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[Track & Field] Ryo Kaneko Reigns at the "1st Japan ID Half Marathon Championships"

The "1st Japan ID Half Marathon Championships" hosted by the Japan Intellectual Disability Athletics Federations (JIDAF) took place on January 31, with Jingu Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, as the main venue. There were 18 men and 1 woman in the half marathon category, and 23 men and 7 women in the 10-kilometer category, primarily JIDAF-certified athletes.
"ID" stands for "Intellectual Disability."。

Kaneko Gives Outstanding Race

Kaneko (left) in the leading group

Kaneko had a great start, pulling forward from the other ID runners and forming the leading group with two other non-ID runners. At 185 centimeters tall and with long limbs, Kaneko's form is dynamic and powerful. He showed an aggressive style, frequently pulling forward and leading the group. At the last 2-kilometer point, overall-winner Jun Hiratsuka (TEAM RxL) pulled apart with a final spurt. Kaneko, however, gave his best until the very end and finished five seconds after Hiratsuka.

After the race Kaneko said, "(Because it was the first ID race) I tried for first place and was able to run as I planned." On finishing second overall, he showed a competitive spirit with the words, "Since I got that far, I wish I had won. I regret being overtaken at the end."

Kaneko holds the official national and world records in the full marathon category (2:26:15), and just broke his personal best time last December at the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon (under 2:25:00). He practices with a local running community, together with non-disabled runners. During periods of intensive training he will run over 90 kilometers within one weekend, and even does speed training. "I try my best in practice and in work, and aim for higher. My next goal is running the full Tokyo Marathon in under 2:23:00."

ID Athletes in Action!

Kubota, who finished with a high overall-ranking

Shiro Kubota (Osaka Running Community) took second place in the half marathon with a time of 1:14:07, while teammate Naohiko Yomura (Osaka Running Community) took third at 1:14:25. Kubota ranked overall-sixth and said, "I had just finished running a full marathon, so my rank and time today were better than I had expected." Yomura said, "It felt good to run. I was able to do my best on the hills."

Hirofumi Kanebako (Yokohama Winds) won the 10-kilometer race at 34:46. He said, "My personal best is under 33 minutes, so I wish I had done better. I'm a little disappointed." Takayuki Kadota (Sakai Fines) took second place, and Kazumune Tokiwa (Tokyo Metropolitan Seiho Gakuen) took third. The three runners did well in the overall-ranking also: Kanebako was fifth, Kadota was sixth and Tokiwa was eighth.

In the women's race, Misaki Ari (Yoshinogawa Track & Field Association) won the half marathon with a powerful race at 38:25, making her also the overall winner. Ryoko Mayuzumi (J Family) also showed a good race, finishing second and taking overall-fourth place at 43:12.

Kanebako won the 10-kilometer race

Ari was the overall-winner in the women's 10-kilometer race

ID Track and Field Today

Winners of the half marathon category at the 1st Championships

 The International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability (INAS) is the umbrella organization for sports for athletes with intellectual disabilities. In track and field events, where athletes are assigned to different classes according to disability, athletes with intellectual disabilities fall into the classes T20 (track) and F20 (field). ID classes have been included in the Paralympic track and field events only since the 2012 London Games, so the number of events is still small. There will only be four men's and women's ID events at the Rio Paralympic Games (400 meters, 1500 meters, long jump and shot put). The events for the 2020 Tokyo Games will be determined within the year.

There have been many ID events in national competitions within Japan, including the 100 meters and other jumping and throwing events. JIDAF has certified 25 athletes for whom it offers training, nutrition counseling and training camps. Competition is tough, however, and Japan's best ranking so far in the four Rio Paralympic events is seventh in the world in the women's 1500 meters.

Yet Japan is strong in long distance races. For instance, Kaneko, who won this race, took bronze at the World Half Marathon Championships (Portugal) in May of last year, and Daisuke Nakagawa (Mitsubishi Motors Corporation) took gold in the 5000 meters at the World Championships (Doha, Qatar) in October. Long distance running is an area in which Japan can compete at a global level, and we hope to see further promotion and training。

Currently, the half marathon is the longest race hosted by INAS, and the World Half Marathon Championships are held every year in mostly European countries. According to Takeo Asano, Director of JIDAF, the aim of this Japan ID Half Marathon Championships was to first promote ID sports and prepare an environment for races within Japan, and secondly to prepare to invite international championships in the near future.

Asano also said, "We want to increase awareness and understanding of sports for athletes with intellectual disabilities, which are often hard to tell at first sight. We want to find new athletes as well as educate these athletes regarding international competitions, including mental attitudes."

They were able to hold this race together with the Shinjuku City Half Marathon, due to support and understanding from the Marathon Executive Committee and Shinjuku Ward. The Shinjuku City Half Marathon has a long history, this being the 14th race, and is a popular race with over ten thousand people running a variety of courses. It is also in a very convenient location. The Marathon Executive Committee showed consideration to the ID athletes, for example, by introducing the ID marathon during the opening ceremony and inviting cheers from the crowd via announcements when an ID athlete circled back to the starting point. This event was a great step forward towards JIDAF's goals.

The ID athletes in return showed that they can stand up to the challenge, as all finished the race successfully and ranked high in the overall-ranking. We look forward to their future achievements.

Starting together with non-disabled runners

Presenting awards for the men's 10 kilometer

text by Kyoko Hoshino
photo by X-1
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