Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Ekiden Coverage Beginning Now

JRN's coverage of the 2011 New Year Ekiden begins at 3:30 p.m. west coast time in North America where we are currently located. For JRN's race preview click here. For course maps click here. For instructions on watching online click here. For English-language commentary via Twitter click here. If that Twitter feed overloads, click here. For complete start lists click here.

2011 Hakone Ekiden - Top University Team Rosters

by Brett Larner

Each of the 20 teams at the 2011 Hakone Ekiden has 16 runners on its entry list, 10 starters and 6 alternates. Below are the top 12 members of 5 of the top teams. Click any image to enlarge.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

The 2011 Hakone Ekiden: Waseda vs. Toyo - Watch Live Online

by Brett Larner

If you’re a distance running fan then it is nearly time for the best two days of the year: the 87th annual Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden. A ten-stage, 217.9 km university championship race spread over two days with a live nationwide TV broadcast that attracts domestic viewership ratings of over 30%, Hakone is a cultural institution in Japan and features the most gripping and dramatic racing of the year. There’s good and bad in that, but for now at least we’ll focus on the good.

Overseas viewers have the chance to watch Nihon TV’s Hakone broadcast online via Keyhole TV, available here. It’s not perfect, but in the absence of an overseas broadcast or official webcast it’s the only chance you have to be part of it if you live outside Japan. The broadcast begins at 7:00 a.m. Japan time on both Jan. 2 and 3 with the race starting at 8:00 a.m. and lasting until around 2:00 p.m. For those on the west coast of North America that means the race begins at 3:00 p.m. on Jan. 1 and goes until 9:00 p.m. For those on the east coast it’s 6:00 p.m. to midnight. London viewers will be watching from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., unfortunately. As with the last edition, JRN will be doing live English-language commentary for the entire broadcast via Twitter @JRNLive. If the feed overloads we’ll switch to @JRNHakoneEkiden. To help you understand who’s who, we now present our annual Hakone preview.

Waseda vs. Toyo

The 2010-2011 season has been a landmark one for Japan’s university and high school men. At a time when the country’s marathoners are going through a dry spell the under-25 set is dealing with the missing ingredient in the system; unprecedented numbers of university and high school runners are running under 14 for 5000 m and under 29 for 10000 m, and in 2010 more Japanese runners than ever before broke 28 minutes, five of them under age 25. This hasn’t yet translated into an improvement at the national record end of things, but the overall level has never been higher. This is most clear in the two favorites for the 2011 Hakone Ekiden, 2010 National University Ekiden champion Waseda University and two-time defending champion Toyo University.

This year’s Waseda squad is the best university team Japan has ever seen. Seven men with 10000 m PBs under 29 minutes, two of them first-years, a 1:02:08 half marathoner and the Asian Jr. half marathon area record holder, 1:01:47 first-year Suguru Osako. Waseda smashed the competition at October’s Izumo Ekiden and November’s National University Ekiden Championships, winning both races in course records. On paper it is clear: going by each of the twenty Hakone teams’ top ten men, Waseda will win. If all ten of their top ten men are fit and run up to potential then nobody will touch them.

But it’s never that easy. Waseda head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe has a history of burning his teams out between Nationals and Hakone and bringing them to the race in a shambles. Having the entire team in peak form in November doesn’t bode well for doing the same at the top of January. Most critically, Waseda has no alternates. Ranked by the top ten of its sixteen entered team members, Waseda is far and away 1st in the field. Ranked by its top eleven it is still in 1st but just a step ahead of Toyo. Ranked by its top twelve Waseda falls to a shocking 13th. In other words, Waseda has no depth. It has exactly what it needs to win, and no more. If even one of its top ten is not 100% it will not win.

Two-time defending champion Toyo University is another story entirely. Everybody knows about Waseda’s amazing lineup, but few realize that the entire central group of third and fourth years at Toyo have all quietly worked together to raise their level and that Toyo now also features seven men with 10000 m PBs under 29 minutes including first-year Keita Shitara. Half the team is now as good as former captain Tomoya Onishi was when Toyo won Hakone for the first time two years ago. And they have four alternates who could fill in without a major decrease in overall quality. And they have Ryuji Kashiwabara.

Nobody in memory has had as big an individual impact on the outcome of Hakone as junior Kashiwabara, the two-time stage record breaker on the legendary 900 m-climb 23.4 km Fifth Stage. Although Toyo’s pair of wins required solid runs from the rest of the team, there’s no doubt that they won because Kashiwabara could make up well in excess of five minutes on his stage. That was true when they were a decent team with a superstar ace. Now they’re one of the best-ever Japanese university teams, plus a superstar ace and four solid backups. It’s conceivable that even if Kashiwabara, who has with the notable exception of a 28:20.99 10000 m PB in November been out of competition with injury troubles most of the fall, runs only passably Toyo could still beat Waseda.

Komazawa and Nittai

But it’s not only about these two schools. Komazawa University and Nittai University are neck-and-neck a short distance behind Toyo in the rankings. As at Nationals, either school could be in contention. Komazawa head coach Hiroaki Oyagi is perhaps the best university coach and Hakone strategist Japan has seen, and with a lineup including four sub-29 men, first-year Ikuto Yufu among them, and a history of performing above potential on the longer distances at Hakone they will challenge Waseda and Toyo and be there to pick up the pieces should either school falter.

Although Nittai only has three runners sub-29, its depth actually exceeds that of Komazawa and on paper it could beat them. In reality, Nittai has a shakier record under pressure and will be in a tough position to beat Komazawa, a goal requiring a near-perfect performance from the whole team. Taking Waseda or Toyo would be a major upset.

The Second Tier

Meiji University, Chuo University and Tokai University are virtually evenly-ranked and should be battling each other to round out the top five. Meiji actually holds five sub-29 men, the best of them junior Tetsuya Yoroizaka with a PB of 28:34.12, but it has not performed reliably in the last few ekiden seasons. In a perfect race it may come 3rd. Chuo only has two sub-29 runners but they are supported by a pack of four sub-64 half marathoners, a lineup which should be good enough to go after Komazawa, Nittai or Meiji should any of them falter.

Tokai University, which limped into Hakone after ace sophomore Akinobu Murasawa missed October’s Yosenkai 20 km qualifier with a sprained ankle, has now lost its third sub-29 runner Asuka Tanaka to injury, but with Murasawa on Second Stage and its other sub-29 sophomore Tsubasa Hayakawa on Fifth Stage its chances look good of returning to the seeded bracket, conceivably in the upper half.

The Seeded Bracket

For schools without a chance of winning, making the top ten to secure a seeded spot for 2012 is the next major goal. The race to make the seeded bracket is often one of the highlights of Hakone’s second day. Yosenkai winner Takushoku University, with 27:53.50 Kenyan first-year John Maina on the entry list and new head coach Masahiro Okada, coach of 2006 Hakone winner Asia University, at the helm, should break through into the seeded bracket despite being ranked only 14th on the strength of its top ten. If there is a darkhorse to watch out for it is Teikyo University, which had a surprise 3rd showing at the Yosenkai and is ranked 8th by top ten and 9th by top twelve. Josai University, Aoyama Gakuin University and Yamanashi Gakuin University are the other main contenders for the seeded bracket, with the Kanto Regional Select Team, made up of the top Yosenkai finishers from schools which failed to qualify for Hakone, standing a chance of taking a top ten spot and knocking one more school into next year’s Yosenkai.


You might have noticed the large number of first-year runners mentioned above. This year’s entering class is superb. Usually there are three or four ‘golden rookies’ who receive a lot of attention in the media and race broadcast. This year there are at least thirteen men good enough to deserve that attention.

Shota Hattori (Nittai Univ.) – 13:54.32 / 28:37.75
Takumi Honda (Nittai Univ.) - 13:56.47 / 29:50.62 / 1:03:41
Kaido Kita (Meiji Univ.) – 13:59.64 / 28:42.92 / 1:03:50
Shinobu Kubota (Komazawa Univ.) – 13:55.18 / 29:06.82
John Maina (Takushoku Univ.) – 13:41.17 / 27:53.50 / 58:23 (20 km)
Duncan Muthee (Takushoku Univ.) – 13:41.08 / 27:53.00
Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) – 13:47.29 / 28:35.75 / 1:01:47 (Asian Jr. Area Record)
Fuminori Shikata (Waseda Univ.) – 14:04.77 / 28:38.46 / 1:03:20
Keita Shitara (Toyo Univ.) – 13:58.08 / 28:52.22
Ikki Takeuchi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) – 13:53.39 / 29:26.17
Hirotaka Tamura (Nihon Univ.) – 14:01.14 / 28:55.90
Kosei Yamaguchi (Josai Univ.) – 14:13.16 / 28:55.33
Ikuto Yufu (Komazawa Univ.) – 13:45.42 / 28:51.71


Along with the release of the preliminary start lists on Dec. 30 came the news that Waseda first-year Fuminori Shikata, a 28:38.46 runner who was instrumental to Waseda’s success at Nationals in November, has a stress fracture and is only on the reserve list. Coach Watanabe is known for leaving many of his key runners out of the initial start lists to hide his strategy until race morning when he puts them in as substitutes, but he has three obvious dummy entries on Eighth, Ninth and Tenth and only Shikata and juniors Yuki Yagi and Yusuke Mita with whom to fill the spots. If the news of Shikata’s injury is not elaborate sandbaggery then it is a disaster for Waseda. They have no margin for strategic maneuvering and will have to play with what they have.

