Monday, November 30, 2015

Daito Bunka University Women Break Nikko Irohazaka Ekiden Course Record

by Brett Larner

Last year's runner up Daito Bunka University came back strong to take down defending champion Tokyo Nogyo University in course record time at Sunday's Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden in Nikko, Tochigi.  The most famous ekiden stage in Japan is the Fifth Stage at the university men's Hakone Ekiden, a 23.2 km run up a mountain with roughly 875 km of climb followed by descent and flat in the last few km.  Nikko Irohazaka, the newest addition to the university women's calendar, takes almost identical dimensions and divides it into six stages, the toughest with 400 m of climb in 3.5 km.

Making its Nikko Irohazaka debut, Nittai University took an early lead with a First Stage win by Nanako Yasaku, who put Nittai 8 seconds ahead of Daito Bunka.  Tokyo Nogyo took over on the Second Stage with a new course record run by Moeno Shimizu, Daito Bunka 13 seconds back on total time at the start of the Third Stage.  DBU's Soyoka Segawa broke the course record on the Third Stage, but Tokyo Nogyo's Monaka Kobori was only 1 second slower and the lead remained almost unchanged.

The big change came on the Fourth Stage, where Daito Bunka's Shiho Yahagi was almost two minutes faster than Tokyo Nogyo's Miya Yokoyama, a permanent goodbye as DBU's lead only grew the rest of the way to its 1:29:49 course record win.  Tokyo Nogyo fell almost four minutes behind total for 4th, overtaken by last year's 4th-placer Kansai Gaikokugo University and first-timer Nittai.

Nikko Irohazaka was the second stop on the season's tour for top university women's ekiden teams.  Next up is the season-ending Mount Fuji University Women's Ekiden, now moved to an exciting new date on Dec. 30 that puts it into a block with the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships and the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden season-ender for university men.  Four days of live TV ekiden broadcasts in the course of five.  You couldn't ask for a better way to spend New Year's.

2nd Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden
Niiko, Tochigi, 11/29/15
18 teams, 6 stages, 23.4 km, 875 m climb
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Daito Bunka University - 1:29:49 - CR
2. Kansai Gaikokugo University - 1:32:20
3. Nittai University - 1:33:16
4. Tokyo Nogyo University A - 1:33:27
5. Chuo University - 1:35:15
6. Osaka Geidai University - 1:35:21
7. Tokyo Nogyo University B - 1:35:25
8. Hakuoh University - 1:36:05
9. Nihon Joshi Taiiku University - 1:38:23
10. Shoin University - 1:38:46

Stage Best Performances
1st Stage (4.7 km, ~100 m ascent): Nanako Yasaku (Nittai Univ.) - 16:57
2nd Stage (5.2 km, ~200 m ascent): Moeno Shimizu (Tokyo Nogyo Univ. A) - 18:12 - CR
3rd Stage (3.5 km, ~100 m ascent): Soyoka Segawa (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 14:51 - CR
4th Stage (3.0 km, ~100 m ascent): Shiho Yahagi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 13:07
5th Stage (3.5 km, ~400 m ascent): Yukine Oguchi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 14:17
6th Stage (3.5 km, ~25 m descent): Yumi Motohiro (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 11:56

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Karemi Repeats at Record-Setting Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler

by Brett Larner
photos by @t_tsuki

Less than 24 hours after world record-setting 10000 m depth in Hachioji, another record fell at the 40th anniversary Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler.  Expectations were high that the talented Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei) would follow up on his twin brother Kota's 10000 m national record in Hachioji by breaking the 45:40 Japanese 10 mile national record set back in 1984, almost a decade before the Murayamas were born.

Murayama came out swinging, running side-by-side with defending champion Jeremiah Thuku Karemi (Team Toyota Kyushu) through a 2:47 opening km, 44:47 pace.  Karemi pushed on but Murayama soon let go and dropped back behind another Kenyan, Charles Ndungu (Team Komori Corp.), picking up company from teammate Kenjiro Mogi.

Running alone Karemi couldn't sustain his course record pace but had no trouble taking a second-straight win.  His time of 45:19 was 32 seconds better than last year and the seventh-best winning time in Kosa history behind only Martin Mathathi (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), Samuel Wanjiru (Team Toyota Kyushu) and Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin).  Not bad company to be in.

Pursuing Ndungu, Murayama and Mogi fell off Japanese NR pace, and with 1 km to go they found themselves mirroring yesterday's 10000 m, where Kota Murayama and his Asahi Kasei teammate Tetsuya Yoroizaka were side-by-side all the way to a photo finish separated by only 0.05 seconds.  This time it was Mogi's turn, though, as he got Kenta Murayama on the line for 3rd, both men clocking 46:08 to come in at #9 on the all-time Japanese list.

Next across the line was this year's top Japanese marathoner Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) in 46:36, just 1 second off his PB in his first race back since meningitis knocked him out of the summer's Beijing World Championships marathon where he had been a solid medal contender.  Toyota Kyushu runners took the next three places behind Imai, putting the Koichi Morishita-coached team into good position for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships.  Although not quite as good as Asahi Kasei's position with three men sub-28 yesterday and the top two Japanese men today.

The fast times continued far down the field, with a total of 107 men breaking the 50 minute mark to eclipse the previous record set in Kosa in 1998.  Like at yesterday's historic Hachioji Long Distance meet, the majority of them were using Kosa as a tuneup for the New Year Ekiden, which will be celebrating its 60th anniversary running.  With stellar quality and depth at both races look for something special indeed to happen come January 1.

40th Kumamoto Kosa Road Race
Kosa, Kumamoto, 11/29/15
click here for complete results

Men's 10 Miles
1. Jeremiah Thuku Karemi (Kenya/Toyota Kyushu) - 45:19
2. Charles Ndungu (Kenya/Komori Corp.) - 46:07
3. Kenjiro Mogi (Asahi Kasei) - 46:08
4. Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei) - 46:08
5. Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu) - 46:36
6. Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu) - 46:37
7. Ryuji Watanabe (Toyota Kyushu) - 46:38
8. Kaoru Hirosue (Toyota Kyushu) - 46:39
9. Kohei Matsumura (Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki) - 46:41
10. Daiki Kubota (Yasukawa Denki) - 46:46
25. Ryoya Nishikawa (Toenec) - 47:13
50. Tsukasa Koyama (Subaru) - 47:53
75. Tatsunari Hirayama (Yasukawa Denki) - 48:19
100. Fumito Imazaki (Osaka Police Dep't) - 49:29
107. Masaki Hori (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 49:52

High School Boys' 10 km
1. Naoki Soh (Tosu Kogyo H.S.) - 30:15
2. Yuma Yoshitake (Tosu Kogyo H.S.) - 30:20
3. Koichi Ide (Tosu Kogyo H.S.) - 30:23

Junior High School Boys' 5 km
1. Tatsunori Okumura (Shiranui J.H.S.) - 15:42
2. Ryuta Ikawa (Sashiki J.H.S.) - 16:01
3. Eito Sato (Minami Oguni J.H.S.) - 16:02

Women's 5 km
1. Miyu Otani (Wacoal) - 16:15
2. Yuka Hakoyama (Wacoal) - 16:16
3. Kumi Ogura (Toenec) - 16:17
4. Mao Ichiyama (Izumi Chuo H.S.) - 16:18
5. Erika Ikeda (Higo Ginko) - 16:20

text (c) 2015 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
photos (c) 2015 t_tsuki, all rights reserved

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Kota Murayama and Tetsuya Yoroizaka Photo Finish Double 10000 m Japanese National Record (updated)

by Brett Larner
video by Ekiden News

Fourteen and a half years is a long time to wait.

Everything was aligned. The field. The weather.  The loom of impending Olympic glory.  The sheer vibe.  Hachioji.   Thousands of fans packed around a home soil track tucked in the mountainous foothills of suburban western Tokyo knowing they were going to see something special, that, after the 5000 meter-wide leak sprung mid-summer by the Salazar-powered Suguru Osako, the sheer mass of young talent building in Japan was finally going to break through the dam holding them back.

All credit due to Kenyan William Malel (Honda), who went out at 10000 m world record pace and led completely alone start to finish, withering on the vine with 1000 to go but pulling down a PB of 27:22.12 for the win, and to Johana Maina (Fujitsu) who almost ran him down.  But the race was not their story.

From the start Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei), once the fastest-ever Japanese collegiate over 10000 m and until today the 5th-best Japanese man in history at that distance, ran in the front pack among the best of Japan's resident Africans, relaxed and unafraid, soon joined by this year's second-fastest Japanese man Yuta Shitara (Honda) as the pace held steadily zeroing in on 27:30.  Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei), this year's 5000 m national champion in a last 100 m duel with Osako, starting slow but catching up to Yoroizaka and Shitara just before halfway.  Shitara fading, teammates Yoroizaka and Murayama together.  A slight drop in pace from 7000 m to 9000 m, Murayama surging ahead to hit 9000 m in 24:50, dead even with the great Toshinari Takaoka's 27:35.09 national record from the spring of 2001, Yoroizaka just behind.

Yoroizaka ahead now, the memory of July's Heusden 5000 m still fresh, the sting of breaking a national record but finishing 2nd behind another Japanese man whose name went into the books.  600 to go.  400 to go and a sub-62 lap to summon up for the record.  Yoroizaka, a long surge.  56 seconds for the last lap.  26 seconds for the last 200 m.  Murayama, a national title his thanks to his last kick, waiting again until 100 m to go to bring it.  JRN's most popular tweet ever.

