Skip to main content

Izumo Ekiden: Komazawa vs. Waseda vs.....U.S.A.?

by Brett Larner

The first of this season's Big Three university men's ekidens, the Izumo Ekiden, takes place on the Oct. 10 National Sports Day public holiday.  With six stages covering 44.6 km, the longest stage only 10.2 km, Izumo is the shortest and fastest of the Big Three, lending itself to a different kind of race from November's National University Ekiden Championships and January's Hakone Ekiden.

Last year Waseda University set an Izumo course record to kick off an unprecedented season of victory.  Waseda returns a tough squad this year, with seven men holding sub-14 and/or sub-29 PBs led by sophomore Suguru Osako, the Asian junior area half marathon record holder, World University Games 10000 m champion and 1500 m national university champion.  Waseda is missing two of its key players from last year, senior Yuki Yagi and sophomore Fuminori Shikata, but while there are few cracks in the armor Waseda doesn't come in as the favorite.

Komazawa University has built up an incredible team this year, with nine men on its Izumo roster holding sub-14 minute 5000 m PBs, six of them also having sub-29 10000 m marks including sophomore Ikuto Yufu's 28:02.46 and junior Hiromitsu Kakuage's 28:03.27 from the spring track season.  The longer late-season ekidens may favor Waseda, but with its short stages Izumo plays to Komazawa's strengths and with better depth of reserves and reportedly a healthier lineup Komazawa looks to have an excellent chance for its first Izumo win in 13 years.

Toyo University, who along with Waseda had ten men on its roster with sub-29 PBs last year, also brings a strong squad with five men in the sub-14/sub-29 bracket led by sophomore Keita Shitara and Hakone uphill star senior Ryuji Kashiwabara, but in its most successful seasons Toyo has not put in a strong early-season effort at Izumo and so it may not be in contention with Komazawa and Waseda for the win.  In its place comes a potential unexpected challenge from the U.S.A. University Select Team.

Izumo has long invited a team made up of Ivy League alumni but the teams have rarely been competitive.  This year the Select Team's roster draws heavily from outside the Ivy League and looks to be intriguingly strong on paper, having six men at the sub-14/sub-29 level including Landon Peacock (U of Wisc.), Jon Grey (William & Mary) and Scott Smith (UCSB).  With good performances the Select Team has a realistic shot at top three, something nobody on any of the other teams would be expecting based on history and the lack of PB information for the Select Team on the Izumo website.  If the Americans bring their race the surprise will add a completely new element to this year's Izumo.

Although their teams are not likely to make the top three, standout individuals to watch for include the top two Japanese collegiate 10000 m runners, senior Tetsuya Yoroizaka (27:44.30, Meiji Univ.) and junior Akinobu Murasawa (28:00.78, Tokai Univ.).  Takushoku University features two Kenyan sophomore with sub-28 bests, John Maina and Duncan Muthee, and southern Japan's Daiichi Kogyo University returns Kenyan senior Kiragu Njuguna.

The Izumo Ekiden will be broadcast live on Fuji TV beginning at 1:00 p.m. Japan time on Oct. 10.  Overseas viewers should be able to watch online for free via Keyhole TV.  JRN will be doing live English-language commentary via Twitter @JRNLive.

The top teams at the 2011 Izumo Ekiden. Click chart to enlarge.  Click here for complete entry lists.

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

18-Year-Old Waithaka Runs 10000 m World Leading Time at Nittai - Weekend Roundup

photo by @tsutsugo55225

For the second time in the last three weeks, a Japan-based Kenyan ran the fastest time in the world this year for 10000 m at Yokohama's Nittai University Time Trials series. On October 20th it was 2015 World U18 Championships 3000 m gold medalist Richard Kimunyan (Hitachi Butsuryu), 20, with a 27:14.70  that surpassed Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei's world-leading mark by almost five seconds. This time it was 2018 World U20 Championships 5000 m silver medalist Stanley Waithaka (Yakult), 18, taking almost two minutes off his PB to break Kimunyan's mark with a 27:13.01 win.

Both winners received support from 2014 Commonwealth Games steeplechase gold medalist Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu), who ran season bests for 2nd place each time, 27:50.38 three weeks ago and 27:28.27 on Saturday. 2013 World U18 Championships 3000 m bronze medalist Alexander Mutiso (ND Software) was also under 28 minutes, running just off his PB at 27:42.16 for 3rd. Kazuma Taira (Kan…

2018 Japanese Distance Rankings - Updated 11/11/18

JRN's 2018 Japanese track and road distance running rankings. Overall rankings are calculated using runners' times and placings in races over 5000 m, 10000 m, half-marathon and marathon and the strength of these performances relative to others in the top ten in each category. Click any image to enlarge.


Past years:
2017 ・ 2016 ・2015 ・ 2014 ・ 2013 ・ 2012 ・ 2011

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Go Ahead and Call It a Comeback - Niiya Breaks Shibui's Course Record in Return to Road Racing

Ladies and gentlemen, Hitomi Niiya is back.

You might remember Hitomi Niiya from the 2013 Moscow World Championships 10000 m, where she led the entire way only to get destroyed over the last lap and finish 5th in 30:56.70. That made her the third-fastest Japanese woman ever over that distance, but not long after that race she quit the sport entirely, getting an office job as far away from athletics as she could and not running for almost five years.

But the pull of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is strong, and, now 30, early this year she made the decision to try to make a comeback. Under the eye of former men's 800 m national record holder Masato Yokota she ran a 3000 m and two 5000 m time trials on the track between April and October before choosing the East Japan Women's Ekiden for her return to the roads and the longer distances.

The East Japan Women's Ekiden celebrated its 34th running Sunday, 9 stages totaling 42.195 km through the Fukushima countryside with teams from eac…