Friday, November 28, 2014

Back on the Track, A New Ekiden and No Rest for Kawauchi - Weekend Preview

by Brett Larner

Earlier this year when Oregon-training then-future 3000 m national record holder Suguru Osako (Team Nissin Shokuhin) ran in a U.S. track meet its webcast announcer, talking about Osako's PBs, said in a mocking tone of voice, "Who runs track in November?"  The answer, of course, is just about every elite Japan-based runner.

November is full of track time trial meets that coaches use to assess fitness within their rosters ahead of the mid-December to mid-January national championship ekiden season.  One of the biggest happens on Saturday, the Hachioji Long Distance time trials meet in Tokyo's western suburbs featuring seven men's 10000 m heats packed with much of the top talent in the country.  The A-heat features 18 of the best Japan-based Africans paced by sub-27 man Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC), young sub-28 Japanese athletes Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota), Keita Shitara (Team Konica Minolta), Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) and Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei) plus nine others hoping to join them.  The other 6 heats, staggered in 10-second target time increments, all feature Japan-based Kenyan pacers like 2013 World XC junior silver medalist Leonard Barsoton (Team Nissin Shokuhin) leading mixed pro and collegiate fields.  Quality track time trial meets are scheduled far to the west in Nagasaki, mid-country at Chukyo University, and northwest of Tokyo at Heisei Kokusai University in Saitama.  If you consider yourself a serious runner here, there's a pretty good chance you'll be running track in November.

Many college-aged women who aren't will instead be north of Tokyo in Tochigi at the Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden, a brand-new event and welcome addition to the university women's calendar.  14 teams are entered for the one-way, uphill race that is looking to build up some of the buzz that surrounds the Hakone Ekiden's legendary uphill Fifth Stage.  With 6 stages totalling only 23.4 km it'll be over in a relative flash, but at 875 m of climb it's a tough course, especially on its own Fifth Stage which climbs roughly 400 m in 3.5 km.  The #1 women's university team in eastern Japan, Daito Bunka University, is fielding a lineup featuring A-listers Mari Tayama and Eri Utsunomiya, and national-level Osaka Geidai University and Chuo University likewise have some of their big names on their entry list, so in its first running the Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden looks set for a good race.

The weekend's other main event comes in Saitama at the newish Koedo Kawagoe Half Marathon.  A week after a 2:12:59 course record at the Fukuchiyama Marathon, two weeks after a career third-best 1:02:55 at the Ageo City Half Marathon and four weeks after a disappointing turn at the TCS New York City Marathon, Kawagoe course record holder Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returns to give his 1:04:44 record from last year a go in a tuneup for a shot at a 2:07 marathon next month.  Look for coverage of these and other events throughout the weekend here on JRN.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tanaka and Fukushi Entered for National Corporate Women's Ekiden

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/f-sp-tp0-20141126-1401292.html

translated by Brett Larner

Rosters for the 26 teams entered in the Dec. 14 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships were announced Nov. 26.  Both 2014 Yokohama International Women's Marathon winner Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) and 2013 Moscow World Championships women's marathon bronze medalist Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) feature on the entry list.

Also entered are 2012 London Olympics marathoners Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) and Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya), along with 19-year-old Reia Iwade (Team Noritz), who finished 3rd in Yokohama on Nov. 16 in her marathon debut.  2004 Athens Olympics marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi was not entered on the Sysmex team roster.

The National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships will be held on a six-stage, 42.195 km course from the Matsushima Culture and Tourism Exchange Center to Sendai Municipal Field.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Both London Olympics Gold Medalists to Run 2015 Tokyo Marathon

http://response.jp/article/2014/11/26/238309.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The organizers of the 2015 Tokyo Marathon have announced that both London Olympics gold medalists will run next year's race, men's marathon gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda) and women's marathon gold medalist Tiki Gelana (Ethiopia) each signing on to run as invited athletes.  Kiprotich ran the Tokyo Marathon in 2012 to qualify for the Olympics, finishing 3rd in 2:07:50 behind winner Michael Kipyego (Kenya) and Arata Fujiwara (Japan).  Formerly based in Japan, Gelana ran the Yokohama International Women's Marathon earlier this month where she was 6th in 2:29:13.

