Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shibui Leaves for Arizona Training Camp

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Shibui in Narita Airport on May 30. Click photo for full-sized version.

Berlin World Championships women's marathon team leader Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) left from Tokyo's Narita Airport on May 30 for the United States. She is first scheduled to attend an event in New York, then on June 2 will travel to a training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona.

At the beginning of April Shibui injured her left thigh while doing high-altitude training in Kunming, China, forcing her to miss the spring track season. "This was the worst injury I've had since I first started running, and even I was surprised," Shibui told reporters at Narita. On May 29 she ran 30 km, her longest run since winning January's Osaka International Women's Marathon. "I'm back to normal now. It doesn't hurt any more and I'm looking forward to this camp," she said, putting a good face on her recovery.

In Flagstaff Shibui will be training at 2100 m elevation, but amid concerns about Shibui's tendency to overwork her coach Shigeharu Watanabe says, "[Reiko] Tosa pulling out of the Beijing Olympics served as a lesson for us. We want to be more careful this time" in planning her workouts.

The training camp is scheduled to last for one month. Shibui intends to return to Japan at the end of June. She then plans to run the July 5 Sapporo International Half Marathon as a rehearsal for August's World Championships.

A Tough Road to Complete Recovery: Megumi Kinukawa

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The way back to a complete recovery can be steep and grim. The greatest young hope of Japanese women's distance running, 10000 m junior national record holder Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno), finished last of 35 entrants in the May 17 East Japan Jitsugyodan Track and Field Championships women's 5000 m, virtually staggering in to a 17:54.97. "This is the best I can do right now. More than being discouraged I just feel surprised." Just 19, she's learning the hard way the bitter taste of tears.

"I've been injured and sick and....." Kinukawa trails off. Last year she was infected with an unidentified virus which caused her to miss most of the year including her dream of running in the Beijing Olympics. In October she resurfaced, breaking her own national record with a mark of 31:23.21 which cleared the Berlin World Championships A-standard. Having felt a total comeback within her grasp, the shock of Kinukawa's performance at the East Japan meet was huge.

Kinukawa ran the 2007 Osaka World Championships women's 10000 m as a senior at Sendai Ikuei High School, feeling the spotlight for the first time. However, it was just months later that she became ill and faced a year of setbacks. This year she began to experience Achilles tendon trouble in January, then caught a severe flu virus. "I couldn't even stand for a month," she reveals.

Kinukawa began training again in May, but she experienced breathing trouble severe enough to require emergency examination. Her unstable condition continues. With the National Track and Field Championships coming up in late June, Takao Watanabe, her coach since high school, has opted for her to sit out for the second year in a row. "She's still young," he says. "What she needs now is complete rest."

Translator's note: Takao Watanabe was the head coach of national champion Sendai Ikuei High School, guiding a young Samuel Wanjiru to his first half marathon world record among other achievements. Following Kinukawa's new 10000 m junior national record in October he resigned from Sendai Ikuei to become her personal coach. The pair's stated goal is the marathon in the 2012 London Olympics.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Daniel Gitau Shines Again With 1500m Record at Golden Games in Nobeoka (updated)

by Brett Larner

Six days after completing a rare quadruple with an 800 m meet record at the Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships, fourth year Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) took down Japanese 1500 m national record holder Fumikazu Kobayashi (Team NTN) with a PB and meet record 3:37.96 in the men's 1500 m at the May 30 Golden Games in Nobeoka. Heavy rain throughout the meet dashed hopes for a new Japanese national record-level performance, but although he missed his own record mark of 3:37.40 Kobayashi's time of 3:38.80 was one of his best since setting the record in 2004.

Other noteworthy marks came in the ten heats of the men's 5000 m. The fastest times came in the E-heat, where Micah Njeru (Team Toyota Boshoku) ran 13:22.20, a PB by 0.07 over his time from last year's Golden Games, to take down John Thuo (Team Toyota) for the win by just over a second. Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) continued his return to form after a year of serious illness in 2008, running 13:26.31 to beat Ethiopian Nahom Mesfin (Team Kanebo) and Saku Chosei High School teammate and university-era rival Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) for 3rd, clearing the World Championships B-standard. Ueno's time was 5 seconds off his best but significantly improved his standing as the leading Japanese 5000 m runner so far this year. World Championships marathon team member Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) was 9th in 13:49.94.

Josephat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp) ran as pacemaker in the A-heat but held on to beat Berlin World Championships marathon team member Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) for the win in 13:42.19. Yuki Iwai (Team Asahi Kasei), who cracked the 15 km road world record in January's Asahi Ekiden, was 5 seconds back in 3rd in a PB of 13:47.12. Having taken the advice of his former teammate, marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka, to focus on improving his speed ahead of the World Championships, Irifune was pleased with his run. "The gap to the top has gotten smaller. I think I can get a top eight finish in Berlin. Whatever speed they go out at I'm going to be there hanging on."

Yuko Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta), identical twin brother of 5000 m national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta), had a narrow win in the B-heat over 2008 national high school 5000 m champion Yuki Yagi (Waseda Univ.). Athens Olympian Ryuji Ono (Team Asahi Kasei) ran his first race after an injury late in the winter, winning the F-heat in 14:04.51. His teammate Tomoya Onishi, formerly of Toyo Univ., made his pro debut in the same heat, finishing 6th in 14:10.45, while World Championships marathon team member Masaya Shimizu, also of Asahi Kasei, was an alarming 23rd in 14:30.36.

The women's 5000 m A-heat was reasonably quick, with the top three runners all breaking 15:40. Mary Wangari (Ritsumeikan AP Univ.) took the win in 15:30.73, with Keiko Nogami (Team Juhachi Ginko) half a second back in 2nd and Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) a few strides back in 3rd. Notables Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui), Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) and Kasumi Nishihara (Bukkyo Univ.) all cleared 15:50 but were far removed from the action. University star Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) was a distant 10th.

Complete results from the 2009 Golden Games in Nobeoka can be found here.

2009 Golden Games in Nobeoka - Top Finishers
Men's 800 m
1. Masato Yokota (Keio Univ.) - 1:48.13
2. Takeshi Kuchino (Team Fujitsu) - 1:48.54
3. Yoshihiro Shimodaira (Team Fujitsu) - 1:49.26

Women's 800 m
1. Ayako Jinnouchi (Team Kyudenko) - 2:05.77
2. Akari Kishikawa (NPO STCI) - 2:05.80
3. Ruriko Kubo (Team Deodeo) - 2:05.96

Men's 1500 m
1. Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) - 3:37.96 - PB, CR
2. Fumikazu Kobayashi (Team NTN) - 3:38.80
3. Hiroshi Ino (Team Fujitsu) - 3:43.98 - PB
4. Yasuhiro Tago (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 3:44.38
5. Daisuke Tamura (SDF Sports Academy) - 3:44.42

Women's 1500 m
1. Yoshika Tatsumi (Team Deodeo) - 4:24.82
2. Toshika Tamura (Matsuyama Univ.) - 4:26.00
3. Mami Sokabe (Matsuyama Univ.) - 4:26.58
4. Machi Tanaka (Team Sekisui) - 4:26.85

Men's 5000 m E-heat
1. Micah Njeru (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 13:22.20 - PB
2. John Thuo (Team Toyota) - 13:23.57
3. Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) - 13:26.31
4. Nahom Mesfin (Team Kanebo) - 13:29.74 - PB
5. Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 13:30.46
6. Kiragu Njuguna (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 13:31.39
7. Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 13:31.81 - PB
8. Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko) - 13:41.07 - PB
9. Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - 13:49.94
10. Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) - 13:50.96 - PB

Men's 5000 m A-heat
1. Josephat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp.) - 13:42.19
2. Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) - 13:42.91
3. Yuki Iwai (Team Asahi Kasei) - 13:47.12 - PB
4. Daisuke Matsufuji (Team Kanebo) - 13:47.72 - PB
5. Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 13:49.27

Men's 5000 m B-heat
1. Yuko Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) - 13:51.99
2. Yuki Yagi (Waseda Univ.) - 13:52.23
3. Atsushi Yamazaki (Team Subaru) - 13:53.99

Men's 5000 m F-heat
1. Ryuji Ono (Team Asahi Kasei) - 14:04.51
2. Ryohei Nakano (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 14:04.58
3. Takahiro Nakamura (Team Kyocera Kagoshima) - 14:07.08
6. Tomoya Onishi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 14:10.45
23. Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei) - 14:30.36

Women's 5000 m A-heat
1. Mary Wangari (Ritsumeikan AP Univ.) - 15:30.73
2. Keiko Nogami (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 15:31.24
3. Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) - 15:35.91
4. Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui) - 15:42.53
5. Grace Mbuthye (Team Starts) - 15:44.03
6. Tomoka Inadomi (Team Wacoal) - 15:46.30
7. Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) - 15:48.59
8. Kasumi Nishihara (Bukkyo Univ.) - 15:49.20
9. Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 15:52.72
10. Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:52.93

Women's 5000 m B-heat
1. Ai Igarashi (Team Sysmex) - 15:44.70 - PB
2. Miyuki Ando (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 15:55.63
3. Sakiko Matsumi (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 15:56.49

Irifune's quote taken from the Nishi Nippon newspaper.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, May 29, 2009

926 Athletes to Compete in May 30 Golden Games in Nobeoka

translated and edited by Brett Larner

At a press conference on May 26 Team Asahi Kasei head coach Takeshi Soh announced the start lists for the 20th Golden Games in Nobeoka time trials meet, scheduled to take place near Asahi Kasei's headquarters in Nobeoka, Kyushu on May 30. 552 men and 374 women will compete in the meet. Outside of the meet's main focus, the 5000 m, Soh and other Rikuren officials anticipate the men's and women's 800 m and 1500 m races to be particularly strong.

