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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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One Month Until the Japanese Olympic Marathon Trials

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MGC Race Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier - Naoki Okamoto

Naoki Okamotoage: 35
sponsor: Chugoku Denryoku
graduated from: Tottori Chuo Ikuei H.S., Meiji University

best time inside MGC window:
2:11:29, 1st, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon

PB: 2:11:29, 1st, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon

other PBs:
5000 m: 13:37.71 (2009) 10000 m: 28:05.84 (2011) half marathon: 1:02:16 (2009)

marathons inside MGC window (Aug. 1 2017 – April 30 2019)
DNF, 2019 Beppu-Oita Marathon
1st, 2018 Hokkaido Marathon, 2:11:29 – PB
DNF, 2018 Boston Marathon

other major results:
4th, 2019 Shibetsu Half Marathon, 1:03:53
2nd, 2019 New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage (22.4 km), 1:05:13
1st, 2018 Chugoku Corporate Ekiden Sixth Stage (19.0 km), 56:25 – CR
1st, 2018 Ome 30 km Road Race, 1:33:09
21st, 2017 Tokyo Marathon, 2:13:53

We’re picking Okamoto as our official dark horse of the men’s race. The second-oldest man in a field, Okamoto is a journeyman corporate leaguer who never broke 2:12 and whose PBs all came a decade ago. But, nearing the end of his career, over the last two years he has really come on…