Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Kawauchi and Takemoto Headline Dec. 18 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon

by Brett Larner

Fresh off one of the greatest marathons of his career to date in Fukuoka last weekend, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) once again returns to the Dec. 18 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon for his year-ending marathon double.  With injuries to both legs before Fukuoka Kawauchi's condition is a question mark, but on paper he is the class of the field with an almost three-minute advantage over his nearest competition, the Toshinari Takaoka-coached Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo).  Taiki Yoshimura (Team Asahi Kasei), coached by Takeshi Soh, and Katsuta Marathon course record-setter Shingo Igarashi (Josai Univ. Staff) are the other main domestic contenders. Perpetual pacemaker Isaac Macharia (Kenya) is listed in the field rather than as a pacer, but it has been years since Macharia has run a good marathon. That makes Rio Olympian Tsegai Tewelde (Great Britain) the top international runner in the field with a 2:12:23 at this year's London Marathon.

Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) has won the Hofu women's race five times including a 2:35:46 course record last year, but this year she faces two current corporate league women who lead Hofu's best-ever women's field. Yuka Takemoto holds the course record at the nearby Kitakyushu Marathon with a 2:31:02 win in 2014.  The same year Yuko Mizuguchi (Team Denso) ran 2:31:39 at the Nagoya Women's Marathon.  Yoshimatsu will have a tough time overcoming either of them, let alone both, to score a sixth Hofu title.

47th Hofu Yomiuri Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Hofu, Yamaguchi, 12/18/16
click here for complete field listing
times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Men
Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:09:01 (Gold Coast 2016)
Isaac Macharia (Kenya) - 2:11:00 (Seoul 2012)
Tomoyuki Morita (Kanebo) - 2:11:41 (Tokyo 2015)
Tsegai Tewelde (Great Britain) - 2:12:23 (London 2016)
Taiki Yoshimura (Asahi Kasei) - 2:13:12 (Hofu 2015)
Shingo Igarashi (Josai Univ. Staff) - 2:13:15 (Katsuta 2016)
Yasuyuki Nakamura (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:13:46 (Tokyo 2016)
Ezekiel Jafary (Tanzania) - 2:14:05 (Seoul 2014)
Shogo Kanezane (Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:14:15 (Beppu-Oita 2016)
Ryo Hashimoto (GMO Athletes) - 2:14:38 (Tokyo 2016)
Sora Tsukada (SGH Group) - 2:15:16 (Osaka 2016)

Women
Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:31:02 (Kitakyushu 2014)
Yuko Mizuguchi (Denso) - 2:31:39 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) - 2:35:46 (Hofu 2015)
Noriko Sato (First Dream AC) - 2:46:36 (Fukuoka 2014)
Chika Yokota (Hiroshima Univ.) - 2:47:47 (Shimonoseki 2015)
Hisayo Matsumoto (unattached) - 2:47:51 (Hofu 20159
Rika Kawashima (Canon AC Kyushu) - debut

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ito Resigns as Head Coach at Senshu University

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2016/12/05/kiji/K20161205013852630.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Senshu University announced on Dec. 5 that assistant coach and Senshu alum Atsushi Hasegawa, 32, has been promoted to head coach, replacing resigning head coach Kunimitsu Ito, 61.  Ito is a two-time Asian Games gold medalist on the track and ran 2:07:57 at the 1986 Beijing International Marathon.  He was head coach at the Kanebo corporate team prior to taking his position at Senshu.  Under Ito's leadership Senshu made the Hakone Ekiden only once, in 2014.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Kawauchi's Mother Mika: "A Miracle Happened"

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20161205/ath16120505020002-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

At the Fukuoka International Marathon, a selection race for August's World Championships in London, "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi (29, Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:09:11 to finish 3rd as the top Japanese man.  His mother Mika, 52, went to Fukuoka to cheer him, watching her son's finish at historic Heiwadai Field.  Worried about the condition of his injury she had initially opposed him starting, but seeing his powerful running with her own eyes she said, "I thought a miracle had happened."  Right after finishing Kawauchi began crying.  His mother smiled as she said, "It's the first time I've ever seen him cry tears that weren't unhappy."

