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

Daniel and Kawauchi Win Saitama International Marathon

After missing a medal by 3 seconds at August's London World Championships, defending champ Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) made it two in a row as she won a tight battle against Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) to win the Saitama International Marathon in 2:28:39.

With the onus on Japanese women Reia Iwada (Dome) and Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) to break 2:29:00 in order to qualify for Japan's new-format 2020 Olympic trials race, the pair of them did most of the heavy lifting for the first two-thirds of the race. Yoshida led the early kilometers before Iwade took over, and through strong head and tailwinds, over rolling hills and around sharp turns Iwade kept things moving just under target pace, shaking the pack down to just her, Daniel, Habtegebrel and relative unknown Bekelech Daba (Ethiopia) by 15 km.

Little changed up front until after the lead group hit the start of the hilliest 10 km on the course after 25 km. For the first time Iwade slipped to the rear of the pack, and on a …

Ekiden Weekend Roundup

Ekiden season is in full swing, and across the country it was another busy weekend. Although there were four major ekidens nationwide, the best action came as runners from high school to the pros tuned up for the string of national championship ekiden races stretching from the end of this month to mid-January. At Kanagawa's Nittai University Time Trials meet, two-time steeplechase junior world champion Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu) pipped 5000 m junior world championships bronze medalist William Malel (Honda) at the line in the 10000 m A-heat, winning in 27:22.73 to Malel's 27:22.79. Four other Kenyans including Ndiku's junior teammate Richard Kimunyan broke 28 minutes as their coaches eye who to run at the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden.



Evans Yego of the tiny Sunbelx supermarket team won the more conservative 5000 m A-heat in 13:48.04, a race most notable for high schoolers Luka Musembi (Sendai Ikuei H.S.), Masato Suzuki (Suijo H.S.) and Reito Hanzawa (Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.) …

Breaking Down the Best-Ever Japanese Marathon Times By Country

Japanese marathoners these days have the reputation of rarely racing abroad, and of rarely racing well when they do. Back in the day that wasn't true; Japanese marathoners have won all the World Marathon Majors-to-be except New York, and two of the three Japanese men to have run 2:06 and all three women to have run 2:19 did it outside Japan. Whatever the extent to which things did turn inward along the way, the last few years have seen an uptick in Japanese runners going farther afield and running better there than any others before them.

The lists above and below show the fastest times run by Japanese athletes in different countries to 2:20:00 for men and 2:45:00 for women. Japanese men have run sub-2:20 marathons in 37 countries around the world including Japan, with Japanese women having cleared 2:45 in 33 countries including at home. Breaking it down by IAAF label times, more Japanese men have run label standard times abroad, but women have typically performed at a higher label…