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Selection and Organization of Team Japan for a Potential 6th Team Championship

Ultrarunning has slowly crept through the yesteryears and has begun to take spotlight, every so often, in the mainstream media.
Just today, I was watching an hour long documentary on the infamous Badwater race in the Death Valley, California on, off all the channels, The Weather Network.
 
There are several reasons for the recent upsurge. But one of the main forces behind the sport taking centre stage is the quality of the performances that are achieved by ultra athletes in international competitions.
 
No more, is the sport a figment of someone’s imagination, although the discussion of the events is still received by “ahhs” and “oohs” during dinner conversations with the non-running company.
 
For a regular follower of ultrarunning, it is impossible not to notice the success of Japan in the ultrarunning world, particularly the 24 Hour World Championships.
 
The name Ryochi Sekiya is synonymous with the 24 Hour World Championship. Sekiya is a 4-time winner of the IAU’s edition of the event. A performance that outshines Japan in the international arena is the 6-time victory in the Men’s competition.
 
Ultrarunning is fairly common in the Land of the Rising Sun. It is not as popular as the 42.2km distance but the ultrarunning fever is catching the local athletic population.
 
The sport has also received a boost after the formation of the Japan Ultrarunners Association (JUA) last year in May. 
 
I was intrigued by the success of the Japanese team in the 24-hour event. I had the opportunity to catch up with Aki Inoue, Director of JUA and the Team Manager of the Japan 24 Hour Team. I asked him about the selection race for the national team. In response he said, “One of the trial race for the Japanese 24 hr national team was held on September 12-13, last year. That was the 4th annual Jingu Gaien 24hr Challenge.” 
 
I was curious of the selection process in itself. I asked Inoue and he said, “According to the selection procedure of Japan directed by JUA, maximum of 2 runners (men and women, independently) are automatically selected from this particular selection race, if they cover over the "B" standard of IAU (220km for men and 200km for women).”
 
The high standard of the selection process is made fair by having several trial events to ensure the best athletes available qualify for the national team. In regards to this Inoue said, “Another selection race is 2009 IAU 24H WC held in Bergamo, Italy, where the top 2 runners from the podium are selected. In case of no one makes the podium, the top Japanese who has covered "A" standard (240km for men and 220km for women) are automatically selected."
 
If you think that these two events are the end of the selection process, there is more to this story. Inoue adds, “The rest of slots are filled based on the IAU-certified records performed from January 2008 to the end of 2009.”
 
At this year’s 24 Hour event in Brive from May 13-14 we will see athletes who have qualified in the major selection events.
 
In addition to the 24 Hour team responsibilities, Inoue will be present at Surgeres 48 Hour event in late May. 
 
Eyes will be set on Team Japan if they accomplish a six-time victory of the men’s team. With the same token the French women will be aiming for a third straight team victory.
 
A huge round of gratitude goes to all the national federations for investing in their athlete’s performances and for ensuring top-notch teams for world championships.
 
There will be a lot to witness, record and enjoy at this year’s championships. I am sure that the teams lined up will be one of the best in history and the race will be one for ages.
 
 
Nadeem Khan
Director of Communications
nadeem.khan@iau-ultramarathon.org
 
P.S. If you would like to highlight your federation, selection procedures or international race participation/performances, please contact me.



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