Skip to main content

Watch the National University Men's Ekiden Championships Live Online With First-Ever English Commentary - Preview

by Brett Larner

The 2009 National University Ekiden takes place this Sunday, Nov. 1. Twenty-five teams will line up in the eight-stage 106.8 km championships to try to take the crown away from three-time defending champion Komazawa University. TV Asahi will broadcast the ekiden live nationwide from 8:00 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. Japan time, and international viewers will be able to watch online by clicking here. For the first time ever, JRN will offer live English-language commentary on a major Japanese race broadcast. Click here to follow live raceday commentary via Twitter feed.

Komazawa is without a doubt the school to beat. By far the most dominant team in the country over the past ten years, Komazawa's poor performance at the 2009 Hakone Ekiden proved to be just a glitch as it returned in force earlier this month to win the Hakone Ekiden Qualifier 20 km where its top three runners broke one hour with several more less than 10 seconds off. Head coach Hiroaki Oyagi's priorities are squarely on Hakone, but he'll be looking to add a fourth straight national title to salve Komazawa's wounds from its 2009 Hakone meltdown.

Four schools, all of them seeded from 2008, offer potential challenges to Komazawa's hegemony. 2009 Hakone winner Toyo University returns most of its squad this year, led by second-year star Ryuji Kashiwabara. Toyo was 3rd at the Izumo Ekiden earlier this month and looks set to improve on its 4th place finish at Nationals last year. 2008 Nationals runner-up Waseda University narrowly lost out to Toyo in Izumo. Waseda is hurt by the graduation of the brilliant Kensuke Takezawa but appears able to make up the deficit through the continued development of its block of four powerful second-years, Yuki Yagi, Yusuke Mita, Yo Yazawa and Takuya Nakayama.

Nihon University pulled in another Izumo Ekiden win this year on the strength of its two Kenyans, Daniel Gitau and Benjamin Gando. The shorter stage distances in Izumo favor speed, but with the National Ekiden's individual legs approaching those of the Hakone Ekiden in length it becomes more difficult for an individual or two to carry the weight of an entire team. Last year Nihon won Izumo but only finished 6th at Nationals, a record it will no doubt try to avoid repeating this year. Izumo runner-up Yamanashi Gakuin University likewise beat out Toyo and Waseda thanks to Kenyan Cosmas Ondiba, but the team's Japanese members also made major contributions. Yamanashi Gakuin could well do better than last year's 3rd place mark at Nationals.

The top six teams at the National University Ekiden are seeded for the following year. The final seeded team this year, Chuo Gakuin University, got there thanks to its outstanding ace Masato Kihara. With Kihara's graduation the team is unlikely to repeat. Tokyo Nogyo University is the most likely bet to replace Chuo Gakuin in the seeded bracket after an excellent showing at the Hakone Ekiden Qualifier 20 km, but Izumo 5th placers Chuo University should also be in contention. Tokai University is in a rebuilding year and will not factor, but watch out for the team's first-rate first-year Akinobu Murasawa to make his mark on the national scene.

As mentioned above, the stage lengths at Nationals approach those of the Hakone Ekiden, ranging from 9.5 km to 19.7 km. This tends to favor schools in the Kanto region, who train for the half-marathon distance in preparation for Hakone, and work against those from other parts of the country. As a consequence it's very, very rare for a non-Kanto school to make the seeded positions. With two Kenyans Daiichi Kogyo University has the best chances, having finished 7th last year. Ritsumeikan University beat Daiichi Kogyo at the Izumo Ekiden and Kyoto Sangyo University gave another serious challenge, but it would be a major accomplishment for any of these schools to make the grade.

TV Asahi's ekiden website includes video highlights of the eight qualifying races for the 2009 National University Ekiden. Click here to watch the qualifier videos. TV Asahi's broadcast of Nationals will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Oct. 31, east coast U.S.A. time and 11:00 p.m. on the 31st London time.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Wins 7th-Straight Okinoshima 50 km

Running the Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon on his late father's home island of Oki for the eighth year in a row, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:52:55 to win it for the seventh straight time. Starting strong on the relatively flat first 10 km where he clocked 33:26, low-2:47 pace, Kawauchi slowed to just over 2:50 pace on the course's toughest hills between 10 and 30 km. A sub-2:50 was still in range at that point, but over the last 20 km he faded further to finish in the second-slowest of his Okinoshima wins.



The day before the race Kawauchi paced children in Okinoshima's kids' run. Following that he greeted participants and local supporters at an expo event where he was hailed onstage as the Boston Marathon winner. As per his usual routine, his next race will be the July 1 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Kipchirchir and Chebii Take on Three Gold Coast Winners

The men's race at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon is usually a Kenya-Japan head-to-head, Kenya taking six wins and Japan three in the last ten years. With not a single Ethiopian in the field for this year's 40th edition it looks set for it to happen yet again.

Sub-2:10 Kenyans Victor Kipchirchir, Douglas Chebii, Philip Sanga and the Japan-based Michael Githae will line up to take on three of the race's last four winners, 2017 champ Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), 2015-16 winner and course record holder Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) and 2013 champ and perpetual top three placer Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't). Give the advantage to team Kenya in this bout, but as Noguchi and Kawauchi have proven Gold Coast is a race where Japanese men are legit contenders.

With the window for getting qualifying times for next year's MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials starting to close, the powers that be in Japan have taken note of the success of Noguchi and Kawauchi on the Gold Coast…

Japan's 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon to be Held September 15, 2019

On June 15 the JAAF announced the date and course for the Marathon Grand Championship Race, or MGC Race for short, its new almost-one-shot trials race that will determine at least two of the three members of its men's and women's marathon teams for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The MGC Race will be held 11 months prior to the Olympics on September 15, 2019. The winners of the MGC Race will be named to the 2020 team, with either the 2nd or 3rd placer also named to the team depending on whether either has broken a fast standard, 2:05:30 for men and 2:21:00 for women. The remaining top three placer will have to wait until March, 2020 to find out whether they will be included on the team or passed over in favor of someone who clears another fast standard in one of the big six domestic elite marathons in the winter of 2019-20.

The MGC Race course will closely follow the already announced Olympic course, the only key exception being a start and finish in the Jingu Gaien district nearby …