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Hakone Ekiden Preview on the Way

I am generally staying away from writing about my own running in Japan. That said, this morning I did my annual run up the Hakone Ekiden 5th stage, a 23.4 km course starting at sea level, peaking at 874 m after 19 km, then dropping 100 m or so to finish next to a lake in the mountains. It was an inspirational run and doubly exciting as preparations were underaway all along the course for the 84th Hakone Ekiden Jan. 2-3.

For those unfamiliar with the Hakone Ekiden, it is nominally the East Japan University Men`s championship race, featuring 19 schools and one all-star team running a 10-stage, 217.9 km course from Tokyo into the mountains and back over the course of 2 days. I say nominally in that Hakone has become the center of much of the Japanese running world, with the top Hakone schools attracting the best runners from throughout Japan, many of whom make this ekiden the focus of their lives and thus do not continue on as professionals after graduation. The level of public enthusiasm, television viewership and corporate sponsorship connected with Hakone are literally difficult to believe. There is even a superb Hakone Ekiden Museum next to the first day`s finish line / second day`s start line.

I will be writing and posting a preview of the 84th Hakone Ekiden as soon as I can. There is a huge number of interviews with this year`s ace runners, predictions about the race from Japanese distance running luminaries, even a very interesting series of interviews with low-ranking members of each Hakone team. I would love to be able to put up translations of all of these, especially the interviews with the unknown guys, but as this blog is not (yet) my full-time job it is impossible. Even if you can`t read Japanese I recommend taking a look at the interviews and team profiles which the Yomiuri newspaper has here:

The Hakone Ekiden official website is also a must:

As I said, I will put up a full preview as soon as possible, most likely on the 31st. I will also post reports on race day.


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2020 Olympic Marathon Trials Winner Shogo Nakamura Wins First Race of Year in PB Time

2020 Olympic marathon trials winner Shogo Nakamura (27, Fujitsu) ran a course record 1:01:40 to win the Jan. 12 Takanezawa Genki Up Half Marathon in Tochigi. His time bettered his 2016 PB of 1:01:53 by 13 seconds. "I ran pretty much according to plan," he commented afterward.

Nakamura's sponsor team Fujitsu finished 17th at November's East Japan Corporate Ekiden, failing to qualify for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden national championships. As a result, Takanezawa was his first race of the Olympic year. Alongside him were members of 2020 Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University, runner-up Tokai University and other top collegiate programs. Most fielded 3rd-year and younger team members who didn't make this year's Hakone lineups, giving them valuable experience for the buildup to next year's 97th running.

Next up Nakamura plans to run in the Mar. 29 World Half Marathon Championships. His coach Hiroaki Oyagi, 61, commented, "At the World Half we wil…

2020 Japanese Distance Rankings

2020 Japanese track and road distance running rankings. Overall rankings are calculated using runners' times and placings in races over 5000 m, 10000 m, half-marathon and marathon and the strength of these performances relative to others in the top ten in each category. Distances will be added as the season progresses. Click any image to enlarge.

Past years:
2019 ・ 2018 ・ 2017 ・ 2016・ 2015 ・ 2014 ・ 2013 ・ 2012 ・ 2011

© 2020 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Coming Down From Hakone - This Year's Race in the Cold, Hard Light of Day

Damn, has it already been a week? Time goes by so fast. Times at the HakoneEkiden this year were fast too. Eight guys broke course records on four of the five stages on Day One, and another five broke the records on three of the five stages on Day Two. Two of the three stages that didn't have new records were just seconds off. Four teams broke the Day One course record, two broke the overall course record, and one broke the Day Two record. This all mirrored what happened a day earlier at the New Year Ekiden, where eight men broke the records on four of the seven stages, at least one other missed by seconds, the top two teams broke the official overall course record and two more broke the record for the actual current version of the course.

And not just records. Some of them were historic, epoch-making marks. None more so than Tokyo Kokusai University's Vincent Yegon, who busted the greatest performance in Hakone history, a 59:25 course record for the 21.4 km Third Stage, 2:01…