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Showing posts from 2018

Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Marathon Course to be Finalized in Late May

On Mar. 23 the Tokyo 2020 Oympic and Paralympic Games organizing committee announced that the Olympic marathon and race walk courses will be formally finalized in late May. The committee had planned on a finalization of the courses within the 2017 fiscal year but were unable to achieve that target due to delays in the IAAF's official approval process.

The marathon will start and finish at the new Olympic stadium, taking in Asakusa, Ginza and other major sightseeing spots in central Tokyo along the way. The race walks will be held on the loop around the Imperial Palace. According to the organizing committee, there were delays in the IAAF's appointment of experts to survey the course after its initial selection of candidates, resulting in course inspection being bumped back from February to May. Organizing committee executive Koji Murofushi commented, "There are no particular problems with the courses."

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London Olympics Marathoner Ryo Yamamoto to Join Chuo University Coaching Staff

On Mar. 22 Chuo University, 15th place at the 2018 Hakone Ekiden, announced that 2012 London Olympics marathoner and Chuo alumnus Ryo Yamamoto, 33, has been invited to join the Chuo long distance coaching staff.

Yamamoto ran Hakone three times while at Chuo. Joining the SGH Group corporate team after his graduation, Yamamoto ran a PB 2:08:44 to finish 4th at the 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon and earning a place on the London Olympic team.

A statement from Chuo read, "As an Olympian and top-level athlete, Yamamoto is someone we would like to have guide our team members." Yamamoto will take up his new duties on Apr. 1, joining head coach and fellow 2:08 marathoner Masakazu Fujiwara. With the record for most Hakone Ekiden victories at 14, Chuo University is set to receive an infusion of the Olympic spirit.

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translated and edited by Brett Larner
photo © 2012 Dr. Helmut Winter, all rights reserved

Azegami and Tanaka Win in Niigata and Matsue

In its second edition the Niigata Half Marathon continued to grow into an important end-of-season event, with Kazuya Azegami (Teikyo Univ.) leading eight men including teammate Takeshi Tamura under 1:03. Ryunosuke Matsuo (Tokai Univ.) made a move to break away near 15 km, but Azegami fought back to open a 5-second lead by 20 km on the way to the win in 1:02:30. In the women's race, Kanayo Miyata (Yutaka Giken) closed a 35-second gap at halfway to breakaway leader Haruka Wada (Shimamura), overtaking Wada in the final kilometer to win in 1:15:31 to 1:15:33.

At the 39th running of the Matsue Ladies Half Marathon, 2:23:19 marathoner Tomomi Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) returned from a long layoff to take the win in 1:11:39, dropping rival Yuri Nozoe (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) in the final kilometer to win by 6 seconds. Doubling as the National University Women's Half Marathon Championships, 3rd placer Hitomi Mizuguchi (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) scored the national title in 1:12:34 by a margin o…

Katanishi Scores Best-Ever Japanese Collegiate Placing at United Airlines NYC Half

Wearing bib #21 on his 21st birthday, 2017 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Kei Katanishi (Komazawa University) turned in the best-ever Japanese collegiate placing at the United Airlines NYC Half, taking 7th in 1:03:05 just 26 seconds off the win.

Katanishi and his Komazawa teammate Shogo Ise earned invites to the NYC Half by taking the top two Japanese collegiate spots at last November's Ageo City Half Marathon. Off the tougher new New York course both Katanishi and Ise ran in the lead group for the first two-thirds of the race, Ise near the front and Katanishi biding his time at the back of the pack. When the first real move came on the uphill approaching Times Square Katanishi was quick to reposition himself into the top three just off the shoulder of leader Dathan Ritzenhein (U.S.A.), staying in the action and looking smooth through the first set of Central Park hills. "I just took the early part easy and watched the others and what was going," Kat…

Kawauchi and Kiyara Live Up to Expectations With Wan Jin Shi Wins

Returning to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon after having first run it in 2016, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:14:12 to score his fourth-straight marathon win in a third-straight wire-to-wire solo performance. Choosing the hilly Wan Jin Shi Marathon as his final main tuneup for next month's Boston Marathon, Kawauchi came out swinging, leading an all-African pack of seven by almost 10 seconds after the tough uphill opening 5 km and stretching that out to over two minutes by the turnaround point at halfway.

On track to break the 2:13:05 course record by more than two minutes. under sunny skies with temperatures climbing to 22C and nearly 80% humidity Kawauchi began to slow incrementally. Behind him, Johnstone Kibet Maiyo (Kenya) and Aredome Tiuyay Degefa (Ethiopia) separated from the chase pack and began to push each other in pursuit of the top spot. With every 5 km split the gap to Kawauchi narrowed. At 40 km Maiyo threw down to get rid of Degefa, blasting the dow…

Kawauchi and Kiyara Headline Wan Jin Shi Marathon

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returns to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon this Sunday for his marathon of the post-Yuta Shitara era. The runner-up in Wan Jin Shi in 2016, Kawauchi is ranked #1 in the field and comes to Wan Jin Shi with wins in his last three marathons but faces a solid field including fellow sub-2:10 man Peter Kiplagat Sitenei, last year's runner-up Tsegaye Debele (Ethiopia), and the only man to beat him last time around, 2016 winner and course record holder William Chebon Chebor (Kenya). Kawauchi plans to use the hilly race as a tune-up for his main marathon of the spring season, April's Boston Marathon.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rael Kiyara Nguriatukei (Kenya), winner of the 2012 Hamburg Marathon before being stripped of her title and suspended for a positive post-race test for norandrosterone, has the fastest recent time in the women's field with a 2:26:22 winning time at last year's Chongqing Marathon. Close behind is Chemtai …

Japan Names Asian Games Marathon Team

On Mar. 16 the JAAF announced the Japanese marathon team for this August's Jakarta Asian Games. Hiroto Inoue (MHPS) and Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima) make up the men's squad, with Keiko Nogami (Juhachi Ginko) and Hanae Tanaka (Shiseido) named to the women's team.

A member of the Japanese national team for last summer's London World Championships, Inoue ran an all-time Japanese #4 time of 2:06:54 at February's Tokyo Marathon, the 2nd-placing Japnaese man behind national record setter Yuta Shitara (Honda). Sonoda ran a PB of 2:09:34 to finish in the top Japanese position at 2nd overall earlier in February at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon.

The silver medalist at November's Asian Championships marathon, Nogami was 5th earlier this month at the Nagoya Women's Marathon in a PB of 2:26:33. Tanaka was next behind her in Nagoya in 6th in 2:27:40, the only member of the Asian Games team not to have yet qualified for the MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials race. A meda…

Japan Dominates Asian Cross Country Championships

Japan dominated the 14th Asian Cross Country Championships Thursday in Guiyang, China, winning all four team gold medals to hold the hosts China back to silver in every race.

Japan's only individual gold came in the Junior Women's race, one of its usual areas of strength. Yuna Wada led a Japanese sweep of the top four positions to win the 6 km race in 20:43 with scoring teammates Ririka Hironaka and Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu just behind.

Wada Yuna of Japan wins Junior Women’s 6km cross country race of 14th Asian Cross Country Championship . Japan also won Team championship — Asian Athletics (@asianathletics) March 15, 2018
With the meet also serving as China's National Championships Chinese athletes won the individual gold in the other three races, Dan Li, Cairen Suolong and Jianhua Peng all showing better closing speed to beat their Japanese rivals by 3~4 seconds. Li won the Senior Women's 8 km by 3 seconds over Japan's Yukari Abe, leadi…

Uehara Withdraws From World Half

On Mar. 12 the JAAF announced that Miyuki Uehara (Daiichi Seimei), a Rio de Janeiro Olympian in the women's 5000 m, has withdrawn from the Mar. 24 Valencia World Half Marathon Championships after sustaining an injury to her right Achilles tendon.

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translated by Brett Larner

1500 m Olympian Assefa Wins Nagoya, 22-Year-Old Sekine 2:23:07 Debut

Two-time 1500 m Olympian Meskerem Assefa (Ethiopia) ran down favorite Valary Jemeli (Kenya) with 4 km to go to win the 2018 Nagoya Women's Marathon, with the home town crowd wowed by the debut of the latest next big thing, 22-year-old Hanami Sekine (Japan Post).

Supported by three pacers, a lead pack of seven including Assefa, Jemeli, Sekine, Ethiopian Bahraini Merima Mohamed, Saitama International Marathon winner Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) and top-ranked Japanese women Reia Iwade (Dome) and Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) went through halfway in a decent 1:11:32. This proved too hot for a few of the past next big things to have run well in Nagoya the last few years, as Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu), 2:22:48 in Nagoya three years ago, and Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), 2:23:47 last year, were off the back of the pack in the first 10 km.

By 25 km Cheyech, Ohara and Iwade joined them off the back, leaving only Sekine in contention with the African trio of Jemeli, Assefa and Mohammed. Sekine, a…

Japan’s Marathon Season Wraps at Sunday’s Nagoya Women’s Marathon - Preview

Japan’s domestic elite marathon season wraps up Sunday with the Nagoya Women’s Marathon, the final race in the first season of qualification for the MGC Race, Japan’s new 2020 Olympic trials marathon to be held in late 2019. In its first season the MGC Race has succeeded in unifying Japan’s disparate national team selection races into what feels like an actual series, one that fans have gotten excited about and which has, at least on the men’s side, driven performances to a higher level. As of right now, thirteen Japanese men have met the MGC Race’s strict qualification criteria, six of them at the Tokyo Marathon alone. Heading into Nagoya only three women have qualified. Will we see another rush of qualifiers this weekend?

On paper it could happen. Since its rebranding as the world’s largest women-only marathon, Nagoya has consistently produced among the best depth-at-quality in the world, its course, weather and fields conducive to seeing a lot of people running fast times. In theo…

Japan Announces Team for Valencia World Half Marathon Championships

On Mar. 6 the JAAF announced the Japanese women's and men's teams for the 2018 World Half Marathon Championships scheduled for Mar. 24 in Valencia, Spain. The women's team has few surprises, made up of the top two Japanese women from December's Sanyo Ladies Half Marathon, Miyuki Uehara (Daiichi Seimei) and Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal), the top Japanese women at February's Marugame Half and National Corporate Half Marathon, Kaori Morita (Panasonic) and Yuka Hori (Panasonic), and high-potential marathoner Honami Maeda (Tenmaya), winner of August's Hokkaido Marathon and 2nd at January's Osaka International Women's Marathon in 2:23:46.

Maeda's inclusion is clearly geared to give one of the people the JAAF views as potential 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon team material some international championships racing experience, and that decision making process is even more clearly at work in the men's team selection. #1-ranked man Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei), holde…

Former World Championships Marathoner Hara Arrested Again for Shoplifting Candy

Convicted of shoplifting from a convenience store in her hometown of Ashikaga, Tochigi, former World Championships marathoner and current restaurant employee Yumiko Hara, 36, has been arrested again on suspicion of shoplifting in Gunma following her previous conviction. The Maebashi District Prosecutor's Office Ota Branch has charged Hara with theft.

The charges were brought on Mar. 2. According to the indictment, on Feb. 9 at about 8:45 p.m. Hara stole a bag of candy and two other items with a total value of 382 yen (~$3.60 USD) from a supermarket in Ota, Gunma. The Gunma Prefectural Police Department said that Hara was stopped by supermarket staff and then arrested by Ota officers on the current charges. Hara denied the charges, saying, "I meant to return the items before leaving the store."

In November Hara was sentenced to one year imprisonment with a three-year suspension before implementation of the sentence for shoplifting makeup and food from a convenience store

All-Time Japanese #4 Man Hiroto Inoue to Run Hot and Humid Asian Games Marathon

On Mar. 4 it was learned that Hiroto Inoue (25, MHPS), 4th place in last week's Tokyo Marathon in an all-time Japanese #4 time of 2:06:54, intends to run for Japan at August's Jakarta Asian Games. Following the final selection race for the Asian Games team, yesterday's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, MHPS head coach Jun Kuroki revealed, "Inoue plans to take part."

Suguru Osako (NOP), the top Japanese man in Fukuoka, and national record breaker Yuta Shitara (Honda) have both passed on the Asian Games national team. The weather conditions in sub-equatorial Jakarta are expected to be severe, but with just as tough conditions expected for the Tokyo Olympics and its MGC Race trials event the Asian Games represent an excellent test run opportunity. Coach Kuroki also commented, "The only question mark so far has been in our preparations for last August's London World Championships."

Kuroki and Inoue plan to work on measures to deal with the heat prior to the …

Kajitani Wins National University Men's Half Marathon, Mwaka Takes Tamana

Sunday morning featured two big half marathons in Tokyo and Kyushu, both impacted by an unseasonal heat wave that swept the country over the weekend. At the National University Men's Half Marathon in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park, Ryuya Kajitani (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) timed a break perfectly to win his first national title in 1:03:20. Hanging back in a secondary pack as rivals Takeshi Nishida (Tokai Univ.) and Shogo Ise (Komazawa Univ.) duked it out up front through most of the race, Kajitani went to the front with 5 km to go. Ise tried to match him but fell behind and ended up 2nd in 1:03:31, Nishida another 5 seconds back in 1:03:36 for 3rd. Four-time Hakone champ Aoyama Gakuin placed three runners in the top ten without running any of its A-list men, a sign that depth was down overall from some of the record-breaking mass finishes in recent years.

National University Men’s Half leaders 14:47 at 5k. Huge uninterrupted pack. — Japan Running News (@JRNHea…

Ndirangu Wins, Robertson Sets NR, Nakamura Makes Olympic Trials in Lake Biwa Debuts

First-timers brought most of the day's best action to the 73rd running of the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Unseasonably hot temperatures meant times were never really in the cards, and a slow opening 10 km left a pack of over 40 together until well into the race. Early casualties included 2:09:31 man Takuya Fukatsu (Asahi Kasei), Keita Shitara (Hitachi Butsuryu) and Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland), but it wasn't until the second half that things started to get complicated.

With the pace staying true to a high-2:07 finish time people fell off the pack in twos and threes after rounding the turnaround point just past halfway, but what made this race unusual was that they kept coming back. 2:07:39 man Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu), 2017 Gold Coast Marathon winner Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta) and last year's Ehime Marathon runner-up Yohei Suzuki (Aisan Kogyo) fell off together, then came back together, then fell off again. European champion Daniele Meucci (Italy) was there, the…

How Much Tax Will Shitara Have to Pay on His 100 Million Yen NR Bonus? What About Pyeongchang Gold Medalist Takagi?

Huge bonuses are just flying around this week.

On Feb. 28 the Nidec corporation, parent company of Pyeongchang Winter Olympics women's speed skating double gold medalist Nana Takagi's sponsor Nidec Sankyo, announced that it would award her a bonus of 40 million yen (~$378,000 USD) for her gold medals. The JOC and Japan Skating Federation will each award Takagi and additional 10 million yen, bringing her total to 60 million yen (~$568,000 USD).

At almost the same time, on Feb. 26 Tokyo Marathon Yuta Shitara (Honda) received a 100 million yen bonus (~$946,000 USD) from the National Corporate Athletics Federation for setting a new Japanese national record of 2:06:11 at the Feb. 25 Tokyo Marathon.

The million-dollar question is how much tax will they have to pay? Bonuses from the JOC and member organizations, 5 million yen for gold, 2 million for silver, and 1 million for bronze, are tax-exempt. Bonuses from other organizations and sponsors are subject to taxation.

In Takagi'…

London Olympics Bronze Medalist Wilson Kipsang Joins Tokushima Marathon Field (updated)

At a press conference on Mar. 1 at the Grandvrio Hotel in Tokushima, the organizing committee of the Mar. 25 Tokushima Marathon 2018 announced that London Olympics marathon bronze medalist and all-time 4th-fastest man Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich (Kenya) and others will run Tokushima as invited athletes. 14,200 people, 8,461 from within Tokushima prefecture, 5,558 from elsewhere in Japan and 181 from abroad, are entered in this year's race.

To elevate the level of competition at the race, Tokushima organizers will for the first time invite three Kenyan athletes. Kipsang has a best time of 2:03:13 and won last year's Tokyo Marathon. The Tokushima Marathon course record of 2:15:25 was set in 2014 by Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't).

Domestic invited athletes include Yoshihiko Ishikawa (29, Nichiaka Kagaku), Toshiharu Takai (31, Miyoshi T&F Assoc.) and Kana Unno (25, Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo). Ishikawa won last year's 24-Hour Ultra World Championships in Northern Ireland…

Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Preview

Things are buzzing in Japan right now in a way they haven't for a long, long time. Yuta Shitara's 2:06:11 national record last weekend in Tokyo, Hiroto Inoue joining him under 2:07, and a record-breaking group of seven other Japanese men at the 2:08 to 2:09 level have everyone believing. Believing that they can do it too. The first test of that belief comes Sunday at the last main marathon of the Japanese season, the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.

The hoop that made so many Japanese men jump so high last week was qualification for Japan's new 2020 Olympic trials, the MGC Race. Sub-2:08:30 and you're in. Sub-2:11:00 and in the top three Japanese? You're in. Sub-2:10 and in the top six Japanese? You're in too. As Kohei Ogino and Tadashi Isshiki, 7th and 8th Japanese in Tokyo in 2:09:36 and 2:09:43, found out, people are taking qualification seriously. Lake Biwa has had more editions with five Japanese men sub-2:10 than any other marathon, and with the quality of f…

Weekend Half Marathon Roundup

Along with the National Cross-Country Championships and Tokyo Marathon, the weekend saw competitive half marathons across the country and nearby in South Korea.

Yuta Shimoda of four-time Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University turned the fastest time of the weekend with a 1:03:20 win at the Kashima Yutoku Road Race half marathon, beating sometime training partner Aritaka Kajiwara (Hiramatsu Byoin) by 35 seconds.

A week after his course record-breaking win at the Kitakyushu Marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) won the local Fukaya City Half Marathon in Saitama in 1:04:26, beating corporate leaguer Rui Watanabe (Shindengen) by 29 seconds. Amateur Tomomi Sawahata (Sawahatters) scored yet another road race win in 1:15:42, the fastest time of the weekend by a Japanese woman.

At the 40th anniversary running of the Inuyama Yomiuri Half Marathon, Toyo University first-year Ryoga Asai won in 1:04:44. Eri Watanabe (Aichi Denki) took the women's race in 1:16:30.

Across t…

Katanishi and Ise Follow Shitara's Footsteps to United Airlines NYC Half

For the last seven years the New York Road Runners have invited a pair of Japan's best collegiate runners from November's Ageo City Half Marathon to run against world-class competition at the United Airlines NYC Half. The very first year of the program in 2012, one of the two sophomores from Toyo University to earn the invitation was future half marathon and marathon Japanese national record holder Yuta Shitara.

Since Shitara's trailblazing 1:01:48 in that race, others have gone to New York and come back to rise to the top of Japan's distance running world. Following in their footsteps are Komazawa University teammates Kei Katanishi and Shogo Ise. Katanishi, the gold medalist in the half marathon at the 2017 World University Games, was the top Japanese university man in Ageo last November and went on to break 62 minutes for the first time with a 1:01:58 at the Marugame Half in February. Ise, a second-stringer at Komazawa with two wins at second-tier Japanese half mara…

Sasaki Withdraws From Lake Biwa

On Feb. 27 the organizers of the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon announced that last year's 4th-placer, Satoru Sasaki (Asahi Kasei) has withdrawn from Sunday's race after developing pain in his right knee and foot. A 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympian in the marathon, Sasaki's PB of 2:08:56 made him the fastest Japanese man in the field.

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translated and edited by Brett Larner

Takaoka on Shitara: "He Can Compete With the Best in the World"

At Sunday's Tokyo Marathon, half marathon Japanese national record holder Yuta Shitara (26, Honda) ran 2:06:11 to set a new Japanese national record. Taking almost 3 minutes off his PB, Shitara bettered the old record set by Toshinari Takaoka in 2002 by 5 seconds. Shitara finished 2nd overall, 41 seconds behind winner Dickson Chumba (Kenya).

With his record having stood for almost 16 years, Takaoka gave his blessings, saying, "My record being beaten has made the path forward to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics brighter. When I saw Shitara's race in Tokyo last year I knew the day my record would fall was close at hand."

Comparing the 2002 race where he set the old record of 2:06:16 and this year's Tokyo Marathon, Takaoka said, "Running a Japanese national record requires the right combination of weather, competition, pacing, and physical condition. It was a great thing for Shitara that Hiroto Inoue was there running ahead of him as well. The most important thing that…

Kengo Suzuki on His Tokyo Marathon Debut

Kengo Suzuki is the 2017 National University Half Marathon champion and bronze medalist at the 2017 World University Games. A fourth-year at 2017 National University Men's Ekiden champ Kanagawa University, he made his marathon debut in Tokyo on Sunday, running 2:10:21 for 19th. He will graduate next month. Suzuki wrote the following on the Kanagawa ekiden team site after the race.

Thank you all for your support. I'm very happy that in my first marathon I was able to go with the others until 35 km. After that it was really painful, and I was fully baptized in the waters of the marathon. But it was a really valuable experience to get to make my marathon debut as an invited elite athlete while still a college student.

After graduating I want to keep working steadily, focusing my abilities on each race that's there before me and making progress in building on what I can do now so that I can earn my place in the MGC Race (2020 Olympic marathon trials). Thank you all for these f…

Shitara's Million-Dollar Payday

Since Yuta Shitara's national record-breaking 2:06:11 yesterday at the Tokyo Marathon I've been getting a lot of questions about the 100 million yen bonus he received for doing it. The bonus comes via Project Exceed, an initiative launched in 2015 by the National Corporate Federation to try to produce new men's and women's marathon national records ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Under the plan, any Japanese citizen, whether a registered corporate league athlete or not, who broke the men's national record of 2:06:16 or the women's record of 2:19:12 on a record-legal course would receive 100 million yen, roughly 760,000 Euro or $937,000 USD at today's exchange rate. The athlete's coach or team would also receive a separate 50 million yen (380,000 Euro or $468,000 USD) bonus for their role in having made the record happen. If more than one athlete broke the record in the same race, the other athletes breaking the record would receive 10 million yen (76…

On My Son Breaking the National Record - Shitara's Father Speaks

by Takashi Shitara

My twin sons Keita and Yuta started running in 5th grade when they joined a local track club together. Their personalities are completely different. In junior high school Keita, the firstborn of the two, said, "I want to make the high school National Championships." In high school he said, "I want to make the Hakone Ekiden." In university it was, "I want to run in the Olympics." Yuta never said anything like that.

Up through university Keita was always a little better as an athlete, always one step ahead, but now it's Yuta who's leading the way. As a parent you worry more about the child who is struggling more. Keita is running the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon this weekend, March 4. He's not back to his full strength yet but even so I really want him to run strong. I think that Yuta wants the best for Keita with all his heart too. They've always been together since the time they were born. In Tokyo Keita was there in the …