The 2015 Tokyo Marathon is scheduled to be held Feb. 22.  As of Nov. 14, 304,825 people had entered for the 28,400 places in the general division, and with entries for the elite, sub-elite, charity runner and other divisions well over capacity across the board, preparations are progressing steadily.  114 companies are expected for the 2015 Tokyo Marathon Expo to be held Feb. 19-22, and with a Family Run and Friendship Run planned to be held and live nationwide TV and radio broadcasts starting at 9:00 a.m. there are many ways for people to enjoy race weekend apart from running in the main event itself.

An indication of the scale of the 2015 Tokyo Marathon is the number of people involved in supporting roles and at water and food stations.  1400 officials from the Tokyo Track and Field Association will be involved, along with 10,000 volunteers.  Aid stations are still be evaluated but plans call for 90,000 bananas, 40,000 chocolates and 72,000 tomatoes.

A preliminary report on initiatives for the 10th anniversary Tokyo Marathon in 2016 has also been made.  Tokyo Marathon Foundation president Koji Sakurai has been named head of the 2016 Tokyo Marathon Project committee.  Along with a proposal to expand the sub-elite component of the field in 2016, the issue of an international wheelchair race is under examination.  The 2015 edition will also feature a wheelchair race, but the aim is to receive certification from the International Paralympic Committee in 2016 in hopes of staging an international certified race.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kyudenko Rounds Out New Year Ekiden Qualifiers With Kyushu Corporate Ekiden Win

by Brett Larner
photo by akm.y

Corporate men’s qualification for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national championships wrapped up Sunday with the westernmost region Kyushu Corporate Men’s Ekiden. Despite missing its top Japanese man, 2:08:00 marathoner Kazuhiro Maeda, defending champion and course record holder Kyudenko made it two in a row, taking the top spot over the seven-stage, 78.8 km course in 3:54:35 by 43 seconds over last year’s 3rd-placer Kurosaki Harima. After running almost even through the first two stages Kurosaki Harima pulled ahead and led Kyudenko until the 9.2 km Fifth Stage, when Moscow World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Paul Tanui ran a stage best 25:24 to put Kyudenko in the lead for good.

Yasukawa Denki, featuring Moscow World Championships marathon 5th placer Kentaro Nakamoto, was another 40 seconds back, anchor Bunta Kuroki running down Barcelona Olympics marathon silver medalist Koichi Morishita-coached Toyota Kyushu anchor Kento Otsu to give Yasukawa Denki 3rd by 2 seconds. The too-proudly all-Japanese 2012 Kyushu champion Asahi Kasei team headed by JAAF men’s marathoning director Takeshi Soh was a shambles, all but one of its runners finishing 4th or lower on their stages and the team finishing only 5th overall. With six places at the New Year Ekiden up for grabs for the seven quality teams in the region the battle for 6th was a good one, with the Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki team led by 2014 Asian Games marathon silver medalist Kohei Matsumura going back and forth with the Nishitetsu team all day before just holding them off by 10 seconds to pick up the last ticket.

The 6 teams from the Kyushu region join the 31 teams from the corporate league’s other 5 regions who have already qualified for the New Year Ekiden. In the most competitive region, Tokyo-centric East Japan, two-time New Year Ekiden winner Konica Minolta, running with all of its big guns except track and half marathon star Tsuyoshi Ugachi, beat 2012 New Year Ekiden winner Nissin Shokuhin who were likewise absent #1 man Yuki Sato. The other big news came down at the bottom of the field, where tiny Nanyo City Hall beat Kanebo, formerly one of the best teams in the country, for the thirteenth and final New Year Ekiden spot available to East Japan teams.

In the Chubu Region, seven quality teams competed for seven places at the New Year Ekiden, illustrating the partial futility of the regional qualification system.  The best of them, Toyota, won easily, taking five of the seven stage bests in spite of splitting its roster into two squads with most of its best men on the A team.  The Toyota A men scored the fastest average pace of any of the 37 teams in the 6 corporate regional qualifiers by over 3 seconds per kilometer, an indication of how much the other teams will have to step up their game come Jan. 1.  Toyota anchor Shinobu Kubota, a 2014 graduate of 4-time National University Ekiden champion Komazawa University, won the 13.1 km anchor stage by nearly a minute and a half.  Toyota's B team finished 3rd overall without counting toward New Year qualification, meaning extra depth that majorly improves Toyota's chances of breaking East Japan's hold on the national title.

