Skip to main content

2010 National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden - Preview

by Brett Larner

The annual women's and men's National Interprefectural Ekidens are some of Japan's most interesting races. This year's women's race takes place tomorrow, Jan. 17, in Kyoto. Each of Japan's 47 prefectures fields a team of nine women ranging from junior high school students to top professional marathoners, running as one team representing their home ground. With nine legs totalling 42.195 km all but the 6 km First Stage and 10 km Ninth stage are under 5 km, making a faster-paced race than is often the case.

Part of what makes the Interprefectural Ekidens interesting is that rather than emphasizing the big names they are often the site of the national coming out of talented young athletes. Toyo University's Ryuji Kashiwabara was an unknown as a high school senior at the 2008 Men's Interprefectural Ekiden but grabbed attention for the first time by frontrunning against national high school champion Yuki Yagi (Waseda Univ.) on the First Stage and beating him easily. The star of last year's Women's Interprefectural Ekiden was without question Kyoto's Moe Kyuma, then a junior high school student. The great Naoko Takahashi and other race commentators laughed when Kyuma took off at what looked like a full sprint and clocked 2:58 for the first km on the 3 km Eighth Stage, but when Kyuma finished the uphill leg 12 seconds faster than the previous stage record of 9:53 Takahashi could only say, "She's going to be big. I can't believe this is a junior high school student!"

Now in high school, Kyuma, her twin sister Haruka, university star Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) and other members of last year's Kyoto team are back. Having won the last five years straight including a course record of 2:14:58 in 2008, Kyoto's hometown squad is the team to beat. Okayama Prefecture, 3rd in 2008 and 2nd last year, and Hyogo Prefecture, 2nd in 2008 and 3rd last year, are the only other reliable contenders. Okayama is again led by Olympian Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya), and with the exception of two junior high school student runners is fielding a strong team made up entirely of Tenmaya pros and women from top-ranked Kojokan H.S. It should be the biggest threat to Kyoto's reign. Hyogo is missing star Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki), and despite the presence of Kobayashi's Toyota teammates Yuika Mori and Akane Wakita along with three members of national high school runner-up Suma Gakuen H.S.' team its chances will suffer as a result.

Looking at stage-by-stage action, the 6 km First Stage features a great matchup between Yurika Nakamura (Okayama) and Kazue Kojima (Kyoto), with several other strong contenders including Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo's Miki Ohira (Ehime).

The 4 km Second Stage has probably the best field overall, with Moe Kyuma (Kyoto) going up against a tough field of pros and university runners including Hikari Yoshimoto (Kumamoto), Ryoko Kisaki (Osaka), Tomomi Yuda (Aichi), Risa Takenaka (Shiga) and more. Yoshimoto was one of the big news items of 2009 in Japanese women's distance running and should dismantle all competitors.

The 4 km Fourth Stage includes marathoner Mari Ozaki (Kyoto) and the strong Risa Shigetomi (Okayama) who by that point should be battling for the lead. Josai University's Yui Sakai (Fukui) should be star of the 4.0875 km Sixth Stage, but after over a year of injury problems it's questionable whether she is intact. Moe Kyuma's twin sister Haruka Kyuma (Kyoto) is the best runner on the 4 km Seventh Stage and should be able to pick up the lead should Kyoto have fallen behind.

The 10 km Ninth Stage features the remaining big names. Kayoko Fukushi (Aomori) is in a different class from the other 46 women on the stage but is unlikely to be in contention for the lead as Aomori is not generally strong. Berlin World Championships marathon silver medalist Yoshimi Ozaki (Kanagawa) and her WC teammate Yoshiko Fujinaga (Nagasaki) are also on the stage, along with notables Hitomi Niiya (Chiba) and Akane Wakita (Hyogo). The woman who should be the first to cross the finish line is 2009 World University Games 10000 m gold medalist Kasumi Nishihara (Kyoto), a great rival of Kyoto's First Stage runner Kazue Kojima on the university scene but now splitting duties as defending champ Kyoto's aces.

NHK will broadcast the 2010 National Women's Interprefectural Ekiden live nationwide and commercial-free beginning at 12:15 p.m on Jan. 17. NHK's availability on Keyhole TV is spotty at best, but interested overseas viewers should at least check come race time. JRN will offer live English commentary via Twitter on JRNLive. NHK's excellent race website includes course maps, detailed team listings, live splits times, and more.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Chebii Returns - Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Elite Field

Defending champ Ezekiel Chebii (Kenya) returns to lead the field for the Mar. 4 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Chebii is one of three men in the field with recent 2:06 times, his 2:06:07 in Amsterdam two years ago leading Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland) and Abera Kuma (Ethiopia) to form a clear trio of favorites.

Making up the second pack are four current sub-2:10 Japanese men, 2017 Gold Coast winner Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), Rio Olympian Satoru Sasaki (Asahi Kasei), and Sasaki's teammates Takuya Fukatsu and Fumihiro Maruyama. The addition of sub-61 half marathoner Kenta Murayama in his second shot at the marathon after a failed debut in Tokyo two years ago makes for a formidable quartet of men from 2017 and 2018 New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei all aligned in training and talent.

With Japan's depth it's never surprising to see a relatively anonymous runner make a breakthrough and factor into the action. Yoshiki Takenouchi (NTT Nishi Nihon) was one of the …

Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half …

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Upcoming race schedule: Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan
Mar. 25: Kuki Half Marathon, Saitama
Apr. 16: Boston Marathon, U.S.A.
June 2: ASICS Stockholm Marathon, Sweden
July 1: Gold Coast Airport Marathon, Australia
Aug. 26: New Caledonia International Marathon, New Caledonia
Sept. 2: Wakkanai Heiwa Marathon, Hokk…