Toyo has all the options they could need. They will win. Waseda will lead much of the first day thanks to the triple punch of Osako on First Stage, Hiraga on Second and Yazawa on Third but will lose ground on the Fifth Stage. Kashiwabara may not be able to take the lead for Toyo but on the second day Toyo, cagier with its entry lists than usual, will field most of its best runners and will take Waseda apart, with Yagi substituting in on Ninth Stage vainly trying to keep Waseda in the game. Komazawa will outrun Nittai and depending on how badly things go for Waseda may repeat as runner-up. Nittai will be up front for the first two stage before fading. As in 2010, Meiji will also be up front throughout the first day but will drop back on the second day.

Look for JRN's viewing guide tomorrow, with course maps, a guide to teams and which stages to watch for the best competition. On to Hakone.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Watch the New Year Ekiden Live Online - Preview

by Brett Larner

January 1 means it's time for the National Corporate Men's Ekiden Championships, the New Year Ekiden. The New Year Ekiden is the focus of the year for professional runners in Japan, seven stages making up 100 km with the African ringers who prop up many of the best teams shoehorned into 8.3 km and Japanese aces stretching out over 22 km. More than the marathon, this is what Japan's top runners are peaking for, and the result is the highest-level racing of the year. Overseas viewers can watch TBS' 6-hour live broadcast online for free beginning at 8:30 a.m. Japan time on New Year's Day via Keyhole TV, available here. That's 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 on the west coast of the U.S., 6:30 p.m. on the east coast, or 11:30 p.m. in London. JRN will be doing live English commentary via Twitter @JRNLive. Should the feed max out we will switch over to @NewYearEkiden. For a course map click here. For complete entry lists click here.

Turning to the action, it promises to be a repeat of 2009, when three teams battled for the national title in a sprint finish after 100 km. Defending champion Team Nissin Shokuhin looks vulnerable after finishing 4th in the East Japan qualifier, with aces Gideon Ngatuny, Yuki Sato and Satoru Kitamura losing out to rivals in subsequent races. Team Honda, featuring 2008 World Jr. XC champion Ibrahim Jeilan and 2010 Tokyo Marathon winner Masakazu Fujiwara unexpectedly won East Japan and should be one of the main contenders. Close behind Honda, Team Kanebo, with 2010 27-minute men Masato Kihara and Tsuyoshi Makabe, and Team Konica Minolta, home of both 5000 m national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya and sub-62 half marathoner Tsuyoshi Ugachi, round out the main contenders from East Japan.

If the main criterion is 27-minute men then Kyushu qualifier winner Team Asahi Kasei must be considered the favorite. The all-Japanese Asahi Kasei team sports four men with times under 28 minutes, including the 2010 #1-ranked 10000 m and half marathon runner Tomoya Onishi, 2010 Komazawa University grad Takuya Fukatsu, and, returning to form with strong runs at last month's Kyushu Isshu Ekiden, Olympian Ryuji Ono and World Championships track runner Yuki Iwai.

Hiroshima-based Team Chugoku Denryoku is a perpetual force at the New Year Ekiden, but despite winning the Chugoku qualifier with ace Atsushi Sato absent from competition since his 3rd-place finish at February's Tokyo Marathon its chances look diminished. A better bet may be Chubu qualifier winner Team Toyota, which includes 27-minute runners John Thuo, Yoshinori Oda and Yusuke Takabayashi.

Team Sagawa Express unexpectedly won the Kansai qualifier and could surprise with a strong showing in the main event. Team YKK won the Hokuriku qualifier but, with Hokuriku being the weakest region by a wide margin, is unlikely to be in contention.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Top 10 Japanese Men of 2010

by Brett Larner
Arata Fujiwara photo by Brett Larner

This is the second of JRN's four-part year-end review. Click here to read the second part, a ranking of the top 10 Japanese women of 2010. Look for the third and fourth parts, the top 10 Japanese men and women of 2001-2010 and a look at the history and future of Japanese marathoning, early in the new year.

To be honest, the Japanese man of the year should probably be either Shota Iizuka, the Chuo University first-year whose 4x100 m anchor leg at May's Kanto Regionals was heard 'round the world and who went on to win 200 m gold at the World Jr. Track and Field Championships, or Ichiro Suzuki, whose running abilities were critical in him scoring his tenth consecutive year of 200 major league hits, but as a distance running site JRN can only give them their due before turning to the long distance runners.

Contrary to appearances, 2010 was an improvement over 2009. For the second year in a row only one man broke 2:10 in the marathon, hard to believe considering that in 2008 there were ten sub-2:10's by domestic men, a feat only Kenya and Ethiopia have ever equalled. However, while still among the weakest in history, the average of the top ten Japanese times of the year was marginally closer to the world standard despite the continued improvement worldwide relative to last year (see the forthcoming part four of JRN's review). That's good news. Half marathon performances improved over recent years, and 2010 was the best year ever for Japanese 10000 m runners, with seven men under 28 minutes, five of them under age 25.

The improvement of the under-25 set on the track was possibly the big story of the year, as unprecedented numbers of university and even high schoolers recorded sub-14 5000 m and sub-29 10000 m times. Hakone Ekiden previews have always focused on the number of sub-30 and sub-14 men a team holds, but this year Waseda University has seven men with PBs under 29 minutes and defending champion Toyo University six. The sharp end present in the U.S. may be missing, but the overall level among young Japanese men has never been higher. Combined with the current state of marathoning this means the London Olympics may well be a bust but that in five years it should be a different story altogether.

Looking at individual performances in 2010, there were a considerable number of excellent, memorable runs, too many to recap in a single article. JRN ranked Japan's top men of the year using a formula which took into account domestic ranking, time, and placing for 5000 m, 10000 m, half marathon and marathon performances. Below are the top ten men of the year along with an honorable mention who did not meet the strict numerical ranking criteria but was still one of the most noteworthy of the year.

1. Arata Fujiwara (Remo System AC) - 130 pts.

marathon: 2:09:34 - 1st (Ottawa, 5/30/10) - #1 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
New York City Marathon: DNF (New York, 11/7/10)
Tokyo Marathon: 2:12:34 (Tokyo, 2/28/10) - 2nd
New Year Ekiden 4th Stage (22.3 km): 1:03:26 (Maebashi, 1/1/10) - 4th

Yes, I know, it's a conflict of interest to put a runner with whom I have a business relationship as the top Japanese man of the year.

When, following his runner-up finish at the freezing hell that was the 2010 Tokyo Marathon, Arata Fujiwara took the virtually unheard-of step of resigning his corporate position to pursue a solo career as a full-time marathoner he asked me to represent him. I accepted, and we have worked together throughout 2010. Be that as it may, it doesn't change the fact that when Fujiwara outkicked Kenyan Laban Moiben and Ethiopian marathon junior world record holder Bazu Worku in the final kilometer of May's Ottawa Marathon to win in a course record 2:09:34 he became the first Japanese man in 23 years to win an overseas marathon sub-2:10. Only the fifth Japanese man to ever accomplish this, along with greats Toshihiko Seko, Takeyuki Nakayama, Hiromi Taniguchi and Taisuke Kodama. The only sub-2:10 of the year by a Japanese man. Deciding how to deal with Fujiwara on JRN in the wake of this performance, unquestionably the best of the year by a Japanese man, has been difficult, but I'm proud to say I helped make it happen.

Thanks to Ottawa, Fujiwara succeeded in securing a private sponsor, Remo System, but his follow-up at November's New York City Marathon was a high-profile failure. Fujiwara is now focused on 2011 and February's Tokyo Marathon. "I don't want to run a conservative race just to try to make the World Championships team," he says. "I want to run Tokyo like it is what matters. I want to run a risky race." Seemingly the only elite Japanese man interested in what's happening overseas and in going outside the domestic leagues to put himself up against the best, Fujiwara and the reaction he generated in the Japanese industry and federation symbolized much of what was good and bad about Japanese marathoning in 2010.

2. Tomoya Onishi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 126.8 pts.

10000 m: 27:50.72 - 5th (Nat'l Corp. T&F Champs, 9/24/10) - #1 Japanese, 2010
half marathon: 1:01:31 - 9th (World Half Mar. Champs, 10/16/10) - #1 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Kyushu Isshu Ekiden Day Three 4th Stage (15.3 km): 43:55 (Kyushu, 10/31/10) - 1st, CR
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 13:40.52 (Marugame, 6/6/10) - 2nd
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 28:46.23 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 5th
Nat'l Interpref. Ekiden 3rd Stage (8.5 km): 24:16 (Hiroshima, 1/24/10) - 1st
Asahi Ekiden 7th Stage (16.7 km): 46:48 (Kita-Kyushu, 1/11/10) - 1st

When Tomoya Onishi graduated from Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University in 2009, JRN predicted he would become a solid pro runner with a 2:08 marathon to his name. Gritty and unafraid to tackle more talented competitors as a university runner, in 2010 he surprised us and many others by clocking the fastest 10000 m and half marathons of the year by a Japanese man, both in high-pressure championship situations. He came within a step of winning the 5000 m national title and made the top ten at the World Half Marathon while running a sizeable PB. A mentor to current Toyo star Ryuji Kashiwabara, Onishi was the most welcome breakthrough of 2010. Based on this year we're willing to revise our prediction to a 2:07 career best.

3. Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) - 112.53 pts.

5000 m: 13:34.21 - 3rd (Stanford, 5/1/10) - #5 Japanese, 2010
10000 m: 27:52.75 - 6th (Nat'l Corp. T&F Champs, 9/24/10) - #2 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
East Japan Corp. Ekiden 4th Stage (9.9 km): 30:50 (Saitama, 11/3/10) - 5th
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: DNF (Marugame, 6/4/10)
Karatsu 10-Miler: 47:30 (Karatsu, 2/14/10) - 6th
New Year Ekiden 1st Stage (12.3 km): 35:28 (Maebashi, 1/1/10) - 1st

A JRN favorite since his Hakone Ekiden First Stage win as a first-year, Kihara was largely invisible throughout his first year as a pro. He finally emerged with an aggressive stage win on the First Stage of the 2010 New Year Ekiden, running like Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya) at the Beijing Olympics with surges and controlled fades. A promising 5000 m PB at Stanford in May showed progress, but injuries caused Kihara to DNF at June's National T&F Championships. Missing the summer season, he returned at September's National Corporate T&F Championships with the second-fastest 10000 m time of the year by a Japanese man, 27:52.75. Coached by 3000 m, 10000 m and marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka, Kihara remains one of Japan's greatest hopes for the marathon.

4. Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) - 99 pts.

half marathon: 1:01:47 - 1st (Ageo, 11/21/10) - #2 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Nat'l Univ. Ekiden Championships 2nd Stage (13.2 km): 37:55 (Nagoya, 11/7/10) - 3rd
Izumo Ekiden 3rd Stage (5.8 km): 16:56 (Izumo, 10/11/10) - 3rd
Nat'l Univ. T&F Championships 5000 m: 14:22.53 (Tokyo, 9/12/10) - 10th
World Jr. T&F Championships 10000 m: 29:40.14 (Moncton, 7/21/10) - 8th
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 14:24.71 (Marugame, 6/6/10) - 27th
Kanto Regional Univ. T&F Championships 10000 m: 28:35.75 (Tokyo, 5/16/10) - 4th
World XC Championships Jr. 8 km: 23:42 (Poland, 3/28/10) - 32nd
Chiba Int'l XC Jr. 8 km: 23:34 (Chiba, 2/14/10) - 2nd

Only a first-year, Osako is the star of what may be the best university team Japan has ever seen, the 2010-2011 Waseda squad. With PBs of 13:47.29 and 28:35.75 and turns on the national teams at this year's World XC and World Juniors to his name Osako was already the star first-year of 2010, but his 1:01:47 win at November's Ageo City Half Marathon, an Asian junior area record, the second-fastest of the year by a Japanese man and the second-fastest ever at Ageo, makes him one of the biggest names in the country. Osako is scheduled to run the First Stage at the January 2-3 Hakone Ekiden. A shot at the stage record held by Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) may be in the cards.

5. Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) - 97.2 pts.

marathon: 2:10:07 - 2nd (Biwako, 3/7/10) - #2 Japanese, 2010

Other major results:
Asian Games marathon: 2:18:24 (Guangzhou, 11/27/10) - 7th
Kyushu Isshu Ekiden Day Three 6th Stage (20.2 km): 1:01:21 (Kyushu, 10/31/10) - 1st
Kyushu Isshu Ekiden Day One 5th Stage (11.0 km): 32:34 (Kyushu, 10/29/10) - 1st

A past member of Japan's World Championships marathon team and reliable 2:09 man, Sato began 2010 recovering from a disastrous 2009 Fukuoka International Marathon. He recovered sufficiently to take 2nd in March's Biwako Mainichi Marathon in a passive but fast-closing 2:10:07 performance. It was the second-best of the year by a Japanese man and good enough to earn him the lead spot on the Asian Games marathon squad. Largely absent throughout the year, he had several stage best runs in the October/November Kyushu Isshu Ekiden before running poorly in the Asian Games.

6. Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) - 86.625 pts.

5000 m: 13:33.61 - 4th (Kumamoto, 4/10/10) - #4 Japanese, 2010
10000 m: 27:55.02 - 9th (Stanford, 5/1/10) - #4 Japanese, 2010

Other major results:
Asian Games 5000 m: 13:54.11 (Guangzhou, 11/21/10) - 6th, 2nd Asian
Meeting voor Mon 3000 m: DNF (Leuven, 8/14/10)
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 13:41.73 (Marugame, 6/6/10) - 3rd
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 28:43.08 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 1st
Himejijo 10-Miler: 47:33 (Himeji, 2/11/10) - 1st
Nat'l Interpref. Ekiden 7th Stage (13.0 km): 37:33 (Hiroshima, 1/24/10) - 2nd

The phenomenally talented but injury prone Takezawa, who ran 13:19.00 and 27:45.59 at age 20, started the year off with a memorable duel against half marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) on the anchor leg of the National Interprefectural Ekiden, outkicking Sato in the last km but losing on stage time to rival Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin). A win at February's Himejijo 10-Miler and several good track performances led into his 10000 m national title in June, but an injury in Europe later in the summer knocked Takezawa out of competition for months. At November's Asian Games he was only 6th in the 5000 m, kept out of the medals by four Africans, and was a DNS in the 10000 m. Wrapping up grad school in March he will hopefully be turning his full attention back to running in 2011. Japan needs him.

7. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) - 81 pts.

5000 m: 13:36.26 - 1st (Kitami, 7/14/10) - #8 Japanese, 2010
10000 m: 28:01.54 - 3rd (Fukagawa, 6/17/10) - #8 Japanese, 2010
half marathon: 1:01:49 - 12th (World Half Mar. Champs, 10/16/10) - #3 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Int'l Chiba Ekiden 5th Stage (10 km): 28:51 (Chiba, 11/23/10) - 1st
East Japan Corp. Ekiden 2nd Stage (15.3 km): 44:49 (Saitama, 11/3/10) - 1st
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 28:48.37 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 8th
Kumanichi 30 km Road Race: 1:30:14 (Kumamoto, 2/28/10) - 3rd
Nat'l Interpref. Ekiden 7th Stage (13.0 km): 38:17 (Hiroshima, 1/24/10) - 8th
Hakone Ekiden 2nd Stage (23.2 km): 1:08:38 (Yokohama, 1/2/10) - 3rd

One of the trio of 2010 Komazawa University grads to dominate the corporate rookie ranks, Ugachi was the all-around best Japanese man of the year, making the top ten for 5000 m and 10000 m and ranked 3rd for the year with a 1:01:49 PB at October's World Half Marathon championships. Aggressive and fearless on the roads, he also had outstanding runs at the International Chiba Ekiden and Kumanichi 30 km. Whether his flailing, snarling style will translate to the marathon remains to be seen, but Ugachi is one of the best hopes in the under-25 set.

8. Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B) - 78 pts.

5000 m: 13:24.75 - 5th (Fukuroi, 5/3/10) - #1 Japanese, 2010

Other major results:
Int'l Chiba Ekiden 1st Stage (5 km): 13:23 (Chiba, 11/23/10) - 1st
Takashimadaira 20 km Road Race: 1:01:48 (Tokyo, 10/25/10) - 23rd
Meeting voor Mon 1500 m: 3:39.52 (Leuven, 8/14/10) - 5th
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 13:56.22 (Marugame, 6/6/10) - 11th
Nat'l T&F Championships 1500 m: 3:46.15 (Marugame, 6/5/10) - 3rd

Ueno, the 2009 double 1500 m and 5000 m national champion, had a checkered 2010. He started the season off with the fastest 5000 m of the year by a Japanese man, then missed defending either title at June's Nationals. He returned with a near-national record in the 1500 m in Europe in August, then lost time to injury. Coming back again, strangely, with a 20 km road race in October, he then won the competitive 5 km First Stage in November's International Chiba Ekiden, barely missing the stage record. He vowed afterwards to get the record in 2011. A shot at the 1500 m national record is surely in the works as well.

9. Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota) - 70.125 pts.

10000 m: 27:56.46 - 8th (Fukuroi, 10/16/10) - #6 Japanese, 2010
half marathon: 1:01:54 - 5th (Marugame, 2/7/10) - #5 Japanese, 2010

Other major results:
Chubu Jitsugyodan Ekiden 4th Stage (13.9 km): 45:17 (Gero, 11/14/10) - 1st
Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships 5000 m: 13:48.26 (Niigata, 9/26/10) - 2nd
Nat'l Interpref. Ekiden 7th Stage (13.0 km): 38:09 (Hiroshima, 1/24/10 - 4th
Hakone Ekiden 9th Stage (23.2 km): 1:10:19 (Yokohama, 1/3/10) - 1st

Along with Ugachi and Takuya Fukatsu, Takabayashi was one of three 2010 Komazawa University graduates to make waves on the jitsugyodan circuit in his first year as a pro. Takabayashi ended his university career with big runs at the Hakone and National Interprefectural ekidens and a sub-62 clocking for 5th overall at February's Kagawa Marugame Half Marathon. He ran well on the fall ekiden and track tune-up circuit, nearly winning the National Corporate T&F Championships 5000 m and becoming one of seven Japanese men to break 28 minutes for 10000 m in the year.

10. Yukihiro Kitaoka (Team NTN) - 67.2 pts.

marathon: 2:10:51 - 4th (Biwako, 3/7/10) - #3 Japanese, 2010

Other major results:
Asian Games marathon: 2:12:46 (Guangzhou, 11/27/10) - 2nd

One of the top-ranked members of Japan's 2009 World Half Marathon team, Kitaoka only ran two major races in 2010. His marathon debut in the cold and rainy Biwako Mainichi Marathon was solid if unspectacular and netted him both the third-fastest time of the year by a Japanese man, 2:10:51, and one of the two spots on the Asian Games marathon squad. At the Asian Games he ran consistenly in 3rd before overtaking defending gold medalist Mubarak Hussein Shami (Kenya/Qatar) in the final 200 m for silver. Barring some spectacular performances at next year's Beppu-Oita, Tokyo and Biwako marathons Kitaoka will likely be on the 2011 World Championships team thanks to his medal.

Honorable mention: Shinji Nakadai (Harriers AC)

Major performances:
100 km World Championships: 6:43:44 (Gibraltar, 11/7/10) - 1st

Ultras may, in some circles, not get the respect other distances do, but Japan earned a bona fide World Champion fair and square when Nakadai won November's 100 km World Championships in Gibraltar. Nakadai ran the race at a steady speed, ignoring the fast pace set by the early leaders and gradually moving up until, to his own surprise, he took over the lead roughly 3/4 of the way in. "I was looking for a toilet," he told JRN, "when I passed the American [Michael Wardian] and thought, 'Whoa! Am I in the lead?!' I didn't want to stop for a toilet when I was leading, so the hardest part of the race was holding it until I finished." Nakadai's time was the fourth-fastest of the year worldwide.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved
photo (c) and (p) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

The Top 10 Japanese Women of 2010

by Brett Larner

This is the first of JRN's four-part year-end review. Look for the second part, the top 10 Japanese men of 2010, tomorrow, and the next two parts, the top 10 Japanese men and women of 2001-2010 and a look at the history and future of Japanese marathoning, early in the new year.

There is no way around it: 2010 was the weakest year in Japanese women's distance running since it reached the world-class level. For the first time Japanese women marathoners finished outside the top three worldwide ranked by average of the ten fastest times of the year (see the forthcoming part four of JRN's review). Only one woman broke 70 minutes in the half-marathon. Overall 5000 m and 10000 m performances were among the weakest of the decade. To be fair, performances in Asian Games years are typically slower, there was no fall domestic elite women's marathon this year, and many of the major spring races suffered bad weather conditions, but the reality of a slump is still there. In a year which saw Ethiopian women emerge as the world's best, Japan's women are now in the same position as its men, trying to turn things around and retake their position on the world podium.

Nevertheless, there were numerous strong and noteworthy performances throughout the year, even if few were truly outstanding. JRN ranked Japan's top women of the year using a formula which took into account domestic ranking, time, and placing for 5000 m, 10000 m, half marathon and marathon performances. Below are the top 10 women of the year along with an honorable mention who did not meet the strict numerical ranking criteria but was still one of the most dominant of the year.

1. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 283 pts.

5000 m: 15:17.86 - 3rd (Osaka 5/8/10) - #2 Japanese, 2010
10000 m: 31:29.03 - 1st (Kobe 4/25/10) - #1 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Nat'l Corp. Women's Ekiden Third Stage (10 km): 31:26 (Gifu, 12/19/10) - 1st
Asian Games 5000 m final: 15:25.08 (Guangzhou, 11/26/10) - 5th, 3rd Asian
Asian Games 10000 m final: 31:55.54 (Guangzhou, 11/21/10) - 4th, 3rd Asian

Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships 5000 m: DNF (Niigata, 9/25/10)
Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:18.96 (Niigata, 9/24/10) - 2nd
Shibetsu Half Marathon: 1:12:25 (Shibetsu, 7/25/10) - 1st
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:29.80 (Marugame, 6/6/10) - 1st
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 31:47.56 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 1st
Kanaguri Hai Tamana 10 km: 31:57 (Tamana, 3/7/10) - 1st, CR
Nat'l Interpref. Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage (10 km): 31:03 (Kyoto, 1/17/10) - 1st

The 3000 m, 5000 m and half marathon national record holder, 2010 saw Fukushi return to form after two years mostly lost in the wake of her spectacular marathon debut at the 2008 Osaka International Women's Marathon (see video above). After attending a federation-sponsored marathon training camp in New Zealand Fukushi returned to a spring season which kicked off with a course record win at the Tamana 10 km road race and ended with double 5000 m and 10000 m national titles. She skipped her habitual turn on the European summer track circuit to quietly make a return to the half marathon after 3 1/2 years with a win at July's hot Shibetsu Half Marathon. Struggling in September, she came back to do all of the leading the Asian Games 5000 m and 10000 m before being outkicked for the medals in both races. Her year wrapped up with a very impressive stage best at the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships, clocking a faster time than her best track 10000 m time of the year. Things seem to point toward Fukushi making a more serious effort at the marathon, the question being whether it will come ahead of next summer's World Championships or the 2012 Olympics. Or not at all.

2. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 261 pts.

10000 m: 31:38.71 - 3rd (Abashiri, 7/7/10) - #3 Japanese, 2010
half marathon: 1:10:45 - 1st (Osaka, 1/31/10) - #7 Japanese, 2010
marathon: 2:27:34 - 6th (Osaka, 1/31/10) - #6 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Nat'l Corp. Women's Ekiden Third Stage (10 km): 32:02 (Gifu, 12/19/10) - 4th
Asian Games 5000 m: 15:58.85 (Guangzhou, 11/26/10) - 8th
World Half Marathon Championships: 1:11:03 (Nanning 10/16/10) - 10th
Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:16.40 (Niigata, 9/24/10) - 1st
Shibetsu 10 km: 33:40 (Shibetsu, 7/7/10) - 1st
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:41.40 (Marugame 6/6/10) - 3rd
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:31.64 (Marugame 6/4/10) - 2nd

The young Kizaki was the best all-around woman of 2010. She began the year by running her fastest half marathon of the year, 1:10:45, in the first half of her marathon debut in the freezing rain of January's Osaka International Women's Marathon. For the rest of the year she was constantly at Fukushi's side on the track, finishing just behind her in the 5 and 10 at June's Nationals and then beating Fukushi for the National Corporate 10000 m title in September. A strong 10th place showing at the World Half Marathon Championships in October capped her season, after which her condition slipped somewhat for November's Asian Games and December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships. Look for her to return to Osaka next month for her follow-up marathon.

3. Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) - 212.75 pts.

5000 m: 15:24.66 - 2nd (Hachioji, 11/24/10) - #3 Japanese, 2010
10000 m: 31:44.93 - 1st (Niigata, 10/11/10) - #4 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Nat'l Corp. Women's Ekiden Third Stage (10 km): 32:10 (Gifu, 12/19/10) - 9th
Fukui Super Ladies Ekiden Fifth Stage (5 km) - 15:38 (Fukui, 11/14/10) - 1st
Nagoya Int'l Women's Marathon - (Nagoya, 3/14/10) - 23rd
Nat'l Interpref. Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage (10 km) - 32:29 (Kyoto, 1/17/10) - 9th

A seasoned track runner, Sugihara had a failed marathon debut at March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon where she was only 23rd. Bouncing back for the fall season she ran excellent times in several ekidens and track time trials leading into December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden, peaking with the 5000 m and 10000 m times that put her into the #3 spot for the year. Running the ace Third Stage at Nationals Sugihara was 9th in 32:10, just seconds from making the top 3 on the stage.

4. Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 194.125 pts.

5000 m: 15:26.72 -1st (Kyoto, 4/19/10) - #6 Japanese, 2010
10000 m: 31:30.92 - 2nd (Kobe, 4/25/10) - #2 Japanese, 2010, collegiate NR

Other major performances:
Sanyo Women's 10 km Road Race: 32:34 (Okayama, 12/23/10) - 3rd
Asian Games 10000 m: 32:06.73 (Guangzhou, 11/26/10) - 5th
Nat'l Univ. Women's Ekiden Championships Sixth Stage (8 km): 25:14 (Sendai, 0/24/10) - 1st, CR
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:54.00 (Marugame, 6/6/10) - 8th
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 33:19.59 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 8th
Kansai Regional Univ. T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:44.57 (Kyoto, 5/21/10) - 1st
Nat'l Interpref. Women's Ekiden Ninth Stage (10 km): 32:39 (Kyoto, 1/17/10) - 12th

Yoshimoto emerged in the fall of 2009 with a win on the anchor stage of the International Chiba Ekiden, then in the spring of 2010 ran a sensational 10000 m debut, a 31:30.92 national collegiate record less than a week after a 5000 m PB. She was off her peak condition through the fall but was ready when she needed to be, anchoring Bukkyo University to the National University Women's Ekiden title with a stage record on the final leg. She ran credibly at November's Asian Games 10000 m, clocking 32:06.73 for 5th before wrapping the year up with a 3rd-place finish behind teammate Kasumi Nishihara at the Sanyo Women's 10 km.

5. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 167.75 pts.

10000 m: 32:09.01 - 1st (Fukagawa, 6/18/10) - #6 Japanese, 2010
half marathon: 1:10:01 - 3rd (Marugame, 2/7/10) - #2 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
World Half Marathon Championships: 1:11:40 (Nanning, 10/16/10) - 15th
Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:39.13 (Niigata, 9/24/10) - 5th
Hokkaido Marathon: 2:35:42 (Sapporo, 8/29/10) - 2nd
Shibetsu Half Marathon: 1:12:29 (Shibetsu, 7/25/10) - 2nd
Sapporo Int'l Half Marathon: 1:13:33 (Sapporo, 7/4/10) - 9th
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:38.43 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 4th
Sendai Int'l Half Marathon: 1:12:53 (Sendai, 5/9/10) - 2nd
Kanaguri Hai Tamana 10 km: 32:43 (Tamana, 3/7/10) - 2nd

Hiroko Miyauchi, one of Team Kyocera's set of elite twins, ran the second-fastest Japanese women's half marathon time of 2010 behind only her sister Yoko. She ran a strong 10000 m in June and finished 15th at the World Half Marathon Championships in October. Look for her to run January's Osaka International Women's Marathon alongside her sister.

6. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 143.75 pts.

half marathon: 1:10:45 - 1st (Osaka, 1/31/10) - #7 Japanese, 2010
marathon: 2:24:55 - 6th (London, 4/25/10) - #1 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Nat'l Corp. Women's Ekiden Championships Third Stage (10 km) - 31:55 (Gifu, 12/19/10) - 2nd
Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships: 32:26.25 (Niigata, 9/24/10) - 4th
Shibetsu Half Marathon: 1:12:57 (Shibetsu, 7/25/10) - 3rd
Sapporo Int'l Half Marathon: 1:13:30 (Sapporo, 7/4/10) - 7th
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:41.96 (Marugame, 6/6/10) - 4th
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:36.32 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 3rd
Osaka Int'l Women's Marathon: DNF (Osaka, 1/31/10)

The top woman of the last two years, 2010 marked the year Akaba made the marathon her main focus. Injury kept her from following through on her aggressive first half in January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, but in April's London Marathon she ran the top Japanese women's time of the year. In full training for Osaka 2011 Akaba was one of only two women to break 32 minutes on the 10 km Third Stage at the Dec. 19 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships. Akaba is again scheduled to do a spring marathon double in London.

7. Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) - 129.3 pts.

10000 m: 32:15.63 - 4th (Niigata, 10/11/10) - #8 Japanese, 2010
half marathon: 1:10:45 - 1st (Osaka, 1/31/10) - #7 Japanese, 2010
marathon: 2:25:43 - 9th (London, 4/25/10) - #2 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Kobe Women's Half Marathon: 1:11:35 (Kobe, 11/21/10) - 1st
Nat'l Corp. T&F Championships 10000 m: 32:43.64 (Niigata, 9/24/10) - 7th
Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon: 1:14:32 (Philadelphia, 9/15/10) - 14th
Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Half Marathon: 1:10:54 (Seattle, 6/27/10) - 1st
Steamboat Classic 4-Miler: 20:40 (Peoria, 6/19/10) - 3rd
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:49.97 (Marugame, 6/6/10) - 6th
Nat'l T&F Championships 10000 m: 33:23.60 (Marugame, 6/4/10) - 9th
Osaka Int'l Women's Marathon: 2:26:27 (Osaka, 1/31/10) - 3rd

Along with Ryoko Kizaki, Mari Ozaki was one of the most well-rounded women of the year. Running her best half marathon time of the year en route to a 2:26:27 3rd place finish in January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, Ozaki came back in April to improve her marathon time to 2:25:43 in London and followed with a handful of quality overseas performances. A strong 10000 m in October put her into the top 10 overall for the year. She won the final running of the Kobe Women's Half Marathon in November.

8. Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) - 120 pts.

5000 m: 15:16.15 - 1st (Fukuroi, 9/18/10) - #1 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Int'l Chiba Ekiden Second Stage (5 km): 15:27 (Chiba, 11/23/10) - 1st
Nat'l T&F Championships 5000 m: DNF (Marugame, 6/6/10)
Brutus Hamilton Inv. 3000 m: 9:01.39 (Berkeley, 4/23/10) - 3rd

The 1500 m national record holder started 2010 with a year-leading 3000 m in California, then sustained injuries which caused her to drop out of June's National T&F Championships, running a year-leading 15:16.15 in September. She returned in the fall with a year-leading 5000 m followed by a stage best on the Second Stage of the International Chiba Ekiden but was unable to run for Team Toyota Jidoshokki at December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden as she is still under ban from corporate league competition until her pending graduation from university.

9. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 108 pts.

half marathon: 1:09:51 - 2nd (Marugame, 2/7/10) - #1 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Sanyo Women's Half Marathon: 1:12:06 (Okayama, 12/23/10) - 2nd
Shanghai Half Marathon: 1:14:40 (Shanghai, 12/5/10) - 2nd
Nagoya Int'l Women's Marathon: 2:33:36 (Nagoya, 3/14/10) - 11th
Miyazaki Women's Half Marathon: 1:10:54 (Miyazaki, 1/6/10) - 2nd

The second of the Miyauchi twins, Yoko Miyauchi was the sole Japanese woman to break 70 minutes for the half marathon in 2010. Second place in all four of her major half marathons of the year, she had a disappointing marathon debut in Nagoya in March. Miyauchi will run her follow-up marathon along with her sister at the 2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon.

10. Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) - 84 pts.

marathon: 2:27:11 - 1st (Nagoya, 3/14/10) - #4 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Sanyo Women's Half Marathon: 1:12:29 (Okayama, 12/23/10) - 3rd
Asian Games Marathon: 2:36:40 (Guangzhou, 11/27/10) - 7th
Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon: 1:15:27 (Philadelphia, 9/19/10) - 17th
Sapporo Int'l Half Marathon: 1:11:47 (Sapporo, 7/4/10) - 1st

Kano won March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon and July's Sapporo International Half Marathon in moderate times, but later in the fall she was sub-par, running poorly in September's Philadelphia Half Marathon and November's Asian Games Marathon and only decently at December's Sanyo Women's Half Marathon.

Honorable mention: Kasumi Nishihara (Bukkyo Univ.)

5000 m: 15:25.50 - 1st (Nittai Univ., 12/5/10) - #5 Japanese, 2010

Other major performances:
Sanyo Women's 10 km Road Race: 32:26 (Okayama, 12/23/10) - 2nd, collegiate NR
Int'l Chiba Ekiden Fourth Stage (5 km): 16:02 (Chiba, 11/23/10) - 1st
Nat'l Univ. Women's Ekiden Championships Third Stage (9.1 km): 28:56 (Sendai, 10/24/10) - 1st, CR
Nat'l Univ. T&F Championships 5000 m: 15:38.19 - 1st, MR
Nat'l Interpref. Women's Ekiden First Stage (6 km) - 19:11 (Kyoto, 1/17/10) - 1st

Nishihara, a double medalist in the 5000 m and 10000 m at the 2009 World University Games, emerged last year from the shadow of top university woman Kazue Kojima only to be eclipsed by her younger teammate Hikari Yoshimoto. She returned this fall in peak form, setting the meet record in winning September's National University T&F Championships 5000 m, taking the stage best on the Fourth Stage of November's International Chiba Ekiden while putting the Japanese University Select Team into the lead en route to its first-ever Chiba win, and setting the collegiate women's 10 km road national record at the December 23 Sanyo Women's 10 km.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

2010 As Seen By JRN Readers

JRN's most-read articles of 2010 by month:

Toyo University gets the star treatment.Jan. 4
Master shoe craftsman Mimura joins Adidas. - Jan. 13

Yoshihisa Hosaka gets world record #3 at Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. - Feb. 7
Coach Ken Green talks about Jeff Hunt's race-making Beppu-Oita debut. - Feb. 9
"I'm hoping I can be that next chapter in the history books." - Newmade marathoner Jeff Hunt in his own words. - Feb. 10
A tale of two Fujiwaras - Tokyo Marathon 2010. - Feb. 28

Arata Fujiwara evaluates the 2010 Tokyo Marathon. - Mar. 2
The 2010 Rome Marathon in pictures. - Mar. 25

Yurika Nakamura on the frontlines in Boston. - Apr. 15

"I came here to test myself." - Stephen Mayaka on the Kenyan student runner's life. - May 5
Hakone's new star takes first 5000 m win - Taku Fujimoto. - May 24
Iizuka redux: the future king of Japanese sprinting? - May 25
Arata Fujiwara sets Ottawa Marathon course record. - May 30

Miss International Queen 2009 to run 100 km 'New Half Marathon.' - June 9

Shota Iizuka live up to expectations with first-ever Japanese World Junior 200 m gold. - July 24

Marathons maxing out - Tokyo expects applications 10x field limit. - Aug. 4

Mitsuoka schools Hakone stars, Nishihara and Takahashi score meet records, Iizuka flat on final day of Japanese University Nationals. - Sept. 12
Osaka and Kobe announce dates of new mass-participation marathons. - Sept. 13
Days shy of 100, Miyazaki targeting triple gold at Masters Championships. - Sept. 16

Kaori Yoshida sub-2:30 PB at Chicago Marathon.Oct. 11

On his own two feet: Arata Fujiwara faces New York. - Nov. 3
Arata Fujiwara ING New York City Marathon DNF.  - Nov. 8
Freshman Suguru Osako 1:01:47 Jr. national record at 2010 Ageo City Half Marathon. - Nov. 21
Japanese University Select Team takes first-ever International Chiba Ekiden win. - Nov. 23

Your 2010 Fukuoka International Marathon viewing guide. - Dec. 3
Murayama 28:23.18 for high school year-leader. - Dec. 4
Fast times depend on pacemakers - inside the strangeness at the Fukuoka International Marathon. - Dec. 12
Kagoshima Jitsugyo takes surprise National High School Boys Ekiden title. - Dec. 27

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Noguchi Out Indefinitely With Stress Fracture

translated by Brett Larner

On Dec. 27 Team Sysmex announced that 2004 Athens Olympics marathon gold medalist and marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi, 32, has sustained a stress fracture to her left ankle. The fracture is expected to take at least 5-6 weeks to heal.

Noguchi withdrew from the 2008 Beijing Olympics marathon shortly before the race with an injury to her left thigh. In October she made a return to competition at the West Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden, her first race in 2 years, 5 months. At the Dec. 19 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships she ran the ace Third Stage but finished only 20th on the stage. Immediately afterwards she reported not feeling well and was found to have a fever of 39 degrees and to be suffering from intestinal inflammation. A short time later her left ankle began to hurt, and a medical examination discovered the stress fracture.

A person connected with Team Sysmex commented, "Noguchi wasn't feeling well at Nationals, and as a result her balance was off while she was running. The stress fracture is in a part of her leg that has never been injured before. It's impossible to say how long it will be before she tries to come back from this."

Reiko Tosa to Make Comeback at Tokyo Marathon

translated by Brett Larner

After retiring following the 2009 Tokyo Marathon to become a mother, two-time World Championships marathon medalist Reiko Tosa, 34, announced on Dec. 27 that she will make a comeback to competitive running. Tosa will spend the new year training with Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo on Miyako island and will run in February's Tokyo Marathon.

Tosa gave birth to her first baby, a daughter, in April and has remained a part of Mitsui Sumitomo in an advisorial role since her retirement. On her blog Tosa had previously written, "I'm planning to run the January 30 Osaka Half Marathon followed by a marathon in late February. I don't know how far I'll be able to go but I'm excited to see what I can do."

Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo head coach Shigeharu Watanabe commented, "She isn't back to full, serious marathon training yet but we're confident that by the time she runs the Tokyo Marathon she will be ready and satisfied with her preparations."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Kagoshima Jitsugyo Takes Surprise National High School Boys Ekiden Title - Video Highlights (updated)

by Brett Larner

Click photo for video highlights.

Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S. unexpectedly ran down defending champion Sera H.S. on the final two stages to win a dramatic 2010 National High School Boys Ekiden, its first-ever national title in the event's 61-year history.

Kazuto Nishiike (Suma Gakuen H.S.), who finished 0.02 seconds out of the medals in the boys' 3000 m at last summer's Youth Olympics, took the race out hard with a 29:35 for the 10 km First Stage. Kagoshima Jitsugyo's Takashi Ichida was just 3 seconds back, with another 5 seconds separating Ichida from pursuers Sendai Ikuei H.S. and Kyushu Gakuin H.S. Suma Gakuen's Second Stage runner Yudai Yamamoto lengthened the team's lead over Sendai Ikuei and Kyushu Gakuin, while Kagoshima Jitsugyo fell to 7th.

The 8.1075 km Third Stage, a showcase for the top Kenyan high schoolers in Japan, saw a shakeup to the runner as defending champions Sera H.S.' new ace Charles Ndirangu delivered a big performance. With a 36 second deficit at the start of the stage Ndirangu moved up from 10th to the lead, running dead even with Samuel Wanjiru's stage record and ultimately finishing just 1 second off Wanjiru's seemingly unbreakable mark of 22:40. Michael Getange (Aomori Yamada H.S.) likewise had a strong run to move into 2nd ahead of Wanjiru's alma mater Sendai Ikuei, Kagoshima Jitsugyo, Kyushu Gakuin and 2008 national champion Saku Chosei H.S.

Sendai Ikuei made the strategic decision to put its current Kenyan Bernard Waweru on Fourth Stage, usually the sign of a weaker athlete, but Waweru was successful in moving Sendai Ikuei into 2nd with a stage best run. Sera held a lead of 18 seconds over Sendai Ikuei at stage's end, with Kyushu Gakuin moving up to finish the stage dead even with cross-island rivals Kagoshima Jitsugyo. Kagoshima Jitsugyo pulled away on the Fifth Stage, overtaking Aomori Yamada for 3rd but failing to make dent in Sera's 28 second lead. But Kagoshima was saving its best for last.

Kagoshima Jitsugyo's Hiroshi Ichida, the twin brother of its First Stage runner Takashi, took the stage best to put his team in range. Ichida outran Sera's Takuya Fujikawa by 14 seconds, cutting the lead in half. Kagoshima anchor Koki Takada quickly ran down stunningly named Sera anchor Naruhei Daikuya. Entering the track together for the final 500 m, Takada waited until the very last 250 m to kick away from Daikuya, winning by a margin of 6 seconds and just sneaking under 2:04. Kyushu Gakuin overtook Sendai Ikuei for 3rd, with Suma Gakuen moving back ahead of Aomori Yamada thanks to a Fifth Stage best by Takuma Sano. 2008 winner Saku Chosei, a virtual factory for top high school talent in the last 7 or 8 years, was only 7th.

In a post-race interview with TV broadcaster NHK, Kagoshima Jitsugyo head coach Sadanori Kamioka commented, "When we finished the First Stage in 2nd I was very confident because I knew we had our strongest runners on Sixth and Seventh. With 1 km to go I knew we had it." Anchor Takada agreed, saying, "When I caught up to the leader at 4 km I decided just to take it easy the rest of the way and outkick him on the track. I had planned to outkick him with 150 m to go but could see he was struggling so I went a little farther out." Kamioka thanked the people of Kagoshima prefecture for the school's first national title, saying, "This victory was won by everyone in Kagoshima."

2010 National High School Boys Ekiden
Top Team Results - 42.195 km
click here for complete results
1. Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S. - 2:03:59
2. Sera H.S. - 2:04:05
3. Kyushu Gakuin H.S. - 2:04:24
4. Sendai Ikuei H.S. - 2:04:47
5. Suma Gakuen H.S. - 2:05:26
6. Aomori Yamada H.S. - 2:05:33
7. Saku Chosei H.S. - 2:05:50

Stage Best Performances
click here for complete results
click stage headers for video highlights
First Stage (10.0 km) - Kazuto Nishiike (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 29:35
Second Stage (3.0 km) - Yudai Yamamoto (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 8:18
Third Stage (8.1075 km) - Charles Ndirangu (Sera H.S.) - 22:41
Fourth Stage (8.0875 km) - Bernard Waweru (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 23:27
Fifth Stage (3.0 km) - Takuma Sano (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 8:43
Sixth Stage (5.0 km) - Hiroshi Ichida (Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.) - 14:40
Seventh Stage (5.0 km) - Koki Takada (Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.) - 14:31

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kojokan Wins National High School Girls Ekiden - Video Highlights (updated)

by Brett Larner

Click photo for video highlights.

Thanks in part to outstanding performances from the identical twin Akamatsu sisters on the final two stages, Kojokan H.S. took its second-ever national title at the 2010 National High School Girls Ekiden, holding off two-time defending champion Toyokawa H.S. by 16 seconds after battling the strong Suma Gakuen H.S. throughout the ekiden.

Kojokan's Katsuki Suga got the team off to a good start, winning the 6 km First Stage by a margin of 6 seconds. Suma Gakuen's Risa Yokoe caught up on the Second Stage, running a stage best to finish the leg dead even with Kojokan's Miyuki Oka. Suma Gakuen's Third Stage runner Mika Kobayashi likewise turned in a stage best, giving the school an 8 second lead after Kojokan's Manami Takehisa finished only 9th on the stage.