Berlin World Championships marathoners Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo), Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei) and Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) are entered in the men's 5000 m along with world-leading 10000 m runner Josephat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp.).

In the men's 1500 m, national record holder Fumikazu Kobayashi (Team NTN) will face off against last year's winner and all-time Japanese #2 Kazuya Watanabe (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) and former national university champion Yasunori Murakami (Team Fujitsu). Challenging this tough domestic trio will be Kenyan university star Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) "It'll be the kind of race where we can look forward to a new national record," said Soh in anticipation of the 1500 m.

All three heats of the women's 5000 m will feature male pacemakers. Since last year Rikuren has allowed domestic women's races to have men setting the pace, meaning that the chance for a new national record in the women's 5000 m is also high.

The meet begins at 1:00 p.m. with an elementary school 4 x 100 m relay and will last until around 10:00 p.m. Last year over 33000 fans came to cheer on the athletes. For more information contact the meet office at 0982-21-1979.

Hosaka, Nakamura, Yoshimura, Tanaka, Gitau, Ondiba and More (updated)

by Brett Larner

Brett Larner, Toyokazu Yoshimura and Wilson Kipketer at the finish of the 2009 Copenhagen Marathon. Photo by Piia Doyle (DMG).

Update 5/29: I missed Daniel Gitau's 800m record at the Kanto Championships and have updated the summary below.

I just got back from Copenhagen yesterday. There was a fair amount of overseas action featuring Japanese runners and at least one big domestic meet this past weekend that I couldn't cover at the time, but for the sake of thoroughness I wanted to put up a few summaries. I'll go in reverse chronological order.

Los Angeles Marathon
Men's marathon 60+ world record holder Yoshihisa Hosaka ran the L.A. Marathon in 2:39:31. Although he fell 3 minutes 2 seconds shy of breaking his own world record set in February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, Hosaka was a highly creditable 27th overall and the 19th place male finisher. Needless to say, he won his age group. The June issue of Running Times magazine contains an interview with Hosaka which can be read here.

Bolder Boulder
Led by Beijing Olympian Yurika Nakamura's 3rd place finish in 33:28, the Japanese women placed 2nd overall in the team competition at the Bolder Boulder 10 km. Veteran Hiromi Ominami was 9th in 35:01, with 2008 Honolulu Marathon winner Kiyoko Shimahara finishing 12th to complete the team score in 35:35 just a week after running San Francisco's Bay to Breakers road race.

Copenhagen Marathon
As previously reported, Toyokazu Yoshimura and Chihiro Tanaka pulled off a rare overseas Japanese marathon double, winning the men's and women's divisions of the Copenhagen Marathon in 2:18:04 and 2:40:59 respectively and garnering IAAF coverage. Tanaka was 14th overall; her husband Katsutoshi Tanaka, a retired former professional steeplechase runner, ran the race for fun and finished in 2:57:54. Video highlights of the Copenhagen Marathon are available through race sponsor Politiken.

Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships pt. II
Nihon Univ. senior Daniel Gitau completed a rare quadruple crown on the second weekend of the Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships, Japan's most competitive university meet. After winning the 1500 m and 10000 last weekend, Gitau set a meet record of 1:48.06 in the men's 800 m, then returned an hour later to win the 5000 m in 13:47.19. As in the 10000 m last week, Toyo Univ. star sophomore Ryuji Kashiwabara was close behind, beating out Meiji Univ. senior Takuya Ishikawa by a stride for 2nd in 13:48.54.

Tamagawa Univ. junior Takumi Komiya had a surprise win over Nihon Univ. ace senior Natsuko Goto in an equally surprisingly slow women's 5000 m. Coming back to from a year of injury which kept her out of last winter's ekiden season, Komiya won her first Kanto title in 16:19.30 with Goto nearly 4 seconds back in 16:23.10. Defending champion Yui Sakai of Josai Univ. was a DNS after running poorly in last week's 10000 m.

Yamanashi Gakuin Univ. senior Aoi Matsumoto won a two-man battle against Chuo Univ. sophomore Yuki Munakata in the men's 3000 m SC. Matsumoto clocked 8:41.56 to Munakata's 8:43.85, with their nearest competitor finishing almost 6 seconds behind.

The biggest result of the meet came in the men's half marathon. Run on a hilly, twisting 10-loop course on which athletes enter and exit Tokyo's National Stadium on each lap, the Kanto Championships half marathon has never been known as a fast event. Last year Yamanashi Gakuin Univ. senior Mekubo Mogusu, a runner with three sub-hour half marathons to his name at the time, became the first man to break 1:03 on the course when he set its record of 1:02:23. The now-graduated Mogusu's younger teammate and countryman Cosmas Ondiba picked up where Mogusu left off, winning the half marathon in 1:02:29. The sophomore Ondiba had not previously shown any signs of being close to Mogusu in ability, but this result suggests Yamanashi Gakuin may have another titan on its hands. Last year's 2nd and 3rd place finishers both broke last year's times but switched places, Waseda Univ. senior Takahiro Ozaki landing 2nd this time in 1:04:00 and Komazawa Univ. senior Tsuyoshi Ugachi 3rd in 1:04:09.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Boss Coffee 'Zeitaku Marathon' Commercial Preview Clip

Here's a preview clip of the commercial I was in a couple of weeks ago. I'm number 808. The actual commercial starts at 3:16, although this is apparently just a short version. Click photo for video.

Some still photos are also available here. That's me on the left in the bottom picture.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rikuren Announces Four-Loop Course for Yokohama International Women's Marathon

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On May 25 Rikuren announced the course for the Nov. 15 Yokohama International Women's Marathon, a new event which replaces the Tokyo International Women's Marathon. The 42.195 km course begins in front of Yokohama's Yamashita Park, finishes within the park's grounds, and consists of a 1.7 km loop and a longer 13.2 km loop which runners will cover three times. The route will be the first-ever Rikuren-certified loop course and the first marathon on Japan's elite circuit not to start and finish on a 400 m track.

Following the start, the 1.7 km loop travels from Yamashita Park to the Kanagawa Prefectural Office and then through Yokohama's famous Chinatown before returning to the park. The longer loop extends from the park to the Akarenga Warehouse district, the site of the start and finish of the discontinued Yokohama International Women's Ekiden. From there it passes the east exit of Yokohama Station and Yokohama Stadium, returning once again to Yamashita Park at the end of each loop. The course features a net elevation loss of 13 m and is almost entirely flat, meaning it is likely to be extremely fast. Rikuren officials said that the new marathon's prize money purse is "under discussion," but added that the field would be limited to 500 or 600 runners.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Yoshimura and Tanaka Win in Copenhagen

by Brett Larner

800 m and 1000 m world record holder Wilson Kipketer congratulates 2009 Copenhagen Marathon winner Toyokazu Yoshimura and his parents.

Toyokazu Yoshimura and Chihiro Tanaka scored a double Japanese victory at the 2009 Copenhagen Marathon. Having grown from just under 3000 to nearly 11000 in the last three years, this year's Copenhagen Marathon featured invited elites for the first time.

Danish Crown Prince Frederick started off the field under ideal conditions. Yoshimura ran within a lead pack of four which included Jonah Kemboi (Kenya), Luigi La Bella (Italy) and debutant Matthew Janes (Wales) along with pacemaker Neilson Hall (U.K.). La Bella was the first to drop off as Yoshimura began to press Hall after 9 km. Soon Janes and then Kemboi likewise fell behind. Behind them Tanaka ran a lonely race far ahead of the next woman, accompanied only by a guide cyclist and right on her goal 2:35 pace.

Chihiro Tanaka goes it alone.

Yoshimura and Hall hit halfway in bang on 1:08, slightly ahead of the target pace. After Hall dropped out at 25 km Yoshimura ran the rest of the way alone, the clouds growing heavier and rain beginning to fall as he approached 30 km. La Bella returned to pick off Janes and then a fading Kemboi just after 30 km and began to work on cutting down Yoshimura's 45 second lead.

As the rain worsened it took a toll on all competitors. Yoshimura began to experience muscle spasms in his right leg. La Bella slipped on the wet surface rounding a corner and fell. Tanaka's arms began to shake uncontrollably. Accelerating at 40 km, Yoshimura held off La Bella's comeback from his fall, running 2:18:04 to win by 58 seconds over the bloodied Italian. Although they missed the race record, the pair became the first men to break 2:20 on the current Copenhagen course. The race was Yoshimura's second marathon outside Japan and second win after having taken the 2007 Gold Coast Marathon.

Yoshimura at the line.

Tanaka struggled in the cold over the final kilometeres and finished in only 2:41:00, beating Dane Anne-Sofie Pade Hansen by three and a half minutes. Tanaka's only previous race in Europe having been a 2nd place finish at the 2007 Athens Classic Marathon, she was more than happy with the win despite the weak time. 800 m and 1000 m world record holder Wilson Kipketer (Denmark) was on hand to present the awards to both winners.

