Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shibui, Nakamura and Akaba Score 10000 m Olympic A-Standard in Hyogo Relay Carnival

by Brett Larner

click here for video highlights of all events

Kenyan jitsugyodan runners based in Japan dominated the distance events at the 56th annual Hyogo Relay Carnival, the first major meet in Japan`s outdoor track season. Team Komori`s Josephat Ndambiri outkicked Team Nissin`s Gideon Ngatuny to take the men`s 10000 m in 27:15.82, while Team Hokuren`s Philes Ongori won a photo finish against Japanese national record holder Yoko Shibui of Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo, both runners clocking 31:19.73. Ndambiri and Ongori`s marks easily met the Olympic A-standards, and both Kenyans had the added laurel of recording the fastest times so far this year.

Shibui`s time, along with those of 3rd and 4th place women Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) and Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), also comfortably broke the Olympic A-standard. After failing to qualify for the Olympic marathon team in last November`s Tokyo International Women`s Marathon, Shibui and her coach Hideo Suzuki had indicated there was "no chance" she would attempt to qualify in the 10000 m. Her result in Hyogo not only showed a change of heart but established Shibui as the top contender for the 10000 m team, 3.5 seconds ahead of Yukiko Akaba`s nationally-leading 31:27.23 from last December. Following her run Shibui was uncharacteristically happy and effusive despite not taking the win.

Akaba also broke the Olympic A-standard, running 31:36.54 to take 4th in an unremarkable performance. Fresh from making the Olympic marathon team by winning March`s Nagoya International Women`s Marathon in her debut performance, Nakamura continued her impressive rise by recording a PB of nearly 1 minute to finish 3rd in 31:31.95. Shibui and Nakamura join Akaba on the list of A-standard qualifiers along with Team Mizuno`s Megumi Kinukawa and Team Toyota Jidoshokki`s Akane Wakita, both of whom qualified at last year`s Hyogo Relay Carnival. Akita also ran Hyogo this year but finished 2nd to last in 33:28.83. The teenaged Kinukawa, a probable future giant in Japanese distance running, has been sidelined for several months with persistent injuries and did not compete. She and Wakita will have another chance to show that they are still contenders at June`s national track and field championships. National 5000 m and half marathon record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) is also expected to run the 10000 m at the national championships to earn an A-standard qualifier.

Along with Kinukawa, Japan`s other young prodigy Yuriko Kobayashi, fresh from her latest round of legal battles with the Japanese track and field association Rikuren, took the 1500 m with ease. Her time of 4:15.99 was far from both the Olympic standards and her national record, but Kobayashi will have another chance at the national championships.

In the men`s 10000 m, Masato Kihara of the tiny Chuo Gakuin University beat out top track runner Satoshi Irifune of Team Kanebo to finish 5th in 28:29.40 as the first Japanese finisher. Kihara, just beginning his senior year, has quietly been establishing himself as one of the greatest hopes for the next generation of Japanese marathon men, among other results running a 1:01:50 half marathon as a sophomore and beating the much-heralded Hideaki Date to be the top Japanese finisher on the ace 2nd stage of this year`s Hakone Ekiden. His run in Hyogo was an excellent start to his last year of university running.

Irifune has focused on the marathon for the last few years and ran a PB of 2:09:40 in February`s Tokyo Marathon. He did not make the Olympic marathon team and has a way to go to bring his 10000 m time, 28:32.36 in Hyogo, down in time for the national championships where he will likely face university runners Kensuke Takezawa and Yuki Sato, both of whom ran sub-28 in 2007.

Two of the the three men who did make the Olympic marathon team also ran the Hyogo 10000 m. Team Chugoku Denryoku`s Tsuyoshi Ogata, straight from running the Beijing Pre-Olympic marathon on April 20, was 18th in 29:08.30, while Team NTT Nishi Nihon`s Satoshi Osaki was 22nd in 29:43.22.

The IAAF`s report on the Kobe Relay Carnival is here.

(c) 2008 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wanjiru Named to Kenyan Olympic Marathon Team


World half-marathon record holder Samuel Wanjiru is based in Japan where he is coached by Barcelona Olympics marathon silver medalist Koichi Morishita and runs for Team Toyota Jidosha Kyushu.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tosa, Ogata and Sato to Run Apr. 20 Pre-Olympic Marathon on Beijing Course; Noguchi, Nakamura and Osaki Also Beginning Olympic Preparations

translated and edited by Brett Larner; source article links below

The six members of Japan's Beijing Olympic marathon team gathered at the National Training Center on Mar. 26 for a press conference to discuss their preparation for the main event. First and foremost, women's team member Reiko Tosa (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) and men's team members Tsuyoshi Ogata and Atsushi Sato (both Team Chugoku Denryoku) will be running in the "Good Luck Beijing" Pre-Olympic Marathon over the official Olympic course on April 20. The runners' coaches Yasushi Sakaguchi and Hideo Suzuki stressed that this run will only be for the purpose of testing out the Beijing course and will not be at race effort, likely at 3:30 per km pace for the men. The course has a gross elevation difference of only 8 m and is thus quite flat, but the concrete used in Beijing's roads is reputed to be very hard. This combined with the high humidity likely in late summer suggests a high probability of blistering being a factor in the Olympic race. Representatives of the runners' shoe makers said that they would make adjustments to the Olympians' race shoes based on their reports from the test run.

Tosa said that she has not been practicing well and will be happy just to be on the starting line. After the Pre-Olympic Marathon she will travel to Boulder, Colorado for altitude training followed by final training in Kunming, China. Tosa has not trained in Boulder since the breakthrough early years of her marathon career and hopes that returning there now will help her to recover the condition she has lost since last summer's World Championships.

Ogata said that the theme of his training is running comfortably. After the Pre-Olympic Marathon he will run in the Hyogo Relay Carnival on April 27 and the Oda Memorial Track Meet on April 29. In June and July he will train at camps in Hokkaido. His Chugoku Denryoku teammate Atsushi Sato, the fastest man on the team with a 2:07:13 in Fukuoka last December, said that he is visualizing winning in Beijing during all his training. Following the Pre-Olympic Marathon he will return to his hometown of Fukushima and train there through May. His plans for June and July are not yet fixed, but he will not be training with Ogata. The two runners' coach Yasushi Sakaguchi said that the most important thing is for Ogata and Sato to avoid overworking each other, and thus they will be training separately and doing workouts which they find suitable for themselves.

Novice women's team member Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) expressed some nervousness over her first Olympic appearance. She will focus on improving her speed in the lead-up to Beijing, spending April at Team Tenmaya's training camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico before returning to Japan for the Hyogo Relay Carnival. Beyond that, Nakamura said she would continue in the same vein of training which led her to a successful victory in her debut at last month's Nagoya International Women's Marathon.

The third men's team member, Satoshi Osaki (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) also believes that he must focus on his speed to have a chance against Kenyan athletes in the Olympics. Like Nakamura, he is bypassing the Pre-Olympic Marathon to focus on speedwork during April on May. He plans to run the 10000 m at the Hyogo Relay Carnival, then beginning in June will head to Hokkaido for marathon training.

Defending women's marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) downplayed a recent health scare involving a rash she picked up while training in Kunming, saying that she had just completed a two-day medical check without problems. She will spend April training in Miyazaki, Kumamoto Prefecture in preparation for the Sendai International Half Marathon in May. After Sendai she will move her training base to Sugadaira Koban in Nagano Prefecture for a final round of altitude training. She told members of the press that she believes her coach has put together a good race plan for Beijing and that she is really excited to get down to the main part of her training.

Before leaving for Miyazaki, Noguchi stopped in Kobe to visit Asics' grandmaster shoe craftsman Hitoshi Mimura to be fitted for the handmade shoes she will use in Beijing. The basic design of the shoes will be the same as the "rice husk" shoes she wore in her course-record victory at last November's Tokyo International Women's Marathon, but will be gold in color to reflect Noguchi's status as defending champion. After fitting Noguchi, Mimura told her that her left hip and right knee are somewhat weak and that she needs to focus on strengthening these areas during her upcoming training.

source articles:


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

30 Hospitalized After Honeybee Attack at Saga Sakura Half Marathon


translated by Brett Larner

At around 11 a.m. on April 6 in Yamato, Saga, a swarm of honeybees attacked participants in the Saga Sakura Half Marathon. 30 runners were sent to the hospital after receiving severe stings, while an additional 2 runners sustained only minor stings not requiring hospitalization. Prefectural police are investigating whether the bees came from a local beekeeping farm and, if so, whether race officials took the presence of beekeepers into account when designing the course. Beekeepers within Saga Prefecture are required to register their operations, but the beekeper believed to be involved in the attack was not licensed by the prefecture.

6200 runners took part in the race, a half marathon along the Kase River. The attack took place near the 11 km point in the race. After the lead pack of competitors passed, the swarm of bees appeared and began to attack the trailing runners. Police were able to determine that honeybees were the culprits after taking victims' statements.

Camerman Kunihiro Noguchi, 42, of Fukuoka's Sawara Ward sustained stings under his right eye. Noguchi said that he encountered the swarm of bees at a spot along the course where there was a large field of cultivated flowers. "The swarm of bees appeared suddenly right in front of me," described Noguchi. "There were so many it was like the hairs on the back of my hand. It was incredible. Some women running near me were so badly hurt that they couldn't move." Runners behind those who were stung were directed on a detour to bypass the attack zone.

This was the 19th edition of the Saga Sakura Half Marathon. The course was the same as in previous years, but there have never before been problems with bee attacks. The beekeeping operation from which the bees involved in the attack were believed to come is located about 50 meters from the course. Race promoters had toured the course many times but were apparently unaware that beekeepers were based nearby. A spokesperson for principal sponsor Saga Newspapers Inc. told reporters, "We will be paying the medical expenses of all those who were injured. The goal of most amateur runners is simply to reach the finish, and we are very sorry that they could not. We will provide all assistance possible to help find the cause for these attacks."

The prefectural bureau of agriculture reported that the beekeeping operation in question was not a licensed facility, although it was registered in Saga city as an agricultural business. Prefectural police are investigating the operation's owner but caution that it will be difficult to prove eyewitness claims that the swarm came from the nearby hives.

Translator's note: The following Australian report on the bee attack includes some quotes from other attack victims: http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,23494737-5005961,00.html

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Takaoka 16th in Paris Marathon (updated)

by Brett Larner

update: Quotes translated from http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2008040600195.

Running in less than ideal conditions of wind and rain, Japanese national marathon record holder Toshinari Takaoka finished 16th in the Paris Marathon on Apr. 6. His time of 2:11:21 was far from his national record of 2:06:16 set at the 2003 Chicago Marathon but marked an improvement over his other recent marathons. Takaoka was injured during 2006 and spent much of 2007 in recovery. "I thought I could break 2:10," said Takaoka, "but it was still a good race. The headwinds after 35 km were just too much. I'm glad I did it, and this isn't the end for me. I still have other things I want to do. Next year there are the World Championships."

The Paris Marathon was won by Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede in an excellent time of 2:06:40, only 7 seconds off the course record. Kenyan Moses Arusei also broke 2:07, running 2:06:50 for 2nd place. Two more runners broke 2:08, and a further two broke 2:09.

Kenya came out on top in the women's race, as Martha Komu beat Ethiopia's Worknech Tola by four seconds to win in 2:25:33. Three more women broke 2:27.

Complete results for the 2008 Paris Marathon are available here.

(c) 2008 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Mara Yamauchi Not in Paula Radcliffe's Shadow'


Senior Japanese Teams Have Weak Showing at World XC (updated)

by Brett Larner

update: Reader Rich T. sent these photos he took at the World XC Championships last weekend. Thank you. Rich's complete set of photos can be found here.

The Japanese junior women's team trails the Kenyan and Ethiopian teams.

The senior Japanese men's and women's teams had poor showings at Sunday's World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland, while the two junior teams fared more respectably.

The senior men's team finished 13th of 15 teams, beating only the teams from Canada and Botswana. Team aces Makoto Tobimatsu and Satoru Kitamura both had bad runs, finishing 4th and 6th on the team of 8 in 106th and 121st place respectively. The most experienced XC runner on the team, Yoshitaka Iwamizu, showed that experience matters as he led the team with his 89th place finish. The talented university runner Yuki Sato made up for his lackluster performances in the Chiba and Fukuoka qualification races by finishing 2nd on the team in 94th place. Full senior men's results are here.

Aimi Horikoshi

Like the senior men, the senior women's team finished near the bottom of the field, placing 10th of 12 teams ahead of Ireland and Canada. Again like the men's team, the women's ace runners Kazuka Wakatsuki and Aya Manome ran badly, finishing 5th and 6th on the team of 6. Experience also mattered here, as veteran Aimi Horikoshi was 2nd on the team just 1 place back from top Japanese finisher Yuko Nohara's 46th place result. Senior women's team results can be found here.

The junior men finished a strong 4th behind Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda despite have no runners anywhere near the top 10. The team was led by rookie Hirotaka Tamura's 20th place finish, while once again the ace team member ran badly. This time it was Akinobu Murasawa, 5th on the team of 6 with a 37th place finish. Murasawa's teammate at Saku Chosei High School, Kenta Chiba, was 6th on the team in 44th place despite being ranked 2nd going into the race. Click here for junior men's results.

Yukino Ninomiya coming down the hill en route to finishing 10th.

Yukino Ninomiya

The junior women had the best results of the day, finishing 3rd of 8 teams. Like Tamura in the junior men's race, first-timer Yukino Ninomiya led the way with a 10th place finish. 2nd on the team in 14th place was Atsuko Matsumura, the only ace member of any of the Japanese teams to have a good showing. Fellow star runner Risa Takenaka was 5th on the team, landing in 26th place overall. Junior women's team results are here.

Atsuko Matsumura

Ayaka Mori
(c) 2008 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Akemi Ozaki to Run Rotterdam Marathon


Akemi Ozaki runs for Tokyo-based Second Wind AC. She ran her marathon debut at the 2006 Tokyo International Women's Marathon where she finished 2nd and beat defending champion Naoko Takahashi. She was 4th at the 2007 Tokyo International but recorded her PB of 2:28:39 in that race. Three weeks later she ran the Honolulu Marathon as a pacemaker for teammate Kaori Yoshida. Yoshida faltered, but Ozaki continued on to finish 2nd. Her complete profile is available here.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Nagano Marathon Announces Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The organizing committee of the 11th Nagano Olympic Commemorative Marathon to be held April 20 has announced the elite fields for the men's and women's competitions.

Headlining the list of invited overseas male runners are 2007 Beijing Marathon and 2006 Nagano Marathon winner Nephat Kinyanjui of Kenya (2:08:09 PB), 2005 Helsinki World Championships marathon silver medalist Christopher Isegwe of Tanzania (2:10:21 PB) and two-time Olympic marathon medalist Eric Wainaina of Kenya (2:08:43 PB). The domestic field is somewhat weak in this Olympic year, but includes veterans Tomohiro Seto (Team Kanebo) and Kazutaka Enoki (Team Toyota Boshoku) along with the marathon debut of half marathon ace Takashi Maeda (Team Toyota Boshoku). Japan-resident Kenyans Willy Kimutai and Willy Kirui Kiptoo will also be debuting and could be factors.

The women's field features former world record holder Tegla Loroupe of Kenya (2:20:43 PB), defending champion Alevtina Ivanova of Russia (2:27:48 PB) and first-time marathoner Asnakech Mengistu of Ethiopia. The domestic field includes three women with PB times under 2:30, namely Miyuki Ando (Team Daiichi Seimei), Mai Tagami (Team Aruze), and Chihiro Tanaka (Team DyDo). Two-time Olympic marathon medalist Rosa Mota of Portugal is scheduled to appear as a guest runner.

A complete list of the elite field is available here.

(c) 2008 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, April 4, 2008

'Takaoka and Tola Lead 2008 Paris Marathon Fields'


Marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka will run Paris this weekend. Takaoka was injured for most of 2006 and spent 2007 in recovery, capping the year with a disappointing run at December's Fukuoka International Marathon. He said later that failing to qualify for the Beijing Olympics has freed him from any pressure and that he feels he can now try some different approaches to the marathon. He was scheduled to run the Ome 30k in February but was thwarted when the race was cancelled due to heavy snow. Takaoka instead ran the Himejijo 10 Miler, winning against many top younger runners. He was scheduled to run the Jitsugyodan Half Marathon in March but had a DNS without comment. Paris will be his first overseas marathon since the 2005 Helsinki World Championships marathon, where he finished 4th.