In Takaoka's View: Kawauchi Has a Chance of Making it to the Top at World Championships

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2016/12/05/kiji/K20161205013849380.html

by Toshinari Takaoka, Japanese men's marathon national record holder and Kanebo head coach

translated by Brett Larner

This race brought together all of Kawauchi's past experience.  The first half was slower than expected, and the pacers dropped out earlier than scheduled. Most of the other runners were forced to make difficult decisions, but, accustomed to facing the unexpected, Kawauchi was able to make the right ones.

The race began just before 25 km, a point where it's very hard to feel like, "Time to race!"  You could see the strength of his feeling, and he more than demonstrated that he has no shortage of the most important ingredient, tenacity.

Counterintuitively, I think that the setbacks caused by his injuries may have freed him from pressure. As we saw last year at Fukuoka International when he was too focused on making the Olympic team, when he is feeling good there is more pressure.  This time he looked relaxed and refreshed standing on the start line.

If he makes the World Championships, his biggest advantage will be his experience.  However, as he is an athlete who races to train, conditioning will be crucial.  If he peaks for it and shows even greater tenacity and patience then there is a chance he can make it to the top.

New JAAF Leader Seko Praises Kawauchi's Aggressiveness - "It'd Be OK if He's Chosen"

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20161204/ath16120418410006-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner
photo by Dr. Helmut Winter

At the Dec. 4 Fukuoka International Marathon, civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) was the top Japanese man at 3rd overall in 2:09:11, putting his name at the top of the list for 2017 London World Championships team consideration.  Newly-appointed JAAF Long Distance and Marathon Development project leader Toshihiko Seko praised Kawauchi's aggressiveness in the race, saying, "That was running of tremendous value.  It'd be OK if he's chosen [for the London team]."  Seko also emphasized the fact that Kawauchi produced results off his training load, which included a 100-km run.  "I think young people learned something from that," he said.  Beaming with positivity at the conclusion of the first World Championships selection race, Seko said, "This was a good first step.  I want to say thank you to Mr. Kawauchi."

photo © 2016 Dr. Helmut Winter
all rights reserved

Fukuoka General Division Runner Sonoda 4th in Massive PB - "Everything Paid Off"

http://www.sanspo.com/sports/news/20161205/ath16120505000003-n1.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner
photo by Dr. Helmut Winter

At the Dec. 4 Fukuoka International Marathon, a selection race for next August's London World Championships, general division entrant Hayato Sonoda (27, Team Kurosaki Harima) finished 4th in 2:10:40, a massive new PB over his 2:17:40 last year in Fukuoka.  "I've never been able to run the kind of time I thought I could, but finally everything I've done has paid off," he said. During the race Sonoda told himself, "Stay positive and don't lose heart." Sure enough, when the time came late in the race and the other athletes around him were fading he opened up and blossomed.  Moving up rapidly through the field he ended as the second Japanese finisher, putting himself into consideration for the World Championships team.

photo © 2016 Dr. Helmut Winter
all rights reserved

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Tsegay Over Makau for Fukuoka Win, Miracle-Worker Kawauchi 3rd

by Brett Larner
photos by Dr. Helmut Winter


This was one for everybody who has ever dreamed big.

For its 70th running the Fukuoka International Marathon brought together a good 2:07~2:08 field with two-time champ and former world record holder Patrick Makau (Kenya), 2015 World Championships silver medalist Yemane Tsegaye (Ethiopia), debuting sub-60 half marathoner Paul Kuira (Kenya/Team Konica Minolta) and more, but for most viewers it was all about Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't).

Kawauchi, the most famous Japanese marathoner of his time, having announced that this would be the last time he would run to try to make a Japanese national team, going for the London World Championships after having missed two Olympic teams.  An injury to his right calf three weeks ago after training too hard too soon after his runner-up finish at the Nov. 6 Porto Marathon, then a sprained left ankle yesterday in his last tuneup run. Everyone around him telling him not to run.  The media saying it would take a miracle for him to make it.

3:00~01/km was the target, and Australian pacer Collis Birmingham opened with exactly that despite a slick track surface and high humidity after morning rain.  The three Kenyan pacers, however, weren't up to the challenge.  One, Charles Ndirangu, dropped out after 8 km.  The other two held back slightly slower than their assigned pace, running behind Birmingham and holding the pack back at a margin that ranged from a few strides to a few seconds. Birmingham was scheduled to drop out at 15 km but stayed in until 17 km to try to keep things moving.

The pace became more erratic once he departed, followed quickly by another's departure just after halfway and then the last pacer's premature pullout at 22.5 km. Left in front wearing bib #80 was Yusuke Tobimatsu (Kagoshima Josai AC), an amateur club runner with only a half marathon best of 1:05:26 and an apparent 2:20:38 marathon debut earlier this year behind him. Throughout the first half Tobimatsu ran at the front of the field, looking smooth and controlled as he went through halfway in a large new PB of 1:04:24 before finding himself at the helm.  Showing no signs of his injuries, Kawauchi quickly stepped up to assist, moving up next to Tobimatsu and the two of them pulling ahead.

2:04 man James Kwambai (Kenya) couldn't handle the change in pace and dropped out, but other top Africans in the race including Tsegay, Yared Asmerom (Eritrea), Amanuel Mesel (Eritrea), Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia) and Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) were quick to recognize the danger of letting Kawauchi get away and went after them.  And like that, the race got down to business.  When the pack reached them Tobimatsu was immediately gone, but Kawauchi reacted with an aggressive surge that put him 2 or 3 seconds ahead.  Abera, the winner of February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, went after him and then past at 25 km.  A few minutes later Mesel, Tsegay and Bekele joined Kawauchi, forming a four-man chase pack as Abera pulled away on the approach to the 31.6 km turnaround.

Behind them, Makau and Kuira left the third pack, taking their time in working up to the main chase group.  In the remnants of the third pack were three Japanese men, all running outside themselves: Ryo Ishita (SDF Academy) with a 2:13:52 best, 2:17:40 runner Hayato Sonoda (Team Kurosaki Harima) and independent Aritaka Kajiwara with a PB of only 2:18:01.  All on 2:08 pace.  Makau and Kuira joined Kawauchi's group before the turnaround, just in time for Makau to start pushing in pursuit of Abera.  Kawauchi responded with a hard surge that killed off Bekele and Kuira, cutting down the distance to Abera and the competiton to Tsegay, Makau and Mesel.  Seeing his chance slipping away before his eyes, Sonoda tore away from the third pack to try to catch up before it was too late.

Makau countered Kawauchi's move with a surge that carried him and Tsegay past Abera into the lead.  Kawauchi and Mesel took longer to overtake the early leader, but when they did Kawauchi attacked again to move into 3rd free and clear with just over 5 km to go.  Tsegay and Makau traded attacks over the final kilometeres as Kawauchi fought to bridge the 15 second gap to them, but when Tsegay's final move came he was still out of range.  Tsegay pulled away from Makau after 40 km to win in 2:08:48, Makau just 9 seconds short of him in 2:08:57.

With everyone having pressured him to sit Fukuoka out and reset his London attempt to Tokyo or Lake Biwa, Kawauchi gave it everything he had on the uphill and last lap to take 3rd in 2:09:11.  With injuries to both legs it was a race of pure determination that showed the absolute best of what he is about.  This was his attempt, he had been invited to run, he had committed himself, and he considered it a moral obligation to see it through and live up to his word no matter what the personal cost.  Nothing was going to stop him, not even his own body.  With his final dream at stake Kawauchi delivered the miracle, tears streaming down his face and speechless.  He wasn't the only one.

And he wasn't the only one to dream big.  Tobimatsu through the first half. Ishita and Kajiwara in the third pack.  Sonoda, a minor runner from a minor corporate team, soaring in for a seven-minute PB of 2:10:40 for 4th.  Both Kajiwara and Tobimatsu hanging on for four-minute PBs.  All outsiders, all playing big. All can hold their heads high.  A crafty win by Yemane over Makau. A smart run by Reid Coolsaet (Canada) for 7th in 2:10:55.  An honorable goodbye to past Fukuoka champ Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine), 8th in 2:11:39 in his retirement run.

But it was all about Kawauchi in the end, regardless of what the JAAF thinks of his performance in regard to London selection.  I've been lucky to travel around the world with him and to see many of his best races.  This was something else.  The pure essence of everything he has meant as a person and as a concept.  Transcendence of even the idea of conventional wisdom.  Count me among the people who tried to talk him out of doing it.  I don't know how he did.  But sometimes in life you are lucky enough to witness something that elevates us all as human beings.


70th Fukuoka International Marathon
Fukuoka, 12/4/16
click here for complete results

1. Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) - 2:08:48
2. Patrick Makau (Kenya) - 2:08:57
3. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:09:11
4. Hayato Sonoda (Japan/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:10:40 - PB
5. Amanuel Mesel (Eritrea) - 2:10:48
6. Henryk Szost (Poland) - 2:10:53
7. Reid Coolsaet (Canada) - 2:10:55
8. Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine) - 2:11:39
9. Yared Asmerom (Eritrea/SEISA) - 2:11:57
10. Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:12:19
11. Melaku Abera (Ethiopia/Kurosaki Harima) - 2:12:43
12. Hiroki Yamagishi (Japan/GMO Athletes) - 2:12:44
13. Michael Githae (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:12:59
14. Chiharu Takada (Japan/JR Higashi Nihon) - 2:13:27
15. Kenta Iinuma (Japan/SGH Group) - 2:13:43
16. Aritaka Kajiwara (Japan/Atsugi T&F Assoc.) - 2:14:27 - PB
17. Noriaki Takahashi (Japan/DeNA) - 2:14:31
18. Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe) - 2:15:47
19. Bunta Kuroki (Japan/Yasukawa Denki) - 2:16:02
20. Benjamin Ngandu (Kenya/Monteroza) - 2:16:07
21. Takahiro Nakamura (Japan/Kyocera Kagoshima) - 2:16:34
22. Yusuke Tobimatsu (Japan/Kagoshima Josai AC) - 2:16:49 - PB
23. Tomoya Adachi (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:17:33
24. Paul Kuira (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 2:20:23 - debut
25. Yoshiki Otsuka (Japan/Aichi Seiko) - 2:20:44
-----
DNF - Tariku Bekele (Ethiopia)
DNF - John Kariuki (Kenya/Hiramatsu Byoin)
DNF - James Kwambai (Kenya)

photos © 2016 Dr. Helmut Winter, all rights reserved
text © 2016 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Friday, December 2, 2016

Kawauchi Determined to Run Fukuoka - "Everyone is Telling Me Not To"

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20161202-00000125-spnannex-spo
http://www.sankei.com/west/news/161202/wst1612020056-n1.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The civil servant runner is dead set on starting.

The top invited athletes for Sunday's 70th anniversary Fukuoka International Marathon, a selection race for the Japanese team for next summer's London World Championships, appeared at a press conference in Fukuoka on Dec. 2. Yuki Kawauchi (29, Saitama Pref. Gov't), the fastest Japanese man so far in 2016, was passionate as he said, "When I was worried about whether to run or not everyone around me was telling me, 'Don't do it.'  But that's not what this is about.  I want to run the best I can, to finish even one place higher, one second faster."

Kawauchi injured his right calf while training on Nov. 12.  In his final tuneup race for Fukuoka, the Nov. 20 Ageo City Half Marathon, he could do nothing more than a slow jogging pace.  "I don't know what I can do in Fukuoka," he said.  "How far can you go on limited training?  It will be very tough."  But even so, he is determined to stand on the starting line.  "I don't want to be selected," he said.  "My goal is to compete."  For Kawauchi, the London World Championships will be his last time trying to make a Japanese national team. The civil servant runner will be on the attack for one last chance to wear the Rising Sun on the big stage.

Click here for JRN's Fukuoka International Marathon preview.  Follow @JRNLive for race day coverage.