Monday, January 16, 2017

Aoyama Gakuin’s Shimoda Completes Marathon Training Camp With 42.195 km Run in Prep for Tokyo

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20170115-OHT1T50072.html
http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/1765865.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Having won the January 2-3 Hakone Ekiden with an unprecedented “double triple,” victories at all three Big Three University Ekidens in a single season and three-straight Hakone titles, Aoyama Gakuin University’s marathon training camp featuring under-20 marathon national record holder Yuta Shimoda (2:11:34, age 19) wrapped up Jan. 15 with a full marathon-length run in Futtsu, Chiba.

The 42.195 km run was the last workout on the schedule of the three day, two night training camp. Two days earlier on the 13th the camp’s participants ran 32.195 km, a tough schedule coming just two weeks after Hakone. Shimoda ran the first 40 km of the final workout in 2:21:18, roughly 3:32 per km, before accelerating to 2:52 per km for the final 2.195 km. His total time for the run was 2:27:35.

Aoyama Gakuin head coach Susumu Hara views the key to success as the last 2.195 km of the race. Both of the training camp’s main workouts, Friday’s 32.195 km run and Sunday’s 42.195 km run, were centered around picking up the pace to under 2:55 per km after running conservatively for the first part of the run. “It is critical to get your mind and body used to running one gear faster after 40 km,” said Hara. “That was the main purpose of this camp, to prime the mind and body to be ready to go for the last 2.195 km. It was excellent training.”

Along with Shimoda, other Aoyama Gakuin runners who did the 42.195 km included third-year Yuki Nakamura who is training for the Feb. 26 Tokyo Marathon along with Shimoda, and third-year Shunpei Oda, who will run the Mar. 5 Shizuoka Marathon. Joining the Aoyama Gakuin trio, independent runner Aritaka Kajiwara, 28, who ran Hakone all four years at Reitaku University as part of the Kanto Region Select Team, also completed the camp. Star Aoyama Gakuin fourth-year Tadashi Isshiki, training for the Mar. 5 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, developed a sore throat after the 32.195 km session and sat out the main workout. “It’ll take three or four days to fully recover,” he said. “Once I’m healthy again we’ll pick up where I left off.”

Having targeted the Hakone “double triple” as a thank-you to the country’s ekiden fans, Hara views Aoyama Gakuin’s pursuit of the marathon as an extension of that mission. “We want to deliver results that will show our gratitude to marathon fans as well,” said Hara. “Our goal is to raise the level of Team Japan’s results in the buildup to the Tokyo Olympics.” A long surge may be Japanese athletes’ best hope at competing seriously with overseas runners, but Hara hopes to bring out the speed needed to stand on equal ground with foreign athletes with kicks of their own. “Our rivals are Kenya and Ethiopia,” he said.

2000 People Shovel Snow to Prevent National Women's Ekiden From Being Cancelled

http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASK1H63JLK1HUTQP01K.html

translated by Brett Larner

Hit by heavy snow, organizers of the National Women's Ekiden were unsure if the race could be held until just before its start.  With 10 cm of snow blanketing the ground early on the 15th they leaned toward cancelling the national championship event.  2000 people pitched in to shovel snow off the course, but at 10:30 a.m. just two hours before the scheduled start, there was still snow on Gojo Street.  Teruo Ito, executive director of the Kyoto Athletics Association, commented, "I felt that if the snow melted we would make it in time.  Thinking of the athletes' efforts, I knew that if we did our best to make the race go off as planned we'd absolutely be able to make it happen."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hometown Kyoto Wins National Women's Ekiden in Near-Whiteout Conditions

by Brett Larner
click photo for video courtesy of NHK

Snow throughout the night and morning yielded to freak weather alternating between piercing sunlight and near-whiteout conditions at the 35th edition of the National Women's Ekiden in Kyoto. A unique format featuring teams of junior high school, high school, university and pro runners from each of Japan's 47 prefectures, the National Women's Ekiden is the peak of ekiden season for most Japanese women.

It was an unusually tight race, with the lead turning over five times over the nine-stage, 42.195 km course and 2nd place within 3 seconds of the leader at six of the eight exchanges.  Many of the favorites, including defending champion Aichi, 2015 winner Osaka and powerhouses Hyogo and Okayama, got off to a slow start, ranging from 10th to 44th on the first stage and spending the rest of the race digging themselves out of a hole.

