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Serod Batochir, Youngjun Ji, Yuki Kawauchi Headline Hofu Yomiuri Marathon Field (updated)

by Brett Larner

On Nov. 28 the organziers of the 2011 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon, the last elite marathon of the year, announced the lineup of this year's invited athlete field.  One of the most competitive editions in Hofu history, the field includes 2010 Asian Games marathon gold medalist Youngjun Ji (South Korea), Tokyo Marathon hero Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.), defending champion Serod Batochir (Mongolia) and Fukuoka University ace Takuro Nakanishi among others.

Ji leads a contingent of three strong Korean athletes and is the likely favorite, but Batochir returns to Hofu with a solid 2:11:35 PB from April's London Marathon and should present a serious challenge to Ji's chances.  On paper Kawauchi is the leading man among the Japanese runners, but Hofu will be his fourth marathon in the last three months and, coming just two weeks after his bid for an Olympic team spot at the Fukuoka International Marathon seems unlikely to be more than a recovery run effort.  Nakanishi w…

Ugachi Breaks Domestic 10000 m Record, Miyawaki 27:41 at Hachioji Distance Trials

by Brett Larner

Video courtesy of Julie Setagaya. The A-heat begins at 1:23:25 with the bell lap at 1:50:10.

The latest in a series of track time trials this fall to help Japanese men reach the Olympic 10000 m A-standard of 27:45.00 before the spring season, the Nov. 26 Hachioji Long Distance time trials meet in Tokyo's western suburbs saw a small piece of history as Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) ran 27:40.69 to break Yu Mitsuya's record for the fastest 10000 m ever run by a Japanese man on Japanese soil.  Like Mitsuya, who was paced through his record run by teammate and Sendai Ikuei H.S. grad Samuel Wanjiru (Team Toyota Kyushu), Ugachi was paced by Kenyan teammate Paul Kuira, also a Sendai Ikuei alumnus, who finished together with Ugachi in a new PB of 27:40.60.  The surprise came a few steps behind them, where 20-year-old Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota), on a sharp improvement curve throughout the year, took 20 seconds off his own PB to finish under the Olympic A-sta…

Fujita Withdraws From Fukuoka International Marathon

http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2011112500810

translated by Brett Larner

The organizers of the Dec. 4 Fukuoka International Marathon announced on Nov. 25 that former national record holder Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu), with a PB of 2:06:51, has withdrawn from its invited athlete field due to pain in his right Achilles tendon.  This year's Fukuoka is the first domestic selection race for next year's London Olympics.

Asahi Kasei Sets Course Record at Last New Year Ekiden Qualifier

by Brett Larner

Team Asahi Kasei dominated the final regional qualifier for the New Year Ekiden men's national corporate ekiden championships, leading wire-to-wire to set a course record of 3:50:53 at the seven-stage, 78.8 km Nov. 23 Kyushu Corporate Ekiden Championships.  Asahi Kasei runners won the first four stages, with Daegu World Championships marathon 7th-place finisher Hiroyuki Horibata outrunning Team Toyota Kyushu ace Masato Imai to take the 12.2 km Fourth Stage in 34:38.  Fifth Stage Asahi Kasei runner Takehiro Arakawa was beaten on time by Africans Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko) and Alemu Desta (Team Yasukawa Denki) but had a big enough lead that he was in no danger of being run down.  Asahi Kasei's sixth runner Kenichi Shirashi ran a stage best to further widen the team's lead, with anchor Yuki Iwai bringing the team in for the course record win and a place at the New Year Ekiden.  With several of its best members sitting the regional race out Asahi Kasei will once…

World Champs 7th Placer Horibata, Nihon Univ. Star Sophomore Tamura Declare for Lake Biwa Olympic Marathon Qualifier

http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/general/track/news/20111124k0000m050053000c.html
http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/event/sports/news/20111123-OHT1T00269.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Following a stage win to lead Team Asahi Kasei to a course record win at the Nov. 23 Kyushu Corporate Ekiden Championships, Daegu World Championships marathoner Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) announced that he has committed to run March's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, the final domestic selection race for the Japanese men's marathon team for next year's London Olympic Games.  Horibata was the top Japanese finisher in Daegu, a strong 7th place overall, but, he said, "Right now my chances [of making the Olympic team off that performance] are pretty slim.  I've got to be active in getting my spot."

Also on Nov. 23, Nihon University ace sophomore Hirotaka Tamura, 19, revealed that he will be shooting for a place on the Olympic marathon team at Lake Biwa.  Tamura, winner of thi…

Rikuren Plans Men's Training Camp in Kenya (updated)

http://www.nikkei.com/sports/news/article/g=96958A9C81818A9996E2E0EBE18DE0E1E3E3E0E2E3E3E2E2E2E2E2E2;da=96958A88889DE2E0E3EAEAE5E6E2E0E3E3E0E0E2E2EBE2E2E2E2E2E2

translated by Brett Larner

Federation officials announced on Nov. 23 that they will be organizing a three-week altitude training camp in Kenya from January to February next year.  The camp is targeted toward five or six of the country's best track athletes, with corporate runners Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) and Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) on the list along with university men Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) and Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Meiji Univ.).  The Japanese runners will train alongside Kenyan athletes at 3000 m elevation.  A federation spokesperson commented, "This is the way for us to regain our international competitiveness.  By travelling there we hope our athletes will observe and learn about the Kenyan style, including their day to day lives."

Translator's note: Shortly after this story appeared Miya…

Kenya Over Japan As Both Break International Chiba Ekiden Course Record

by Brett Larner

In its fifth year with a mixed men and women team format, the 2011 International Chiba Ekiden was one of the better editions in recent memory.  All three Kenyan men won their stages, with Patrick Mutunga Mwikya and Edwin Nyandusi Mokua setting stage records, while all three Japanese women won theirs including a stage record from anchor Hitomi Niiya, making for a tense race with lead changes on almost every stage.  Kenya came out 19 seconds ahead of the Japanese team for the win in 2:04:40 as both broke the old course record.  The defending champion, the Japanese University Select Team, was far back in 3rd in 2:07:26 after spending most the race battling 4th placer Russia.  The United States and Australia also had a good duel throughout the ekiden, American men Robert Cheseret and Bobby Mack making the top three on their stages and Australian women Lisa Corrigan and Emily Brichacek doing likewise.  Mack drew camera time when he passed Australia's Stephen Dinneen hal…

Watch the International Chiba Ekiden Live Online (updated)

The 2011 International Chiba Ekiden, featuring twelve teams from ten countries, takes place tomorrow, Nov. 23, and will be broadcast live on Fuji TV from 1:00 p.m. to 3:25 p.m. Japan time.  Overseas viewers should be able to watch online for free via Keyhole TV, available here.  JRN plans to be on-site and to offer live English commentary via Twitter @JRNLive.  Follow to keep track of all the action.

Update: Start lists available here.

2011 International Chiba Ekiden Field
12 teams, six stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete entry lists

Teams and Member Highlights
Australia - Georgie Clarke, Lisa Corrigan
Canada - Taylor Milne, Dayna Pidhoresky
Chiba Pref. - Yusuke Sato
Czech Republic - Jan Kreisinger
Japan - Kensuke Takezawa, Yuichiro Ueno, Tetsuya Yoroizaka, Yuriko Kobayashi, Hitomi Niiya, Kasumi Nishihara
Japanese Univ. Select Team - Takehiro Deki, Suguru Osako, Risa Takenaka, Hikari Yoshimoto
Kenya - Thomas Longosiwa, Patrick Mwikya, Janeth Kisa
New Zealand - Matthew Smith, Lisa Robertson
Po…

Weekend Track and Ekiden Roundup - Karoki, Waithira, Kinukawa, Yamamoto Take Wins

by Brett Larner

Along with marathons and other road races, this busy weekend included two significant ekidens and three large track time trial meets.

At the Nov. 19 Biwako University Ekiden, Western Japan's answer to January's Hakone Ekiden, defending champion Kyoto Sangyo University braved heavy rain and wind to take its second-straight Biwako title.  After a slow 8th-place start Kyoto Sangyo worked its way up through the field and covered the eight-stage, 83.6 km course in 4:16:17.  Daiichi Kogyo University was 2nd in 4:18:09 thanks in large part to an impressive 31:57 record for the 11.0 km Third Stage by its Kenyan ace Kiragu Njuguna, a full 43 seconds under the old record.  Njuguna put Daiichi Kogyo in the lead by more than a minute over early leader Ritsumeikan University, and the team maintained the lead all the way until the 7th stage when Daiichi Kogyo was overtaken by Kyoto Sangyo's stage-winning Kazuki Noda.  Ritsumeikan anchor Yusuke Kubo did what he could to c…

Kizaki, Ondiba, Son of Nakayama Win Big on the Roads, Noguchi Comes Up Short

by Brett Larner

Near typhoon conditions throughout Japan on Friday and Saturday brought a nationwide heat wave and strong winds on Sunday, less than ideal for a handful of major races across the country.

The biggest of them, the Olympic selection-edition Yokohama International Women's Marathon, turned into a race of attrition decided by a final kick to the new waterfront finish, Yokohama's third course in three runnings.  With all three female pacemakers running into trouble and dropping out suddenly at 8, 12 and 19 km rather than the planned 25 km, the race proceeded slower than the planned 2:22 pace, but favorites nevertheless dropped behind one by one.  After a conservative first half far behind the lead pack, 2008 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Mara Yamauchi (Great Britain) took the lead just before 25 km.  After a big move from Kaoru Nagao (Team Univ. Ent.) at 31 km the race came down to three, defending champion Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) and th…

Noguchi Running Dutch 15 km to "Visualize the Marathon"

http://sankei.jp.msn.com/sports/news/111118/oth11111821450012-n1.htm

translated by Brett Larner


Mizuki Noguchi at the Zevenheuvelenloop 2011 press conference, courtesy of Losse Veter.

At a Nov. 18 press conference in Nijmegen, the Netherlands ahead of Sunday's 7 Hills Loop 15 km road race, Athens Olympics women's marathon gold medalist and marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) told reporters, "This race is a step up toward January's Osaka International Women's Marathon.  I hope to run like the good old me is back."

The race is the second of her comeback.  Recapturing the feeling of competition is one of her central themes.  At last month's West Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden her 5 km split was faster than her 5000 m PB.  After showing that her speed is still as good as back in her glory days, she slowed in the second half of the stage.  At 7 Hills, she said, "I want to hold back in the first half and then see how hard I can p…

Yokohama Starts Olympic Selection Cycle, Ageo, Noguchi and More Up This Weekend

by Brett Larner

Just a week after the busiest ekiden weekend of the year comes another big weekend of racing in Japan.  The Yokohama International Women's Marathon is the most important of them, the first of the three domestic selection races for the Japanese women's Olympic marathon team.  Despite a bad race at August's Daegu World Championships, defending champ, course record holder and 2009 World Championships silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei) is the domestic favorite.  It's not a one-woman race, though, as Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) comes in fresh from a solid 15:22.87 5000 m PB at the end of September and may be ready for something big.  Kaoru Nagao and her teammate Chika Horie (Team Univ. Ent.) should also be in contention for the top Japanese woman position.  If she's fast enough the top Japanese woman will secure an Olympic spot.  The Japanese women face competition from the likes of Robe Guta (Ethiopia), Alevtina Ivanova (Russia), Salin…

Neko Runs PB for 5th at SE Asian Games; Olympic Status Unclear

http://www.nikkansports.com/entertainment/news/f-et-tp0-20111116-864133.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/entertainment/news/p-et-tp0-20111112-862322.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Newly minted Cambodian citizen, professional comedian and former Japanese national Hiroshi Neko ran the Nov. 16 Southeast Asian Games marathon in Indonesia in a bid to make Cambodia's Olympic team for next summer's London Olympics.  Neko ran a ten-second PB of 2:37:39 for 5th place.  Five days before the race his top rival for the Cambodian Olympic team, national record holder Hem Bunting (25), withdrew from competition and Cambodia's other two marathon entrants switched events to the 800 m.  As the only Cambodian entrant in the marathon Neko cleared the Cambodian Olympic Committee's criterion of being the top Cambodian finisher, but he was informed before the race that the Committe would be looking for a time close to Bunting's SB of 2:31, set in Australia in August, to conside…

Kawauchi, Baranovskyy, Cragg, Fujita, Ndambiri Headline Olympic Selection-Year Fukuoka International Marathon

by Brett Larner

Race broadcaster KBC has published the sixteen-man elite field for the 65th anniversary of the Fukuoka International Marathon, scheduled for Dec. 4.  The first of the three domestic selection races for the Japanese men's marathon team for the London Olympics, Fukuoka's organizers have gone an unusual route in setting up the overseas field with not a single invited Kenyan or Ethiopian athlete.  2005 Fukuoka winner Dmytro Baranovskyy (Ukraine) has run the fastest three times of his career in Fukuoka and returns to lead the foreign contingent along with Russian national record holder Aleksei Sokolov and last year's runner-up Dmitriy Safronov, also Russian. Moroccan Ridouane Harroufi is the lone African among the invited athletes.  Perhaps of greatest interest, Ireland's Alistair Cragg will be looking to finish his first marathon with a mark that does justice to his excellent 1:00:49 half marathon from this past spring.  Franck de Almeida (Brazil), Martin D…

Ekiden Weekend Review

by Brett Larner

Along with Kanagawa and Nagano's great course record battle at the East Japan Women's Ekiden in Fukushima, this weekend saw four other significant ekidens around the country.  Like the East Japan race, the six-stage, 30 km Fukui Super Ladies Ekiden saw its 27th running.  An interesting format with 48 universities, corporate teams and running clubs all competing together, Fukui this year was largely a rematch between this year's national university champion Ritsumeikan University and 2010 champion Bukkyo University.  Bukkyo fielded all its key runners, including ace Hikari Yoshimoto, while Ritsumeikan was down its leading pair Risa Takenaka and Hanae Tanaka.  After an early lead Bukkyo dropped to 3rd behind Ritsumeikan and Meijo University, but in the second half it worked its way back up to 2nd just 12 seconds behind Ritsumeikan.  Anchor Yoshimoto, the 10000 m collegiate record holder, then ran 41 seconds faster than anyone else on the stage to take the lea…

Kanagawa and Nagano Battle to Course Records in Fukushima

by Brett Larner

Nagano anchor Aki Odagiri tries to hold off Kanagawa's Mika Yoshikawa with 450 m to go. Click photo for video highlights courtesy of Fukushima TV.

On Japan's busiest weekend of ekiden action, some of the best of it came at the first major event held in Fukushima since March's disasters, the East Japan Women's Ekiden, a regional version of January's National Women's Ekiden with 18 prefectural teams made up of runners ranging from junior high to pro.

2009 winner Nagano Pref.'s Yuko Shimizu took the race out hard, winning the 6.0 km First Stage by 18 seconds over Miyagi Pref.'s Hiroko Shoi as pre-race favorites Kanagawa Pref. and Chiba Pref. sat back in 7th and 14th.  Kanagawa's second runner Hitomi Nakamura ran a stage best to bring her team with 13 seconds of the lead, but over the next two stages the gap grew again to 22 seconds.  The remaining five stages were tense and dramatic as each of Kanagawa's runners in turn closed the g…

Sendai Ikuei Course Record at Tohoku Region High School Ekiden

by Brett Larner

Earlier this season Samuel Wanjiru's disaster-hit alma mater Sendai Ikuei H.S. had a big run to win the Miyagi Prefecture High School Ekiden.  Sendai Ikuei followed up Nov. 10 with another big one, setting a 2:04:43 course record to win the seven-stage, 42.195 km Tohoku Region High School Ekiden over rival Aomori Yamada H.S.  Sendai Ikuei started slow, running 3rd behind early leader Tamura H.S. and Aomori Yamada after the first two stages before current Kenyan ace Hiram Ngatia got things into gear.  Ngatia outran Aomori Yamada's John Maina to set a 22:53 record on the 8.1075 km Third Stage, handing off to Fourth Stage runner Tadashi Isshiki in 2nd.  Isshiki, one of the best Japanese high schoolers this year, had little trouble making up the 5-second deficit to leader Aomori Yamada over the 8.0875 km stage, setting a 23:51 course record of his own to put Sendai Ikuei 18 seconds up.  Sendai Ikuei's next two runners kept up the lead before anchor Yuki Ajima p…

Comedian Neko Gets Cambodian Citizenship, Aiming for London Olympics

http://mainichi.jp/enta/geinou/news/20111110k0000m040001000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

On Nov. 9, management for Japanese comedian Hiroshi Neko, 34, announced that he became a Cambodian citizen at the beginning of this month and is targeting running the London Olympics marathon for Cambodia.  Neko will run Cambodia's Olympic selection race, the Southeast Asia Games marathon Nov. 16 in Indonesia.

According to Neko's management, the amateur runner was approached by Cambodia's Olympic committee after he finished 3rd in an international half marathon in Cambodia in December last year and aksed if he would be interested in changing his citizenship to run for Cambodia in the Olympics.  IAAF regulations with regard to citizenship changes bar athletes from competing internationally within three years of taking new citizenship.  However, according to a JAAF official the rule does not apply in Neko's case because he is not registered with the JAAF.

Neko recorded his PB of 2…

2011 International Chiba Ekiden Field Released (updated)

http://sankei.jp.msn.com/sports/news/111108/oth11110819020007-n1.htm
http://www.daily.co.jp/newsflash/2011/11/08/0004605410.shtml
http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2011110800657

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Nov. 8 the organizers of the 2011 International Chiba Ekiden held a press conference to announced the teams for the Nov. 23 event.  Teams from ten countries including Japan, Kenya and the United States will face off against the defending champion Japanese University Select Team and a team made up of top runners from hosts Chiba Prefecture over the six-stage, 42.195 km race.  Each team includes three men and three women who will alternate stages in handing off the tasuki.

Finishing 3rd last year, the Japanese team features men Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota), Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B), Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) and Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Meiji Univ.) and women Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki), Hitomi Niiya (Sakura AC), Kasumi Nishihara (Team Yamada Denki)…

Shirotake Wins Second-Straight Tokushima Marathon

http://www.topics.or.jp/special/12254542636/2011/11/2011_132062725767.html
http://sankei.jp.msn.com/region/news/111107/tks11110702200000-n1.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Running along the banks of the late-fall Yoshino River and carried on by a wind of applause, 32-year-old Masahi Shirotake was the first of the 5799 finishers to break the goal tape at the Nov. 6 Tokushima Marathon, winning for the second-straight year and achieving a new course record of 2:24:49.  Headed back toward the finish in the later stages of the race he looked forward to being greeted by the traditional awaodori dancers at the finish line.  "The cheers from all the spectators were neverending and with a warmth that you can only find here," said Shirotake after the race.  "It really feels great to run the Tokushima Marathon."

Shirotake was born in Konan, Kochi prefecture.  In junior high school and high school he was a 1500 m runner, but he could never advance beyond the city-level…

Mogusu Leaves Aidem and Returns to Kenya

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2011/11/07/kiji/K20111107001983310.html

translated by Brett Larner

Mogusu at October's Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km. Photo (c) 2011 Daniel Seite

On Nov. 7 it was announced that Kenyan Mekubo Mogusu (24), who produced sensational running at the Hakone Ekiden and elsewhere during his time at Yamanashi Gakuin University, left his corporate sponsor Aidem at the end of October.  According to a source involved in the situation Mogusu has already moved back to Kenya but will continue running and is targeting next year's Tokyo Marathon.  An Aidem spokesperson said that due to Mogusu's recent focus on the marathon, "Mogusu told us that he wanted a change in his training environment and chose this course of action."

Translator's note: Mogusu came to Japan one day after Samuel Wanjiru, and the two were rivals throughout their high school years.  When Wanjiru went pro Mogusu went to Yamanashi Gakuin where he became a nationally-known f…

Miyazaki Holds Off Fukuoka for Grand Tour Kyushu Win

by Brett Larner

click here for video of the Grand Tour Kyushu 2011's finish

Defending champion Miyazaki Prefecture came to the final day of the eight-day Grand Tour Kyushu 2011 with a lead of 4:31 over rival Fukuoka Prefecture, comfortable but not safe.  Over the first of the stage's three legs Miyazaki's runners progressively widened the lead, but on the fourth and fifth of the stage's six legs Fukuoka fought back.  Its Leg Five runner Shuji Yoshikawa came within 10 seconds of catching the Miyazaki, still down on total time but almost enough for the lead heading into the final leg.  Miyazaki's anchor, Daegu World Championships marathon 7th-placer Hiroyuki Horibata, fought back and reopened the lead to bring Miyazaki in to a successful title defense, winning in a total time of 38:04:48 to Fukuoka's runner-up 38:10:11.  3rd-place Nagasaki Prefecture was the only other team to break 39 hours for the new 739.9 km course, clocking 38:55:12.

Four men in the field hel…

Komazawa Back on Top With Ninth National University Ekiden Championships Title

by Brett Larner

It's you, baby. Shinobu Kubota brings Komazawa University home to its 9th national title in 17 years. Click photo for video highlights of the race.

After a few shaky seasons Komazawa University head coach Hiroaki Oyagi reconfirmed his position as Japan's most successful university coach with his ninth National University Men's Ekiden Championships title on Nov. 6, the 17th major ekiden win in his 17 years at Komazawa.  Responding to Izumo Ekiden winner Toyo University and defending champion Waseda University's unprecedented 10 sub-29 men lineups last season, Oyagi has built a squad this year which features 11 men with sub-14 5000 m PBs, sub-29 10000 m PBs, or both, five of them with 10000 m times under 28:33.  Toyo did its best to match Komazawa's challenge and almost pulled it off but could not quite cope with Komazawa's superior speed on the shorter of the ekiden's stages.  Despite Oyagi throwing a curveball by only running six of his big…

Fukuoka in Range of Miyazaki With One Day to Go at Grand Tour Kyushu 2011

by Brett Larner

Starting the second half of the eight-day Grand Tour Kyushu 2011 with a 5:45 lead over rival Fukuoka Prefecture, defending champion Miyazaki Prefecture retains a lead of 4:31 with one day of racing to go. Fukuoka came out swinging on the first leg of Stage Five, with Ryohei Nakano setting the only new stage record of the Tour so far.  Nakano covered the 17.4 km leg in 52:28, the next runner more than two minutes back and Miyazaki's Tomoaki Bungo 3:05 behind in 5th.  Miyazaki worked its way back toward the front but Fukuoka held on to the lead thanks in part to leg bests from legs three and four runners Makoto Tobimatsu and Shuji Yoshikawa, winning Stage Five in 3:46:15 to pick up 1:58 on Miyazaki's overall lead.

Miyazaki came back hard on Stage Six, winning five of the six individual legs and adding 8:54 to its lead over Fukuoka.  Miyazaki rookie Kazuya Deguchi picked up his third stage win of the Tour, putting him in contention for MVP, while Daegu World Cham…