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Marathon Running in Japan is changing rapidly for the better

October 22, 2018
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Suguru Osako, Japan marathon runner

Japan as a country is slowly shaping itself into becoming one of the leading countries in marathon running.

Marathon running in Japan, picking up

2018 has seen a number of unexpected surprises from Japanese athletes ranging from the middle to the long-distance races. Yuki Kawauchi won one of the world’s biggest marathons, the Boston Marathon in April. Among other surprising performances by Japanese athletes in the 42km distance was at the Chicago Marathon where the little-known Suguru Osako beat the likes of Abel Kirui, Galen Rupp, Geoffrey Kirui, and Bedan Karoki, among others to finish on the podium in a new national record of 2:05:50.

But more interesting to follow will be Nazomi Tanaka of Japan who won a gold medal in the women’s 3000m at the IAAF world u20 championships in an exciting race where fourteen athletes out of the total seventeen who finished the race registered their personal best times. The two teammates, Yuna Wada and Nazomi Tanaka, had run a well-calculated race to ensure that they won the gold medal for their nation.

Soon after the gun went off, the Japanese pair had started to break away from the rest. In many of the distance track races, when a less known athlete breaks away from the field, no one takes them seriously as they would soon falter and get overtaken as the race progressed. The two girls crossed the first 1,000m in 3:00.55, about 50m ahead.

It was almost in an even split that they crossed the 2,000m point in 6:03.19. The gap was almost constant and it was beginning to look obvious that some of the pre-race favorites had not taken the two girls seriously as a trio of one Kenyan and two Ethiopians began a frantic chase to try and catch up with the Japanese.

Kenya’s Mercy Chepkurui gave up the chase with about 600m to go. The two Ethiopians seemed to be gaining ground on the two leaders but appeared to have made the decision to close the gap when it was already too late.

With about 300m to go, one of the leading girls began to lose her strength and the two Ethiopians overtook her to secure the silver and bronze medals, but could not catch Tanaka who went ahead to win the race in an impressive personal best time of 8:54.01 as she led 13 athletes behind her to register their personal best times as well.

On the same day of the championships, Yuki Hashioka also won a second gold medal for the country in the men’s long jump after jumping 8.03m. Tomoka Kuwazoe also won a silver medal in the women's Javelin Throw which resulted in Japan moving to the top of the medal table at the end of the day.

Something is surely happening in the athletics sector in Japan and the country will soon join other superpowers like Kenya, Jamaica, Ethiopia, and USA.

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Justin Lagat is a long distance runner. A World Athletics Certified long distance running Coach, and Freelance Sports Journalist. Work appears at World Athletics, RunBlogRun, Spikes Magazine, and Run Republic, among other websites.

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