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Kawauchi Ends Year at Bitburger Silvesterlauf

by Brett Larner


Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) wrapped up a tough 2015 at the Bitburger Silvesterlauf 8 km in Trier Germany on Dec. 31.  Hoping to set a new Japanese national record under 23:30, Kawauchi ran at the rear of the front pack led by Beijing Olympics 10000 m bronze medalist Micah Kogo (Kenya) on target pace through the first five of the course's eight 1 km loops through the narrow streets at the heart of the city center.  On the sixth lap Kawauchi tripped on a cobblestone and fell, struggling to pick himself up as Kogo sped away in a four-way international battle with Haymanot Ales (Ethiopia), Zakaria Boudad (Morocco) and Teklit Tesfahabr (Eritrea).

Kawauchi staggered over the final two laps, overtaken by runner after runner from the second pack and further back.  In the final sprint finish Ales won with a clear margin in 22:59, Boudad and Kogo coming in two seconds back.  Kawauchi finished over a minute later, gutted with nothing to show for his result but a mi…

A New Era - 2016 Hakone Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner
follow @JRNLive for live coverage of the 2016 Hakone Ekiden on Jan. 2 and 3


The Hakone Ekiden Museum divides the history of one of the world's three great races into distinct eras.  According to the Museum, the Hakone Ekiden's fourth era began at last year's 91st running with Aoyama Gakuin University's inspired and inspiring win.  A young outsider coach, Sususu Hara, with a new approach to building a team radiating not just talent but positivity and a love of what they're doing.  A star runner, Daichi Kamino, whose uphill Fifth Stage run guaranteed Aoyama Gakuin the win and turned himself and the rest of the team into national celebrities for the tens of millions of fans who watched the live broadcast and turned out along the course.  A sheer depth of quality that indicated that Hara's development and organizational practices did indeed mark the start of something new.

In the year since then, a year that Hara targeted as the culmination of his p…

Ritsumeikan University Unstoppable in Third-Straight Mt. Fuji Women's Ekiden National Title

by Brett Larner

【富士山女子駅伝】 立命館大学が3連覇達成!! pic.twitter.com/KLGTRxDwgR — 日本学生陸上競技連合 (@iuauj) December 30, 2015
Despite coming up short of replicating its perfect win, six stage titles and the overall victory, at October's Morinomiyako Ekiden, two-time defending champion Ritsumeikan University's dynasty proved unstoppable as it led start-to-finish to win the Mt. Fuji Women's Ekiden national university title for the third year in a row.

Having missed being part of the winning Morinomiyako team, Nanako Kanno, one half of Ritsumeikan's pair of top-level runners, led off with a 6-second lead on the steepest of the first four downhill stages, a lead that grew to 2:22 by the end of another strong run by second-year Kotona Ota, undefeated so far in her university ekiden career.  More dynamic racing happened further back in the field, where last year's runner-up Osaka Gakuin University, 4th-placer Meijo University and 5th-placer Matsuyama University exchanged places on almost e…

Asahi Kasei Set to Challenge Honda and Toyota for New Year Ekiden National Title

by Brett Larner

It’s an interesting and exciting time in Japan’s corporate leagues. Over the last five years there has been an unprecedented explosion of quality and depth at quality on the university scene at the hands of young, innovative coaches, on which more in a JRN feature next month, and its impact is starting to be felt at the more conservative corporate level.



Last year’s New Year Ekiden national corporate men’s championships winner Toyota had an average age of 23.2, just out of university, for its 7-man team. First-year pros Shinobu Kubota (Toyota), Suguru Osako (Nissin Shokuhin) and twins Keita Shitara (Konica Minolta) and Yuta Shitara (Honda) were some of the day’s overall big players. This year there has been an even bigger influx of major talent ahead of the New Year Ekiden’s 60th running, with the celebrated Asahi Kasei team’s new star Kota Murayama breaking the 10000 m national record in 27:29.69 and cracking the all-time Japanese top 10 for 5000 m, his twin brot…

Ritsumeikan University Going for Third-Straight Mt. Fuji Women's Ekiden Title

by Brett Larner

In its third edition in the foothills of Mt. Fuji, the National University Women’s Invitational Ekiden Championships, renamed, appropriately enough, the Mt. Fuji Women’s Ekiden, continues to grow in popularity and stature. This year it moves from the Dec. 23 national holiday to Dec. 30, putting it into a prestigious block alongside the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men’s national championships and the biggest of them all, the university men’s Hakone Ekiden on Jan. 2 and 3. Whether Mt. Fuji will reach the same level of popularity remains to be seen, but it’s a sign of faith in the event’s viability, its hilly course offering real racing and not just a handout to the fastest school.