2009 Copenhagen Marathon - Top Finishers
Click division headers for complete men's and women's results.

1. Toyokazu Yoshimura (Japan) - 2:18:04 - CR
2. Luigi La Bella (Italy) - 2:19:02 - (CR)
3. Jonah Kemboi (Kenya) - 2:21:40

1. Chihiro Tanaka (Japan) - 2:41:00
2. Anne-Sofie Pade Hansen (Denmark) - 2:44:30
3. Lene Hjelmsø (Denmark) - 2:56:04

Click here for an article on the Copenhagen Marathon by race sponsor Politiken Newspaper.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

'Sotokoto Gets Its First Winners'

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tanaka and Yoshimura Headline Copenhagen Marathon

by Brett Larner

The Copenhagen Marathon is one of Europe's fastest-growing marathons, moving from a field of less than 3000 in 2006 to over 10000 this year. For the first time the 2009 race will feature invited runners. Rather than try to stack the field with as many sub-2:10 runners as possible, elite coordinator Gavin Doyle has sought to do something different and put the race's focus on giving a chance to athletes right on the borderline between amateur and professional. The first two runners to be invited and the favorites in both the women's and men's races are Kobe-based Chihiro Tanaka and Osaka native Toyokazu Yoshimura.

Chihiro Tanaka wins the 2003 Hokkaido Marathon.

Chihiro Tanaka
Born: Nov. 13, 1969 in Hyogo, Japan
Marathon PB: 2:29:30 (Nagoya International Women’s Marathon 2002)
Other PBs: 5000m: 16:14.50 10000m: 33:32 Half-marathon: 1:12:00

Other key marathon performances:
2:33:30 (winner, Hokkaido Marathon 1997)
2:34:11 (winner, Hokkaido Marathon 2003)
2:37:03 (Tokyo International Women’s Marathon 2008)
2:38:08 (Nagoya International Women’s Marathon 2009)

Chihiro Tanaka is one of the great originals of Japanese distance running. Her PB of 2:29:30 stands as the best performance ever by an amateur Japanese runner, male or female, and is all the more remarkable in that it was the first and, until this past January, only sub-2:30 by a Japanese mother.

A talented 800 m runner and long-distance relay specialist in her school days, Tanaka bowed to pressure from her parents not to become a professional, instead taking a regular job. Later in life she discovered the marathon and was transformed. Working with her high school era coach, Tanaka went from a 3:19:49 debut at the 1994 Honolulu Marathon to a 2:33:30 victory at the 1997 Hokkaido Marathon. Her win made Tanaka a national name as it was almost unprecedented for an amateur to come out on top of one of Japan’s major marathons.

From 1998 to 2000 Tanaka took time off to have her first child and returned stronger than ever. She finished 2nd in the 2001 Nagano Marathon in 2:32:05, then in 2002 had the run of her life, clocking her best time of 2:29:30 and finishing 4th in Nagoya, one of the most competitive women’s marathons in the world. Far from through, she won Hokkaido again in 2003. Then it was time for her second child.

Three years later Tanaka was back for Phase III of her marathon career. These days she runs six marathons a year, but her quality is undiminished. In November 2008 she ran 2:37:03 to finish 10th in the world class Tokyo International Women’s Marathon. Three weeks later she won the Naha Marathon, and after only two weeks more she won her second-straight Kakogawa Marathon. She put in a strong 2:38:08 at March’s Nagoya International Women’s Marathon to begin her 2009 season and followed with a 2:41:21 8th place finish at the Nagano Marathon on Apr. 19.

The Copenhagen Marathon will be Tanaka’s second time racing in Europe and she is confident of her chances for both a win and for her best time in recent years. As she nears her 40th birthday Tanaka’s running continues to lead the way for women marathoners both in Japan and worldwide.

Toyokazu Yoshimura wins the 2007 Gold Coast Marathon.

Toyokazu Yoshimura
Born: Dec. 6, 1974 in Osaka, Japan
Marathon PB: 2:16:58 (2009 Lake Biwa Marathon)
Other PBs: 5000m: 14:24 (2006) 10000m: 30:39 (2008) half-marathon: 1:05:12 (2005)

Other key marathon performances:
2:20:07 (winner, 2007 Gold Coast Marathon, Australia)
2:17:10 (2002 Fukuoka International Marathon)
2:17:51 (2007 Hofu Marathon)
2:18:44 (2008 Hofu Marathon)

A father of two children with a full-time job, Toyokazu Yoshimura runs to and from work each day and trains alone but has brought himself to a level of which even the runners on Japan’s legendary corporate professional running teams are envious.

In junior high school Yoshimura was the best in his hometown of Osaka and a nationally competitive student runner. He was expected to do great things in high school and beyond, but undiagnosed anemia from training 30 to 40 km a day stalled his performances. Iron treatments helped him recover but it was too late for Yoshimura to find a place on a professional team or a good university squad. He quit running and went to vocational school to become a physical therapist.

Some time later, a former high school teammate asked Yoshimura to join a training group he was putting together. Yoshimura agreed, and he soon ran found himself doing his first marathon. It was a failure. He started far too fast, broke down at 30 km, and failed to crack 3 hours. He improved to the 2:40’s in his subsequent attempts and stayed at that level for several years.

At age 24 Yoshimura changed jobs, leaving his training group and training alone. He began running the 14 km to work and then back home each day, a significant increase in mileage which led to the 2:30’s in his next marathon. A month later he ran in the 2:20’s. Just under a year after that he ran 2:19 at the Tokyo International Marathon and began to attract attention. Coaches of several professional teams took an interest in his training methods and invited him along on their teams’ intensive training camps. He was invited to several of Japan’s top elite marathons, including Tokyo International and Hofu, and won the 2007 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia. On Mar. 1 this year he ran 2:16:58 in difficult conditions at the elite Lake Biwa Marathon to break his 6 1/2 year old PB, finishing 12th behind the likes of former world record holder Paul Tergat and defeating professional runners with best times in the 2:08 range.

The Copenhagen Marathon will be Yoshimura’s first time racing in Europe. “My goal is to win,” he says. “Everyone cheering along the course will give me the energy I need to give it everything I have all the way from the start to the finish. I can’t wait.”

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, May 18, 2009

'2009 Bay to Breakers Winner Crushes Course Record: Deena Kastor Comes in 3rd' (updated with video)

Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) was 10th in the elite women's field. Click here for complete results.

Ndambiri Goes Under 27 Again at East Japan Corporate Championships

by Brett Larner

Two weeks after becoming the first man to break 27 minutes for 10000 m on Japanese soil at the May 3 Shizuoka International meet, Kenyan Josephat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp.) repeated the feat in gusty winds on the first day of the East Japan Jitsugyodan Track and Field Meet in Yamagata Prefecture, clocking a meet record of 26:58.40. Ndambiri now holds the two fastest times in the world so far this year for 10000 m. Runner-up Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin) just missed out on breaking 27 minutes, running a 10 second PB of 27:01.83 and likewise going under the meet record.

Ngatuny faced tougher conditions of rain and wind the next day in the 5000 m and again came up 2nd in 13:19.41. He was beaten out by Ethiopian Yacob Jarso (Team Honda), whose winning time of 13:19.20 was both a PB and a new meet record. As in the 10000 m Ngatuny had the consolation of also being under the previous meet record. His new teammate Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), just back from racing in California, set the Japanese-born runner meet record of 13:38.31 as he came in 4th.

The East Japan meet was one of six major corporate meets across the country on May 16-17. While Ndambiri and Jarso's marks were two of the weekend's highlights, among other moments high and low in the distance events nationwide:

-2007 World Championships men's 10000 m bronze medalist Martin Mathathi (Team Suzuki), who joined Josephat Ndambiri in breaking 27 minutes two weeks ago in Shizuoka, could not run up to Ndambiri's par this time in the Chubu Jitsugyodan meet as he finished 2nd in 27:42.06 with winner John Thuo (Team Toyota) beating him by the slimmest of margins, 0.01 of a second. 4th place finisher Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) set a new Japanese-born athlete meet record of 28:13.77.

-Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) set a meet record and PB of 8:36.36 in the men's 3000 mSC at the Chubu meet. It was a good weekend all around for the men's steeplechase as Takayuki Matsuura set a meet record of 8:39.34 in the Kansai Jitsugyodan meet men's 3000 mSC, beating former national champion Jun Shinoto (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko). Matsuura was also 3rd in the 1500 m. Matsuura, Yuki Matsuoka (Team Otsuka Seiyaku), Yasuhito Ikeda (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) and Atsushi Ikawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) virtually controlled the Japanese-only meet, with each of the four athletes finishing in the top three of at least two different distance events.

-2009 New Year Ekiden winner Team Fujitsu completed a near-sweep of the men's short and middle distance events, its athletes taking 100 m, 200 m, 400 m, 800 m, 110 mH and 3000 mSC. And the high jump. Only Kenyan Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi) prevented a full sweep by beating Fujitsu's Yasunori Murakami in the 1500 m. Fujitsu's Olympic 4 x 100 m relay bronze medalist Naoki Tsukahara set a meet record of 10.15 in the 100 m.

-Joseph Gitau (Team JFE Steel) and Peter Kariuki (Team Mazda) went 1-2 in both the 5000 m and 10000 m at the Chugoku Jitsugyodan meet. Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo) came back from setting a meet record and PB of 15:19.47 in the women's 5000 m to win the 10000 m by over a minute. Beijing Olympics marathoner Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) was 2nd in both the 5000 m and 1500 m.

-Philes Ongori (Team Hokuren) re-established her dominance among African pros in Japan with a double win over Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) in the East Japan 1500 m and 5000 m. While she lost both races, Obare's 1500 m time of 4:15.63 was a PB and her 5000 m mark of 15:21.12 was only 0.04 seconds off her best. A battle between Ongori and Cheyech looks inevitable.

-Although her times were unremarkable, 5000 m national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) returned from plantar fasciitis woes to win both the 5000 m and 10000 m at the Kansai meet.

-Two-time junior 10000 m national record holder Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) also came back from injury and made a season debut of sorts in the 5000 m. Kinukawa is widely hoped to be The Future of Japanese Women's Distance Running but has been incredibly injury-prone since contracting a mystery virus and missing almost all of 2008. She appeared from out of thin air last fall to beat Fukushi and break her own junior 10000 m record, then in January sustained an Achilles tendon injury which has kept her completely out of training. In the East Japan 5000 m she came last in a baffling 17:54.97.

-Alarm bells began to sound as 2009 World Championships women's marathon medal favorite Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) pulled out of the 5000 m and 10000 m due to an injury she sustained training in Kunming, China earlier in the season. It was at least the third time she has pulled out of a race this spring, and each time the evocation of Mizuki Noguchi's pre-Beijing season grows stronger.

-In Shibui's absence, the best result among the members of Japan's 2009 World Championships marathon team belonged to men's team member Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko). Maeda ran his first race since qualifying for the team at March's Tokyo Marathon, winning the 10000 m at the Kyushu Jitsugyodan meet in 28:35.59. Women's team member Yoshiko Fujinaga (Team Shiseido) was 5th in the East Japan 10000 m in 33:03.11, while the women's team alternate Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya), running unofficially, came 2nd in the Chugoku 10000 m in 33:40.00.

More detailed lists of the top finishers including links to complete results from each meet are available here.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Weekend Japanese Track Action Roundup

by Brett Larner

The weekend of May 16-17 was the biggest of the year for Japanese track and field. Beyond the major regional university meet documented yesterday, six regional professional meets for members of Japanese corporate running world took place across the country. Below is a listing of top finishers in each of the distance events at the six Jitsugyodan meets. Click each meet header for complete results in Japanese.

2009 East Japan Jitsugyodan Track and Field Meet - Top Finishers
Men's 10000 m
1. Josephat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp.) - 26:58.40 - CR
2. Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 27:01.83 - (CR)
3. Cyrus Njui (Team Hitachi Cable) - 28:40.99

Men's 5000 m
1. Yacob Jarso (Team Honda) - 13:19.20 - CR, PB
2. Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 13:19.41 - (CR)
3. Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Cable) - 13:37.68
4. Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 13:38.31 - (Japanese CR)

Men's 3000 m SC
1. Masatoshi Kikuchi (Team Fujitsu) - 8:43.39
2. Tatsunori Shinoura (Team S&B) - 8:46.73
3. Sho Okamura (Team Honda) - 8:47.94

Men's 1500 m
1. Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Cable) - 3:43.44
2. Yasunori Murakami (Team Fujitsu) - 3:45.07
3. Masahiro Takaya (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 3:45.18

Women's 10000 m
1. Julia Mombi (Team Aruze) - 32:51.41
2. Yukako Eto (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 32:54.64
3. Yukari Sahaku (Team Aruze) - 32:58.96

Women's 5000 m
1. Philes Ongori (Team Hokuren) - 15:12.15
2. Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) - 15:21.12
3. Yukako Eto (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 15:47.52

Women's 3000 m
1. Nami Tani (Team Aruze) - 9:22.69
2. Hitomi Nakamura (Team Panasonic) - 9:23.03
3. Yukie Nagata (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) - 9:23.70

Women's 1500 m
1. Philes Ongori (Team Hokuren) - 4:15.08
2. Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) - 4:15.63
3. Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) - 4:18.46

2009 Chugoku Jitsugyodan Track and Field Meet - Top Finishers
Men's 10000 m
1. Joseph Gitau (Team JFE Steel) - 28:16.02
2. Peter Kariuki (Team Mazda) - 28:21.04
3. Yo Takahashi (Team JFE Steel) - 28:58.43

Men's 5000 m
1. Joseph Gitau (Team JFE Steel) - 13:41.98
2. Peter Kariuki (Team Mazda) - 13:42.05
3. Samuel Ganga (Team Mazda) - 13:48.03

Men's 3000 m SC
1. Tetsuya Sasaki (Team Chudenko) - 9:10.24
2. Akira Yamabuki (Team Ota) - 9:12.74
3. Naoyuki Onishi (Hitachi Kinzoku RC) - 9:26.79

Men's 1500 m
1. Yasuhiro Tago (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 3:47.00
2. Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 3:51.45
3. Mitsuyoshi Shirahama (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 3:52.07

Women's 10000 m
1. Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo) - 32:36.23
2. Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) - 33:40.00 - unofficial
3. Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) - 33:46.44

Women's 5000 m
1. Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo) - 15:19.47 - CR, PB
2. Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) - 15:45.41
3. Megumi Sebata (Team Tenmaya) - 16:29.91

Women's 3000 m
1. Maki Arai (Team Uniqlo) - 9:43.74
2. Megumi Sebata (Team Tenmaya) - 9:47.40
3. Yukie Matsumura (Team Uniqlo) - 10:06.20

Women's 1500 m
1. Maki Arai (Team Uniqlo) - 4:25.90
2. Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) - 4:26.41
3. Ruriko Kubo (Team Deodeo) - 4:28.67

2009 Kansai Jitsugyodan Track and Field Meet - Top Finishers
Men's 10000 m
1. Atsushi Ikawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 29:02.00
2. Tsukasa Morita (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 29:06.00
3. Takeshi Takahashi (Team Osaka Gas) - 29:07.16

Men's 5000 m
1. Yuki Matsuoka (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 13:58.77
2. Yasuhito Ikeda (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 14:03.83
3. Atsushi Ikawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 14:05.93

Men's 3000 m SC
1. Takayuki Matsuura (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 8:39.34 - CR
2. Ryosuke Maki (Team Osaka Gas) - 8:48.48
3. Jun Shinoto (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 8:51.60

Men's 1500 m
1. Yasuhito Ikeda (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 3:53.73
2. Yuki Matsuoka (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 3:53.74
3. Takayuki Matsuura (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 3:54.29

Women's 10000 m
1. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 33:13.83
2. Seika Iwamura (Team Daihatsu) - 33:26.06
3. Miho Notagashira (Team Wacoal) - 33:27.00

Women's 5000 m
1. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 15:37.25
2. Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - 15:41.80
3. Ryoko Kisaki (Team Daihatsu) - 15:42.44

Women's 3000 m
1. Ayaka Ohira (Team Daihatsu) - 9:26.43
2. Yuka Hakoyama (Team Wacoal) - 9:30.05
3. Hiromi Chujo (Team Wacoal) - 9:36.70

Women's 1500 m
1. Ai Igarashi (Team Sysmex) - 4:26.19
2. Miho Noguchi (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 4:27.49
3. Tomoka Inadomi (Team Wacoal) - 4:27.67

2009 Chubu Jitsugyodan Track and Field Meet - Top Finishers
Men's 10000 m
1. John Thuo (Team Toyota) - 27:42.05
2. Martin Mathathi (Team Suzuki) - 27:42.06
3. Micah Njeru (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 28:13.24
4. Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 28:13.77 (Japanese CR)

Men's 5000 m
1. Martin Mukule (Team Toyota) - 13:44.05
2. Samuel Ndungu (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 13:46.29
3. Daisuke Shimizu (Team Suzuki) - 14:00.95

Men's 3000 m SC
1. Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) - 8:36.36 - CR
2. Tsuyoshi Takeda (Team Suzuki) - 8:51.83
3. Satoshi Kato (Team Toyota) - 8:58.82

Men's 1500 m
1. Fumikazu Kobayashi (Team NTN) - 3:50.83
2. Tsuyoshi Takeda (Team Suzuki) - 3:51.19
3. Takamasa Uchida (Team Toyota) - 3:51.23

Women's 10000 m
1. Noriko Matsuoka (Team Suzuki) - 33:45.16
2. Ikumi Wakamatsu (Team Denso) - 33:46.26
3. Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) - 33:51.87

Women's 5000 m
1. Betelhem Moges (Team Denso) - 16:00.53
2. Hiromi Ominami (Team Toyota Shatai) - 16:25.66
3. Ayumi Goto (Team Suzuki) - 16:25.79

Women's 1500 m
1. Ayumi Goto (Team Suzuki) - 4:33.39
2. Miki Hayashi (Team Yutaka Giken) - 4:33.86
3. Haruka Ozawa (Team Aichi Denki) - 4:36.47

2009 Hokuriku Jitsugyodan Track and Field Meet - Top Finishers
Men's 10000 m
1. John Kagia (Team Omokawa) - 29:12.66
2. Tetsuo Nishimura (Team YKK) - 29:16.00
3. Tetsuo Nishikawa (Team YKK) - 29:37.18

Men's 5000 m
1. John Kagia (Team Omokawa) - 14:12.66
2. Kosuke Murasashi (Team YKK) - 14:22.12
3. Tsubasa Maeda (Team YKK) - 14:24.61

Men's 3000 m SC
1. Yutaro Saito (Team Ishikawa Shinkin Chuo Kinko) - 9:17.84
2. Yohei Asada (Team Sekino Kosan) - 9:28.07
3. Takashi Nezu (Tokamachi City Hall) - 11:39.81

Men's 1500 m
1. Kosuke Murasashi (Team YKK) - 3:53.99
2. Satoshi Sugai (Takada SDF) - 3:55.47
3. Yuta Wakatsuki (Team Sekino) - 3:55.87

Women's 10000 m
1. Keiko Fujinuma (Team Albirex) - 35:14.92
2. Misuzu Okamoto (Team Kitaguni Ginko) - 35:27.41
3. Aki Negi (Team Kitaguni Ginko) - 35:35.62

Women's 5000 m
1. Keiko Fujinuma (Team Albirex) - 17:21.59
2. Yuki Kiuchi (Team Albirex) - 17:39.65
3. Yuko Ishibashi (Team Albirex) - 17:48.62

Women's 3000 m
1. Kana Hayashi (Team Kitaguni Ginko) - 10:16.79
2. Maiko Kushima (Team Albirex) - 10:35.08
3. Ai Shimomura (Team Albirex) - 10:54.38

Women's 1500 m
1. Yuki Kiuchi (Team Albirex) - 4:39.42
2. Yuko Ishibashi (Team Albirex) - 4:44.65
3. Azusa Saito (Team Albirex) - 4:47.85

2009 Kyushu Jitsugyodan Track and Field Meet - Top Finishers
Will be updated when more detailed results are available.

Men's 10000 m
1. Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - 28:35.59

Men's 5000 m
1. Ertiban Abera (Team Kurosaki Harima) - 13:58.81

Men's 3000 m SC
1. Kota Ogata (Team Kyudenko) - 9:15.21

Men's 1500 m
1. Tomoya Konishi (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 3:58.22

Women's 10000 m
1. Madoka Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 33:00.61

Women's 5000 m
1. Kazuka Wakatsuki (Team Toto) - 16:13.95

Women's 3000 m
1. Ayako Oda (Team Kyudenko) - 9:50.00

Women's 1500 m
1. Kazuka Wakatsuki (Team Toto) - 4:29.75

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gitau Controls Windy First Weekend of Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships

by Brett Larner

Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) wins the windy 10000 m at the 2009 Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships. Click here for complete race video via Flotrack.

Kenyan fourth-year Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) followed in the footsteps of the now-graduated Mekubo Mogusu (Team Aidem) with a double win in the men's 1500 m and 10000 m on the first weekend of the 2009 Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships May 16 and 17 at Tokyo's National Stadium. Harsh, windy conditions prevented fast times, particularly in the 10000 m, but Gitau had an easy win in the 1500 m in 3:44.18.

Setting off at 2:45/km pace in the 10000 m with Mogusu watching in the stands, the 2008 national university 10000 m champion Gitau worked together with first-year teammate Benjamin Gando, Mogusu's successor Cosmas Ondiba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) and Japanese star Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.) to battle the wind. As the pace slowed midway Gitau broke away at around 5000 m, opening a lead of close to 100 m before beginning to falter.

Meiji Univeristy ace Kodai Matsumoto came up from the third pack to catch Ondiba and Kashiwabara in the final kilometer and the three made major headway against Gitau's lead. The pair of Japanese runners dropped Ondiba as they fought each other over the last lap but could come no closer than 5 seconds to Gitau, who clocked 28:39.94 to claim his second regional title of the weekend.

It looked as though Matsumoto would have the stronger kick over the home stretch, but Kashiwabara summoned the same strength which gave him a 3rd place finish behind Mogusu and Gitau last year and outleaned Matsumoto at the line to take 2nd in 28:44.97, almost identical to his 28:44.42 mark last year but in far tougher conditions. Matsumoto's 28:45.10 was a PB by 5 seconds, impressive given the wind and creditable for the mature racing strategy he employed.

Gitau's teammate Natsuko Godo, who rose to become a major player in the Kanto women's ekiden scene last fall, staged an upset in the women's 10000 m with a 33:36.72 win over defending champion Yui Sakai (Josai Univ.). Although Sakai was far from her regular self, a distant 3rd in 34:22.68, Chisato Saito (Josai Univ.) held on to give Godo a race and was 2nd in 33:38.97. Maya Hirokawa (Tamagawa Univ.) had an even slimmer win over Kayoko Ishikawa (Juntendo Univ.) in the women's 1500 m, winning by 0.02 seconds in 4:30.51.

The Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships continue May 23 and 24. Daniel Gitau will attempt to replicate Mogusu's 2008 triple with a win in the half marathon.

2009 Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships Pt. I - Distance Event Top Finishers
click here for complete results

Women's 10000 m
1. Natsuko Godo (Nihon Univ.) - 33:36.72
2. Chisato Saito (Josai Univ.) - 33:38.97
3. Yui Sakai (Josai Univ.) - 34:22.68

Men's 10000 m
1. Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) - 28:39.94
2. Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.) - 28:44.97
3. Kodai Matsumoto (Meiji Univ.) - 28:45.10 - PB

Women's 1500 m
1. Maya Hirokawa (Tamagawa Univ.) - 4:30.51
2. Kayoko Ishikawa (Juntendo Univ.) - 4:30.53
3. Miho Watanabe (Chuo Univ.) - 4:32.85

Men's 1500 m
1. Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) - 3:44.18
2. Tasuku Arai (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 3:48.27
3. Kenta Matsubara (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 3:48.97

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Nishihara Takes Kano's 5000 m Meet Record at Kansai Regional University Track Championships

by Brett Larner

While the Tokyo-centered Kanto Region is the undisputed center of Japanese university men's distance running thanks to the prestigious Hakone Ekiden, the Kansai Region features two of the top women's schools, the unbeatable national champion Ritsumeikan University and its perennial rival Bukkyo University. This year's Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships was spread out over three weekends, giving distance athletes the possibility of competing in multiple events from 1500 m to half marathon.

The country's top university woman, Ritsumeikan fourth-year Kazue Kojima, scored a matter-of-fact win in the 10000 m on May 8, beating 2008 national university 10000 m champion and second-year teammate Michi Numata by nearly 40 seconds with a 32:55.64 clocking. The real show, however, came in the women's 5000 m on May 16.

Bukkyo third-year Kasumi Nishihara, fresh from an impressive 32:29.59 PB win against Numata and a host of professional and university stars at the May 3 Shizuoka International meet 10000 m, ran another PB of 15:32.89 for the win. Nishihara's time broke 2009 World Championships team member Yuri Kano's 10 year old meet record by over 12 seconds and Kojima's PB by 3 seconds and puts her on the list of possible names for the World Championships 5000 m team. Coming as it does on the heels of her stage record win on the anchor leg of December's National University Women's Invitational Ekiden and her victories at March's Kyoto City Half Marathon and the Shizuoka International meet, Nishihara looks ready to challenge Kojima's supremacy over the next year.

Feeling the effects of fatigue from the 10000 m a week before, Kojima was 8 seconds off her PB but likewise went under Kano's meet record. The surprise of the day was Kojima's second-year teammate Risa Takenaka who outkicked her to finish 2nd in 15:41.60, a massive PB by nearly 16 seconds and also well below the old meet record. A former high school star, Takenaka will be one of the most important university women to watch over the next few years.

Kyoto Sangyo University teammates Hiroki Mitsuoka and Kazuki Hayashi went 1-2 in the men's 5000 m, then returned to repeat as 1-2 in the 10000 m. Tanzanian Jackson Kwarai (Nara Sangyo Univ.) beat Tomoya Nishino (Ritsumeikan Univ.) in the half marathon, with Nishino coming in 3rd in the 10000 m behind Mitsuoka and Hayashi. Alongside Kojima's win in the women's 10000 m, Ritsumeikan's Toshiki Imazaki took the school's only other distance event title with a 3:53.10 win in the men's 1500 m.

2009 Kansai Regional University Track and Field Championships - Top Finishers in Distance Events
click here for complete results

Men's Half Marathon
1. Jackson Kwarai (Nara Sangyo Univ.) - 1:06:26
2. Tomoya Nishino (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 1:06:47
3. Yoshiki Sekitani (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 1:07:06

Women's 10000 m
1. Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 32:55.64
2. Michi Numata (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 33:34.96
3. Yuri Tokushige (Osaka Taiku Univ.) - 34:09.56

Men's 10000 m
1. Hiroki Mitsuoka (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 29:47.13
2. Kazuki Hayashi (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 30:04.93
3. Tomoya Nishino (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 30:05.66

Women's 5000 m
1. Kasumi Nishihara (Bukkyo Univ.) - 15:32.89 - PB, CR
2. Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:41.60 - PB, (CR)
3. Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:43.17 - (CR)

Men's 5000 m
1. Hiroki Mitsuoka (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 14:18.29
2. Kazuki Hayashi (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 14:20.62
3. Hiroyuki Tanaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 14:29.29

Women's 3000 m SC
1. Yuka Tokuda (Osaka Taiku Univ.) - 10:44.98
2. Haruka Nakamoto (Osaka Taiku Univ.) - 10:48.91
3. Sara Wada (Bukkyo Univ.) - 11:06.17

Men's 3000 m SC
1. Masashi Nakatsu (Osaka Taiku Univ.) - 9:00.36
2. Masayoshi Nakajima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 9:01.05
3. Hiroki Terasaki (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 9:06.37

Women's 1500 m
1. Yuika Mori (Bukkyo Univ.) - 4:23.82
2. Hanae Tanaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 4:25.23
3. Mai Ishibashi (Bukkyo Univ.) - 4:25.38

Men's 1500 m
1. Toshiki Imazaki (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 3:53.10
2. Michio Okuda (Ryukoku Univ.) - 3:55.05
3. Koichi Kasai (Osaka Taiku Univ.) - 3:55.34

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Serious Words From Noguchi's Coach Fujita

translated by Brett Larner

Nobuyuki Fujita (68), coach of women's national marathon record holder Mizuki Noguchi (30, Team Sysmex) who withdrew from last summer's Beijing Olympics marathon with an injury to her left thigh, turned up at the Amagasaki Memorial Track and Field Grounds on May 15 to watch the first day of the Kansai Jitsugyodan Track and Field Meet. Speaking of his star pupil's inability to resume training with reinjuring herself Fujita admitted that he had recently hurled harsh words at Noguchi, telling her, "If you keep going on like this then it looks like it's over." Noguchi has resumed jogging several times since her original injury, but each time she has begun training at a higher pace the pain has returned. Fujita recognizes that Noguchi may be headed down her last road but still seeks to encourage her and has adopted the motto "looking forward to running" as the theme of her rehabilitation.

