Japan’s Kano Provides Hope At NYC 1/2 Marathon

Last week's devastating earthquake in her home country forced Japan's Yuri Kano to change her racing plans and race in New York City tomorrow. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Devastating earthquake forces change of plans for marathoner.

Written by: Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission. 

NEW YORK — Out of all the trouble and turmoil occurring in the aftermath of Japan’s devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami, one light of hope has shone on through.  Yuri Kano of Tokyo has made it to New York City in time to race the New York City Half Marathon tomorrow.  Following a frantic week of planning, recovery and travel, the 32 year-old Kano is switching gears from the marathon to the half marathon, instead.  

Kano was all set to defend her title at last Sunday’s Nagoya International Ladies Marathon when the earthquake struck the Oshika Peninsula of Tohoju near the city of Sendai two days before.  The earthquake, combined with the resulting tsunami, forced the cancellation of the 30 year-old event one day before it was set to be run.

Thankfully for Kano, all of her family was located in Osaka, which is in the southern part of the country.  But, Kano is familiar with the north of Japan.  She competed there several times, including the Japanese national championships in Sendai in 2000 and the Sapporo Half Marathon, which she won in 2008.  

“It broke my heart to see the devastation,” said Kano through an interpreter at a press conference yesterday held at a hotel overlooking Times Square through which the race will pass.

Following the cancellation of the Nagoya Marathon, Brendan Reilly, Kano’s American manager based in Boulder, Colo., began to search for a place for her to compete.  What better place than New York City where Kano has run nine times before, including three top-5 finishes at the NYC Half Marathon?  He reached out to New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg, who quickly accepted her into an already-bulging elite field.  Kano sees it as her duty to run.

“This is the time to endure,” Kano said stoically.  She continued: “This is my way of cheering them up.”

With months of marathon training under her belt, Reilly feels that his client is in great shape and should be a top contender on Sunday.  Her half-marathon personal best of 1:08:57 (Sapporo, 2008) gives her the fourth-fastest time in the field.  She’s recorded three top-five finishes at the NYC Half, taking fifth in 2006 (1:11:44), fourth in 2007 (1:11:05), and third in 2008 (1:10:31).

Kano, who races for the Second Wind Athletic Club, arrived on Thursday afternoon, taken into Manhattan by train from Newark Liberty International Airport by a race employee to avoid rush hour traffic.  Organizers roomed her with a Kenyan athlete, Caroline Rotich.  Ironically, Rotich attended high school in Sendai, the same high school which Olympic Marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru attended.  She speaks Japanese fluently, helping Kano feel more at home.

Wittenberg also announced yesterday that the Road Runners’ annual Japan Day Run, which will be run Mother’s Day, May 8th, will be renamed the Japan Run For Hope.  She also said about 30 runners were entered from Japan in Sunday’s race.  Nine had already picked up their bib numbers.

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