Monday 30 March 2020

To keep you busy try these.

and then you can relax and watch these

or read this

Japan. Nihon. The Land of the Rising Sun.

A country globally renown for many things. A rich cultural history. A cuisine like no other. The world’s largest metropolis – Tokyo. And… running?

Japan is not one of the nations that first comes to mind when most people think about the global running scene. However, in the marathon distance, Japan comes in third place behind Kenya and Ethiopia when looking at the number of athletes in the top thousand marathon times in history. Japan has over one-hundred athletes that have run sub-2:10 in the marathon. Compare this to the USA: with a population nearing triple that of Japan – and massive infrastructure surrounding their collegiate athletics system – the States have only twenty athletes that have run sub-2:10 (thirteen if you exclude record-ineligible Boston).

Our interest piqued, we decided to plunge headfirst into the Japanese running scene and investigate what was going on.

Tokyo Marathon 2020

Our arrival coincided with the cancellation of the mass-participation in the Tokyo Marathon due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak and the global pandemonium the pathogen had generated. Nonetheless, the elite category of the race was still run and despite beseeching pleas from local authorities to stay away from the course, a large turnout of local spectators lined the streets to cheer on the athletes. Running is hugely popular here; the top runners were clearly well known to the onlookers. Many of the top runners receiving a hero’s welcome – especially Suguru Osako who solidified his place on the Olympic team by breaking his own National Record (finishing in 2:05:29), collecting a 100-million-yen bonus for his work.

Taking place on our first weekend in the country, the Tokyo Marathon was a perfect introduction to, and exhibition of, the kind of running we had come here to learn about. Ethiopian Birhane Legese defended his title in 2:04:15, but the day belonged to the local athletes. Four of the top ten athletes were Japanese. There were nineteen Japanese males under 2:10 and a further twenty-nine under 2:15. No other majors have such significant home-grown depth. Compare the forty-eight Japanese below 2:15 to the six Americans clearing the same hurdle at Boston last year.

You might be thinking… The US have New York and Chicago to spread out their talent, no wonder Boston doesn’t have so many athletes under 2:15. But what is even more surprising than so many local athletes running so well in the marquee event in Japan, is that there is a huge number of lesser-known local races that see solid turnouts of elite Japanese runners. Races such as the Lake Biwa Marathon (which has a qualifying time of 2:30) and Fukuoka International Marathon regularly have large numbers of local runners posting impressive times… And then there’s ekiden!

A Rich History

The state of long-distance running in Japan was somewhat perplexing to us. The Japanese tend to lack the ectomorphic physique and loping stride of the East Africans that dominate the sport. They have a number of high-level sprinters, however relative to the long-distance prowess demonstrated over the past decades, there is a lack of depth in shorter distances.

Why is this? We learnt a lot during our stay that goes a long way to explaining this depth of talent.

In 1912 Japan sent only two athletes to compete at the Stockholm Olympics. Shizo Kanakuri was one of them, set to compete in the marathon. Worn out from the eighteen-day voyage to Sweden, Kanakuri succumbed to the unexpectedly hot conditions on race day. He lost consciousness and failed to complete the distance. Embarrassed, and in an attempt to save face, Kanakuri silently left for Japan without notifying race officials. Astonishingly, Swedish authorities considered him missing for fifty years before discovering that he was living in Japan and had competed in subsequent Olympic marathons.

In Japan, Shizo Kanakuri is known as the “Father of the Marathon”. After his return to Japan Kanakuri played an instrumental role in establishing the Hakone Ekiden in 1920. Contested by the top universities in the Kanto Region surrounding Tokyo, this race is one of the reasons for running’s huge popularity in the country.

The original ekiden – the term used to describe these long-distance relays – was run in 1917, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Tokyo’s status as the nation’s capital. Over three days, runners traversed 508km from the old Japanese capital of Kyoto to the modern capital, Tokyo. Three years later Hakone Ekiden was established, with Kanakuri trying to create a means for Japan to produce runners who could be competitive on the world stage.

