Monday, January 4, 2010

Toyo University Gets the Star Treatment

by Brett Larner
Toyo photos by Mika Tokairin

A day after winning its second-straight Hakone Ekiden title, Toyo University had a busy Monday morning. The entire team and coaching staff appeared on the nationally-broadcast Sukkiri morning talk show, equivalent to Good Morning America, which devoted today's episode to interviewing team members and asking for their comments on clips from Saturday and Sunday's race. Sukkiri brought in marathon legend Toshihiko Seko for additional expert commentary and questioning.

Following the TV appearance, a good deal of which focused on second-year Ryuji Kashiwabara's record-setting Fifth Stage run, the team went straight to Toyo sponsor Nike's flagship store in the heart of the Harajuku/Omotesando fashion district for a lunchtime in-store appearance.

Nike had done up the large display windows along Omotesando, Tokyo's most fashionable street, with Hakone uniforms from the four teams it sponsors and oversized lettering which read "Congratulations Toyo University!" The store was packed to overflowing with fans, most of whom were young women, with latecomers crowding the street outside and looking in through the windows.

The runners and coaches greeted the fans and then one-by-one signed a large display board cutout in the shape of a Nike shoe.

Following one more group bow the team was whisked through the cheering crowd by security staff like the rock stars they are.

In a related story, Swiss runner Christian Sommer, a student at Tokyo University Graduate School, sent JRN a picture of himself on the way to working as a course marshall at this year's Hakone Ekiden. Sommer may have been the first-ever European to run the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km qualifier road race when he ran on Tokyo's team at October's 2009 edition. All runners who race the Yosenkai are required to work as marshalls on both days of Hakone. Sommer worked on the ace Second Stage on Day One and the competitive Ninth Stage on Day Two.

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
Toyo photos (c) 2010 Mika Tokairin
all rights reserved

3 comments:

Simon said...

"The store was packed to overflowing with fans, most of whom were young women."

One can only dream...

Many thanks for your dedicated Hakone coverage Brett. Timezone differences made it impossible to watch the whole thing but what I did see was inspirational stuff. Cheers.

Brett Larner said...

At your service, Simon.

When Mika and I were leaving we heard one cute college-aged woman gushing to her friend the equivalent of, "OH - MY - GOD! They were SO COOL!"

A friend who ran Hakone a few years ago told me there are groupies at every exchange zone -- women, not all of them college-aged, trying to give pictures of themselves with their phone numbers written on the back to the guys who had finished their stages.

Nice to see that a few of the bigger online outlets have linked my Hakone coverage but I'm a little surprised there's no love for the New Year Ekiden. An unknown Kenyan guy who just turned 19 two weeks ago running 22:02 for 8.3 k and beating two 26-min 10k guys, one of them a World Championships medalist, not good enough?

Simon said...

Ha, love the groupie story!

Regarding the New Year Ekiden, is it not the case that the event is overshadowed even in Japan by Hakone? Good to see that Atsushi Sato had a strong run though.