Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An Update on Eastern European Women in Japan

by Brett Larner

Yesterday it was announced that Russian Albina Mayorova has received a four-year suspension after testing positive for elevated testosterone. Mayorova was a four-time winner of Japan's major women's marathons and a regular at the Tokyo Marathon. Her suspension follows that of a number of other Eastern European women to have won Japanese marathons in the last ten years, including Inga Abitova, Tatiana Aryasova, Mariya Konovalova, and Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko, all five represented by Russian Agent Andrey Baranov and his Spartanik agency. What impact have these and other women from former Soviet nations had on the domestic Japanese women's marathon circuit?

Below is a list of every time one has finished in the top three in one of Japan's five main women's marathons in the last 20 years plus other results by those who later tested positive. During that period, women from former Soviet nations have won Japanese marathons 21 times. Of those, thirteen were by athletes who tested positive or had adverse biological passport findings. Thirteen of the 21 wins were in the last ten years, nine by later suspended athletes.

Looking at top three finishes, in the last 20 years 42 were by former Soviet nation women, 19 of whom were suspended. Of those, 19 came in the last ten years, 11 by suspended athletes. Despite this record, virtually all of the races maintained their relationships with Baranov until very recently. The Saitama International Women's Marathon invited Belarus athlete Maryna Demantsevich to its most recent running in November, 2016.

What has the impact of these performances been on Japanese women? Of the nine times that later-suspended Eastern European women won Japanese marathons in the last ten years, Japanese women came 2nd six times.

  • Kiyoko Shimahara was 2nd to Abitova at the first running of the Yokohama International Women's Marathon in 2009.  
  • In her marathon debut Noriko Higuchi was 2nd to Aryasova at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon. 
  • 2009 Berlin World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki dominated the 2012 Nagoya Women's Marathon while trying to make the London Olympic team, only to have Mayorova blow by with ease in the final kilometers.
  • Azusa Nojiri was 2nd to Mayorova at the 2013 Yokohama International Women's Marathon.
  • Kayoko Fukushi finished 2nd behind Gamera-Shymyrko at the 2013 Osaka International Women's Marathon.  
  • The great Yukiko Akaba was 2nd to Gamera-Shmyrko in Osaka in 2014, a race Akaba had announced as her final race before retiring.

Looking at top three placings, twelve Japanese women were kept out of the top three a total of thirteen times in the last 20 years, nine of them in the last ten years. Former national record holder Yoko Shibui was kept out twice, once by Aryasova in Tokyo 2011 and again by Mayorova in Nagoya a year later. The podium in Japan usually runs eight deep, and looking at that level there are even more.

How might have Higuchi and Fukushi's careers have been different with those early wins?  How might Ozaki have been different in the London Olympics had she gone in a champ instead of running one of the best races of her career and still getting destroyed? Nojiri might have made the 2014 Asian Games had she won in Yokohama, and as a newly-independent runner a win would have had enormous impact on her sponsorship opportunities. Akaba's career would have been capped by a victory on home soil.

All of these came during the post-Beijing Olympics slump during 2009-2014 when Japanese women's marathoning was perceived to be at its weakest and the athletes were regularly subject to hearing that they weren't as good as the people who came before them. What would six big wins have done for their mindset, personally and collectively, to the perception of their true standing in the modern sport, to the standards set for them to chase based on that standing?

Stolen glory and prize money aside, in Japan its greatest champions, international medalists and winners of the biggest domestic marathons, are revered and reap major financial benefits post-career in guest appearances at races and TV commentating work. Being elevated to 1st years later doesn't have the same cachet and does nothing to fix their names in the public's mind. How many people remember that Shimahara was 2nd in Yokohama? How many would have remembered her as the first Yokohama champion?

There's no giving back any of that and no answers to many of those questions, but as things seem to be turning in the right direction here two questions that need public answers are the why and who of this situation persisting for so long even after races had already gotten burned.

Top three placings by Eastern European women in Japan's major women's marathons over the last 20 years.  Athletes whose names are in bold underwent suspensions for positive drug tests or adverse biological passport findings.

Tokyo / Yokohama / Saitama International Women's Marathon
2013
1. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:25:55
2. Azusa Nojiri (Japan) - 2:28:47
3. Jessica Augusto (Portugal) - 2:29:11
4. Mizuho Nasukawa (Japan) - 2:30:27
-----
DNF - Tatyana Filonyuk (Ukraine)

2009
1. Inga Abitova (Russia) - 2:27:18
2. Kiyoko Shimahara (Japan) - 2:28:51
3. Catherina Ndereba (Kenya) - 2:29:13
4. Bruna Genovese (Italy) - 2:29:57
-----
7. Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:32:09

2005
1. Naoko Takahashi (Japan) - 2:24:39
2. Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:25:15
3. Elfenesh Alemu (Ethiopia) - 2:26:50
4. Svetlana Zakharova (Russia) - 2:26:55
5. Mara Yamauchi (Great Britain) - 2:27:38

2003
1. Elfenesh Alemu (Ethiopia) - 2:24:47
2. Naoko Takahashi (Japan) - 2:27:21
3. Kiyoko Shimahara (Japan) - 2:31:10
-----
7. Irina Timofeyeva (Russia) - 2:39:01

2002
1. Banuela Katesigwa (Tanzania) - 2:24:59
2. Rie Matsuoka (Japan) - 2:25:02
3. Irina Timofeyeva (Russia) - 2:26:45
4. Elfenesh Alemu (Ethiopia) - 2:29:31

2001
1. Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) - 2:25:08
2. Irina Timofeyeva (Russia) - 2:25:29
3. Bruna Genovese (Italy) - 2:25:35
4. Constantina Dita (Romania) - 2:26:39

1999
1. Eri Yamaguchi (Japan) - 2:22:12
2. Fatuma Roba (Ethiopia) - 2:27:05
3. Valentina Yegorova (Russia) - 2:28:06
4. Jane Salumae (Estonia) - 2:28:56
5. Masako Chiba (Japan) - 2:29:00

Osaka International Women's Marathon
2015
1. Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) - 2:22:09
2. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:24:07
3. Risa Shigetomo (Japan) - 2:26:39
4. Yuko Watanabe (Japan) - 2:28:36
5. Chieko Kido (Japan) - 2:29:08

2014
1. Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) - 2:24:37
2. Yukiko Akaba (Japan) - 2:26:00
3. Karolina Jarzynska (Poland) - 2:26:31
4. Sairi Maeda (Japan) - 2:26:46
5. Mara Lema (Ethiopia) - 2:28:06
6. Natalia Puchkova (Russia) - 2:28:44

2013
1. Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) - 2:23:58
2. Kayoko Fukushi (Japan) - 2:24:21
3. Yuko Watanabe (Japan) - 2:25:56
4. Mari Ozaki (Japan) - 2:26:41
DNF - Mariya Konovalova (Russia)

2012
1. Risa Shigetomo (Japan) - 2:23:23
2. Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine) - 2:24:46
3. Azusa Nojiri (Japan) - 2:24:57
4. Chika Horie (Japan) - 2:28:35
DNF - Lidiya Grigoryeva (Russia)

2005
1. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:22:56
2. Mari Ozaki (Japan) - 2:23:59
3. Harumi Hiroyama (Japan) - 2:25:56
4. Miki Oyama (Japan) - 2:26:55

1999
1. Lyubov Morgunova (Russia) - 2:27:43
2. Mayumi Ichikawa (Japan) - 2:27:57
3. Hiromi Ominami (Japan) - 2:30:19
4. Masae Ueoka (Japan) - 2:32:41

1998
1. Naoko Takahashi (Japan) - 2:25:48
2. Madina Biktagirova (Russia) - 2:27:19
3. Harumi Hiroyama (Japan) - 2:28:12
4. Tomoko Kai (Japan) - 2:28:13

Tokyo Marathon
2015
1. Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:23:15
2. Helah Kiprop (Kenya) - 2:24:03
3. Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) - 2:24:26
-----
8. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:34:21
9. Yukari Abe (Japan) - 2:34:43

2014
1. Tirfi Tsegaye (Ethiopia) - 2:22:23
2. Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:22:30
3. Lucy Kabuu (Kenya) - 2:24:16
-----
6. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:28:18
7. Mai Ito (Japan) - 2:28:36

2013
1. Aberu Kebede (Ethiopia) - 2:25:34
2. Yeshi Esayias (Ethiopia) - 2:26:01
3. Irina Mikitenko (Germany) - 2:26:41
4. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:26:51
5. Yoshimi Ozaki (Japan) - 2:28:30

2011
1. Tatiana Aryasova (Russia) - 2:27:29
2. Noriko Higuchi (Japan) - 2:28:49
3. Tatiana Arkhipova (Russia) - 2:28:56
4. Yoko Shibui (Japan) - 2:29:03
5. Misaki Katsumata (Japan) - 2:31:10

2010
1. Alevtina Biktimirova (Russia) - 2:34:39
2. Robe Tola (Ethiopia) - 2:36:29
3. Nuta Olaru (Romania) - 2:36:42
4. Maki Kono (Japan) - 2:39:01

Nagoya Women's Marathon
2015
1. Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) - 2:22:08
2. Mariya Konovalova (Russia) - 2:22:27
3. Sairi Maeda (Japan) - 2:22:48
4. Mai Ito (Japan) - 2:24:42

2014
1. Mariya Konovalova (Russia) - 2:23:43
2. Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) - 2:24:07
3. Ryoko Kizaki (Japan) - 2:25:26
4. Eri Hayakawa (Japan) - 2:25:31
5. Tomomi Tanaka (Japan) - 2:26:05
-----
26. Zivile Balciunaite (Lithuania) - 2:36:59

2012
1. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:23:52
2. Yoshimi Ozaki (Japan) - 2:24:14
3. Remi Nakazato (Japan) - 2:24:28
4. Yoko Shibui (Japan) - 2:25:02
-----
7. Olena Shurkhno (Ukraine) - 2:25:49

2010
1. Yuri Kano (Japan) - 2:27:11
2. Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) - 2:28:13
3. Hiromi Ominami (Japan) - 2:28:35
-----
19. Tatyana Aryasova (Russia) - 2:41:03
DNF - Lyubov Denisova (Russia)

2003
1. Takami Ominami (Japan) - 2:25:03
2. Risa Hagiwara (Japan) - 2:28:14
3. Irina Bogacheva (Kyrgyzstan) - 2:28:17
4. Eriko Amo (Japan) - 2:28:57

Nagano Marathon
2014
1. Alina Prokopyeva (Russia) - 2:30:56
2. Rika Shintaku (Japan) - 2:36:02
3. Shoko Shimizu (Japan) - 2:37:21
4. Risa Takemura (Japan) - 2:37:43

2013
1. Natalya Puchkova (Russia) - 2:30:40
2. Beatrice Mutai (Kenya) - 2:36:51
3. Seika Iwamura (Japan) - 2:41:19
4. Mika Okunaga (Japan) - 2:44:21

2010
1. Lisa-Jane Weightman (Australia) - 2:28:48
2. Olena Burkovska (Ukraine) - 2:31:53
3. Eri Hayakawa (Japan) - 2:33:05
4. Kiyoko Shimahara (Japan) - 2:34:46
DNF - Irina Timofeyeva (Russia)

2009
1. Irina Timofeyeva (Russia) - 2:30:08
2. Irene Limika (Kenya) - 2:30:50
3. Akemi Ozaki (Japan) - 2:31:18
4. Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) - 2:34:17
5. Tatiana Aryasova (Russia) - 2:34:32

2008
1. Alevtina Ivanova (Russia) - 2:26:39
2. Katherine Smith (Australia) - 2:28:51
3. Donta Gruca (Poland) - 2:31:54
4. Miyuki Ando (Japan) - 2:34:25

2007
1. Alevtina Ivanova (Russia) - 2:27:49
2. Dire Tune (Ethiopia) - 2:28:59
3. Lyubov Morgunova (Russia) - 2:29:34
4. Lidia Simon (Romania) - 2:34:48
5. Askanech Mengistu (Ethiopia) - 2:37:39

2006
1. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:28:52
2. Sylvia Skvortsova (Russia) - 2:29:28
3. Nina Rillstone (New Zealand) - 2:29:46
4. Yoshimi Hoshino (Japan) - 2:36:56
5. Atsede Baysa (Ethiopia) - 2:39:21

2005
1. Albina Mayorova (Russia) - 2:28:21
2. Lidia Simon (Ukraine) - 2:31:20
3. Derartu Tulu (Ethiopia) - 2:31:58
4. Gladys Asiba (Kenya) - 2:36:12

2004
1. Fatuma Roba (Ethiopia) - 2:28:05
2. Valentina Yegorova (Russia) - 2:31:47
3. Nataliya Berkut (Ukraine) - 2:32:49
4. Alevtina Ivanova (Russia) - 2:33:09
5. Asami Obi (Japan) - 2:33:34
6. Yoshimi Hoshino (Japan) - 2:37:48
7. Madina Biktagirova (Russia) - 2:38:48

2003
1. Madina Biktagirova (Russia) - 2:28:23
2. Alevtina Ivanova (Russia) - 2:29:05
3. Fatuma Roba (Ethiopia) - 2:31:05
4. Hisae Yoshimatsu (Japan) - 2:32:17
5. Tomoe Yokoyama (Japan) - 2:36:27

2002
1. Madina Biktagirova (Russia) - 2:26:09
2. Fatuma Roba (Ethiopia) - 2:27:16
3. Dorota Gruca (Poland) - 2:31:08
4. Masako Koide (Japan) - 2:32:21
5. Irina Bogacheva (Kyrgyzstan) - 2:32:54

2001
1. Akiyo Onishi (Japan) - 2:31:20
2. Chihiro Tanaka (Japan) - 2:32:05
3. Natalia Galushko (Belarus) - 2:32:51
4. Hideko Yoshimura (Japan) - 2:37:49

2000
1. Elfenesh Alemu (Ethiopia) - 2:24:55
2. Valentina Yegorova (Russia) - 2:26:26
3. Alla Zhilyayeva (Russia) - 2:28:27
4. Chika Horie (Japan) - 2:29:12
5. Naoko Sato (Japan) - 2:35:31

1999
1. Valentina Yegorova (Russia) - 2:28:41
2. Elfenesh Alemu (Ethiopia) - 2:28:59
3. Malgorzata Sobanska (Poland) - 2:31:02
4. Xiu-juan Ren (China) - 2:33:58

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

'Russian Marathon Runner Mayorova Banned for Doping’

http://www.wyff4.com/article/russian-marathon-runner-mayorova-banned-for-doping/9549591

Albina Mayorova won the 2005 and 2006 Nagano Marathon, the 2012 Nagoya Women's Marathon, and the 2013 Yokohama International Women's Marathon. The runners-up in Nagoya and Yokohama were Yoshimi Ozaki and Azusa Nojiri, both of whom had been coached by 1991 Tokyo World Championships silver medalist Sachiko Yamashita. Ozaki, the 2009 Berlin World Championships silver medalist, made the London Olympic team in Nagoya. A victory there might have put her in more of a winner's mindset going into the Olympic Games, where she ran badly. After not making the London Olympics Nojiri left the Daiichi Seimei corporate team to go the private sponsor route. A win in Yokohama would have had an enormous impact on her sponsorship opportunities and could have led to her running for Japan at the 2014 Asian Games.

At the time of Mayorova's Nagoya win over five years ago, JRN wrote:
Russian veteran Albina Mayorova ran a massive negative split of over two minutes to effortlessly blow by Japan's best in the final part of the race and take the win in 2:23:52, nearly two minutes better than her 8 1/2 year-old PB. Tumbling in the turbulence behind her [was] 2009 World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei).

While the lead pack of Japanese Olympic hopefuls set off at 2:23-flat pace, splitting exactly 1:11:30 at halfway, Mayorova and Ukrainian Olena Shurkhno ran a more conservative 1:13:00 first half. Both Mayorova and Shurkhno then turned it on, picking up the pace and catching stragglers from the lead pack one by one. The 34-year-old Mayorova, consistently at the 2:28-2:31 level since 2005 with a 2:25:35 best from the 2003 Chicago Marathon, split a stunning 1:10:52 for the second half, while Shurkhno managed a more modest 1:12:49 second half to take nearly three minutes off her best from last year's downhill Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon.

Both clocked 7:20 for the final 2.195 km, the fastest in the field, to join other Eastern European women from the same athlete management firm, including the runner-up at January's Osaka International Women's Marathon Tetiana Gamera-Shmyrko (Ukraine), 2011 Chicago Marathon winner Liliya Shobukhova (Russia) and 2011 Tokyo Marathon first and third placers Tatiana Aryasova (Russia) and Tatiana Petrova (Russia), in a remarkably consistent pattern of success over the last year: a negative split with the fastest last 2.195 km in the race, the kind of closing splits more commonly run by men. Combined with this race strategy, this group's seemingly innovative training methods make for a nearly unbeatable combination. Amazing.
In the five years since then Gamera-Shmyrko, Shobukhova and Arvasova have all been suspended for biological passport irregularities and doping violations. Shobukhova went on to coach newly-elevated Rio Olympics marathon 4th-placer Volha Mazuronak (Belarus), who like the other Eastern European athletes above was represented by disgraced Russian agent Andrey Baranov and ran with the group's familiar race strategy.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ndiku Over Tanui, a World-Leader From Ekarare, and More - Weekend Track Roundup

by Brett Larner

Along with the weekend's road action there were high-level track meets and time trials all across the country.  The biggest was the two-day Hyogo Relay Carnival in Kobe.  Highlights from Hyogo:

  • In Saturday's Asics Challenge men's 10000 m, Simon Kariuki (Nihon Yakka Univ.) ran 27:55.10 to outrun Hakone Ekiden star Dominic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) for the win.  Ken Yokote (Team Fujitsu) delivered the fastest Japanese time so far in 2017, running 28:04.51 for 3rd.  In his first race since running 1:00:57 at last month's United Airlines NYC Half, Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) was 6th in 28:24.13.  Samuel Mwangi (Team Konica Minolta) stopped mid-race and was carried off the track on a stretcher.
  • Two-time World Junior Championships gold medalist Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) outkicked Rio Olympic silver medalist Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko) to win Sunday's Grand Prix men's 10000 m in 27:39.40.  Tanui was 2nd in 27:45.85, holding off 2014 World Junior Championships bronze medalist Nicholas Kosimbei (Team Toyota) who took 3rd in 27:48.51.  Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) was the top Japanese man at 4th in 28:07.23, with Tokyo Marathon debutants Takashi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei) and Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) next in 28:14.14 and 28:15.40.  National record holder Kota Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) was a DNS.
  • Yuka Hori (Team Panasonic) led the entire way in the Grand Prix women's 10000 m only to get outkicked over the last lap by Mizuki Matsuda (Team Daihatsu) and Sakiho Tsutsui (Team Yamada Denki).  Matsuda took the win in 32:15.85 with Tsutsui 2nd in 32:16.44 and Hori 3rd in 32:22.18.  Running in the same pack with the top three throughout the race, Felista Wanjugu (Team Univ. Ent.) was tripped from behind by Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) at 8800 m and fell hard, ultimately finishing 15th in 33:11.56.
  • After running the fastest-ever marathon by an under-20 Japanese woman earlier this year, 2:27:08 for 4th in Tokyo, 19-year-old Ayaka Fujimoto (Team Kyocera) returned to racing with a 16:14.24 for 8th in the Asics Challenge women's 5000 m.
  • Already all-time Japanese #4 in the women's 3000 m steeplechase, Misaki Sango (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) came 0.87 seconds short of her PB but took more than 4 seconds off her own meet record as she won in 9:50.72.  The meet record also fell in the under-18 girls' 2000 m steeplechase, with Yuka Nosue (Kitakyushu Municipal H.S.) setting a new mark of 6:40.69.
  • The top seven all broke the meet record the under-18 boys' 3000 m.  With a powerful kick over the last lap Ren Tazawa (Aomori Yamada H.S.) took the win in 8:18.05.  7th-placer Reo Sato (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) was more than a second under the old MR in 8:25.37.

At this year's first edition of the Nittai University Time Trials series in Kanagawa:

  • Helen Ekarare (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) ran a PB 8:53.70, the fastest under-20 time in the world so far this year, to win the women's 3000 m A-heat.  Shuri Ogasawara (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) was the top Japanese woman, 2nd in 9:07.85.
  • Nyairo's rival for the top Kenyan on the Hakone Ekiden circuit, Patrick Wambui (Nihon Univ.) won the 10000 m A-heat in 28:04.85 in a near photo-finish with pro Bernard Kimanyi (Team Yakult).
  • Newcomer Evans Keitany (Team Toyota Boshoku) won a four-way Kenyan sprint finish to top the men's 5000 m A-heat in 13:43.21.  Just off the leaders, Yuta Bando (Hosei Univ.) had a major breakthrough as he broke 14 minutes for the first time to take 6th in 13:49.78.  After going sub-2:10 in his second marathon at February's Tokyo Marathon, Yuma Hattori (Team Toyota) returned to the track with a 14:04.64 for 15th.
  • Kazuya Nishiyama (Toyo Univ.) won the men's 5000 m B-heat in 13:51.58.  Fresh from quitting the Konica Minolta corporate team and running as an independent, Keita Shitara, twin brother of Yuta, had his best race since last April's Nittai Time Trials, running 13:59.07 for 8th. Post-race Shitara said that he hopes to have a new corporate team lined up by June and plans to run his marathon debut in Fukuoka this December.

At Saitama's Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials:

  • All-time Asian junior #3 in the half marathon after running 1:02:05 at last November's Ageo City Half Marathon, Akira Aizawa (Toyo Univ.) edged Ethiopian pro Kassa Mekashaw (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) by less than a second for the win in the 10000 m in a PB 28:44.19.
  • Mekashaw's teammate Abiyot Abinet (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) had an easy win in the 5000 m A-heat in 13:51.24, the only runner to go under 14 minutes.

At the Cardinal Classic meet in the U.S.:

  • Takeshi Okada (Univ. of California Berkeley) won the 3000 m steeplechase in a PB of 8:53.35.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Jepkosgei Breaks Gifu Seiryu Half Course Record

by Brett Larner

Just three weeks after her world record run at the Prague Half Marathon, Joyclinie Jepkosgei blew apart the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon with one of the fastest women's half marathons ever run on Japanese soil.  Solo from the start, Jepkosgei hit 5 km in 15:08, just 12 seconds behind the second men's pack led by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't).  As in her WR run Jepkosgei faded progressively the rest of the way, but with a lead of over a minute at 10 km there was never any danger of her being caught.

Jepkosgei became the first woman to break 68 minutes in hilly Gifu, setting a new course record of 1:07:44.  Running the race a little more evenly, runner-up Belaynesh Oljira (Ethiopia) was also under the old course record, 2nd in 1:08:19.  London World Championships women's marathon team leader Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) returned to the roads for the first time since her 2:21:36 debut at last month's Nagoya Women's Marathon, running 1:12:12 for 3rd, with her London teammate-to-be Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC)  5th in 1:12:41.  Returning to Japan after breaking 2:30 for the first time at Feburary's Tokyo Marathon, Sara Hall (U.S.A.) took 7th in 1:14:40.

Despite a solid international men's field to celebrate Gifu's first edition as the first IAAF gold label half marathon in Japan, Japan-based Kenyans dominated the overseas and domestic competition.  An almost all-African lead pack of at least fifteen went through 5 km in 14:26, shaking off Japanese runners Takafumi Kikuchi (Team SGH Holdings) and Ayumu Hisaibaru (Team Kurosaki Harima) and a few others to whittle down to eleven as they hit 10 km in 29:05.  By 15 km that was down to five, and over the last five km the Japan-based pair of Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/Team ND Software) and Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) pulled away.  Battling all the way to the finish line, both clocked 1:00:57 with Mutiso given the win.  Last year's Marugame Half winner Paul Kuira (Kenya/Team Konica Minolta) took 3rd in 1:01:19.

With lower temperatures thanks to a move from May to April and the absence of perennial Gifu top Japanese man Yusei Nakao (Smiley Angel AC), Kawauchi was optimistic of scoring the top Japanese position for the first time.  Leading the second pack the entire way he ran down early front pack runner Hisaibaru but came up short of catching Kikuchi.  Kikuchi took 14th in 1:03:50 with Kawauchi 15th in 1:04:06.

Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon Top Results
Gifu, 4/23/17
click here for complete results

Women
1. Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya) - 1:07:44 - CR
2. Belaynesh Oljira (Ethiopia) - 1:08:19 (CR)
3. Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:12:12
4. Mimi Belete (Bahrain) - 1:12:22
5. Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:12:41
6. Sayo Nomura (Uniqlo) - 1:12:51
7. Sara Hall (U.S.A.) - 1:14:40
8. Marie Imada (Iwatani Sangyo) - 1:15:03
9. Yuko Mizuguchi (Denso) - 1:16:49
10. Rina Asano (Aichi Denki) - 1:17:33
11. Kie Watanabe (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:17:51
12. Lillian Partridge (Great Britain) - 1:18:14

Men
1. Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) - 1:00:57
2. Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) - 1:00:57
3. Paul Kuira (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 1:01:19
4. Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 1:01:27
5. Kenneth Keter (Kenya) - 1:01:48
6. Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) - 1:02:26
7. Goitom Kifle (Eritrea) - 1:02:27
8. Joel Mwaura (Kenya/Kurosaki Harima) - 1:02:32
9. Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) - 1:02:33
10. Patrick Muendo Mwaka (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 1:03:27
11. James Rungaru (Kenya/Chuo Hatsujo) - 1:03:45
12. Charles Ndungu (Kenya/Komori Corp.) - 1:03:48
13. Michael Githae (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:03:49
14. Takafumi Kikuchi (SGH Holdings) - 1:03:50
15. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:04:06
-----
DNF - Yonas Mebrahtu (U.S.A.)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Marathon Japanese National Team Selection Policy


http://www.jaaf.or.jp/files/article/document/10127-0.pdf

translated by Brett Larner

April 18, 2017
Japan Association of Athletics Federations

1. Selection Policy

With the aim of winning medals at the Olympic Games, we will select a Japanese national team comprised of athletes who have demonstrated the capability to perform at the maximum of their abilities in key race situations and who possess the speed necessary to compete at the world level.

2. Selection Competitions

     ( 1 ) Marathon Grand Champion Race (referred to hereafter as MGC Race), scheduled to be held Sept. 2019 or later

     ( 2 ) MGC Series

          1 ) Men
               ・71st and 72nd Fukuoka International Marathon
               ・Tokyo Marathon 2018 and 2019
               ・73rd and 74th Biwako Mainichi Marathon
               ・67th and 68th Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
               ・Hokkaido Marathon 2017 and 2018

          2 ) Women
               ・3rd and 4th Saitama International Marathon
               ・37th and 38th Osaka International Women's Marathon
               ・Nagoya Women's Marathon 2018 and 2019
               ・Hokkaido Marathon 2017 and 2018

     ( 3 ) MGC Final Challenge

          1 ) Men
               ・73rd Fukuoka International Marathon
               ・Tokyo Marathon 2020
               ・75th Biwako Mainichi Marathon

          2 ) Women
               ・5th Saitama International Marathon
               ・39th Osaka International Women's Marathon
               ・Nagoya Women's Marathon 2020
               ・Hokkaido Marathon 2017 and 2018

3. Selection Criteria

Based on the above organization policy, Japanese national representatives will be selected in the following order of priority.

     ( 1 ) Winner of the MGC Race.

     ( 2 ) From among the 2nd and 3rd place finishers in the MGC Race, the higher-placing finisher who has cleared the MGC Race Selection Time Standard.

     ( 3 ) If no athletes meet selection criterion ( 2 ), the 2nd-place finisher in the MGC Race.

     ( 4 ) The highest-ranked competitor from among athletes who clear the MGC Final Challenge Selection Time Standard.  However, this is subject to having run in (finished) MGC Series races or having qualified for the MGC Race.

     ( 5 ) If no athletes meet selection criterion (4 ), the 2nd or 3rd-place finishers in the MGC Race not meeting selection criterion ( 2 ).

4. Selection Procedure

     ( 1 ) Selection according to selection criteria ( 1 ), ( 2 ) and ( 3 ) will be immediate upon the completion of the MGC Race.

     ( 2 ) Selection according to selection criteria ( 4 ) and ( 5 ) will be immediate upon the completion of all designated men's and women's MGC Final Challenge races.

5. Selection Time Standards

     ( 1 ) MGC Race Selection Time Standard
          time:     Men: 2:05:30     women: 2:21:00
          eligible period:     Aug. 1, 2017 to Apr. 30, 2019
          eligible competitions:     Races certified by the IAAF as world record-elligible.

     ( 2 ) MGC Final Challenge Selection Time Standard
          time:     To be determined by the Development Committee following the closure of qualification for the MGC Race.  Scheduled to be announced in May, 2019.
          eligible competitions:     MGC Final Challenge

6. Alternate Athletes

     ( 1 ) In the event that an athlete is selected according to selection criterion ( 4 ), the 2nd or 3rd-place finisher in the MGC Race who was not selected to the Olympic Team and the 4th-place finisher will be selected as alternates.

     ( 2 ) In the event that no athlete is selected according to selection criterion (4 ), the 4th and 5th-place finishers in the MGC Race will be selected as alternates.

7. MGC Race Qualification

Athletes who meet the following conditions will be granted qualification for the MGC Race.

     ( 1 ) MGC Series (2017 and 2018 fiscal years)
          Athletes who satisfy the following requirements for Japanese finisher placing and time in the specified races.  Athletes who have already qualified for the MGC Race will not be included in the Japanese finisher placings.  [click to enlarge]

          1 ) Men


          2 ) Women


     ( 2 ) Wildcard

          1 ) Athletes who meet either of the following two criteria in any competition certified by the IAAF as world record-eligible between Aug. 1, 2017 and Apr. 30, 2019.

               (1) Men who run faster than 2:08:30 and women who run faster than 2:24:00.

               (2) Men who average faster than 2:11:00 and women who average faster than 2:28:00 in their two fastest marathons within the eligible period above.

          2 ) Athletes who finish in the top 8 at the 16th World Championships (London, 2017)

          3 ) Athletes who finish in the top 3 at the 18th Asian Games (Jakarta, 2018)

          4 ) If not a single athlete meets the MGC Race qualifying standards due to weather or other conditions in any MGC Series competition, the Development Committee may designate individual athletes as having run the equivalent of the standards.

8. Other

     ( 1 ) In the event that any selected athlete is unable to demonstrate adequate fitness prior to the Olympic Games due to injury or other issues, they will be replaced on the National Team by designated alternates.

     ( 2 ) The above selection requirements will be confirmed pending finalization of the Olympic participation qualifications stipulated by the IOC and IAAF.

     ( 3 ) The Olympic Games marathons will be held in Tokyo between July 31 and Aug. 9, 2020.


ENDS

Commetary: 

This is the JAAF's attempt to move toward a U.S.-style one-shot Olympic Trials race for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  To summarize, within the next two years Japanese athletes have to run sub-2:11 or sub-2:28, tweaked for a few tougher races, in major domestic marathons, sub-2:08:30 or sub-2:24 in overseas marathons, or place well at the 2017 London World Championships or 2018 Jakarta Asian Games in order to get into the Olympic Trials race, aka the MGC Race.  With a few provisions for fast times, basically the top two at the MGC Race will be named to the Olympic team.  

The timing of the MGC Race during the 2019-20 winter season means that the existing series of selection races, designated above as the MGC Final Challenge, would be made irrelevant to 2020 selection.  Given that the JAAF relies heavily on those races for sponsor income, they've inserted a wildcard option for the third spot on each team to keep that season's races meaningful. Anyone who clears TBA standards that season in the MGC Final Challenge races will pick up the third spot, which will go to the 3rd-placer at the MGC Race if nobody runs fast enough.

A few observations:
  1. The Tokyo Marathon, the fastest women's marathon in Japan, remains mostly excluded as an option for Japanese women to make national teams.  This year the top Japanese woman in Tokyo, Ayaka Fujimoto, was 4th overall in 2:27:08, a performance that would meet the qualifying standards for any of the four women's MGC Series races.  However, while it has been impossible for Japanese women to make a national team in Tokyo, the new procedure does introduce a window: if a Japanese woman clears 2:24:00 in Tokyo, a record-eligible course, or averages under 2:28:00 between Tokyo and one other race, she will qualify for the MGC Race under the wildcard provisions.
  2. Overseas races are also largely excluded from the selection process.  Although Japanese athletes can theoretically qualify for the MGC Race by running sub-2:08:30 or sub-2:24:00 at record-eligible overseas races, only eight Japanese men and five Japanese women have ever run those times abroad, the most recent being Yuki Kawauchi at the 2013 Seoul International Marathon and Mizuki Noguchi at the 2005 Berlin Marathon.
  3. If run during the eligible period, high-level World Marathon Major performances such as Yukiko Akaba's 3rd-place finish at the 2013 London Marathon in 2:24:43 or Suguru Osako's 3rd-place debut earlier this week at the Boston Marathon in 2:10:28 would not by themselves qualify the athletes for the MGC Race under the wildcard criteria, not being fast enough or, in Osako's case, not having been run on a record-elligible course.  For the same reason Osako's time would also not count toward the two-race average option.
  4. There is a wild disparity in the men's and women's time standards.  The Japanese men's NR is 2:06:16, 3:19 off the WR.  The women's NR is 2:19:12, 3:47 off the WR.  Three Japanese men have run 2:06 times and three Japanese women 2:19, showing that the records are reasonably equivalent.  To qualify for the MGC Race, men must run within 4:44 of the NR, while in the main races women only have to run within 9:48 of the NR.  For the MGC Race Selection Time Standard Japanese men have to run more than 46 seconds faster than the NR, a time no non-African-born runner has ever run on a record-elligible course, while women have to run within 1:48 of the NR.  Given the lower numbers of female athletes this is no doubt intended to produce roughly equal numbers of competitors in the men's and women's MGC Races, but the fact remains that the barrier to making the Olympic team has been set far higher for Japanese men.
  5. While the qualifying standards for the U.S. Olympic Trials are arguably over-inclusive, the MGC Race standards will result in very small fields of around fifteen men and fifteen women.  In the last two-year period equivalent to the above window of eligibility, sixteen men and fifteen women met the qualifying standards.  Applying the same window to the 2016 Rio Olympics, fourteen men and twelve women qualified.  
  6. Dependent upon the TBA MGC Final Challenge Selection Time Standard, Hisanori Kitajima, the last-placing member of the Rio men's team, would not have made the Olympic team or even qualified for the MGC Race under the new procedure.  The new system is designed in part to keep inexperienced athletes like Kitajima who make a breakthrough in the Olympic year off the team.
  7. The exclusion of the 2019 Doha World Championships from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics selection procedure makes running on the national team at Doha a major minus for any top-level Japanese athletes.  Given that a strong performance in heat in Doha might be a good indicator of success in the Tokyo heat a year later it seems reasonable that there might be provisions for being named to the Tokyo team, or, as is the case for the Jakarta Asian Games at least the MGC Race, in the event of medalling in Doha, or for wildcard qualification for the MGC Race for a top eight finish in Doha the same way that has been designated for London. As a result, the Doha marathon teams may be weakest Japanese marathon squads in modern history.
  8. The MGC Race is likely be held on the Tokyo Olympics course during the winter.  The U.S. Trials for Rio in L.A. did a good job of finding people who could perform in similarly warm and sunny conditions at the Olympics.  The JAAF could stand to learn from that example and hold the MGC Race somewhere warm like Okinawa, Honolulu or Guam.  Like the U.S. Trials, pairing it with Okinawa's ~15,000-runner Naha Marathon or the ~20,000 runner Honolulu Marathon, holding the MGC Race on Saturday on a loop course so that the people running the mass-participation race the next day can come out to cheer, would go a long way toward maximizing the event's popularity along with allowing an approximation of the conditions runners will face at the Olympics.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Boston Marathon - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner


Asian junior half marathon record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) made a successful transition to the marathon at the Boston Marathon, finishing 3rd in 2:10:28 in his debut over the distance.  Always hanging near the rear of the lead pack, Osako appeared relaxed and never stressed when the pace changed, taking his time in catching back up whenever one of the frontline men threw in a surge.  Osako lost touch during the final battle between eventual winner Geoffrey Kirui (Kenya) and NOP teammate Galen Rupp but pushed on to keep 3rd, Kirui breaking the tape in 2:09:37 and Rupp 2nd in 2:09:58.

Osako's 2:10:28 was the third-fastest ever by a Japanese man on the Boston course and made him just the second to break 2:11 in Boston after fellow Waseda University graduate Toshihiko Seko's 2:09:37 win in 1981 and 2:10:13 runner-up finish in 1979.  Given the heat of the day it was an encouraging step toward representing Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Running his second marathon, Hiroki Sugawa, coached by Seko at the DeNA corporate team, ran with Osako through 10 km before dropping out.  Fellow sub-elites Kaito Iwasa (Chuo Univ.) and Hiroki Kai (Team Raffine) were non-factors, well off their bests in 2:27:11 and 2:35:51.

Sub-elite women Kana Kurosawa (Team Hitachi) and Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu), like the three sub-elite men appearing through the Boston Marathon's partnership with the Katsuta Marathon and Ome 30 km, went out with the lead group of women during the slow early miles before dropping back.  Running Boston for the second year in a row, Kurosawa missed her PB by 15 seconds as she finished in 2:43:18 for 25th, still a five-minute improvement over her time last year.  Utsunomiya, a 1:13:39 half-marathoner, was totally unprepared for the big leagues, finishing in 3:06:49.

121st Boston Marathon
Boston, U.S.A., 4/17/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Geoffrey Kirui (Kenya) - 2:09:37
2. Galen Rupp (U.S.A.) - 2:09:58
3. Suguru Osako (Japan) - 2:10:28 - debut
4. Shadrack Biwott (U.S.A.) - 2:12:08
5. Wilson Chebet (Kenya) - 2:12:35
6. Abdi Abdirahman (U.S.A.) - 2:12:45
7. Augustus Maiyo (U.S.A.) - 2:13:16
8. Dino Sefir (Ethiopia) - 2:14:26
9. Luke Puskedra (U.S.A.) - 2:14:45
10. Jared Ward (U.S.A.) - 2:15:28
-----
39. Kaito Iwasa (Japan) - 2:27:11
94. Hiroki Kai (Japan) - 2:35:51
DNF - Hiroki Sugawa (Japan)

Women
1. Edna Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:21:52
2. Rose Chelimo (Kenya) - 2:22:51
3. Jordan Hasay (U.S.A.) - 2:23:00
4. Desiree Linden (U.S.A.) - 2:25:06
5. Gladys Cherono (Kenya) - 2:27:20
6. Valentine Kipketer (Kenya) - 2:29:35
7. Buzunesh Deba (Ethiopia) - 2:30:58
8. Brigid Kosgei (Kenya) - 2:31:48
9. Diane Nukuri (Burundi) - 2:32:24
10. Ruti Aga (Ethiopia) - 2:33:26
-----
25. Kana Kurosawa (Japan) - 2:43:18
158. Ami Utsunomiya (Japan) - 3:06:49 - debut

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, April 16, 2017

On Osako in Boston

by Brett Larner

U.S.-based for the last few years as part of the Nike Oregon Project, Suguru Osako makes his marathon debut at tomorrow's Boston Marathon.  It's had the Japanese media and other critics clucking that the choice of Boston "goes against the conventional wisdom of Japanese long distance" and that Boston's one-way, net downhill course means that he's more likely to run a fast time but that it "won't count."  The idea that Boston is a waste of time for Japanese runners because it's not record-elligible is a relatively recent one.  There's a pretty good argument to be made that the era of Japan's greatest strength as a marathon power lined up reasonably well with when the best Japanese marathoners were regularly in Boston and winning or placing, that once the powers that be decided Boston was off-limits to the best due to the risk of "wasting" a good one on a record-inelligible course Japanese marathoners stopped being competitive racers internationally as a whole.  Correlation, not causation, but it's hard to deny the history.

Osako being in the U.S. means he has other voices whispering in his ear, one of them a past Boston winner, so it's not that surprising to see him pick the United States' premier marathon for his debut.  He's got a solid cross country background, always a plus on the Boston course, going back all the way to his days at Saku Chosei H.S. under progressive head coach Hayashi Morozumi, and showed potential for longer distances with an Asian junior half marathon area record 1:01:47 win at the Ageo City Half Marathon his first year at Waseda University and some brilliant runs at the Hakone Ekiden in the next few years after that. A 1:01:13 PB at February's Marugame Half Marathon, his first half since his 2010 Ageo win, was encouraging.  How could he do in Boston?  It's tempting to read his last pre-Boston race, a 1:04:12 win at an amateur-level half marathon mid-March, as a marathon pace run, but looking again toward history, this is how the top ten Japanese performances in Boston and top ten Japanese marathon debuts line up:

All-time Japanese Boston Marathon Top Ten
  1. 2:09:27 - Toshihiko Seko, 1st, 1981
  2. 2:10:13 - Toshihiko Seko, 2nd, 1979
  3. 2:11:02 - Hiromi Taniguchi, 4th, 1993
  4. 2:11:32 - Kenjiro Jitsui, 6th, 2006
  5. 2:11:50 - Toshihiko Seko, 1st, 1987
  6. 2:13:15 - Takayuki Inubushi, 10th, 1998
  7. 2:13:40 - Tomoyuki Taniguchi, 5th, 1987
  8. 2:13:49 - Yoshiaki Unetani, 1st, 1969
  9. 2:13:55 - Akinori Kuramata, 11th, 1998
  10. 2:14:10 - Futoshi Shinohara, 9th, 1990

All-time Japanese Debut Marathon Top Ten
  1. 2:08:12 - Masakazu Fujiwara, 3rd, Lake Biwa 2003
  2. 2:08:53 - Koichi Morishita, 1st, Beppu-Oita 1991
  3. 2:09:03 - Yoshinori Oda, 4th, Tokyo 2011
  4. 2:09:12 - Tomoyuki Morita, 5th, Lake Biwa 2012
  5. 2:09:23 - Tomoya Shimizu, 5th, Lake Biwa 2008
  6. 2:09:27 - Yuta Shitara, 11th, Tokyo 2017
  7. 2:09:38 - Noriaki Igarashi, 4th, Fukuoka 1998
  8. 2:09:39 - Fumihiro Maruyama, 6th, Lake Biwa 2016
  9. 2:09:41 - Toshinari Takaoka, 3rd, Fukuoka 2001
  10. 2:09:50 - Atsushi Sato, 4th, Lake Biwa 2000

Historically speaking, anything under 2:14 would be a pretty solid performance in Boston for Osako. Under 2:12 would put him near the top of the ladder.  Only one Japanese man, fellow Waseda grad Toshihiko Seko, has ever gone sub-2:10 in Boston.  No Japanese man has ever debuted sub-2:10 outside Japan, but then again none of the ones who ran that fast the first time out was based in the States.  He's in something of a lose-lose situation; if he fails one contingent back home will say, "You see?"  If he succeeds the same people will say, "It doesn't count."  Let's hope he's got it in him not to care in the slightest either way.

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Daichi Kamino Out of Gifu Seiryu Half With Achilles Injury After JAAF Marathon Training Camp

https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170414-00000013-sph-spo

translated by Brett Larner

Former Hakone Ekiden uphill star Daichi Kamino (23, Team Konica Minolta) has withdrawn from next week's Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon with pain in his right Achilles tendon after attending a JAAF marathon training camp in Nelson, New Zealand focused toward developing high-potential candidates for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics men's marathon team.  Kamino went to the training camp on Mar. 22 along with this year's Hakone Ekiden Second Stage winner Kengo Suzuki (21, Kanagawa Univ.) and other young talent.  Under JAAF direction they did marathon-specific training such as 50 km runs, but near the end of the camp Kamino sustained the injury.  He returned to Japan on Apr. 14 as originally scheduled.  Kamino will try to recover in time for his planned marathon debut at December's Fukuoka International Marathon.

Ito and Mutgaa Win Nagano Marathon

by Brett Larner

Sunny and unseasonably warm conditions meant slower than usual times at the Nagano Marathon's 19th running.  Racheal Jemutai Mutgaa took the women's race out in 17:55 for the first 5 km,  on track for a low 2:31, with early company from fellow Kenyan Mirriam Wangari and Ethiopian Fantu Eticha. By 10 km Mutgaa was on her own, sailing on unchallenged to win in 2:33:00. Wangari and Eticha stayed together until near 30 km when Eticha launched a surge that put her into 2nd.  Wangari responded and in turn opened on Eticha before 35 km, but by 40 km it had turned around one more time.  Eticha took 2nd in 2:37:10, Wangari 3rd over a minute behind in 2:38:29.  Aki Otagiri (Team Tenmaya) was the top Japanese woman at 4th in 2:41:26.

The men's pack went out comparatively slower, the large lead group running just sub-2:17 pace for the first 5 km before a breakaway surge from Tatsunori Hamasaki (Nanjo City Hall) and Junichi Shioya (Takigahara SDF Base) got things moving.  Hamasaki and Shioya opened their lead to more than 30 seconds by 20 km, but at halfway Mongolian national record holder Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Team NTN) spearheaded a move to catch back up to them.  By 25 km he had overtaken both, while the rest of the chase group remained 15 seconds behind.  At 30 km Bat-Ochir had a 32-second lead over the chase pack led by serial marathoner Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and the debuting Kazuki Onishi (Team Kanebo).  Ito began to close, and just before 40 km he overtook Bat-Ochir for the lead and the win in 2:14:39, just the second Japanese man in Nagano history to take the top spot.  Bat-Ochir faded to 2nd in 2:15:12, with the Koichi Morishita-coached Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu) 3rd in 2:15:27.

19th Nagano Marathon
Nagano, 4/16/17
click here for complete results

Women
1. Racheal Jemutai Mutgaa (Kenya) - 2:33:00
2. Fantu Eticha (Ethiopia) - 2:37:10
3. Mirriam Wangari (Kenya) - 2:38:29
4. Aki Otagiri (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:41:26
5. Mayumi Uchiyama (Japan/Nitori) - 2:44:58

Men
1. Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:14:39
2. Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:15:12
3. Yuki Oshikawa (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:15:27
4. Kazuki Onishi (Japan/Kanebo) - 2:15:39 - debut
5. Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Nanjo City Hall) - 2:15:49

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Fukuda Leads Mt. SAC Women's 5000 m

by Brett Larner

2017 national corporate road 10 km champion Yui Fukuda (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) dominated the women's 5000 m A-heat at Friday's Mt. SAC Relays, winning by 16 seconds in a PB of 15:23.48.  Her first time going under 15:30, Fukuda's time was a big step forward in quality but came up painfully short of the 15:22.00 standard for August's London World Championships.

Running for Boise State University, the U.S.-based Yusuke Uchikoshi also ran Mt. SAC, turning up in the collegiate 3000 m steeplechase.  Part of a three-way sprint finish, Uchikoshi came up 0.56 seconds short of the win as Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane Univ.) took the top spot in 8:48.32.  Uchikoshi was next in 8:48.88, just holding off Clayson Shumway (BYU) who was 3rd in 8:48.95.

Mt. SAC Relays
El Camino College, U.S.A., 4/13~15/17
click here for complete results

Women's 5000 m INV Elite
1. Yui Fukuda (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 15:23.48 - PB
2. Jessica Tonn (Brooks Beasts) - 15:39.46
3. Sasha Gollish (Univ. of Toronto) - 15:39.16
4. Marie Lawrence (Oiselle) - 15:40.26
5. Brenda Flores (Mexico) - 15:41.28
6. Muriel Coneo Paredes (Equipo Porvenir) - 15:41.55
7. Anne-Marie Blaney (UCF) - 15:43.61
8. Rachel Cliff (Canada) - 15:46.25
9. Kristen Findley (Big Bear TC) - 15:53.02
10. Tatiane Roberta Da Carva (Posso Sports) - 15:53.72

Men's 3000 mSC Open
1. Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane) - 8:48.32
2. Yusuke Uchikoshi (Boise State) - 8:48.88
3. Clayson Shumway (BYU) - 8:48.95
4. Craig Buff (San Jose St.) - 8:53.03
5. Gareth Hadfield (unattached) - 8:54.91

Friday, April 14, 2017

Asian Junior Record Holder Osako Leads Japanese Contingent at Boston Marathon

by Brett Larner

Through two long-standing race partnerships, a group of sub-elite Japanese runners will again be part of this year's Boston Marathon field.  In the women's race, two-time Katsuta Marathon winner Kana Kurosawa (Team Hitachi) returns to Boston after running a PB 2:43:03 to win this year's Katsuta.  Making her marathon debut alongside Kurosawa is Ome 30 km Road Race winner Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu), with a 1:13:39 half marathon best at Feburary's Marugame Half Marathon.

On the men's side, Katsuta winner Hiroki Kai (Team Raffine) and 3rd-placer Kaito Iwasa (Chuo Univ.) will be running, Kai in his third marathon of the year following his Katsuta title in January and 2:18:07 PB in Tokyo in February. Earning his spot in Boston with a 5th-place finish in Ome and coached by two-time Boston winner Toshihiko Seko, Hiroki Sugawa (DeNA RC), will also line up in his second career marathon after debuting in 2:24:14 at the 2014 Gold Coast Airport Marathon in Australia.

Like Utsunomiya, half marathon Asian junior record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) will be making his marathon debut in Boston.  Osako ran his 1:01:47 Asian Jr. record in winning the 2010 Ageo City Half Marathon, afterward avoiding the distance in favor of the track until this year when he shaved his PB down to 1:01:13 in Marugame in February and won March's Portland Shamrock Run in an easy 1:04:12.  If he clears Futoshi Shinohara's 2:14:10 from 1990 Osako will break into the all-time Japanese top ten on the Boston course.

Women
Kana Kurosawa (Hitachi) - 2:43:03 (Katsuta Marathon 2017)
Ami Utsunomiya (Canon AC Kyushu) - debut - 1:13:39 (Marugame Half 2017)

Men
Hiroki Kai (Raffine) - 2:18:17 (Tokyo Marathon 2017)
Hiroki Sugawa (DeNA RC) - 2:24:14 (Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014)
Kaito Iwasa (Chuo Univ.) - 2:25:17 (Katsuta Marathon 2017)
Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) - debut - 1:01:13 (Marugame Half 2017)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Best of His Generation, Hyuga Endo Passes Over Hakone in Pursuit of Medal at Tokyo Olympics

https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170411-00000009-sph-spo

translated by Brett Larner

Long distance runner Hyuga Endo, 18, joined the Sumitomo Denko corporate team this month after graduating from Fukushima's Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.  Endo won the National Sports Festival 3000 m his first year of high school and the 5000 m both his second and third years.  A leading candidate to become the star of the next generation, Endo has suppressed the desire to run the Hakone Ekiden and instead chosen to go the corporate road in a quest "to win a medal" at the Tokyo Olympics.  Sumitomo Denko head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe, 43, is planning in the long-term, saying, "I want him to have a long career."

Wearing a brand-new suit, Endo took part in the company's entrance ceremony for new employees.  "I'm glad that's over," he laughed afterward. Thanks to a phenomenal last kick, Endo was undefeated at the National Sports Festival all three years of high school.  In the 3000 m, the distance at which Endo says he has "the most confidence," he was the first Japanese high schooler ever to break eight minutes.  Expected to become the best of his generation, Endo chose the corporate leagues without hesitation.  "The Tokyo Olympics are in three years," he said.  "I definitely want to run there, and if I'm going to run I want to go for a medal.  I like ekidens, but it's hard to do both. When I asked myself, 'Which one do you want to go for?' the answer was the Olympics."

From the early days of his high school career Endo pared down his options to the single choice of becoming a corporate runner, settling upon Sumitomo Denko's coach Watanabe who had coached 5000 m national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) among others.  Watanabe, who in the 2010-11 academic year as head coach of Waseda University became the only coach ever to lead a team to course record wins at all of the Big Three University Ekidens in a single season, welcomed him, saying, "It's good when there are a variety of ways of thinking.  I'll let you focus on speed-oriented training for an entire year."

In order to achieve Endo's dream, the pair have created a "four-year plan," their blueprint for the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics.  The two years through 2018 will be dedicated to building Endo's basic physical capability, improving his core strength, the inner muscle strength in the core and pelvis, to help build the ability needed to compete in racing at speed over distance, and polishing his speed in races around 1500 m.  2019 will focus on clearing the Tokyo Olympics 1500 m and 5000 m qualifying standards, expected to be announced in 2019.  In 2020 he will go for a medal.

Looking at Endo's running in high school, coach Watanabe gave him high marks, saying, "It's running on a major scale.  His form in the lower body and leg motion is at the top level of Japanese distance.  I want to develop the speed and physical strength he will need to compete in the last kick, and to help him have a long career as an athlete."  Endo will be 30 at the time of the 2028 Olympics, where they hope to have him go for a medal in the marathon.

At the end of last year Endo experienced some pain in his left Achilles tendon, but that injury has completely healed and he now stands on a new start line. But one free of impatience.  "When you are racing on the track your spirit can't help soaring at the sound of cheering in the stadium," he says.  "I might be a little bit behind right now, but if you win in the end it's all good."  Three years to go.  Believing in the power of the shouting and cheering to come, Endo will be refining his strength and speed.

Hyuga Endo - born Aug. 5, 1998 in Koriyama, Fukushima.  18 years old.  Began running his fourth year of elementary school, winning the National Junior High School Championships high school his last year of junior high.  Won the National Sports Festival junior 3000 m his first year of high school and the junior 5000 m both his second and third years.  Won the National High School Championships 1500 m in 2016.  170 cm, 56 kg.  His family includes his mother, an older sister, and his older brother Seiya, 21, a runner for the ND Software corporate team.

PBs
1500 m: 3:45.58 (all-time H.S. #4)
3000 m: 7:59.18 (H.S. national record)
5000 m: 13:48.13 (all-time H.S. #7)

Endo's upcoming race schedule:
Depending upon his progress, Endo will make his corporate league debut in the 1500 m at either the Apr. 23 Hyogo Relay Carnival in Kobe or the May 6 Golden Games in Nobeoka.  After the May 19-21 Kansai Region Corporate Track and Field Championships he plans to run the 1500 m at the June 23-25 National Track and Field Championships.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Oita Fire Department on Trying to Become First FD Team to Make the New Year Ekiden: "This is Our Big Chance"

http://www.oita-press.co.jp/1010000000/2017/04/11/JD0055648052

translated by Brett Larner

The Oita Fire Department ekiden team is targeting the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships.  Thanks to the Miyazaki-based Asahi Kasei team's win at the 2017 New Year Ekiden, the number of spots available at the 2018 race to Kyushu region teams will increase by one to eight teams.  "This is our big chance," said OFD head coach Masakazu Mishiro, 40.  Police Department and Self-Defense Force teams have made the New Year Ekiden in the past, but to date no Fire Department team has ever qualified.

To make it to the biggest stage in Japan it's a constant struggle to balance a busy work schedule and training.  The OFD team has around 20 members, half of them full-on serious runners who competed in university, and with the addition of three new members at the start of the fiscal year in April its strength has only grown.  Forming the team's core are star runner Tsuyoshi Miyamoto, 27,  track runner Tomoya Watanabe, 23, endurance king Yuki Kojina, 26, and veteran Toshiya Uto, 31.

Together they have led the OFD team to win the Kyushu Region Fire Department Championships four years in a row.  At February's National Championships, in just its third appearance OFD defeated the Tokyo Fire Department for the first time to take the top spot.  "Due to our work we have limited time in which to train," said Miyamoto.  "We have to improve the quality of both our individual runs and group workouts, and every team member needs to get faster."  Ryota Uchida, 22, one of April's new additions, added, "Looking at the strong older guys on the team, I want to train seriously."

The New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships features 37 teams from different regions across the country competing over 100 km divided into seven stages.  The Kyushu Corporate Ekiden, the qualifying event for the Kyushu region, will take place in mid-November in Kita-Kyushu, with the top eight teams going on to the New Year Ekiden.  Looking ahead, coach Mishiro commented, "The top seven teams [in the Kyushu region] including Asahi Kasei are in a different class in terms of ability.  The race will be for the last spot.  With young runners having come on board we have momentum and headroom for improvement.  Can we make it?  Absolutely."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

London World Championships Marathoners Kawauchi and Nakamoto Headline Sendai International Half Marathon

http://sp.kahoku.co.jp/tohokunews/201704/20170411_14037.html

translated by Brett Larner

The organizers of the 27th Sendai International Half Marathon on May 14 have announced the field of four domestic invited elite athletes.  Former Hakone Ekiden  star Masato Imai (33, Team Toyota Kyushu) and civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (30, Saitama Pref. Gov't) top the list.

During his days at Juntendo University Imai was crowned "God of the Mountain" after winning the Hakone Ekiden's uphill Fifth Stage three years in a row.  In the marathon he went on to run 2:07:39 two years ago to become the sixth-fastest Japanese man ever.  He won the Sendai International Half Marathon for the first time last year.

Kawauchi is running Sendai for the sixth year in a row.  A member of the 2011 and 2013 World Championships marathon teams, Kawauchi won the bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Games.  Named to the 2017 London World Championships team alongside Kawauchi, Kentaro Nakamoto (34, Team Yasukawa Denki) is also set to run Sendai.

Topping the women's field is Reia Iwade (22, Team Noritz) who in 2014 ran the fastest marathon time ever by a Japanese woman under age 20.  2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympian Hiroyuki Yamamoto, 50, leads the field of four invited athletes in the wheelchair race.

Former women's marathon world record holder and 2000 Sydney Olympics gold medalist Naoko Takahashi, 44, returns as a special ambassador.  Guest runners include 1991 Tokyo International Women's Marathon winner Mari Tanigawa, 54, and two-time Olympic marathoner Takeyuki Nakayama, 57. 12,053 people are entered in the half marathon, with an additional 2,688 entered in the 5 km and 2 km divisions.

Monday, April 10, 2017

National Champion Asahi Kasei Team Recruits Kenyans for First Time

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20170408-OHT1T50191.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

A long distance and marathon powerhouse, the 2017 New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei team has recruited Kenyan athletes for the first time. Surpassing even the 10000 m national record of 27:29.69 set by Asahi Kasei's Kota Murayama, 24, the pair of Kenyans includes a 32-year-old veteran who has run sub-27 and a young 23-year-old.  With experience coaching Kenyans at the Aisan Kogyo corporate team through the end of March, Isamu Sennai has also joined the Asahi Kasei staff in preparation for the Kenyans' arrival.

At this year's New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships, 30 of the 37 teams in the field featured foreign athletes.  In the midst of such a field, Asahi Kasei scored the first win by a Japanese-only team in 18 years.  Founded in 1946, Asahi Kasei produced greats including twins Shigeru and Takeshi Soh, 1991 World Championships marathon gold medalist Hiromi Taniguchi and 1992 Barcelona Olympics silver medalist Koichi Morishita.  Its current lineup features a large number of the country's best including Rio Olympics marathoner Satoru Sasaki and twins Kenta and Kota Murayama.  Its prestige is further strengthened by the addition of two of the best from the "long distance kingdom" of Kenya, promising further evolution in its future.

Translator's note: The article does not mention the Kenyan athletes' actual names.  They are Kenneth Kipkemoi and Abraham Kipyatich.

Weekend Overseas Road Race Roundup

by Brett Larner

Japanese runners turned up at three international races over the weekend.  Every year top-placing finishers at November's Ohtawara Marathon get send to the Paris Marathon.  Having turned down the 2016 trip after the Paris terror attacks, two-time Ohtawara women's winner Hiroko Yoshitomi went this time, taking 9th in 2:38:46 in her fifth marathon of 2017.  Men's winner Takahiro Gunji went under 2:20 for the first time, 21st in a PB 2:19:01 just behind Kansuke Morihashi, who took 20th in 2:18:22.

At the Hannover Marathon, Hideyuki Ikegami, a young independent who has received support from London Olympian Arata Fujiwara in recent years, made his marathon debut.  A 1:03:09 half marathoner, Ikegami came into Hannover with a 1:31:53 win at the Osaka 30 km in December and altitude training in Kenya with Fujiwara after that behind him, but despite starting out at an ambitious 2:10 pace Ikegami slowed progressively.  Between 25 and 30 km he ran into serious trouble, slowing to almost 4 min/km, but despite the early problems he gutted it out to finish 10th in 2:30:15.

At Hawaii's Hapalua Half Marathon, retired pro Yuki Yagi and Rio Olympian Kayoko Fukushi represented Japan in the event's interesting handicap start chase race.  Yagi ran the third-fastest time among the men but couldn't make up his handicap, taking 10th among men.  Fukushi was the fastest woman by more than five minutes in 1:17:03 but likewise couldn't close the ground to the top position, taking 7th among women and 18th overall.

Paris Marathon
Paris, France, 4/9/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Paul Lonyangata (Kenya) - 2:06:10
2. Stephen Chebogut (Kenya) - 2:06:57
3. Solomon Yego (Kenya) - 2:07:12
4. Yitayal Atnafu (Ethiopia) - 2:07:21
5. Abayneh Ayele (Ethiopia) - 2:07:42
-----
20. Kansuke Morihashi (Japan) - 2:18:22
21. Takahiro Gunji (Japan) - 2:19:01 - PB

Women
1. Purity Rionoripo (Kenya) - 2:20:55 - CR
2. Agnes Barsosio (Kenya) - 2:20:59
3. Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) - 2:21:22
4. Visiline Jepkesho (Kenya) - 2:21:37
5. Yebrgual Melese (Ethiopia) - 2:22:51
-----
9. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Japan) - 2:38:46
11. Mitsuko Ino (Japan) - 2:42:37

Hannover Marathon
Hannover, Germany, 4/9/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Allan Kipkorir Kiprono (Kenya) - 2:09:52
2. Philip Kimutai Sanga (Kenya) - 2:10:07
3. Sondre Nordstad Moen (Norway) - 2:10:07
4. Nichola Manza Kamakya (Kenya) - 2:11:35
5. Lusapho April (South Africa) - 2:11:41
-----
10. Hideyuki Ikegami (Japan) - 2:30:15

Women
1. Fate Tola (Germany) - 2:27:48
2. Nataliya Lehonkova (Ukraine) - 2:33:20
3. Mulunesh Zewdu Asefa (Ethiopia) - 2:37:27
4. Tetyana Vernygor (Ukraine) - 2:38:48
5. Zhanna Mamazhanova (Kazakhstan) - 2:47:36

Hapalua Half Marathon
Honolulu, U.S.A., 4/9/17
click here for complete results

Men
1. Philip Tarbei (Kenya) - 1:03:27
2. Ryan Tsang (U.S.A.) - 1:16:05
3. Abraham Kipyatich (Kenya) - 1:05:28
-----
10. Yuki Yagi (Japan) - 1:09:31

Women
1. Malia Crouse (U.S.A.) - 1:22:55
2. Kathleen O'Neil (U.S.A.) - 1:23:06
3. Evelina Mansson (U.S.A.) - 1:29:16
-----
7. Kayoko Fukushi (Japan) - 1:17:03

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Muia Wins Japanese Debut in Setagaya

by Brett Larner

2017 Kenyan Prisons XC champion Bernard Muia (Team Toyota Boshoku) made a strong Japanese debut at Saturday's Setagaya Time Trials meet in western Tokyo, outrunning teammate Amos Kirui to win the 3000 m A-heat in a PB 7:50.68.  Kirui also set a PB, running 7:51.48.  Taking 3rd, former 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) was a fraction of a section of his university-era PB dating back to 2006 as he ran 7:58.03.

Kenyan teammates also went 1-2 in the women's 3000 m A-heat.  Rosemary Wanjiru (Team Starts) ran one of the better times of her career to win in 8:51.61.  Her teammate Grace Kimanzi was well back in 2nd in 9:12.45, with high schooler Shuri Ogasawara (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) not far behind in 3rd in 9:18.37.

The men's 5000 m A-heat turned out to be a Kenya-Ethiopia duel.  Up front, Alfred Ngeno (Team Nissin Shokuhin) took 1st in 13:35.29 less than half a second ahead of Abiyot Abinet (Team Yachiyo Kogyo).  Futher back, Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Team Aisan Kogyo) edged Kassa Mekashaw (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) by a similar margin for 3rd in 13:40.25.  Continuing an apparent return to the track after a stalled transition to the marathon, former national champion Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) was the top Japanese man at 5th in 13:43.44.

Setagaya Time Trials
Kinuta Park Field, Setagaya, Tokyo, 4/8/17
click here for complete results

Men's 3000 m Heat 5
1. Bernard Muia (Kenya/Toyota Boshoku) - 7:50.68 - PB
2. Amos Kirui (Kenya/Toyota Boshoku) - 7:51.48
3. Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) - 7:58.03
4. Kei Fumimoto (Kanebo) - 8:07.96
5. Victor Mutai (Kenya/Kanebo) - 8:09.18

Women's 3000 m Heat 3
1. Rosemary Wanjiru (Kenya/Starts) - 8:51.61
2. Grace Kimanzi (Kenya/Starts) - 9:12.45
3. Shuri Ogasawara (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) - 9:18.37
4. Nana Sato (Starts) - 9:18.95
5. Kyoka Nakagawa (Japan Post Group) - 9:21.75

Men's 5000 m Heat 16
1. Alfred Ngeno (Kenya/Nissin Shokuhin) - 13:35.29
2. Abiyot Abinet (Ethiopia/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 13:35.74
3. Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 13:40.25
4. Kassa Mekashaw (Ethiopia/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 13:41.05
5. Yuki Sato (Nissin Shokuhin) - 13:43.44

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, April 7, 2017

Women's Marathon Program to Do Summer Training in Tokyo to Work on Hydration and Other Issues

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/1803811.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Apr. 6 the JAAF announced that it will hold a women's marathoning development training camp within Tokyo in late August.  Looking toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the camp will be held in similar summer heat and will focus on exploring hydration timing and other measures for dealing with the hot conditions.  Long distance runs will be carried out as part of the camp starting at around 7:00 a.m., the expected start time of the Olympic marathon.  The brains behind the project, JAAF women's marathoning development coach Sachiko Yamashita commented, "You can't get experience running in heat without daring to actually do it.  We have to try everything that we can."

Thursday, April 6, 2017

World Record Breaker Jepkosgei Leads Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

In its seventh edition the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon celebrates its promotion to its new status as the only IAAF gold label half marathon in Japan with a move a month earlier to a hopefully cooler mid-April date.  Newly-crowned women's half marathon world record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya) leads the women's entries for what should be an easy win should she actually run another half marathon three weeks after breaking the world record.  Mimi Belete (Bahrain) and London World Championships marathon team member Yuka Ando (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) are the only other women in the field with recent sub-70 times, Belete with a 1:09:15 earlier this year in Verona and Ando with a 1:09:51 at the 2015 Sanyo Ladies Road Race.  Ando's London teammate Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) is also on the short women's list rounded out by Sara Hall (U.S.A.), Belaynesh Oljira (Ethiopia), Lillian Partridge (Great Britain) and formerly Japan-based Philes Ongori (Kenya).

2015 Marugame Half winner Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta) and countryman Kenneth Keter (Kenya) top the men's field with recent sub-60 times, Kuira having won his debut in Marugame in 59:47 and Keter having run 59:48 at last year's Venlo Half.  Six other Africans led by 2015 Gifu winner James Rungaru (Team Chuo Hatsujo) come in with sub-61 times.  Just missing the mark, former Hakone Ekiden star Daichi Kamino (Team Konica Minolta) is the top-ranked Japanese man at 1:01:04, with London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) further down the list at 1:02:55.

7th Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon Elite Field
Gifu, 4/23/17
times listed are best within last three years except where noted

Women
Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya) - 1:04:52 (Prague 2017)
Mimi Belete (Bahrain) - 1:09:15 (Verona 2017)
Yuka Ando (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:09:51 (Sanyo 2015)
Sara Hall (U.S.A.) - 1:10:07 (Houston 2016)
Belaynesh Oljira (Ethiopia) - 1:10:08 (Delhi 2014)
Mao Kiyota (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 1:10:31 (Valencia 2016)
Lillian Partridge (Great Britain) - 1:10:32 (Reading 2015)
Philes Ongori (Kenya) - 1:12:15 (Ras al Khaimah 2015)

Men
Paul Kuira (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 59:47 (Marugame 2015)
Kenneth Keter (Kenya) - 59:48 (Venlo 2016)
James Rungaru (Kenya/Chuo Hatsujo) - 1:00:12 (Nice 2015)
Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) - 1:00:30 (Nat'l Corporate Half 2015)
Bernard Kipyego (Kenya) - 1:00:38 (Porto 2014)
Goitom Kifle (Eritrea) - 1:00:49 (Marugame 2016)
Joel Mwaura (Kenya/Kurosaki Harima) - 1:00:59 (Marugame 2017)
Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) - 1:00:59 (Ichinoseki 2016)
Daichi Kamino (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 1:01:04 (Marugame 2017)
Paul Pollock (Ireland) - 1:02:46 (Cardiff World Champs 2016)
Melaku Abera (Ethiopia) - 1:02:47 (Oita 2015)
Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:02:55 (Ageo 2014)
Yonas Mebrahtu (U.S.A.) - 1:02:59 (Philadelphia 2014)
Teklemariam Medhin (Eritrea) - 1:03:02 (Philadelphia 2014)
Roman Fosti (Estonia) - 1:05:21 (Ostia 2017)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Former Hakone Star Benjamin Ngandu Looking at Japanese Citizenship

https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170405-01802669-nksports-spo

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Will a man born in the marathon kingdom of Kenya be the one to save the sadly depleted Japanese marathon scene???  On April 4 Benjamin Ngandu (25, Team Fujitsu), well-rememberd for passing 12 people on the way to winning the Hakone Ekiden's ultracompetitive Second Stage his senior year at Nihon Univesity, revealed that he is exploring obtaining Japanese citizenship. Speaking about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics during an interview in Chiba on the occasion of his joining the Fujitsu corporate team, Ngandu, a longtime Japan resident, said, "I'm thinking about whether to run for Kenya or the Japanese team."  He plans to make a final decision by 2018.  If he chooses Japan he could become a totally outside-the-box catalyst that nobody could have foreseen for the revitalization of Japanese men's marathoning.

Translator's note: With the Project Exceed million dollar bonus for any Japanese citizen who breaks the 2:06:16 national record having been in place for over two years now, the only surprise here is that it has taken this long for this to happen.

Nagano Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Nagano Marathon have announced their IAAF bronze label elite field for next week's 19th edition.  Japan-based Mongolian national record holder Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Team NTN), serial marathoner Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) fresh off a PB 2:10:52 at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, and, newly relocated from the corporate leagues to a civil servant runner position in Okinawa, Tatsunori Hamasaki (Nanjo City Hall) top the men's field.  Kenyans Henry Sugut and Cyrus Njui, Ugandan Moses Kibet and debuting Eritrean Okubay Tsegay provide the veneer of internationalism, Sugut the strongest of the lot with a 2:06:58 PB and a recent best of 2:12:40.  Nagano has only had a Japanese male winner once in its history, Yuki Kawauchi's 2013 title, but a solid run from Ito or Hamasaki could be enough to add another to the record books.

It's true that only one Japanese woman has won Nagano as well, but that doesn't look likely to change with this year's field.  The race looks set to be between Ethiopian Fantu Eticha, with a 2:26:14 best from Dubai in 2015, and Kenyan Mirriam Wangari, 3rd in Xiamen 2015 in 2:27:53.  A short distance back in Kenyan Racheal Jemutai Mutgaa at 230:11.  Aki Otagiri (Team Tenmaya) is the top Japanese woman at 2:30:24, meaning she would need a slow race or a breakthrough performance to compete with the lead African trio.  But as a teammate of 2017 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner and London World Championships marathon team member Risa Shigetomo at the Tenmaya corporate team the potential is there for that to happen.

19th Nagano Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Nagano,  4/16/17
click here for detailed field listing
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Men
Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:08:50 (Fukuoka Int'l 2014)
Taiga Ito (Japan/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:10:52 (Beppu-Oita 2017)
Tatsunori Hamasaki (Japan/Nanjo City Hall) - 2:12:12 (Tokyo 2015)
Henry Sugut (Kenya) - 2:12:40 (Nice-Cannes 2016)
Shota Yamaguchi (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:13:13 (Nagano 2015)
Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Cerespo) - 2:14:39 (Hokkaido 2016)
Moses Kibet (Uganda) - 2:14:50 (Melbourne 2014)
Yuki Oshikawa (Japan/Toyota Kyushu) - 2:15:53 (Hokkaido 2016)
Okubay Tsegay (Eritrea) - debut - 1:03:10 (Breda Half 2015)

Women
Fantu Eticha (Ethiopia) - 2:26:14 (Dubai 2015)
Mirriam Wangari (Kenya) - 2:27:53 (Xiamen 2015)
Racheal Jemutai Mutgaa (Kenya) - 2:30:11 (Guangzhou 2015)
Aki Otagiri (Japan/Tenmaya) - 2:30:24 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Mizuho Nasukawa (Japan/unattached) - 2:33:16 (Saitama Int'l 2016)
Yumiko Kinoshita (Japan/SWAC) - 2:35:49 (Tokyo 2015)

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ryuji Kashiwabara on Retirement

http://f-trackfield.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2017/04/post-6808.html

translated by Brett Larner



Future 2:07 marathoner Masato Imai was the first modern star of Japan's biggest sporting event, the two-day Hakone Ekiden university men's road relay, the first to earn the moniker "God of the Mountain" for annihilating preconceptions of what was possible on Hakone's brutal uphill Fifth Stage. But nobody catalyzed and symbolized the birth of the modern university ekiden and everything associated with it, the transformation of college kids into national celebrities, more than the man who replaced him, Ryuji Kashiwabara.

As a first-year at Toyo University Kashiwabara caught national attention when, pre-debut at the 2009 Hakone Ekiden, he said with calm but brash self-assurance that he was going to break Imai's Fifth Stage record.  And the entire country watched open-mouthed as he did it, the sight of him crying as he ran the last kilometer still etched in the minds and hearts of anyone who saw it live.  Over the next three years Kashiwabara was unstoppable, winning the Fifth Stage every year, taking the record faster and faster, and, his senior year, pushing Toyo to become the first school ever to break 3:00/km for the entire 217 km-plus Hakone course.

With over 100,000 Twitter followers Kashiwabara become one of the ten most-followed track and field athletes in the world at the time, and his fame in Japan was such that he essentially couldn't go out in public.  That comes at a price.  A relatively quiet and geeky person by nature who liked watching anime and reading manga, Kashiwabara began to experience psychological problems that resulted in him leaving school for a time.

He eventually worked out his issues and went on to the Fujitsu corporate team post-graduation.  Fan expectations were incredibly high that he would be the next great Japanese marathoner, expectations raised all the higher when Imai ran his 2:07:39 marathon breakthrough in Tokyo in 2015 but Kashiwabara was careful to keep the stress manageable, studiously avoiding talking about anything but anime, manga and video games on his public Twitter account and heading off to make his marathon debut out of the public eye in a low-stress Australian race.

But as a corporate league runner Kashiwabara never experienced success on the track, on the roads, or in the ekiden.  Although he ran a 5000 m PB of 13:46.29 a few months after graduating, he never improved on his 28:20.99 best from his sophomore year at Toyo and never won a single race.  His biggest achievement was probably a 3rd-place finish at the hilly Ome 30 km Road Race in 2013, a far cry from the sensational hype around him at Hakone.  Fans never gave up hope even when he didn't break 2:20 in either of his first two marathons -- Imai had taken years to get the marathon right, so there was no reason Kashiwabara couldn't either.

But not all stories have the ending you want.  On April 3 Kashiwabara and Fujitsu announced that he was leaving the team and retiring as an athlete. The public shock was enormous, with "Ryuji Kashiwabara" trending as high as #2 nationwide in Japan.  In the evening Fujitsu pubished the following statement from Kashiwabara on the end of his road.



It's a private matter, but I hereby confirm that on Mar. 31, 2017 I resigned from the Fujitsu Ekiden Team and retired as an athlete.  Last season (2016) I had repeated injuries and problems from which I still haven't recovered as I'm writing this, and with no prospect of a full recovery on the horizon I made the decision to end my career as a competitive athlete.

Different people who have coached me through the years including Fujitsu head coach Tadashi Fukushima have asked me, "Isn't it too soon to give up?" and, "How about trying to focus on treatment and rehabilitation?"  But when I'd had an injured Achilles tendon once before that hurt for a long time once before I'd told myself, "If you ever get another major injury it will mark the end of your career," and between that and no end to this injury in sight despite getting treatment and rehabilitation, the only choice was to turn in my notification.

I'm sorry to have caused so much worry to so many people right up until the end, but I'm deeply grateful to everyone who cheered for me, to my friends who were always there for me, to the leadership and support of coach Fukushima, the team staff and my teammates at Fujitsu, to coach Toshiyuki Sakai at Toyo University and to coach Sato from my days at Iwaki Sogo H.S.



This next part is a little long, but I'd appreciate it if you read it when you have time.  Since I want to say it as much of it as I can in my own words some of it may not be written very well, but I hope that you'll overlook that fact.

I started running competitively in junior high school, and I've been able to keep it going all the way to the corporate leagues.  I've never had the kind of personality that stuck with something for long, so this has been as much a surprise to myself as to anyone.  Through running I've met a lot of people, and have been supported by even more.  In my university days I had severe social anxiety and there periods when I couldn't leave my dorm room.  I think the only reason I could go on with it was because I had family, high school teachers and coaches back in Fukushima who would welcome me back and support me without asking questions whenever I needed to go home, and friends who greeted and accepted me back without saying anything when I returned to university.  I would like to take this opportunity to say the words thank you to you again.  Thank you, truly.

After this I'll be staying on to work at the Fujitsu corporation.  I think I'll mostly be working on the other side, working with company physical fitness program and on Fujitsu's regional and social contribution programs.  To whatever extent I can I want to keep doing running seminars and making guest appearances at races whenever I'm asked.  My feeling of wanting to help spread the excitement of sports hasn't changed.  I often hear people saying, "I don't how to watch track races," or, "I don't even know whether it's OK to go to a track or into a stadium to watch," but as long as you show proper manners as a spectator you can watch and enjoy however you like!  I really hope that people will feel more comfortable going and having fun watching races in person.

If I can change to topic a little to my hobbies, I've always talked about how I like anime, manga and video games.  I've been really glad to see that people who share the same interests have started getting into running and sports and even showing up at races wearing anime t-shirts.  I want to remove more of the social barriers and hurdles around sports culture and increase the number of its fans even more, to make it so that people who don't know much about sports and even anime, manga and video game fans who've never watched sports before will feel comfortable coming out to watch.

Track and field in particular has a lot to offer if you go in person.  There are so many different events going on that you'll never get bored watching.  On the track there's everything from 100 m to 10000 m, and on the fields there are all kinds of jump and throw events.  The ebb and flow of the ekiden and the marathon make it so that you never know what's going to happen until the very end, I think they have an appeal to them that you just can't taste in other sports.  I really hope that you'll all take yourselves down to the track and ekiden or marathon course and see how the athletes race for yourselves.

So, this is where it ends.  I want to say thank you all for everything up to now. Ryuji Kashiwabara still goes on, and I hope that you will all continue to look kindly upon him.