Kanakuri’s vision eventually came to fruition. Japan has been right up the top of long-distance running for a long time. They dominated the road scene in the ‘50s and ‘60s. In 1965 Japanese men ran ten of the eleven fastest marathon times for the year. The next year they ran fifteen of the top seventeen. This kind of reign over the roads is comparable to what we have seen with the Kenyans in the last few years.

Ekiden – Aspiration, Fervour

Ekiden is unique to Japan and its popularity has remained consistently high for many decades now. The standard quip is that it’s the Japanese equivalent of the Superbowl. From what we gathered from our time there and our research around the trip, that seems to be an apt comparison. It’s the biggest televised sporting event in the country. Viewership rates of the Hakone Ekiden are as high as 30%. The event captivates the nation over the New Year holiday period.

Adharanand Finn is the author of the acclaimed books, “Running with the Kenyans” and “The Way of the Runner”, the latter focuses on the running-obsessed culture of Japan and what contributes to their success. When asked about Hakone Ekiden, he said “everybody’s talking about it, it’s unavoidable — it’s just everywhere. You’d have to be living in a cave not to know what was going on.”

We delved into the topic of Ekiden with Noriaki Nishide, assistant coach of the 2019 Hakone Ekiden champions – Tokai University. He said the popularity of the Ekiden was in part due to the dramatic performances of the athletes. They leave absolutely everything out on the roads, and it’s not uncommon for relatively unknown athletes to come out and run enormous personal bests, beating much more accomplished runners in the process. Everybody loves an underdog. The variation between segments of the relay also makes for exciting viewing, with athletes being chosen for a given leg due to their prowess on the type of gradients seen on that portion of the course.

Finn concurred on this point, “you can tell they’re performing out of their skin.” He recounts a race he watched where half of the athletes passed the 10km mark of a 22km leg inside their 10km personal best: “they’re already running way beyond themselves.” This drama unfolds over two full days. Comparisons are drawn between the way most Japanese watch the event to the way cricket is viewed over the English Summer, with viewers tuning in and out over the course of the event to receive updates on the progress of the runners.

Nishide, along with many others that we spoke to, puts a lot of Japanese success down to Ekiden. Through an exchange after we had left the country, he summarised a question about the factors contributing to Japanese depth at the elite level as follows… “Ekiden is helping to expand the Japanese long-distance athletes’ base. Ekiden meets start in Japan with Junior High School students. They aim for the High School Ekiden meet in Kyoto, and High School students aim for the Hakone Ekiden to create many long-distance athletes.”

Tunnel Vision

When asked about what else sets the Japanese athletes apart from international competition (he has undertaken many trips overseas with his athletes for training camps and races), Nishide elaborated on what could be viewed as a downfall of many Japanese athletes, or at least a factor that contributes to the relative paucity of Japanese results in shorter distances. “Ekiden requires the ability to run at a constant pace. In Hakone Ekiden, the power to maintain 2:50-2:55min/km is required.” For this reason, he says a lot of Japanese runners struggle with more tactical races that see rapid change of pace, such as those on the track. “I think that many Japanese runners tend to seek time rather than ranking. But what I feel about taking runners to overseas races is that overseas athletes are running to win. I don’t think there are many [Japanese] teams that train the last kick needed to win.”

Finn has related similar information. When asked about what was obstructing the Japanese from competing at the level seen by some of the East Africans, he said the insular nature of a lot of their competition was a potential downfall. “In essence, they’ve got the raw materials, and the system, but the Japanese don’t care as much about international competition as everybody else. These competitions in Japan are so big, they’re so popular that they care more about those than winning big international marathons. And that’s not necessarily criticism, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, I was just kind of taking this perspective – answering this question of why they’re not running as fast as perhaps they could be.”

However, Brett Larner of Japan Running News suggests this is an outdated view, and that recent performances suggest the times have changed. In 2018 four of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors had top Japanese men, who finished 2nd in Tokyo, 1st in Boston, 3rd in Chicago and 4th in Berlin (behind Kipchoge’s world record). Other Japanese wins in major overseas races since then include the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon (gold label) and 2020 Houston Half Marathon (gold label).

Given the historical and cultural context detailed here, and the prominence of the ekiden, it is no wonder that there is such depth at the top level in Japan. Athletes are trained in a way that focusses on the requirements of the ekiden. With the relay legs generally being distances around the half-marathon, this means that students are aiming for longer distances from a relatively younger age than their international counterparts, and their transition to the marathon distance often comes earlier as well.

Miles, lots of miles

This focus on long-distance from such a young age comes with a high toll for some athletes. Renown for high volume training with lots of easy miles, and a high proportion of running on asphalt, injuries are common. When we observed a session at Tokai University in Kanagawa Prefecture, there were a number of athletes completing rehab exercises in attire that clearly indicated they weren’t running the session. Noriaki swept his hand across the group as we approached – “Injured… The Japanese surface is road. It’s tough on the athletes. Many injuries.”

In the same exchange I ask whether they have a long period each year where they take a break from training. Noriaki immediately replies with a drawn out “ahhhhhh, no!” and a big chuckle… “All season!” Head Coach Hayashi Morozumi interjects, “Nothing off, no rest” Noriaki concludes. The men both seemed to find the question to be quite funny.

Speaking to Brett Larner, this was corroborated. “The racing calendar is quite a bit busier than most other places. There’s no real off season here.” He also spoke about the structure being quite top-down. With deference to elders, and a strict sense of hierarchy, communication can be somewhat unidirectional with more junior coaches and athletes having less input into what they are doing than might be seen in the West.

Despite this stereotype of massive mileage, there exists a subset of younger coaches that are moving away from this traditional model. Yuta Shitara, who placed second in the 2018 Tokyo Marathon and set a new National Record of 2:06:11, subsequently appeared on television with his coach who said that the high mileage approach is old-fashioned. Shitara says he never runs over 35km, he does a lot of quality work and always does a 25-30km tempo run three days before a marathon – another training tactic that breaks the mould.