The fastest school is again two-time defending champion Ritsumeikan University of the Kansai region, fresh from a course record win at October’s Morinomiyako Ekiden against the best from the Kanto region and the rest of the country. With wins on all six stages at Morinomiyako including …

The Year's Best and Worst in Japanese Distance Running

by Brett Larner
click here for 2015 top 25 rankings by distance

There was plenty to be excited about in Japanese distance running in 2015.  For the men especially it looked like the next generation was finally starting to break through.  Race-making corporate debuts from former university stars Shinobu Kubota, Suguru Osako and twins Keita and Yuta Shitara at the New Year Ekiden.  A legend-making win by Aoyama Gakuin University and new Fifth Stage starDaichi Kamino at the Hakone Ekiden and again at the Izumo Ekiden.  World record-setting depth at the National University Half Marathon Championships, Yosenkai 20 km, Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler and seemingly everywhere else.  University men breaking 28 minutes for 10000 m and 1:02:00 for the half marathon.  And national records.  Lots of national records:
indoor 3000 m: Suguru Osako - 7:45.62 (en route) (NYC, 1/31/15)
indoor 2 miles: Suguru Osako - 8:16.47 (NYC, 1/31/15)
indoor 5000 m: Suguru Osako - 13:28.00 (NYC, 2/14/15)
5000 m: Suguru Osako - …

Osaka International Women's Marathon Elite Field

by Brett Larner

Fresh off the suspension of its three-time defending champion Tetiana Shmyrko (Ukraine) for systematic cheating revealed through the biological passport system, the Osaka International Women’s Marathon’s elite field features a small overseas field that passes muster with IAAF labeling requirements while keeping the Eastern contingent to a bare minimum.  Karolina Nadolska (Poland) returns to Osaka with the fastest recent non-Japanese time in the field, 2:26:31, leading 2014 World Half Marathon Championships bronze medalist Sally Kaptich Chepyego (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) and Seong Eun Kim (South Korea).

More key is the domestic field competing for one of the two places still up for grabs on the Rio Olympic team. Half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), elevated to the status of 2013 Osaka Women’s champ after Shmyrko’s defenestration, is poised to get the win for real this time as the clear favorite to find herself on the short list after the race …

JRN's Ten Most-Read Stories of the Year

2015 was a complex year in Japan with lots to get excited about, a new generation of talent finally starting to break through the wall, multiple national records and world record-setting depth in what seemed like just about every major race, countered by embarrassingly bad World Championships performances, 2020 Tokyo Olympics organizational snafus that ranged from incompetent to much worse, and the consequences of the country's race organizers' and elite athlete coordinators' ready willingness to deal with people who trade freely in dirty athletes finally starting to come home to roost.  JRN's top ten most-read articles of 2015:

1.Hakone Champion AGU's Isshiki Leads 27 under 1:03 and 265 Sub-1:06 at National University Half Marathon Championships- Mar. 1
Tadashi Isshiki, a 2nd-year at 2015 Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University, ran 1:02:11 to top a field that produced historic results including a world record 265 men under 1:06:00 and 643 under 1:10:00.  I…

JRN Readers Pick the Highlights of 2015

2015 was a threshold year in Japan, one of record highs and lows.  JRN asked a number of its prominent regular readers to give their picks for the year.

Andrew Armingerpresident, Boulder Track Club

The performance of the year had to have been the 10000 m NR by Kota Murayama with Tetsuya Yoroizaka also under the old NR. That record sat for far too long.
NR!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/18VGxJbsvL — Japan Running News (@JRNHeadlines) November 28, 2015
The performer of the year is Yuki Kawauchi, based on his typical body of work and most notably his 6th at NYC. Not only in the money in a World Marathon Major but genuinely competitive on foreign soil which is especially commendable. These both stand out for both genders, it just happens that the men really came through this year. Especially good to see going into 2016.


Jimmy Ashworth1985 Berlin Marathon winner and first man to break 2:12 in Berlin

It sounds a bit daft to narrow it down to a few athletes that have caught my eye as all th…