Saturday, December 31, 2016

Toyota Tries For Three In a Row - 2017 New Year Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner

The New Year Ekiden is the peak of the year for corporate league men, their national championship race with 37 teams of seven squaring off over a total of 100 km in front of a live TV audience.  At 61 runnings it is still a newcomer compared to the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden and has long struggled to approach Hakone's popularity.  The upswing in talent at the university level over the last few years has brought more fans to the New Year Ekiden as one after another of the biggest Hakone stars have graduated and entered the corporate machine.

Last year Toyota scored a second-straight New Year Ekiden title with a very young team that averaged 23 years old.  This year its roster is bolstered by the addition of one of the most popular and talented 2016 graduates, 30 km collegiate national record holder Yuma Hattori, formerly of Toyo University. Hattori will tackle the New Year Ekiden's longest stage, the 22.0 km Fourth Stage, and with much of last year's lineup returning, in particular Minato Oishi fresh off a 27:48.56 PB for 10000 m, Toyota should be tough to beat.

Runner-up Konica Minolta also gets a boost from one of the biggest names of the 2016 graduating class, former Aoyama Gakuin University uphill specialist Daichi Kamino.  Kamino has been strong throughout his first year as a pro, but less so his teammates.  Keita Shitara, Masato Kikuchi and Tsuyoshi Ugachi have all been among the very best of the last few years but have been far from their best through most of this year.  If they are back to normal ability Konica Minolta can do it.

Asahi Kasei was expected to be a challenger for a rare all-Japanese lineup win last year, with 10000 m national record holder Kota Murayama, all-time #2 over both 5 and 10000 Tetsuya Yoroizaka, Murayama's twin brother Kenta and other top young talent.  Come race day they were a shambles, finishing only 7th.  Their entry lineup this year includes both Murayamas, Yoroizaka, 2016 National XC champ Takashi Ichida and his twin Hiroshi, track and half marathon man Shuho Dairokuno, and the top Japanese man in the marathon at the Rio Olympics, Satoru Sasaki.  It's a team that should win, but as last year showed just assembling talent doesn't guarantee it will happen.

Nissin Shokuhin is a perpetual placer, only 6th last year but picking up talent this year including Masaki Toda.  One absence is its best Japanese runner, Yuki Sato, who announced last year that he would not be running ekidens any more.  Sato is listed as an alternate so there is an off chance he may go back on his word, but it will be very interesting to see what Nissin can do without him.  Other quality teams include last year's 3rd through 5th-placers Toyota Kyushu, Honda and DeNA.

In terms of individual stage action, the 12.3 km First Stage features three of the runners  mentioned above, Keita Shitara (Konica Minolta), Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei) and Masaki Toda (Nissin Shokuhin), promising a fast start.

The 8.3 km Second Stage, the race's shortest, is the conceptually problematic "International Stage," the only stage non-Japanese runners are allowed to run. 30 of the 37 teams in the field feature African ringers, people the caliber of Rio Olympics 10000 m silver medalist Paul Tanui (Kyudenko), 2016 World Half Marathon silver medalist Bedan Karoki (DeNA), 2016 Prefontaine Classic 10000 m runner-up William Malel (Honda), 1500 m junior world record holder Ronald Kwemoi (Komori Corp.), 2016 Copenhagen Half Marathon winner James Mwangi (NTN) and too many others to list, all adding up to make one of the best races of the year on just its first day.

Most of the best Japanese runners will be on the 22.0 km Fourth Stage, including Yuma Hattori (Toyota) and Daichi Kamino (Konica Minolta), 2:07:39 marathoner Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu), two-time stage record setter and Rio Olympian Yuta Shitara (Honda), London Olympics marathoner Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki), 2016 national cross-country champion Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei), Akinobu Murasawa (Nissin Shokuhin), Hiroto Inoue (Mitsubishi HPS) and many more.

Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei) leads the 15.8 km Fifth Stage against Rio Olympics marathoner Suehiro Ishikawa (Honda), 30 km national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Aichi Seiko), 2014 Asian Games silver medalist and 2:08:09 marathoner Kohei Matsumura (Mitsubishi HPS), Yuki Oshikawa (Toyota Kyushu), Keigo Yano (Nissin Shokuhin) and more.  Look also for Rio Olympian Satoru Sasaki (Asahi Kasei) and track star Chihiro Miyawaki (Toyota) on the anchor stage.

Follow @JRNLive for live coverage of the New Year Ekiden throughout the broadcast starting at 8:30 a.m. Japan time on Jan. 1.  And until then, a Happy New Year wherever you are.

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

2017 Hakone Ekiden Starting Lists and Preview

by Brett Larner

It's almost time for the two greatest days of the year, Japan's biggest and best road race, the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden.  Starting lists for each of the twenty-one teams' sixteen-man rosters at Hakone's 93rd edition are out, and below JRN gives you an early look at how the race is shaping up.  Follow @JRNLive for live English-language coverage of one of the sport's truly great events.

Hakone is a road relay run over two days, ten stages of around a half marathon in length each, five from downtown Tokyo up to the mountain town of Hakone on Jan. 2 and five more running back down on Jan. 3.  There is simply nothing else like it anywhere in the world, in quality, in presentation, in popularity.  It's a cultural phenomenon that shows the best of what long distance running can be, even if the cost can be high.

Twenty university men's teams from around the greater Tokyo area and one select team make up the field, each with an entry roster of sixteen.  Ten of those run.  With coaches having the luxury of issuing substitutions on race morning there is always a little uncertainty about exactly what is going to happen, but it's hard to overstate the prestige of being one of the final ten from any school who make it to the start line.

Two-time defending champ Aoyama Gakuin University looks like the heavy favorite.  Fourteen men on its roster with sub-14 bests for 5000 m.  Nine sub-29 for 10000 m.  Seven sub-63 for the half marathon.  Even two sub-2:12 for the marathon.  The only school in the field with sub-14, sub-29 and sub-63 averages for its ten best runners.  Wins at October's Izumo Ekiden and November's National University Ekiden.  One step away from becoming only the fourth school in history to win all of the Big Three University Ekidens in one season, the triple crown of Japanese university men's distance running. Nobody can stop them. Except maybe one team.

Waseda University, the last school to score the triple crown.  An unexpected threat to AGU at Nationals in early November, going back and forth but leading much of the way until AGU ran them down halfway through the anchor stage.  Two weeks after that, a breakthrough.  At the Ageo City Half Marathon, senior Rintaro Takeda won in 1:01:59, his fellow fourth-years Kazuma Taira and Yohei Suzuki both clearing 1:02:20 and first-year Tomoki Ota running 1:02:48.  When the smoke cleared Waseda had a top ten half marathon average of 1:02:42 to AGU's 1:02:47, a slim but resonant edge.  And another: AGU's Hakone wins both came on the back of uphill specialist Daichi Kamino who dominated the race-making Fifth Stage both years.  Kamino graduated this spring, leaving a sizable hole for AGU to fill.  Waseda's Yuichi Yasui, 5th on the Fifth Stage last year, is the second-fastest returning uphill man in the field and puts pressure on AGU to come up with a quality replacement.  Is it enough?  No.  AGU leads Waseda by large margins on both average 5000 m and 10000 m times and has greater depth.  But there's a chance, if Waseda's ten best line up in their best shape.  And at Hakone when there's a chance, that's when the magic happens.

Far enough back from Waseda and AGU to be out of reach of the win, barring the unexpected, five more teams will be competing for the last three spots in the top five.

Komazawa University features the two best Japanese university student half marathoners on the scene today, fourth-year Keisuke Nakatani and third-year Naoki Kudo.  Both went sub-1:01:30 earlier this year, but both have been mostly out of action or below their normal level this season.  Without them Komazawa doesn't have the depth to compete and could end up fighting to stay in the top 10.  To its advantage: fourth-year Shohei Otsuka is the top returning man on the uphill Fifth Stage.

Led by sub-28/sub-61 Kenyan second-year Dominic NyairoYamanashi Gakuin University was 2nd at Izumo and 3rd at Nationals, and with a small rush of half marathon bests in Ageo including sub-1:02:30 times from third-year Kenta Ueda and fourth-year Takaya Sato it has a good shot at 3rd. Nittai University is thinner on front-end credentials in the half marathon but with better depth its solid 1:03:08 average equals YGU's.  At eight men sub-29 for 10000 m it nearly equals champ AGU too.

Tokai University looks like the next big thing, its incredible first-year class this year set to surpass AGU in the next year or two.  Like AGU Tokai has fourteen men sub-14 for 5000 m.  Its eight men sub-29 for 10000 m add padding its credentials, but with only three men sub-63 for the half marathon it's not quite where it needs to be yet to contend for the win in Hakone.  The absence of 28:30.76 fourth-year Yuki Hirota and sub-14/sub-29/sub-63 second-year Haruki Minatoya also ensures Tokai will be going for 3rd at best.

Last year's national champion Toyo University is far down on strength this year, two of its best runners Hazuma Hattori and Ryo Kuchimachi both out of form in their most recent races and its depth shockingly low given its recent history as the most dominant team pre-AGU.  But Toyo has shown the ability to come through when it matters, and with both Hattori and Kuchimachi graduating, this year matters more than ever.

One of the unique highlights of Hakone is the Day Two battle for the seeded bracket, the top ten cutoff that guarantees teams a return trip to Hakone the next season and an invitation to Izumo.  A lot of the time the racing for 10th is more exciting that what is going on up front, something that broadcaster Nippon TV understands and brings out to the maximum.

The top seven are more or less set, but the race for the last three seeded spots looks rough this year.  Six teams are virtually tied in ability, with the non-scoring Kanto Region University Student Alliance select team in the mix to up the competition even further.  Kanagawa University, Koku Gakuin University, Daito Bunka University, Meiji University and Chuo Gakuin University are nearly equals on paper, with Juntendo University, led by Rio Olympics steepler Kazuya Shiojiri, a short distance behind.  KGU is hurting with several key members out with injury, but Kanagawa, DBU and CGU all have good momentum this season.  CGU in particular has consistently performed way beyond itself, taking 4th at Izumo, 5th at Nationals, and ambitious first-year Takumi Yokokawa trying to run away with the win at Ageo by going out at sub-61 pace in his half marathon debut.

The last seven teams in the field, Teikyo University, Takushoku University, Hosei University, Soka University, Nihon University, Kokushikan University and Jobu University, don't have much chance of clearing the seeded bracket cutoff, but it's important to remember that just making it to Hakone to begin with puts them at the very top of the scene, the sub-elite of the elite of Japanese distance.  Soka is running Hakone for just the second time, hoping for an improvement on its 20th-place debut two years ago.  Nihon is one of the big Hakone legacy schools with twelve overall wins and dozens upon dozens of starts, but with nearly half of its top-level roster out with injury it is likely to be trying to stay out of last place.  Bottom-ranked Jobu underwent a coaching change this year but continues to show its usual pattern of peaking for October's Hakone Ekiden Qualifier and coming to Hakone in tatters.  Despite finishing 6th at the qualifier Jobu is missing a number of its best from its entry list, giving it the slowest average 5000 m, 10000 m and half marathon times in the entire field.

Starting List Breakdown

Looking at the start lists, the main thing to remember is that coaches can substitute runners from among their six alternates on race morning prior to each day's start.  Once entered on a given stage a runner must either run it or be pulled out and replaced with an alternate.  They cannot be changed to another stage.  As a result, the start lists tend to be more of an indication of overall strategy and many coaches keep some of their best runners on the reserve list to wait to see how other coaches have stacked their team before deciding where to deploy their best talent.

Aoyama Gakuin head coach Susumu Hara is a good example this year, with four of his best runner including star third-years Yuta Shimoda and Kazuki Tamura on the reserve list.  Hara has his two best seniors Tadashi Isshiki and Yuhi Akiyama on Second and Third, promising a strong start on the first day, but it wouldn't be surprising to see substitutions on the First, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh or Eighth Stages.

Waseda coach Yutaka Sagara is coming out tough, leading off with sub-61 half marathoner Takeda and stacking the rest of the first day's four stages with sub-63 men including uphill specialist Yasui on Fifth.  His Day Two entries are much weaker, but with thee more sub-63 runners and star first-year Shiki Shinsako on the alternate list expect heavy change on the morning of Jan. 3. Based on the two schools' lists it's possible that we might see Waseda lead through Day One, and it has been a long time since a school that won the first day was beaten in the overall race.

Komazawa's Hiroaki Oyagi, arguably the most successful coach in Japanese university distance running, doesn't have much to work with, but having put 65-minute second-year Yuki Yamaguchi on the First Stage you will almost definitely see him substituted out for Yusuke Nishiyama or the mid-recovery Nakatani.  As expected, #1-ranked uphill man Otsuka is entered on Fifth.

Unsurprisingly, Yamanashi Gakuin head coach Masahito Ueda has put his sub-61 Kenyan Nyairo on the Second Stage, Hakone's most competitive, where he will face Aoyama Gakuin's Isshiki and other schools' best.  More surprisingly, Ueda has put his son Kenta on the Fifth Stage.  Expect to see fourth-year Sato substituted in on the First Stage.

New Nittai coach Masaaki Watanabe has brought the team up to front-end contender status in a hurry, and his entry list doesn't leave much to the imagination.  1:02:04 senior Takumi Komatsu leads, and the only places there could conceivably be substitutions are on Day Two's Seventh and Ninth Stages.

Tokai's Hayashi Morozumi has plenty of talent to handle, and his starting list, which is notable for featuring first-years on five of the first six stages, is pretty well complete as-is.  His decision to lead with 1:02:03 first-year Shota Onizuka means the First Stage will largely be a replay of November's record-breaking Ageo City Half Marathon.  1:02:17 half marathoner Junnosuke Matsuo and 2016 National University Half Marathon champion Ryunosuke Hayashi are possible Day Two substitutions from the reserve list.

Toyo head coach Toshiyuki Sakai has always been one of the main practitioners of alternate list legerdemain, but this year he just doesn't have the roster to do it.  The only obvious substitution would be swapping in third-year Kazuki Takeshita on the Seventh Stage.  Breaking up the First Stage Ageo reunion, Sakai's decision to put 1:02:05 first-year Akira Aizawa on the tough 23.1 km Second Stage and to lead with 2015 National University 5000 m champ Hattori is surprising and suggests Hattori's fitness may not be optimal enough to handle the longer stage.

Going further down in the field, Rio 3000 m steeplechase Olympian Kazuya Shiojiri will be running the Second Stage for Juntendo.  Chuo Gakuin is pulling an extremely risky move in putting first-year Daichi Takasago, with no experience at the half marathon distance, on Second.  Like Yamanashi Gakuin's Ueda, Daito Bunka head coach Osamu Nara has entered his son, first-year Ryosuke Nara, on the uphill Fifth Stage.

Kanagawa is coming out swinging, with sub-28:30 man Atsushi Yamato on First and sub-62 half marathoner Kengo Suzuki on Second.  Likewise for the Select Team, which leads with sub-28:35 runners Tatsuya Maruyama of Senshu University and Kensuke Horio of Chuo University.  Along with Yamanashi Gakuin's Nyairo, Soka's Muiri Muthoni, Takushoku's Workneh Derese and Nihon's Patrick Wambui are all entered on the Second Stage, possibly the largest number of African runners to ever run a single Hakone stage.  With excellent conditions forecast, expect big things on Second.

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ritsumeikan University Wins Fourth-Straight Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden, National Champ Matsuyama University Third

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Running through the foothills of Mt. Fuji on a seven-stage, 43.8 km course from Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine to Fuji Sports Park Field in Shizuoka, on Dec. 30 Kyoto's Ritsumeikan University won a fourth-straight Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden in 2:25:43.  It was Ritsumeikan's tenth National University Women's Invitational Ekiden Championships title and left the school undefeated since the National Championships moved to the hilly Mt. Fuji course in 2013.  Meijo University was 2nd, with 2016 National University Women's Ekiden champion Matsuyama University taking 3rd.

Conditions at the start were good, with 10-degree temperatures, 44% humidity and a gentle north wind.  Running the First Stage on a new course circling Sengen Shrine, Matsuayama's Rio de Janeiro 3000 m steeplechase Olympian Anju Takamizawa got things off to a good start, opening a 6-second lead over Ritsumeikan.  Matsuyama first-year Riho Takamizawa likewise won the Second Stage, extending Matsuyama's lead over Ritsumeikan to 12 seconds.

But on the Third Stage Ritsumeikan star fourth-year Natsuki Omori made up the ground, catching Matsuyama's Akane Fujiwara with 100 m to go.  The pair kicked in together in a dead heat finish, handing off simultaneously but Ritsumeikan getting the lead in the results.  Ritsumeikan's fourth runner Ayano Ikeuchi won her stage on time to put her team 15 seconds ahead.

On the race's longest stage, the 10.9 km Fifth Stage, Ritsumeikan's Yukari Wada ran well to keep the top position.  Matsuyama's Misuzu Nakahara, on the other hand, got into trouble mid-stage, her pace slowing dramatically as she was overtaken by Meijo, Kyoto Sangyo University and Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden winner Daito Bunka University.  Nakahara looked as though she might collapse at one point, but somehow she fought through to hand off the tasuki in 6th.

Matsuyama's sixth runner Ayumi Uehara was brilliant.  4 km into the 6.0 km penultimate stage she overtook Daito Bunka to move into 5th, and just before the handoff she ran down Kyoto Sangyo and Osaka Gakuin University to hand off in 3rd.  Leader Ritsumeikan was 1:04 ahead of Meijo, with Matsuyama another 26 seconds back.

Featuring 166 m net climb over 8.3 km, the anchor stage was a miniature version of the Hakone Ekiden's famed Fifth Stage.  Ritsumeikan anchor Ayaka Matsumoto had no problems and ran in alone unthreatened to the finish, returning Ritsumeikan to the Japanese university women's ekiden throne after its loss to Matsuyama in October.

4th Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden
National University Women's Invitational Ekiden Championships
Shizuoka, 12/30/16
21 teams, 7 stages, 43.8 km, net climb
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Ritsumeikan University - 2:25:43
2. Meijo University - 2:27:21
3. Matsuyama University - 2:27:57
4. Osaka Gakuin University - 2:28:18
5. Nittai University - 2:28:36
6. Kyoto Sangyo University - 2:28:37
7. Daito Bunka University - 2:29:30
8. Tokyo Nogyo University - 2:30:16
9. Fukuoka University - 2:30:25
10. Toyo University - 2:30:32

Top Individual Stage Performances
First Stage (4.1 km) - Anju Takamizawa (Matsuyama Univ.) - 12:42
Second Stage (6.8 km) - Riho Takamizawa (Matsuyama Univ.) - 21:19
Third Stage (3.3 km) - Natsuki Omori (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 10:13
Fourth Stage (4.4 km) - Ayano Ikeuchi (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 14:13
Fifth Stage (10.9 km) - Honoka Tanaike (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 36:29
Sixth Stage (6.0 km) - Ayumi Uehara (Matsuyama Univ.) - 19:38
Seventh Stage (8.3 km, 166 m ascent) - Ai Hosoda (Nittai Univ.) - 29:48

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Kawauchi in 2016

Yuki Kawauchi's 2016 race results. Click any result for report, photos and video.

Jan. 10: Ibusuki Nanohana Marathon, Kagoshima: 2:15:14 - 1st - CR
Jan. 17: Okukuma Road Race half marathon, Kumamoto: 1:04:00 - 2nd
Jan. 31: Okumusashi Ekiden Second Stage (5.1 km), Saitama: 16:45 - 2nd
Feb. 7: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama: 37:36 - 3rd
Feb. 14: Karatsu 10-Miler, Saga: 48:09 - 13th
Feb. 21: Ome 30 km, Tokyo: 1:32:40 - 3rd
Mar. 6: Biwako Mainichi Marathon, Shiga: 2:11:53 - 7th
Mar. 13: Kuki Half Marathon, Saitama: 1:06:42 - 3rd (wearing a full suit)
Mar. 20: New Taipei City Wanjinshi Marathon, Taiwan: 2:14:12 - 2nd
Mar. 27: Nerima Kobushi Half Marathon, Tokyo: 1:05:32 - 1st
Apr. 2: Kanaguri Memorial Meet 1500 m Heat 1, Kumamoto: 3:54.60 - 6th
Apr. 10: Yaizu Minato Half Marathon, Shizuoka: 1:03:47 - 1st
Apr. 17: Challenge Meet in Kumagaya 1500 m Heat 11, Kumagaya: 3:59.70 - 6th
Apr. 24: Zurich Marathon, Switzerland: 2:12:04 - 1st
Apr. 30: Kawauchi no Sato Kaeru Half Marathon, Fukushima: 1:05:42 - 1st
May 4: Kasukabe Odako 10 km, Saitama - ~33 minutes - official results unavailable
May 8: Sendai International Half Marathon, Miyagi: 1:04:35 - 5th
May 15: Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon, Gifu: 1:03:39 - 11th
May 29: Kahoku Shinpo Kinshuko Road Race, Iwate: 1:35:20 - 1st
June 19: Okinoshima Ultramarathon 50 km, Shimane: 2:44:07 - 1st - NR
June 26: Hakodate Half Marathon, Hokkaido: 1:04:24 - 5th
July 3: Gold Coast Airport Marathon, Australia: 2:09:01 - 2nd
July 24: Shibetsu Half Marathon, Hokkaido: 1:06:10 - 16th
July 31: Kushiro Shitsugen 30 km Road Race, Hokkaido: 1:34:55 - 1st
Aug. 21: Hoppo Ryodo Nosappu Misaki Half Marathon, Hokkaido: 1:05:34 - 1st
Sept. 25: Berlin Marathon, Germany: 2:11:03 - 13th
Oct. 2: Imabari Half Marathon, Ehime: 1:06:32 - 1st
Oct. 16: Takashimadaira 20 km, Tokyo: 59:43 - 3rd
Oct. 23: Chiba Aqualine Half Marathon, Chiba: 1:06:26 - 2nd
Nov. 6: Porto Marathon, Portugal: 2:14:32 - 2nd
Nov. 20: Ageo City Half Marathon, Saitama: 1:34:26 - 973rd - started at rear of field and ran people down
Dec. 4: Fukuoka International Marathon, Fukuoka: 2:09:11 - 3rd
Dec. 18: Hofu Yomiuri Marathon, Yamaguchi: 2:12:45 - 3rd

text and photo © 2016 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

The Top Ten Japanese Women of 2016

by Brett Larner

After outperforming their men for over a decade, Japanese women have been on a downward trend for much of the last 8 years even as depth and quality improved dramatically among the men.  In 2016 the trend reversed again, with the men's depth and quality dropping somewhat and the women's fortunes improving.  The good:

It wasn't all rosy, though.  The half marathon, once an area of strength among Japanese women, remains a problem despite the team bronze medal, with only one Japanese woman breaking 1:10.  The change of date of the National Corporate Women's Ekiden from late December to late November makes it more difficult for many Japanese women to run a fall marathon, rendering the Saitama International Marathon almost completely irrelevant as a selection race for Japanese national teams.  And, Uehara aside, like the men the distance runners on the Japanese women's Rio Olympic team struggled to produce the same kind of performances at the Olympics that they could in domestic races and time trials.  The situation isn't quite as dire as with the men and is trending positive, but with the bar having been raised significantly on the track this year it's looking like a hard road ahead to 2020.

The top ten Japanese distance women of 2016 as determined in JRN's annual rankings:

1. Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal)
half-marathon: 1:10:28 – 3rd, Osaka International Women’s Marathon (halfway), 1/31/16
marathon: 2:22:17 – 1st, Osaka International Women’s Marathon, 1/31/16

Other major results:
1:12:04 – 6th, Gifu Seiryu Half-Marathon, 5/15/16
13:35 – 1st, Avery Brewing Company 4 km, 7/4/16
2:29:53 – 14th, Rio de Janeiro Olympics marathon, 8/14/16
33:25 – 6th, Nat'l Corp Women’s Ekiden Qualifier Stage 3 (10.3 km), 10/23/16
34:55 – 4th, National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Stage 3 (10.9 km), 11/27/16

In 2016, three years after her World Championships bronze medal, Fukushi finally looked like a fully-fledged marathoner. Her 2:22:17 win at January’s Osaka International Women’s Marathon, run with a brash 1:10:28 first half, gave her a place in the all-time Japanese top ten to go with her 5000 m and half marathon national records and her all-time #2 ranking for 10000 m. Injury meant she was less than 100% in Rio, where she placed only 14th, but her clash with the JAAF after Osaka over their refusal to say clearly whether she was on the Rio team put the opaque national team selection system into the sphere of public controversy, arguably Fukushi’s most important contribution this year.

2. Rei Ohara (Tenmaya)
half-marathon: 1:10:04 – 1st, Sanyo Ladies Road Race, 12/23/16
marathon: 2:23:20 – 3rd, Nagoya Women’s Marathon, 3/13/16

Other major results: 
19:43 – 19th, National Women’s Ekiden Stage 1 (6.0 km), 1/17/16
1:10:42 – 5th, Kagawa Marugame Int’l Half-Marathon, 2/7/16
33:31.47 – 29th, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10000 m, 5/1/16
32:30.66 – 10th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/24/16
16:08.95 – 22nd, National Championships 5000 m, 6/26/16
33:02.04 – 12th, National Corporate Championships 10000 m, 9/23/16
15:50.38 – 13th, National Corporate Championships 5000 m, 9/25/16
35:02 – 6th, National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Stage 3 (10.9 km), 11/27/16

In Nagoya in March Ohara, last year’s top Japanese half marathoner, was part of a head-to-head battle with Tomomi Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) for a place on the Rio team. Ohara lost the sprint finish by one second, and despite a superb 2:23:20 JAAF policies meant she was not even named alternate. Ohara struggled to recover during track season, but in December she soloed a win at the Sanyo Ladies’ Half in 1:10:04, the second-fastest Japanese time of the year.

3. Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post)
5000 m: 15:24.47 – 2nd, National Championships, 6/26/16
10000 m: 31:18.16 – 3rd, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational, 5/1/16

Other major results:
31:30 – 2nd, National Women’s Ekiden Stage 9 (10.0 km), 1/17/16
31:38.73 – 1st, National Championships 10000 m, 6/24/16
15:41.81 – 12th, Rio de Janeiro Olympics 5000 m Heat 2, 8/16/16
12:15 – 5th, National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Stage 2 (3.9 km), 11/27/16

After an aggressive streak at last year’s Beijing World Championships earned her international attention Suzuki was strong throughout the first half of the year. In May she became all-time Japanese #8 for 10000 m, following up with a 10000 m national title and a runner-up finish in the 5000 m. Hopes were very high for her in Rio, but injury forced her to DNS in the 10000 m and stopped her from making the 5000 m final. After three months of recovery she returned on a short stage at the National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Championships to help the Japan Post team win its first national title.

4. Hanami Sekine (Japan Post)
5000 m: 15:24.74 – 3rd, National Championships, 6/26/16
10000 m: 31:22.92 – 2nd, National Championships, 6/24/16

Other major results:
31:18 – 1st, National Women’s Ekiden Stage 9 (10.0 km), 1/17/16
31:48.90 – 12th, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10000 m, 5/1/16
31:44.44 – 20th, Rio de Janeiro Olympics 10000 m, 8/12/16
34:02 – 16th, Nat'l Corp Women’s Ekiden Qualifier Stage 3 (10.3 km), 10/23/16
34:50 – 2nd, National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Stage 3 (10.9 km), 11/27/16

Suzuki’s teammate at Japan Post, Sekine broke through in a big way this year. She was the only person to beat Suzuki on the competitive 10 km anchor stage at January’s National Women’s Ekiden, winning in an impressive 31:18. In the National Championships 10000 m she was 2nd behind Suzuki in a PB 31:22.92, all-time Japanese #13. In these and other races the pair’s combination seemed important to Sekine’s success, and without Suzuki there in the Rio 10000 m she could manage only 20th. At November’s National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Sekine ran the longest stage in Suzuki’s place, finishing 2nd on time and playing a major role in the team's win.

5. Tomomi Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei)
half-marathon: 1:11:33 – 3rd, Nagoya Women’s Marathon (halfway), 3/13/16
marathon: 2:23:19 – 2nd, Nagoya Women’s Marathon, 3/13/16

Other major results:
33:39 – 10th, New York Mini 10 km, 6/11/16
2:31:12 – 19th, Rio de Janeiro Olympics marathon, 8/14/16
32:44 – 2nd, East Japan Women’s Ekiden Stage 9 (10.0 km), 11/13/16
32:47 – 3rd, National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Stage 5 (10.0 km), 11/27/16

Deprived of a place at the 2015 Beijing World Championships in favor of a runner from the Tenmaya corporate team, revenge could not have tasted sweeter for Tanaka than when she outkicked Tenmaya’s Ohara by one second to make the Rio team. Rio didn’t go as hoped, with Tanaka placing only 19th, but by the November ekiden season she was back up to strength with top three finishes in both of her main races.

6. Hisami Ishii (Yamada Denki)
5000 m: 15:29.12 – 5th, National Championships, 6/26/16
10000 m: 31:48.24 – 1st, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet, 7/11/16
half-marathon: 1:10:09 – 3rd, National Corporate Championships, 2/14/16

Other major results:
32:05 – 4th, National Women’s Ekiden Stage 9 (10.0 km), 1/17/16
1:13:41 – 36th, World Half-Marathon Championships, 3/26/16
32:10.96 – 6th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/24/16
32:27.08 – 4th, National Corporate Championships 10000 m, 9/23/16
15:38.59 – 2nd, National Sports Festival 5000 m, 10/7/16
15:46 – 1st, Fukui Super Ladies Ekiden Stage 5 (5.01 km), 11/13/16
35:28 – 10th, National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Stage 3 (10.9 km), 11/27/16 

Relatively little-known, Ishii was consistently strong this year without really breaking through to the top. A 3rd-place finish at February’s National Corporate Half Marathon Championships got her to the World Half Marathon Championships, and at June’s National Championships she took 5th in the 5000 m and 6th in the 10000 m. Her biggest performance came at July’s Hokuren Distance Challenge, where she won the 10000 m in the 5th-fastest Japanese time of 2016.

7. Miho Shimizu (Hokuren)
10000 m: 32:22.94 – 5th, Jitsugyodan Women’s Time Trials, 12/10/16
half-marathon: 1:09:41 – 1st, National Corporate Championships, 2/14/16

Other major results:
19:31 – 9th, National Women’s Ekiden Stage 1 (6.0 km), 1/17/16
1:10:51 – 14th, World Half-Marathon Championships, 3/26/16
35:49 – 5th, Nat'l Corp Women’s Ekiden Qualifier Stage 5 (10.4 km), 10/23/16
35:34 – 11th, National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Stage 3 (10.9 km), 11/27/16

Shimizu won the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships in a PB 1:09:41, the only Japanese woman to break 1:10 this year. At the World Half Marathon Championships she was the second Japanese finisher, helping to win the team bronze medal. Shimizu raced little during track season, but in a post-ekiden season track time trial in late December she delivered her best 10000 m of the year to show promise for 2017.

8. Miyuki Uehara (Daiichi Seimei)
5000 m: 15:23.41 – 7th, Rio de Janeiro Olympics Heat 1, 8/16/16
10000 m: 31:38.80 – 7th, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational, 5/1/16

Other major results:
19:35 – 13th, National Women’s Ekiden Stage 1 (6.0 km), 1/17/16
34:16 – 2nd, Bolder Boulder 10 km, 5/30/16
32:18.09 – 7th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/24/16
15:33.49 – 6th, National Championships 5000 m, 6/26/16
15:34.97 – 15th, Rio de Janeiro Olympics 5000 m final, 8/19/16
19:41 – 6th, East Japan Women’s Ekiden Stage 1 (6.0 km), 11/13/16
35:04 – 7th, National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Stage 3 (10.9 km), 11/27/16

Uehara gained arguably more attention than any other Japanese woman distance runner this year when she frontran her 5000 m heat at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics to become just the second Japanese woman in history to make an Olympic 5000 m final. Having finished only 6th at the National Championships it was something of a fluke that she made the Olympic team to begin with, but her complete fearlessness put her in a different class from the rest of the Japanese distance squads, men and women. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, as Uehara had previously turned in strong performances abroad at the Carlsbad 5 km, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational and Bolder Boulder 10 km. Others in the Japanese industry would do well to contemplate the relationship between those results and her performance at the Olympics.

9. Risa Yokoe (Toyota Jidoshokki)
5000 m: 15:18.11 – 1st, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet, 7/11/16
10000 m: 32:24.87 – 3rd, Hyogo Relay Carnival, 4/24/16

Other major results:
32:54.28 – 12th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/24/16
15:42.58 – 10th, National Championships 5000 m, 6/26/16
32:38.11 – 7th, National Corporate Championships 10000 m, 9/23/16
22:03 – 13th, National Corporate Women’s Ekiden Stage 6 (6.795 km), 11/27/16

A former high school star who has struggled to make the transition to the pro leagues, Yokoe couldn’t get it together in time to make the Olympic team at June's National Championships. Two weeks later she ran the fastest Japanese 5000 m time of the year a PB of 15:18.11 that put her in the all-time Japanese top 25. In ekiden season she was only average, but Yokoe remains a top contender for the 5000 m squad at next summers’ World Championships.

10. Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC)
10000 m: 32:05.05 – 5th, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet, 7/11/16
half-marathon: 1:11:07 – 5th, Valencia Half-Marathon, 10/22/16
marathon: 2:24:32 – 4th, Nagoya Women’s Marathon, 3/13/16

Other major results:
31:55 – 3rd, National Women’s Ekiden Stage 9 (10.0 km), 1/17/16
1:12:20 – 8th, Gifu Seiryu Half-Marathon, 5/15/16
32:26.44 – 9th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/24/16
15:45.32 – 12th, National Championships 5000 m, 6/26/16
15:47.39 – 8th, National Sports Festival 5000 m, 10/7/16
31:56 – 1st, East Japan Women’s Ekiden Stage 9, 11/13/16

One of Japan’s best 10000 m runners last year, Kiyota was brilliant in her marathon debut in Nagoya in March, finishing 4th in a 2:24:32 that put her 5th on the Japanese marathon debut list and 22nd on its all-time list. Recovering well enough to make the top ten in all but one of her races the rest of 2016, Kiyota won her final race of the year with an anchor stage win at November’s East Japan Women’s Ekiden.

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Top Ten Japanese Men of 2016

by Brett Larner

It was a rough year for Japanese men.  Lots to be positive about:

But the shortcomings were clear.  More Japanese men broke 1:02:00 for the half marathon than ever before, but overall depth at the front end was down for 5000 m, 10000 m, the half and the marathon, and the fastest times for those distances were generally the slowest in the last six years despite it being an Olympic year.  At February's Tokyo Marathon, a pack that included most of Japan's best recent marathoners didn't even try to run Olympic-caliber times, leaving it to an unknown and three debuting university students to take the top Japanese spots without being in serious contention for the Rio team.  

And in Rio, although the U.S.-based Suguru Osako managed to turn in decent times on the track, the Japanese men ranged from only decent to seriously unready, a repeat of last year's Beijing World Championships.  There was no shortage of talent on the men's team, but it has never been clearer that the Japanese system is completely unequipped translate what it can produce on home soil to peak performances when they most matter.  Compare that with the U.S.A., whose scintillating team performance was one of the highlights in Rio.  In the marathon, for example, the U.S. hasn't produced a sub-2:10 marathon on a record-legal course since 2013.  In Rio it took the bronze medal and 6th.  Only four non-African men qualified for the Rio marathon with sub-2:10 times.  Three of them made up the Japanese team. Satoru Sasaki was the only non-African to qualify with a sub-2:09 time, but he could do no better than 16th in 2:13:57.  

If the U.S.A., the U.K., even Canada, can put people in the top ten and the best non-African team can't touch the top fifteen then there are serious problems, ones that the appointment of Toshihiko Seko probably won't fix. Whatever they can do at home, none of the Japanese men in Rio looked like they were really confident, really believed in themselves, really in it to compete no matter what the cost.  That's not an issue of training, it is something larger and deeper.  Something that may not be remediable in time for 2020.  A 2020 that sees a Japanese men's 4x100 m gold medal and marathoners or other distance runners anywhere near the top ten would truly mark the end of one era and the start of another.

So again, 2016 was a mixed year of a few bright spots and disappointment. The performances of Japan's best men reflected this, with two possible exceptions most of them having a few good days without consistently excelling.  As determined by JRN's rankings, the top ten Japanese long distance men of 2016:

1. Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei)
5000 m: 13:35.06 – 2nd, Nittai Univ. Time Trials, 6/5/16
10000 m: 27:44.39 – 8th, Hachioji Long Distance, 11/26/16

Other major results:
23:36 – 24th, New Year Ekiden Stage 2 (8.3 km), 1/1/16
38:39 – 14th, National Men’s Ekiden Stage 7 (13.0 km), 1/24/16
28:16.54 – 2nd, National Championships 10000 m, 6/24/16
29:02.51 – 30th, Rio de Janeiro Olympics 10000 m, 8/13/16
14:26.72 – 22nd, Rio de Janeiro Olympics 5000 m Heat 1, 8/17/16
24:08 – 1st, Kyushu Jitsugyodan Ekiden Stage 4 (8.2 km), 11/3/16

Murayama was JRN’s top Japanese man of 2015, his 10000 m national record and 5000 m national title putting him into the top position. For most of the first half of 2016 he was injured, skipping a 5000 m title defense and finishing just 2nd in the 10000 m at June’s National Championships. That was enough to get him to Rio, but in both the 5000 m and 10000 m he was ineffectual. A stage win at November’s Kyushu Jitsugyodan Ekiden signaled that he was back in good form, and three weeks later he delivered the best Japanese 10000 m of the year, running around 55 seconds for the final lap to break the London World Championships standard in 27:44.39. Combined with the sixth-fastest 5000 m of the year by a Japanese man it was enough for him to take the top overall ranking for the second year in a row.

2. Keijiro Mogi (Asahi Kasei)
10000 m: 28:25.52 – 5th, National Championships, 6/24/16
half-marathon: 1:00:54 – 3rd, Kagawa Marugame Int’l Half-Marathon, 2/7/16

Other major results:
47:55 – 5th, New Year Ekiden Stage 5 (15.8 km), 1/1/16
37:56 – 1st, National Men’s Ekiden Stage 7 (13.0 km), 1/24/16
1:04:19 – 29th, World Half Marathon Championships, 3/26/16
30:42.76 – 27th, National Corporate Championships 10000 m, 9/24/16

Skipping university and Hakone in favor of an early pro career, Mogi came on strong in 2016 with a win on the competitive anchor stage of January’s National Men’s Ekiden. Two weeks later he ran 1:00:54 at the Marugame Half, the fastest half marathon time of the year by a Japanese man and just the seventh to ever break 61 minutes. At March’s World Half Marathon Championships he ran only 1:04:19, and for much of the rest of the year he was out of competition. A comeback in 2017 would make him a top contender for the 2020 Olympic team.

3. Yuta Shitara (Honda)
5000 m: 13:38.47 – 1st, Hokuren Distance Challenge Fukagawa Meet, 7/7/16
10000 m: 27:48.35 – 2nd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet, 7/11/16

Other major results:
1:02:45 – 1st, New Year Ekiden Stage 4 (22.0 km), 1/1/16
28:51.21 – 22nd, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10000 m, 5/1/16
28:17.51 – 3rd, National Championships 10000 m, 6/24/16
13:48.71 – 8th, National Championships 5000 m, 6/26/16
28:55.23 – 29th, Rio de Janeiro Olympics 10000 m, 8/13/16
28:26.61 – 22nd, Hachioji Long Distance 10000 m, 11/26/16

Shitara started the year off with his second-straight course record win on the New Year Ekiden’s most prestigious stage, running 1:02:45 for 22.0 km, 1:00:11 for the half marathon, gradually building from there toward June’s National Championships where he ran 28:17.51 for 3rd to make the Rio team in the 10000 m. Inexplicably he busted a hard 27:48.35, the second-best Japanese time of the year, at July’s Hokuren Distance Challenge, only to finish second-to-last a month later in the 10000 m at the Olympics, one place better than his placing at the Beijing World Championships a year earlier.

4. Shuho Dairokuno (Asahi Kasei)
5000 m: 13:31.56 – 5th, Oda Memorial Grand Prix, 4/29/16
10000 m: 27:54.75 – 15th, Hachioji Long Distance, 11/26/16
half-marathon: 1:01:32 – 7th, Kagawa Marugame Int’l Half-Marathon, 2/7/16

Other major results:
38:45 – 6th, New Year Ekiden Stage 3 (13.6 km), 1/1/16
24:50 – 5th, National Men’s Ekiden Stage 3 (8.5 km), 1/24/16
35:19.7 – 8th, Asian Cross-Country Championships 12 km, 2/29/16
28:26.53 – 6th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/24/16
13:39.52 – 3rd, National Championships 5000 m, 6/26/16
29:42.13 – 23rd, National Corporate Championships 10000 m, 9/24/16
36:55 – 1st, Kyushu Jitsugyodan Ekiden Stage 1 (12.3 km), 11/3/16

Another Asahi Kasei runner, Dairokuno improved on his #7 overall placing in last year’s rankings thanks to a combination of solid 5000 m, 10000 m and half marathon times. He finished 3rd in June’s National Championships 5000 m but, just short of a Rio-qualifying time, he missed out on making the Olympic team. In November Dairokuno won the opening stage at the Kyushu Jitsugyodan Ekiden.

5. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t)
marathon: 2:09:01 – 2nd, Gold Coast Airport Marathon, 7/3/16

Other major results:
2:15:14 – 1st, Ibusuki Nanohana Marathon, 1/10/16
2:11:53 – 7th, Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 3/6/16
2:14:12 – 2nd, New Taipei City Wanjinshi Marathon, 3/20/16
2:12:04 – 1st, Zurich Marathon, 4/24/16
2:44:07 – 1st, Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon, 6/19/16
2:11:03 – 13th, Berlin Marathon, 9/25/16
2:14:32 – 2nd, Porto Marathon, 11/6/16
2:09:11 – 3rd, Fukuoka International Marathon, 12/4/16
2:12:45 – 3rd, Hofu Yomiuri Marathon, 12/18/16

After a 2015 mostly lost to injury Kawauchi was back in 2016, placing in the top three in seven of his nine marathons including his first European win, the fastest Japanese times of 2016 both inside and outside Japan, the best time by a Japanese man in the current Abbott World Marathon Majors series, and a near-miss on the 50 km world record. His 2:09:11 for 3rd at December’s Fukuoka International Marathon while injured came short of making him a lock for the London World Championships team, but it would be hard to see the JAAF pass him over come the team announcement in March.

6. Hisanori Kitajima (Yasukawa Denki)
marathon: 2:09:16 – 2nd, Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 3/6/16

Other major results:
1:03:38 – 6th, New Year Ekiden Stage 4 (22.0 km), 1/1/16
2:25:11 – 94th, Rio de Janeiro Olympics marathon, 8/21/16

Kitajima’s first two marathons were encouraging, a pair of 2:12 wins at home and abroad in 2015, and a brilliant breakthrough at March’s Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon got him onto the Rio Olympic team. Despite looking like a big new talent, in Rio he was ill-prepared for the challenge and finished 94th in 2:25:11. He has been off the radar ever since.

7. Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project)
5000 m: 13:31.45 – 16th, Rio de Janeiro Olympics Heat 2, 8/17/16
10000 m: 27:50.27 – 2nd, Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational, 5/1/16

Other major results:
13:45.39 – 1st, Oregon Relays 5000 m, 4/15/16
DNF – Prefontaine Classic 10000 m, 5/27/16
28:07.44 – 1st, National Championships 10000 m, 6/24/16
13:37.13 – 1st, National Championships 5000 m, 6/26/16
DNF – Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet, 7/14/16
27:51.94 – 17th, Rio de Janeiro Olympics 10000 m, 8/13/16

After he broke the 5000 m national record last year hopes were high for Osako in this Olympic year. He won his first pair of national titles in June, bookended by DNFs at the Prefontaine Classic and Hokuren Distance Challenge. Despite running two of the best times ever by a Japanese man at the Olympic he couldn’t make a dent in either the 5000 m or 10000 m, stopped in the heats in the 5000 and outside the top 15 in the 10000. He hasn’t raced since then.

8. Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei)
5000 m: 13:35.19 – 7th, Oda Memorial Grand Prix, 4/29/16
10000 m: 27:53.59 – 3rd, Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet, 7/11/16

Other major results:
25:12 – 20th, National Men’s Ekiden Stage 3 (8.5 km), 1/24/16
1:02:32 – 8th, National Corporate Championships Half-Marathon, 2/14/16
35:59 – 2nd, National Cross-Country Championships 12 km, 2/27/16
28:16.00 – 1st, Golden Games in Nobeoka 10000 m, 5/7/16
28:22.13 – 4th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/24/16
13:48.52 – 6th, National Championships 5000 m, 6/26/16
28:20.01 – 8th, National Corporate Championships 10000 m, 9/24/16
39:43 – 1st, Kyushu Jitsugyodan Ekiden Stage 5 (13.4 km), 11/3/16
28:14.40 – 19th, Hachioji Long Distance 10000 m, 11/26/16

Ichida was on more than off this year, the top Japanese man at the inaugural National Cross-Country Championships, the winner at May’s Golden Games in Nobeoka and breaking 28 for 10000 m in July, but 4th and 6th place finishes at the National Championships kept him off the Rio team. Desperate to get there he ran the 3000 m SC for the first time at the same last-minute time trial that got Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.) to the Olympics. Like his Asahi Kasei teammates Murayama and Dairokuno, Ichida won his stage at November’s Kyushu Jitsugyodan Ekiden.

9. Minato Oishi (Toyota)
5000 m: 13:43.91 – 9th, Nittai Univ. Time Trials, 4/24/16
10000 m: 27:48.56 – 10th, Hachioji Long Distance, 11/26/16

Other major results:
38:25 – 3rd, New Year Ekiden Stage 3 (13.6 km), 1/1/16
1:02:32 – 7th, National Corporate Championships Half-Marathon, 2/14/16
1:04:11 – 28th, World Half-Marathon Championships, 3/26/16
28:56.89 – 11th, National Championships 10000 m, 6/24/16
36:36 – 1st, Chubu Jitsugyodan Ekiden Stage 1 (12.5 km), 11/20/16

Oishi started his year off as part of the Toyota team that won a second-straight New Year Ekiden national title.  He made the Japanese team for March’s World Half Marathon Championships, finishing 28th there.  Oishi won his stage at the Chubu Jitsugyodan Ekiden in late November, coming back six days later with the third-fastest Japanese 10000 m time of the year, 27:48.56, just missing the London World Championships qualifying standard.

10. Suehiro Ishikawa (Honda)
marathon: 2:09:25 – 4th, Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, 3/6/16

Other major results:
37:59 – 3rd, New Year Ekiden Stage 6 (12.5 km), 1/1/16
1:02:49 – 25th, Kagawa Marugame Int’l Half-Marathon, 2/7/16
1:04:02 – 2nd, Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon, 6/18/16
2:17:08 – 36th, Rio de Janeiro Olympics marathon, 8/21/16

One of the most stable marathoners in Japanese history, Ishikawa became the oldest Japanese runner to ever make an Olympic team when he ran 2:09:25 for 4th at March’s Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. His only major race between then and Rio was an encouraging 2nd-place finish at the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in June, but in Rio he couldn’t execute up to potential, running a 5-minute+ career worst of 2:17:08 for 36th.

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

JRN's Top Ten Most-Read Articles of 2016

From Farah to Fukushi to Kawauchi, Ageo to Hakone to New York and back, JRN's ten most-read articles of the year.

1. Kawauchi Breaks World Record for Half Marathon in a Suit by 18 Minutes - Mar. 13
A week after running 2:11:53 at the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran his hometown Kuki Half Marathon dressed in his work clothes, a full three-piece suit including tie, belt and dress socks.  Kawauchi ran 1:06:42 for 3rd to beat the official Guinness World Record by 18 minutes, but because Kuki is not a certified course his time was not ratified as a new record.

2. Tsegay Over Makau for Fukuoka Win, Miracle-Worker Kawauchi 3rd - Dec. 4
2015 World Championships silver medalist Yemane Tsegay (Ethiopia) stopped former world record holder Patrick Makau (Kenya) from claiming a third-straight Fukuoka title.  Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) overcame injuries to both legs to take 3rd in one of the greatest performances of his career, all but guaranteeing himself a place on the 2017 London World Championships team.  Preview.

3. Mungara Downs Kawauchi By One Second, Horie Cracks Course Record at Gold Coast Airport Marathon - July 3
40+ world record holder Kenneth Mungara of Kenya raced Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) over the last 12 km of Australia's Gold Coast Marathon, getting the win by one second in 2:09:00 and Kawauchi scoring his first sub-2:10 in over a year and a half.  Misato Horie (Team Noritz) bettered 2015 Paris Marathon winner Meseret Biru and 2015 Frankfurt Marathon winner Gulume Chala of Ethiopia to take 37 seconds off the women's course record with a 2:26:40 PB win. Preview.

4. Mo Farah Scores Greatest Victory of His Career - Oct. 8
Gold medal collector Mo Farah (Great Britain) earned his greatest accolade to date, outperforming top Japanese models and comedians to win the Akasaka 5-Chome Mini Marathon, a 3.6 km race held around and through broadcaster TBS' studios as part of the fall 2016 edition of their All-Star Kanshasai variety show.  Farah overcame a 5:55 handicapped start to run down the last three comedians in the final few hundred meters.

5. Aoyama Gakuin University Leads Start to Finish to Win 2016 Hakone Ekiden - Jan. 3
Defending champion Aoyama Gakuin University became the first school in 39 years to lead the Hakone Ekiden start to finish as it won the world's biggest and best road race for a second-straight year.  Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Nihon Univ.) outran Aoyama Gakuin star Daiichi Kamino to win the uphill Fifth Stage, Hakone's most prestigious, and become its first-ever Kenyan winner. Day One results and report. Preview.

6. Kawauchi Scores First European Win at Snowy Zurich Marathon - Apr. 24
Immediately following Prince's untimely death his song "Sometimes it Snows in April" came true as 2015 runner-up Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) endured unexpected sleet and snow to win Switzerland's Zurich Marathon, his 25th win in 60 marathon starts.  2015 Zurich women's winner Yoshiko Sakamoto (YWC) fell victim to the conditions while leading and dropped out but was helped by a kindhearted spectator.  Preview.

7. An Honest Look at American Marathoning - Feb. 17
JRN attended the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles, where Galen Rupp won the men's race in his marathon debut and Amy Cragg outran former and current teammates for the women's win.  JRN looked back at almost 50 years of world and American marathon history to understand where American marathoning is going.

8. Takeda Follows Osako as Fourth Man to Break 62 Minutes at Ageo City Half, Leading 197 Under 66 - Nov. 20
Waseda University fourth-year Rintaro Takeda won a five-way sprint finish on the track, passing Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) on the last corner to win one of the world's deepest half marathons in 1:01:59.  The top five, all students from different universities tuning up for January's Hakone Ekiden, all ran 1:02:05 or better. Takeda and Ueda earned invitations to March's United Airlines NYC Half Marathon.

9. Rotich Wins Wild Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, Kitajima Leads Four Japanese Men Sub-2:10 in Chase for Rio - Mar. 6
Kenyan Lucas Rotich won a chaotic Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon that saw 19-year-old Ethiopian Shura Kitata more than 45 seconds ahead at 25 km.  Hisanori Kitajima (Team Yasukawa Denki) won a tense four-way battle for the top Japanese spot and a place on the Rio Olympic team, almost running Rotich down on the last lap of the track. Preview.

10. Japan Surpasses U.S. as World's Largest Amateur Marathon Market - Jan. 22
In 2015 more people finished marathons in Japan than in the United States, the first time since 1961 that the U.S. fell to 2nd worldwide in total marathon finishers.  Japan also led the world in the number of 10,000+ finisher marathons with 19 taking place in Japan in 2015, nearly half the worldwide total for the year.

Honorable mention: In the top 25 most-read, this article was JRN's best work of the year but didn't get the reads it deserved.

The Kayoko Show: Long-Term Consequences of Agonistic Interactions Between Lobsters, and the Osaka Women's Marathon - Jan. 28
An example of a model for neurophysiological changes underlying long-lasting psychological effects of winning and losing, and of the potential to manipulate those changes via performance-enhancing substances.

all photos and video © 2016 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
except Kawauchi suit half marathon photos

Monday, December 26, 2016

Maximizing Hakone Ekiden Performance With Low Pressure Chamber Training and Adaptive Data

translated by Brett Larner

Tokai University's Shonan campus features a "low pressure chamber."  With 20 cm-thick walls it is like a room on a submarine.  In preparation for the Hakone Ekiden, twice a week the school's athletes work out in the chamber on running machines and other equipment.  According to Tamotsu Terao, professor of exercise physiology at Tokai University's Sports Medical Science Laboratory, the interior of the 24 square meter, 3 meter-tall room can replicate altitude conditions ranging from 0 to 4000 m, and by adjusting temperature and humidity it is also simulate a variety of weather conditions.  "By setting it to 3000 m you create a situation that replicates running at Mt. Fuji's eighth stage," said Prof. Terao.  It is said that training in a low pressure, low oxygen environment increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, which improves the endurance and "last kick" capabilities essential in long-distance running.

During training, measurements were taken of each athlete's heart rate and arterial blood oxygen saturation, a representation of the binding rate of oxygen and hemoglobin in red blood cells, and along with their subjective assessment of whether different situations were "hard" or "easy" the study yielded valuable data.  "The aim is to bring out the body's inherent adaptability to the environment," explained Prof. Terao.  "Visualization of an athlete's condition via diagrams and numerical data will help us understand what are suitable goals and necessary training for that athlete."

Having been named to run Hakone's downhill Sixth Stage last year, 3rd-year Reo Kuniyuki commented, "It gave me the ability to push hard in the last part of the race.  If you combine it with outdoor training you can simulate the course's ups and downs."  The team dormitory also features a "low oxygen tent" that can create the same conditions found at 3000 m, improving their adaptation while they sleep and helping with recovery from fatigue.

Low pressure chamber training, also employed by Rio de Janeiro women's 200 m breaststroke gold medalist Rie Kaneto, was introduced in fully-fledged form at Tokai University in 2013 as part of its "Hakone Ekiden Support Project." Since then, the team's performances have steadily improved.  "I am very excited that we have added a very strong first-year class to that this year," said Prof. Terao.  "I want to help them execute their runs in perfect condition."  The good professor should be considered one of the team's star members.

Translator's note: Tokai University's current roster includes fourteen men with sub-14 bests for 5000 m, eight with sub-29 bests for 10000 m, and three with sub-63 bests for the half marathon.  More here.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Kurashiki H.S. Runs All-Time #5 Time to Win Its First-Ever National High School Boys Ekiden Title

by Brett Larner
highlights video courtesy of broadcaster NHK
click here for National High School Girls Ekiden results

Having run the National High School Boys Ekiden 38 times without ever winning, Kurashiki H.S. staged a classic battle against the fastest-ever all-Japanese team Saku Chosei H.S. to take the national title for the first time.

Saku Chosei, alma mater of Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) and many of today's other top Japanese men, was out front early with stage wins from its first two men Ryota Natori and Sakito Matsuzaki.  At the start of the 8.1075 km Third Stage it was 21 seconds up on Kurashiki which sat 4th behind last year's runner-up Kyushu Gakuin H.S. and Iga Hakuho H.S.  Saku Chosei's third man Yuhi Nakaya said pre-race that if he could hold the lead until 5 km then he would be able to stay with whatever Kenyans caught him. He more than lived up to those words.

Kurashiki's Joel Mwaura set off in pursuit of Nakaya on course record pace, but as the kilometers went by it took longer than expected for him to bridge the 21-second gap.  Not until the tough uphill just past 6 km did he make contact, and Nakaya had little trouble staying with him on the downhill that followed. Running side-by-side over the next km,  Nakaya made a move back to the front with a kilometer to go before kicking away to hand off still in 1st by 2 seconds. Mwaura won on stage time in 23:09, but Nakaya's 23:28 was the fastest-ever by a Japanese runner and good enough to put him 3rd on a stage that included seven Kenyans.  The familiar gap in ability between the Kenyan and Japanese runners was noticeably smaller than in the past, and without a doubt Nakaya showed no fear of Mwaura and none of the usual resignation to settling for top Japanese honors when he was caught.  Change takes time, but it can happen.

With Mwaura having brought momentum to Kurashiki's flow its fourth runner Shunpei Maeda made a critical move when he dropped Saku Chosei's Takahiro Honma en route to winning his stage.  Saku Chosei turned it around with a Fifth Stage win by Hikaru Uchida, but another Kurashiki win on the Sixth Stage by Taiga Kitano meant Kurashiki was 57 seconds up on Saku Chosei at the start of the 5.0 km anchor stage, an unbreakable lead barring disaster.  Saku Chosei anchor Koki Maruyama ran the 3rd-fastest time in the field but could only pick up 15 seconds on Kurashiki anchor Haruki Nago. Nago broke the finish tape alone in 2:02:34, a school record by 38 seconds and the 5th-fastest time in Nationals history.  Saku Chosei was 2nd in 2:03:16, its 2nd-fastest time ever and the all-time 10th-best team performance at the National High School Boys Ekiden.

Alone much of the race, Kyushu Gakuin took 3rd in 2:03:51, anchor Hiroto Okura the only runner who could break up the top two schools' monopoly on individual stage wins.  Oita Tomei H.S. was over a minute and a half back in 4th in its best-ever performance to lead the rest of the field in 2:05:22.  Two-time defending champ Sera H.S., who broke the Samuel Wanjiru-era course record last year in 2:01:18, was never a factor, as low as 19th and never better than 4th as it squeezed onto the eight-deep podium in 7th in 2:05:49.

Many of the best runners at the National High School Boys' Ekiden will head to Hiroshima on Jan. 22 for the season-ending National Men's Ekiden where they will run for their home prefectures on teams featuring each prefecture's best junior high school, high school, university and pro runners.  Follow @JRNLive for coverage of that and the other remaining national championship ekidens.

67th National High School Boys Ekiden
Kyoto, 12/25/16
47 teams, 7 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Kurashiki H.S. (Okayama) - 2:02:34 - all-time #5
2. Saku Chosei H.S. (Nagano) - 2:03:16 - all-time #10
3. Kyushu Gakuin H.S. (Kumamoto) - 2:03:51
4. Oita Tomei H.S. (Oita) - 2:05:22
5. Iga Hakuho H.S. (Mie) - 2:05:31
6. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. (Hyogo) - 2:05:41
7. Sera H.S. (Hiroshima) - 2:05:49
8. Rakunan H.S. (Kyoto) - 2:06:10
9. Tosu Kogyo H.S. (Saga) - 2:06:24
10. Funabashi Municipal H.S. (Chiba) - 2:06:29

Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (10.0 km)
1. Ryota Natori (3rd yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 29:22
2. Kiseki Shiozawa (3rd yr., Iga Hakuho H.S.) - 29:27
3. Takeshi Nishida (3rd yr., Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 29:28

Second Stage (3.0 km)
1. Sakito Matsuzaki (1st yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 8:06
2. Yuki Kametaka (3rd yr., Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 8:10
3. Ryota Uemura (3rd yr., Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 8:15

Third Stage (8.1075 km)
1. Joel Mwaura (3rd yr., Kurashiki H.S.) - 23:09
2. David Gure (2nd yr., Sera H.S.) - 23:18
3. Yuhi Nakaya (2nd yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 23:28 - fastest-ever by JPN runner

Fourth Stage (8.0875 km)
1. Shunpei Maeda (3rd yr., Kurashiki H.S.) - 23:01
2. Yuta Kanbayashi (3rd yr., Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 23:06
3. Shun Yoshizato (3rd yr., Omuta H.S.) - 23:43

Fifth Stage (3.0 km)
1. Hikaru Uchida (3rd yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 8:44
2. Daiki Kametaka (3rd yr., Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 8:49
3. Yuki Sakai (3rd yr., Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 8:51

Sixth Stage (5.0 km)
1. Taiga Kitano (2nd yr., Kurashiki H.S.) - 14:46
2. Takashi Soma (3rd yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 14:51
3. Yuki Teramae (3rd yr., Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S) - 14:58

Seventh Stage (5.0 km)
1. Hiroto Okura (3rd yr., Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 14:35
2. Sora Fukazawa (3rd yr., Toyokawa H.S.) - 14:37
3. Koki Maruyama (2nd yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 14:38

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. Wins Second National High School Girls Ekiden Title in Three Years

by Brett Larner
highlights video courtesy of race broadcaster NHK
click here for National High School Boys Ekiden results

2014 national champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. ran one of the fastest times in National High School Girls Ekiden history, breaking its school record to win its second national title in three years.

Osaka Kunei got off to a relatively slow start, its leading runner Kanami Sagayama just 10th on the 6.0 km First Stage behind defending champ Sera H.S., last-year's runner-up Tokiwa H.S., powerhouse Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. and others.  Osaka Kunei's star runner Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu, with an 8:58.86 best for 3000 m while still just 16 years old, got the team back in the game, running the second-fastest time on the 4.0975 km Second Stage to put Osaka Kunei into 1st.

Third and fourth runners Ayaka Murao and Saya Nakajima both won their stages, giving Osaka Kunei a 26-second lead over the relatively unheralded Nagano Higashi H.S. heading onto the 5.0 km anchor stage.  With little chance of being caught anchor Hikari Takeuchi pushed on in pursuit of time, bringing the team home in 1:07:24, the 7th-fastest time in Nationals history and 2 seconds faster than Osaka Kunei's 2014 winning time.  Of the 2014 team only Sagayama was present, and with only her graduating Osaka Kunei's chances for a repeat next year look strong.

In the top two the entire way and with a 41-second margin over 3rd at the start of the anchor stage, Nagano Higashi dropped to 6th.  Nishiwaki Kogyo and Kamimura Gakuen H.S. came on strong with two of the three fastest anchor stage times, Nishiwaki Kogyo taking 2nd in 1:08:08 and Kamimura Gakuen 3rd in 1:08:14.  Last year's winner Sera barely made the eight-deep podium, dropping to 13th mid-race after a disastrous debut by Kenyan first-year Naomi Muthoni but climbing back to 8th on the final stage.

Most of the best runners in the field will return to Kyoto early next month for the National Women's Ekiden where they will run for their home prefectures. Many of the top-placing teams will also run again a week later at the Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden where they will race the best university and corporate teams to wrap up their road seasons.

28th National High School Girls Ekiden
Kyoto, 12/25/16
47 teams, 5 stages, 21.0975 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. (Osaka) - 1:07:24 - all-time #7
2. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. (Hyogo) - 1:08:08
3. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. (Kagoshima) - 1:08:14
4. Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S. (Fukuoka) - 1:08:45
5. Narita H.S. (Chiba) - 1:08:47
6. Nagano Higashi H.S. (Nagano) - 1:08:54
7. Toyokawa H.S. (Aichi) - 1:09:07
8. Sera H.S. (Hiroshima) - 1:09:21
9. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. (Kyoto) - 1:09:23
10. Tokiwa H.S. (Gunma) - 1:09:26

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (6.0 km)
1. Yuna Wada (2nd yr., Nagano Higashi H.S.) - 19:14
2. Hibiki Onishi (2nd yr., Sera H.S.) - 19:19
3. Juri Ogasawara (1st yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) - 19:29

Second Stage (4.0975 km)
1. Helen Ekarare (2nd yr., Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 12:27 - CR tie
2. Tomomi Takamatsu (2nd yr., Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 12:43
3. Monica Margaret (3rd yr., Aomori Yamada H.S.) - 12:45

Third Stage (3.0 km)
1. Ayaka Murao (1st yr., Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 9:32
2. Yuna Onishi (3rd yr., Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 9:42
2. Shiori Aratake (3rd yr., Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 9:42

Fourth Stage (3.0 km)
1. Saya Nakajima (2nd yr., Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 9:17
2. Sae Nishiuchi (2nd yr., Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 9:25
3. Saeka Matsubara (3rd yr., Kumamoto Shinai Joshi H.S.) - 9:26

Fifth Stage (5.0 km)
1. Marta Mokaya (1st yr., Oita Tomei H.S.) - 15:25
2. Tabitha Njeri Kamau (1st yr., Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 15:36
3. Yume Goto (2nd yr., Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 15:38

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ohara and Wanjiru Negative Split Way to Wins at 35th Anniversary Sanyo Ladies Road Race

by Brett Larner

Japan's Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) and Kenyan Rosemary Wanjiru (Team Starts) went it alone to win the 35th anniversary Sanyo Ladies' Road Race half marathon and 10 km divisions with strong negative split runs.

After a slow 17:00 first 5 km in the half Ohara got to work, covering the next 5 km in 16:24 and opening a 16-second lead over a pack of nine led by Rio Olympics marathoner Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku).  From there she never faltered, her pace holding steady all the way to a 1:10:03 win.  38 seconds behind, Misaki Kato (Team Kyudenko) took 2nd in 1:10:42 with relative newcomer Ayaka Fujimoto (Team Kyocera) 3rd in 1:11:20.  Ito faded to 5th in 1:11:39 just ahead of London Olympics marathoner Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya).  Invited Australians Eloise Wellings and Cassie Fien were both DNFs, Fien dropping out before 5 km and Wellings before 10 km.

In the 10 km Wanjiru was out front from the beginning, hitting 5km in 16:11 with a 12-second lead over teammate Grace Kimanzi (Team Starts).  Turning it on in the second half she covered the return trip in 15:53 to score her second-straight Sanyo win in 32:04, one second slower than last year.  Kimanzi, the 2013-14 Sanyo winner, also negative splitted, taking 2nd in 32:21.  Kato's teammate Mariam Waithera (Team Kyudenko) was 3rd in 33:09, just holding off top Japanese woman Kanayo Miyata (Team Yutaka Giken).

35th Anniversary Sanyo Ladies Road Race
Okayama, 12/23/16

Yuko Arimori Cup Half Marathon
1. Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) - 1:10:04
2. Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) - 1:10:42
3. Ayaka Fujimoto (Kyocera) - 1:11:20
4. Ayano Ikemitsu (Kagoshima Ginko) - 1:11:36
5. Mai Ito (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:11:39
6. Risa Shigetomo (Tenmaya) - 1:11:47
7. Yukari Ishizawa (Edion) - 1:11:54
8. Sayo Nomura (Daiichi Seimei) - 1:12:10
9. Misato Horie (Noritz) - 1:12:30
10. Ai Utsunomiya (Miyazaki Ginko) - 1:13:01
DNF - Cassie Fien (Australia)
DNF - Eloise Wellings (Australia)

Kinue Hitomi Cup 10 km
1. Rosemary Monica Wanjiru (Starts)- 32:04
2. Grace Mbuthi Kimanzi (Starts) - 32:21
3. Mariam Waithera Mururi (Kyudenko) - 33:09
4. Kanayo Miyata (Yutaka Giken) - 33:11
5. Yuka Miyazaki (Kyudenko) - 33:27
6. Mai Nishiwaki (Tenmaya) - 33:35
7. Ann Karindi (Toyota Boshoku) - 33:37
8. Fumika Sasaki (Daiichi Seimei) - 33:37
9. Mayuka Toda (Kyocera) - 33:40
10. Rina Yamashita (Kyudenko) - 33:48

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rio Olympian Ito Leads Osaka International Women's Marathon Field

by Brett Larner

Rio Olympics marathoner Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) leads the elite field of domestic hopefuls for the 2017 World Championships team at the Jan. 29 Osaka International Women's Marathon.  On the home front she faces London Olympian Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya), the last two Gold Coast Airport Marathon winners Misato Horie (Team Noritz) and Risa Takenaka (Team Shiseido), and the debuting Hanae Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), a training partner of Ito's Rio teammate Tomomi Tanaka.

Ethiopian-born Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) presents the toughest international competition to Ito with a PB just under a minute slower than Ito's 2:24:42 best.  Iwona Lewandowska (Poland), Muluhabt Tsega (Ethiopia), Serena Burla (U.S.A.), Cassie Fien (Australia), Ling-Ling Jin (China) and Munkhzaya Bayartsogt (Mongolia) round out the international contingent.

Further down the field, Japan's current top three amateur women Yoshiko Sakamoto (YWC), Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) and Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) will face a rematch of October's mass-participation Osaka Marathon where Sakamoto led the trio in to a 1-2-3 finish.

The Osaka International Women's Marathon will be broadcast live.  Check back closer to race date for updates.

36th Osaka International Women's Marathon
Elite Field Highlights
Osaka, 1/29/17
all times are best within last three years except where noted

Mai Ito (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:24:42 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) - 2:25:36 (Dubai 2016)
Risa Shigetomo (Tenmaya) - 2:26:39 (Osaka Women's 2015)
Misato Horie (Noritz) - 2:26:40 (Gold Coast 2016)
Iwona Lewandowska (Poland) - 2:27:47 (London 2015)
Risa Takenaka (Shiseido) - 2:28:09 (Nagoya Women's 2015)
Yuko Watanabe (Edion) - 2:28:36 (Osaka Women's 2015)
Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) - 2:28:43 (Saitama Int'l 2015)
Muluhabt Tsega (Ethiopia) - 2:29:17 (Beirut 2014)
Mari Ozaki (Noritz) - 2:29:56 (Osaka Women's 2015)
Serena Burla (U.S.A.) - 2:30:40 (Chicago 2016)
Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu) - 2:31:02 (Kitakyushu 2014)
Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) - 2:31:04 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Haruna Takada (Yamada Denki) - 2:31:17 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Aya Higashimoto (Juhachi Ginko) - 2:31:28 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Rie Uchida (Otsuka Seiyaku) - 2:32:25 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) - 2:32:38 (Tokyo 2014)
Hiroko Miyauchi (Hokuren) - 2:32:40 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Cassie Fien (Australia) - 2:33:17 (Saitama Int'l 2016)
Ling-Ling Jin (China) - 2:33:22 (Hengshui 2015)
Nanami Matsuura (Tenmaya) - 2:33:24 (Osaka Women's 2014)
Munkhzaya Bayartsogt (Mongolia) - 2:33:36 (Chongqing 2015)
Asami Furuse (Kyocera) - 2:34:12 (Hokkaido 2015)
Kanae Shimoyama (Noritz) - 2:35:07 (Nagoya Women's 2016)
Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) - 2:35:46 (Hofu 2015)
Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) - 2:35:49 (Tokyo 2015)
Yoshiko Sakamoto (YWC) - 2:36:02 (Osaka 2016)
Saki Tokoro (Kansai Gaikokugo Univ.) - 2:37:08 (Osaka Women's 2016)
Hanae Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 2:42:23 (Kakogawa 2016)

Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:12:45 (Matsue Ladies Half 2016)
Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) - 1:12:50 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2016)
Anna Hasuike (Higo Ginko) - 1:13:19 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2014)
Wakana Hayashi (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:14:39 (Osaka Half 2015)
Haruna Maekawa (Juhachi Ginko) - 1:16:00 (Nat'l Corp. Half 2015)
Asumi Kato (Keio Univ.) - 1:16:55 (Ageo Half 2016)
Kimiko Sato (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 34:02 (West Japan Univ. Champs 10 km 2015)

© 2016 Brett Larner
all rights reserved