Everything turned around on the 3.0 km Fourth Stage. Kojokan's Hiroka Akamatsu, the lesser-known of its star Akamatsu twins, seized back the lead, taking the stage best with a strong 9:35. Suma Gakuen's Natsuki Hara was only 9th on the stage in 9:55. Akamatsu handed off to her sister Mahiro Akamatsu, the Asian junior 3000 m champion and national high school 1500 m champion, with a lead of 12 seconds over Suma Gakuen. Behind the two leading schools, defending champion Toyokawa and powerhouse Sendai Ikuei H.S. handed off to Kenyan anchors Murugi Wainaina and Mary Wydira.

Akamatsu, who was tripped twice by the same person on the First Stage last year, successfully held off both Wainaina and Wydira to give Kojokan the national title. Wainaina, stage best winner on the anchor leg last year, did her best to bridge the gap but despite again taking the stage best title could not catch Akamatsu. Wydira ran together with Wainaina but lost ground in the final kilometer and finished 6 seconds back with the second best time on the stage. Akamatsu recorded the third-best stage time.

2010 National High School Girls Ekiden
Top Team Results - 21.0975 km
click here for complete results
1. Kojokan H.S. - 1:07:50
2. Toyokawa H.S. - 1:08:06
3. Sendai Ikuei H.S. - 1:08:12
4. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. - 1:08:58
5. Kita Kyushu Municipal H.S. - 1:08:59
6. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. - 1:08:59
7. Tokiwa H.S. - 1:09:02

Stage Best Performances
click here for complete results
click stage headers for video highlights
First Stage (6.0 km) - Katsuki Suga (Kojokan H.S.) - 19:29
Second Stage (4.0975 km) - Risa Yokoe (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 12:44
Third Stage (3.0 km) - Mika Kobayashi (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 9:51
Nana Fukuzaki (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 9:51
Shiho Takeda (Tokiwa H.S.) - 9:51
Fourth Stage (3.0 km) - Hiroka Akamatsu (Kojokan H.S.) - 9:35
Fifth Stage (5.0 km) - Murugi Wainaina (Toyokawa H.S.) - 15:40

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Watch the 2010 National High School Ekiden Championships Live Online

The 2010 National High School Ekiden Championships take place this Sunday, Dec. 26. Overseas viewers should be able to watch NHK's live, commercial-free broadcast via Keyhole TV, available by clicking here. If a password is required, enter the letters NHK. The girls' ekiden runs from 10:05 to 11:54 a.m. Japan time, with the boys' ekiden beginning at 12:15 and ending at 2:52 p.m. The National High School Ekiden Championships website is worth a visit, with a wealth of info on competing teams plus complete stage-by-stage results for every year the Championships have been held, 60 for boys and 21 for girls.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nishihara Sets 10 km National Collegiate Record at Sanyo Women's Road Race

by Brett Larner

As the year draws to a close the last major non-ekiden road race of the Japanese calendar, the Sanyo Women's Road Race 10 km and half marathon, took place Dec. 23 in Okayama. With the cancellation of the National University Women's Invitational Ekiden Bukkyo University put many of its best runners into both races, resulting in one of the most competitive 10 km fields in Sanyo history.

Kenyan ace Sally Chepyego Kaptich (Team Kyudenko) dueled with 2010 National University 5000 m champion Kasumi Nishihara (Bukkyo Univ.) before pulling away to win in 32:13. Nishihara outran teammate and collegiate 10000 m national record holder Hikari Yoshimoto to take 2nd in 32:26, a new collegiate 10 km road national record and the second-fastest time ever by a Japanese woman on the Sanyo course. Yoshimoto in turn held off pros Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) and Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) for 3rd in 32:34. Shigetomo, who had an outstanding race just four days ago to put Tenmaya into the lead for its first-ever National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden title, was the top Tenmaya finisher, the team's ace Yurika Nakamura finishing only 19th in 34:02. A notable finisher was accident and injury-plagued junior 10000 m national record holder Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno), who turned in virtually her only race of the year in 33:33 for 13th.

In the half marathon, the newly-minted Team Otsuka Seiyaku continued to make an impact with its Shoko Mori breaking away at 17 km from a lead pack including year-leading Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera), Sapporo Half Marathon winner Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) and Team Tenmaya's national title-winning anchor Kaori Urata. Mori ran a nearly four-minute PB, finishing in 1:11:41 to take the win with a 25-second margin over runner-up Miyauchi.

2010 Sanyo Women's Road Race
10 km
click here for complete results
1. Sally Chepyego Kaptich (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 32:13
2. Kasumi Nishihara (Bukkyo Univ.) - 32:26 - NUR
3. Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 32:34
4. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 32:36
5. Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) - 32:38
6. Machiko Iwakawa (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 32:48
7. Namiko Yamamoto (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 32:52
8. Christine Muyanga (Kenya/Team Panasonic) - 32:58
9. Chinami Mori (Bukkyo Univ.) - 33:08
10. Mai Ishibashi (Bukkyo Univ.) - 33:09
13. Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) - 33:33
19. Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) - 34:02

Half Marathon
click here for complete results
1. Shoko Mori (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:11:41 - PB
2. Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 1:12:06
3. Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) - 1:12:29
4. Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya) - 1:12:35
5. Mina Nomura (Team Nihon ChemiCon) - 1:13:45
6. Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) - 1:14:14
7. Yuka Izumi (Team Tenmaya) - 1:14:26
8. Chiharu Matsuo (Team Kyudenko) - 1:14:34
9. Emi Mori (Bukkyo Univ.) - 1:14:48
10. Yumi Sato (Team Shiseido) - 1:15:23

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Osaka Announces 2011 Elite Women's Field

by Brett Larner

On Dec. 20 the organizers of the Osaka International Women's Marathon announced the field for the 2011 edition. Celebrating the event's 30th anniversary with a new, faster course eliminating the famous hilly, twisting section through Osaka Castle and with the addition of female pacemakers, the field features a competitive cross-section of current top Japanese women and several aging overseas elites.

Osaka is the first major domestic selection race for the 2011 World Championships team. The top Japanese woman meeting Rikuren's time goals will be automatically named to the team. If the race is slow then the top domestic finisher will have to wait until mid-March for the final selection announcement. It doesn't look likely to be slow, however. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) is the favorite, coming fresh from a sub-32 road 10k in Sunday's National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden in the midst of her marathon training. Akaba says she will be shooting for a fast time, not just the win, and having gone out on 2:21 pace at last year's race while injured she may well follow through. Yumiko Hara (Team Univ. Ent.) is the other major domestic favorite, with the fastest PB among the Japanese women but a major coaching change this year and several recent absences from competition following her win at August's Hokkaido Marathon. Solid 2006 Vienna Marathon winner Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya), the lone reliable marathoner in the stable of fast-debuting one-hit wonders turned out by Tenmaya head coach and Rikuren director of women's marathoning Yutaka Taketomi, is another major contender for the World Championships spot.

Among the relative newcomers in the Japanese field, watch for Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), one of the all-around best-performing Japanese women of 2010, and Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku), who had a good debut earlier this year in Nagoya, to move up and be in contention. A possible strike against Ito: Her teammate Atsushi Ikawa, who likewise had a good debut in the spring, DNF'd in his follow-up at this month's Fukuoka International Marathon.

Three of the six overseas invited elites are over age 38, including seemingly indefatigable Russians Liudmila Petrova and Svetlana Zakharova. Among the younger half of the overseas runners is Romanian Adriana Pirtea, who memorably lost the Chicago Marathon to Ethiopian Berhane Adere by celebrating her victory prematurely.

2011 Osaka International Women's Marathon
Liudmila Petrova (Russia) - 2:21:29 (London '06)
Svetlana Zakharova (Russia) - 2:21:31 (Chicago '02)
Yumiko Hara (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:23:48(Osaka '07)
Adriana Fernandez (Mexico) - 2:24:06 (London '99)
Tomo Morimoto (Team Tenmaya) - 2:24:33 (Vienna '06)
Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 2:24:55 (London '10)
Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 2:26:09 (Osaka '08)
Chika Horie (Team Univ. Ent.) - 2:26:11 (Hokkaido '02)
Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) - 2:27:16 (Osaka '09)
Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 2:27:34 (Osaka '10)
Anna Incerti (Italy) - 2:27:42 (Milan '08)
Adriana Pirtea (Romania) - 2:28:52 (London '08)
Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:29:13 (Nagoya '10)
Tetyana Holovchenko (Ukraine) - 2:31:37 (Warsaw '10)
Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:32:20 (Yokohama '09)
Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 2:33:36 (Nagoya '10)

Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal)
Aniko Kalovics (Hungary)
Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya)

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, December 20, 2010

WC Silver Medalist Ozaki to Run Yokohama Int'l Women's Marathon

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Team Daiichi Seimei head coach Sachiko Yamashita has announced that 2009 World Championships marathon silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki will run February's second edition of the Yokohama International Women's Marathon. Ozaki was absent from Sunday's National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden after falling and injuring her right kneecap during a workout in late November, but according to a member of Daiichi Seimei's coaching staff the injury was minor and has not had a lasting effect. Ozaki intends to go for a PB in Yokohama, which has seen a course change since its first edition in 2008 to minimize repetition of the bridges on the previous circuit course.

In related news, Athens Olympics marathon gold medalist and national record holder Mizuki Noguchi announced the same day that if all goes according to plan she will make a return to the marathon at the third running of the Yokohama International Women's Marathon in November, 2011. Yokohama took the place of the now-defunct Tokyo International Women's Marathon, of which Noguchi and Ozaki were the final two winners. The second running of Yokohama was shifted from the traditional late-November date to mid-February 2011 due to the APEC conference place taking place in Yokohama in November this year. Prior to a marathon comeback, Noguchi will look to run either February's Marugame Half Marathon or March's National Jitsugyodan Half Marathon.

Following a successful comeback run in the National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships, former national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) also indicated a return to the marathon may be in the works. After her run Shibui told reporters, "That was fun. Very interesting. That was the kind of run that is good enough to carry over into a marathon." Asked whether she plans to run in one of the spring domestic selection races for the 2011 World Championships Shibui said, "Yes, maybe so. I'm back on track." The selection races still to announce their elite fields include February's Yokohama and March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tenmaya Takes First-Ever National Title

by Brett Larner

Thanks in part to outstanding runs from rising stars Risa Shigetomo and Kaori Urata and a return to form by ailing ace Yurika Nakamura, Team Tenmaya took its first-ever win at the National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships on Dec. 19. Tenmaya runners cruising mid-pack on the first two stages, Nakamura moved the team into a three-way tie for 3rd on the 10,0 km ace Third Stage. Little changed for the team on the Fourth Stage, but Shigetomo had a superb performance, moving up from 4th to overtake leader Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) and claim the stage best title by the largest margin of any runner in the entire ekiden. Kicking off with a 2:57 first km, anchor Urata likewise took the stage best title and was never threatened as she brought the team home in 2:14:35 for the 42.195 km course.

Looking at the overall race, it was a relatively even field as many teams came to the championships with at least one key member having had a problem-plagued season. 2009 Tokyo Marathon winner Mizuho Nasukawa put the Yoshio Koide-coaced Team Universal Entertainment into the lead on the First Stage, with defending champions Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo and East Japan qualifier winners Team Daiichi Seimei just behind. Kenyan Felista Wanjugu kept Universal Entertainment on the ridiculously short 3.3 km Second Stage, while countrywoman Ann Karindi ran a stage best 9:56 to put the likewise Koide-coached 2008 national champions Team Toyota Jidoshokki into 2nd. Ethiopian Betelhem Moges moved Team Denso into 3rd.

The 10.0 km Third Stage was the focus of the race, featuring the return of Athens Olympics marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) to national competition against 10000 m national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), 2010 top Japanese marathoner Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and a raft of other stars with the notable omission of 2009 World Championships marathon silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Team Daiichi Seimei), who recently sustained injuries in a fall. Fukushi was dominating, moving up from 8th to pass Shibui and take the lead by 3 km, split 15:27 for 5 km, and take the stage best in 31:26. Far back in the pack, Akaba, in full training for January's Osaka International Women's Marathon, was the only other woman to break 32 minutes.

Shibui, largely absent for the last two years, was not far off her game as she finished 5th on the stage in 32:06, putting Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo into a tie for 3rd with Tenmaya's Nakamura and Daiichi Seimei's Ozaki substitute Misaki Katsumata with Team Denso's Kayo Sugihara just ahead in 2nd. Noguchi did not have the much hoped-for successful return, slipping from 13th to 18th place and finishing only 20th of 24 on the stage in 34:00. Falling to the ground after finishing, she was unable to get back to her feet unaided and later told media that the run was far harder than she anticipated.

Team Daiichi Seimei's Yuka Kakimi was outstanding on the 4.1 km Fourth Stage, tearing up the distance to leader Kozue Matsumoto (Team Wacoal) and taking over 1st with 800 m to go in a stage-best 12:43. Team Denso's Hiromi Koga also overtook Matsumoto at the last moment to put Denso into 2nd.

Former pro XC skiier Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) ran her best on the ekiden's longest stage, the 11.6 km Fifth Stage, where she was the second-fastest but no match for Tenmaya's Shigetomo. Urata had little trouble anchoring Tenmaya to the win. Daiichi Seimei anchor Miyuki Ando, in her final pro ekiden, barely held off 2007 Tokyo Marathon winner Hitomi Niiya who, in a return to form after months off with injury, moved 2008 national champions Toyota Jidoshokki into 3rd. Universal Entertainment finished 4th to make it a Koide 3-4 finish, while defending champs Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo were a better-than-expected 5th. Disappointing finishes included Wacoal in 8th, Panasonic in 12th and Sysmex in 14th.

Noguchi's chances for a spring marathon rebirth ahead of the World Championships appear diminshed after her performance in the national championships. Shibui, on the other hand, looks on the way to another comeback. Akaba may well be the in the best position for the spring, showing some of her best ekiden speed in the midst of marathon-prep mileage. Should Fukushi choose to join her it could be a bright year for Japanese women.

In the most promising new devleopment Shigetomo was beautifully smooth and powerful, easily the biggest breakthrough of the ekiden. She looks poised to become the latest Tenmaya marathon star in the lineage of Eri Yamaguchi, Naoko Sakamoto, Tomo Morimoto and Nakamura. If she follows past history expect an outstanding spring debut in the 2:22-2:23 range followed by a steady decline in performance for the rest of her career. Urata may well follow suit in 2012.

2010 National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships
click here for complete results
Top Team Results - 42.195 km
1. Tenmaya - 2:14:35
2. Daiichi Seimei - 2:15:36
3. Toyota Jidoshoki - 2:15:46
4. Universal Entertainment - 2:16:17
5. Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo - 2:16:23
6. Shiseido - 2:16:48
7. Daihatsu - 2:16:49
8. Wacoal - 2:16:54
9. Denso - 2:17:04
10. Sekisui Kagaku - 2:17:17

Individual Stage Results
First Stage (6.6 km)
1. Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Univ. Ent.) - 20:46
2. Sachiyo Yamashita (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 20:48
3. Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 20:50

Second Stage (3.3 km)
1. Ann Karindi (Kenya/Team Toyota Jidoshokki) - 9:56
2. Felista Wanjugu (Kenya/Team Univ. Ent.) - 10:03
3. Betelhem Moges (Ethiopia/Team Denso) - 10:04

Third Stage (10.0 km)
1. Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 31:26
2. Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) - 31:55
3. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 32:00
4. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 32:02
5. Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 32:06
6. Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) - 32:08
7. Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) - 32:09
7. Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 32:09
9. Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) - 32:10
10. Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 32:12
20. Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) - 34:00

Fourth Stage (4.1 km)
1. Yuka Kakimi (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 12:43
2. Hiromi Koga (Team Denso) - 12:50
3. Yukie Nagata (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 12:56

Fifth Stage (11.6 km)
1. Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) - 37:36
2. Azusa Nojiri (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 38:14
2. Miki Ohira (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 38:14
4. Kaoru Nagao (Team Univ. Ent.) - 38:19
5. Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) - 38:25

Sixth Stage (6.595 km)
1. Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya) - 20:39
2. Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 20:45
3. Nami Tani (Team Univ. Ent.) - 21:02
4. Saki Nakamichi (Team Shiseido) - 21:17
5. Miyuki Ando (Team Daiichi Seimei) - 21:18
5. Rie Takayoshi (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 21:18

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Bat-Ochir, Yoshitomi Win Hofu Yomiuri Marathon

by Brett Larner

The worldwide marathon season came to a close for the year with the Dec. 19 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon. Coming off a top-10 finish at September's Berlin Marathon, Mongolian ace Serod Bat-Ochir took his first win in three straight Hofu appearances. Bat-Ochir sat in a large pack behind pacemaker Dishon Karukwa (Kenya/Team Aisan Kogyo) through the early stages of the race until it whittled down to three by 30 km. Pushing ahead, he dropped Kenyan debutant Samuel Ganga (Team Mazda) and by 35 km had a three-second gap on Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC). From there it was smooth sailing all the way to the finish. Ganga dropped out before 40 km, leaving Ito free in 2nd and challenged only by teammate Hiroyuki Kamiguchi (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), who ran a patient race to close strongly and take 3rd.

Although Hofu has regularly had second-tier women, its official women's division only opened last year. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Saga T&F Assoc.) put pressure on past winners Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) and Noriko Hirao (First Dream AC) throughout the race, easily breaking away to win in a course record 2:38:01.

2010 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon
click here for complete results
1. Serod Bat-Ochir (Mongolia) - 2:14:49
2. Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:42
3. Hiroyuki Kamiguchi (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 2:15:53
4. Hirotaka Honda (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:19:30
5. Takashi Yamauchi (Team Aisan Kogyo) - 2:19:50

1. Hiroko Yoshitomi (Saga T&F Assoc.) - 2:38:01 - CR
2. Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) - 2:40:49
3. Noriko Hirao (First Dream AC) - 2:51:40
4. Emiko Hirai (Hirakata Masters AC) - 2:52:31
5. Nana Higashi (Daiwa AC) - 2:53:48

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved