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Showing posts from 2011

What a Year for a New Year

The caption's a year out of date but the song remains the same.  Thanks to all JRN readers, regular and otherwise, and especially to everyone who got in touch in March.  Here's hoping that we all have a better year than this one.


Brett Larner
Mika Tokairin
Japan Running News

Last Run for Kashiwabara - 2012 Hakone Ekiden Preview + Watch Online

by Brett Larner

Every year I come on and talk about how great the Hakone Ekiden, Japan's oldest and most important road race relay, is.  Apart from the Olympic medalists I didn't know much about Japanese distance running when I first came here, but Hakone was a big part of what turned me on to it.  The scale of it, twenty university teams running 217.9 km split into ten stages over two days, the production values of Nihon TV's broadcast that pulls in 30% nationwide viewership ratings for the entire Jan. 2-3 event, the huge crowds along the course, the quality of the athletes, and the sheer drama of the racing.  If you haven't been here to see it then honestly you don't know what you are missing.  There are lessons here for the World Marathon Majors and others seeking more mass popularity for the sport.  Keyhole TV is better than nothing and for the last two years I've done what I could to cover it live via Twitter, but you really have to be here to get a sense o…

The Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage in Pictures

Today I did my annual Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage run, 23.4 km with almost 900 m of climb in the middle section of the course followed by ~150 m downhill from 19.5 km to around 21.5 km.  This year was more relaxed that usual as I ran with some friends and stopped to take pictures along the way.

The start of the Fifth Stage at 9 m elevation is in front of the tall building on the left. The sign warns that the road will be closed Jan. 2 and 3 for the Hakone Ekiden.

This tunnel just after 6 km into the course marks the start of the real uphill.

After Ohiradai curve, 9.5 km, the climb starts to get steep.

9.1 km to go at this sharp left curve in Kowakien, with about 5 km until the summit.  I always feel fine until this point and then suddenly start to get nauseous.

The highest point on the course, 865 m above the start point at around 19.5 km in.  The steep downhill begins just after this.

About 1.5 km to go, running next to Lake Ashi in Motohakone.

The finish line for the Fifth Stage and Day One…

Can Toyota Defend Its National Title? New Year Ekiden Preview - Watch Online

by Brett Larner

Japan wastes no time getting the 2012 racing season off to a start, with the New Year Ekiden national corporate men's championships kicking off this Sunday, Jan. 1 at 8:30 a.m.  With 100 km split into seven stages broadcast live to a nationwide TV audience the New Year Ekiden is one of Japan's biggest and most popular races, featuring the best Japanese pro runners and Japan-resident Africans, including 10000 m world champion Ibrahim Jeilan (Team Honda), World XC silver medalist Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko) and Fukuoka International Marathon winner Josphat Ndambiri (Team Komori Corp.).  Overseas viewers up for the task should be able to catch TBS' broadcast live via Keyhole TV, with English-language splits and commentary coming to you live @JRNLive starting at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 on the west coast of North America, 6:30 p.m. on the east coast, or 11:30 p.m. in London.  If JRNLive maxes out commentary will continue @JRNHeadlines.

2010 New Year Ekiden winner Ni…

The Top 10 Japanese Men of 2011

by Brett Larner

Video courtesy of Julie Setagaya. Ugachi's domestic record run begins at 1:23:25 with the bell lap at 1:50:10.

1. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) - 387 pts.

5000 m: 13:30.20 - 7th, Nobeoka, 5/28/11 - #5 Japanese, 2011
10000 m: 27:40.69 - 2nd, Hachioji, 11/26/11 - #1 Japanese, 2011; #4 Japanese all-time
half-marathon: 1:00:58 - 2nd, Marugame, 2/6/11 - #1 Japanese, 2011; #3 Japanese all-time

Other major performances:
New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage, 22.0 km (Maebashi, 1/1/11): 1:04:19 - 4th
National Men's Ekiden Seventh Stage, 13.0 km (Hiroshima, 1/23/11): 37:39 - 5th
Kanaguri Memorial 5000 m (Kumamoto, 4/9/11): 13:43.10 - 8th
Oregon Relays 5000 m (Oregon, 4/22/11): 13:47.29 - 6th
Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10000 m (Stanford, 5/1/11): 27:41.97 - 14th
National Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Kumagaya, 6/10/11): 28:20.40 - 3rd
Asian Athletics Championships 10000 m (Kobe, 7/7/11): 28:48.53 - 4th
Savo Games 3000 m (Lapinlahti, 7/24/11): 7:58.95 - 4th
Joensuu …

The Top 10 Japanese Women of 2011

by Brett Larner

Kinukawa wins the 5000 m national title.

