Tuesday, March 28, 2017

“The Miracle in Fukuoka” - Real Talk From Yuki Kawauchi on “Taking on the World” (pt. 1)

http://sports.yahoo.co.jp/column/detail/201701120002-spnavi

translated by Brett Larner

Ahead of his nomination to the London World Championships Marathon team, Sportsnavi published a three-part series of writings by Yuki Kawauchi on what it took for him to make the team, his hopes for London, and his views on the future of Japanese marathoning.  With his place on the London team announced on Mar. 17, JRN will publish an English translation of the complete series over the next three days. See Sportsnavi's original version linked above for more photos.


The Fukuoka International Marathon was held on Dec. 4 last year. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) took part despite nursing injuries he had sustained in training. Falling rain contributed to less than ideal conditions during the race, but from the very early stages Kawauchi mixed it up with the international invited field and stayed among the leaders. As the other Japanese athletes fell away, Kawauchi held out to the very end to take 3rd in 2:09:11, the first Japanese man across the finish line and putting himself into contention for the right to run in this summer’s London World Championships.

We asked Kawauchi to talk about his race in Fukuoka, his thoughts about the World Championships, and his views on the current state of Japanese long distance. In a three-part series of articles we give you his reply. In Part One he looks back on his to-the-limit run in Fukuoka.

A calf injury three weeks out – On the edge every day.

Three weeks before [the Fukuoka International Marathon]  I hurt my right calf while doing a long run. When I picked up the pace it felt like my calf was going to tear off, and even when I just walked it throbbed with pain. Because of that I couldn’t do the final tune-up workouts I’d been planning, and for the three weeks before the race I was really uneasy and irritated. Every day, everyone around me, even my family, kept saying, “This is your last chance to make a Japanese national team. Stop being such an obstinate freak, give up on Fukuoka and run Tokyo or Lake Biwa instead.” At the same time there were people encouraging me and telling me, “We’re going to Fukuoka to cheer for you, so don’t let us down!” I was really on the edge of losing my mind every day from all of that.

I took the two days after I got hurt completely off and then told myself, “OK, let’s at least try not to lose what fitness you have.” I started doing long jogs, keeping the pace slower than usual so that the pain wouldn’t be that bad. That was the situation I was in, not really in a condition to do the [Nov. 20]  Ageo City Half Marathon which I was supposed to run two weeks out [from Fukuoka]. I knew that if I overdid it the injury would get worse, so I talked to the Ageo organizers before the race and got permission to start at the very back and just jog it. In that way I kept myself from doing any training that would force me to run fast, and the pain that made it feel like something was really wrong went away.

A sprained ankle right before the race – begging for divine intervention.

One by one I started doing workouts that came to me intuitively like received wisdom from somewhere, something in my head telling me, “You should do this,” and as a result of that my training load went way up. I did two 50 km jogs and totaled about 220 km for the week. I usually do about 140 km a week, so doing that kind of long distance gradually gave me back my self-confidence and physical strength.

But even so, since I couldn’t race the Ageo City Half Marathon the way I always do I was still worried about whether I could sustain speed, and the stress of whether I should run Fukuoka or not remained unchanged. So I made a final decision and told myself, “If you can run for 20 km at the second pack pace of 3:04 / km a week out from the race, you can do Fukuoka as planned.” Keeping everything, my wake up time, breakfast and whatnot, strictly according to the same timetable as race day, with the help of friends I ran 20 km at Saitama’s Lake Saiko. The outcome was that even though it was pretty close to my limit I managed to run 1:01:14 (3:03 / km), and I made the decision to run [Fukuoka] in the second group.

But bad luck tends to bring more bad luck. After getting to Fukuoka on Friday I went for a shakeout run after the press conference. I sprained my left ankle on some steps and was back to it hurting just to walk. The night before the race I was almost crying, begging the race organizers, “Don’t you have any painkillers that will pass anti-doping?” I ended up just getting some ice at the hotel and spent hours icing my left ankle. The whole time I was icing I was berating myself, “After everything you’ve gone through, working through the calf injury, getting yourself back into a position to be able to go out there and fight, why this, why now?” Then the tears really did start coming out at my own stupidity for spraining my ankle.

In that kind of situation there was nothing else I could do, so I said, “Please, God, Buddha, whoever, for tomorrow’s race please don’t let this pain get worse. If you hold off on this ankle I will endure whatever other suffering you want me to,” and prayed for divine (Buddhistic?) intervention. Those were the circumstances in which I went to the starting line, and thanks to a string of good luck I was able to end up on the podium with a 2:09. All things considered, once I finished all I could think was that a miracle really had happened out there.

The trinity that worked the “miracle.”

Looking at it now, if I had to analyze the factors involved in that “miracle” I would identify three key points. To begin with, the first point was that we were blessed with good weather and temperatures. The initial weather forecast predicted that it would be 18 degrees Celsius and sunny, but as the race approached that changed to rain, and at the start the temperature was below the forecast at only 13 degrees. In addition, during the race the rain started again, and at the 25 km point the temperature briefly fell to 9 degrees. I’ve always been good in cold and rainy races, like at the 2010 Tokyo Marathon when I took 5 minutes off my PB [and ran]  2:12:36, so my spirits steadily picked up from the hopeless state of mind I was in right after the start. I’d been feeling pain in my ankle, but the cold helped numb it to the point that I stopped caring about it and got so deeply into “the zone” that I didn’t even notice the 15 km drink tables.


The second point was that the pacers for the first group were kind enough to blow their jobs. Thanks to point #1, although there were three pacers in the first group who were supposed to run 3:00 / km until 30 km, they couldn’t even do it for the first 5 km. The second group that I was originally supposed to have been running in would have been about a minute behind the first group at halfway, but since the first group’s 3:00 / km pace never materialized the pace of the second group became that of the first group and I went through halfway with a time difference of zero seconds behind the leaders. This was a very nice miscalculation that I’d never anticipated.

The third point was that I had the experience of having run the Fukuoka International Marathon six times previously. I knew where the hills on the Fukuoka International Marathon course were and I knew precisely how steep they were. In addition, three years ago I had the experience of taking the lead after the pacemakers dropped out at halfway, qualifying myself to represent Japan at the Incheon Asian Games. So, as long as I got through halfway without too much trouble I wasn’t afraid at all of dying at the end even if I made a play. The opposite, really. When I saw my split at halfway I knew that if I didn’t hold myself back I could definitely go sub-2:10. That gave me a big boost and I told myself, “If the pace looks like it’s going to slow down let’s take charge and get rid of some of the competition.”

A foundation built on overseas racing and ultra long-distance training.

In addition, I think there were two long-term reasons the “miracle” could occur. The first of these points is that I have been competing in a large number of overseas marathons. Since 2012 when I failed to make the London Olympics I’ve been competing all around the world with international athletes including Kenyans and Ethiopians. In particular, in 2016 after starting the year at the Ibusuki Nanohana Marathon in January I ran five marathons in a row overseas before doing Fukuoka International, and repeatedly won or made the podium against foreign competition.


I was 2nd at Wanjinshi, Taiwan in March, I won Zurich, Switzerland in April, at Gold Coast, Australia in July I was 2nd in the fastest time by a Japanese man in 2016, 2:09:01, in September in Berlin, Germany I ran 2:11:03, the fastest time by a Japanese man in the [five overseas]  2016 World Marathon Majors (WMM), and in November in Porto, Portugal I was 2nd again. Among these were races where the pacemakers dropped out after only 6 km and some where there weren’t any pacers to begin with. I knew from experience that when the conditions are bad pacemakers are useless, and that was a big plus in terms of being competitive in Fukuoka International when it didn’t go like a typical Japanese selection race where the goal is to try to run a pretty little set of perfect splits for the first 30 km.

The second point is that I had increased my long distance jogs. I’ve always done 4 to 6-hour trail runs, but last summer I started doing a lot more of them. Using the Shin-Etsu Trail I ran longer than 45 km two days in a row and jogged more than 40 km three times in a single week. In the fall I even started doing ultra long-distance jogs on flat ground. In October I ran 100 km mostly along the Tone River from Shibukawa, Gunma to my house in about 7 1/2 hours. Leading up to Fukuoka I did a lot of 50 km jogs which I hadn’t usually done in the past.

The effects of ultra long-distance and the monthly mileage problem.

There are those who look at that kind of ultra long-distance jogging and say, “Running slowly is meaningless no matter how much you do,” but I think the people who make that kind of criticism have probably never done it themselves. If you actually experience the feeling you get after about three hours, the “I can endure this fatigue in my legs, but if I lose it mentally I’ll immediately want to quit” one that’s similar to the light-headed sensation at the end of the marathon, the numbness of hands and feet and loss of concentration that come after that, the feeling that your stamina is evaporating from the core of your body, and the overpowering sense of euphoria you get after going over the wall, I don’t think you can call it “meaningless.”

The confidence that is built by doing ultra long-distance jogging, the knowledge in the second half when things are getting tough that “I’ve run 50 km and 100 km so I know for sure that my stamina isn’t going to break in the second half. The internationals running next to me haven’t done 100 km so I know that my legs are the ones that are still going to keep moving when things get down and dirty,” has really helped a person like me who tends to get discouraged easily.


For someone who only trains once a day like I have ever since I was at Gakushuin University, I feel that adding ultra long-distance jogging trail runs on my days off work has been effective in improving my physical and mental ability to hold it together in the second half of the marathon. However, since the runners on many teams are obligated to do group morning runs in addition to their regular training sessions, in terms of both the time and physical demands I think it would be hard for them to add the same kind of ultra long-distance jogging that I have. By doing morning runs every day they usually exceed 1000 km a month, but in my case I’m typically averaging about 600 km a month. When you consider that runners belonging to teams are doing 12 km a day on average in their morning runs, my monthly mileage is going to be at least 360 km less since I don’t do them. That means a physical margin of over 4320 km a year compared to other athletes, and I think that’s why ultra long-distance jogging has had such a major impact on me.

Conversely, if someone who is already doing over 1000 km a month kept doing their morning runs and tried to add ultra long-distance jogging to that, I think they would destroy their legs with stress fractures and whatnot. Old-school marathoners might get mad and say it’s a “soft way of thinking,” but I’m pretty sure the human body has a mileage limit. Working within that limit I think all you can do is choose between doing multiple short runs or longer single runs.

Look for Part Two, "Bringing All My Experience Into Play in London," tomorrow and Part Three, "The Lessons of the Past Are Not Outdated," on Thursday.

Fukuoka photos © 2016 Dr. Helmut Winter, all rights reserved
ankle photo © 2016 Yuki Kawauchi, all rights reserved
Porto photo © 2016 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
trail photo © 2015 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Hakone Ekiden Last-Placer Kokushikan University Ups Its Game With Addition of Its First-Ever Kenyan Runner

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/feature/hakone/20170327-OHT1T50120.html

translated by Brett Larner

Having finished last at the 2017 Hakone Ekiden in 20th place, Kokushikan University announced on Mar. 26 that it is bringing in its first-ever foreign student runner.  Kenyan Paul Gitonga, 20, is expected to join the team around April 10.

In the thin oxygen at 2000 m altitude in Kenya Gitonga has run 14:10 for 5000 m and sub-29 for road 10 km, and with an 800 m best of 1:49 he has speed as well.  While in Japan in February to take Kokushikan's entrance examination he ran a 5000 m time trial in 14:20 despite inadequate preparation.  Head coach Masami Soeda, 39, commented, "He's suited to the roads and could run the marathon."  Gitonga is expected to factor heavily into Kokushikan qualifying for Hakone for the second-straight year and could even be what the team needs to make the seeded top-ten bracket for the first time in 28 years.

Translator's note: Kenyan James Mwangi, a 2:08:38 marathoner, has served as assistant coach at Kokushikan University since last year.

Monday, March 27, 2017

World Cross Country Championships - Japanese Results

Kampala, Uganda, 3/26/17
click here for complete results

U20 Women
1. Letesenbet Gidey (Ethiopia) - 18:34
2. Hawi Feysa (Ethiopia) - 18:57
3. Celliphine Chepteek Chespol (Kenya) - 19:02
-----
15. Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu (Japan) - 20:24
17. Yuka Sarumida (Japan) - 20:28
19. Hayaka Suzuki (Japan) - 20:40
22. Rika Kaseda (Japan) - 20:51
31. Wakana Kabasawa (Japan) - 21:20
49. Hikari Onishi (Japan) - 22:05

U20 Men
1. Jacob Kiplimo (Uganda) - 22:40
2. Amdework Walelegn (Ethiopia) - 22:43
3. Richard Yator Kimunyan (Kenya) - 22:52
-----
27. Kazuya Nishiyama (Japan) - 25:15
37. Yoji Sakai (Japan) - 25:41
42. Ryunosuke Chigira (Japan) - 25:51
51. Sodai Shimizu (Japan) - 26:11
78. Keita Yoshida (Japan) - 27:23

Senior Women
1. Irene Chepet Cheptai (Kenya) - 31:57
2. Alice Aprot Nawowuna (Kenya) - 32:01
3. Lilian Kasait Rengeruk (Kenya) - 32:11
-----
24. Yuka Hori (Japan) - 34:54
40. Mao Ichiyama (Japan) - 35:52
59. Fumika Sasaki (Japan) - 37:02
78. Kaori Morita (Japan) - 38:24

Senior Men
1. Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor (Kenya) - 28:24
2. Leonard Kiplimo Barsoton (Kenya) - 28:36
3. Abadi Hadis (Ethiopia) - 28:43
-----
63. Yuma Higashi (Japan) - 31:31
71. Kosei Yamaguchi (Japan) - 31:49
89. Yamato Otsuka (Japan) - 32:28
104. Haruki Ono (Japan) - 33:31
110. Shota Maeda (Japan) - 34:07

Friday, March 24, 2017

Can Yuka Ando's "Ninja Running" Bring the Gold Medal Back to Japan at the Tokyo Olympics?

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/column/20170314-OHT1T50078.html

an editorial by Yuji Hosono
translated by Brett Larner



After running 2:21:36 for 2nd at the Mar. 12 Nagoya Women's Marathon to become the all-time 4th-fastest Japanese woman, the name of 22-year-old Cinderella girl Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) is now synonymous with the slightly incongruous term "ninja running."  Her lower arms hanging loosely, barely moving, gaining forward propulsion through the strength of her legs, a unique form on display throughout her duel with Rio Olympics silver medalist Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain).  It just may be enough to bring the Olympic women's marathon gold medal back to Japan for the first time since Mizuki Noguchi in Athens in 2004.

Ando's ninja running first caught my eye about a year ago at the May, 2016 Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon.  I had the impression that it seemed to be between Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), who was expected to medal in the Rio Olympics and Ando, who two months earlier had been the top Japanese woman at 10th overall at March's Cardiff World Half Marathon Championships. As soon as the race began I was surprised.  No matter how you looked at Ando's form it seemed like she was only using her legs to drive her running, but even so it was a great performance with only a 3-second difference with Fukushi at the end.  Having already seen the diamond shine when it was still in the rough, I felt more satisfaction than surprise at how fast she ran in Nagoya.

Ando was never good at running with coordinated upper and lower body movement.  Her form came about as the result of trial and error.  Former world record holder and 2000 Sydney Olympics gold medalist Naoki Takahashi, 44, gave an analysis of Ando's form, saying, "It's unique, but it is highly specialized for the marathon. There is less vertical movement and better motion efficiency, reducing the likelihood of failure in the second half."

"The marathon starts at 30 km."  As a condition for being able to compete at the world level, the JAAF has emphasized the "negative split," running the second half faster than the first half.  In Nagoya Ando ran the first half in 1:10:21 and the second half somewhat slower in 1:11:15.  JAAF director Mitsugi Ogata evaluated her run by saying, "I would like to interpret it as her way of negative splitting, in the sense that she kept the pace necessary to compete during the second half."  This was equivalent to the holy grail of being lauded for "taking on the world."

Although Ando's form can be called a pitch-based method, it is by no means a mainstream one.  She no doubt must have had it corrected many times ever since she was a student.  After passing through two teams following her graduation from Toyokawa High School, she met coach Masayuki Satouchi, 40, at her third and current team.  At the Suzuki Hamamatsu AC, marathon development is the main priority.  Coach Satouchi embraced Ando's ninja running and set about extending its potential, saying, "Ando is a natural talent.  When she was envisioning the marathon she was conscious of efficient form.  Everybody has their own way of running."  Ando seeks to improve even further, saying, "This is not the finished product. Overall I want to refine my form to maximize the degree to which I can bring out my full potential."  At the London World Championships and on to the Tokyo Olympics, Ando intends to travel the road to the gold medal.

New Marathon Star Yuka Ando Must Take the Rest She Needs and Avoid the Impossible - An Editorial

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2017/03/15/kiji/20170314s00056000173000c.html

an editorial by Kenji Fujiyama
translated by Brett Larner

At the Mar. 12 Nagoya Women's Marathon, fresh new 22-year-old star Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) gave a straight up head to head challenge to Rio de Janeiro Olympics silver medalist Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) on the way to finishing 2nd in 2:21:36 and becoming the fourth-fastest Japanese woman ever.  Debuting marathoners usually avoid taking on the impossible and keep to their own pace, but Ando stayed with Kirwa determinedly, saying, "To win you have to go with it.  Who cares what happens in the second half."  These days there are a lot of athletes running with the weak motivation of targeting the "top Japanese" position from the start, but even after coming in at all-time Japanese #4, when Ando said, "I still showed weakness.  I want to refine what I'm doing even more so that I can truly take on the world," many people felt a kind of glow about her that we haven't see for a long, long time.

Nevertheless, although August's London World Championships have started looking like something to get excited about, perhaps the best advice that could be given to Ando at this point is, "Have the courage not to overdo it." Fully recovering from the fatigue of this race and rebuilding her body from scratch in prep for the World Championships will take a fair amount of time. Even if you run the same 42.195 km in training the damage to the body in a race is completely different.  And this was her first marathon.  Even if she thinks that she has fully recovered, there's a good chance that once she starts up training again she won't be able to move like she imagines.

In the Olympic and World Championships of the past, more top athletes tended to go for the teams in January's Osaka International or oven the previous November's Tokyo International than in Nagoya.  It's true that on the old Nagoya course wind tended to be an issue in making it difficult to run fast times, but with only five months between Nagoya in March and the Olympics or World Championships in August there was little time to fully prepare perfectly.

Looking at the facts, 2007 winner Yasuko Hashimoto finished 23rd at the Osaka World Championships.  2008 winner Yurika Nakamura was 13th at the Beijing Olympics, 2009 winner Yoshiko Fujinaga 14th at the Berlin World Championships, 2012 runner-up Yoshimi Ozaki was 19th at the London Olympics, 2013 winner Ryoko Kizaki was 4th at the Moscow World Championshiops, 2015 runner-up Sairi Maeda was 13th at the Beijing World Championships, and 2016 runner-up Tomomi Tanaka was 19th at the Rio Olympics.  Not exactly a track record of success in Nagoya being connected success at international championships.  The only exception is 2000 winner Naoko Takahashi's gold medal at the Sydney Olympics, but in that case the Olympics were held a month later than usual in September due to being held in the southern hemisphere.

Right now after her first marathon is the most important time for Ando in determining the future course of her career as an athlete.  Of all the things she must do, the first is to recover completely.  She absolutely cannot afford for her train to leave the station before everyone is on board.  If it doesn't look like she is going to make it in just five months, she must have the courage to dare to bow out.  It might be said that thinking that way could bring bad luck, but at long last a true world-class talent has appeared again and you have to hope that it is cultivated carefully.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Japanese Team Rosters for Kampala World Cross Country Championships

by Brett Larner


The World Cross Country Championships take place this Sunday, March 26 in Kampala, Uganda.  Perpetual team medal contenders, the Japanese junior women's squad is the strongest part of the Japanese roster, featuring four women with 3000 m bests under 9:10 led by 8:58.86 runner Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu of 2016 National High School Ekiden champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.  The Japanese national team for the 2017 World Cross Country Championships:

Senior Men's 10 km
Kosei Yamaguchi (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 28:34.19
Shota Maeda (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 28:59.86
Yuma Higashi (Team Kyudenko) - 29:14.78
Haruki Ono (Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:18.49
Yamato Otsuka (Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:22.18

Senior Women's 10 km
Mao Ichiyama (Team Wacoal) - 32:15.73
Kaori Morita (Team Panasonic) - 32:27
Yuki Hori (Team Panasonic) - 32:40
Fumika Sasaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 33:37

Junior Men's 8 km
Keita Yoshida (Sera H.S.) - 13:50.67
Ryo Saito (Akita Kogyo H.S.) - 13:53.75
Kazuya Nishiyama (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 13:54.16
Ryunosuke Chigira (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 14:07.42
Sodai Shimizu (Rakunan H.S.) - 14:12.57
Yoji Sakai (Suma Gakuen H.S.)

Junior Women's 6 km
Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 8:58.86
Rika Kaseda (Narita H.S.) - 9:05.64
Yuka Sarumida (Toyokawa H.S.) - 9:07.07
Wakana Kabasawa (Tokiwa H.S.) - 9:08.54
Hikari Onishi (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 9:18.74
Hayaka Suzuki (Tokiha Gakuen Kikugawa H.S.) - 9:22.77

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Seko and Kawauchi Spar at London World Championships Team Meeting

https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170320-00000067-dal-spo
https://www.daily.co.jp/general/2017/03/21/0010019282.shtml

translated and edited by Brett Larner

In preparation for August's London World Championships, the members of the men's and women's marathon teams attended a team meeting in Tokyo on Mar. 20.  Having announced that this year's World Championships would be his last time contending for a national team, Yuki Kawauchi (30, Saitama Pref. Gov't) displayed extraordinary resolve as he said, "As a representative of Japan in London I fully intend to burn it all."

JAAF Long Distance and Marathon Development Project Leader Toshihiko Seko, 60, gave a 30-minute speech in front of the athletes and their coaches, bemoaning a sense of crisis as he said, "If things keep going this way marathoning is going to die out."  Quoting the words of his legendary mentor, the late Kiyoshi Nakamura, Seko told them, "Do not be like scissors or a razor, easily chipped and blunted.  I wish for you to become an athlete strong like a katana.  The athlete burns white hot and brilliant red like steel, and the coach beats and tempers the steel like a swordsmith.  In this way an athlete can become like the finest Japanese katana."

Women's team member Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and the others listened intently and busily took notes, but Kawauchi, who is self-coached, frowned and said, "To be honest, that'd be pretty tricky.  Since I'd have to be hitting myself and all."  Seko frowned back and said to the others, "Yes, well, in his case he can play both roles."

From start to finish, the two strong personalities of Japanese athletics were on different wavelengths.  Believing heat to be his weak point Kawauchi has decided to stop running on national teams because of the expected temperatures beyond 30 degrees at the 2019 Doha World Championships and 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  Seko commented bluntly, "You think too much about being weak in heat.  You're going to summon the god of weakness.  I'd like you to continue until the Tokyo Olympics."

On the way out of the press conference Seko called out, "Kawauchi, you shouldn't say that you're not good in heat!"  Kawauchi replied coolly, "The heat in London won't be a problem."  Seko said, "Not London, Tokyo.  I'm talking about Tokyo," making clear his hopes of seeing Kawauchi in the Olympics. Frustration flashed across Kawauchi's face, and emphasizing his words with strong hand gestures he answered, "Not everyone is aiming for Tokyo.  London is everything!"  Backing off under the force of Kawauchi's reply, Seko bowed and said quietly, "I'm sorry.  You have taught me well."  The almost surreal exchange drew laughs of amazement throughout the venue.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Weekend Half Marathon Roundup

by Brett Larner
Murayama photo courtesy NYRR

The last main racing weekend of the Japanese calendar, this weekend saw high-level half marathon performances at home and abroad.

At the United Airlines NYC Half MarathonKenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), twin brother of 10000 m national record holder Kota Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), ran 1:00:57 for 5th, the best time ever by a Japanese man on U.S. soil and the second-best ever run outside Japan. Collegiate runners Rintaro Takeda (Waseda Univ.) and Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) were 22nd and 25th. London World Championships marathon alternate Misato Horie (Team Noritz) ran 1:12:45 for 13th in the women's race.

Japan-based Kenyans Grace Kimanzi (Team Starts) and Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) took both titles at the Matsue Ladies Road Race, Kimanzi winning the half marathon in 1:10:09 and Obare the 10 km division in 33:14. With Matsue serving as the National University Women's Half Marathon Championships and the selection race for the Japanese women's team for this summer's World University Games, Saki Fukui (Josai Univ.) took the top Japanese position at 2nd overall behind Kimanzi in 1:11:12.  Kanade Furuya of 2016 national champion Matsuyama University was 3rd in 1:11:12 and Kasumi Yamaguchi (Daito Bunka Univ.) 4th in 1:11:17 to join Fukui on the World University Games roster.

Ethiopian teammates Kassa Mekashaw and Abiyot Abinet (both Team Yachiyo Kogyo) dominated an unexpectedly competitive first edition of the new Niigata Half Marathon, outrunning Kenyan Alex Mwangi (Team YKK) and top Japanese man Ryo Ishita (SDF Academy) to go 1-2.  Mekashaw got the win in a PB of 1:01:16.

In Oregon, U.S.-based Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) won the Shamrock Run Portland half marathon in 1:04:12 in a tuneup for his marathon debut at next month's Boston Marathon. Osako's wife Ayumi also ran the Shamrock Run's 5 km in 24:22 and his younger brother Junya the 15 km in 49:25.

Back in Japan, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran the first race of his buildup to the London World Championships, setting a course record of 1:05:03 at his hometown Kuki Half Marathon.  With the course passing his old junior high school, Kawauchi ran the race wearing his uniform from those days.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved