Friday, March 6, 2015

Nagoya Women's Marathon Preview

by Brett Larner

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is one of the Japanese races taking steps to adapt to the mass-participation boom, changing from an elite-only format but still keeping its identity by incorporating a mass field that makes it the largest women-only marathon in the world.  At the front end, like last week's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon for the men Nagoya is the last chance for Japanese women to qualify for the 2015 Beijing World Championships marathon team.  While Japanese men's marathoning has grown over the last five years, women's marathoning has been hit by an absence of new top level-names, today's top women running 2:23-2:25 where they would have been 4 minutes faster 10-15 years ago.

But Nagoya has done a great job of pulling together most of the best current women and future hopefuls for some kind of return to past success.  In the house are the fastest Japanese woman of 2013-14, Asian Games silver medalist Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), 2:25 women Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) and Eri Hayakawa (Team Toto), collegiate record holder Sairi Maeda (Team Daihatsu) and under-20 record holder Reia Iwade (Team Noritz) both running their second marathons after successful debuts, debuting half marathon stars Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) and Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido) and more.

And they've also got together an international field featuring at least one name, Asian Games gold medalist Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain), that should provide some extra motivation, Kirwa having run most of the Asian Games marathon side by side with Kizaki before getting away late in the race.  The other six international women, Mariya Konovalova (Russia), Aheza Kiros (Ethiopia), Anna Incerti (Italy), Olena Burkovska (Ukraine), Woynishet Girma (Ethiopia) and Adriana Da Silva (Brazil) have PBs evenly interspersed from 2:22:46 to 2:29:17, promising competition for the Japanese field no matter how the race goes.

Kirwa and Kizaki look like the clear favorites, and ideally the race will play out as a rematch between them with Maeda and Iwade in the mix, but whether even that would be enough to bring the kinds of times that used to be the norm remains to be seen.  With the bar for the World Championships team far lower than the Federation's sub-2:22:30 standard so far, 2:26:39 by Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) in Osaka, 2:26:57 by Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) in Yokohama and 2:30:26 by Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) in Hokkaido, it wouldn't take much to feel like a step back in the right direction.

The Nagoya Women's Marathon will be broadcast live nationwide on Sunday, March 8 starting at 9:00 a.m.  Follow @JRNLive for live raceday coverage.

Nagoya Women's Marathon
Nagoya, Aichi, 3/8/15
click here for complete field listing

Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa (Bahrain) - 2:21:41 (Amsterdam 2012)
Mariya Konovalova (Russia) - 2:22:46 (Chicago 2013)
Ryoko Kizaki (Japan/Daihatsu) - 2:23:34 (Nagoya Women's 2013)
Aheza Kiros (Ethiopia) - 2:24:30 (Dubai 2013)
Mai Ito (Japan/Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:25:26 (Nagoya Women's 2012)
Eri Hayakawa (Japan/Toto) - 2:25:31 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Anna Incerti (Italy) - 2:25:32 (Berlin 2011)
Sairi Maeda (Japan/Daihatsu) - 2:26:46 (Osaka Women's 2014)
Olena Burkovska (Ukraine) - 2:27:07 (Hannover 2013)
Reia Iwade (Japan/Noritz) - 2:27:21 (Yokohama Women's 2014)
Woynishet Girma (Ethiopia) - 2:27:51 (Amsterdam 2010)
Misato Horie (Japan/Noritz) - 2:27:57 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Adriana Da Silva (Brazil) - 2:29:17 (Tokyo 2012)
Yuka Hakoyama (Japan/Wacoal) - 2:30:48 (Nagoya Women's 2014)
Asami Furuse (Japan/Kyocera) - 2:30:57 (Nagoya Women's 2013)
Yuka Yano (Japan/Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:31:02 (Kitakyushu 2014)
Manami Kamitanida (Japan/Hitachi) - 2:31:34 (Tokyo 2014)
Yuko Mizuguchi (Japan/Denso) - 2:31:39 (Nagoya Women's 2014)

Debut
Rei Ohara (Japan/Tenmaya) - 1:09:45 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2013)
Risa Takenaka (Japan/Shiseido) - 1:10:10 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Collegiate Marathon Record Holder Sairi Maeda and Mother Junko to Reunite at Sunday's Nagoya Women's Marathon

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2015/02/20/kiji/K20150220009838930.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Twenty Japanese and international elite athletes are scheduled to run Sunday's Nagoya Women's Marathon, the final selection race for the 2015 Beijing World Championships marathon team.  Among them is 23-year-old Sairi Maeda (Team Daihatsu), who in her debut marathon at last year's Osaka International Women's Marathon as a senior at Bukkyo University finished 4th overall in 2:26:46 to better the national university record by 4 minutes.  Running in the same race in the general division, her mother Junko Maeda ran 2:55:24 for a combined time of 5:22:10, a new mother-daughter world record by more than 8 minutes.  Now 52, Junko will again line up behind her daughter in the general division in Nagoya looking for another fast family outing.

Also in the field are 2014 Asian Games silver medalist Ryoko Kizaki (29, Team Daihatsu), under-20 national record holder Reia Iwade (20, Team Noritz) and 11 other domestic athletes, along with 7 international elites including Maria Konovalova (40, Russia).

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Former Marathon NR Holder Atsushi Fujita to Become Assistant Coach at Komazawa University

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20150301-OHT1T50255.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Now an assistant coach at the Fujitsu corporate team where he spent his professional career, former marathon national record holder Atsushi Fujita, 38, will return to his alma mater, 2011-2014 National University Men's Ekiden champion Komazawa University, in April to take a position as assistant coach.  Fujita has already been coaching at Komazawa twice a week but as of the start of the new academic and fiscal year in April he will leave Fujitsu and become an employee of Komazawa to focus all of his energy into helping develop the country's top collegiate talent.  "It's a great responsibility," Fujita said, facing his new position with full seriousness.

As a student at Komazawa Fujita ran the Hakone Ekiden all four years from 1996 through 1999.  As a senior he broke the course record on Hakone's competitive Fourth Stage prior to its shortening to its current length of 18.5 km.  While he was a student there Komazawa never managed to take the final step to the overall Hakone win, but the year after he graduated it finally scored that long hoped-for victory, the first of six in nine years.  Since then Fujita has been credited as the man who laid the foundations on which Komazawa became a giant.  At the Fujitsu corporate team he ran a then-Japanese national record of 2:06:51 to win the 2000 Fukuoka International Marathon.  Since his retirement in 2013 he has been gaining valuable leadership experience as a member of Fujitsu's coaching staff.

Komazawa head coach Hiroaki Oyagi, 56, commented, "Fujita is the best athlete in the history of Komazawa University.  He will make an outstanding and supportive coach," placing his full trust in Fujita.  "In terms of age," Oyagi added, "I can't keep doing this forever," suggesting that he may be grooming his former star to succeed him as head coach.  Fujita could turn out to be the secret ingredient Komazawa needs to take it back to the Hakone Ekiden victory stand for the first time in eight years.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Osako Quits Nissin Shokuhin Corporate Team For Oregon

http://sports.nissin.com/rikujo/weblog/sp/2015/03/post-52.html

translated by Brett Larner

At this time we would like to announce that Suguru Osako, who has had great success as a member of the Nissin Shokuhin Group corporate team, will resign his position with the team on Mar. 31, 2015.  We extend our thanks to all the fans who have generously given their warmest support.  All of us at Nissin Shokuhin will continue to cheer Osako on as he leaves to take on the world in pursuit of his life's dream.

Osako's comments: "During the last year in which I've been based in the United States while competing I've become confident that I can race the way I see myself racing, and I've decided that it is time to start over based in Oregon, U.S.A. as a professional athlete.  And for everyone at the Nissin Shokuhin Group who supported me this year and who are willingly letting me go, I will give it all to produce the results."

Asian Games Silver Medalist Kitaoka Announces Retirement

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2015/03/01/kiji/K20150301009898830.html

translated by Brett Larner

2010 Guangzhou Asian Games men's marathon silver medalist Yukihiro Kitaoka (32, Team NTN) announced his retirement on Mar. 1 following the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  In the future he will join NTN's coaching staff, helping to develop its next generation of athletes.

At Lake Biwa Kitaoka finished 74th in 2:27:03.  "I wanted to run one more good race, but things didn't go very well this last year," he said.  "The decision to retire leaves me feeling free and clear."

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hakone Champion AGU's Isshiki Leads 27 Under 1:03 and 265 Sub-1:06 at National University Half Marathon Championships

by Brett Larner
videos by Ekiden News



Two months after his 3rd-place finish on the Hakone Ekiden's most competitive stage helped put Aoyama Gakuin University in position for the overall win and a month after running a 1:02:09 PB at the Marugame Half, 20-year-old AGU second-year Tadashi Isshiki scored his first national title with a 1:02:11 win at the 18th National University Men's Half Marathon Championships in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park.  After record-setting depth last year when a world record 207 men broke 1:06:00 the National University Half blew minds again this year, the top 12 all breaking 1:02:30 and 27 collegiate men going under 1:03:00.  With perfect conditions today the field excelled, completely rewriting the record books as 265 men went under 1:06:00.

With places on the Japanese team for this summer's World University Games half marathon for the top three finishers and a bigger dream hovering in the distance 5 1/2 years away the massive pack went out fast and steadily, hitting 5 km in 14:45, 1:02:14 pace, and 10 km in 29:33, 1:02:20 pace, before getting onto the undulating inner loop of the park.

2014 National University Men's Ekiden champion Komazawa University first-year Naoki Kudo, on a rapid ascent since his out-of-nowhere 1:02:18 debut at November's Ageo City Half Marathon, went to the front on the hills, pushing the pace but not able to get a clear lead over the last 5 km.  Side-by-side with Isshiki at 19 km with debuting Teikyo University third-year Yuta Takahashi close behind, Kudo fell victim to Isshiki's better closing speed over the last km, taking 2nd in a PB 1:02:12.  Takahashi was another second back in 3rd in 1:02:13, Tokai University third-year Ryo Shirayoshi sealing up the World University Games team lineup as alternate in 4th in a PB 1:02:16.

The next 8 finishers, including Isshiki's first-year teammates Kazuki Tamura and Yuta Shimoda and Daito Bunka University senior Hiroshi Ichida whose twin brother Takashi will run the Mar. 15 NYC Half, all broke 1:02:30 for the first time.  In 13th, the academically-oriented Kyoto University's self-coached Kentaro Hirai set a new Kansai Region collegiate record of 1:02:30, a truly sensational time for a university athlete from outside the Hakone Ekiden-centric Kanto Region.

14 more runners followed Hirai under 1:03:00, and they continued to come in by the dozen after that even with most of the best Hakone collegiates not running -- out of the top 3 men on each of the 2015 Hakone Ekiden's 10 stages only 7 ran, and likewise only a dozen or so of the roughly 50 current Japanese collegiates to have already broken 1:03:00 before this race were in the field without any of the 4 who have sub-61 or sub-62 PBs.  Top general division finisher Shinichi Yamashita of the Takigahara SDF Base ran 1:04:06 and barely made the top 70.  The depth was in a different league from anything ever seen before, even at last year's Nationals or November's Ageo City Half Marathon. 

1st: 1:02:11
10th: 1:02:23
25th: 1:02:55
50th: 1:03:50
100th: 1:04:28
200th: 1:05:21
300th: 1:06:17
400th: 1:07:14
500th: 1:08:16
600th: 1:09:24

Japanese university men's running is going through an unprecedented surge in quality right now.  There's no telling where it's going to end or what the long-term outcome is going to be, especially as they hit the stolid corporate league, but there's never been a more exciting time to be here to see it happening.  Look for an in-depth article on the rise of Japanese university men's distance running over the last 20 years later this month on JRN.



18th National University Men's Half Marathon Championships
Tachikawa City Half Marathon
Tachikawa, Tokyo, 3/1/15
click here for complete university division results
general division result additions coming shortly

Men
1. Tadashi Isshiki (2nd yr, Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:11
2. Naoki Kudo (1st yr, Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:12 - PB
3. Yuta Takahashi (3rd yr, Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:13 - debut
4. Ryo Shirayoshi (3rd yr, Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:16 - PB
5. Naoto Uchida (2nd yr, Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:20 - PB
6. Kenya Sonota (3rd yr, Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:20 - PB
7. Shota Baba (3rd yr, Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:21 - PB
8. Kazuki Tamura (1st yr, Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:22 - PB
9. Yuta Shimoda (1st yr, Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:22 - PB
10. Satoshi Kikuchi (2nd yr, Josai Univ.) - 1:02:23 - PB
11. Hiroshi Ichida (4th yr, Daito Bunka Univ.) - 1:02:25 - PB
12. Shoya Okuno (3rd yr, Nittai Univ.) - 1:02:26 - PB
13. Kentaro Hirai (3rd yr, Kyoto Univ.) - 1:02:30 - PB
14. Naoya Takahashi (3rd yr, Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:31 - PB
15. Yusei Tsutsumi (3rd yr, Teikyo Univ.) - 1:02:38 - PB
16. Ryohei Nishiyama (3rd yr, Kanagawa Univ.) - 1:02:38 - PB
17. Yuki Muta (3rd yr, Meiji Univ.) - 1:02:40 - PB
18. Yusuke Nishiyama (2nd yr, Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:43 - PB
19. Masahiro Miura (3rd yr, Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:45 - PB
20. Jinnosuke Matsumura (2nd yr, Josai Univ.) - 1:02:46 - PB
21. Rei Omori (1st yr, Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:47 - PB
22. Toshio Takaki (3rd yr, Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:51 - PB
23. Sho Tokunaga (3rd yr, Chuo Univ.) - 1:02:52 - PB
24. Taiga Machizawa (2nd yr, Chuo Univ.) - 1:02:52 - PB
25. Yuichi Yasui (1st yr, Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:55 - PB
26. Shinichiro Nakamura (3rd, Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:57
27. Kazuki Uemura (3rd yr, Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:58 - PB
-----
50. Takaya Sato (2nd yr, Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:50 - PB
57. Ryusei Yoshinaga (1st yr, Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:59 - debut 
100. Junya Matsuzaki (2nd yr, Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:28 - PB
159. Kohei Mukai (1st yr, Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:59 - PB
200. Takumi Hanazawa (1st yr, Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:05:21 - PB
265. Taiga Hosobuchi (2nd yr, Teikyo Univ.) - 1:05:59
300. Ryohei Sakamoto (3rd yr, Senshu Univ.) - 1:06:17
380. Chikato Shimoguchi (3rd yr, Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:06:59 - PB
400. Shizuya Uchimoto (2nd yr, Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:07:14
407. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:07:19
476. Masaki Kimura (3rd yr, Takushoku Univ.) - 1:07:59 - PB
500. Makoto Iwasaki (1st yr, Surugadai Univ.) - 1:08:16
568. Yuki Kujirai (4th yr, Kokushikan Univ.) - 1:08:58
600. Daichi Ohara (1st yr, Heisei Kokusai Univ.) - 1:09:24
643. Hikaru Takano (2nd yr, Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 1:09:59

Women
1. Kyoko Koyama (Juntendo Univ.) - 1:17:21
2. Miki Kobayashi (Juntendo Univ.) - 1:18:26
3. Riho Nishino (Juntendo Univ.) - 1:19:36

text and photos (c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Ndungu Back for Another Win at 70th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon

by Brett Larner

Having left Japan's corporate team system, 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon winner Samuel Ndungu (Kenya) was back to take the top spot again in Biwako's cold and rainy 70th edition.  With a target pace of 3:00/km for the front group including last year's winner Bazu Worku (Ethiopia), 2014 European champion Daniele Meucci (Italy), Mongolian national record holder Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Team NTN) and Japanese World Championships hopefuls Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) and Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta), Kenyan pacers Kimutai Kiplimo and Silas Kimutai were not even close, going through 2 km in 6:19 and hitting 5 km in 15:30, well over 2:10 marathon pace.

Collegiate runner Atsuya Hiraiwa (Meijo Univ.) pulled in front of the pacers to try to get the race moving, but although the next 10 km were decent, by 20 km they were back to another 15:30 split.  Halfway came in 1:04:39 with a pack of 40 still together, but a few meters later at the turnaround point pacer Silas Kimutai somehow didn't notice the giant cone marking the turnaround, the road ahead being blocked, or the lead vehicles making a 180' turn as he continued to run straight.  Bazu followed him as the rest of the pack made the turn, Ndungu showing a moment of hesitation before turning.

Impatient with the halfway split, Bat-Ochir took off into the lead, quickly joined by Ndungu as at least a half dozen people went by remaining pacer Kimutai Kiplimo before he reacted.  Silas Kimutai hauled it get back in front, but for most of the rest of the way it was Bat-Ochir and Ndungu doing the pacing, going in front when the pacers repeatedly slowed, gesturing and talking to them.  After another slow 15:21 split from 20 to 25 km Maeda came up and made the hand gesture for three, i.e. the target pace, to Silas Kimutai several times, but Kimutai ignored him until Ndungu again did the job himself.

Over that 5 km the lead pack lost about a third of its members, favorite Ugachi among those unable to keep up.  Silas Kimutai also couldn't keep up, off the back of the lead pack before 29 km with his colleague stepping out at 30 km.  Bat-Ochir immediately turned on, Ndungu and Maeda going with him and shortly joined by Meucci.  Just after the 31 km drink table, at exactly the spot where he made his race-winning move in similar conditions three years ago, Ndungu put a long surge into play that dropped the competition and led him all the way to the win in a slight negative split of 2:09:08.  In his post-race comments Ndungu showed some frustration with the pacers but, in still quite smooth Japanese, shared his happiness at making a successful comeback.

Bat-Ochir, Meucci and Maeda took turns leading in the chase trio, but a rush from Bat-Ochir at 36.5 km was too much for Maeda to handle.  Meucci tailed Bat-Ochir all the way back to the track, dropping him with 400 m to go but misjudging his timing and coming up 2 seconds short of his PB in 2:11:10 for 2nd.  Bat-Ochir kept 3rd in 2:11:18, as in Fukuoka beating the top Japanese man as Maeda came in far back in 4th in 2:11:46.  Last year's top Japanese man Sasaki was 9th in 2:14:27.  The other domestic favorite Ugachi, running his fourth marathon since debuting in January, 2014 in Dubai, staggered around the last lap of the track just outside the top 25.

With five Japanese men having run sub-2:10 times in the selection races in Fukuoka and Tokyo and the top Japanese man in the other selection race in Beppu-Oita, Hiroki Kadota (Team Kanebo), having run 2:10:46 for 2nd overall, Maeda's performance means Maeda would have almost no chance of making a third World Championships team if it weren't for his National Team program membership.  Kadota and Tokyo's second Japanese man Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda), 9th overall in 2:09:12, look like the two contenders for the last spot alongside Fukuoka's top Japanese man Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda), 4th in 2:09:06, and Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), 7th in Tokyo in a strong 2:07:39.  However, Kadota, Sano and Fujiwara were not named to the the 2014-15 National Team program, meaning nothing but question marks until the team lineup announcement due up after next weekend's final women's selection race at the Nagoya Women's Marathon.

70th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon
Otsu, Shiga, 3/1/15
click here for complete results

1. Samuel Ndungu (Kenya) - 2:09:08
2. Daniele Meucci (Italy) - 2:11:10
3. Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/NTN) - 2:11:18
4. Kazuhiro Maeda (Japan/Kyudenko) - 2:11:46
5. Takuya Noguchi (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:12:29 - debut
6. Eric Ndiema (Kenya) - 2:13:28
7. Bazu Worku (Ethiopia) - 2:13:32
8. Rui Yonezawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:14:13
9. Satoru Sasaki (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:14:27
10. Kenji Higashino (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:14:48
11. Bunta Kuroki (Japan/Sagawa Express) - 2:15:18
12. Ryoichi Matsuo (Japan/Asahi Kasei) - 2:15:20
13. Shingo Igarashi (Japan/Subaru) - 2:15:28
14. Yusuke Sato (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:15:30 - debut
15. Takumi Kiyotani (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:15:31
16. Yuko Matsumiya (Japan/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:15:40
17. Takayuki Matsumiya (Japan/Konica Minolta) - 2:15:41
18. Keita Akiba (Japan/Komori Corp.) - 2:16:10
19. Takuji Morimoto (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:16:22
20. Takuya Ishikawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:16:30
21. Koji Matsuoka (Japan/Mazda) - 2:16:50
22. Noriaki Takahashi (Japan/DeNA RC) - 2:16:53
23. Masatoshi Kikuchi (Japan/Fujitsu) - 2:17:14
24. Masaki Matsui (Japan/Tokyo Kogyo Univ.) - 2:17:16
25. Chin Ping Ho (Taiwan) - 2:17:42
-----
DNF - Fikadu Girma (Ethiopia)
DNF - Agato Yashin Hassan (Ethiopia/Chuo Hatsujo)
DNF - Wirimai Juwawo (Zimbabwe)
DNF - Stepan Kiselev (Russia)
DNF - Daisuke Shimizu (Japan/Kanebo)
DNF - Jose Antonio Uribe (Mexico)

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Star of the North Miho Shimizu Makes Her First World Cross Country Team

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20150225-OHT1T50141.html

translated by Brett Larner

This week the Federation announced the Japanese national team for the Mar. 28 World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China.  Making the senior women's 8 km squad for the first time is the Star of the North, Hokkaido's native daughter Miho Shimizu (24, Team Hokuren).  Her first time making a Japanese national team, Shimizu was hopeful as she said, "It's a great honor.  I want to run an aggressive race, experience the level and strength of the world's top athlete and apply what I learn there to track season."

At the first of the two selection races, the Feb. 8 Chiba International Cross Country Meet she ran 29:30 for 8 km to place 5th overall as the 4th Japanese woman.  At the second selection race, the Feb. 21 Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet, she took 3rd overall in the 6th in 20:02, scoring her place on the team by finishing as the 2nd Japanese woman.

After graduating from Ashoro H.S. Shimizu was a star at Hakuoh University, running big at the National University Women's Ekiden.  She joined the Hokuren corporate team in the spring of 2013.  Since the retirement of Hokuren's leader Yukiko Akaba last spring Shimizu has grown to become the team's big hope for its "post-Akaba" era.  At last June's National Track and Field Championships she was 2nd in the 5000 m.  At December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden she ran the most competitive stage, showing her strength by placing 5th on the Third Stage and helping lead Hokuren to a 9th-place team finish, its first time cracking the single digits in five years.

After the New Year Shimizu worked on strengthening her running, doing 30 km a day of mileage on a cross country course on the island of Tokunoshima.  Her main focus for the year is making the 5000 m at August's Beijing World Championships.  Her plan for the season has her first track race being at the April 18-19 Oda Memorial Meet in Hiroshima, and she will also run the May 2 Cardinal Invitational in the United States for the first time.  At the Japanese National Track and Field Championships, June 26-28 in Niigata, she plans to clinch her place on the World Championships team.

"The experience of running World Cross will help me hit the World Championships standard (15:20), and that is going to lead directly on to the Rio Olympics next year," she said.  If successful, she will follow Akaba as only the second Hokuren runner to make a World Championships team.

Miho Shimizu - born May 13, 1990 in Ashoro, Hokkaido.  24 years old.  Began track and field in 4th grade, finishing 3rd in the National Junior High School Championships 1500 m while in 8th grade at Ashoro J.H.S.  While an 11th grader at Sapporo Seishu H.S. she transferred to Ashoro H.S.  At the National High School Championships she won both the 1500 m and 3000 m for two straight years.  Her senior year at Hakuoh University she placed 4th in the 5000 m at the National University Championships.  Her PBs are 15:34.22 for 5000 m and 32:14.44 for 10000 m.  159 cm, 51 kg, blood type A.  Her family includes her parents, a younger brother and an older brother.