limbers up for Brussels with 32:05 10,000m at Hyogo Relays
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
29 April 2002 - The five men and five women in the Japanese team for this coming weekend’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, were selected from the top performers at several recent major half marathon races.
The Marugame half marathon in February and All Japan Corporate Team half marathon Championships in March were the major qualifying races. In addition, performances at the Kobe women's half in December of 2001, and the Miyazaki women's road race which is contested over the half marathon distance, were both considered for selecting the women's team.
Traditionally, the women's team is much stronger than the men's counterpart, and this year is no exception. In each of the last three World Half marathon championships, the Japanese women team has finished second.
The best chance for an individual medal in the team, of course, is Mizuki Noguchi, who finished second, fourth and fourth respectively in the last three World Half Marathon Championships. Noguchi, who is known in Japan as the queen of the half marathon, is the most consistent Japanese half marathon runner. Noguchi has not lost a half marathon against Japanese runners since July 2000 when she finished behind the future Olympic marathon champion Naoko Takahashi.
In the 2001 World Half Marathon Championships, Noguchi recorded a personal best of 1:08:23 while finishing fourth. The following month she won the Nagoya half marathon in 1:08:28. In January's Miyazaki women's road race (in half marathon division), Noguchi ran away from the field at 7Km, improving her personal best by one second to 1:08:22. She is on a roll.
Noguchi who wants to be the most versatile distance runner in Japan also had some success on the track, namely at the 10,000m. She was third at the 2001 National championships and thus was selected to run in the World Championships in Edmonton, where she finished thirteenth.
This year Noguchi ventured into a marathon, making her long awaited debut in the 2002 Nagoya International Women's Marathon on March 10. In preparation, Noguchi ran over 1700Km during her 48 days stay at high altitude in Kunming, China. For the first time in her life, Noguchi had done a 40Km long run (five times).
Despite the unseasonably warm weather and running alone from 26Km, Mizuki Noguchi easily won the race in 2:25:35. Although it was the second fastest debut time by the Japanese, Noguchi is far from being satisfied with her time, for she was hoping to surpass the marathon debut record, 2:23:11, set by Yoko Shibui (the record was since improved by Radcliffe on April 14).
Recently the Rikujyo Kyogi Magazine asked her if it is too much to compete in Marathon, 10000m and then the half marathon all within eight weeks, to which Noguchi replied, "I want to be a versatile runner. I will be running all events including ekiden. The marathon is only one of the events I will be running."
Her final race before the World Half Marathon Championships was the 10000m at Hyogo Relays on April 28 – RESULTS follow below -. Noguchi was with the leaders until two laps to go, at which point the pace increased to 71.3 per lap. She eventually finished third in 32:05.34, ten seconds behind the winner Kayoko Fukushi. In the post-race interview, Noguchi said, "I want to climb on the top of the podium this year at the World Half Marathon Championships. Since Radcliffe is not running, this will be my best chance," concluded Noguchi.
Close second to Noguchi in the Miyazaki women's road race was Mikie Takanaka. A twenty-one years old Takanaka came into the race with 1:11:06 half marathon best from 2001 Kobe women's half marathon when she finished seventh. In Miyazaki, Takanaka chased Noguchi all the way, and at one point, at 15Km, she came as close as two seconds to the leader. She eventually finished 10seconds behind Noguchi with 1:08:32, a huge personal best. Her excellence at the half marathon continued, and in the All Japan corporate team half marathon championships in March, Takanaka finished third just behind Yuko Kawakami and Kiyomi Ogawa. Takanaka along with the second place finisher Kiyomi Ogawa were selected for the team.
The fourth member of the team is Yasuko Hashimoto who was a close second to Miwako Yamanaka at the Kobe women's half marathon on December 16, 2001. While Yamanaka led most of the race, Hashimoto tried to win the race with a big surge with 1000m to go. However, not only was Hashimoto unable to shake off Yamanaka, who finished fourth in the World Cross Country Championships she was also out kicked at the end. Hashimoto finished one second behind with 1:08:55. She also performed well in December's Japan corporate team women's ekiden championships, Hashimoto ran the first stage, where she recorded the fastest stage, 20:34 for 6.6Km.
The final member of the women's team, Mari Ozaki, perhaps is the best known runner of the bunch. In 1998 she recorded 15:25.99 for the 5000m, and the following year she recorded 31:58.05. In 2000 Ozaki finished second at the 5000m, and the following year she was second at the 10,000m. Ozaki like Noguchi represented Japan at the 10,000m in the World Athletics Championships in Edmonton, where she finished 19th. However, she did not run well at the 10000m in the Hyogo race, her final race before the World Half marathon championships, however.
On paper, the men's team is nowhere near the strength of the women's team. However, there are few notable runners in the squad. Atsushi Sato who was fourth at the all Japan Corporate team half marathon championships and was thus selected for the team is the collegiate marathon record holder at 2:09:50, having broken the old mark of Atsushi Fujita, in the 2000 Lake Biwa marathon,.
Hidemori Noguchi, a hero of the Hakone Ekiden is another promising runner. He won the 2001 Marugame half marathon in 1:02:28. This year in the same race Noguchi improved his half marathon best to 1:01:55.
Japanese Team -
Tetsuo Nishikawa 2nd Marugame Half marathon 1:01:48
Toshihide Kato 3rd Marugame Half marathon 1:01:52
Hidemori Noguchi 4th Marugame Half marathon 1:01:55
Atsushi Sato 4th JPN Corp HM Champs 1:01:53
Kurao Umeki 8th JPN Corp HM Champs 1:02:05
Yasuko Hashimoto 2nd Kobe Women's HM 1:08:55
Mizuki Noguchi 1st Miyazaki HM 1:08:22
Mari Ozaki 1st Marugame HM 1:09:33
Kiyomi Ogawa 2nd JPN Corp HM Champs 1:09:39
Mikie Takanaka 3rd JPN Corp HM Champs 1:09:42
+ 2nd Miyazaki half marathon
50th Hyogo Relays
– 27 & 28 April 2002
1) Kayoko Fukushi 31:55.59
2) Takako Kotorida 31:57.77
3) Mizuki Noguchi 32:05.34
4) Haruko Okamoto 32:18.18
5) Yuko Kawakami 32:18.36
6) Megumi Tanaka 32:25.29
1) Zakayo Ngatho (KEN) 27:36.68
2) Simon Maina (KEN) 27:38.36
3) Tomoo Tsubota 27:51.85
4) Jackson Gachiuri (KEN) 27:58.93
5) Samuel Kabiru (KEN) 27:59.61
6) John Kanyi (KEN) 28:01.04