A System to Support the Elites
Discipline, honour, self-restraint. These are some of the stereotypical character traits people think of when considering Japan. However, devotion to athletics and a motivation to succeed are not enough, in isolation, to explain how so many athletes are competing at such a high level in Japan. Ekiden and the elevated position it holds in the collective conscience of the nation explains a bit more of the situation. However, a final factor that we found came up over and again was the integral role of corporations in the fabric of Japanese running culture. I’m not talking about Mizuno, Asics and Nike.
Many corporations within Japan – Honda, Japan Rail, Kanebo Cosmetics– employ athletes to race and train in-house. The living expenses of the athletes are taken care of, food is cooked by in-house chefs that prepare a menu laboriously agonised over by a nutritionist. Training takes place multiple times per day – some runners in the corporate system reportedly average
more than 600 miles (965km) per month – and around these sessions the athletes spend time with the team’s physiotherapists, strength coaches and masseurs. In addition to such extensive support from the team, living expenses being covered, and daily tasks such as cooking being taken care of, athletes running in the corporate teams reportedly receive a salary of US$35,000 and upwards each, depending on performance and their stature within the sport – there are plenty of high performers on six-figure salaries.
There are around sixty corporate teams in Japan, thirty for men and thirty for women. With rosters of around twenty athletes, this means that there are around twelve-hundred full-time, paid, elite athletes supported by corporate ekiden teams alone. Add to this the upcoming runners who are logging phenomenal times whilst still competing for their university, as well as athletes competing independently at a very high level, and it’s clear how Japan has such depth.
This level of support, and the fact that these athletes are treated as stars within the company, also goes a long way to explaining the depth of talent. Talented young runners in many Western countries – who are just off the level of performance required for athletics to sustain them financially – struggle to balance training demands with employment. Here in Japan, there are so many positions within these large corporations where runners are paid to train and compete for their employer, and they often go onto sustained employment with that same corporation after their running prowess has faded. This means that there is far less attrition of the talent pool, which stays relatively larger than in many countries, as the runners can focus on their chosen sport full-time.        
The People’s Runner
Despite the extensive infrastructure to support a large number of professional runners, what
the Japanese particularly covet are the true amateur runners. Examples are abundant, but by far the most prominent (at least until recently) of the citizen athletes – those who compete at an elite level whilst maintaining their day job – is Yuki Kawauchi. Known as “the people’s runner”, Kawauchi was self-coached and worked a 9 to 5 as a school clerk. For a long time, he was renowned for using races as his training, rejecting potentially lucrative corporate sponsorships and reportedly spending a quarter of his salary on his marathon hobby. This was the case until last year, when he gave up his amateur status and moved onto pursuing running professionally, at the age of 32.   
Yuki won the 2018 Boston Marathon in some of the harshest race conditions on record. He also has a whimsical flair that pleases fans. Three weeks prior to victory in Boston he ran a half marathon in his local town wearing a panda suit. He ran 1:06:42 at the same race two years prior, attired in a dapper business suit, to set an unofficial record. His race schedule is unprecedented. He has run sixty-four marathons under 2:15, and an astounding ninety-six
marathons under 2:20!
It’s not only Yuki’s eccentric approach to racing and training that sets him apart from compatriots, even his physiology deviates from the norm. Yuki has a VO2 max far superior to most Japanese athletes. His reported 82ml/min/kg (in 2018) puts him right up there with top endurance athletes the world over. Mikael Mattson, a Stanford-based researcher from Sweden who is leading a study of international endurance athletes told the New York Times that it’s almost impossible to find Japanese athletes with a VO2 max above 75. Masaaki Sugita, chairman of the science committee of the Japanese Athletics Federation, says that top Japanese runners tend to compensate for relatively low VO2 max levels with high running economy. Sugita says that Kawauchi’s running economy is unremarkable. However, his determination and willingness to suffer – exhibited by the grimace so commonly painted across his face in the latter parts of races – along with an approach to running that is simultaneously capricious and painstakingly calculated, are what set him apart.   
A Runners Paradise
Lured in not only by the dazzling depth of Japanese elite athletes, during our research prior to landing in Tokyo, we repeatedly read about the city being “a runner’s paradise”.
However, once on the ground it became apparent that the main areas where the athletes trained were not quite what we had hoped for. I guess this comes down to personal preference, and having spent time in Africa where athletes tend to avoid asphalt and concrete when possible (which is nearly always).
We based ourselves near Yoyogi Park, renown as a hub for athletes. To get to the park we had to run about a mile through a highly populated urban space, navigating traffic and pedestrians. The park itself has three main loops, a roughly 1.2km concrete circle in the middle, a larger loop outside this that is around 2.5km, and a dirt trail that follows the perimeter of the park and comes in around 3km. There’s also an athletics track. To get in the
miles that come with training for a marathon, this meant lots and lots of loops. Another main training loop we heard about was the paths that go around the Imperial Palace, close to Downtown Tokyo. However, again this was busy with pedestrian traffic and was all on concrete. The loop is around 5km.
Upon reflection it became obvious that the real reason Tokyo can be placed upon a pedestal as a runner’s paradise is the concentration of talent in such a small space. The fact that within a 30km radius there would be hundreds of guys who run sub-2:15, or a sub-63 half. For anyone who wants to run fast, there are multitudes of strong athletes and groups to train with. Need a race to test yourself out? There’s meets most weekends where huge numbers of runners are running fast times. It’s no wonder there are so many juniors coming through the ranks that are running astonishing times.
A Running-Besotted Nation
The prominence of long-distance running in Japan means that many of those fans who so avidly follow the elites also run for recreation. According to Finn, the first boom in marathon popularity came after World War II. “Marathon running was seen as a worthy and admirable pursuit, embodying the discipline, effort and commitment the country valued and needed to get back on its feet after the devastation of the war.”
However, the numbers of amateur recreational runners have been increasing rapidly in the past decades. Between 2005 to 2010 the number of Japanese people running a marathon increased from around 100,000 to nearly 600,000. 322,000 athletes applied for the Tokyo Marathon in 2017, while only 35,000 were allowed to run. This huge jump in demand has seen more marathons popping up all over the archipelago, many races seeing tens of thousands of runners toeing the line.
Young women are the demographic which has seen the largest increase in participation in the past decade. This is no surprise given that Japanese women have been performing well internationally, taking consecutive golds in the marathon at both the Sydney and Athens Olympic Games.   
With the Olympics around the corner (although it’s becoming more and more likely that the COVID-19 situation will be changing that), there’s even more reason for the people of Japan to be interested in long-distance running. The Marathon Grand Championship qualification structure that the athletics federation of Japan created generated even more interest and drama. Three men and three women have qualified to take on the world’s best through the streets of Sapporo, the odds are somewhat long, but the hometown advantage will definitely be a factor and could see them rise to the occasion. Spending time in Japan was an amazing
way to gain insight to the ways that a relatively small nation can generate so much talent. The passion of those we met was profound, generated by a rich history in the sport and a system that is set up in such a way that maximises the talent that is extracted from the available pool of raw materials, setting an example that many other nations can learn from. 

Monday 23 March 2020

Dublin Marathon
National Marathon Championships

This applies to Athletics Ireland members only and as members of Midleton AC you qualify.

It does NOT apply to NON AAI members.
Just one of the many good reasons to join an Athletics Ireland club.

National Marathon Championship
Dublin Marathon 'good for age' standard for AAI members will open for entry on the 1st of April to 26th April.
Entry is through the Dublin Marathon site and verification of times will be required. The standard must met within the last 3 years.
To ensure entry will also be included in the AAI National marathon members should enter the marathon with the same name and details as per their AAI membership

There is no official club training as per Athletic's Ireland guidelines.

This weeks session is the same as last weeks. It is about building a strong base. Any queries please feel free to ring/text Donie or myself 0872403940 Danny 


Stay Safe Run Safe

Please all follow the HSE guidelines. I have had a couple of calls saying that runners in Midleton have been seen not observing the safe distance guidelines. I do not believe they were members of the club but please be careful out there and observe the guidelines. This is your chance to lead by example. Safe running everyone. Danny

Monday 16 March 2020

Ballintotis 4 Mile Race Cancelled

Due to the ongoing uncertainty with the Covid 19 Virus and keeping in mind the health and safety of everybody, this year's Ballintotis 4 Mile Road Race scheduled for Thursday April 16th has been CANCELLED

Those who have availed of pre entry on line, will soon be contacted by Primo Events to arrange a refund.
We thank all our participants for their wonderful support over the past ten years and look forward to hopefully seeing you all back in Ballintotis in April 2021.

In the meantime, take care and look out for one another during these troubled times - here's hoping we are all back running in the not too distant future.

Best Regards
Ballintotis Race Committee 

Midleton Athletic Club regret to announce that the 2020 Midleton AC 5 Mile road race scheduled for Thursday 7th May has been cancelled.

We have been monitoring recent events and in the interest of safeguarding the health of event participants, spectators, volunteers and our own club members we have decided on this course of action.

We will refund any of the online entries that we have processed, please bear with us until we arrange this and all will be contacted by email in due course.

We would like to thank all our sponsors and volunteers who have helped us along the way this year, and in previous years. Without your assistance this race would not be possible.

We would encourage all to stay safe and to follow the HSE Guidelines to help stop the spread of this virus.

Stay safe everyone.

Sunday 15 March 2020


As you will be aware there is NO OFFICIAL CLUB TRAINING as advised by Athletics Ireland.
 Any member needing to know Donie's recomended sessions for the week give myself 0872403940 or Donie a text or a call. 
Its also posted on the What's App Groups posts.

Please follow the HSE guidelines if going out and keep the social distance.
Keep Safe Danny

Saturday 14 March 2020


Hi All,

Due to uncertain circumstances with the Covid-19 Outbreak, I have temporally suspended all online entries to our race until the 1st of April.
If we have to cancel in the future I don't want to have to refund too many people.
Judging by the situation we are faced with, it might not be possible to hold the race this May and we might need to look at dates in the summer as possible alternatives.

I spoke to Club Captain Declan Dorgan this morning about this situation and he is of the agreement that we might need to cancel the scheduled race day of 7th of May and look for another summer date.

We will make a call on this by the end of next week.

Obviously the health and welfare of all our members and families is more important during this time, we need to assist the country in every way to stop the spread of this virus.

Best regards,

Marc Dalton Race Director


See previous regarding official club training.

Lots of us are meeting up in small groups so keep in touch with each other and stay safe. Danny

Thursday 12 March 2020



A statement from Athletics Ireland regarding the CoronaVirus (COVID - 19) posted today, 12th of was March on Athletics Ireland website
The recommendation from Athletics Ireland is that Club training sessions be cancelled with immediate effect
Midleton AC Committee will continue to closely monitor the situation and will make a decision the return to Club training,
Our priority is the safety of our Club members, coaches and their families
Take care all

Tuesday 10 March 2020

'We are delighted to announce this years Midleton AC 5 Mile Road Race will be held at the Midleton Park Hotel by our New race Sponsor Midleton Park Hotel. Today we had our Race Director Marc Dalton meet the Sales & Marketing Manager Cian O' Callaghan to discuss the race for 2020.
We will use the Hotel as our HQ for race registration and post race refreshments & prize giving.

You Can Enter Here Now

Bad news and a sign of things to come.

Mallow Athletic Club regret to announce that the 2020 Coop Superstores Mallow 10 mile road race scheduled for Sunday 22nd March will not go ahead at this time.
We have been monitoring recent events and in the interests of safeguarding the health of event participants, spectators, volunteers and our own club members we have decided on this course of action.
We are due to meet in the coming week to discuss options for re-scheduling the event as well as how the refund process will work. Please note a full refund will be offered to all participants.
We ask for you to bear with us at this time and we would like to thank all participants along with our sponsors, volunteers and members for all the hard work and support in organising the race to date.
Kind regards
Clive Aherne
Club chairperson

Monday 9 March 2020

Ballintotis 4 Mile Now Open For Entries

The Countdown is on to the 11th Annual Ballintotis 4 Mile Road Race

Enter on line from today until April 14th and you could win on overnight stay for two at Garryvoe Hotel.

Friday 6 March 2020


Cork County Road Racing Championships

The Cork County Road Racing Championships take place on Tuesday 17th March at 12noon in Banteer (near Mallow). We always as a club have a great crowd at these races and hopefully we will be doing the same this year. Please let Sally or Andre know if you are interested asap. Its only an hours drive and we can car pool or get a bus. You must wear your club singlet.

Fenor 10 Mile

We had three runners here today at the Fenor 10 Mile near Dunhill, Co Waterford. David Cody, John Cashman and Neilus Aherne. John won 1st O/55 and Neilus won 1st O/60. Well done guys as they say two out of three aint bad.

Crosshaven 10Km and 5Km

We had two runners here today representing our club. Declan Dorgan had a great run here in the 10Km finishing fifteenth over all in a time of 40.04 and Barry Drennan also had a great run in the 5Km taking 2nd M60. We had one lady Mary O'Keeffe who won 1st O/50. A total of two hundred and twenty eight ran the 5Km and three hundred and three ran the 10Km.

Duhallow 10 Mile

A total of three hundred and ninty five runners ran in Duhallow on Sunday and we had a nice crew there representing our club. Our first man home was Mick Murphy who ran 67.45 and he was followed by Dan Twohig who also had a fine run. Our first lady was Helen Gilroy who ran 71.49 and won 1st O/50 whilst Esther Murphy won 1st O/45 and Marie Gillman 3rd O/55. Our other ladies who also had good runs were Louise Barry and Amanda Cooney. Well done all in the tough conditions that were out there today.

For the weekend that is in it. Memories are made of this.

Best of luck to all running and racing this weekend. We have two races in Crosshaven and the Duhallow 10 Mile and no doubt some will be reliving old memories in Ballycotton. Members please send in any photos and reports.

Don't forget this is coming up shortly the first evening race of the season and a great race at that.

Monday 2 March 2020


Big congratulations are due to club member John Hennessy who won Silver in the Master's O/45 section of the Munster Road Racing Championships in Dungarvan on Sunday.
All our athletes Edwin Cashman, Mark Walsh and Ger O'Regan had very fine runs. We are still awaiting the final results but the one we are sure of so far is John's.