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Onizuka and Ichiyama Score National Cross Country Titles

by Brett Larner

Japan's main selection race for the 2017 Kampala World Cross Country Championships happened Saturday at Fukuoka's National Cross Country Championships.  On fire this season with top three finishes in every race since November and wins at both January's National Men's Ekiden and the Karatsu 10-Miler two weeks ago, Tokai University first-year Shota Onizuka won a photo finish over pro Yuma Higashi (Team Kyudenko) to score the national title in the senior men's 12 km.  Burning just as hot with top three finishes all the way since October including two wins, Mao Ichiyama (Team Wacoal) won the senior women's 8 km national title by three seconds over Yuka Hori (Team Panasonic).

The junior men's 8 km was nearly as close as the senior race.  Yuhi Nakaya of 2017 National High School Ekiden runner-up Saku Chosei H.S. won a three-way sprint finish over Ryo Saito (Akita Kogyo H.S.) and Kazuya Nishiyama (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.), running 24:02 to his …

History Comes Calling - Kipsang and Chepchirchir Run Japanese Soil Records at Tokyo Marathon

by Brett Larner

Very happy with my win in @tokyo42195_org Thank you everybody for supporting me. #adizero@adidasrunningpic.twitter.com/ObpuGzoFpW — Wilson Kipsang (@Kipsang_2_03_23) February 26, 2017
The Tokyo Marathon's investment in a new course and top-class field to match paid off with the greatest race in Japanese marathoning history as Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Sarah Chepchirchir delivered the fastest men's and women's marathons ever run on Japanese soil.  But not just them. Young Japanese runners rose to the challenge in both races, with 24-year-old Hiroto Inoue (Team MHPS) and 19-year-old Ayaka Fujimoto (Team Kyocera) making huge breakthroughs to take top Japanese honors.

Conditions were cool enough that the race went out hot, the men's front group going through the first km around 2:46 and splitting 14:14 on the downhill first 5 km, 2:00:07 pace.  But it wasn't just them.  A small chase group including debuting Japanese men Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) and

Kipsang Predicts 2:02:50 - Tokyo Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

2017 Tokyo Marathon top elites Wilson Kipsang, Dickson Chumba, Tsegaye Kebede, Amane Bersio, Amane Gobena, Birhane Dibaba, Masato Imai, Kazuhiro Maeda and Yuma Hattori.

The Tokyo Marathon celebrates its eleventh edition as a mass-participation race this year on a new course with relocated hills to make it faster for the front end and a scenic finish for the masses.  To try to bring its event records more into line with the rest of the Abbott World Marathon Majors Tokyo has brought in some big guns, none bigger than former world record holder Wilson Kipsang (Kenya).  Fresh from a 2:03:13 PB at September's Berlin Marathon, Kipsang brought Friday's press conference to a boil when he predicted in writing a 2:02:50 world record on the new Tokyo course.

Kipsang predicting a 2:02:50 world record.

That may be a stretch, but looking at the depth and quality of the competition the 2:05:42 Tokyo record held by Dickson Chumba (Kenya) looks vulnerable, with the 2:05:18 Japan…

Rio Silver Medalist Kirwa Returns to Nagoya Women's Marathon

by Brett Larner

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, with 19,112 finishers last year.  It was also the deepest elite women's marathon in the world next to the Rio Olympics, with more women sub-2:27 than in Rio and only three fewer under 2:30.  Many of the main people who made it what it was last year are set to return, led by course record holder and two-time defending champion Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) who comes back to Nagoya as an Olympic silver medalist.  Japan's Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya), Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), Reia Iwade (Team Noritz), Sayaka Kuwahara (Team Sekisui Kagaku) and Shiho Takechi (Team Yamada Denki) all ran sub-2:26 PBs in Nagoya last year, Ohara's 2:23:30 just missing her a place on the Rio Olympic team.  Ohara is Kirwa's closest competition, but with a nearly two-minute difference in their recent half marathon wins Ohara will have a very tough battle facing her to stay in contact.  At stake for her a…

"Where Runners With the Highest Ambitions Come Together" - Fujiwara in Iten Ahead of Tokyo Marathon

text and photos by Tsukasa Kawarai
translated and edited by Brett Larner

2012 London Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) has had some of his greatest races at the Tokyo Marathon, finishing 2nd three times: an explosive 2:08:40 breakthrough there in 2008, 2:12:34 in sleet and strong wind in 2010, and his 2:07:48 PB in 2012 to make the London team. He has also done some of his worst marathons there, running 2:29:21 in 2011, dropping out in 2013, 2:30:58 in 2014, 2:19:40 in 2015 and 2:20:23 last year. The blindfolded-shot-in-the-dark quality of Fujiwara’s history in Tokyo has always made him unpredictable but entertaining. In preparation for this year’s Tokyo Marathon Fujiwara trained in Kenya for nearly two months. Tsukasa Kawarai spent time at Fujiwara’s training camp in January, and ahead of Sunday’s race he wrote a report for JRN on what he saw of Fujiwara’s preparations.


Starting in mid-December last year Arata Fujiwara trained in Iten, Kenya for about two months. It was his second …

3000 m JHS National Record Holder Hayashida Runs 7:51 Road 3 km Course Record

http://www.ktn.co.jp/news/20170219116552/

translated and edited by Brett Larner

2/19 郡市対抗県下一周駅伝

第7区 林田洋翔選手(大村・東彼)
7 51 区間新 pic.twitter.com/oUt8H5Qbtc — manamin (@kinokonoko0916) February 19, 2017
On the final day of the three-day Nagasaki Intraprefecture Ekiden on Feb. 19, the Seihi-Saikai municipal team scored its first overall win in three years. Seihi-Saikai led both of the first two days of the race before leading the way to the finish line on day three.  The city of Nagasaki team was 2nd,  with the Omura-Higashi Sonogi municipal team 3rd.

3000 m junior high school national record holder Hiroto Hayashida, a third-year at Sakuragahara J.H.S., ran the 3.0 km Seventh Stage for Omura-Higashi Sonogi.  Having set a new 3.0 km course record at last month's National Men's Ekiden, Hayashida did it again as he passed three people en route to a new course record of 7:51, an amazing 31 seconds off the old record.

"This was the last ekiden I'll run as a junior high school stu…

Weekend Marathon Breakdown

By Brett Larner

Sunday was a break in the elite Japanese marathon calendar, but there were at least seven quality amateur marathons across the country, two with over 10,000 finishers ranking them among the world’s largest full marathons. Winning times were as fast as 2:20:32 for men and 2:38:51 for women, with one race featuring a rare European winner. A nationwide breakdown of the Feb. 19 marathons:

Kyoto Marathon, Kyoto
Total finishers: 15,714
Men: 1. Kosuke Murasashi 2:20:32
Women: 1.Yuria Ikuno 2:45:15

Kumamoto Castle Marathon, Kumamoto
Total finishers: 10,944
Men: 1. Haruki Okayama 2:22:45
Women: Chigusa Yoshimatsu 2:56:20

Kochi Ryoma MarathonKochi
Total finishers: 9,589
Men: 1. Daisuke Ikemoto 2:28:06
Women: 1. Chiho Matoba 2:58:51

Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka
Total finishers: 9,434
Men: 1. Shuji Tsukamoto 2:22:31
Women: 1. Marie Imada 2:38:51

Okinawa MarathonOkinawa
Total finishers: 8,303
Men: 1. Thomas Frazer (Ireland) 2:27:09
Women: 1. Eri Suzuki 2:47:40

Senshu International Marathon, Osaka

Ueno, Arai Win in Kumamoto, Cheboitibin and Utsunomiya Take Ome

by Brett Larner

熊日30k 男子 優勝 上野裕一郎選手(DeNA) pic.twitter.com/Oa0TgDRcMp — M.Kawaguchi (@rikujolove) February 19, 2017
Both of the world's two main 30 km races took place in Japan today.  In the morning, to the south in Kumamoto the Kumanichi Road Race held its 61st edition, the first since last year's powerful earthquakes caused heavy damage in the area.  2009 double 1500 m and 5000 m champion Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) went out fast, close to 30 km national record pace at 10 km in 29:27 and still on track for a 1:28 time at 20 km in 59:11.  Over the last 10 km Ueno slowed dramatically, taking 31:06 to reach the finish line in 1:30:17, but even so his margin of victory over runner-up Ryu Takaku (Team Yakult) was more than a minute.

The women's race was closer, with last year's 4th-placer Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) outrunning corporate leaguers Rie Uchida (Otsuka Seiyaku) and Yoko Miyauchi (Team Hokuren) by just 8 seconds to win in a PB of 1:46:29 just three weeks after…

A Flatter Course for the Post-Truth Era - Running the New Tokyo Marathon Course

by Brett Larner

For its first ten years as a mass participation event the Tokyo Marathon had a good course, downhill through the first 10 km, mostly flat for the next 25 km, its unique cross shape minimizing the effect of wind from any direction but the east.  But its last 6 km were unpopular with everyone, elite and amateur alike, drab, with sparse crowds, a series of bridges and hills almost exactly once every kilometer from 36 km to the end, and a finish line hidden away like an embarrassment on the docks behind an isolated convention center on an island in the bay.  Every year the elite race took a hit over the hills in the last 6 km, and it wasn't much fun for the masses either.

Last March the Tokyo Marathon organizers announced with fanfare a new course aimed at eliminating these problems and making it faster.  Billed as a flat speed course, the new configuration reshuffled much of the old course but cut the depressing last 6 km and replaced it with a new mid-race foray into…

Kamino's 30 km Debut in Ome Highlights Weekend Action

by Brett Larner

This weekend is a lull in the middle of Japan's seven-week elite marathon season, but there's still plenty going on.  Both of its main 30 km road races, Kumamoto's Kumanichi 30 km and Tokyo's Ome 30 km, the world's two greatest races at the distance, happen Sunday.

Run in conjunction with the mass participation Kumamoto-jo Marathon, the Kumanichi 30 km is an elite-only event with small men's and women's fields and the home of Takayuki Matsumiya's 1:28:00 national record.  Toyo University graduate Ryu Takaku (Team Yakult) leads the field with a 1:30:32 in Kumanichi three years ago.  Current Toyo runner Shun Sakuraoka and past 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) are his main competition.  Mami Onuki (Team Sysmex) has the best 30 km time in the women's field, 1:46:37 for 2nd in last year's race, but the favorite may be the debuting Ayumi Kubo (Team Kagoshima Ginko), a 1:11:29 half marathoner.

The Ome 30 km i…

Negesse, Chebii and Sasaki Lead Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Field

by Brett Larner

The Mar. 5 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, Biwako for short, is the last of the four races used to choose the three members of the Japanese men's marathon team for August's London World Championships.  Two of the three members of last summer's Rio de Janeiro Olympic team top the list of Japanese men in the race, Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) with a 2:08:56 in Fukuoka 2015 and Suehiro Ishikawa (Team Honda) with 2:09:25 last year at Lake Biwa. The pair are the only Japanese athletes in the field with recent sub-2:10 times, a few steps ahead of six 2:10-11 men including the high-potential Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota).  Four others led by 2014 Asian Games silver medalist Kohei Matsumura (Team MHPS) have broken 2:10 in the past but would need a solid comeback to factor.  With the possible exception of Matsumura one of the five debuting sub-63 half marathoners may be more likely to end up in the front-end action, the p…

Last-Place Finisher Named Winner After Entire Rest of Field Disqualified

http://news.tv-asahi.co.jp/news_society/articles/000094362.html
http://www.j-cast.com/2017/02/15290700.html?in=news.yahoo.co.jp

translated and edited by Brett Larner

262 out of 263 participants in a road race were disqualified after they were misdirected, with only one person running the correct course.  The mishap occurred at a race in Kasaoka, Okayama on Feb. 5.  According to city officials, in the children's 3 km division the field of 263 elementary school students from 3rd grade through 6th grade was misdirected.  262 of them ran the wrong way, with the first child to finish covering what was estimated to be less than 2 km in 6:51. Followed by a staff member on a bicycle, only the last-place child ran the correct course to complete the full 3 km distance.  All the other children were disqualified, and city officials decided to honor the lone finisher as the winner.

The race, the 20th Bayfarm Kasaoka Road Race, featured 30 different divisions including a half marathon, 10 km and…

Japanese Men Stuck Behind the 2:09 Wall Seven Minutes Behind the Rest of the World

http://www.nikkan-gendai.com/articles/view/sports/199496/1

translated by Brett Larner

It's turned into an era when it's hard to break even 2:09.

On Feb. 12, Yuki Kawauchi (29), the top Japanese finisher in December's Fukuoka International Marathon at 3rd overall, set a new course record of 2:09:54 to win the Ehime Marathon for the first time.  Speaking of 2:09, in Fukuoka as well Kawauchi ran 2:09:11.  On the 5th this month Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner Kentaro Nakamoto (34) ran 2:09:32 too.  And the three members of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics team did it in the selection races.  Satoru Sasaki barely broke 2:09 at 2:08:56 for 3rd in Fukuoka, and Hisanori Kitajima and Suehiro Ishikawa ran 2:09:16 and 2:09:25 for 2nd and 4th at Lake Biwa.  Even in the Olympic season when marathoners' gaze is supposed to be loftier, that was all they could do.

Even though the world standard in the men's marathon is now at the 2:02 level, Japanese haven't run 2:07 in a domest…

Kawauchi Joins Elite Club of 11+ Sub-2:10 Marathoners

by Brett Larner

With his 2:09:54 at Sunday's Ehime MarathonYuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) became the fifteenth runner in history to run sub-2:10 eleven times or more in his career.  The achievement puts him in distinguished company, including two marathon world record setters, seven Olympic marathon medalists, seven World Championships marathon medalists, three World Marathon Majors champions and eight winners of the six races now making up the World Marathon Majors.

Kawauchi is one of only three non-African athletes to make the list, one of four on the list without either an Olympic or World Championships medal or a win at one of the Big Six, one of four to have not broken 2:07, and, with a PB of 2:08:14, the only one who has not run sub-2:08.  A sub-2:08 PB and a World Championships medal remain the major goals of his career.

Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) - 16 times sub-2:10
PB: 2:04:382013 World Marathon Majors champion1st, 2013 London Marathon1st, 2012 Chicago Marathon1st,…

Hoping for "Chemical Reaction," JAAF Invites Promising Young Athletes and Kawauchi to New Zealand Marathon Camp

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20170212-OHT1T50016.html

translated by Brett Larner

According to a JAAF spokesperson, in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the JAAF will hold a men's marathon training camp in New Zealand in March.  Along with promising young talents like "God of the Mountain III" Daichi Kamino (23, Team Konica Minolta), the JAAF is in consultation to invite London World Championships candidate Yuki Kawauchi (29, Saitama Pref. Gov't).

The camp is part of a new strategic initiative to raise the level of Japanese marathoning.  Of note are the athletes being invited.  Along with Kamino, who was the star of the Hakone Ekiden's uphill Fifth Stage while at Aoyama Gakuin University and who has continued to grow since going to the corporate leagues, this year's Hakone Second Stage winner Kengo Suzuki (21, Kanagawa Univ.) and other high-potential young distance runners without marathon experience are being invited.

In addition, the JAAF has aske…

Kawauchi Takes Almost 7 Minutes Off Ehime Marathon Course Record With 2:09:54 Win, Matsuo Defends in Nobeoka

by Brett Larner


In his first marathon of 2017 and the last one he will run before turning 30 Yuki  Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) made history as he won the 55th edition of the Ehime Marathon in 2:09:54, taking almost seven minutes off Ehime's 2:16:49 CR set in 1965.

Saying pre-race that he thought he was in shape to run 2:13, Kawauchi split 15:11 for the first 5 km off a slow opening km, 2:08:08 pace.  Unexpectedly, he got company from Waseda University fourth-year and Ehime native Yohei Suzuki, a 1:02:16 half marathoner making his marathon debut before graduating next month.  Kawauchi responded by upping the pace to 15:08 through the next 5 km, putting the pair on track for 2:07:55 at 10 km and holding on to sub-2:09 pace through 25 km.  Suzuki lost touch near 20 km, hitting halfway in 1:04:30 to Kawauchi's 1:04:18, and from there it was a completely solo run to the end for both, with no pacers and no other competition in sight.

Ever since his solo 2:10:14 at the 2014 Ku…

Abinet and Utsunomiya Take National Corporate Half Marathon Titles, 19-Year-Old Onizuka Wins Karatsu 10-Miler

by Brett Larner

Alongside Sunday's record-breaking marathon action, the weekend featured three high-level road races across the country.  In Yamaguchi, Ethiopian Abiyot Abinet (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) made a strong half marathon debut to win the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships men's title. Emerging from a lead pack of seven including Kenyans Macharia Ndirangu (Team Aichi Seiko), Charles Ndirangu (Team JFE Steel) and Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Team Kanebo) plus Japanese men Taku Fujimoto (Team Toyota), Ken Yokote (Team Fujitsu) and Hiroyuki Ishikawa (Team Aisan Kogyo), Abinet ran the last two-thirds of the race alone to win in 1:01:21.  Fujimoto took 4th overall in 1:01:53 in the top Japanese position.  Kitonyi, Yokote and Ishikawa faded in the second half and were run down by 2014 National University Half Marathon champion Hideto Yamanaka (Team Honda) and Komazawa University graduate Shun Inoura (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) who set new PBs of 1:02:00 and 1:02:01.

The women'…