Nobody knew what happened except that the record was gone.  The crowd erupting.  Old men jumping for joy.  Women of all ages lining the track screaming, "Kota!  He's so cool!"  When the smoke cleared the times came, Murayama with the national record in 27:29.69, Yoroizaka an agonizing 0.05 seconds back in 27:29.74, both more than five seconds under Takaoka's antique record and five seconds closer to bringing Japanese long distance into modernity.  A third Asahi Kasei runner, Shuho Dairokuno, like Murayama just 22, the next Japanese man across the line in 27:46.55.  Three Asahi Kasei runners sub-28, two for the first time and two in NR time.  Not much of a secret what's going to happen at the New Year Ekiden.

Seventeen men sub-28, one shy of tying May's Prefontaine Classic for the title of world's #1 10000 m, and thirty-three sub-29, a new world record.  Three more Japanese men broke 28 minutes to bring the Japanese total for sub-28 men this year to eleven, second only to Kenya and Ethiopia.  Leading the U.S.A. once again, for the first time Japan also surpassed it in the number of men sub-27:30 in one year.  Next up 5000 m?  For everyone who looks at Japanese numbers and asks why the Japanese pros aren't better given the record-breaking quality of their university men, for everyone who brushes it off with a simple-minded "They train too hard," today's results show what JRN has been saying for years: you're looking at where things are, not where they're going.  It's just getting started.  When the levee breaks, brother you got to move.

Hachioji Long Distance Meet
Hosei University, Hachioji, Tokyo, 11/28/15
click here for complete results

10000 m A-Heat
1. William Malel (Kenya/Honda) - 27:22.12 - PB
2. Johana Maina (Kenya/Fujitsu) - 27:26.92 - PB
3. Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei) - 27:29.69 - NR
4. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei) - 27:29.74 (NR)
5. John Maina (Kenya/Fujitsu) - 27:35.54 - PB
6. Teressa Nyakora (Ethiopia/Mazda) - 27:38.93 - debut
7. Bernard Kimanyi (Kenya/Yakult) - 27:39.76
8. Agato Yashin Hassan (Ethiopia/Chuo Hatsujo) - 27:46.21 - PB
9. Shuho Dairokuno (Asahi Kasei) - 27:46.55 - PB
10. Rogers Chumo Kemwoi (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 27:49.70
11. Paul Kuira (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 27:50.81
12. Samuel Mwangi (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - 27:50.92 - debut
13. Joseph Kamathi (Kenya/Toyota) - 27:53.79
14. Yuta Shitara (Honda) - 27:53.84
15. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Konica Minolta) - 27:55.02
16. Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Konica Minolta) - 27:55.40 - PB
17. Patrick Muendo Mwaka (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 27:58.58
18. Kensuke Takezawa (Sumitomo Denko) - 28:02.70
19. Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) - 28:03.07
20. Tsubasa Hayakawa (Toyota) - 28:06.10 - PB
21. Shinobu Kubota (Toyota) - 28:06.44
22. Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/JFE Steel) - 28:10.66
23. Daniel Maemba (Kenya/Toyota Boshoku) - 28:17.48
24. Naohiro Domoto (JR Higashi Nihon) - 28:18.81
25. Chiharu Nakagawa (Toenec) - 28:19.46 - PB
DNF - Minato Oishi (Toyota)

10000 m B-Heat
1. Amos Kirui (Kenya/Toyota Boshoku) - 28:21.84 - PB
2. Keigo Yano (Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:21.89 - PB
3. Yudai Okamoto (JFE Steel) - 28:24.80
4. Kenji Yamamoto (Mazda) - 28:26.35 - PB
5. Mitsunori Asaoka (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 28:26.56 - PB
6. Shota Hattori (Honda) - 28:26.88
7. Naoki Aiba (Chudenko) - 28:26.96 - PB
8. Takuya Fujikawa (Chugoku Denryoku) - 28:27.14
9. Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta) - 28:27.89
10. Naohiro Yamada (YKK) - 28:28.22

10000 m C-Heat
1. Hideyuki Tanaka (Toyota) - 28:27.42 - PB
2. Jun Shinoto (Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 28:42.93
3. Shun Inoura (Yachiyo Kogyo) - 28:44.06 - PB
4. Kenta Matsubara (Toyota) - 28:45.72 - PB
5. Kosei Yamaguchi (Aisan Kogyo) - 28:46.37

10000 m D-Heat
1. Kazuto Nishiike (Konica Minolta) - 28:37.22 - PB
2. Rikinobu Watanabe (NTT Nishi Nihon) - 28:44.23 - PB
3. Tomoya Shirayanagi (Toyota Boshoku) - 28:46.12
4. Takumi Kiyotani (Chugoku Denryoku) - 28:48.19 - PB
5. Daisuke Matsufuji (Kanebo) - 28:59.30

10000 m E-Heat
1. Joseph Mumo (Kenya/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 28:49.60 - PB
2. Takahiro Nakamura (Kyocera Kagoshima) - 28:52.23 - PB
3. Yuki Munakata (Kanebo) - 28:58.39

10000 m F-Heat
1. Daniel Njenga (Kenya/Yakult) - 29:08.63
2. Masahiro Kawaguchi (Yakult) - 29:08.70
3. Shuhei Shirota (Kanebo) - 29:12.97

10000 m G-Heat
1. Genki Yagisawa (Yakult) - 29:33.63
2. Yutaro Fukushi (Yakult) - 29:39.33
3. Shota Yamazaki (Yakult) - 29:41.85

text (c) 2015 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
photo (c) 2015 Ekiden News, all rights reserved

Thursday, November 26, 2015

10000 m, 10 Miles and a Run Up the Mountain - Weekend Preview

by Brett Larner

It’s another big weekend of racing in Japan with the main action split evenly between track, road racing and ekiden. Saturday’s Hachioji Long Distance meet in western Tokyo is the pick of the weekend, with 22 men with sub-28 minute bests and another half dozen a few seconds off or debuting in the 10000 m A-heat, the Africans in prep for the New Year Ekiden and the Japanese runners taking a shot at Rio Olympic marks and the Japanese national record. 2013 World XC Jr. silver medalist Leonard Barsoton (Team Nissin Shokuhin) leads the way with a 27:20.74 best with Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei), all-time Japanese #5 over 10000 m at 27:38.99, heading the Japanese contingent off a 5000 m national record-breaking 13:12.63 this summer. Ekiden fans will be most closely watching 5000 m national university champion Hazuma Hattori who is targeting sub-28 in hopes of making next year’s Olympic team during his senior year at 2015 National University Ekiden champion Toyo University. The A-heat entry list:

Leonard Barsoton (Kenya/Nissin Shokuhin) – 27:20.74
James Mwangi (Kenya/NTN) – 27:23.66
William Malel (Kenya/Honda) – 27:25.56
Mekubo Mogusu (Kenya/Sunbel’x) – 27:26.56
Patrick Muendo Mwaka (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) – 27:33.14
Bernard Kimani (Kenya/Yakult) – 27:36.60
Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya/Hitachi Butsuryu) – 27:37.72
Joseph Kamathi (Kenya/Toyota) – 27:38.18
Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei) – 27:38.99
Paul Kuira (Kenya/Konica Minolta) – 27:40.43
Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Konica Minolta) – 27:40.69
Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) – 27:42.09
Alex Mwangi (Kenya/YKK) – 27:42.20
Yuta Shitara (Honda) – 27:42.71
Johana Maina (Kenya/Fujitsu) – 27:45.69
Agato Yashin Hassan (Ethiopia/Chuo Hatsujo) – 27:46.35
Akinobu Murasawa (Nissin Shokuhin) – 27:50.59
Keita Shitara (Konica Minolta) – 27:51.54
Duncan Muthee (Kenya/Sunbel’x) – 27:53.00
Daniel Maemba (Kenya/Toyota Boshoku) – 27:53.19
Shinobu Kubota (Toyota) – 27:54.25
Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) – 27:56.87
Masato Kikuchi (Konica Minolta) – 28:04.25
Kenta Murozuka (DeNA) – 28:04.40
Minato Oishi (Toyota) – 28:04.65
Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu) – 28:05.79
Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei) – 28:12.31
Shuho Dairokuno (Asahi Kasei) – 28:13.17
Tsubasa Hayakawa (Toyota) – 28:15.36
Naohiro Domoto (JR Higashi Nihon) – 28:16.92
Keita Baba (Honda) – 28:23.93
Yuta Takahashi (DeNA) – 28:30.51
Hazuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) – 28:55.31
John Maina (Kenya/Fujitsu) – 29:23.44
David Njuguna (Kenya/Yakult) – 29:37.91
Abiyot Abinet (Ethiopia/Yachiyo Kogyo) – debut
Samuel Mwangi (Kenya/Konica Minolta) - debut
Teressa Nyakora (Ethiopia/Mazda) – debut

Traditionally held the same day as the Fukuoka International Marathon, this year the Kumamoto Kosa 10 Mile Road Race, the world’s #1 10 miler, has been scheduled a week earlier. Most of Japan’s top pros who are not in Hachioji will be running it in a tune-up for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden. With the likes of Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), all-time #4 Japanese for the half marathon at 1:00:50 and Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), all-time #3 Japanese for 10000 m at 27:38.25, in the field it could be a fast day even if the 45:40 national record would be a stretch. 2:07:39 marathoner Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) is also on the entry list for what would be his first race since pulling out of August’s World Championships marathon due to meningitis.

The accompanying women’s 5 km is topped by national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), fresh from her elevation to winner status at the 2013 Osaka International Women’s Marathon following yesterday’s suspension of Ukrainian Tetiana Shmyrko for biological passport violations. With any luck Fukushi will celebrate by knocking a few seconds off her relatively weak 15:32 record. 10 mile entry list highlights:

Jeremiah Thuku Karemi (Kenya/Toyota Kyushu) - 27:28.27 10000 m
Edwin Mokua (Kenya/Nissin Shokuhin) – 27:38 road 10 km
Yuki Sato (Nissin Shokuhin) – 27:38.25 10000 m
Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei) – 1:00:50 half marathon
Fumihiro Maruyama (Asahi Kasei) – 1:01:15 half marathon
Fikadu Haftu (Ethiopia/Yasukawa Denki) – 1:01:50 half marathon
Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu) – 2:07:39 marathon
Kazuhiro Maeda (Kyudenko) – 2:08:00 marathon
Kohei Matsumura (Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki) – 2:08:09 marathon
Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) – 2:08:35 marathon
Suehiro Ishikawa (Honda) – 2:09:10 marathon
Masanori Sakai (Kyudenko) – 2:09:10 marathon
Tomoya Adachi (Kyudenko) – 2:09:59 marathon
Ryuji Kashiwabara (Fujitsu) – Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage legend

Sunday also sees the newest addition to the university women’s ekiden calendar, the Nikko Irohazaka University Women’s Ekiden in Nikko, Tochigi. Almost perfectly matching the Hakone Ekiden’s uphill Fifth Stage in length and elevation profile, the all-uphill Irohazaka splits the 23.4 km distance into six stages with a net climb of 875 m. After its first running last year proved popular it is back with a larger field of university and alumni teams drawing heavily from the Kanto Region but including Kansai’s Osaka Geidai University and Kansai Gaikokugo University. Last year Tokyo Nogyo University had a surprise win over favorites Daito Bunka University, 1:30:21 to 1:32:43, with Osaka Geidai a close 3rd in 1:32:53. With all three teams back, Daito Bunka off a 2nd-place finish at last month’s Morinomiyako Ekiden, it should be another good race made unpredictable by the effects of the climb. If its popularity continues to grow Irohazaka will ideally increase its national scale with more teams from Kansai and western Japan to become an equal partner with Morinomiyako and December’s Mt. Fuji University Women’s Ekiden in giving Japan’s university women a Big Three ekiden season in parity with the university men’s massively popular Big Three.

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

'Ukraine Bans Three-Time Osaka International Ladies Marathon Champion for Four Years'

Tetiana (Gamera) Shmyrko was yet another athlete managed by Andrey Baranov to have received a doping ban following a win at a Japanese marathon, joining last year's Nagoya Women's Marathon winner Mariya Konovalova and 2011 Tokyo Marathon winner Tatyana Aryasova among others.  Shmyrko's Osaka wins cost Japan's Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) and Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) home-soil wins, in Akaba's case in her final race before retiring, as well as taking victory from Jelena Prokopcuka (Latvia) this year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Kyushu Corporate Ekiden Rounds Out Qualification for 60th Anniversary New Year Ekiden

by Brett Larner

Following other regional corporate league ekiden winners Honda (East Japan), Toyota (Chubu), YKK (Hokuriku), Otsuka Seiyaku (Kansai) and Mazda (Chubu), the Asahi Kasei team brought the qualification round for the 60th anniversary New Year Ekiden national corporate men's championships to a close with a win by more than a kilometer at Monday's Kyushu Corporate Ekiden.

The Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden is the primary reason for the existence of Japan's men's corporate team leagues and a nationally-televised event.  It is also one of the few championship ekidens without a seeded bracket, meaning that every team, even the winner, must run one of the November regional qualifying ekidens to re-qualify the next year.  This has a direct impact on Japanese men's ability to run fall marathons outside Japan.

With a huge group of new team members this year Asahi Kasei did what every team should, using its regional qualifier as a way to get its rookies used to corporate racing instead of running its older marathoners and marathon hopefuls.  Six of its seven runners were under 23, five of them in their first pro season.  If this became standard practice Japan's position as a marathon power could only improve.

With the New Year Ekiden turning 60 a total of 6 extra team places were available across the country, giving the chance for many smaller teams to make their New Year Ekiden debuts.  A total of 15 teams, more than 1/3 of the New Year Ekiden field, comes from the Tokyo-centric East Japan region.  Although each of the six regions ran on different courses with the exception of Chubu and Hokuriku, which held their regional qualifiers together, each race had a similar breakdown of stages and distances:

East Japan Region (Nov. 3) - 7 stages, 77.5 km
Chubu / Hokuriku Regions (Nov. 15) - 7 stages, 83.5 km
Kansai Region (Nov. 15) - 7 stages, 80.45 km
Chugoku Region (Nov. 15) - 7 stages, 80.8 km
Kyushu Region (Nov. 23) - 7 stages, 78.8 km

Below is a complete listing of the 43 teams to qualify for the 2016 New Year Ekiden with their average pace per km in their regional qualifiers.  JRN will publish a full preview closer to race date, but at this stage it looks like a four-way race between Honda and perpetual East Japan rival Nissin Shokuhin Group, Asahi Kasei and defending national champion Toyota, with outside challenges from East Japan's DeNA and Konica Minolta.  Stay tuned for more.

60th Anniversary New Year Ekiden Field
Maebashi, Gunma, 1/1/16
7 stages, 100.0 km, 43 teams

Honda (East Japan) - 2:55.9 / km
Nissin Shokuhin Group (East Japan) - 2:56.1 / km
Asahi Kasei (Kyushu) - 2:56.6 / km
Toyota (Chubu) - 2:56.9 / km
DeNA (East Japan) - 2:57.6 / km
Konica Minolta (East Japan) - 2:57.7 / km
Hitachi Butsuryu (East Japan) - 2:58.8 / km
Toyota Kyushu (Kyushu) - 2:58.9 / km
Yakult (East Japan) - 2:59.0 / km
JR Higashi Nihon (East Japan) - 2:59.5 / km
Fujitsu (East Japan) - 2:59.8 / km
Kyudenko (Kyushu) - 3:00.0 / km
Mitsubishi HPS Nagasaki (Kyushu) - 3:00.3 / km
Yasukawa Denki (Kyushu) - 3:00.4 / km
Aichi Seiko (Chubu) - 3:00.5 / km
Press Kogyo (East Japan) - 3:00.8 / km
Yachiyo Kogyo (East Japan) - 3:01.2 / km
Kurosaki Harima (Kyushu) - 3:01.3 / km
Komori Corp. (East Japan) - 3:01.3 / km
Subaru (East Japan) - 3:01.4 / km
NTN (Chubu) - 3:01.5 / km
Toyota Boshoku (Chubu) - 3:01.6 / km
YKK (Hokuriku) - 3:02.4 / km
Mazda (Chugoku) - 3:02.5 / km
Otsuka Seiyaku (Kansai) - 3:02.8 / km
Aisan Kogyo (Chubu) - 3:02.8 / km
SGH Group (Kansai) - 3:02.9 / km
Kanebo (East Japan) - 3:02.9 / km
Chuo Hatsujo (Chubu) - 3:03.0 / km
Toenec (Chubu) - 3:03.4 / km
Sunbel'x (East Japan) - 3:03.7 / km
Tokyo Police Department (East Japan) - 3:03.8 / km
Chugoku Denryoku (Chugoku) - 3:04.0 / km
NTT Nishi Nihon (Kansai) - 3:04.0 / km
Sumitomo Denko (Kansai) - 3:04.4 / km
Nishitetsu (Kyushu) - 3:04.7 / km
JFE Steel (Chugoku) - 3:05.3 / km
Osaka Gas (Kansai) - 3:06.2 / km
Omokawa Zaimokuten (Hokuriku) - 3:07.0 / km
Chudenko (Chugoku) - 3:07.3 / km
Osaka Police Department (Kansai) - 3:08.9 / km
Ryugataki SDF Base (Chubu) - 3:13.5 / km
Takeda Yakuhin (Chugoku) - 3:16.8 / km

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Kyoto Sangyo Over Ritsumeikan at Tango University Ekiden

by Brett Larner

While Japan's elite Kanto Region collegiates were turning in historic performances on a suburban Tokyo track in preparation for the peak of their season at January's Hakone Ekiden, their rivals in western central Japan were wrapping their season up at the 77th Kansai Region University Ekiden Championships in Tango, Kyoto.  Top local schools Kyoto Sangyo University and Ritsumeikan University ran an exciting race within seconds of each other over the entire 81.4 km course, their runners setting new records on 5 of the 8 stages before finishing with one of the closest finishes in Kansai history.

Kazuki Muramoto (Hyogo Kenritsu Univ.) set the tone for the day with a new 23:36 record on the 8.0 km First Stage, 44 seconds ahead of his nearest competiton Satoshi Shimoyabu (Kansai Univ.).  Kansai's next two runners Akira Yonezawa and Kohei Yamaguchi were first and third on their stages, putting Kansai into the lead before they began to drop back on the Fourth Stage to their eventual 6th place overall finish.

In a departure from usual ekiden strategy both Kyoto Sangyo and Ritsumeikan had their weakest two runners lead off, not really getting into their stride until the 7.0 km Third Stage where Takumi Kubo set a 20:00 stage record, the first of three-straight stage wins by Kyoto Sangyo runners, to build the momentum that put Kyoto Sangyo into 1st with a 25-second lead over Ritsumeikan by the Fourth Stage.  A 36:05 record on the 12.3 km Fifth Stage by Daisuke Uekado stretched Kyoto Sangyo's lead over Ritsumeikan to 58 seconds, its biggest margin of safety in the race.

While Kyoto Sangyo was getting to work Ritsumeikan also got busy, its third and fourth runners the next-fastest on their stages as they worked with rivals from Kwansei Gakuin University to try to close the gap.  Kwansei Gakuin briefly occupied 2nd, but when Ritsumeikan's Shinpei Muratake dropped a 35:40 record on the 12.0 km Sixth Stage, over a minute faster than the old record, Kwansei Gakuin was done, settling back into 3rd for the rest of the race. 

Far outrunning Kyoto Sangyo's Yusuke Tanaka, Muratake not only closed the 58 second gap but opened a 26 second lead, Ritsumeikan's first time out front.  Kyoto Sangyo's Masatoshi Teranishi fought back on the 11.9 km Seventh Stage, cutting 8 seconds off his own stage record to put Kyoto Sangyo 8 seconds out front heading into the anchor stage. 

It was an ideal setup for a stellar finish and Ritsumeikan's Kosuke Minamoto delivered, running a new stage record of 35:57 for 11.8 km, cutting down the ground to Kyoto Sangyo anchor Hitaka Onuki.  Onuki fought back, and in the home straight he held off Minamoto's kick to cross the line first in 4:10:20 to give Kyoto Sangyo the win with Minamoto just three seconds back in 4:10:23.  Kwansei Gakuin held on to 3rd in 4:12:16.

After finishing as the top non-Kanto Region school at both the Izumo Ekiden and National University Ekiden this season Kyoto Sangyo University's win over Ritsumeikan University confirmed its position as the best of the rest.  With six new stage records the Tango results showed that the ongoing surge in Japanese university distance running isn't limited just to the Kanto elite.

Tango University Ekiden
77th Kansai Region University Ekiden Championships
Kyoto, 11/21/15
8 stages, 81.4 km, 20 teams
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Kyoto Sangyo Univ. - 4:10:20
2. Ritsumeikan Univ. - 4:10:23
3. Kwansei Gakuin Univ. - 4:12:16
4. Osaka Keizai Univ. - 4:14:32
5. Kyoto Univ. - 4:14:42

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (8.0 km) - Kazuki Muramoto (Hyogo Kenristu Univ.) - 23:36 - CR
Second Stage (8.7 km) - Akira Yonezawa (Kansai Univ.) - 29:00
Third Stage (7.0 km) - Takumi Kubo (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 20:00 - CR
Fourth Stage (9.7 km) - Shunsuke Motoki (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 30:19
Fifth Stage (12.3 km) - Daisuke Uekado (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 36:05 - CR
Sixth Stage (12.0 km) - Shinpei Muratake (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 35:40 - CR
Seventh Stage (11.9 km) - Masatoshi Teranishi (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 36:14 - CR
Eighth Stage (11.8 km) - Kosuke Minamoto (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 35:57 - CR

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Aoyama Gakuin University Sends Eight Men Sub-29 in One Race at Kanto Region 10000 m Time Trials

by Brett Larner
video by naoki620

With six weeks to the day to go to the start of the 2016 Hakone Ekiden, defending champion Aoyama Gakuin University showed that it is right on the cusp of realizing head coach Susumu Hara's vision with one of the greatest team performances in Japanese track history at the Kanto Region University 10000 m Time Trials at Kanagawa's beautiful Keio University Field. 

Aoyama Gakuin's entire roster of A-listers was entered in the fastest of the day's 13 heats, and in absolutely perfect conditions all but captain Daichi Kamino started.  Senior Kazuma Kubota, winner of his stages at this season's Izumo and National University Ekidens, led almost the entire way after a 2:47 opening 1000 m, talented first-year Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.), 2015 World University Games half marathon bronze medalist Yuta Takahashi (Teikyo Univ.) and silver medalist Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and Ethiopian first-year Derese Workneh (Takushoku Univ.) taking brief turns up front mid-race but Kubota quickly re-asserting himself.

With 650 m to go Kubota launched a serious kick that dropped the field, clocking a 2:39 last 1000 m to take the win in a PB 28:24.50.  The next 13 finishers all broke 29 minutes, all but Isshiki doing it in PB time.  Including Kubota 8 of the 14 runners to go sub-29 were from Aoyama Gakuin, 7 in PB time and 5 clearing 29 for the first time.  Along with Kamino, World University Games half marathon gold medalist Yusuke Ogura and third-year Yuhi Akiyama, the race's outcome meant that Aoyama Gakuin now has 11 men with 10000 m PBs under 29 minutes, third-year Ryota Motegi just missing out on adding to the haul with a PB of 29:00.67 and second-year Ryusuke Sadanaga likewise PBing but just missing out at 29:02.52.

11 men, 10 places on the Hakone Ekiden starting roster.  Yes, break 29 in college and it's still not good enough to make your school's 10-man starting roster.  That's what Hara has brought to the table with his long-term development plan geared to peak this season.
Tadashi Isshiki (3rd yr.) - 28:23.40
Kazuma Kubota (4th yr.) - 28:24.50
Yusuke Ogura (4th yr.) - 28:27.73
Yuta Shimoda (2nd yr.) - 28:33.77
Yuki Nakamura (2nd yr.,) - 28:34.66
Toshinori Watanabe (4th yr.) - 28:35.05
Kokoro Watanabe (4th yr.) - 28:37.38
Daichi Kamino (4th yr.) - 28:41.48
Kazuki Tamura (2nd yr.) - 28:46.81
Kinari Ikeda (3rd yr.) - 28:51.31
Yuhi Akiyama (3rd yr.) - 28:58.93

Juntendo's Shiojiri held on for 3rd in 28:32.35, one of the best times ever by a Japanese first-year.  5 more runners broke 29 in the B-heat, all in PBs led by last year's B-heat winner Junya Uemura (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) in 28:54.32.  The other men's heats and both women's heats were likewise almost completely filled with new PBs at the top of their fields, an indication of both how good the conditions were and how seriously the fields were racing.  Last year's women's winner Ayumi Uehara (Matsuyama Univ.) took nearly 15 seconds off the PB mark she set at Keio last year to repeat in a quality 32:36.25.  After a long layoff due to injury senior Ken Yokote (Meiji Univ.), the only Japanese university runner to break 28 minutes so far this year, was one of the few not to PB, making a return to competition for the first time in over 4 months with a win in one of the slower heats in 29:21.97.

Next weekend 2015 National University Ekiden champion Toyo University's Hazuma Hattori will aim to join Yokote in the sub-28 club at the Hachioji Distance meet, with a handful of other top-level Hakone collegiates running in the B-heat.  From there everything over the next month focuses on each team's final training and preparations for Hakone.  With its top ten now averaging 28:35.61 for 10000 m and an incredible 1:02:36 for the half marathon, roughly the distance each runner tackles in Hakone, Aoyama Gakuin looks unstoppable.  Toyo unexpectedly got the better of them earlier this month at Nationals, but it will take one of the best performances in Toyo history for them to pull the same upset on the sport's biggest stage come January.  Whatever happens, get ready for something special.

Kanto Region University 10000 m Time Trials
Keio University, Hiyoshi, Kanagawa, 11/21/15
click here for complete results

Men's 10000 m Heat 11
1. Kazuma Kubota (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:24.50 - PB
2. Yuki Hirota (3rd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 28:30.76 - PB
3. Kazuya Shiojiri (1st yr., Juntendo Univ.) - 28:32.85 - PB
4. Yuta Shimoda (2nd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:33.77 - PB
5. Yuki Nakamura (2nd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:34.66 - PB
6. Toshinori Watanabe (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:35.05 - PB
7. Tadashi Isshiki (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:35.55
8. Yuta Takahashi (4th yr., Teikyo Univ.) - 28:37.20 - PB
9. Kokoro Watanabe (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:37.38 - PB
10. Derese Workneh (1st yr., Takushoku Univ.) - 28:43.21 - PB
11. Toshio Takaki (4th yr., Tokai Univ.) - 28:44.41 - PB
12. Kazuki Tamura (2nd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:46.81 - PB
13. Kinari Ikeda (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:51.31 - PB
14. Jinnosuke Matsumura (3rd yr., Josai Univ.) - 28:56.24 - PB
15. Ryota Motegi (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:00.67 - PB
21. Yusuke Ogura (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:13.64
27. Yuhi Akiyama (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) -  29:53.83

Women's 10000 m Heat 2
1. Ayumi Uehara (3rd yr., Matsuyama Univ.) - 32:36.25 - PB
2. Fuyuka Kimura (3rd yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 32:40.54 - PB
3. Yuri Karasawa (2nd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 32:40.81 - PB
4. Ai Hosoda (2nd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 32:41.00 - PB
5. Maki Izumida (2nd yr., Rikkyo Univ.) - 33:27.10

Men's 10000 m Heat 10
1. Junya Uemura (3rd yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:54.32 - PB
2. Tatsuya Maruyama (3rd yr., Senshu Univ.) - 28:55.24 - PB
3. Mitsutaka Tomita (4th yr., Tokai Univ.) - 28:56.78 - PB
4. Ryutaro Ichitani (2nd yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:56.82 - PB
5. Kenta Muto (4th yr., Kokushikan Univ.) - 28:58.20 - PB
8. Ryusuke Sadanaga (2nd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:02.52 - PB

Men's 10000 m Heat 13
1. Hideaki Ishii (3rd yr., Kokushikan Univ.) - 29:03.37 - PB
2. Satoshi Kikuchi (3rd yr., Josai Univ.) - 29:08.49 - PB
3. Tomoki Kawamura (2nd yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 29:13.05 - PB

Men's 10000 m Heat 12
1. Masaya Nakasha (2nd yr., Josai Univ.) - 29:16.95 - PB
2. Yusei Yoshida (2nd yr., Senshu Univ.) - 29:19.67 - PB
3. Keiichi Sakano (3rd yr., Heisei Kokusai Univ.) - 29:20.15 - PB

Men's 10000 m Heat 9
1. Ken Yokote (4th yr., Meiji Univ.) - 29:21.97
2. Keita Sakamoto (2nd yr., Jobu Univ.) - 29:32.13 - PB
3. Ken Tochiyama (4th yr., Takushoku Univ.) - 29:32.68 - PB

Women's 10000 m Heat 1
1. Haruka Tobimatsu (1st yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 33:49.20
2. Yumi Motohiro (1st yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 33:50.40 - PB
3. Riko Takagi (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 33:52.42 - PB

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved