Friday, November 21, 2014

International Chiba Ekiden Leads Weekend Action

by Brett Larner

Monday's International Chiba Ekiden leads Japan's weekend action, with 13 teams from 11 countries competing over a 6-stage, 42.195 course that alternates men's and women's stages.  Defending champion Kenya returns with a surprisingly weak team of relative unknowns led by Matthew Kisorio in his first race wearing the Kenyan national vest since his drug suspension and, on its women's side, Mercy Kibarus.  On paper at least 7 teams have a shot at beating the 3-straight winners, but Kenya has come to Chiba with uncredentialed teams that have mopped the roads with the competition before and can't be ignored.

The last team to beat them was the Japanese University Team in 2010, and this year's JUT is just as strong.  Meiji University's Ken Yokote broke a stage record at the National University Ekiden Championships 3 weeks ago and, with support from Aoyama Gakuin University stars Yusuke Ogura and Tadashi Isshiki, Kyoto University's independent-minded Kentaro Hirai and three collegiate women with 5000 m bests under 15:40 including last year's Fourth Stage winner Natsuki Omori (Ritsumeikan Univ.) the JUT team will do well.

But the Japanese National Team will have something to say about.  Not having won Chiba since 2009, after a runner-up finish last year Japan this year brings in the country's top two university men, identical twins Kenta and Kota Murayama of Komazawa and Josai universities, to prop up its corporate lineup.  The women's half of the team is flawless, with all four of the four fastest Japanese women of 2014 over 5000 m led by the #1-ranked Ayuko Suzuki (JP Post Group), 15:14.96 last month and last year's Second Stage winner, on the roster including alternate.  Going by entry lists few teams look like they can touch Japan.

The main competition for Kenya, JUT and Japan comes from Russia and the U.S.A.  Last year's 3rd-placer Russia looks to be the stronger of the two, featuring Chiba veterans Yevgeny and Anatoly Rybakov and four women with 5000 m bests under 15:30 led by Natalya Popkova in 15:05.95.  The American men's team is solid, with sub-28 men Girma Mecheso and Christo Landry, but the U.S. falters somewhat on the women's side with only one woman, Katie Matthews, under 15:45.  A repeat of last year's 5th-place finish looks possible.

Other solid teams with potential to challenge up front include Australia, featuring sub-13:20 men David McNeill and Brett Robinson, Canada, Germany and, returning with last year's Third Stage course record setter Zane Robertson and brother Jake, New Zealand.  JRN will cover the International Chiba Ekiden live on @JRNLive.  Check back over the weekend for start lists, final rankings, and info on streaming of Fuji TV's live broadcast.

Chiba is not the only thing going on this weekend, though.  The 4th running of the Kobe Marathon happens Sunday, its small elite field included 2:11:25 man Kensuke Takahashi formerly of the Toyota corporate team and women's course record holder Chihiro Tanaka (AthleC AC).  Athens Olympics marathon women's gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) heads Kobe's quarter marathon division.  3 weeks after running the TCS New York City Marathon and a week after the 3rd-fastest half marathon of his career, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) also returns to the marathon distance at the 24th running of the Fukuchiyama Marathon, part of his tuneup for a shot at 2:07 next month.

In Tokyo, the historic Fuchu Tamagawa Half Marathon celebrates its 37th running.  Further west, university men from outside the Tokyo-centric Kanto region will have their season-ender at the Tango University Men's Ekiden, a race serving as the Kanto Region University Men's Ekiden Championships.  Even further west, regional qualifying action for the corporate men's New Year Ekiden national championships wraps up with the Kyushu Corporate Men's Ekiden, one of Japan's most competitive.

There's even some track action as the Kanto Region hosts its annual University 10000 m Time Trials meet, traditionally at Tokyo's doomed National Stadium but this year to be held at Keio University due to the National Stadium's impending demolition.  The meet features a series of finely-graded men's 10000 m heats going all the way down to those targeting 28:00-28:20 plus one women's 10000.  With many top university names including last weekend's Ageo City Half Marathon runner-up Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) and 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon Championships team member Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin University) on the entry list JRN will be on-hand to cover the meet live.

2014 International Chiba Ekiden
Chiba, 11/24/14
13 teams, 6 stages,  42.195 km
click here for complete entry lists

Japanese National Team
Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:34.53 / 27:49.94 / 1:00:50 (half)
Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.) - 13:34.57 / 28:45.66 / 58:26 (20 km)
Masato Kikuchi (Team Konica Minolta) - 13:35.18 / 28:32.05 / 1:01:17 (half)
Minato Oishi (Team Toyota) - 13:36.40 / 28:18.73
Ayuko Suzuki (Team Japan Post Group) - 15:14.96 / 32:49.02
Reiko Matsuzaki (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 15:18.95 / 32:48.00
Misaki Onishi (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 15:21.73 / 32:58.00
Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo) - 15:24.56 / 31:41.80

Japanese University Team
Ken Yokote (Meiji Univ.) - 13:45.63 / 28:38.73
Yusuke Ogura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:56.48 / 28:27.73
Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:59.07 / 28:23.40
Kentaro Hirai (Kyoto Univ.) - 14:00.92 / 28:36.72
Rina Nabeshima (Kanoya Taiiku Univ.) - 15:31.89 / 33:08.00
Sairi Noda (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 15:37.74 / 33:16.70
Natsuki Omori (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:39.96
Kotona Ota (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 16:42.04

Other Team Roster Highlights

Australia
David McNeill - 13:18.60 / 28:03.02
Brett Robinson - 13:18.96 / 28:45.39
Duer Yoa - 13:50.50 / 29:06.74
Madeline Heiner - 15:27.75 / 32:50.00
Courtney Powell - 15:56.00

Canada
Lucas Bruchet - 13:33.20
Kelly Wiebe - 13:49.54 / 30:36.84
Natasha LaBeaud - 15:44.89 / 32:43.14
Rachel Cliff - 15:48.14
Lanni Marchant - 16:07.62 / 32:29.61

Chiba Prefecture
Takanori Ichikawa (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 13:48.57 / 28:36.34
Shinichiro Tai (Team Fujitsu) - 13:56.35 / 28:55.77
Shota Yamada (Chiba T&F Assoc.) - 14:00.98 / 29:02.84
Kanako Fujiishi (Juntendo Univ.) - 15:58.15

China
Guo Jian Dong - 13:43.47 / 28:17.60
Ding Hong Yang - 13:49.02 / 28:19.08
Guoxiong Su - 14:06.56 / 29:02.60
Ting Lian Fu - 15:47.82 / 32:39.99

Estonia
Sergey Tserepannikov - 14:26.67 / 30:12.21
Roman Fosti - 14:45.58 / 30:25.06
Jekaterina Pajuk - 15:54.94 / 33:46.00

France
Djamel Bashiri - 13:56.47 / 29:04.30
Pierre Urruty - 14:04.99 / 29:23.19
Jean Damascene Habarurema - 14:06.02 / 29:03.00
Ophelie Claude-Boxberger - 33:44.00

Germany
Florian Orth - 13:34.54
Simon Stuetzel - 13:41.13 / 28:56.24
Nico Sonnenberg - 13:55.65 / 29:02.44
Diana Sujew - 8:47.68 (3000 m)
Elina Sujew - 8:57.56 (3000 m)

Kenya
Matthew Kisorio - 12:57.83 / 26:54.25 / 58:46 (half)
Amos Kiprono Kaptich - 14:02.08 / 29:37.27
Henry Sang - 14:05.8 / 28:23.00
Mercy Kibarus - 15:20.01 / 32:30.15
Maureen Mutindi Muthiani - 15:40.10 / 32:56.11

New Zealand
Zane Robertson - 13:13.83 / 29:29.00
Jake Robertson - 13:15.54 / 27:45.46
Daniel Balchin - 13:57.26 / 31:11.70
Camille Buscomb - 15:38.74 / 34:00.00

Russia
Egor Nikolaev - 13:42.84
Rinas Akhmadeev - 13:58.38 / 28:32.01
Yevgeny Rybakov - 28:02.79
Anatoly Rybakov - 28:03.59
Natalya Popkova - 15:05.95 / 31:55.83
Elena Korobkina - 15:14.67
Alina Prokopeva - 15:23.78 / 31:57.38
Alla Kuliatina - 15:27.26

U.S.A.
Jake Riley - 13:32.82 / 28:08.36
Girma Mecheso - 13:34.83 / 27:52.38
Christo Landry - 27:59.22
Tyler Pennell - 13:42.00 / 28:23.54
Katie Matthews - 15:42.95 / 32:44.58
Liz Costello - 15:45.11 / 32:40.55
Rachel Ward - 15:47.05 / 32:15.85

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, November 16, 2014

High School National Champion Teammates Takada and Ichida Go 1-2, Yiu Sets Women's NR at Fast Ageo City Half Marathon (updated)

by Brett Larner
videos by Ekiden News



The Ageo City Half Marathon, Japan's major fall half marathon and, jointly with March's National University Half Marathon Championships, the deepest race at its distance in the world, delivered again in perfect conditions for its 27th running.  Every year the head coaches of most of the men's university teams bound for Japan's premier sporting event, the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, use Ageo to narrow down their rosters to their final Hakone squad, meaning a dedicated and motivated pack of hundreds going for all they're worth and almost unimaginable results.  For the last three years the New York City Half Marathon has invited the top two Japanese collegiates in Ageo to run NYC in a relationship set up by JRN, adding an extra drive to the front end of the race.

Last year Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) craftily kicked his way to the win in the last few meters in a PB 1:02:36, the top five all finishing within 2 seconds of him.  Now a senior, Ichida returned to Ageo off a superb run on the National University Ekiden Championships First Stage two weeks ago to try to become the first Japanese collegiate to defend his title.  A massive pack of around 50 went out fast, going through 5 km on mid-1:01 pace with just a few meters separating them from the rest of the field.

The pace stayed hot but the pack stayed together until Toyo University 1st-year Kenta Nakatani made a small move to the front on a corner near 9 km.  Ichida and his identical twin brother Hiroshi Ichida immediately responded, taking off from the rest of the field pursued by Koki Takada and Shinichiro Nakamura of Waseda University and 1st-year Naoki Kudo of 4-time defending National University Ekiden champion Komazawa University.

Takada, missing out on the NYC invite last year when he was the 3rd Japanese collegiate finisher by a fraction of a second, was teammates with the Ichida twins at Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S. when K.J.H.S. won the 2010 National High School Ekiden Championships.  In that classic race Takashi Ichida ran the First Stage, Hiroshi Ichida covering the Sixth Stage and handing off to anchor Takada who ran down leader Sera H.S. to seal the win with a kick over the final 200 m.  All three now ran together again.

Behind them, a chase pack of around ten including Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and like-mined independent Hideyuki Ikegami (Kyoto Kyoiku Univ.) separated from the main group.  Hiroshi Ichida dropped off the leaders to join the second pack just as Kawauchi, who missed three days of work with a cold after returning from the New York City Marathon two weeks ago, began to slip off the back.

At 15 km Nakamura was the next to falter, leaving just Takashi Ichida, Takada and Kudo in contention.  All three made small moves to the front, but the decisive move didn't come until 19 km where Ichida through in a surge that got rid of Kudo.

A kilometer later Takada responded with a surge of his own, but Ichida hung on to him as the pair moved into the final kilometer.  Behind them, Komazawa head coach Hiroaki Oyagi shouted to Kudo to attack, and against odds he closed on the two leaders just before the turn into the stadium for the final lap of the track.

But he was too late.  Takashi Ichida surged again on the first curve, opening a gap of 10 m on Takada.  With a superb kick to his credit it looked like Ichida might pull it off, but Takada had his own kick in reserve and drove past Ichida on the back curve to win in a PB 1:02:02, the third-fastest winning time in Ageo history.  Ichida was next in 1:02:03, also a PB, meaning the former National Champion high school teammates will travel to New York together for the final race of Ichida's university career.

Kudo, a relative no-name who turned 19 in September, was 3rd in 1:02:18, the third-fastest time ever by a Japanese junior and better than the winning time in Ageo the last three years.  The next four runners likewise all broke Takashi Ichida's winning time from last year.  Waseda and Komazawa dominated the top ten with three runners each, broken up only by Takashi Ichida and Hazuma Hattori of 2014 Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo.  All of the top 9 ran PBs but Kudo, whose excellent time was a debut.

