagano history to take the top spot.  Bat-Ochir faded to 2nd in 2:15:12, with the Koichi Morishita-coached Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu) 3rd in 2:15:27.

19th Nagano Marathon
Nagano, 4/16/17
click here for complete results

Women
1. Racheal Jemutai Mutgaa (Kenya) - 2:33:00
2. Fantu Eticha (Ethiopia) - 2:37:10
3. Mirriam Wangari (Kenya) - 2:38:29
4. Aki Otagiri (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:41:26
5. Mayumi Uchiyama (Japan/Nitori) - 2:44:58

Men
1. Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:14:39
2. Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:15:12
3. Yuki Oshikawa (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:15:27
4. Kazuki Onishi (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:15:39 - debut
5. Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Nanjo City Hall) - 2:15:49

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Fukuda Leads Mt. SAC Women's 5000 m

by Brett Larner

2017 national corporate road 10 km champion Yui Fukuda (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) dominated the women's 5000 m A-heat at Friday's Mt. SAC Relays, winning by 16 seconds in a PB of 15:23.48.  Her first time going under 15:30, Fukuda's time was a big step forward in quality but came up painfully short of the 15:22.00 standard for August's London World Championships.

Running for Boise State University, the U.S.-based Yusuke Uchikoshi also ran Mt. SAC, turning up in the collegiate 3000 m steeplechase.  Part of a three-way sprint finish, Uchikoshi came up 0.56 seconds short of the win as Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane Univ.) took the top spot in 8:48.32.  Uchikoshi was next in 8:48.88, just holding off Clayson Shumway (BYU) who was 3rd in 8:48.95.

Mt. SAC Relays
El Camino College, U.S.A., 4/13~15/17
click here for complete results

Women's 5000 m INV Elite
1. Yui Fukuda (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 15:23.48 - PB
2. Jessica Tonn (Brooks Beasts) - 15:39.46
3. Sasha Gollish (Univ. of Toronto) - 15:39.16
4. Marie Lawrence (Oiselle) - 15:40.26
5. Brenda Flores (Mexico) - 15:41.28
6. Muriel Coneo Paredes (Equipo Porvenir) - 15:41.55
7. Anne-Marie Blaney (UCF) - 15:43.61
8. Rachel Cliff (Canada) - 15:46.25
9. Kristen Findley (Big Bear TC) - 15:53.02
10. Tatiane Roberta Da Carva (Posso Sports) - 15:53.72

Men's 3000 mSC Open
1. Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane) - 8:48.32
2. Yusuke Uchikoshi (Boise State) - 8:48.88
3. Clayson Shumway (BYU) - 8:48.95
4. Craig Buff (San Jose St.) - 8:53.03
5. Gareth Hadfield (unattached) - 8:54.91

Friday, April 14, 2017

Asian Junior Record Holder Osako Leads Japanese Contingent at Boston Marathon

by Brett Larner

Through two long-standing race partnerships, a group of sub-elite Japanese runners will again be part of this year's Boston Marathon field.  In the women's race, two-time Katsuta Marathon winner Kana Kurosawa (Team Hitachi) returns to Boston after running a PB 2:43:03 to win this year's Katsuta.  Making her marathon debut alongside Kurosawa is Ome 30 km Road Race winner Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu), with a 1:13:39 half marathon best at Feburary's Marugame Half Marathon.

On the men's side, Katsuta winner Hiroki Kai (Team Raffine) and 3rd-placer Kaito Iwasa (Chuo Univ.) will be running, Kai in his third marathon of the year following his Katsuta title in January and 2:18:07 PB in Tokyo in February. Earning his spot in Boston with a 5th-place finish in Ome and coached by two-time Boston winner Toshihiko Seko, Hiroki Sugawa (DeNA RC), will also line up in his second career marathon after debuting in 2:24:14 at the 2014 Gold Coast Airport Marathon in Australia.

Like Utsunomiya, half marathon Asian junior record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) will be making his marathon debut in Boston.  Osako ran his 1:01:47 Asian Jr. record in winning the 2010 Ageo City Half Marathon, afterward avoiding the distance in favor of the track until this year when he shaved his PB down to 1:01:13 in Marugame in February and won March's Portland Shamrock Run in an easy 1:04:12.  If he clears Futoshi Shinohara's 2:14:10 from 1990 Osako will break into the all-time Japanese top ten on the Boston course.

Women
Kana Kurosawa (Hitachi) - 2:43:03 (Katsuta Marathon 2017)
Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu) - debut - 1:13:39 (Marugame Half 2017)

Men
Hiroki Kai (Raffine) - 2:18:17 (Tokyo Marathon 2017)
Hiroki Sugawa (DeNA RC) - 2:24:14 (Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014)
Kaito Iwasa (Chuo Univ.) - 2:25:17 (Katsuta Marathon 2017)
Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) - debut - 1:01:13 (Marugame Half 2017)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Best of His Generation, Hyuga Endo Passes Over Hakone in Pursuit of Medal at Tokyo Olympics

https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170411-00000009-sph-spo

translated by Brett Larner

Long distance runner Hyuga Endo, 18, joined the Sumitomo Denko corporate team this month after graduating from Fukushima's Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.  Endo won the National Sports Festival 3000 m his first year of high school and the 5000 m both his second and third years.  A leading candidate to become the star of the next generation, Endo has suppressed the desire to run the Hakone Ekiden and instead chosen to go the corporate road in a quest "to win a medal" at the Tokyo Olympics.  Sumitomo Denko head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe, 43, is planning in the long-term, saying, "I want him to have a long career."

Wearing a brand-new suit, Endo took part in the company's entrance ceremony for new employees.  "I'm glad that's over," he laughed afterward. Thanks to a phenomenal last kick, Endo was undefeated at the National Sports Festival all three years of high school.  In the 3000 m, the distance at which Endo says he has "the most confidence," he was the first Japanese high schooler ever to break eight minutes.  Expected to become the best of his generation, Endo chose the corporate leagues without hesitation.  "The Tokyo Olympics are in three years," he said.  "I definitely want to run there, and if I'm going to run I want to go for a medal.  I like ekidens, but it's hard to do both. When I asked myself, 'Which one do you want to go for?' the answer was the Olympics."

From the early days of his high school career Endo pared down his options to the single choice of becoming a corporate runner, settling upon Sumitomo Denko's coach Watanabe who had coached 5000 m national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) among others.  Watanabe, who in the 2010-11 academic year as head coach of Waseda University became the only coach ever to lead a team to course record wins at all of the Big Three University Ekidens in a single season, welcomed him, saying, "It's good when there are a variety of ways of thinking.  I'll let you focus on speed-oriented training for an entire year."

In order to achieve Endo's dream, the pair have created a "four-year plan," their blueprint for the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics.  The two years through 2018 will be dedicated to building Endo's basic physical capability, improving his core strength, the inner muscle strength in the core and pelvis, to help build the ability needed to compete in racing at speed over distance, and polishing his speed in races around 1500 m.  2019 will focus on clearing the Tokyo Olympics 1500 m and 5000 m qualifying standards, expected to be announced in 2019.  In 2020 he will go for a medal.

Looking at Endo's running in high school, coach Watanabe gave him high marks, saying, "It's running on a major scale.  His form in the lower body and leg motion is at the top level of Japanese distance.  I want to develop the speed and physical strength he will need to compete in the last kick, and to help him have a long career as an athlete."  Endo will be 30 at the time of the 2028 Olympics, where they hope to have him go for a medal in the marathon.

At the end of last year Endo experienced some pain in his left Achilles tendon, but that injury has completely healed and he now stands on a new start line. But one free of impatience.  "When you are racing on the track your spirit can't help soaring at the sound of cheering in the stadium," he says.  "I might be a little bit behind right now, but if you win in the end it's all good."  Three years to go.  Believing in the power of the shouting and cheering to come, Endo will be refining his strength and speed.

Hyuga Endo - born Aug. 5, 1998 in Koriyama, Fukushima.  18 years old.  Began running his fourth year of elementary school, winning the National Junior High School Championships high school his last year of junior high.  Won the National Sports Festival junior 3000 m his first year of high school and the junior 5000 m both his second and third years.  Won the National High School Championships 1500 m in 2016.  170 cm, 56 kg.  His family includes his mother, an older sister, and his older brother Seiya, 21, a runner for the ND Software corporate team.

PBs
1500 m: 3:45.58 (all-time H.S. #4)
3000 m: 7:59.18 (H.S. national record)
5000 m: 13:48.13 (all-time H.S. #7)

Endo's upcoming race schedule:
Depending upon his progress, Endo will make his corporate league debut in the 1500 m at either the Apr. 23 Hyogo Relay Carnival in Kobe or the May 6 Golden Games in Nobeoka.  After the May 19-21 Kansai Region Corporate Track and Field Championships he plans to run the 1500 m at the June 23-25 National Track and Field Championships.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Oita Fire Department on Trying to Become First FD Team to Make the New Year Ekiden: "This is Our Big Chance"

http://www.oita-press.co.jp/1010000000/2017/04/11/JD0055648052

translated by Brett Larner

The Oita Fire Department ekiden team is targeting the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships.  Thanks to the Miyazaki-based Asahi Kasei team's win at the 2017 New Year Ekiden, the number of spots available at the 2018 race to Kyushu region teams will increase by one to eight teams.  "This is our big chance," said OFD head coach Masakazu Mishiro, 40.  Police Department and Self-Defense Force teams have made the New Year Ekiden in the past, but to date no Fire Department team has ever qualified.

To make it to the biggest stage in Japan it's a constant struggle to balance a busy work schedule and training.  The OFD team has around 20 members, half of them full-on serious runners who competed in university, and with the addition of three new members at the start of the fiscal year in April its strength has only grown.  Forming the team's core are star runner Tsuyoshi Miyamoto, 27,  track runner Tomoya Watanabe, 23, endurance king Yuki Kojina, 26, and veteran Toshiya Uto, 31.

Together they have led the OFD team to win the Kyushu Region Fire Department Championships four years in a row.  At February's National Championships, in just its third appearance OFD defeated the Tokyo Fire Department for the first time to take the top spot.  "Due to our work we have limited time in which to train," said Miyamoto.  "We have to improve the quality of both our individual runs and group workouts, and every team member needs to get faster."  Ryota Uchida, 22, one of April's new additions, added, "Looking at the strong older guys on the team, I want to train seriously."

The New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships features 37 teams from different regions across the country competing over 100 km divided into seven stages.  The Kyushu Corporate Ekiden, the qualifying event for the Kyushu region, will take place in mid-November in Kita-Kyushu, with the top eight teams going on to the New Year Ekiden.  Looking ahead, coach Mishiro commented, "The top seven teams [in the Kyushu region] including Asahi Kasei are in a different class in terms of ability.  The race will be for the last spot.  With young runners having come on board we have momentum and headroom for improvement.  Can we make it?  Absolutely."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

London World Championships Marathoners Kawauchi and Nakamoto Headline Sendai International Half Marathon

http://sp.kahoku.co.jp/tohokunews/201704/20170411_14037.html

translated by Brett Larner

The organizers of the 27th Sendai International Half Marathon on May 14 have announced the field of four domestic invited elite athletes.  Former Hakone Ekiden  star Masato Imai (33, Team Toyota Kyushu) and civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (30, Saitama Pref. Gov't) top the list.

During his days at Juntendo University Imai was crowned "God of the Mountain" after winning the Hakone Ekiden's uphill Fifth Stage three years in a row.  In the marathon he went on to run 2:07:39 two years ago to become the sixth-fastest Japanese man ever.  He won the Sendai International Half Marathon for the first time last year.

Kawauchi is running Sendai for the sixth year in a row.  A member of the 2011 and 2013 World Championships marathon teams, Kawauchi won the bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Games.  Named to the 2017 London World Championships team alongside Kawauchi, Kentaro Nakamoto (34, Team Yasukawa Denki) is also set to run Sendai.

Topping the women's field is Reia Iwade (22, Team Noritz) who in 2014 ran the fastest marathon time ever by a Japanese woman under age 20.  2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympian Hiroyuki Yamamoto, 50, leads the field of four invited athletes in the wheelchair race.

Former women's marathon world record holder and 2000 Sydney Olympics gold medalist Naoko Takahashi, 44, returns as a special ambassador.  Guest runners include 1991 Tokyo International Women's Marathon winner Mari Tanigawa, 54, and two-time Olympic marathoner Takeyuki Nakayama, 57. 12,053 people are entered in the half marathon, with an additional 2,688 entered in the 5 km and 2 km divisions.

Monday, April 10, 2017

National Champion Asahi Kasei Team Recruits Kenyans for First Time

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20170408-OHT1T50191.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

A long distance and marathon powerhouse, the 2017 New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei team has recruited Kenyan athletes for the first time. Surpassing even the 10000 m national record of 27:29.69 set by Asahi Kasei's Kota Murayama, 24, the pair of Kenyans includes a 32-year-old veteran who has run sub-27 and a young 23-year-old.  With experience coaching Kenyans at the Aisan Kogyo corporate team through the end of March, Isamu Sennai has also joined the Asahi Kasei staff in preparation for the Kenyans' arrival.

At this year's New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships, 30 of the 37 teams in the field featured foreign athletes.  In the midst of such a field, Asahi Kasei scored the first win by a Japanese-only team in 18 years.  Founded in 1946, Asahi Kasei produced greats including twins Shigeru and Takeshi Soh, 1991 World Championships marathon gold medalist Hiromi Taniguchi and 1992 Barcelona Olympics silver medalist Koichi Morishita.  Its current lineup features a large number of the country's best including Rio Olympics marathoner Satoru Sasaki and twins Kenta and Kota Murayama.  Its prestige is further strengthened by the addition of two of the best from the "long distance kingdom" of Kenya, promising further evolution in its future.

Translator's note: The article does not mention the Kenyan athletes' actual names.  They are Kenneth Kipkemoi and Abraham Kipyatich.

Weekend Overseas Road Race Roundup

by Brett Larner

Japanese runners turned up at three international races over the weekend.  Every year top-placing finishers at November's Ohtawara Marathon get send to the Paris Marathon.  Having turned down the 2016 trip after the Paris terror attacks, two-time Ohtawara women's winner Hiroko Yoshitomi went this time, taking 9th in 2:38:46 in her fifth marathon of 2017.  Men's winner Takahiro Gunji went under 2:20 for the first time, 21st in a PB 2:19:01 just behind Kansuke Morihashi, who took 20th in 2:18:22.

At the Hannover Marathon, Hideyuki Ikegami, a young independent who has received support from London Olympian Arata Fujiwara in recent years, made his marathon debut.  A 1:03:09 half marathoner, Ikegami came into Hannover with a 1:31:53 win at the Osaka 30 km in December and altitude training in Kenya with Fujiwara after that behind him, but despite starting out at an ambitious 2:10 pace Ikegami slowed progressively.  Between 25 and 30 km he ran into serious trouble, slowing to almost 4 min/km, but despite the early problems he gutted it out to finish 10th in 2:30:15.

At Hawaii's Hapalua Half Marathon, retired pro Yuki Yagi and Rio Olympian Kayoko Fukushi represented Japan in the event's interesting handicap start chase race.  Yagi ran the third-fastest time among the men but couldn't make up his handicap, taking 10th among men.  Fukushi was the fastest woman by more than five minutes in 1:17:03 but likewise couldn't close the ground to the top position, taking 7th among women and 18th overall.

Paris Marathon
Paris, France, 4/9/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Paul Lonyangata (Kenya) - 2:06:10
2. Stephen Chebogut (Kenya) - 2:06:57
3. Solomon Yego (Kenya) - 2:07:12
4. Yitayal Atnafu (Ethiopia) - 2:07:21
5. Abayneh Ayele (Ethiopia) - 2:07:42
-----
20. Kansuke Morihashi (Japan) - 2:18:22
21. Takahiro Gunji (Japan) - 2:19:01 - PB

Women
1. Purity Rionoripo (Kenya) - 2:20:55 - CR
2. Agnes Barsosio (Kenya) - 2:20:59
3. Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) - 2:21:22
4. Visiline Jepkesho (Kenya) - 2:21:37
5. Yebrgual Melese (Ethiopia) - 2:22:51
-----
9. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan) - 2:38:46
11. Mitsuko Ino (Japan) - 2:42:37

Hannover Marathon
Hannover, Germany, 4/9/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Allan Kipkorir Kiprono (Kenya) - 2:09:52
2. Philip Kimutai Sanga (Kenya) - 2:10:07
3. Sondre Nordstad Moen (Norway) - 2:10:07
4. Nichola Manza Kamakya (Kenya) - 2:11:35
5. Lusapho April (South Africa) - 2:11:41
-----
10. Hideyuki Ikegami (Japan) - 2:30:15

Women
1. Fate Tola (Germany) - 2:27:48
2. Nataliya Lehonkova (Ukraine) - 2:33:20
3. Mulunesh Zewdu Asefa (Ethiopia) - 2:37:27
4. Tetyana Vernygor (Ukraine) - 2:38:48
5. Zhanna Mamazhanova (Kazakhstan) - 2:47:36

Hapalua Half Marathon
Honolulu, U.S.A., 4/9/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Philip Tarbei (Kenya) - 1:03:27
2. Ryan Tsang (U.S.A.) - 1:16:05
3. Abraham Kipyatich (Kenya) - 1:05:28
-----
10. Yuki Yagi (Japan) - 1:09:31

Women
1. Malia Crouse (U.S.A.) - 1:22:55
2. Kathleen O'Neil (U.S.A.) - 1:23:06
3. Evelina Mansson (U.S.A.) - 1:29:16
-----
7. Kayoko Fukushi (Japan) - 1:17:03

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Muia Wins Japanese Debut in Setagaya

by Brett Larner

2017 Kenyan Prisons XC champion Bernard Muia (Team Toyota Boshoku) made a strong Japanese debut at Saturday's Setagaya Time Trials meet in western Tokyo, outrunning teammate Amos Kirui to win the 3000 m A-heat in a PB 7:50.68.  Kirui also set a PB, running 7:51.48.  Taking 3rd, former 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) was a fraction of a section of his university-era PB dating back to 2006 as he ran 7:58.03.

Kenyan teammates also went 1-2 in the women's 3000 m A-heat.  Rosemary Wanjiru (Team Starts) ran one of the better times of her career to win in 8:51.61.  Her teammate Grace Kimanzi was well back in 2nd in 9:12.45, with high schooler Shuri Ogasawara (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) not far behind in 3rd in 9:18.37.

The men's 5000 m A-heat turned out to be a Kenya-Ethiopia duel.  Up front, Alfred Ngeno (Team Nissin Shokuhin) took 1st in 13:35.29 less than half a second ahead of Abiyot Abinet (Team Yachiyo Kogyo).  Futher back, Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Team Aisan Kogyo) edged Kassa Mekashaw (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) by a similar margin for 3rd in 13:40.25.  Continuing an apparent return to the track after a stalled transition to the marathon, former national champion Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) was the top Japanese man at 5th in 13:43.44.

Setagaya Time Trials
Kinuta Park Field, Setagaya, Tokyo, 4/8/17
click here for complete results

Men's 3000 m Heat 5
1. Bernard Muia (Kenya/Toyota Boshoku) - 7:50.68 - PB
2. Amos Kirui (Kenya/Toyota Boshoku) - 7:51.48
3. Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) - 7:58.03
4. Kei Fumimoto (Kanebo) - 8:07.96
5. Victor Mutai (Kenya/Kanebo) - 8:09.18

Women's 3000 m Heat 3
1. Rosemary Wanjiru (Kenya/Starts) - 8:51.61
2. Grace Kimanzi (Kenya/Starts) - 9:12.45
3. Shuri Ogasawara (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) - 9:18.37
4. Nana Sato (Starts) - 9:18.95
5. Kyoka Nakagawa (Japan Post Group) - 9:21.75

Men's 5000 m Heat 16
1. Alfred Ngeno (Kenya/Nissin Shokuhin) - 13:35.29
2. Abiyot Abinet (Ethiopia/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 13:35.74
3. Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 13:40.25
4. Kassa Mekashaw (Ethiopia/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 13:41.05
5. Yuki Sato (Nissin Shokuhin) - 13:43.44

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, April 7, 2017

Women's Marathon Program to Do Summer Training in Tokyo to Work on Hydration and Other Issues

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/1803811.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Apr. 6 the JAAF announced that it will hold a women's marathoning development training camp within Tokyo in late August.  Looking toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the camp will be held in similar summer heat and will focus on exploring hydration timing and other measures for dealing with the hot conditions.  Long distance runs will be carried out as part of the camp starting at around 7:00 a.m., the expected start time of the Olympic marathon.  The brains behind the project, JAAF women's marathoning development coach Sachiko Yamashita commented, "You can't get experience running in heat without daring to actually do it.  We have to try everything that we can."

Thursday, April 6, 2017

World Record Breaker Jepkosgei Leads Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

In its seventh edition the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon celebrates its promotion to its new status as the only IAAF gold label half marathon in Japan with a move a month earlier to a hopefully cooler mid-April date.  Newly-crowned women's half marathon world record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya) leads the women's entries for what should be an easy win should she actually run another half marathon three weeks after breaking the world record.  Mimi Belete (Bahrain) and London World Championships marathon team member Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) are the only other women in the field with recent sub-70 times, Belete with a 1:09:15 earlier this year in Verona and Ando with a 1:09:51 at the 2015 Sanyo Ladies Road Race.  Ando's London teammate Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) is also on the short women's list rounded out by Sara Hall (U.S.A.), Belaynesh Oljira (Ethiopia), Lillian Partridge (Great Britain) and formerly Japan-based Philes Ongori (Kenya).

2015 Marugame Half winner Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta) and countryman Kenneth Keter (Kenya) top the men's field with recent sub-60 times, Kuira having won his debut in Marugame in 59:47 and Keter having run 59:48 at last year's Venlo Half.  Six other Africans led by 2015 Gifu winner James Rungaru (Team Chuo Hatsujo) come in with sub-61 times.  Just missing the mark, former Hakone Ekiden star Daichi Kamino (Team Konica Minolta) is the top-ranked Japanese man at 1:01:04, with London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) further down the list at 1:02:55.

7th Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon Elite Field
Gifu, 4/23/17
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Women
Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya) - 1:04:52 (Prague 2017)
Mimi Belete (Bahrain) - 1:09:15 (Verona 2017)
Yuka Ando (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:09:51 (Sanyo 2015)
Sara Hall (U.S.A.) - 1:10:07 (Houston 2016)
Belaynesh Oljira (Ethiopia) - 1:10:08 (Delhi 2014)
Mao Kiyota (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:10:31 (Valencia 2016)
Lillian Partridge (Great Britain) - 1:10:32 (Reading 2015)
Philes Ongori (Kenya) - 1:12:15 (Ras al Khaimah 2015)

Men
Paul Kuira (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 59:47 (Marugame 2015)
Kenneth Keter (Kenya) - 59:48 (Venlo 2016)
James Rungaru (Kenya/Chuo Hatsujo) - 1:00:12 (Nice 2015)
Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) - 1:00:30 (Nat'l Corporate Half 2015)
Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 1:00:38 (Porto 2014)
Goitom Kifle (Eritrea) - 1:00:49 (Marugame 2016)
Joel Mwaura (Kenya/Kurosaki Harima) - 1:00:59 (Marugame 2017)
Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) - 1:00:59 (Ichinoseki 2016)
Daichi Kamino (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:01:04 (Marugame 2017)
Paul Pollock (Ireland) - 1:02:46 (Cardiff World Champs 2016)
Melaku Abera (Ethiopia) - 1:02:47 (Oita 2015)
Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:02:55 (Ageo 2014)
Yonas Mebrahtu (U.S.A.) - 1:02:59 (Philadelphia 2014)
Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) - 1:03:02 (Philadelphia 2014)
Roman Fosti (Estonia) - 1:05:21 (Ostia 2017)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Former Hakone Star Benjamin Ngandu Looking at Japanese Citizenship

https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170405-01802669-nksports-spo

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Will a man born in the marathon kingdom of Kenya be the one to save the sadly depleted Japanese marathon scene???  On April 4 Benjamin Ngandu (25, Team Fujitsu), well-rememberd for passing 12 people on the way to winning the Hakone Ekiden's ultracompetitive Second Stage his senior year at Nihon Univesity, revealed that he is exploring obtaining Japanese citizenship. Speaking about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics during an interview in Chiba on the occasion of his joining the Fujitsu corporate team, Ngandu, a longtime Japan resident, said, "I'm thinking about whether to run for Kenya or the Japanese team."  He plans to make a final decision by 2018.  If he chooses Japan he could become a totally outside-the-box catalyst that nobody could have foreseen for the revitalization of Japanese men's marathoning.

Translator's note: With the Project Exceed million dollar bonus for any Japanese citizen who breaks the 2:06:16 national record having been in place for over two years now, the only surprise here is that it has taken this long for this to happen.

Nagano Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Nagano Marathon have announced their IAAF bronze label elite field for next week's 19th edition.  Japan-based Mongolian national record holder Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Team NTN), serial marathoner Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) fresh off a PB 2:10:52 at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, and, newly relocated from the corporate leagues to a civil servant runner position in Okinawa, Tatsunori Hamasaki (Nanjo City Hall) top the men's field.  Kenyans Henry Sugut and Cyrus Njui, Ugandan Moses Kibet and debuting Eritrean Okubay Tsegay provide the veneer of internationalism, Sugut the strongest of the lot with a 2:06:58 PB and a recent best of 2:12:40.  Nagano has only had a Japanese male winner once in its history, Yuki Kawauchi's 2013 title, but a solid run from Ito or Hamasaki could be enough to add another to the record books.

It's true that only one Japanese woman has won Nagano as well, but that doesn't look likely to change with this year's field.  The race looks set to be between Ethiopian Fantu Eticha, with a 2:26:14 best from Dubai in 2015, and Kenyan Mirriam Wangari, 3rd in Xiamen 2015 in 2:27:53.  A short distance back in Kenyan Racheal Jemutai Mutgaa at 230:11.  Aki Otagiri (Team Tenmaya) is the top Japanese woman at 2:30:24, meaning she would need a slow race or a breakthrough performance to compete with the lead African trio.  But as a teammate of 2017 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner and London World Championships marathon team member Risa Shigetomo at the Tenmaya corporate team the potential is there for that to happen.

19th Nagano Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Nagano,  4/16/17
click here for detailed field listing
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Men
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:08:50 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:10:52 (Beppu-Oita 2017)
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Nanjo City Hall) - 2:12:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Henry Sugut (Kenya) - 2:12:40 (Nice-Cannes 2016)
Shota Yamaguchi (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:13:13 (Nagano 2015)
Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Cerespo) - 2:14:39 (Hokkaido 2016)
Moses Kibet (Uganda) - 2:14:50 (Melbourne 2014)
Yuki Oshikawa (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:15:53 (Hokkaido 2016)
Okubay Tsegay (Eritrea) - debut - 1:03:10 (Breda Half 2015)

Women
Fantu Eticha (Ethiopia) - 2:26:14 (Dubai 2015)
Mirriam Wangari (Kenya) - 2:27:53 (Xiamen 2015)
Racheal Jemutai Mutgaa (Kenya) - 2:30:11 (Guangzhou 2015)
Aki Otagiri (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:30:24 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Mizuho Nasukawa (Japan/unattached) - 2:33:16 (Saitama Int'l 2016)
Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/SWAC) - 2:35:49 (Tokyo 2015)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ryuji Kashiwabara on Retirement

http://f-trackfield.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2017/04/post-6808.html

translated by Brett Larner



Future 2:07 marathoner Masato Imai was the first modern star of Japan's biggest sporting event, the two-day Hakone Ekiden university men's road relay, the first to earn the moniker "God of the Mountain" for annihilating preconceptions of what was possible on Hakone's brutal uphill Fifth Stage. But nobody catalyzed and symbolized the birth of the modern university ekiden and everything associated with it, the transformation of college kids into national celebrities, more than the man who replaced him, Ryuji Kashiwabara.

As a first-year at Toyo University Kashiwabara caught national attention when, pre-debut at the 2009 Hakone Ekiden, he said with calm but brash self-assurance that he was going to break Imai's Fifth Stage record.  And the entire country watched open-mouthed as he did it, the sight of him crying as he ran the last kilometer still etched in the minds and hearts of anyone who saw it live.  Over the next three years Kashiwabara was unstoppable, winning the Fifth Stage every year, taking the record faster and faster, and, his senior year, pushing Toyo to become the first school ever to break 3:00/km for the entire 217 km-plus Hakone course.

With over 100,000 Twitter followers Kashiwabara become one of the ten most-followed track and field athletes in the world at the time, and his fame in Japan was such that he essentially couldn't go out in public.  That comes at a price.  A relatively quiet and geeky person by nature who liked watching anime and reading manga, Kashiwabara began to experience psychological problems that resulted in him leaving school for a time.

He eventually worked out his issues and went on to the Fujitsu corporate team post-graduation.  Fan expectations were incredibly high that he would be the next great Japanese marathoner, expectations raised all the higher when Imai ran his 2:07:39 marathon breakthrough in Tokyo in 2015 but Kashiwabara was careful to keep the stress manageable, studiously avoiding talking about anything but anime, manga and video games on his public Twitter account and heading off to make his marathon debut out of the public eye in a low-stress Australian race.

But as a corporate league runner Kashiwabara never experienced success on the track, on the roads, or in the ekiden.  Although he ran a 5000 m PB of 13:46.29 a few months after graduating, he never improved on his 28:20.99 best from his sophomore year at Toyo and never won a single race.  His biggest achievement was probably a 3rd-place finish at the hilly Ome 30 km Road Race in 2013, a far cry from the sensational hype around him at Hakone.  Fans never gave up hope even when he didn't break 2:20 in either of his first two marathons -- Imai had taken years to get the marathon right, so there was no reason Kashiwabara couldn't either.

But not all stories have the ending you want.  On April 3 Kashiwabara and Fujitsu announced that he was leaving the team and retiring as an athlete. The public shock was enormous, with "Ryuji Kashiwabara" trending as high as #2 nationwide in Japan.  In the evening Fujitsu pubished the following statement from Kashiwabara on the end of his road.



It's a private matter, but I hereby confirm that on Mar. 31, 2017 I resigned from the Fujitsu Ekiden Team and retired as an athlete.  Last season (2016) I had repeated injuries and problems from which I still haven't recovered as I'm writing this, and with no prospect of a full recovery on the horizon I made the decision to end my career as a competitive athlete.

Different people who have coached me through the years including Fujitsu head coach Tadashi Fukushima have asked me, "Isn't it too soon to give up?" and, "How about trying to focus on treatment and rehabilitation?"  But when I'd had an injured Achilles tendon once before that hurt for a long time once before I'd told myself, "If you ever get another major injury it will mark the end of your career," and between that and no end to this injury in sight despite getting treatment and rehabilitation, the only choice was to turn in my notification.

I'm sorry to have caused so much worry to so many people right up until the end, but I'm deeply grateful to everyone who cheered for me, to my friends who were always there for me, to the leadership and support of coach Fukushima, the team staff and my teammates at Fujitsu, to coach Toshiyuki Sakai at Toyo University and to coach Sato from my days at Iwaki Sogo H.S.



This next part is a little long, but I'd appreciate it if you read it when you have time.  Since I want to say it as much of it as I can in my own words some of it may not be written very well, but I hope that you'll overlook that fact.

I started running competitively in junior high school, and I've been able to keep it going all the way to the corporate leagues.  I've never had the kind of personality that stuck with something for long, so this has been as much a surprise to myself as to anyone.  Through running I've met a lot of people, and have been supported by even more.  In my university days I had severe social anxiety and there periods when I couldn't leave my dorm room.  I think the only reason I could go on with it was because I had family, high school teachers and coaches back in Fukushima who would welcome me back and support me without asking questions whenever I needed to go home, and friends who greeted and accepted me back without saying anything when I returned to university.  I would like to take this opportunity to say the words thank you to you again.  Thank you, truly.

After this I'll be staying on to work at the Fujitsu corporation.  I think I'll mostly be working on the other side, working with company physical fitness program and on Fujitsu's regional and social contribution programs.  To whatever extent I can I want to keep doing running seminars and making guest appearances at races whenever I'm asked.  My feeling of wanting to help spread the excitement of sports hasn't changed.  I often hear people saying, "I don't how to watch track races," or, "I don't even know whether it's OK to go to a track or into a stadium to watch," but as long as you show proper manners as a spectator you can watch and enjoy however you like!  I really hope that people will feel more comfortable going and having fun watching races in person.

If I can change to topic a little to my hobbies, I've always talked about how I like anime, manga and video games.  I've been really glad to see that people who share the same interests have started getting into running and sports and even showing up at races wearing anime t-shirts.  I want to remove more of the social barriers and hurdles around sports culture and increase the number of its fans even more, to make it so that people who don't know much about sports and even anime, manga and video game fans who've never watched sports before will feel comfortable coming out to watch.

Track and field in particular has a lot to offer if you go in person.  There are so many different events going on that you'll never get bored watching.  On the track there's everything from 100 m to 10000 m, and on the fields there are all kinds of jump and throw events.  The ebb and flow of the ekiden and the marathon make it so that you never know what's going to happen until the very end, I think they have an appeal to them that you just can't taste in other sports.  I really hope that you'll all take yourselves down to the track and ekiden or marathon course and see how the athletes race for yourselves.

So, this is where it ends.  I want to say thank you all for everything up to now. Ryuji Kashiwabara still goes on, and I hope that you will all continue to look kindly upon him.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Kawauchi 6th in First Marathon After Being Named to London World Championships Team

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2017/04/02/kiji/20170402s00057000453000c.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

London World Championships team member Yuki Kawauchi (30, Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran the Apr. 2 Daegu International Marathon in South Korea, finishing 6th in 2:13:04.  Daegu was Kawauchi's first full marathon since being named to the World Championships team in March.  Coming up short of his pre-race goal of a sub-2:10, Kawauchi finished over five minutes behind winner Matthew Kisorio (Kenya) who won in 2:07:32.  "I lost touch with the lead group after 5 km, and it ended up being a tough race like in Porto last year," he told JRN post-race.  "We did the first 5 km in 14:58.   For the next 5 km the lead group went about 14:46, and for my current condition that was just too fast. At the same time, I managed to shake off a 2:05 runner and a 2:06 runner and ran down two people after 40 km, so it did bear some fruit.

With Daegu marking the start of his buildup to his final Japanese national team appearance at August's London World Championships, Kawauchi plans to run May's Volkswagen Prague Marathon, June's ASICS Stockholm Marathon, and July's Gold Coast Airport Marathon.  "Between now and Prague I have improve my speed a little in order to be able to handle a move in the 14:40 split range," he said.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Outdoor Track Season Kicks Off at Kanaguri Memorial

by Brett Larner

With the start of the fiscal and academic year on April 1 Japan's outdoor track season wasted no time getting started at Saturday's Kanaguri Memorial Meet in Kumamoto.  With five heats of senior men's 5000 m on the menu 1500 m junior world record holder Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.) led the way, winning the A-heat in 13:24.42.  Newcomer Abayneh Degu (Team Yasukawa Denki) wasn't far off that in the B-heat, running a 30-second PB of 13:25.55 for the win.

Hiroki Matsueda (Team Fujitsu) led the Japanese results, clearing 13:30 for the first time with a 13:28.61 for 3rd in the Kwemoi-led A-heat.  Just 34 days after his 1:01:55-first-half 2:09:27 marathon debut, Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) was only 0.12 seconds off his PB in 13:34.80 for 8th in the same heat. In the B-heat, Matsueda's teammate Ken Yokote (Team Fujitsu) ran a 10-second PB of 13:31.35 for top Japanese honors at 5th overall.  Behind him, Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.), a Rio Olympian in the 3000 m steeplechase, took 22 seconds off his best, running 13:33.14 for 7th.  The three slower heats all featured Japanese winners, all three breaking 14:00.

Kenyans delivered solid times to win both of the main women's races.  In the 5000 m A-heat, Rosemary Wanjiru (Team Starts) ran a 2-second PB of 15:13.39 to win by almost 25 seconds over Mariam Waithera (Team Kyudenko).  Ann Karindi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) took the 1500 m A-heat in 4:12.39 by 7 seconds over Tomoka Kimura (Team Universal Entertainment.  Yumika Katayama (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) won the high school girls' 3000 m A-heat in 9:20.42.

2017 Kanaguri Memorial Meet
Kumamoto Sports Park Field, Kumamoto, 4/1/17
click here for complete results

Men's 5000 m Heat 5
1. Ronald Kwemoi (Kenya/Komori Corp.) - 13:24.42
2. Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) - 13:28.59
3. Hiroki Matsueda (Fujitsu) - 13:28.61 - PB
4. John Maina (Kenya/Fujitsu) - 13:30.99
5. Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 13:32.01
6. Shuho Dairokuno (Asahi Kasei) - 13:32.56
7. Cyrus Kingori (Kenya/SGH Group) - 13:32.64 - PB
8. Yuta Shitara (Honda) - 13:34.80
9. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei) - 13:38.72
10. Mamiyo Nigusse (Ethiopia/Yasukawa Denki) - 13:43.98

Men's 5000 m Heat 4
1. Abayneh Degu (Ethiopia/Yasukawa Denki) - 13:25.55 - PB
2. Daniel Kipkemoi (Kenya/Nishitetsu) - 13:26.38 - PB
3. Joel Mwaura (Kenya/Kurosaki Harima) - 13:27.52 - PB
4. Edward Waweru (Kenya/NTN) - 13:31.30
5. Ken Yokote (Fujitsu) - 13:31.35 - PB
6. John Kariuki (Kenya/Sekino Kosan) - 13:32.87 - PB
7. Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.) - 13:33.14 - PB
8. Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/JFE Steel) - 13:33.85
9. Patrick Muendo Mwaka (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 13:43.48
10. Samuel Mwangi (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 13:43.49

Men's 5000 m Heat 3
1. Yuma Higashi (Kyudenko) - 13:54.90
2. Ryunosuke Omori (Toyo Univ.) - 13:59.28
3. Daichi Takeuchi (Chuo Univ.) - 14:01.10

Men's 5000 m Heat 2
1. Noriyasu Ikeda (Press Kogyo) - 13:59.34 - PB
2. Shohei Morikawa (Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 14:01.10
3. Shinji Yoshimoto (Kurosaki Harima) - 14:01.66

Men's 5000 m Heat 1
1. Taisei Hashizume (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:58.00 - PB
2. Yohei Koyama (NTN) - 13:59.37
3. Naoya Takahashi (Yasukawa Denki) - 14:00.29

Men's 1500 m Heat 2
1. Masaki Toda (Nissin Shokuhin) - 3:46.69
2. Ryoji Tatezawa (Tokai Univ.) - 3:47.49
3. Mitsutaka Tomita (Nishitetsu) - 3:47.89

Women's 5000 m Heat 2
1. Rosemary Wanjiru (Kenya/Starts) - 15:13.39 - PB
2. Mariam Waithera (Kenya/Kyudenko) - 15:37.66
3. Yuka Miyazaki (Kyudenko) - 15:50.22
4. Ryo Koido (Hitachi) - 15:52.73
5. Susan Wairimu (Denso) - 15:55.76

High School Girls 3000 m Heat 4
1. Yumika Katayama (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 9:20.42
2. Mai Misaki (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 9:22.56
3. Misaki Hayashida (Kitakyushu Municipal H.S.) - 9:22.65
4. Matsuri Harada (Shonan H.S.) - 9:26.40
5. Shiori Yoshizono (Kobayashi H.S.) - 9:28.15

Women's 1500 m Heat 2
1. Ann Karindi (Kenya/Toyota Jidoshokki) - 4:12.36
2. Tomoka Kimura (Universal Entertainment) - 4:19.53
3. Maya Iino (Daiichi Seimei) - 4:20.55

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, March 31, 2017

Iwatani Sangyo Launches Women's Ekiden Team Coached by Hisakazu Hirose

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20170330/ath17033017380002-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

The Iwatani Sangyo corporation held a press conference in Osaka on Mar. 30 to announce the launch of its new women's ekiden team on Apr. 1.  Head coach Hisakazu Hirose, who guided Mizuki Noguchi to the 2004 Athens Olympics women's marathon gold medal, spoke of his ambitions for the team, telling the media, "There are three years left until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  I want to try for it."

Nanami Aoki, who stood at the peak of the high school and university ekiden scene as part of the Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. and Ritsumeikan Univ. teams, and the other members of the initial squad of six were introduced along with the team's orange uniform.  The team dormitory in its home base of Mino, Osaka is set to be completed in September.  Coach Hirose commented, "Our first competition will be May's Kansai Jitsugyodan Track and Field Championships.  My goal is to cultivate another athlete like Noguchi.  I hope to expand the team to about ten people in the future."

JAAF Announces Move to Single-Race Olympic Trials Selection for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Marathon Teams

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20170330-OHT1T50055.html

translated by Brett Larner

Regarding the men's and women's marathon selection for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, on Mar. 29 the JAAF announced a new selection process in which the top two Japanese men and women at a new Olympic Trials marathon to be held in the fall of 2019 or later will be named to the team.  Beginning this fall the existing set of selection races will become qualifying races, with athletes needing to clear specified times and placings in order to qualify for the Olympic Trials race.  In that way Olympic marathon team selection will become a two-stage process, a major change from the current process of comparing the results in different races and one that ensures transparency in national team selection.  The move is expected to be confirmed at next month's JAAF executive board meeting.

With the Japanese marathoning world in the midst of a downtown the move is a major shakeup, the JAAF's shift in policy toward a "one-shot Trials race" in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics now clear.  The Olympic Trials marathon will be held in the fall of 2019 or later, with the top two men and top two women scoring places on the Tokyo 2020 team.  The single remaining spot on each team will be awarded to the fastest man and woman under the JAAF's auto-qualifier time in one of the existing selection races during the fall 2019 to spring 2020 season.  If nobody clears the auto-qualifier time the third spot will go to the 3rd-place finisher at the Olympic Trials event.

The primary merit of the new process is transparency in team selection.  In the past national team selection has always been controversial due to the subjectivity of comparing multiple races with different race evolution and weather conditions.  Under the system, men can qualify for the Olympic Trials marathon at Fukuoka International, Tokyo, Lake Biwa Mainichi and Beppu-Oita Mainichi, women at Saitama International, Osaka International and Nagoya Women's, with both men and women also having the option to qualify at the Hokkaido Marathon.  High-placing finishers at the Augusts's London World Championships and 2018 Asian Games will also qualify.  With all of the country's best gathered together at the "one-shot battle" Trials race, selection going to the athletes who can convince everyone of their value.

It is also hoped that the move will be an impetus for development.  No Japanese athletes have made the podium of an Olympic marathon since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics for men and the 2004 Athens Olympics for women. At the Rio Olympics none even made the top ten.  JAAF Marathon and Long Distance Project Leader Toshihiko Seko, 60, commented, "We're not going to get better overnight.  It's going to take about three years of steady work."  The long Olympic Trials qualification window from this summer through the spring of 2019 encourages athletes to think medium and long-term in their planning. By putting focus on marathon development the JAAF aims to better identify and cultivate talent.

The venue for the Olympic Trials marathon and other details remain to be settled.  A source at the JAAF expressed caution, pointing out, "There is a possibility that we might see one-hit wonders who run well only at the Olympic Trials.  I hope that people will remember that it is important to evaluate stability and that the primary objective is to choose people who can win medals."  Full details of the new system will be officially announced in early April and confirmed by the executive committee mid-month.

Past Olympic Team Selection Controversies

  • 1988 Seoul Olympics:  With the Fukuoka International Marathon designated as a one-shot Olympic Trials to determine the men's team, Toshihiko Seko was unable to start the race due to injury. Criticism flew when the JAAF gave Seko an additional chance to qualify.
  • 1992 Barcelona Olympics:  Yuko Arimori scored a place on the Olympic team by finishing 4th at the previous year's World Championships.  Osaka International 2nd-placer Akemi Matsuno publicly appealed to the JAAF to be chosen, and controversy arose when she was left off.
  • 2004 Athens Olympics:  Defending gold medalist Naoko Takahashi was left off the team after she failed to win her selection race. Takahashi's popularity sparked a massive public outcry for her to be included on the team.
  • 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics:  Kayoko Fukushi won the Osaka International Women's Marathon.  Despite running an excellent time her place on the Olympic team was not confirmed by the JAAF, leading her to enter the Nagoya Women's selection race just over a month later.  Criticism after criticism was levelled against the ambiguous selection criteria.

Translator's note:  JRN has advocated a plan almost identical to this, the existing selection races serving as qualifiers for a new Olympic Trials race, for years.  The JAAF depends upon revenue from the TV broadcasts of the existing selection races for a significant part of its budget, meaning that is has always had disincentive to do anything to change the status quo in that regard.  This is the primary reason for the dogged persistence in maintaining the Saitama International Marathon as a women's selection race and refusal to include the Tokyo Marathon, the highest-level women's race in Japan, in women's selection.  

At the same time, the large number of races means that the best athletes rarely face each other, and the opaque selection criteria have meant that the outcome of the races with regard to national team selection was usually not known for months afterward.  Both of these significantly lower the interest of the TV broadcasts to the average viewer, damaging the broadcasts' value as revenue generators for the JAAF.

There is nothing Japanese fans want to see more than all the good athletes going head-to-head in one race, meaning that a one-shot Olympic Trials broadcast would be of tremendous value, but every corporate league coach and JAAF official with whom JRN has talked about the idea over the years has had the same response: "No, that would lower the value of the existing races and hurt the JAAF's revenue stream, and we can't have that."  Evaluating business decisions based primarily on how they would hurt the status quo rather than how they might add value is a commonality in Japan, but it is pretty clear that the addition of a massively popular new event would create a bigger and better fan base, and this would have trickle-down benefits for the existing races.  You can see that in the increasing popularity of the New Year Ekiden on the back of the Hakone Ekiden.  It's good to see that the JAAF is finally going to take the plunge, but although the article above contends that the primary reason is transparency you can be sure that that is at least in the passenger seat alongside the financial potential.

In that light, the possibility that the third spot on the teams could be determined by a fast run in one of the domestic races can be read as a way to keep the existing selection races, and their broadcasts, relevant in the pre-Olympic season.  That's a pretty good idea, even if it makes the "one-shot battle" not really a single shot.  The absence of the Tokyo Marathon from the lists of women's qualifying races remains frustrating and shows that, whatever IAAF gold label and World Marathon Majors trappings they decorate it with, in the eyes and heart of the JAAF Tokyo remains what it always has been: a race for elite men.

To be fair, though, with a smaller pool of female athletes to work with, five qualifying races would dilute things even further.  This is part of the reason for the biggest diversion of the JAAF's plan from JRN's concept, the total absence of international race results from consideration.  Japanese athletes' inability to compete seriously outside Japan is the thing that most urgently needs to be worked on, and you might think that making it possible to qualify for the Trials by running well overseas, say by clearing a stricter time standard or making the top five in an IAAF gold label race, top three in a silver label race, or winning a bronze label race, would be a big help in rectifying that problem.  

But doing that would again be a dilution of the pool, resulting in fewer top-level athletes available to run the domestic selection races and hurting both their value and the JAAF's bottom line.  So, everything that counts has to happen domestically.  But the silver lining is that with a two-year window to run a qualifying mark, say a four-marathon span, the qualifying mark only has to be achieved domestically once, and that frees the athletes to race more internationally the rest of the time.  There's still the potential for insanity like Yukiko Akaba not being named to the 2013 World Championships despite finishing 3rd at the London Marathon that year, but all in all the new process looks like a step in the right direction.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Lessons of the Past Are Not “Outdated” - Real Talk From Yuki Kawauchi on “Taking on the World” (part 3)

http://sports.yahoo.co.jp/column/detail/201701140003-spnavi

translated by Brett Larner

Part three in a three-part series written by Yuki Kawauchi and published by Sportsnavi. Visit the above link to their original Japanese-language article for more photos. Click here for part one in the series, “The Miracle in Fukuoka,” and here for part two, “Bringing All My Experience Into Play in London.”


During his days at Gakushuin University Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Prefectural Government) ran in the Hakone Ekiden as part of the Kanto Region University Select Team. After graduating he chose to take a job as a Saitama Prefecture employee rather than going into the corporate running leagues, and since then he has run countless marathons as an “amateur runner.” By choosing a different road from the elite runners who join the corporate leagues Kawauchi has worked on the marathon under his own power and has put long and serious thought into it. His path has shown the runners to come the way to a new option.

In the final part of this three-part series, Kawauchi offers his advice to the next generation and talks about his dreams as a marathon runner.

Going for a sub-2:10 debut is just digging your own grave.

At the 2015 Beijing World Championships, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie (Eritrea), just 19 at the time, won the gold medal. At age 20 he was 4th at the Rio Olympics, and three months later he won the New York City Marathon. At the Dubai Marathon as well, teenaged Ethiopian athlete Tsegaye Mekonnen Assefa ran a time of 2:04. But on the other hand, [while young athletes are having success] I also think that the marathon is “a sport of experience.” From both viewpoints I think it’s a good trend that young athletes are gaining awareness of the marathon while they have physical strength and speed. In my own experience, I learned many things from the two marathons I ran while attending Gakushuin University. If you don’t actually run the marathon there’s a lot you can’t understand just by armchair theorizing. But as the number of young athletes taking on the marathon increases in this way [in the buildup to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics], there are two things to be concerned about.

The first is that too many athletes have goals that are too high for their first marathons. I think this is partly due to the people around them and partly to the media, but in my opinion too many athletes who have never run a marathon are saying, “My goal is at least sub-2:10.” A lot of fast young guys naively think, “Sub-2:10 is what people were running 30 years ago,” and, “I’m targeting 2:05 or 2:06, so it’s a given that I’ll go sub-2:10 in my debut.” However, in terms of the IAAF’s athlete rankings, sub-2:10 is a time that earns a gold label, the highest rating, so I don’t believe it’s as easy to do as they think.

If you consider it a little you’ll realize that only two Japanese collegiate runners have ever gone sub-2:10, and likewise not even ten Japanese men have ever gone sub-2:10 in their debut.[1] In my first marathon at Beppu-Oita I ran 2:19:26, and among the greats, [Toshihiko] Seko, the Soh twins [Shigeru and Takeshi] and [Takeyuki] Nakayama, and likewise among the current three fastest active Japanese men [Masato] Imai, Arata Fujiwara and [Kazuhiro] Maeda, none of them went sub-2:10 in their first marathons. You could also point out that even though Galen Rupp [U.S.A.] wasn’t a sub-2:10 runner at that point in time, he won the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.

Times are something that are dependent on variables like race day weather and the way the race plays out. By doing dozens of marathons I’ve come to understand what those who came before me meant when they said, “More than time, the marathon is about competition.” So when the people backing these fast young guys tell them, “You have to run a good time in your debut,” the runners may be saying “sub-2:10 at a minimum” to try to live up to those expectations, but I think that in saying that they are probably stringing themselves up by the neck. If the goal is ultimately to run 2:05 or 2:06, I think that instead of saying, “Let’s rock the marathon right from the first time,” and jumping in only to die and taste the torments of hell, to suffer injury and trauma that will destroy your self-confidence, saying “Who cares what time you run in your debut? I want to be able to achieve my goal in the end,” and holding back to run at a pace that suits you will let you finish thinking, “Marathons are fun!” and let you run later marathons in a positive state of mind.

The meaning of training for distance before a marathon.

The second point is that there's a tendency to admire young athletes who run well in their marathon debuts and then say, “I only did 30 km in training,” or, “I only ran 40 km once.” Certainly, if you’ve never run 40 km or only done it once and produce a good result, expectations will rise and people will say, “The kid’s got huge potential!” and, “If you train more you’ll get even better.” But it’s not always a good thing for expectations to go up like that. In the second marathon and beyond, the time from the first marathon becomes a major pressure that starts in on an athlete.

As of December, 2016, the times that the five fastest-ever debut Japanese marathoners including debut marathon record holder Masakazu Fujiwara ran in their first marathons have remained their lifetime PBs. Of course, Fujiwara [currently head coach of the Chuo University ekiden team] represented Japan in the marathon at three World Championships and all-time debut #2 [Koichi] Morishita was the last Japanese man to become an Olympic medalist, so it is possible to have great success even without being able to break your debut time. But however successful you are at the international championships level, as an athlete focused on winning and on being “even one second faster,” if you go your whole career without ever breaking the time you ran in your first marathon it must put a lot of thoughts into your head.

I think that the purpose of doing multiple long distance runs before a marathon isn't just “to produce results in the race” but also “to build legs that will withstand injury and make it to the next starting line after producing results in the race.” If you want your marathon career to be short and sweet then your legs can probably handle a “single shot” approach without doing the training necessary to develop them. But if you’re envisioning a long career as an athlete competing at the international level and accumulating a wealth of experience then I think it’s essential to develop your legs through long distance training right from your first marathon. I think it’s a good idea to start working on getting experience in the marathon at a young age and it shouldn’t be made more intimidating that necessary, but I think that people who run enough to avoid getting injured after their first marathon are more likely to have a future than those who do it with insufficient mileage.

Japanese people have their own Japanese ways of racing and training.

I think that the most important thing [for today’s young athletes to go on to become internationally competitive] is for people to start racing seriously overseas right from when they are young and to build up knowledge and experience of “what overseas is.” Unlike in the past, today there are international races all over the world ready to invite Japanese athletes with good times to their names and to pay for the costs of air travel and accommodations. So I think the path you choose to pursue your development is crucial, whether to join a corporate team that understands international racing, or to work on it yourself as an amateur or pro runner, examining in detail the list of member races on the AIMS [Association of International Marathons and Distance Races] website and honing your craft by running seriously in overseas races that match your level and goals. Then while gaining experience in overseas races and acquiring knowledge you can gain clear awareness of whether “the world” you are aiming for as an athlete is “Representing Japan” or “A Record” or “Winning International Marathons Around the World” and do the training appropriate to that objective. All of this is important.


Along with gaining experience abroad, I think it’s also important to learn from the Japanese marathoners of the past. It seems like a lot of athletes these days believe too much in the way that the Africans and the Americans do things, but I don’t think that modern athletes who can’t better the times run by past Japanese athletes can rightfully call those past athletes’ training methodologies “outdated.” Needless to say not everything about the way that Japanese athletes trained in the past was correct, but I think there are more hints about how to get better to be found there than by looking at how Africans train.

Years ago when I read Kenji Kimihara’s book The Springtime of the Marathon I felt sympathetic resonance with it as an athlete. I felt that there was a lot to learn from past Japanese marathoners and set out to read as many of their books and biographies as I could. In addition to Seko, the Sohs, Akio Usami, Nobuyoshi Sadanaga, Kokichi Tsuburaya and others, I read nonfiction about the Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney Olympic women’s marathons and more. Every time I read them I found a number of things that could be helpful, but what I began to feel most strongly was that compared to the greats of the past the amount of “ultra long-distance training” I was doing seemed overwhelmingly insufficient.

I began to feel that even if I were doing something similar to what Africans do, it would just be a lesser imitation of their approach. I think that if I can’t do the same quality training they do, unless I do the “ultra long-distance training” that they won’t then there’s no way I could compete with them. The surprise I felt at seeing the pre-race breakfast of a Kenyan Olympic medalist in New York and thinking, “They can run 42.195 km on such a small amount [of food]?” had a lot of influence on this line of thought. Personally I had the sense that by eating well at dinner the night before and breakfast the morning of a race I had become better able to hang on and not fade badly in the second half of a marathon the way I did when I was first starting out.

But looking at how the great Kenyan athletes could run even though they ate in a way exactly opposite to my experience I began to think more and more, “They’re different from Japanese people. If there is that difference, then maybe Japanese people have different ways of racing and training as well.” As a result, even if you’re adopting an overseas approach, I think it’s important to first do your homework and learn what you can about how all the great Japanese athletes of the past trained, and then to add whatever else you can learn from abroad to that. There are a lot of people at both extremes in Japan today, but to become a better marathoner I think there are hints to be gleaned from both old Japan and the modern world.

Becoming a “coach who runs” at my alma mater someday.

[To help elevate athletics on the road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,] I want to be visible racing against international competition in domestic and overseas races from fall through spring and to deliver exciting runs that will give the next generation aiming for the Tokyo Olympics something to think about. I also want to support amateur marathons throughout Japan by continuing to actively take part in amateur races that I haven’t run before. Specifically, by achieving my two goals of “finishing 100 full marathons” and “running as an invited athlete or special guest at amateur marathons in all 47 prefectures” before the Tokyo Olympics I think that I can return the knowledge and experience I’ve gained through my marathoning to Japan as a whole.


I think that in the future I’d like to serve as a “coach who runs” at my alma mater Gakushuin University to help develop marathon runners the way that I myself was guided and coached. At that time I hope to take advantage of the domestic and international relationships I’ve been able to cultivate to help other athletes run many marathons and to help expand all the various options available to them. And if I can help even one athlete look back on their competitive career with a smile and say, “I’m glad I dedicated the springtime of my life to running. I’m truly glad I ran the marathon,” then it will all have been worth it.

If I’d quit running back in high school when I was injured all the time I wouldn’t be who I am now. By continuing to do it at Gakushuin University I learned new ways of training and ways of thinking that opened up the possibilities and potential within me. That’s why I want to show all the athletes at the powerful running schools who, like me in those days, are frustrated and injured, “There’s another world out there. Another way.” By doing that I hope to give them the chance to feel again the love of the run.


[1] Written prior to Yuta Shitara’s 2:09:27 debut at the 2017 Tokyo Marathon, the tenth sub-2:10 debut by a Japanese man.

Read Part One, "The Miracle in Fukuoka," and Part Two, "Bringing All My Experience Into Play in London."

Berlin photo © 2012 and Fukuoka photo © 2015 Dr. Helmut Winter, all rights reserved
other photos © 2014-16 Brett Larner, all rights reserved