Beer Mile

On Saturday May 6, the world awoke to the news of Eliud Kipchoge narrowly missing an audacious attempt to break the 2 hour marathon barrier on the infamous Monza F1 Track in Italy. But despite Kipchoge’s disappointment of missing his goal by only 24 seconds, he still claims the distinction of clocking the fastest (albeit unofficial) time ever for the distance. Word has it that after his marathon attempt, Kipchoge rushed back to his hotel room to anxiously await news of the 2017 Namban Rengo Beer Mile Race results, held in Yoyogi Park Tokyo, on Sunday May 7.  This is what he would learn…
 
Namban Men
The English fielded a strong contingent of runners/beer drinkers, with the likes of Mike Trees (Ginga Kogen Beer), Tim Williams (Yona Yona), Bob Johnston (Budweiser), Matthew Holmes (Asahi Super Dry), Matthew Foord (Ginga Kogen Beer), and Anthony McCauley (Sapporo), however most of them failed to shine on the day; post-race excuses such as ‘my beer had too much gas in it’, ‘I’m still hungover from last night’ were heard. The Australians were poorly represented this year with only one entrant, Keren Miers (Kirin), who tried desperately to redeem his poor performance since his last Beer Mile attempt; he tells everyone post-race that he beat his last time by a ‘yuuuge amount’! The Americans looked promising on paper; Ken Pechter (Orion), David Rubenstein (Kirin), Glen Rubin (Kirin) and new club member Quint Baldwin (Suntory) were loud and proud before the race, sporting tight and light shirts and shorts. However all of them fizzed out along the way. The Irish – as charming  as ever – fielded a team of three very pale runners/drinkers, their legs so white as to remind you to put your milk bottles out at night; Padraig MacColgain (Echigo Weizen), Rian O’Cuinneaguain (Sapporo) and Colin Hickey (Asahi), but no cigars for any of them on the day. It was Team Japan that hosted an outstanding collection of competitors, all of whom excelled in both the running and beer-drinking faculties; Yuichiro Mizukami (Bass bottles…!!), Taro Oguchi (Sapporo), Hajime Abe (Suntory) and Yuichi Kanamori (Asahi) filled most of the top finishing positions. Mizukami San – who drank like a fish and ran like a gazelle – showed  samurai-like virtues of ‘gaman’, ‘konjo’ and ‘ki-ai’ from bottle to-bottle. He struggled at times with the bottle opener, but in the end he dug deep and pipped Matthew Foord from behind in the last 20 meters to take the coveted title in a 1 second thriller.
 
1st Place:               Yuichiro Mizukami:- 7:07
2nd Place:             Matthew Ford:- 7:08
3rd Place:              Hajime Abe:- 7:35
4th Place:              Yuichi Kanamori:- 7:40
 
Namban Women
The Namban Women featured the best of the best this year, performing with excellent running and drinking aptitude. Leading (and only) contenders were the very international drinking athletes of Mika Tokairin (Orion, Shingha, Bud, Tsingtao), Rieko Trees (Ginga Kogen and Orion) and Rie Onodera (Bud, Asahi, Kirin). In the end, Rieko Trees did what her husband couldn’t do and ran away with the competition in stunning fashion, and without chundering.
 

1st Place:               Rieko Trees:- 9:52
2nd Place:             Mika Tokairin:- 10:57
3rd Place:              Rie Onodera:- 13:40
 
Namban Teams
This category usually had a rich variety of skill, age and gender mix. Naoko Hanakawa and Yuri Kambara took a significant lead from the start, but were dramatically reeled in by Team Sase, who drank fearlessly and ran with heart. Congratulations to Kazuo Chiba, Rika Honma, Yuki Fukushima and Hiroshi Sase. It was the stuff of true champions.
 
1st Place:               Team Sase:- 8:23
2nd Place:             Naoko & Yuri:- 10:35
 
Like Kipchoge’s race in Monza, the Namban Beer Mile Race is an unofficial race; all physical achievements defy science, and cannot be replicated under normal race conditions.
Further, club rules strictly and specifically prohibit Namban Rengo Club Uniform Colors from being worn on Beer Mile race day; the reason is to ensure that there is no absolutely confusion about what Namban Rengo really is; we are not a drinking club with a running problem, we are a running club with a drinking problem…but only once a year!
Much thanks and appreciation to the race organizers: Taro Oguchi and Kazuo Chiba.



 
Race Report: Nick Coyle
Race Photographs: Stephen Lacey

2017 Shinjuku City Half Marathon

Shinjuku Half

January 29th marked the 15th running of the Shinjuku City Half Marathon (plus 10km and family/children’s events). The convenience and novelty of running in the center of the city and finishing in the Jingumae baseball stadium make this a popular event that fills quickly. According to the official guide, there were 5,006 registered for the half marathon and 2,769 for the 10km.

Shinjuku Half

Those running the half get the earlier start, at 8:30 a.m., and a course that does a big first loop up to and along Yasukuni Dori. They also get to traverse the Gaien tunnel on the second, medium loop. Those in the 10km could enjoy a leisurely 11:10 a.m. start, by which time it was quite warm with the sun shining and no wind. The 10km course is basically three laps of a tighter loop around the Jingu Gaien area, so it is scenic, but there are lots of turns and it gets crowded with the faster runners lapping the more casual ones.

Shinjuku Half

Mike Hegarty (1:16:34) and Olivier Absous (1:20:47) ran impressive times in the half, and the Namban ladies contingent also ran well as usual, including Satohi Numasawa (1:34:40), Rie Onodera (1:34:53) and Rika Homma (1:41:52). For the 10km, Alan Cannon (38:13), Andy Drought (41:18) and Gary Robert (42:04) all managed to gather together at the start. Shinobu Shikauchi and Taeko Hara (4th in age group) ably represented the Namban ladies.

 

90+ Enjoy Annual Run & BBQ


Unlike last year, for this year’s Namban Rengo Run & BBQ (Nov. 6), we got the beautiful weather we deserve. A strong wind was in our faces on the return 5K, but what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. 90+ runners, helpers and family members gathered on the banks of the Tama River to run, cheer, eat and of course drink. 44 ran the 10K and 17 went the half marathon distance. Winners were Yuki Fukushima (36:48) and Rie Onodera (46:03) in the 10K, and Masaki Kusunoki (1:24:40) and Marie Gras (1:32:57) in the Half. And the always popular kids’ race saw new Namban stars emerge. Huge thanks to Chiba-san for flawless organization, and to the enthusiastic volunteers, too numerous to mention. A great time was had by all!!


Special Olympics Charity Ekiden in Odaiba

Namban Rengo participated in this 3-hour relay charity ekiden in Tokyo’s Odaiba district and came away with a surprising 5th position overall out of 184 teams.

The event was held on an approximately 1.1 km (0.7 mile) course, with the aim to complete as many loops as possible in the three hours. The charity was for the Special Olympics which is a sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities.

Although they entered this as a fun run, Nambanners obviously have racing in their blood—starting fast and strong, keeping constant pace and finishing with a respectable podium placing. A total of 40.7 kilometrers (approx. 25 miles) were completed in the three hours.

The ten team members were: Bob Johnston, Derek Leong, Yuuka Yonemura, Bob Poulson, Keren Miers, Makiko Hosokawa, Taeko Hara, Yoshiro Morioka, Yumi Kato and Ikue Ohshio. Naoko Hanakawa was the genki cheerleader for the team.

The official podium result was presented by former Olympic marathon medalist, Yuko Arimori. A very enjoyable day was had by all, topped off by the 5th place prize red megaphones.

Impressive Showing at Tamako Ekiden

The Tamako Twelve

The Tamako Ekiden (March 20) is a relay race around Lake (reservoir) Tama, about 25 minutes west of Shinjuku. The distance is an exact 7.242km, the course is rolling the first half, flat the second half, with a steep drop and uphill stair climb in the middle. The weather was good, but it was windy, with a strong wind in your face for the first one or two km.

Namban Rengo entered three four-person men’s teams in the open division, which had 347 teams. We did well, finishing 12th, 13th and 18th.

The top team got off to a fast start thanks to Chris Winter in 24:49 (3:25/k), followed by Kota Torii in 29:33, Lawrence Schneck in 27:55 and Alan Cannon in 28:47 (total time 1:51:04). The second team of solid runners was composed of Steve Karnas in 29:09, Dante Michael in 27:20, Youri Lavoine in 28:30 and Gildas Tuffin in 27:37 (1:52:36) (Gildas outkicking another team in the last few meters for 13th place as the rest of us wildly cheered him on). The third team made a respectable showing led by Yuki Fukushima in 26:34, then Bob Poulson in 30:10, Nizar Grira in 28:13 and Bob Johnston in 30:26 (1:55:23).

We brought the event to a satisfying close with beer and soba at a nearby quaint little soba shop. Mark it on your calendar for next year!


Pep talk — but Bob J. is not impressed.
Pep talk — but Bob J. is not impressed.


Bob & Nizar synchronize their watches.
Bob & Nizar synchronize their watches.


Chris to Kota
Chris to Kota


Kota to Lawrence
Kota to Lawrence


Dante in flight
Dante in flight

Tokyo Marathon 2016

Pointy End Carol
Sunday 28 February saw the 10th anniversary running of the Tokyo Marathon 2016. The conditions were near perfect, with clear blue skies and temperatures rising from 5 to 10 degrees centigrade as the race progressed.

While Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa took out the men’s race and Helah Kiprop led home the women, further back in the field were about 25 brave men and women from Namban Rengo doing battle with the distance and the crowds of other runners.

In the only sub three-hour result among our ranks, Jackson Thodey came home in a strong 2:57. Not normally known for sandbagging, Carol Cunningham went into the race with a declared goal of 3:40, but came storming home as our first woman in 3:23. After them came a mix of performances and individual stories that ranged from the triumphant to the middling to the better luck next time.

Among the thronging mass of runners was the usual wonderful collection of colorful costumes. Spidermen, pirates, pigtailed schoolgirls (usually men), Tiger Lillies, belly dancers and a myriad of cartoon characters who all added to the splendor of the occasion.

WinnerBelly Dancer

As always, support from Namban friends and clubmates was strong all around the course. Runner Mika Kume perhaps summed it up best, “During the run I only focused on getting to the next spot where the Namban cheer squad was, which made my legs move forward.”

Afterwards, nearly 80 runners and supporters gathered at the Footnik pub in Osaki to rehydrate, re-fuel, re-live the day’s events, and generally celebrate this great sport of running.

No matter the outcome, all participants in the Tokyo Marathon were winners, what with the brilliant weather, military-level organization, cheering crowds, and comradeship of fellow runners. Bring on 2017!
Party

10K, Half, BBQ — the Perfect Day

namban

Well, almost perfect — we did get rain, but not too much, fortunately. And we had tents…. The occasion was the annual club Run and BBQ, held on Sunday, Nov. 8th. About 90 club members, family and friends gathered on the bank of the Tamagawa river for a day of running, eating and drinking. 28 took part in the 10K, won by Alex Viborg in 35:49, and 32 in the half marathon, won by Harrisson Uk in 1:20:16. Top women were Rui Natsuka (45:55) and Connie Arcella-Bouverot (1:27:12). Organization of the races and BBQ was perfect thanks to Chiba-san and his large, dedicated team of volunteers. Runners’ diets went out the window as huge amounts of food and drink were consumed, and a fine time was had by all. See you there next year!

podge

Namban Rengo – Video

A short video that gives a taste of training, racing, and merry-making with Namban Rengo. Credits: Chiaki Lacey (editing, graphics, video footage); Stephen Lacey, Imamura Tatsuru, Fukami Kengo (video footage).

Six Nambanners Enjoy the Nagareyama 10K

namban

Six Namban Rengo members took part in the Nagareyama 10K in Chiba prefecture on Oct. 11. It was raining when we arrived, but gradually lessened, and by race time (10:00) it had stopped. Of course, it was still about 100% humidity, so even though cool, conditions were not ideal. It’s a nice course with about five up/downs and lots of turns, but those serve to keep things interesting. The total number of runners was 3,581, so a pretty good-size race. Results were: Gildas Tuffin 37:23, Yuichi Kanamori 38:47, Derek Leong 39:13, Bob Poulson 39:46, Rie Onodera 41:00 and Yoshie Niitsuma 50:40. Bob was 3rd in the 60s age group out of 366 and Rie was 4th in the 40s women (250). All in all, a very nice, competitive, well organized race, with good pre- and post-race facilities.

namban

Namban turn out in force to support TELL

tell

On Sunday 24th May, the Tokyo English Lifeline (TELL) charity races and walk were held along the Tamagawa river at Furuichiba in Kawasaki. It was the first time that the race had moved away from the Imperial Palace in the center of Tokyo in living memory and it was run along straight and open stretches of the riverside path with only a few pedestrians to contend with. Both the 5km and 10km race courses were very accurately measured and there lots of extra activities such as balloon art, face painting and back massages for everyone to enjoy.

Namban Rengo has traditionally supported this event in great numbers and this year was no exception with almost 30 runners and one cameraman (thank you Mr. Lacey) showing up to support the Stand Up To Bullying Campaign. The starts of both races were very calm and relaxed for Japan with Namban’s own Bob Poulson as Race Director reading out the course directions to both groups of runners. The terrain was very flat but the ground was a little rough in some places and there was a slight wind blowing. None of this stopped the Namban runners who scooped lots of the combined 40 prizes totaling more than 400,000 yen. 

In the Men’s 5km Chris Winter brought home the gold in 18:22 with Alex Ieno 3rd in 19:12, Michael Rayner 4th in 19:28, Oumer Teyeb 5th in 20:08 and Engin Yenidunya 10th in 23:17.

In the Women’s 5km Audrey Ting came in first in 21:43 with Ruth Yanai 4th in 24:11, Mika Kume 5th in 24:24 and Taeko Hara 7th in 25:18.

In the Men’s 10km Stephen Karnes came in 4th in 39:10 with Padraig MacColgain 6th in 41:53 and Gareth Evans 10th in 43:37. The highlight of this race was definitely the 11 year old Japanese boy who finished 3rd in 38:51.

In the Women’s 10km Naoko Hanakawa was Namban’s sole representative on the podium finishing in 4th place in 49:04.

Strong Namban Showing at Toda Marathon


The popular Toda Marathon (Half and 10K) was held on November 16th in wonderful sunny weather with a bit of wind. 18 Nambanners were on hand, along with several supporters, to run 21.1km or 10km around a nice quiet lake (Saiko) in Toda, Saitama. The course was almost fully flat except for a few small jhills. Everyone was happy with the venue, the race organization, and the perfect not-too-hot-but-sunny weather.
Pat Higase (47:06 for 10K) and Derek Leong (1:22:59) ran personal bests, Chika Kanai was the 6th fastest woman, six of our men placed in the top 50 in the half, and Taeko Okamoto did a great job running her first half in 1:49:33. Also Jillian Healy made a gutsy effort to complete her first half marathon despite an injury. Congratulations to all!

Sun, Run and Loads of Fun — the Namban Fall Race &  BBQ

The club’s annual 10K and Half Marathon, followed by a barbecue, was held on Sunday, October 26th along the banks of the Tama river. Indian summer came to Japan, with the temperature climbing to 26C/79F, so it was pretty warm for racing (they were dropping like flies at the Osaka Marathon), but better than cold rain! We had a great turnout of about 80 people, who enjoyed running, cheering, watching the kids’ race and eating, eating, eating. Alistair Bibby and his team prepared massive amounts of food for an American (hamburgers and hot dogs) and Australian (beef and shrimp on the barbie) BBQ, along with plenty of beer and wine. Winners were Joe Siegel and Rie Onodera in the Half (1:23:43 and 1:38:42) and Chris Winter and Jenene Marks in the 10K (36:28 and 43:13), plus Nicholas Whiteoak, who blazed the kids’ course.

Nambanners Enjoy the Fruits, and Fruit Products, of Katsunuma.

Fruit products meaning, as you can see in the photo above, wine. The occasion was the Koshu Fruit & Wine Marathon, held in the wine country of Katsunuma in Yamanashi prefecture. This event consists of 10K, Half and 23K races, all of which are extremely hilly. And they’re even more difficult if you have been to the wine tasting festivities the day before (and more so if you rode a bike 60K to get there).
In any case, 15 Nambanners took up the challenge and did quite well, with Carolyn Kim, Chika Kanai, Mike Rayner and Rie Onodera all earning top ten finishes, plus Harrisson Uk placing 13th overall in the 23K. Each participant received a bottle of wine, none of which survived the trip back to Tokyo on the “Wine Train”, as evidenced by the photo (for some reason, the participants themselves were not able to pose for a photo). Seems like it was a fun trip.

Namban Conquers 3-Hour Relay in Odaiba

July 5 — Namban Rengo entered two teams in a unique (to us, anyway) event at a park in the Odaiba waterfront area, the Summer Festival 3-Hour Relay. The course was 1.85k loops. Team members ran loops in order, handing the sash off at the end of each loop, until 3 hours had elapsed. Our two teams were the Work Team (Fabian, Alan, Jay, Padraig, Jon, 5 loops each) and the Play Team (Jenene, Bob, Yukiko, Matthieu, Chika, Shiba, 4 loops each). It was a fun event despite the light on/off rain (actually better than blazing heat) and we did quite well: the Work team finished 3rd and the Play team 7th out of 110 teams! The Workers received the unusual prize of a very large bag of fireworks.

Sendai Half Marathon

Nine Nambanners traveled by Shinkansen (Bullet Train) up to Sendai, two hours north of Tokyo, on May 10th for a half marathon held the next day. After some sightseeing and a pasta dinner, we made ourselves comfortable in the Comfort hotel. The race is a big one, over 10,000 runners, with quite a few corporate and university elites. The course is quite flat and the day was quite hot: 23C/73F at the 10:00 start. Some of our group performed well, others not so well, but the star of the day was Amanda Rice, who WON the women’s open division, outdistancing 2,100 other women in about 1:18. She got some nice prizes, and did a long interview with the local paper. After that excitement, we went to a gorgeous onsen (hot spring resort) for a soak and a good lunch. And a look at some samurai armor (photo). Thanks to Satohi Numasawa for organizing this trip.