Benita Johnson (AUS) (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Chiba, Japan

Ribas and Johnson win in Chiba - Matsumiya sets world 30km road best in Kumamoto

On a cold and rainy day, Ricardo Ribas of Portugal and Australia's Benita Johnson respectively won the men's 12Km and women's 8Km races in the 38th annual Chiba Cross Country – IAAF Permit – yesterday (16 Feb).

In the last 1Km of the men's 12Km race, it came down to a duel between Ribas and Tomohiro Seto of Kanebo track team.

”I felt comfortable throughout the race. I knew it would come down to the final straight, so I went for it first,” said Seto, and thus in the final 100m he started his kick. However, Ribas who confirmed he “did not like the cold weather, but I run well in the rain," turned out to the better sprinter. Ribas won by one second with 36:27, while Seto finished runner-up for the second consecutive year.

”He had much better speed at the end,” said Seto who was 8th in the Asian Games 5000m last year. “I am going to run in the Fukuoka Cross Country. I like to place well in the World Cross Country Championships.”

This race along with Fukuoka Cross Country race in two weeks doubles as the Japanese selection race for this year’s World Cross Country Championships in Lausanne.

Yoshiko Ichikawa who ran in the last two Olympics at 5000m, pushed the pace in the women's 8Km race, and by 6Km only Benita Johnson of Australia and Tomoko Hatori were with her. One kilometre later Hatori -  who improved her 10,000m personal best by nearly one minute to 31:48.12 (from 32:47.24) last year - lost contact and so did Ichikawa 500m later.

However, Ichikawa stayed within striking distance and came back strongly to challenge Johnson in the final metres, only to fall short by the smallest of the margin. Johnson won for the second consecutive year, while Ichikawa improved her fourth place finish last year to finish second.

”I am already selected for the World Cross, so I cannot lose here in Chiba. I will run the World Indoor championships in (Birmingham)  England, and then the World Cross Country Championships,” commented Johnson who was fourth in the World short course race last year in Dublin.  

Kumamoto - 30km 

On every weekend from November to March, at least one elite road race or Ekiden is held somewhere in Japan. The third Sunday of February is no exception, and two major 30Km road races were held. In Ome a suburb of Tokyo, 37th annual Ome road race was held with 12,996 runners taking part.
In the absence of Toshinari Takaoka, the triple Asian record holder (5000m/10000m and marathon), who pulled out at the last minute due to a right calf injury, Kenjiro Jitsui, a 1996 Olympian at the marathon won the 30Km division in 1:33:23. 

While Ome is a mass race, 47th annual Kumanichi 30Km held on the same day in Kumamoto is truly an elite race with only 45 participants. Many of the fastest 30Km road performances have been set in this race; this year, the world best 30Km road time - 1:28:36 - was recorded by Takayuki Matsumiya. **See course notes below.

After a relatively modest 1:00:24 at 20Km, Kazuyuki Maeda surged to break the race open. Four runners - Takayuki Matsumiya, Maeda, Masaya Shimizu and Kazushi Hara broke away. They ran together for 2Km before Matsumiya of the Konica track team surged at 22Km; he ran the 5Km from 20Km to 25Km in 13:55, and then continued to increase his lead to the finish.

Matsumiya whose goal in the race was to win with 1:29:30 did better. He won in 1:28:36, 10 seconds faster than the course record. It is also the fastest time in history by 4 seconds, the previous best being 1:28:40, which was recorded by Steve Jones during the 1985 Chicago Marathon. Matsumiya's teammate at Konica track team Kazuyuki Maeda finished second in 1:29:57. Behind him at the third place, Masaya Shimizu broke a collegiate 30Km record with 1:30:00 (previous 1:30:04 by Ryoji Matsushita 2002).

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF


Chiba Cross Country
Feb 16 in Chiba  - Cold rainy 

Jr W4000m
1)  Yurika Nakamura   12:58
2)  Tomoko Horioka  12:58
3)  Yuki Yamazaki 12:59

Jr. 4000m
1)  Hajime Ishizuka  12:22
2)  Shinji Tanaka  12:23
3)  Hiroshi Koide 12:24 

Jr. 8000m
1)  Keita Tsuchihashi  24:01
2)  Yu  Mitsuya  24:04
3)  Satoshi Kitamura  24:05

1)  Tomohiro Nakagawa  11:36
2)  Ko Tamura  11:36
3)  Hatsuo Kitada  11:37

1)  Ricardo Ribas (POR)36:27
2)  Tomohiro Seto  36:28
3)  Masayuki Obata  36:30
4)  Yuji Ibi  36:33
5)  Makoto Otsu  36:37
6)  Shin-ichiro Okuda  36:45

1)  Hiromi Koga  12:46
2)  Akiko Kawashima  12:49
3)  Mizuho Nasukawa  13:00

1)  Benita Johnson (AUS)  26:09
2)  Yoshiko Ichikawa  26:09
3)  Tomoko Hatori  26:19
4)  Restituta Joseph  (TAN)  26:37
5)  Miho Nodagashira  27:09
6)  Emi Ikeda  27:11

47th Kumanichi 30Km 
Feb 16 in Kumamoto - Out and back course

1)  Takayuki Matsumiya   1:28:36  (15:22, 30:35, 45:29, 1:00:24, 1:14:19) 
 World Road Best
2)  Kazuyuki Maeda  1:29:57
3)  Masaya Shimizu  1:30:00
4)  Kazushi Hara  1:30:35
5)  Akira Kiniwa  1:30:53
6)  Koichi Haramizu  1:30:54
7)  Tomoyuki Honda  1:30:55
8)  Daisuke Fujimoto  1:30:57


The out and back 30Km course is not easy. The race starts about 10m above sea level and slowly gains elevation. The steepest part of the course is from 10Km to 15Km where the course gains around 60m in elevation. The 15Km turn around point is approximately 90m above sea level.  Because of the elevation loss of about 60m from 20km to 25Km, the 5Km splits between these two checkpoints are the fastest in the race.

The previous national best time of 1:28:46 was set on this course back in 1985 by Kazuya Nishimoto. 

The list of race winners, reads like a who’s who of Japanese distance running - Toshinari Takaoka (Asian 5000m, 10000m and marathon record holder), Ken-ichi Takahashi (Asian half marathon record holder), Yasuyuki Watanabe (Collegiate 10000m record holder), Takayuki Inubushi (former national marathon record holder), Koichi Morishita (Olympic marathon silver medallist), Shuichi Yoneshige (former national 5000m record holder), Kunimitsu Ito (former national 30Km road record holder), Toshiaki Kamata (former national 5000m, 10000m record holder), Akio Usami (former national marathon record holder) and Kenji Kimihara (Olympic marathon silver medallist), and Morio Shigematsu (former world marathon record holder).