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Grand Tour Kyushu 2011 Reaches Halfway

by Brett Larner

In its 60th running the historic Kyushu Isshu Ekiden, a ten-day road relay around Japan's southernmost main island of Kyushu featuring men's teams from each of the island's nine prefectures, has changed both name and, to a lesser degree, format.  Now called the Grand Tour Kyushu, the race has been scaled back to eight days and, styled more after a cycling race, has a new and heavier emphasis on the day-to-day stage wins and features corporate sponsorship of the individual day stages.

Starting in Nagasaki on Oct. 30 and heading counterclockwise to Fukuoka, the Grand Tour Kyushu remains Japan's longest elite-level event.  Always dominant thanks to the presence of a large concentration of corporate teams, Fukuoka, Miyazaki and Nagasaki prefectures have been the main players through the Tour's first four days.  Defending champion Miyazaki got off on the right foot with a win from rookie Kazuya Deguchi on the first leg of the race, but the team fell to third behind Fukuoka and Nagasaki after a disastrous run from marathoner Satoru Sasaki on the second leg.  Fukuoka and Nagasaki traded the lead over the remaining four stages before Miyazaki's Tomoyuki Sato clawed his way back into 2nd on the final stage, nearly catching Nagasaki's Ayumu Sato but falling 23 seconds short.

Nagasaki's Yuki Mori went out strong to take the second day's first leg, but second leg Fukuoka runner Kazuharu Takai took over the lead to open a 50-second margin that was never closed. By the end of the sixth leg Fukuoka had the day win by nearly four minutes over Miyazaki.  Miyazaki brought out big guns Tomoaki Bungo and Takuya Fukatsu on the first two legs of the third day to open a lead of over two minutes, putting the day away as the defending champion took its first individual day win by a final margin of over six minutes.

The fourth day saw the first repeat runs as men who had run on the first and second day returned.  After a brief interruption from Kenyan university runner Kiragu Njuguna who won the fourth day's first leg, Miyazaki again took over the lead thanks to a stage win by 2008 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner Tomoya Adachi, who had also won the third leg of day two.  Four of Miyazaki's remaining six runners on the eight-leg day won their stages, all of them having already run an earlier day.  The strong showing gave Miyazaki another day title as it finished three and a half minutes up on Fukuoka.

The Grand Tour Kyushu 2011 continues for the next four days, finishing up on Sunday in Fukuoka.  The map on the race website is worth a look, giving live updates on the position of the leaders on the course.  Check back for more reports as Miyazaki prefecture continues on toward another win in the first edition of the event's new format.

Grand Tour Kyushu 2011
Nagasaki-Fukuoka, 10/30-11/6/11
click here for complete results

Stage One - 10/30, six legs, 82.8 km - Nagasaki Pref. - 4:12:00
Leg One (15.1 km) - Kazuya Deguchi (Miyazaki Pref.) - 46:10
Leg Two (17.7 km) - Hisanori Kitajima (Fukuoka Pref.) - 53:34
Leg Three (14.0 km) - Noritaka Fujiyama (Nagasaki Pref.) - 42:08
Leg Four (12.8 km) - Satoshi Yoshii (Nagasaki Pref.) - 38:47
Leg Five (11.0 km) - Takehiro Arakawa (Miyazaki Pref.) - 32:29
Leg Six (12.2 km)  - Tomoyuki Sato (Miyazaki Pref.) - 36:30

Stage Two - 10/31, six legs, 74.0 km - Fukuoka Pref. - 3:49:02
Leg One (9.4 km) - Yuki Mori (Nagasaki Pref.) - 28:51
Leg Two (12.2 km) - Kazuharu Takai (Fukuoka Pref.) - 38:18
Leg Three (15.3 km) - Tomoya Adachi (Miyazaki Pref.) - 46:15
Leg Four (14.2 km) - Yoshikazu Kawazoe (Miyazaki Pref.) - 43:47
Leg Five (11.3 km) - Kaoru Nakahara (Fukuoka Pref.) - 35:59
Leg Six (11.6 km) - Kenji Takeuchi (Fukuoka Pref.) - 35:01

Stage Three - 11/1, six legs, 91.9 km - Miyazaki Pref. - 4:41:08
Leg One (10.4 km)  - Tomoaki Bungo (Miyazaki Pref.) - 30:36
Leg Two (15.3 km) - Takuya Fukatsu (Miyazaki Pref.) - 44:56
Leg Three (20.0 km) - Fumihiro Maruyama (Miyazaki Pref.) - 1:00:59
Leg Four (20.2 km) - Kenichiro Setoguchi (Miyazaki Pref.) - 1:03:34
Leg Five (13.6 km) - Yuki Iwai (Miyazaki Pref.) - 43:05
Leg Six (12.4 km) - Masaya Shimizu (Miyazaki Pref.) - 37:58

Stage Four - 11/2, eight legs, 122.1 km - Miyazaki Pref. - 6:15:37
Leg One (9.8 km) - Kiragu Njuguna (Kagoshima Pref.) - 28:20
Leg Two (13.8 km) - Tomoya Adachi (Miyazaki Pref.) - 42:15
Leg Three (14.4 km) - Takehiro Arakawa (Miyazaki Pref.) - 42:49
Leg Four (17.0 km) - Yoshikazu Kawazoe (Miyazaki Pref.) - 52:14
Leg Five (17.6 km) - Kazuya Deguchi (Miyazaki Pref.) - 55:01
Leg Six (19.6 km) - Tomoyuki Sato (Miyazaki Pref.) - 59:29
Leg Seven (12.8 km) - Kenji Takeuchi (Fukuoka Pref.) - 39:36
Leg Eight (17.1 km) - Yuya Konishi (Fukuoka Pref.) - 52:51

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Paul Walsh said…
Shortly after I first arrived in Japan, almost 20 years ago now, I squeezed into the Oita Prefecture team in the Kyushu Isshu Ekiden. I wasn't really aware what a big deal it was until I was at the opening ceremony in Nagasaki and saw people like Morishita and Taniguchi lined up (it was either the year of, or year after the Barcelona Olympics). That freaked me out. I was even more freaked out by the media attention *I* got (one of the slower runners in one of the slower teams) as, I think, the first non-Japanese shimin runner to take part in the event.

It was a tough week, physically and emotionally, I didn't manage to pull out my best runs, but the whole experience left me with some fantastic memories.

I like the sound of the format changes, although I think it's a shame they've have cut it down a couple of days.
Brett Larner said…
Thanks for the post, Paul. It seems like the event receives little to no attention outside of Kyushu despite being pretty big there. It would be nice to see it get a little more notice.

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