1. Megumi Kinukawa (Mizuno) - 535.5 pts.

5000 m: 15:09.96 - 1st, National Championships, 6/12/11 - #1 Japanese, 2011; #6 Japanese all-time
10000 m: 31:10.02 - 1st, Abashiri, 6/22/11 - #2 Japanese, 2011; #4 Japanese all-time
half-marathon: 1:10:22 - 1st, Shanghai, 12/4/11 - #5 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
Hyogo Relay Carnival Grand Prix 10000 m (Hyogo, 4/23/11): DNF
East Japan Corporate T&F Championships 5000 m (Kumagaya, 5/22/11): 15:37.50 - 1st
Sapporo International Half Marathon (Sapporo, 7/3/11): 1:12:22 - 3rd - debut
World Championships 10000 m final (Daegu, 8/27/11): 34:08.37 - 17th
World Championships 5000 m Heat 2 (Daegu, 8/30/11): 15:38.23 - 8th
Amsterdam Half-Marathon (Amsterdam, 10/16/11): 1:17:08 - 1st

The sudden return of 10000 m junior national record holder Kinukawa from years of injury and illness this spring was the biggest surprise of the year among Japanese women.  Coached by Samuel Wanjiru'sformer coa…

2011 Japanese Distance Running in Review

by Brett Larner

This is part one of JRN's year in review.  Check back for our profiles of the top ten Japanese men and women of the year and for our readers' picks and editors' picks for performances of the year.  Click here for JRN's 2011 top ten rankings for men's and women's 5000 m, 10000 m, half-marathon and marathon.  For our review of the top ten overall men of 2011, click here.  For the top ten women, click here.

Despite the setback March's disasters represented for Japan, by many standards 2011 ended up being the best year since before the Beijing Olympics for its distance runners.

In the marathon, although the Japanese women's streak of World Championships medals ended and the fastest women's time of the year, Yoshimi Ozaki's 2:23:56 CR at February's Yokohama International Women's Marathon, for the first time would not have made the top ten among either Kenyan or Ethiopian women, overall depth was at its best since 2005 with the…

2011 As Seen By JRN Readers

Watch the New Year Ekiden and Hakone Ekiden Live Online

The biggest three days of racing of the year are also most here, the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national men's corporate championships and the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden university men's race.  Look for full previews for both events later this week along with JRN's year-end reviews.

Overseas viewers should be able to watch both the New Year Ekiden and Hakone Ekiden via Keyhole TV, the New Year Ekiden broadcast beginning Jan. 1 at 8:50 a.m. on TBS and Hakone's broadcast on Nihon TV beginning at 7:00 a.m. on both the 2nd and the 3rd.  Once again, JRN will do live English commentary via Twitter @JRNLive.

Japan in Wanjiru - In Conclusion.....

by Brett Larner

I don't expect that many people will take the considerable time necessary to read the full texts of all four interviews in this series.  I plan to edit the most important quotes from Samuel Wanjiru’s Japanese mentors and colleagues together into a cohesive account of his career from the Japanese point of view, but in the meantime, looking at the commonalities between the interviews and other previously-published details this story emerges, incomplete as it is: Wanjiru was discovered by the Japanese scout Shunichi Kobayashi and sent to Sendai Ikuei H.S. in 2002.At Sendai Ikuei, he was educated and developed by Takao Watanabe, who focused not only on development as an athlete but also on psychological and personal development.  Watanabe receives unanimous credit in Japan as the primary influence on Wanjiru's mental and spiritual growth.  Watanabe introduced Wanjiru to Kenyan Stephen Mayaka, a longtime resident of Japan who came to assist Wanjiru in his life and car…