The tiny Hokuriku Region held its regional qualifier concurrently with Chubu, its teams competing alongside the bigger region's but scored separately.  The YKK team, the only true national-quality team in the region, has a perpetual lock on New Year Ekiden qualification and made it again with ease, but in the race for the second spot last year's Hokuriku 4th-placer Omokawa Lumber, which this year recruited the late-career but still-strong Norio Kamijo, pulled off a surprise and outran both of the region's other two teams, Sekino Reform and the Takada SDF Base, to take 2nd.

In the foreigner-free Kansai Region, last year's winner SGH Group fell to 4th out of the five teams to qualify, only London Olympics marathoner Ryo Yamamoto and anchor Takayasu Hashizume running up to potential with stage wins.  In its place last year's 2nd-placer Otsuka Seiyaku came out on top of a very close race, beating the still-developing new Sumitomo Denko team by just 8 seconds over 80.45 km as rookie anchor Yudai Yamakawa overtook Sumitomo's Noritaka Fujiyama, another Komazawa graduate, with NTT Nishi Nihon another 8 seconds back.

The Chugoku Region, another with an equal number of quality teams and New Year Ekiden spots, saw the dominant Chugoku Denryoku team win again for the millionth straight year, over two minutes ahead of runner-up Mazda with an all-Japanese lineup.  The biggest news came on the anchor stage, where Chugoku Denryoku's likable Takehiro Deki, an enigmatic ekiden star while at Aoyama Gakuin University who ran a 2:10:02 marathon his junior year without specific training and has struggled ever since, ran a 38:05 stage record on the 13.0 km anchor stage.  If Deki is back to full strength Chugoku Denryoku's chances of improving on last year's 5th-place New Year Ekiden finish will be very good indeed.  Look for a full New Year Ekiden preview next month closer to race date, and follow @JRNLive for the only live English-language coverage of the event that justifies the existence of Japan's corporate running league.

East Japan Region - Nov. 3, 7 stages, 77.5 km
Konica Minolta - 2:57.7 / km
Nissin Shokuhin - 2:58.3 / km
Honda - 2:59.1 / km
Fujitsu - 3:00.2 / km
Yakult - 3:00.7 / km
Press Kogyo - 3:01.4 / km
Komori Corp. - 3:01.8 / km
DeNA - 3:02.1 / km
Hitachi Butsuryu - 3:02.2 / km
Subaru - 3:02.6 / km
Yachiyo Kogyo - 3:03.5 / km
JR Higashi Nihon - 3:03.8 / km
Nanyo City Hall - 3:05.5 / km

Chubu Region - Nov. 16, 7 stages, 83.3 km
Toyota - 2:54.4 / km
NTN - 2:57.9 / km
Toyota Boshoku - 2:59.0 / km
Aichi Seiko - 2:59.6 / km
Aisan Kogyo - 2:59.7 / km
Chuo Hatsujo - 3:01.5 / km
Toenec - 3:04.7 / km

Kyushu Region - Nov. 23, 7 stages, 78.8 km
Kyudenko - 2:58.6 / km
Kurosaki Harima - 2:59.2 / km
Yasukawa Denki - 2:59.7 / km
Toyota Kyushu - 2:59.7 / km
Asahi Kasei - 3:00.9 / km
Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki - 3:03.3 / km

Kansai Region - Nov. 16, 7 stages, 80.45 km
Otsuka Seiyaku - 2:59.5 / km
Sumitomo Denko - 2:59.6 / km
NTT Nishi Nihon - 2:59.7 / km
SGH Group - 3:00.3 / km
Osaka Gas - 3:00.9 / km

Chugoku Region - Nov. 16, 7 stages, 82.8 km
Chugoku Denryoku - 2:57.8 / km
Mazda - 2:59.4 / km
JFE Steel - 3:01.8 / km
Chudenko - 3:02.0 / km

Hokuriku Region - Nov. 16, 7 stages, 83.3 km
YKK - 3:00.6 / km
Omokawa Lumber - 3:03.5 / km

(c) 2014 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
photo (c) 2014 akm.y, all rights reserved

Monday, November 24, 2014

Japan Scores First International Chiba Ekiden Win in Five Years In Anchor Stage Battle Against Kenya

by Brett Larner

Up against a relatively anonymous team fielded by course record holder and three-time defending champion Kenya, the Japan team fought hard over the final two of the day's six stages to come up with its first International Chiba Ekiden win since 2009, covering the 42.195 km course in 2:05:53 for the win with an all-star team of three men and three women.  But it was anything but a one-dimensional race, at least half a dozen countries bringing top-quality teams that made for an exciting race of turnover the entire way.

#1-ranked collegiate runner Kenta Murayama led off for Japan but fell behind the talented front pack midway and finished only 6th on the 5 km First Stage.  Jake Robertson (New Zealand) did most of the work against Lucas Bruchet (Canada), Tadashi Isshiki (Japan Univ.) Florian Orth (Germany), Egor Nikolaev (Russia), Tyler Pennel (U.S.A.) and Brett Robinson (Australia), all staying side by side through most of the stage before Robinson kicked past Robertson to hand off first.

The 5 km women's Second Stage started off as a quartet of Madeline Heiner (Australia), Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand), Jessica O'Connell and Saori Noda (Japan Univ.) with Elena Korobkina (Russia), Kathryn Matthews (U.S.A.) and Ayuko Suzuki (Japan) in pursuit.  Korobkina was the first to make contact, Suzuki dropping Matthews before going straight past the leader group.  Only Korobkina was able to stay with Suzuki, getting away from her in the final straight to put Russia into 1st at the handoff.

Kota Murayama, the identical twin of Japan's First Stage runner Kenta Murayama, went out with a reported 2:30 opening kilometer for the 10 km men's Third Stage, immediately catching Evgeny Rybakov (Russia), also a twin.  Kelly Wiebe (Canada) and Duer Yoa (Australia) initially drew to within a few seconds of the lead pair but lost ground over the second half and were swallowed up by Ken Yokote (Japan Univ. Team), who set a stage record three weeks ago at the National University Ekiden.  Rybakov outkicked Murayama in the last kilometer to keep Russia's lead.  After a weak first two stages, Henry Sang (Kenya) ran the fastest time on the Third Stage to catch Christo Landry (U.S.A.) and Callan Moody (New Zealand) and put Kenya into 6th.

Despite running the two fastest times on the 5 km women's Fourth Stage Liz Costello (U.S.A.) and Shelmith Nyawira Muriuki (Kenya) found themselves locked in 6th and 7th as the race ahead of them developed.  5000 m national champion Misaki Onishi (Japan) initially dropped Alla Kuliatina (Russia) for the lead, but in the final kilometer Kuliatina returned to put Russia back ahead.  Last year's Fourth Stage winner Natsuki Omori (Japan Univ. Team) looked like she would join the two leaders but soon faded, nearly run down by Natasha Labeaud (Canada) but holding onto 3rd.  Bridley Delaney (Australia) was caught by Muriuki and nearly by Costello late in the stage but outkicked both to hang on to 5th.

At the start of the final men's stage, the 10 km Fifth Stage, Russia and Japan were just 4 seconds apart, the Japanese University team 19 seconds behind them, Canada 18 seconds away and Australia another 18 seconds distant.  None of that made much difference to Kenya's Matthew Kisorio, wearing the Kenyan national colors for the first time since his doping suspension.  Starting in 6th exactly a minute off the lead, Kisorio grinned as he flew past Jack Rayner (Australia) within a few steps, outclassing Samil Jibril (Canada) and cockily giving a #1 sign as he overtook self-coached collegiate Kentaro Hirai (Japan Univ.) to move into 3rd.  Just before 7 km he caught lead pair Minato Oishi (Japan) and Anatoly Rybakov (Russia) and took the lead, but Oishi was not through.

A veteran of the Hakone Ekiden's ~900 m uphill Fifth Stage in university, Oishi pursued Kisorio, dropping Rybakov and actually regaining ground on Kisorio on each of the steep uphills in the final 3 km of the stage.  As Kisorio scored a new stage record of 27:42, at the anchor handoff Oishi was only 8 seconds behind him, having opened 30 seconds on Rybakov in just 3 km.  Further back, last year's Third Stage stage record setter Zane Robertson (New Zealand) passed Australia, Canada and the U.S.A. to move up from 8th to 5th with the next-best time on the stage, 28:22.

The 7.195 km women's Sixth Stage is the toughest in Chiba, hilly almost the entire way until the home straight to the stadium finish.  2014 World Half Marathon Championships 5th-placer Mercy Kibarus (Kenya) went out hard with a 2:45 km, immediately doubling her lead over Japanese anchor Ayumi Hagiwara.  Hagiwara, wary of Russian anchor Natalia Popkova, took her time catching up, working the uphills to close the gap to Kibarus.  Seemingly surprised when Hagiwara pulled even Kibarus panicked and surged back out front, but Hagiwara again reeled he in on the hills and opened a slight lead that grew slowly to Japan's final 37-second margin of victory.

Popkova, visibly out of shape, was never a factor and was quickly run down by the Japan University Select Team's anchor Rina Nabeshima, who gave the collegiates 3rd overall in 2:07:16, 47 seconds behind Kenya.  Russia was 4th in 2:07:42, while New Zealand anchor Camille Buscomb held off the American team's Rachel Ward to keep the Kiwis in 5th in 2:09:00, top five favorite U.S.A. close behind in 2:09:13 for 6th just ahead of Canada.  Although mostly absent real African competition, the back-and-forth between the countries in the top end of the field made for an exciting race that illustrated how entertaining the ekiden can be as a spectator event.  If it were truly international in its distribution or intent the International Chiba Ekiden could be a great contribution to international athletics.

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

Team Results
1. Japan - 2:05:53
2. Kenya - 2:06:29
3. Japan University Select Team - 2:07:16
4. Russia - 2:07:42
5. New Zealand - 2:09:00
6. U.S.A. - 2:09:13
7. Canada - 2:09:28
8. Australia - 2:10:16
9. Germany - 2:13:12
10. Chiba Prefecture - 2:13:16
11. France - 2:13:35
12. Estonia - 2:16:49
13. China - 2:19:56

Top Stage Performances - click stage for complete results
First Stage - 5 km, men
1. Brett Robinson (Australia) - 13:33
2. Jake Robertson (New Zealand) - 13:34
3. Lucas Bruchet (Canada) - 13:35
4. Tadashi Isshiki (Japan Univ.) - 13:35
5. Egor Nikolaev (Russia) - 13:38

Second Stage - 5 km, women
1. Elena Korobkina (Russia) - 15:21
1. Ayuko Suzuki (Japan) - 15:21
3. Jessica O'Connell (Canada) - 15:33
4. Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) - 15:34
5. Madeline Heiner (Australia) - 15:37

Third Stage - 10 km, men
1. Henry Sang (Kenya) - 28:25
2. Kota Murayama (Japan) - 28:39
3. Evgeny Rybakov (Russia) - 28:43
4. Ken Yokote (Japan Univ. Team) - 28:44
5. Christo Landry (U.S.A.) - 28:55

Fourth Stage - 5 km, women
1. Liz Costello (U.S.A.) - 16:17
2. Shelmith Nyawira Muriuki (Kenya) - 16:19
2. Alla Kuliatina (Russia) - 16:19
4. Natashi Labeaud (Canada) - 16:20
4. Misaki Onishi (Japan) - 16:20

Fifth Stage - 10 km, men
1. Matthew Kisorio (Kenya) - 27:42 - CR
2. Zane Robertson (New Zealand) - 28:22
3. Minato Oishi (Japan)  28:46
4. Anatoly Rybakov (Russia) - 29:20
5. Kentaro Hirai (Japan Univ. Team) - 29:31

Sixth Stage - 7.195 km, women
1. Ayumi Hagiwara (Japan) - 23:02
2. Rina Nabeshia (Japan Univ. Team) - 23:21
3. Mercy Kibarus (Kenya) - 23:46
4. Lanni Marchant (Canada) - 24:09
5. Rachel Ward (U.S.A.) - 24:15

Alternates' 5000 m
Men
1. David McNeill (Australia) - 13:51.48
2. Rinas Akhmadeev (Russia) - 13:56.87
3. Amos Kiprono Kaptich (Kenya) - 13:59.08
4. Daniel Balchin (New Zealand) - 14:06.42
5. Pier-Olivier Laflamme (Canada) - 14:10.50

Women
1. Rachel Cliff (Canada) - 15:58.73
2. Casey Wood (Australia) - 16:10.82
3. Elina Sujew (Germany) - 16:15.70
4. Sarah Pagano (U.S.A.) - 16:21.13
5. Floriane Chevalier-Garenne (France) - 16:25.70

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Inoue Leads Kanto 10000 m Time Trials in 28:19.28 PB

by Brett Larner
video by naoki620

With universities in the Kanto Region gearing up for the season-ending Hakone Ekiden on Jan. 2-3 the KGRR held its annual 10000 m time trial meet Sunday, moved this year from Tokyo's soon-to-be-demolished National Stadium to one of the most beautiful tracks in Japan, Keio University's Hiyoshi Field in Kanagawa.  Sixteen men's 10000 m heats and one women's 10000 m filled up most of the day until well beyond sunset.



In the fastest men's heat, 2014 Copenhagen World Half Marathon Championships team member Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) ran a PB 28:19.28 for the win over last year's top finisher Takuya Fujikawa (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.), whose 28:20.31 was a new AGU school record.  Inoue and Fujikawa ran in a front pack of five that included Kazuma Kubota (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.), Hironori Tsuetaki (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) and Yusuke Osumi (Daito Bunka Univ.), virtually all five men taking turns keeping the pace steady at 2:50/km, 28:20 pace, until 6800 m when Osumi was the first to slip.  Tseutaki was next, followed by Kubota, but both Inoue and Fujikawa held true to the pace all the way to the end, making up for a slightly slower ninth kilometer in their last kicks.  All five of the leaders broke 29 minutes in new PBs, earning scholarship money from the KGRR in the process.  Fujikawa and Kubota's success means AGU now has four men 28:30 or better this season, marking them as a legitimate threat to Hakone favorite Komazawa University.

Two other heats, both incorporating time trials for potential members of the newly-formatted Kanto Region University Student Alliance team for Hakone, saw the winners go sub-29, Inoue's teammate Junya Uemura (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) taking Heat 11 in 28:59.28 and Ryo Yamada and Hayato Yamada (both Meiji University) going 1-2 in 28:56.93 and 28:57.11.

The women's race saw a runner from outside the Kanto Region take the top position as Ayumi Uehara (Matsuyama Univ.) outran Fuyuka Kimura (Daito Bunka Univ.) for the win in 32:56.38 to 33:02.54.  The #1-ranked school in Kanto, the DBU women took six of the top ten places.

text and photos (c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tokyo Institute of Technology's First Hakone Ekiden Runner Masaki Matsui Hopes to Be the Next Kawauchi

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/11/23/kiji/K20141123009339970.html

translated by Brett Larner

A rebel runner with a high coefficient of variation is set to run the sport's biggest stage.  Members of the Kanto Region University Student Alliance team for the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden met with members of the media Nov. 23 in Yokohama for interviews following the Kanto Region University 10000 m Time Trials meet at Keio University.  Masaki Matsui, a junior at science powerhouse Tokyo Kogyo University, the Tokyo Institute of Technology, where he studies in the School of Engineering's Department of Aerospace Mechanics, told reporters, "Most of the time I train alone.  I mostly run by myself, so that's the way I want to run my race.  Whatever stage I'm put on I want to give it what I have."

As a second-year on the dominant Saku Chosei H.S. ekiden team Matsui suffered a stress fracture in his lower pelvis that forced him to leave the team.  Having gotten good grades ever since he was young, Matsui shifted his focus to his studies and was accepted to Tokyo Kogyo University.  "When I left the Saku Chosei team I thought that was it for me and athletics, but I started running again the day I got accepted," he said.

After entering Tokyo Kogyo University Matsui began living by himself in an apartment near the university campus.  At the university he is working to build "a robot that can do street performances."  While studying and working four part-time jobs as a tutor to make the money he needs to live Matsui has improved his 10000 m PB to 29:29.13.  His inspiration, he says, is civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't).  "I'm not thinking about going to the corporate leagues at all," he said.  "I want to become the best I can be on my own like Kawauchi has."  With a robotic mechanical accuracy to his pitch, Matsui is set to become Tokyo Kogyo University's first-ever Hakone runner.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Kawauchi Takes Nine Minutes Off Fukuchiyama Marathon Course Record - Road Review

by Brett Larner

Three weeks after an unsuccessful run at the TCS New York City Marathon and a week after the third-fastest half marathon of his career, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returned to his favorite distance at the 24th Fukuchiyama Marathon in Kyoto.  Cancelled last year in the wake of a typhoon, Fukuchiyama was rewarded for its invite of Kawauchi as he took nearly nine minutes off the course record with a solo 2:12:59 win.  Opening with an ambitious 14:56 split for the first 5 km, 2:06 marathon pace, Kawauchi was immediately on his own, and despite progressively slowing for the rest of the way he opened over 14 minutes on 2nd place and held on well enough to just meet his pre-race goal of a 2:12 finish.  Post-race he deadpanned, "I'm majorly rewriting the course records at marathons across Japan to promote my "Japanese Archipelago Domestic Remodelling Project."  Click here for video of Kawauchi's finish.

Kawauchi's time also beat the new course record set at the weekend's largest marathon, the Kobe Marathon, at 17213 finishers nearly twice the size of Fukuchiyama.  In Kobe, Kenyan Harun Malel took four minutes off his PB to win in a new CR of 2:13:45.  Like Kawauchi's a mostly solo effort, Malel beat runner-up Yuya Takayanagi (Team Sysmex) by over six minutes.  The women's race was much closer, with Hiromi Saito (Team Kyocera) beating Riona Ishimoto (Team Noritz) by just three seconds for the win in 2:38:23.  Course record holder and defending champion Chihiro Tanaka (Athlec AC) outkicked Kenyan Mildred Kimanyi for 3rd by nine seconds in 2:41:15.

Ishimoto's teammate Kana Unno (Team Noritz) had better luck at the 27th Ohtawara Marathon, winning the women's race in 2:43:53.  Former national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), a local to the Ohtawara area, won the women's 10 km in 34:27.  On the men's side, Shingo Igarashi (Team Subaru) won in 2:16:18 with teammate Hayato Kono winning the 10 km in a modest 31:33.  52-year-old Mike Trees (Great Britain) ran a solid 32:49.

Earlier in the week another Kyocera athlete, Asami Furuse, outran another British runner, Charlotte Purdue, to take the win in 1:12:01 at the 33rd Sanyo Ladies Road Race half marathon in Okayama.  Traditionally a year-ending highlight, Sanyo was moved five weeks earlier this year due to the planned opening of a major new shopping center in central Okayama in mid-December.  American Mattie Suver was 4th in 1:14:50 behind Shoko Mori (Team Otsuka Seiyaku).  In the 10 km, Kenyans Grace Kimanzi (Team Starts) and Felista Wanjugu (Team Univ. Ent.) went 1-2 with ease, Kimanzi taking the win in 32:05.  2011 Tokyo Marathon winner Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) was far back in 3rd in 33:23.

Overseas, Chiyuki Mochizuki (Canon AC Kyushu) took silver at the 100 km World Championships in Doha, Qatar in 7:38:23, leading three Japanese women into the top ten to also pick up the team silver medal.  The Japanese men also scored team silver on the strength of 4th and 5th-place finishes by Hideo Nojo and Yoshiki Takada.  In Europe, members of the Meijo University women's ekiden team once again ran in the Zevenheuvelenloop 15 km road race, Yomogi Akasaka leading the way with a 6th-place finish in 50:44.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved