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2009 Osaka International Women's Marathon Elite Field Announced

by Brett Larner

The Osaka International Women’s Marathon has released the list of elite entrants for its 2009 running on Jan. 25, a competition which doubles as the second selection race for the Japanese national team at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. At the top of the field are former Japanese national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) and Ethiopian Worknesh Tola, both of whom clocked 2:25 times in their best marathons of 2008. While Tola’s time came in a 2nd-place finish at the Paris Marathon in April, Shibui’s came in a 4th-place meltdown after she attempted to run under 2:20 at November’s final Tokyo International Women’s Marathon.

Aside from a potential challenge from two-time World Championships marathoner Yumiko Hara (Team Kyocera), Osaka would likely end up a match race between Shibui and Tola were it not for the presence of marathon debutantes Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and Peninah Arusei (Kenya). Both women ran low-1:08 half marathons in 2008, ma…

2009 Hakone Ekiden Preview - updated with video

by Brett Larner

Click here for video highlights of Day One and Day Two of the 2008 Hakone Ekiden.

Less than a week remains until the 85th Hakone Ekiden, a 2-day championship relay race on Jan. 2-3, 2009 between the top university men's teams in the Tokyo-centric Kanto region of Japan. Last year Japan Running News published a detailed history of the Hakone Ekiden. To summarize, Hakone is the most popular and thrilling race of the year. It's hard to imagine that a regional university men's distance running championship could attract mass popularity, but in Japan Hakone has at the very least the stature of the Super Bowl or World Series among the general public. Tens of millions watch both on TV and along the course, which consists of 10 stages of about half marathon distance each stretching from downtown Tokyo to the mountaintop resort of Hakone and back. 19 school teams and a select team made of ace runners from universities which failed to qualify usually take part, but this…

2008 As Seen By JRN Readers

Noguchi and Fukushi Scheduled for National Training Camp in New Zealand

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/news/p-sp-tp0-20081223-443020.html

translated by Brett Larner

Mizuki Noguchi (30, Team Sysmex), who withdrew from the Beijing Olympics women's marathon with an injury to her right leg, is on the list released on Dec. 22 of runners scheduled to attend next year's Japanese National Women's Long Distance Training Camp in New Zealand.

Organized by Rikuren and the National Jitsugyodan Federation, the camp will take place in February and is scheduled to last for 20 days. It is intended both to give Rikuren officials a chance to see young, high-potential future marathoners in action and to give these young runners the chance to see what the life and practice routine of a top athlete is like. In this capacity, Noguchi is scheduled to appear as one of the 'instructors' in the camp. Noguchi has recovered from her injuries to the point that she is able to run faster than 3:30 per km in training and plans to run a comeback race in the spring. If…

Entry Lists for National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden Released

http://www.kyoto-np.co.jp/article.php?mid=P2008122200197&genre=L1&area=K00

translated by Brett Larner

On Dec. 22 the entry lists were released for the 47 prefectural teams which will compete at the 27th National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden on Jan. 11 in Kyoto. Beijing Olympics women's marathoner Yurika Nakamura (Okayama Pref.) will defend her stage best title from last year's 1st leg, while Beijing Olympics steeplechase runner Minori Hayakari (Kyoto Pref.) will take part in the ekiden for the 20th time. Sydney Olympics women's marathon 7th place finisher Eri Yamaguchi will act as head coach for the Okayama Prefecture team.

Athens and Beijing Olympian Kayoko Fukushi (Aomori Pref.) will be running for the first time in 3 years. In her last appearance Fukushi ran as anchor of the Kyoto Prefecture team, but due to a rule change at the 2008 edition of the ekiden will now be able to run for her hometown Aomori Prefecture team after a 5-year absence. Fukushi'…

Samuel Wanjiru Shares the Secret of Training to Win

originally published in the 2008 Fukuoka International Marathon program

translated by Brett Larner with editorial assistance from Mika Tokairin

Click here for a Spanish-language translation of my English translation of the original Japanese article.

Translator's note: Fukuoka-based sportswriter Akio Harada of the Asahi Newspaper conducted this excellent interview with 2007 Fukuoka International Marathon winner Samuel Wanjiru prior to the 2008 race. Wanjiru, who lives part of the year in Fukuoka, won Kenya's first Olympic marathon gold medal in an Olympic record time of 2:06:32 in Beijing this past summer. Merry Christmas.

Q. You won Beijing by running an incredibly fast pace.

This was only my third marathon, so I thought I would just try to run it the way I've done the others so far. My first marathon was Fukuoka in December, 2007. The second time was London in April, 2008. In both of them I'd planned to run about 3 minutes per km, so I thought I should just run Beijing wit…

Japanese Distance Running in 2008

by Brett Larner

With 2008 at an end JRN takes a look back at some of its the highs and lows.

January
The new year began with Samuel Wanjiru's final major ekiden appearance in the aptly-named New Year Ekiden, but he passed almost unnoticed behind a legion of Kenyan stars shoehorned into one of the shortest legs of the Japanese professional men's ekiden championships. Rikuren officials justified this trend in the major ekidens by saying that Japanese fans don't like seeing foreign runners dominating home-grown athletes and that Africans are just physically superior, then later in the year attacked Japanese marathoners for their inability to keep up with exceptional performances by Africans in the Olympics and at the Fukuoka International Marathon. Wanjiru was 4th on the 11.8 km 3rd stage in 31:17, with Team Nissin Shokuhin's Masai Kenyan Gideon Ngatuny winning the stage in 30:59.

Team Konica Minolta returned to the winner's circle thanks in large part to a half marathon…

Wanguru Wins Sprint Finish at Sanyo Women's Road Race

http://www.plus-blog.sportsnavi.com/kmanabu/article/133

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Team Kyudenko's Pauline Kiragu Wanguru won a five-way sprint finish at the 2008 Sanyo Women's Road Race half marathon to win in a PB of 1:10:54. A hilly course, cold temperatures and strong winds in the second half made for an overall tactical race. Five runners remained together with 400 m to go, meaning the race would go to the strongest kicker. Wanguru pulled ahead by a step to beat Team Sysmex's Megumi Seike, who came fresh from winning the Nov. 30 Shanghai Half Marathon, and Second Wind AC newcomer Ruth Wanjiru. Team Tenmaya's Yuka Izumi was 4th in a PB of 1:10:58, with Wanjiru's teammate Akemi Ozaki a short distance behind in 5th.

Second Wind AC head coach Manabu Kawagoe commented that the race was excellent preparation for Ozaki and Wanjiru's planned run in next month's Osaka International Women's Marathon, but that Ozaki was feeling in top condition and wo…

Ritsumeikan Women Hang On to National Ekiden Dynasty By a Thread

by Brett Larner

Bukkyo University anchor Kasumi Nishihara came within 3 seconds of breaking titan Ritsumeikan University's domination of the national ekiden circuit at the 6th All-Japan University Women's Invitational Ekiden Championship in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, delivering a new stage record for the anchor leg but coming up just short of catching Ritsumeikan's star first-year Michi Numata, the 2008 National University 10000 m champion.

While both the men's and women's university ekiden circuits hold their national championships at the end of October or beginning of November, the true peak of the men's season comes at the Hakone Ekiden on Jan. 2-3. The All-Japan University Women's Invitational Ekiden, a six-stage, 30.67 event a short distance northeast of Tokyo, began five years ago as a way of giving university women's distance running the year's-end holiday season national coverage accorded to men.

Kyoto-based Ritsumeikan has dominated the even…

Saku Chosei Defeats Sendai Ikuei in All-Japan High School Boys' Ekiden

by Brett Larner


Click photo for video highlights courtesy of NHK.






Following the All-Japan High School Girls Ekiden Championships, the seven stage, 42.195 km Boys Ekiden took place Dec. 21 in Kyoto. While conditions in the morning had been warm and sunny for the girls' race, an approaching storm front brought clouds and increasing rain for the afternoon boys' race. Defending champion Sendai Ikuei High School, alma mater of greats including Samuel Wanjiru and Daniel Njenga, was presented with a tough battle against rivals Saku Chosei High School and Sera High School, facing on one hand the mid-season loss of head coach Takao Watanabe, who quit the school to become future marathon great Megumi Kinukawa's personal coach, and on the other a new rule designed partly to minimize the efficacy of non-Japanese runners in ekidens. Government sponsored-broadcaster NHK's otherwise excellent live, commercial-free nationwide coverage of the Boys Ekiden was seriously marred by its prom…

Toyokawa Takes Its First-Ever All-Japan High School Girls Ekiden Title

by Brett Larner
Click photo for video highlights courtesy of NHK.






The All-Japan High School Ekiden Championships took place Dec. 21 in Kyoto, broadcast nationwide and commercial-free on government-sponsored NHK Television. A widespread heatwave brought warm, sunny conditions for the first race of the day, the five-stage, 21.0975 km High School Girls Ekiden. In only its third appearance in the championship ekiden, Toyokawa High School of Aichi Prefecture overcame a new rule intended partly to limit the effectiveness of its Kenyan ace Wysela Wylim to take its first national title. Defending champion Ritsumeikan Uji High School finished 3rd, a fantastic performance by anchor Ikumi Natsuhara not quite enough for her to catch rival Ai Kuboki of Kojokan High School, who finished in 2nd just 4 seconds back from Toyokawa's Wylim.

1st Stage - 6.0 km
A new rule this year in both the girls' and boys' races followed a nationwide trend in championship ekidens by banning non-Japanese runner…