Team Monteroza Cancels Overseas Training Camp Over Swine Flu Fears

translated by Brett Larner

Fearing the spread of the swine influenza, Team Monteroza, a track and field team sponsored by a nationwide chain of bars, announced on May 14 that it has cancelled a planned overseas training camp which was to take place at the end of this month and the early part of June. The team had already notified Rikuren that it was shelving its plans to send high jumpers Hikaru Tsuchiya and Satoru Kubota to the Asia Grand Prix meet in China out of fears over the flu.

Monteroza's decision not to send its athletes to the three meets in the Asia Grand Prix was made in late April. Rikuren has thus far left such decisions to counter the spread of swine influenza in the hands of individual corporate and university teams.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Sorry for not posting much this week, but I've been on the set of a TV commercial shoot the last few days. The cast of the commercial included celebrities Atsushi Ito and Hiroshi Neko, marathon legends Shigeru Soh, Akemi Masuda and Erick Wainaina, Olympic and World Championships bronze medalist sprinter Shingo Suetsugu, two-time World Championships bronze medalist hurdler Dai Tamesue, famed marathon coach Yoshio Koide, three-time Japanese national duathlon champion Yuya Fukaura, a World Championships race walker whose name I didn't catch, several Hakone Ekiden runners, my training partner Jason Lawrence, me, a few others, and several hundred extras. If it becomes available on YouTube I'll post a link.

Fukushi Wins Kansai Jitsugyodan 10000 m in Comeback Race

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On the first day of the 53rd Kansai Jitsugyodan Track and Field Meet at the Amagasaki Memorial Track and Field Grounds in Hyogo Prefecture, Beijing Olympian Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) ran 33:13.83 to win her fourth 10000 m title at the meet after a two-year absence. Atsushi Igawa (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) won the men's 10000 m in 29:02.00.

The 10000 m was Fukushi's first race since December's National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden. Suffering from plantar fasciitis after the qualifying meet for the National Ekiden, Fukushi dropped out of planned participation in February's Rikuren-sponsored national training camp in New Zealand. She is now on the way back.

Six women took part in the Kansai Meet's 10000 m. The first 10000 m was a very slow 3:26, with the pace settling in to 80 seconds per lap thereafter. With 1000 m to go Fukushi took off, running the last kilometer in 2:56 to leave the rest ofthe field far behind. Afterwards she commented, "I'm not used to racing again yet. Whether I enjoy it or it kills me, racing feels strange. I think I'm back in pretty good shape and did what I could, but I still have some margin for improvement."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kanemaru and Kashiwabara Lead Team of 30 for World University Games

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On May 11 the Japanese University Athletics Association announced the 30-member team for July's World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia. Among the young men and women on the team are a number of Beijing Olympians, among them 400 m runner Yuzo Kanemaru (Hosei Univ.), and sprinters Momoko Takahashi (Heisei Gakuin Univ.), Mitsuharu Abiko and Hitoshi Saito (both of Tsukuba Univ.). Racewalker Masumi Fuchise (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) will join the team as preparation for August's World Championships in Berlin, and popular Hakone Ekiden star Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.) will lead the men's long distance track contingent in the 10000 m. Sota Hoshi (Komazawa Univ.) will be the top Japanese man in the half marathon.

National team head coach Mitsugi Ogata commented, "Our goal is 9 medals for the combined men's and women's teams. If we surprise people by achieving such a strong result it will give our World Championships team extra motivation to succeed."

Back home in Japan, most eyes will be upon the 'New God of the Mountain,' Kashiwabara. Kashiwabara became a national celebrity as a first-year with his stage-best run on the uphill 5th leg of this past January's Hakone Ekiden. As someone who never made even a national-level competition as a high school student, his nomination to the World University Games national team represents a great chance for Kashiwabara to make manifest his hidden gifts.

One of the secrets of Kashiwabara's ability is his inner strength, which gives him the confidence and fearlessness to frontrun against older, more experienced competitors. Nowhere has this been more evident in his career than at last month's Hyogo Relay Carnival where he qualified for the World University Games in the 10000 m. Running at the front of the lead pack, Kashiwabara overtook eventual winner Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) at halfway. "Since high school I've learned, 'Go before the going gets tough,'" said Kashiwabara of the move. Although he lost the lead to Njoroge at 7000 m, Kashiwabara hung on for 2nd overall in 28:20.99, a PB by 24 seconds. He was only 0.86 seconds behind the professional Kenyan. "Yeah, I guess that went about as expected," he said with a slight frown.

As in his other key races in his short career to date, another sign of Kashiwabara's power came in the twisting and rolling of his head and shoulders as he ran. "It's like his engine is too big for his body," commented a Rikuren official in amazement while watching Kashiwabara's breakaway during the second half of the race in Hyogo. A victim of severe anemia in high school, Kashiwabara never gave indication of what he held inside to most observers in those days. Not until the 2008 National Interprefectural Ekiden, where Kashiwabara defeated the nation's top high school stars to take the stage best title for his native Fukushima Prefecture team just before his own graduation from high school, did it become apparent what he might become.

As a first-year at Toyo University, Kashiwabara boldly predicted he would break the stage record on the Hakone Ekiden's most prestigious leg, the nearly 900 m elevation gain 5th stage. The mark, held by Juntendo University's 'God of the Mountain' Masato Imai, was popularly thought to be untouchable. Kashiwabara smashed Imai's record by a wide margin, catapaulting Toyo on to its first-ever Hakone win, earning the event's MVP title, and becoming a national celebrity. In March he went on to win his half marathon debut in the final running of the Kyoto City Half Marathon. Kashiwabara will race the best in the country over 10000 m at June's National Track and Field Championships in a bid to make the team for August's World Championships. If he succeeds it will be another major step up the ladder for this 19 year old.

'Post Race Interview: Team Japan Men's winner 7th IAU 24 hr World Challenge'

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cheyech Over Nakamura Again at Chugoku Jitsugyodan Meet (updated)

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The men's and women's 5000 m were the highlights of the May 9 Chugoku Jitsugyodan Track and Field Meet at the Miyoshi Sports Park Track and Field Grounds in Miyoshi, Hiroshima Prefecture. In the men's race, Joseph Gitau (Team JFE Steel) ran 13:41.98 to take his first win at the meet, while Peter Kariuki and Samuel Ganga (both Team Mazda) rounded out a Kenyan sweep of the top three positions. Masayoshi Kuroda (Team Chugoku Denryoku) was 4th.

Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo) set a new meet record of 15:19.47 to defend her title from last year in the women's event. Cheyech's time was a PB by nearly eight seconds and the second-best in the world thus far this year. Beijing Olympics marathoner Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) was 2nd in 15:45.41. She was red-eyed and furious with herself after letting Cheyech slip away in the second half of the race. "I thought I could stay with her, but....." she trailed off in a strained voice.

The theme of Nakamura's training lately has been "to stick with it when it gets tough after halfway." However, 3000 m into the race she couldn't keep up the 73 seconds per lap pace she and Cheyech had maintained through the first half. Ten days ago at the Oda Memorial meet Nakamura ran a strong 15:23.99, just off her PB. Three days earlier in the Hyogo Relay Carnival 10000 m she ran with Cheyech through halfway but fell back to 2nd as the Kenyan took five seconds off her PB. "It was the same thing all over," Nakamura said through her tears after losing to Cheyech again. Planning to run on the track at the World Championships, this 23 year old could have put her poor showing down to having run three races in two weeks, but she offered no excuses: "Fatigue has nothing to do with it."

Cheyech will next face off against Nakamura's teammate Tomo Morimoto, the alternate for the World Championships women's marathon team, next weekend in the Chugoku Jitsugyodan Track and Field Meet's 10000 m. All three Kenyans from the men's 5000 m will be back for the men's 10000 m, joined by Japanese runners including Naoki Okamoto, Hideaki Date and Shigeru Aburaya (all of Team Chugoku Denryoku).

2009 Chugoku Jitsugyodan Track and Field Meet 5000 m - Top Finishers
Click division header for complete results in Japanese.
1. Danielle Filomena Cheyech (Team Uniqlo) - 15:19.47 - CR, PB
2. Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) - 15:45.41
3. Megumi Sebata (Team Tenmaya) - 16:29.91
4. Rina Nomura (Team Uniqlo) - 16:31.35
5. Takako Yamada (Team Deodeo) - 16:33.86
6. Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) - 16:34.84
7. Maki Arai (Team Uniqlo) - 16:50.15
8. Yasuko Owatari (Team Uniqlo) - 16:51.71
9. Yuko Watanabe (Team Deodeo) - 16:57.98
10. Nami Hirata (Team Uniqlo) - 16:58.71

1. Joseph Gitau (Team JFE Steel) - 13:41.98
2. Peter Kariuki (Team Mazda) - 13:42.05
3. Samuel Ganga (Team Mazda) - 13:48.03
4. Masayoshi Kuroda (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 13:58.50
5. Naoya Hashimoto (Team Chudenko) - 14:04.78
6. Hiroshi Takahashi (Team JFE Steel) - 14:05.22
7. Akihiko Tsumurai (Team Mazda) - 14:06.22
8. Masahiro Okumura (Team Mazda) - 14:07.03
9. Teruto Ozaki (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 14:08.44
10. Takeshi Ueno (Team JFE Steel) - 14:09.58
16. Laban Kagika (Team JFE Steel) - 14:18.11
18. Hideaki Date (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 14:21.73
21. Shigeru Aburaya (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 14:22.61

Akaba Crushes Field to Win Her First Sendai International Half Marathon (updated)

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On a Rikuren-certified 21.0975 km course starting at the Sendai Civic Track and Field Grounds in Sendai's Miyagino Ward and ending in front of City Hall in Aoba Ward, Berlin World Championships marathon team member Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) ran 1:08:50 to win the 19th Sendai International Half Marathon on May 10. The mother of a nearly three year old daughter, Akaba's first win in Sendai fittingly came on Mother's Day.

Running in cloudy but warm and humid conditions which saw few athletes clock their best times, Akaba dropped the three others in the lead pack after only 8 km. 2nd place finisher Julia Mombi (Team Aruze) was over 2 1/2 minutes behind, while Hiroko Shoi (Team Nihon ChemiCon) came up from 45 seconds behind at 10 km to take 3rd, just missing catching Mombi but earning one of the only PBs in the top 10. Early lead pack members Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and Miyuki Ando (Team Daiichi Seimei) held on for 4th and 5th. Akaba ran the race in the midst of marathon training and rejoiced at recording such a strong time. "I didn't think I was going to break 1:09 today at all, so it's a fantastic result!" she celebrated afterwards.

Last year's winning man Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) ran 1:02:02 to score a second-straight victory. In contrast to the women's race, a large pack of ten hung together until well into the race. Not until the last 5 km did Njoroge break free of eventual runner-up Julius Gitahi (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and top Japanese finisher Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN), who ran side by side to finish 2nd and 3rd overall and just one second apart. Kenji Kotani of Hyogo Prefecture won the wheelchair race. As the top Japanese finishers, Akaba and Kitaoka will be selected for the Japanese national team for October's World Half Marathon in the U.K. Both Akaba and Kitaoka ran in last year's World Half Marathon in Brazil.

2009 Sendai International Half Marathon - Top Finishers
Click division header for complete results including splits.
1. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 1:08:50
2. Julia Mombi (Team Aruze) - 1:11:21
3. Hiroko Shoi (Team Nihon ChemiCon) - 1:11:27 - PB
4. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:12:08
5. Miyuki Ando (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 1:13:05
6. Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon) - 1:13:38
7. Sumiko Suzuki (Team Hokuren) - 1:14:09 - PB
8. Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) - 1:14:12
9. Rie Matsumoto (Team Nihon ChemiCon) - 1:15:00
10. Kasumi Oyagi (Team Panasonic) - 1:15:07
11. Mizuho Kishi (Team Yamada Denki) - 1:16:26 - debut
12. Xu Jun Liang (China) - 1:16:52
13. Kozue Saito (Yamagata Amateur Sports Assoc.) - 1:16:57
14. Rika Kawashima (Bukkyo Univ.) - 1:16:58
15. Takako Shimada (Team Shimamura) - 1:17:27
16. Eriko Okishi (Bukkyo Univ.) - 1:17:47
17. Ami Shoji (Josai Univ.) - 1:18:14
18. Chihiro Sakata (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 1:18:29
19. Yurika Wakimoto (Kobe Gakuin Univ.) - 1:18:33
20. Anastasiya Padalinskaya (Belarus) - 1:19:21
21. Tomo Kaneko (Bukkyo Univ.) - 1:19:30

1. Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) - 1:02:02
2. Julius Gitahi (Team Nissin Shokuhin Grp.) - 1:02:33
3. Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - 1:02:34
4. Joseph Mwaniki (Team Konica Minolta) - 1:02:52
5. Ryosuke Fukuyama (Team JAL Ground Service) - 1:02:58
6. Minoru Okuda (Team Honda) - 1:02:58
7. Michinori Takano (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 1:03:20
8. Masatoshi Oike (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:03:21
9. Tetsuo Nishimura (Team YKK) - 1:03:23
10. Kazuyuki Maeda (Team Konica Minolta) - 1:03:52
11. Yuki Mori (Team Sumco Techxiv) - 1:03:53
12. Tomonori Onitsuka (Team Kyudenko) - 1:03:54
13. Akinori Iida (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:03:54 - PB
14. Isamu Sueyoshi (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:04:04 - PB
15. Tetsuo Nishikawa (Team YKK) - 1:04:04
16. Keisuke Nakatani (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:04:13
17. Sohei Wada (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 1:04:13
18. Kiyokatsu Hasegawa (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 1:04:22
19. Yuzo Onishi (Team Nissin Shokuhin Grp.) - 1:04:30
20. Akira Okada (Team Hitachi Cable) - 1:04:33
21. Tomohiro Seto (Team Kanebo) - 1:04:38
22. Satoshi Yoshii (Team Sumco Techxiv) - 1:04:40
23. Toshinari Suwa (Team Nissin Shokuhin Grp.) - 1:04:46
24. Naoto Morimoto (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 1:04:48
25. Masahisa Fujiwara (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:04:59

‘07 World Champs Wariner, Clement and Thomas Win Again in Osaka'

Click here for a direct link to complete results.

One point not mentioned in the IAAF article is the strong showing by Japan's men's 4 x 100 m team. Running with only two members of its bronze medal-winning team from the Beijing Olympics, Naoki Tsukahara (Team Fujitsu) and Shinji Takahira (Team Fujitsu), the team won in 38.33, 0.3 seconds off the national record and a time which would have been 5th in the final in Beijing. The team's now-retired anchor from Beijing, Nobuharu Asahara, was one of the television announcers for the Osaka Grand Prix and was surprised and delighted at such an early-season showing. He said that with several months of work ahead on ironing out its exchanges he is confident the team will be a factor in Berlin.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sendai International Half Marathon - Preview

by Brett Larner

The 19th edition of the Sendai International Half Marathon takes place May 10. The second of Japan's three selection races for its World Half Marathon national team, Sendai features some of the country's top pro and university runners on both the women's and men's side along with a good number of Japan-resident Kenyan aces. Setting Sendai apart from the other Japanese half marathons with the 'international' title is its policy of inviting groups of three amateur runners from Sendai's sister cities around the world rather than professionals.

Unquestionably the main attraction at this year's race is the season debut of Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren). Akaba's spectacular 2008 began with her running 1:08:11 to win the Jitsugyodan Half Marathon and break the course record set by Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex). Her time made Akaba the third-fastest Japanese woman ever, and she went on to duplicate the feat over 5000 m and 10000 m. She ran in both the Beijing Olympics and World Half Marathon, then capped off the season with a 2:25:40 marathon debut at the Osaka International Women's Marathon to secure a place at on the team for the Berlin World Championships. Many, including Akaba herself, consider her a prospective medalist in Berlin. Her performance in Sendai, her first since Osaka, will be under heavy scrutiny. If she breaks Noguchi's 2008 Sendai winning time of 1:08:25 Akaba will face a new level of attention in Berlin.

Although Akaba is the favorite, the race is not simply set up as a time trial for her. Last year's runner-up Julia Mombi (Team Aruze) returns and will probably be Akaba's main competition. Mombi's time in Sendai last year, 1:08:31, makes her a threat, but it remains to be seen how fresh she is after running the Paris Marathon last month. 2008 Honolulu Marathon and 2009 Osaka Half Marathon winner Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC) will also be in contention, as will last year's 3rd place finisher Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon), Akaba's teammate at last year's World Half Marathon.

In the men's race, Athens Olympian Toshinari Suwa (Team Nissin Shokuhin) is the featured invited athlete, but he is not known as a half marathoner and, relatively late in his career, he is unlikely to feature in the main action. The withdrawal of the talented James Mwangi (Team NTN) with injury means that defending champion Harun Njoroge (Team Komori Corp.) is very likely to repeat. Half marathon specialist Kazuo Ietani (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) was only 10 seconds behind Njoroge last year, qualifying for the World Half team, and will probably again be the Kenyan's main rival.

Others returning from last year's top ten include Joseph Mwaniki (Team Konica Minolta), Kiyokatsu Hasegawa (Team JR Higashi Nihon) and Yuki Abe (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki). Of special interest is Abe's Mitsubishi teammate Seiji Kobayashi. The veteran Kobayashi ran a PB to finish 2nd at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon and made the shortlist of candidates for the Berlin World Championships team. Having spent part of the spring in New Zealand with the other World Championships marathon team members as they began their preparations, Kobayashi just learned on Thursday that he is the unlucky seventh man on the team of six and will not be going. He is fit and is sure to be motivated to make the half marathon national team in Sendai after coming so close.

Complete details on the 2009 Sendai International Half Marathon elite and invited fields are available here.

Yuko Machida Aiming "Even One Place Higher" in Sendai Int'l Half Marathon

translated and edited by Brett Larner

2008 World Half Marathon national team member and local native Yuko Machida (Team Nihon ChemiCon) will be among the runners lining up for the May 10 Sendai International Half Marathon. Machida finished 3rd in Sendai the last two years. This time she is aiming to break 1 hour 11 minutes for the first time and to finish "even one place higher."

At last October's World Half Marathon in Brazil Machida placed 22nd, an improvement of four places over her showing two years ago in Udine, Italy. "Even though it was hot," Machida recalls, "I was able to pick it up in the second half and start chasing down people ahead of me." She was also 3rd in this year's Nagoya International Women's Marathon, an excellent result which gives her great confidence as she says, "I'm not afraid of breaking down partway through the race or of losing my concentration."

With a good stamina base behind her from her training for Nagoya, Machida's main task as she looked toward Sendai was to sharpen her speed. She prepared for this year's race by relocating to a high-altitude training camp at Mt. Ontake in Gifu Prefecture in mid-April. Her training at the camp included a set of eight 1000 m repeats at 3:15 pace. "There were days when it snowed so much I couldn't do the planned workouts, but overall it was a success and I'm feeling fit," she says. With a toughened body the ebb and flow of her inner strength has changed to a tide of courage.

She will need it as she faces off against the likes of Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), Julia Mombi (Team Aruze) and Kiyoko Shimahara (Second Wind AC). Team Nihon ChemiCon head coach Toshiharu Izumida is confident in Machida's condition, commenting, "She is fast enough now to run against the other leaders." For Machida, she is desperate to smash through the 3rd place wall. "If I can break my PB [of 1:11:03] I think I'll be in position to be up front," she predicts.

Friday, May 8, 2009

'Radcliffe Delight for Yamauchi'

Rikuren, Sato and Akaba Discuss World Championships Marathon Goals

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Following the naming of Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) to the Berlin World Championships men's marathon team and Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) to the women's team on May 7, Rikuren officials and the newly-named athletes themselves discussed their goals. Rikuren director Keisuke Sawaki, 65, said that between the men's and women's team the big picture target for this year's World Championships is "One medal and two other top-eight finishes."

For the first time, the men's and women's marathon alternates will be included as full members of the national team. At the Beijing Olympics Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) and Satoshi Osaki (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) withdrew with injuries shortly before their races. Rikuren and the JOC had failed to bring along or even officially register their substitutes Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) and Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon), so neither was able to take their places. After a period of self-examination Rikuren now seeks to correct these errors by accepting its primary role in taking care not only of the main members of the team but also of the alternates. Sawaki commented, "Well, we had to admit that we have to do some things differently. From now on we want to consider the national marathon teams as having six members, not teams of five plus a substitute." Takahashi and Morimoto will train with the intent to run in Berlin as full members of the team. Rikuren plans to include the alternate members in its overseas training camps for the national marathon team and hopes the new measures will contribute to the rebuilding of Japanese marathoning.

At last month's London Marathon Sato stuck to the script, handily reaching his goal of a sub-2:10 to qualify for Berlin. He views the World Championships as a step toward the 2012 London Olympics, modestly saying, "I am targeting a top-eight finish at the World Championships."

Running only her second marathon, Akaba is more outspoken in her ambition. From her own mouth come the words, "I'm very, very happy. If I get a medal I'll be even happier." Akaba is now the first mother to be named to a Japanese national team in the marathon. Her daughter Yuna, who turns three in August, has been a special source of motivation. "Yuna learned how to say 'silver medal' somewhere, but I keep telling her, 'Gold is better, you know.'* I've gotten this far through support from her and from my family, and paying back what I owe them is what gives me my drive." Akaba also revealed an additional target, the greatest of the world's mama-san runners: "I'll be going after the defending champ, Ndereba."

Prior to the announcement of her securing the last place on the team, Akaba had considered the alternative of running on the track if she was not picked. But, she says, "I really, really wanted to run the marathon. All of my training has been geared to getting ready for the marathon." Sawaki was very positive about Akaba's prospects, commenting, "Akaba has plenty of room for development and improvement and she is in her prime." Akaba agreed, saying, "There are a lot of runners overseas still going strong in their 30's. I can too." One way or another, Akaba is sure to show her daughter that her mom is tough.

*Translator's note: The Japanese words for silver and gold, 'gin' and 'kin,' sound very similar.

'Wariner Returns to Osaka as National Records Are Expected to Fall'

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Japanese Men's World Championships Marathon Team Announced

by Brett Larner

Japan's athletics federation Rikuren announced the official lineups for its 2009 World Championships marathon teams at a press conference on May 7. The federation, its athletes and the country are determined to make up for the national team's ruinous showing at last summer's Olympic games. Both the men's and women's teams include a fair number of young up-and-comers, with two of the men and all but one of the women having debuted within the last two years and three runners total having qualified for the World Championships team in their debut marathons.

Click here for a preview of the women's World Championships team.

Berlin World Championships Marathon Team Members - Men
click photos for detailed profiles

There is no question that the Japanese men will have a harder time, to say the least, keeping up with the advances made worldwide within the last year. Realistically, only team leader Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) has a chance of being among the medalists. It's a slim chance, but although it would require Sato to have fully recovered from the psychological damage of finishing last in the Beijing Olympics marathon and to be ready to deliver the run of his life it is a possibility and cannot be discounted. Sato himself says his goal for Berlin is a top-eight finish.

Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku)
Qualification Mark:
2:09:16 (8th, London 2009)
Other Major Results:
2:07:13 - PB (3rd, Fukuoka 2007)
2:08:36 (4th, Biwako 2004)
2:08:50 (5th, Biwako 2003)
2:09:50 (4th, Biwako 2000 - former university NR)
2:10:38 (10th, World Championships 2003)

Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo) is a teammate of now-retired national record holder Toshinari Takaoka. With a PB of 27:53.92 he was expected to run strong times in the marathon but has been unable to progress past the 2:09 range. Although he has been marathoning since 2002, both of his marathons last year were PBs and with this progression in mind it is conceivable the World Championships could be his best run yet. However, Irifune's performances this spring have been lackluster and he would need to turn things around for this to happen.

Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo)
Qualification Mark:
2:09:23 - PB (2nd, Fukuoka 2008)
Other Major Results:
2:09:40 (5th, Tokyo 2008)
2:09:58 (1st, Beppu-Oita 2005)
2:17:22 (20th, World Championships 2005)

Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon) may be the wildcard of the team. In three of his four marathons to date he has either been on, as in his out-of-nowhere 2:08:40 PB at last year's Tokyo Marathon to make the Beijing Olympics team as alternate, or completely, utterly off, as in his 2:38:37 debut in 2007 or his 2:23:10 at the 2008 Chicago Marathon. Fujiwara's qualifying race in Fukuoka last year showed both poles as he struggled after 30 km but came back with a great finish. He is too unstable to predict, but if the good Fujiwara shows up in Berlin he could once again be the surprise of the race.

Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon)
Qualification Mark:
2:09:47 (3rd, Fukuoka 2008)
Other Major Results:
2:08:40 - PB (2nd, Tokyo 2008)
alternate, 2008 Beijing Olympics team

The remaining two men on the team qualified in windy conditions which gave them deceptively slow marks. Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei) frontran the second half of this year's Biwako Mainichi Marathon to qualify for Berlin, showing a lot of bravado against Paul Tergat (Kenya), Jose Rios (Spain) and Yared Asmerom (Eritrea) but ultimately unable to keep up when it came down to a track race finish. Shimizu said afterwards that his main motivation had been to beat his faster identical twin brother Tomoya, not to make the World Championships, so you have to wonder how he will handle being on his own in the main event.

Masaya Shimizu (Team Asahi Kasei)
Qualification Mark:
2:10:50 - PB (4th, Biwako 2009)
Other Major Results:
2:13:06 (1st, Nobeoka 2008)

Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) had even tougher conditions to handle than Shimizu as he debuted in Tokyo this spring, facing a withering headwind which slowed the field by about three minutes in the final stages. Although he fell behind the leaders after 30 km he had by far the strongest finish in the field as he came back to take 2nd. The same strategy won't work in Berlin, but Maeda, a 27:55.17 10000 m runner, gave the impression that he has the physical and psychological resources to go much further. Along with Fujiwara he may be a big surprise in Berlin.

Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko)
Qualification Mark:
2:11:01 - debut (2nd, Tokyo 2009)
Other Major Results:
10000 m PB: 27:55.17 (2007)
10000 m, World Championships 2007


Coming into this year's Tokyo Marathon with only a handful of marathons and a modest PB of 2:11:52 behind him, Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota) made the race with an aggressive breakaway at 30 km into the headwind, killing off all but sub-2:08 Kenyans Salim Kipsang and Sammy Korir. Although Kipsang got away and he was overtaken by Kazuhiro Maeda late in the race, Takahashi never really faded and actually shook off the great Korir to take 3rd. His selection as alternate comes at the expense of a brilliant run by veteran Seiji Kobayashi (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) at this year's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, but Takahashi earned the spot through assertive, competitive racing. Like Maeda, his time was likely three minutes slow due to the headwind late in the race.

Kensuke Takahashi (Team Toyota)
Qualification Mark:
2:11:25 - PB (3rd, Tokyo 2009)
Other Major Results:
2:11:52 (6th, Fukuoka 2007)

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved