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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organizers of the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon announced that last year's 4th-placer, Satoru Sasaki (Asahi Kasei) has withdrawn from Sunday's race after developing pain in his right knee and foot.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.

source article:
https://www.jiji.com/sp/article?k=2018022701045&g=spo
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 …

Tatezawa Runs Fastest-Ever Japanese Mile at Boston U Last Chance Meet

Another day, another national record. Two weeks after Ryoji Tatezawa broke the longstanding Japanese indoor mile national record with a 4:01.56 at the Husky Classic meet in the U.S., he and three other members of 2017 Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University raced the indoor mile at the Boston University Last Chance Meet. Chopping four seconds off his Husky Classic time, Tatezawa became the fastest-ever Japanese miler indoor or outdoor as he took 5th in 3:57:43. Teammate Hayato Seki also cleared 4 minutes for the first time in 3:59.03 for 8th, with Ryohei Sakaguchi and Shota Onizuka running 4:05.51 and 4:06.93.

https://t.co/a8YynxHiEp — Ian Anderson (@IAndersonWrites) February 25, 2018
Tokai head coach Hayashi Morozumi was a pioneer of cross-country-based training in the Japanese ekiden circuit while coach at Nagano's Saku Chosei H.S., athletes he cultivated there including 5000 m national record holder and 2:07:19 marathoner Suguru Osako (NOP) and current Nissin Shokuin teammates Yuk…

The Greatest Day in Japanese Men's Marathoning History

This isn't going to be a race recap. Past Tokyo Marathon champs Dickson Chumba of Kenya and Birhane Dibaba of Ethiopia running smart races, working hard after 30 km to each score a second Tokyo title, Dibaba negative splitting her way to a 2:19:51 PB just 4 seconds off the course record and Chumba running away to win in 2:05:30. London World Championships bronze medalist Amy Cragg living up to her pre-race vow to make the top three in PB time, taking 3rd in 2:21:42. Cancer survivor Satoru Kasuya delivering his best performance since almost dying five years ago, an emotional 2:14:37 for 30th.

What this is about is today, the day, the one that's been coming. Yuta Shitara getting it right, strong, unafraid, in control when he needed to be, finding what he needed when it counted, breaking the 16-year-old Japanese national record in 2:06:11 and winning a million dollar bonus for it. But not just him. Hiroto Inoue, just as strong, just as in control, never giving up even when Shita…

Hironaka and Nakaya Win National XC Junior Races, Kimura and Osako Take Senior Titles

Top-ranked high schoolers Ririka Hironaka (Nagasaki Shogyo H.S.) and Yuhi Nakaya (Saku Chosei H.S.) won the junior titles at Saturday's National Cross-Country Championships in Fukuoka's Umi no Nakamichi Kaihin Park.

With some of her main competition including Nozomi Tanaka (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) on a training camp in Australia, Hironaka's primary challenge in the U20 Women's 6 km came from Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) who pushed her throughout the race but couldn't keep up in the later stages. Hironaka won in 19:50 by a margin of 8 seconds over Takamatsu, the pair the only ones to break 20 minutes.

Nakaya, star runner of 2017 National High School Ekiden champ Saku Chosei H.S. with accomplishments including a 13:47.22 best for 5000 m last October, outclassed the field to win the U20 Men's 8 km in 24:05 by 12 seconds over Takuro Miura (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.). His Saku Chosei teammates Sakito Matsuzaki and Keita Honma took 3rd and 5th f…

Kipsang Talking Loud and Aga Mumbling Bold - Tokyo Marathon Preview

After stepping up to the big leagues last year with course records in the 2:03 and 2:19 range, the Tokyo Marathon hopes to go one better this year. Men's course record setter Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) is back, stepping up from a 2:03:50 prediction for Tokyo in January to a 2:02:50 world record prediction at Friday's pre-race press conference. In the unmentioned absence of women's course record breaker Sarah Chepchirchir the top-ranked woman is Ruti Aga (Ethiopia), coming in hot off a 1:06:39 win last month in Houston and turning heads at the press conference with a boldly mumbled 2:18:00 prediction.

Management for both Kipsang and Aga were skeptical to JRN of their athletes' predictions, people from each camp saying times two minutes slower would be more likely, one minute slower in a best-case scenario. But whatever the prediction, Kipsang was clear to fellow past champs Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) and Dickson Chumba (Kenya) about one thing: he wants a more conservative fi…

Kenyans Kabuu, Jemeli and Cheyech Lead Nagoya Women's Marathon Field

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, one with a long history as an elite race and adapting to the times with a mass-participation field of 20,000. The last few years it has seen a series of dynamic, high-level performances by top Japanese women, from Sairi Maeda's 2:22:48 in 2015 to the 2:23:19 to 2:23:20 sprint finish battle between Tomomi Tanaka and Rei Ohara in 2016 to Yuka Ando's stellar 2:21:36 debut and teammate Mao Kiyota's 2:23:47 breakthrough last year.

Maeda, Ohara and Kiyota all return this year to face the Kenyan trio of Lucy Kabuu, Valary Jemeli and Flomena Cheyech Daniel. Kabuu went to high school in Japan before moving on to the big leagues, but she hasn't finished a marathon since her 2:20:21 in Dubai 2015. Cheyech also used to be based in Japan as is a familiar face here, winning the last two Saitama International Marathons. Jemeli is making her Japanese debut, and with a 2:21:57 win in Prague and a 2:20:53 …

Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half …

Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden Discontinued Due to Falling Participation

Organized by the city of Nikko every November since 2014, the all-uhill Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden has been discontinued. Likewise, the mass-participation Nikko Highway Marathon running up Nikko's famous tree-lined Nikko-Utsunomiya Road has also been discontinued. For both races, participation rates have been lower than expected and on a downward trend.

According to organizers and the city government, the Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden was created with the intention of it becoming a high-profile event for university women like the Hakone Ekiden is for university men, but fewer top-level universities than expected showed interest in running it. The number of teams peaked at 18 in 2015, but last year it fell to record low levels with only 13 teams from 12 schools.

The Nikko Highway Marathon was billed as featuring a course normally accessible only by car. The field size was set at a maximum of 8000, but in its first edition in 2014 it had only 3400 runners. This fell to…

Kobe Marathon Elevated to IAAF Bronze Label Status

The organizers of the Kobe Marathon announced on Feb. 13 that the race has been awarded IAAF Bronze Label status ahead of its 8th edition this November. The distinction is a mark of international recognition of the organizers' efforts to put on a world-class event that at last year's 7th running featured an international-quality elite field and was supported by 7500 volunteers. According to organizers and the JAAF, Kobe is the tenth event in Japan to acquire a label. It is the first mass-participation marathon without strict entry standards in Western Japan to earn the honor.

The IAAF awards three labels, Gold, Silver and Bronze, to marathons, half marathons and other road races. Requirements for label status include a specified number of international athletes in the elite field, strict anti-doping testing, adequate aid stations, and prompt publication of results and other information in English. Organizers cited the Gold Label London Marathon (U.K.), the Silver Label Daegu …

Chebii Returns - Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Elite Field

Defending champ Ezekiel Chebii (Kenya) returns to lead the field for the Mar. 4 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Chebii is one of three men in the field with recent 2:06 times, his 2:06:07 in Amsterdam two years ago leading Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland) and Abera Kuma (Ethiopia) to form a clear trio of favorites.

Making up the second pack are four current sub-2:10 Japanese men, 2017 Gold Coast winner Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), Rio Olympian Satoru Sasaki (Asahi Kasei), and Sasaki's teammates Takuya Fukatsu and Fumihiro Maruyama. The addition of sub-61 half marathoner Kenta Murayama in his second shot at the marathon after a failed debut in Tokyo two years ago makes for a formidable quartet of men from 2017 and 2018 New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei all aligned in training and talent.

With Japan's depth it's never surprising to see a relatively anonymous runner make a breakthrough and factor into the action. Yoshiki Takenouchi (NTT Nishi Nihon) was one of the …

Yamazaki, Ndirangu, Kamulu and Shitara Top Weekend Road Racing Action

Snow and cold impacted road races across Japan over the weekend, but at the top level almost every event went off as planned. In his marathon debut, Shota Yamazaki (Yakult) downed two-time defending champ Ryoichi Matsuo and debuting training partner Takumi Honda of the locally-based New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei corporate team to take the top spot at the Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon in a three-way sprint finish.

Shaking off first-timer Keisuke Tanaka (Fujitsu) late in the race, Yamazaki did all the work in the lead trio with the Asahi Kasei duo hanging off both of his shoulders. Hitting a bridge with 750 m to go Honda surged into the lead with Matsuo following. Yamazaki fell back, looking behind him with 500 m to go and seeming to have settled for 3rd. At 400 m to go Matsuo went to the front and looked to be on track to become only the second man to win Nobeoka three times, but as the pair rounded the final corner Yamazaki came back with a kick that left both his riv…

20 km Racewalk World Record Holder Suzuki Suspended 6 Months for False Expense Claims

On Feb. 8 it was announced that men's 20 km racewalk world record holder Yusuke Suzuki (30, Fujitsu), has been suspended for six months beginning in October last year for making fraudulent expense claims to the JAAF in relation to support money he was receiving from the Federation.

In 2016 Suzuki was designated as a high performance athlete with medal potential, a categorization that qualified him for an annual 10 million yen [~$92,000 USD] stipend to support his training. According to an involved person, from October, 2016 to March last year Suzuki had filed travel expenses for 150 trips from the Fujitsu athlete dormitory in Chiba to a treatment clinic in Tokyo when in reality he was staying with relatives in Tokyo nearby the clinic. He also filed expense claims for eight treatment sessions that he did not actually attend.

At the request of the JAAF, Fujitsu team management had reviewed Suzuki's expense claims and uncovered the false expenses, following which Suzuki withdrew…

Shitara Chasing 10 Mile National Record Sunday in Karatsu - Weekend Preview

At least five major races fill the calendar this weekend across Japan. Potentially the biggest is the Karatsu 10-Miler, where half marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda) is slated to run in what many hope will be a shot at the antique national record. Over 30 seconds faster than the American national record, Hisatoshi Shintaku's 45:40,has stood since 1984 and survived  over three decades of assaults including Shitara's 45:58 at December's Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler. It translates to 42:34 for 15 km; at last weekend's Marugame Half Shitara went through 15 km in 42:39. Just two weeks out from a shot at the Japanese national record for the marathon will Shitara try to add another national record to his resume en route to Tokyo?

Many of his corporate league brethren and sistren will be lining up at the National Corporate Half Marathon and 10 km Championships. Historically the world's deepest competitive men's half marathon and second-deepest women's …

Nagasaki Announces Plans to Host Marathon Promoting Peace

Nagasaki has announced plans for the city's first full marathon, to be held in 2020 in the 75th anniversary year of the American nuclear bombing. The costs necessary for planning and preparing for the marathon will be included in the next fiscal year's budget.

Nagasaki hopes to use the marathon as an opportunity to promote the message of peace on the milestone 75th anniversary of the United States' use of weapons of mass destruction on the city. As Nagasaki's first full marathon, city government officials have already consulted with the police department and other agencies regarding measures to reduce traffic problems and to maximize runners' safety. Based upon those discussions plans call for the race to go ahead with a course starting and finishing at Nagasaki Peace Park and running around the Nagasaki Port area, offering a representative view of the Nagasaki seaside.

The race is being planned for November, 2020 with a field of 10,000 runners. Along with the 42.1…

In Memory of Ken Young

I'm very saddened to hear of the passing of Ken Young, founder of the Association of Road Racing Statisticians. If you're not familiar with Ken or the ARRS, Amby Burfoot's 2016 piece on him in Runners World, The Endless Toil of the Big Data Guy, says everything you need to know. Back in the early days of JRN, Ken was one of several industry people to contact me after I published JRN's first hit article, 397 Under 70 Minutes: The 20th Ageo City Half Marathon. He wanted verification of the results and, seemingly having missed Ageo before, asked me to research its history and past results.

That soon led to me transliterating results from Japanese road, track and cross-country races for him on a weekly basis, results otherwise unavailable to the outside world except for some already covered by Japanese contributors Ken Nakamura and Shigenobu Ota. For the last 10 years I've spent about 10 hours on average every Sunday night and Monday morning, sometimes Tuesday, someti…

King of Junior High Athletics Ishida Scores XC National Title Ahead of Graduation

At the 3rd National Junior High School Cross-Country Championships Sunday in Chiba, Fukuoka's Kosuke Ishida, a 3rd-year at Asakawa J.H.S., scored the win in the boys' 3 km in an excellent 8:47. With three junior high school national records to his name Ishida is the undisputed king of junior high athletics. Set to graduate next month before going on to Gunma's Tokyo Nogyo Daini H.S., his win in his final national-level competition as a junior high school student crowned what has been a superb season. Osumi J.H.S. 3rd-year Mio Hashimoto from Kyoto won the girls' 3 km in 9:47.

Ishida won the race by 13 seconds over the 2nd-placer. "I've won every national competition up to now," Ishida smiled afterward. "Winning this one too is a big relief." This season he won both the National Junior High School Championships and Junior Olympics and broke the junior high national records for 1500 m, 3000 m and 5000 m, a record of success that marks him as one o…

Kawauchi Passes 44 People at Saitama Ekiden

Civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (30, Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran the 12.1 km Third Stage at the 6-stage, 42.195 km Saitama Ekiden Sunday in Kumagaya, Saitama. Delivering a fast run, he passed 44 people en route to the handoff. "That was a lot of fun," he said afterward with a sweaty smile.

Starting far back from the lead, Kawauchi mowed down runners all three division as he moved up through the field. HIs time of 36:54 ranked him 4th on his stage, where Ageo City Half Marathon course record setterSimon Kariuki (Nihon Yakka Univ.) took a minute and a half off his own record with a new mark of 34:34. Wearing clear sunglasses to block the headwind, Kawauchi said, "All I was thinking about was moving forward and pulling the team's position up all by myself."

Last weekend Kawauchi was beaten by high schooler Ryu Hashimoto (Tokyo Nogyo Daisan H.S.) in finishing 6th on the opening stage at the Okumusashi Ekiden. He didn't win his stage either then or in Saita…

Saina and Waweru Win Windy Marugame Half

Kenyans Betsy Saina and Edward Waweru (NTN) took the top spots at the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon's 72nd edition, winning in 1:09:17 and 1:00:31.

Saina was part of a lead group of six led by Japanese national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal) that went through the downhill first 5 km in 16:15, a decent 1:08:34 pace aided by a tailwind. Saina accelerated to 16:00 for the next 5 km, and by the halfway turnaround it was down to just her and Ethiopian Ftaw Zeray with the others forming a chase group led by Sara Hall (U.S.A.).

Saina dropped Zeray on the uphill return trip and sailed on alone into the headwind to take the win in 1:09:17. Overcoming a 22-second deficit at halfway, Kaori Morita (Panasonic) blazed the second half to move up to 2nd with just over 1 km to go, holding on to finish in the runner-up position in 1:10:10.  Zeray was 3rd, fading to 1:10:31. Fukushi dropped far off to 7th in 1:13:17, with two-time marathon world champion Edna Kiplagat dropping …