Kawauchi took 10th in 1:02:55, just the third time in his career that he has broken 1:03.  The list of PBs extended far down the field.  Overall depth was down slightly from Ageo's very best years despite the perfect conditions and hard-driving race up front but still exceeded anything found anywhere else:

1st: 1:02:02
10th: 1:02:55
25th: 1:03:30
50th: 1:04:09
100th: 1:05:02
200th: 1:06:21
300th: 1:08:05
400th: 1:10:43

Last year in Ageo Singapore's Mok Ying Ren set a men's national record to make the 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon.  Following his lead, Kit Ching Yiu of Hong Kong travelled to Ageo this year to go for the Hong Kong women's national record of 1:16:34.  And just got there, crossing the finish line in a 1:16:31 gun time after taking 8 seconds to get across the start line.   The pair's records show an interesting new possibility for the Ageo City Half Marathon, a small-town local race that just happens to be one of the world's great elite events, as a destination race of choice for people looking to be pulled along to their best.



27th Ageo City Half Marathon
Ageo, Saitama, 11/16/14

Men
1. Koki Takada (Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:02 - PB
2. Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 1:02:03 - PB
3. Naoki Kudo (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:18 - debut
4. Shinichiro Nakamura (Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:30 - PB
5. Hazuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:31 - PB
6. Shun Inoura (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:32 - PB
7. Shohei Otsuka (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:32 - PB
8. Shun Sato (Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:49 - PB
9. Shun Sakuraoka (Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:53 - PB
10. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:02:55

Women
1. Kit Ching Yiu (Hong Kong) - 1:16:31 - NR
2. Risa Suzuki (Art Sports) - 1:18:27
3. Mayumi Uchiyama (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:18:44
4. Hiroko Abasaki (Second Wind AC) - 1:22:04
5. Shuku Iwashita (Restart) - 1:24:22


text and photos (c) 2014 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
except award ceremony photo c/o Yusuke Inoue

Tanaka Wins Final Yokohama International Women's Marathon, 19-Year-Old Iwade 2:27:21 Debut

by Brett Larner

Two-time National Corporate Half Marathon champion Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) continued her transition to the marathon today, following up on her 2:26:05 debut for 5th in Nagoya in March with a 2:26:57 win over London Olympics gold medalist Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) and others at the final running of the short-lived Yokohama International Women's Marathon.

The race started close to target pace with a 16:56 opening 5 km split, but from there to 10 km the Kenyan pacer Purity Cherotich lost control, running 16:35, sub-2:20 pace, and dropping all but independent Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) and debuting 19-year-old Reia Iwade (Team Noritz).  With a 20-second lead over Tanaka and formerly Japan-based Kenyans Philes Ongori and Caroline Rotich both Nojiri and Iwade let go and coasted, returning to a more sensible pace with a 16:57 for the next 5 km.  Rotich soon closed the gap and went by the leading Japanese pair, Nojiri letting her go but Iwade throwing caution to the wind again and going with her.  Tanaka and Philes took their time regaining contact, catching up to form a pack of five after a slower 17:35 split took the leaders through 20 km.

Halfway came in a solid 1:11:56.  Nojiri, who won the Hokkaido Marathon in late August, began to fade despite the gradually slowing pace, 40 seconds behind by 25 km.  Little changed over the next 10 km until Rotich made a move at 35 km that dropped Iwade.  Side-by-side-by-side at 40 km, Rotich abruptly folded, vomiting and losing touch with Tanaka and Ongori.  Still together coming in to Yamashita Park for the finish, Tanaka opened a slight gap on Ongori that grew in the final straight to a 2-second margin of victory, 2:26:57 to 2:26:59.  Iwade ran down the stricken Rotich for 3rd, her 2:27:21 the fastest-ever by a Japanese teenager.  Olympic champion Gelana, appearing out of shape, was never a factor and finished a distant 6th in 2:29:13.

As the first selection race for the 2015 Beijing World Championships Japanese women's team Tanaka's win in Yokohama puts her name into the hat, but with a time far off the Federation's Beijing standard she is not likely to be picked if times in Osaka and Nagoya next year are several minutes faster.  Considering that the fastest time by a Japanese woman this year was only 2:25:26 that may not happen, but either way Tanaka's fate won't be decided for a few months to come.

In the meantime, following its eviction from Tokyo six years ago the Yokohama International Women's Marathon now moves northwest to Saitama.  The move may secure it the better budget it needed to achieve more than it did in Yokohama, but it also spells trouble for another long-standing elite race held the same day, the Ageo City Half Marathon in Ageo, Saitama, nearby the future Saitama International Women's Marathon's likely course.  With Saitama police among the strictest in the nation when it comes to road closure permits and the Saitama Prefectural Government signing on as co-sponsors of the relocating marathon, Ageo organizers are very concerned that the move will force them to change their traditional date, a major problem for its important role as a key pre-Hakone Ekiden prep event for university men.  How the move will play out remains to be seen.