2014 winner Kyoto, course record holder, 2013 winner Kanagawa and the always-strong Chiba were up front from the start, outrun on the 6.0 km First Stage by Saitama's Yukari Abe.  Hosts Kyoto went to the front on the 4.0 km Second Stage thanks to a 12:32 stage win by Yumika Katayama and held on to the top spot over the 3.0 km JHS student Third Stage despite a middling run from its Mahiru Kobayashi.

The first big action of the race came on the 4.0 km Fourth Stage.  Starting in 12th, Nagasaki high school first-year Ririka Hironaka ran down university and pro competition, passing eleven runners to take the top spot and just missing the 12:40 course record set by London Olympics marathoner Ryoko Kizaki.  With a bobbing head and dynamic arm carriage she drew comparisons from TV announcers to marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, and singlehandedly she put Nagasaki into the race.


Kanagawa advanced to the front on the next stage and held that position for three stages, the longest uninterrupted lead of the day.  Over the Fifth and Sixth stages, snow that had blown off and on earlier in the race reached a peak, accumulating on runners' hair and clothes and causing almost a complete whiteout.  Fighting it off, 18-year-old high schooler Yumika Nagahama gave Kanagawa the biggest lead any team had in the entire race, opening 16 seconds over Nagasaki.  Behind Kanagawa, as the race approached its penultimate stage it shook down to eight good contenders for the eight-deep podium.  The win looked like it would be a race between Kanagawa, Nagasaki and Hyogo, but a great run from JHS runner Tomo Muramatsu on the 3.0 km Eighth Stage put Kyoto just one second behind leader Chiba at the start of the anchor stage.

With 10.0 km to work with, a field including Rio Olympians Mai Ito, Hanami Sekine and Miyuki Uehara, and just 10 seconds separating the top six the stage was set for a dramatic anchor leg.  As the snow picked up again over the first half of the stage Kyoto anchor Sakiho Tsutsui edged away from Chiba's Riko Matsuzaki, turning a one second deficit into a two second lead at 5 km and dropping all chasers. Further back in 8th, 2:23:20 marathoner Rei Ohara began to overtake the competition and move forward  28 seconds behind at the exchange, at 5 km she was up to 4th but still 24 seconds behind Tsutsui. Over the next 2 km she picked up 9 seconds on Tsutsui, 15 seconds behind with 3 km to go.  With 1 km to go Ohara was up to 2nd but still 7 seconds behind.

Having lost a place on the Rio team in a last sprint in Nagoya last March, Ohara gave it everything she had in the last 500 m on the track, but with too much ground to make up she watched in frustration as Tsutsui broke the finish tape 2 seconds ahead.  Tsutsui gave Kyoto its first win in 3 years, taking the national title in 2:17:45 to Okayama's 2:17:47.  Chiba was 3rd in 2:18:24, with Nagasaki holding off defending champion Aichi and Shizuoka for 4th. Kanagawa dropped to 7th in 2:18:39, just ahead of Hyogo who rounded out the podium finishes.

35th National Women's Ekiden
Kyoto, 1/15/17
47 teams, 9 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Kyoto - 2:17:45
2. Okayama - 2:17:47
3. Chiba - 2:18:24
4. Nagasaki - 2:18:32
5. Aichi - 2:18:34
6. Shizuoka - 2:18:34
7. Kanagawa - 2:18:39
8. Hyogo - 2:18:46
9. Fukuoka - 2:19:04
10. Nagano - 2:19:32

Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (6.0 km)
1. Yukari Abe (Saitama) - 19:27
2. Mao Ichiyama (Kyoto) - 19:27
3. Kaori Morita (Kanagawa) - 19:29

Second Stage (4.0 km)
1. Yumika Katayama (Kyoto) - 12:32
2. Naruha Sato (Kanagawa) - 12:33
3. Yuna Wada (Nagano) - 12:34

Third Stage (3.0 km)
1. Seira Fuwa (Gunma) - 9:23
2. Aika Nishihara (Ehime) - 9:27
3. Akari Yamamoto (Okayama) - 9:29

Fourth Stage (4.0 km)
1. Ririka Hironaka (Nagasaki) - 12:47
2. Kanayo Miyata (Shizuoka) - 13:03
3. Maki Izumida (Kanagawa) - 13:07

Fifth Stage (4.1075 km)
1. Yume Goto (Hyogo) - 13:27
2. Fumika Sasaki (Nagano) - 13:30
3. Natsuka Sekiya (Chiba) - 13:35

Sixth Stage (4.0875 km)
1. Hikari Fukuda (Kumamoto) - 12:58
2. Mai Ota (Hyogo) - 12:59
3. Yumika Nagahama (Kanagawa) - 13:08

Seventh Stage (4.0 km)
1. Hikari Onishi (Hyogo) - 12:32
2. Yumi Fujinaka (Aichi) - 12:37
3. Maasa Sasano (Chiba) - 12:40

Eighth Stage (3.0 km)
1. Izumi Takamatsu (Nagano) - 10:04
2. Moe Shimizu (Miyagi) - 10:06
3. Natsumi Doi (Chiba) - 10:09

Ninth Stage (10.0 km)
1. Rei Ohara (Okayama) - 31:45
2. Hanami Sekine (Tokyo) - 32:03
3. Mao Kiyota (Shizuoka) - 32:06

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Fujimoto Wins Fifth Okukuma Half Marathon

by Brett Larner
click lower photo for video courtesy of TKU


Two weeks after they clashed on the New Year Ekiden's opening stage, Taku Fujimoto (Team Toyota) got payback for his one second loss to newcomer Atsuya Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), beating Imai by ten seconds to win the 5th running of the Okukuma Road Race half marathon in 1:03:51.  Imai led a solid showing of three men from the Koichi Morishita-coached Toyota Kyushu team in the top five, with only Junpei Nishi of the New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei team joining Fujimoto in breaking up the Toyota Kyushu hegemony.  Running his second half marathon of the year, last year's runner-up Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) was 6th in 1:04:17. Takeru Kobayakawa of Hakone Ekiden runner-up Toyo University was the top collegiate runner at 8th in 1:04:39.


5th Okukuma Road Race
Okukuma, Kumamoto, 1/15/17

Men's Half Marathon
1. Taku Fujimoto (Toyota) - 1:03:51
2. Atsuya Imai (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:04:01
3. Kento Otsu (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:04:07
4. Junpei Nishi (Asahi Kasei) - 1:04:12
5. Daijiro Nakahira (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:04:13
6. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 1:04:17
7. Junichi Tsubouchi (Kurosaki Harima) - 1:04:18
8. Takeru Kobayakawa (Toyo Univ.) - 1:04:39
9. Akira Akazaki (Takushoku Univ.) - 1:04:44
10. Ikkyo Yoshidome (Soka Univ.) - 1:04:45

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Kumanichi 30 km Announces Elite Field

https://twitter.com/miyatoshi5/status/820025369075949568

translated and edited by Brett Larner

On Jan. 13 the organizers of the Feb. 19 Kumamoto-jo Marathon announced the 19-strong elite field for the 61st running of the Kumanichi 30 km Road Race, the world's premier 30 km held alongside the marathon.  Heading the men's field are last year's 5th-placer Shun Sakuraoka (Toyo Univ.) who finished 4th on the Hakone Ekiden's Fourth Stage on Jan. 2, and New Year Ekiden Third Stage runner-up Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA).

Representing the corporate leagues alongside Ueno are his DeNA teammate Toshio Takaki who ran the competitive Fourth Stage at the New Year Ekiden, Ryu Takaku (Yakult), Shoya Okuno (Toyota Kyushu), Shuhei Yamaguchi (Asahi Kasei) and more.  Kumamoto natives include Kyushu Gakuin H.S. and Aoyama Gakuin University graduate Shun Yamamura and Keisuke Tanaka (Fujitsu).  Along with Sakuraoka, university runners include Tomofumi Uda (Takushoku Univ.) who finished one place behind Sakuraoka at Hakone,

The women's field of 5 is led by last year's runner-up Mami Onuki (Sysmex) and 4th-placer Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.).  Erika Ikeda (Higo Ginko) will represent Kumamoto prefecture.  Along with 50 amateur runners, a total of 94 people are entered.

Kumanichi 30 km Road Race Elite Field
Kumamoto, 2/19/17
all times listed are best in last three years except where noted

Men
Ryu Takaku (24, Yakult) - 1:30:32 (Kumanichi 2014)
Shota Yamaguchi (31, Fujitsu) - 1:31:28 (Kumanichi 2015)
Shun Sakuraoka (22, Toyo Univ.) - 1:32:15 (Kumanichi 2016)
Tomofumi Uda (22, Takushoku Univ.) - 1:33:22 (Kumanichi 2016)
Yuji Nakamura (27, Aichi Seiko) - 1:35:10 (Kumanichi 2015)
Shoya Okuno (23, Toyota Kyushu) - 1:02:26 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Keisuke Tanaka (28, Fujitsu) - 1:02:38 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Shinji Yoshimoto (26, Kurosaki Harima) - 1:02:51 (Marugame 2016)
Toshio Takaki (23, DeNA) - 1:02:51 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2015)
Yuichiro Ueno (31, DeNA) - 1:03:21 (Sendai Int'l Half 2015)
Shuhei Yamaguchi (22, Asahi Kasei) - 1:03:37 (Nat'l Univ. Half 2014)
Shuhei Yamamoto (25, Toyota) - 1:04:58 (Shibetsu Half 2016)
Kazuya Deguchi (28, Asahi Kasei) - 1:02:59 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2013)

Women
Mami Onuki (25, Sysmex) - 1:46:37 (Kumanichi 2016)
Sakie Arai (22, Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:47:53 (Kumanichi 2016)
Ayumi Kubo (21, Kagoshima Ginko) - 1:11:29 (Sanyo Ladies Half 2015)
Erika Ikeda (25, Higo Ginko) - 1:12:38 (Sanyo Ladies Half 2015)
Rie Uchida (21, Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:16:57 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Aoyama Gakuin's Isshiki and Shimoda Training for Marathon With "God of the Mountain" Kamino

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170113-00000096-sph-spo

translated by Brett Larner

The first school in the Hakone Ekiden's 93-year history to win both three Hakone titles in a row and all three of the Big Three University Ekidens in a single season, on Jan. 13 Aoyama Gakuin University members including star senior Tadashi Isshiki and 2:11:34 under-20 marathon national record holder Yuta Shimoda trained together with 2016 Aoyama Gakuin graduate "God of the Mountain III" Daichi Kamino (Konica Minolta) in Futtsu, Chiba for upcoming marathons.  Ten days after their historic feat the strongest team in university distance running is aiming for a mountain loftier than Hakone's peak.

The 13th was the first day of Aoyama Gakuin's marathon training camp in Futtsu, with participants starting off with a 32.195 km run.  Two days later on the final day of the camp they will run 42.195 km.  At three days and two nights it's a short but dense program.  Four Aoyama Gakuin runners are taking part: Shimoda and third-year Yuki Nakamura in training for the Feb. 26 Tokyo Marathon, Isshiki for the Mar. 5 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, and fourth-year Shunpei Oda for the Mar. 5 Shizuoka Marathon.  Training together with his younger former teammates and exchanging motivation, Kamino plans to make his marathon debut next season.  Independent runner Aritaka Kajiwara, 28, who ran the Hakone Ekiden four years in a row as part of the Kanto Region Select Team while at Reitaku University, is also part of the training group.

Aoyama Gakuin head coach Susumu Hara, 49, boasted, "It's no exaggeration to say that this is the young Japanese national training camp.  From this group will come athletes of the stature of the great Toshihiko Seko who can go head-to-head with the best in the world at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics."  Having achieved the unprecedented "double triple" in just his ninth Hakone Ekiden, this renegade coach, a powerful "shot in the arm" of the Japanese athletics world, promises to deliver the same kind of great leap forward to marathon fans that he did for fans of the ekiden.

'Remembering Tokyo's Other Scandal-Plagued Olympics'

http://asia.nikkei.com/magazine/TUNE-UP-TIME-FOR-VIETNAM/Life-Arts/Robert-Whiting-Remembering-Tokyo-s-other-scandal-plagued-Olympics

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

'Why Does Japanese Marathoning Suck Now?"

Currently reading Why Does Japanese Marathoning Suck Now? by Toshimi Oriyama, a newly-published book in which the last seven Japanese men's marathon national record holders, Shigeru Soh (2:09:06, 1978), Toshihiko Seko (2:08:38, 1983), Takeyuki Nakayama (2:08:15, 1985), Taisuke Kodama (2:07:35, 1986), Takayuki Inubushi (2:06:57, 1999), Atsushi Fujita (2:06:51, 2000) and Toshinari Takaoka (2:06:16, 2002), and, in an afterward, Yuki Kawauchi, talk about their eras, the current situation and its future outlook.  It includes the record holders' training logs for the four months leading up to each of their seven national records.  Essential reading for anyone with Japanese literacy.  A translation would be the definitive English-language work on Japanese distance running, Rashomon to The Last Samurai.  Solid gold.