6th Yokohama International Women's Marathon
Yokohama, Kanagawa, 11/16/14
click here for complete results

1. Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 2:26:57
2. Philes Ongori (Kenya) - 2:26:59
3. Reia Iwade (Team Noritz) - 2:27:21 - debut
4. Caroline Rotich (Kenya) - 2:27:32
5. Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) - 2:28:54
6. Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) - 2:29:13
7. Alina Prokopeva (Russia) - 2:29:18
8. Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine) - 2:29:26
9. Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 2:34:13
10. Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:35:36
-----
DNF - Marisa Barros (Portugal)
DNF - Irvette Van Zyl (South Africa)

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Gap Between Japan and the Rest of the World

by Brett Larner

I was asked to give a speech at the welcoming reception the night before this year’s Ageo City Half Marathon about the JRN-arranged invite for the top two Japanese university finishers in Ageo to run March’s NYC Half Marathon. Guests in the audience included Ageo mayor Minoru Shimamura, KGRR chairman and Hakone Ekiden race director Yoshiyuki Aoba, Waseda University head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe and other Hakone university teams’ head coaches, and 1999 World Championships marathon silver medalist Ari Ichihashi. I decided not to prepare anything and just freestyle it. This is a translation of what I can remember saying.

Good evening everybody. If you ever have to give a speech in a foreign language I would advise against drinking sake beforehand. The words don’t come out right. I’m not that strong with honorific language, so if I say things in a rude way I apologize in advance. To begin with, congratulations to Mayor Shimamura and everyone on the Ageo City Half Marathon executive committee on tomorrow’s 27th running.

“The gap between Japan and the rest of the world.” You hear those words a lot, but what do they really mean? As a foreigner I often wonder about that. A month and a half ago we entered the 2:02 marathon era. 2:02. Needless to say there’s a gap there. How are we non-Africans supposed to deal with that? I don’t know the answer.

But if you look at the history of athletics, the only ones really trying to answer are Japan and the U.S.A. What kind of gap is there between Japan and the U.S.? If you compare them, right now there are 15-20 Japanese men who can break 2:10 for the marathon. In the U.S. there are only two. If you look at the 61-62 minute half marathon range there are more athletes at that level in Japan than in the U.S.A. Many years more Japanese men run 27 for 10000 m than Americans. Among university runners, especially here in the Kanto region, there are far more running 13 minutes for 5000 m than in the United States. There’s no question that there’s a gap there, in a positive meaning. But at the same time, at the Olympics, the World Championships, the World Half Marathon and World XC, Americans are winning medals. For the most part Japanese athletes aren’t, present company excluded, Ms. Ichihashi. So in another sense there is a gap there as well.

This is the fourth year that the NYC Half Marathon is inviting the top two Japanese collegiate runners from the Ageo City Half Marathon, and in the first three years of the two races’ relationship those collegiate runners have delivered results. Every year one of them has beaten an American world-level medalist. In 2012 Toyo University’s Yuta Shitara beat America’s Dathan Ritzenhein. Ritzenhein has run 12 minutes for 5000 m and has won two world-level medals, a bronze at the World Half Marathon and a bronze at World XC. In 2013 Komazawa University’s Kenta Murayama beat 8-time Olympic and World Championships American medalist Bernard Lagat. This year, picked up as an alternate a month before the race, Komazawa’s Ikuto Yufu beat American Meb Keflezighi, the Athens Olympics marathon silver medalist and 4th in the London Olympics marathon. In his next race Keflezighi became the first American Boston Marathon winner in 32 years.

If a young collegiate runner like Yufu can come into a race unprepared and beat a World Marathon Major winner like Keflezighi then what kind of gap is there between them? What kind of gap between the world and Japan, between Japan and the world? I don’t think there is one. When your young athletes are going from here at the Ageo City Half Marathon to New York and beating world-level medalists and seeing that for themselves, then five and a half, six years from now at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics their chances of winning a medal are going to be that much higher. I look forward to a great race tomorrow and to seeing the best two collegiates beat world-level medalists, American medalists, again next March at the NYC Half Marathon. Thank you.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ageo and Yokohama Lead a Busy Weekend Across Japan

by Brett Larner

It's one of the busiest weekends of the year across Japan, with three major road races, regional championship corporate ekiden action, two big track meets and even some overseas collegiates.



The biggest race on the schedule is Sunday's Ageo City Half Marathon in Ageo, Saitama, a local race used by coaches of university teams bound for Japan's most prestigious sporting event, January's Hakone Ekiden, to pare down their rosters to the final candidates for their Hakone lineups.  As a result Ageo regularly features jaw-dropping numbers, with close to 200 going under 1:06 and 4~500 under 1:10.  In a program put together by JRN, for the last three years the NYC Half Marathon has invited the top two Japanese collegiates in Ageo to its race in March, and in 2013 the invite had a measurable impact.  In its first 25 years Ageo saw 36 people break 1:03.  At last year's 26th running 18 more runners, all Japanese collegiates, broke 1:03.

Defending champion Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) will be back in pursuit of another shot in New York, and 2012 winner Kenta Murayama and 2013 National University Half Marathon champion Shogo Nakamura, both members of four-time National University Ekiden winner Komazawa University and of the Japanese National Team at the 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon Championships, are also on the entry list.  There's no telling who will actually start, but given the steadily stream of record-breaking depth and quality in Japan since Tokyo won the 2020 Olympic bid it's safe to say that it's going to be another incredible day in Ageo no matter who ends up on the podium.  Local hero Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) will also make a return to competition in Ageo for the first time since running the TCS New York City Marathon two weeks ago.  JRN will be onhand to cover the race live.  Follow @JRNHeadlines and @JRNLive for more.

Next on the list is the Yokohama International Women's Marathon, going out with a bang after just six runnings by welcoming 2012 London Olympics gold medalist Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) back to Japan.  Yokohama has always been something of a dinosaur, an attempt to hold on to something outdated as times change, bumped down from Tokyo to Yokohama as the new Tokyo Marathon shouldered aside the historic Tokyo International Women's Marathon, and while it is disappointing it's not really surprising that it never caught on and will be sent down again to Saitama next year, where it is due to be subsumed into a mass-participation race in 2016.

The formerly Japan-based Gelana makes for a good last hurrah along with fellow former Japan residents Philes Ongori (Kenya) and Caroline Rotich (Kenya), both of whom enigmatically have PBs of 2:23:22.  Joining them are the Euro cadre of Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine), Marisa Barros (Portugal), Zivile Balciunaitie (Lithuania) and Alina Prokopeva (Russia), and Irvette Van Zyl (South Africa).  Japanese hopes lie primarily in former teammates Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease), an independent who won August's Hokkaido Marathon, and two-time National Corporate Half Marathon champion Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), running her second marathon after debuting in 2:26:05 in Nagoya this year.  The most interesting Japanese woman may be Reia Iwade (Team Noritz), maing her debut at age 19 after a 1:09:45 half marathon at the Sanyo Ladies Half last December just after her birthday.  Follow @JRNLive for live coverage throughout the race.

Speaking of Sanyo, traditionally a year-end highlight producing many of the year's top Japanese women's times, this year it has moved to mid-November and now sits opposite Yokohama.  As a consequence its half marathon has taken a serious hit in quality.  Mattie Suver (U.S.A.) and Charlotte Purdue (Great Britain) face a weak domestic field with only two Japanese women, Shoko Mori (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and Asami Furuse (Team Kyocera), holding bests under 1:15.  Better quality is to be found in Sanyo's 10 km division, where Japan-based Kenyans Grace Kimanzi (Team Starts) and Felista Wanjugu (Team Univ. Ent.) lead 2011 Tokyo Marathon winner Noriko Higuchi and her Wacoal teammates Yuka Hakoyama, Mao Kuroda and Ai Migita and others.

Japanese women are also to be found abroad this weekend as once again members of the Meijo University women's ekiden team will run the Netherlands' Zevenheuvelenloop road race.  Road action is rounded out by regional qualifying ekidens for the corporate men's New Year Ekiden national championships.  Across Japan, men's corporate teams in the Chubu, Chugoku, Hokuriku and Kansai regions will be racing to make the New Year cut, following last weekend's East Japan regional qualifier.  And for those not running in any of the races above, major track time trials will also happen at Nittai University in Yokohama and Ecopa Stadium further west in Shizuoka.  JRN will bring you results and coverage of all these events through the weekend and into next week.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

International Chiba Ekiden Entry Lists

http://www.sankei.com/sports/news/141111/spo1411110022-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Nov. 11 the Japanese Federation released the rosters for the thirteen combined men's and women's teams from eleven countries for the Nov. 24 International Chiba Ekiden.  The six-stage, 42.195 km race uniquely features alternating men's and women's stages.  At the forefront of the Japanese National Team are the leaders of the university athletics world, identical twins Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) and Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.).  Joining them in hopes of generating Japan's first Chiba win in five years are Incheon Asian Games 10000 m bronze medalist Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo) and other young stars.

The Japanese University Team features a solid lineup of current young collegiate talent including 2014 National University Track and Field Championships 10000 m runner-up Kentaro Hirai (Kyoto Univ.) and last year's Chiba Fourth Stage winner Natsuki Omori (Ritsumeikan Univ.).

Three-time defending champion Kenya returns in search of a fourth-straight win along with teams from nine other countries.  2011 World Cross-Country Championships 4th-placer Matthew Kisorio features prominently on the Kenyan team.

2014 International Chiba Ekiden
Chiba, 11/24/14
13 teams, 6 stages,  42.195 km
click here for complete entry lists - correct romanizations will be added later

Japanese National Team
Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:34.53 / 27:49.94 / 1:00:50 (half)
Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.) - 13:34.57 / 28:45.66 / 58:26 (20 km)
Masato Kikuchi (Team Konica Minolta) - 13:35.18 / 28:32.05 / 1:01:17 (half)
Minato Oishi (Team Toyota) - 13:36.40 / 28:18.73
Ayuko Suzuki (Team Japan Post Group) - 15:14.96 / 32:49.02
Reiko Matsuzaki (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 15:18.95 / 32:48.00
Misaki Onishi (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 15:21.73 / 32:58.00
Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo) - 15:24.56 / 31:41.80

Japanese University Team
Ken Yokote (Meiji Univ.) - 13:45.63 / 28:38.73
Yusuke Ogura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:56.48 / 28:27.73
Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:59.07 / 28:23.40
Kentaro Hirai (Kyoto Univ.) - 14:00.92 / 28:36.72
Rina Nabeshima (Kanoya Taiiku Univ.) - 15:31.89 / 33:08.00
Sairi Noda (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 15:37.74 / 33:16.70
Natsuki Omori (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:39.96
Kotona Ota (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 16:42.04

Other Team Roster Highlights

Australia
David McNeill - 13:18.60 / 28:03.02
Brett Robinson - 13:18.96 / 28:45.39
Madeline Heiner - 15:27.75 / 32:50.00

Canada
Lucas Bruchet - 13:33.20
Natasha LaBeaud - 15:44.89 / 32:43.14
Lanni Marchant - 16:07.62 / 32:29.61

Chiba Prefecture
Takanori Ichikawa (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 13:48.57 / 28:36.34
Shinichiro Tai (Team Fujitsu) - 13:56.35 / 28:55.77
Kanako Fujiishi (Juntendo Univ.) - 15:58.15

China
Guo Chen Don - 13:43.47 / 28:17.60
Din Hon Yan - 13:49.02 / 28:19.08
Din Ren Fo - 15:47.82 / 32:39.99

Estonia
Sergey Tserepannikov - 14:26.67 / 30:12.21
Roman Fosti - 14:45.58 / 30:25.06
Ekaterina Pajuk - 15:54.94 / 33:46.00

France
Djamel Bashiri - 13:56.47 / 29:04.30
Pierre Urruty - 14:04.99 / 29:23.19
Oferi Crodobosberge - 33:44.00

Germany
Florian Orth - 13:34.54
Simon Stuetzel - 13:41.13 / 28:56.24
Diana Sujew - 8:47.68 (3000 m)
Elina Sujew - 8:57.56 (3000 m)

Kenya
Matthew Kisorio - 12:57.83 / 26:54.25 / 58:46 (half)
Mercy Kibarus - 15:20.01 / 32:30.15
Maureen Mutindi Muthiani - 15:40.10 / 32:56.11

New Zealand
Zane Robertson - 13:13.83 / 29:29.00
Jake Robertson - 13:15.54 / 27:45.46
Camille Buscomb - 15:38.74 / 34:00.00

Russia
Yevgeny Rybakov - 28:02.79
Anatoly Rybakov - 28:03.59
Natalya Popkova - 15:05.95 / 31:55.83
Elena Korobkina - 15:14.67
Alina Prokopeva - 15:23.78 / 31:57.38

U.S.A.
Jake Riley - 13:32.82 / 28:08.36
Girma Mecheso - 13:34.83 / 27:52.38
Christo Landry - 27:59.22
Tyler Pennell - 13:42.00 / 28:23.54
Katie Matthews - 15:42.95 / 32:44.58
Liz Costello - 15:45.11 / 32:40.55
Rachel Ward - 15:47.05 / 32:15.85

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monteroza Athletics Club to Hold Track School Session

http://www.work-master.net/201404814

translated by Brett Larner

The Monteroza Athletics Club is pleased to announce that it will hold a "Monteroza Track School" session on Nov. 15 at Hachioji Municipal Junior High School #6 in Hachioji, Tokyo.  Active both overseas and at some of the world's top-level meets, members of the Monteroza team will give demonstrations and lessons in sprint, hurdle, high jump and long jump events.  Some of Japan's best athletes will show the practical how-to of what they do right before the very eyes and beyond the wildest dreams of participating elementary school students in the hope that the hands-on experience will inspire the next generation to take up the sport.

After the competition experience session, registered dietitians from Meiji Savas will hold a nutrition seminar targeted at students' parents.  Meiji Savas provides nutritional advice and support to many of the country's top athletes including Monteroza decathlete Hiromasa Tanaka and will introduce the types of meals that elite athletes eat.  Monteroza continues to strive to implement initiatives that will contribute to better health for all.

Translator's note: Monteroza operates the Shirokiya, Uotami and Warawara chains of izakaya bars and restaurants.  Its athletics club includes Kenyan distance runner and former Nihon University star Benjamin Ngandu, pictured above.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

12,156 Take Part in First Running of Fukuoka Marathon

http://www.nishinippon.co.jp/nnp/f_toshiken/article/126034

translated by Brett Larner

The first running of the Fukuoka Marathon took place Nov. 9 on a course from downtown Fukuoka to Itoshima.  A total of 12,156 people took part in the full marathon and the 5.2 km fun run and wheelchair divisions, soaking up enthusiastic cheering from local residents as the course passed through towns and along the seafront.

The full marathon featured 11,173 participants including 7929 men and 2244 women.  Rain that began falling the night of the 8th lifted just before the 8:18 wheelchair start and 8:20 marathon and fun run start from Tenjin Crossing outside Tenjin Station in Fukuoka.  Light rain fell occasionally during the race, but with a high temperature of 18.4 degrees conditions throughout the day were comfortable for a marathon.  9898 runners, 7754 men and 2144 women, reached the finish line near Itoshima City Hall, a finish rate of 97.3%.

Local runners led the day, with Tetsuya Shoji (30, Fukuoka Track and Field Assoc.) winning the men's race in 2:27:57 and Mari Hanada (34, Ohori Runners) winning the women's race in 2:53:23.  Four athletes took part in the wheelchair race, three finishing.

According to race officials, five runners were transported by ambulance for hypothermia and vomiting, but in all cases, "The runners' symptoms were not severe."  Many of the cases came from the long waiting line for the shuttle busses to JR Chikuzen Maebaru Station, an issue that will need to be worked out for next year's race.

Race officials summed up the race positively, saying, "We are relieved that the first running went off successfully.  This event could not have happened without our sponsoring companies and regional organizations, our volunteers, and all the people who participated in the race.  We want to resolve what problems we did encounter to make an even better event in the future."

Translator's note: Only 4 weeks separate the Fukuoka Marathon from the long-standing elite Fukuoka International Marathon.  Race organizers told JRN that the Fukuoka Marathon, an expansion of the well-established Fukuoka Half Marathon, was envisioned as a mass-participation addition to Fukuoka International as is the trend with many of Japan's other elite races, but that this idea was flatly rejected by Fukuoka International organizers.  With police strict about issuing road closure permits and the mass-participation event bringing in considerable numbers of people from outside the region the new Fukuoka Marathon's success has to raise questions about the future of the older elite race.

photo (c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved