Monday, January 2, 2012

Kashiwabara and Toyo University Crush Hakone Ekiden Day One Course Record

click here for 2012 Hakone Ekiden Day Two report and results
click here for a breakdown of records set at the 2012 Hakone Ekiden

第88回箱根駅伝1区2012 Hakone Ekiden start. Photo by Ekiden Mania. Click for more photos.

by Brett Larner

2009 and 2010 Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University came out swinging on Day One of the 88th running of Japan's oldest and greatest road relay, delivering a historic performance in which it broke the record it set last year for the five stage, 108.0 km course by an unimaginable 5 minutes and 5 seconds as it ran 5:24:45 an average pace of 3:00/km the entire way despite almost 900 m of climb on the uphill Fifth Stage.  Senior Ryuji Kashiwabara, who has defined Hakone for the last three years with his inspiring, record-setting performances on the Fifth Stage, delivered again by taking 29 seconds off his old record, but for the first time Toyo's success was evenly shared by all team members, with all four of Toyo's runners before Kashiwabara placing in the top four and all but one making the all-time top ten times on their stages.  Rival and defending overall Hakone champion Waseda University ran only 2 seconds off Toyo's 2011 course record but finished 5:07 behind.  Powerhouses Meiji University and Komazawa University both ran school records and made the all-time Day One top five but were even further back.

Shota Hattori (Nittai Univ.), a high school star who ran well his first year at Nittai but has struggled throughout his second, shot out on the 21.4 km First Stage and forced a high pace, running in memory of his father who passed away suddenly ten days ago.  Last year's stage winner Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) went with him, and in stark contrast to the lazy 3:07 first km by the pros at yesterday's New Year Ekiden the entire Hakone field of twenty rolled with them through a 2:53 first km.  You couldn't ask for a more concise demonstration of what's wrong with Japanese distance running.  The pace never slackened, and even after Osako and Hattori took off at 5 km the rest of the field still held steady to the pace, a minute ahead of last year at 10 km.  Osako, the Asian junior half marathon record holder, 10000 m World University Games champion and 1500 m national university champion, kept up the pressure and Hattori inevitable faded, Osako giving Waseda a 23-second lead and Hattori holding on to 2nd ahead of 28:03 man Hiromitsu Kakuage (Komazawa University) and Hiroyuki Uno (Toyo Univ.).  Both Waseda and Komazawa's coaches had said they wanted a lead of over 2 minutes over Toyo by the end of the Fourth Stage in order to offset Kashiwabara's advantage, but Uno kept up the pressure and stuck right with Kakuage until the final kick.

2009 Ageo City Half Marathon winner Shota Hiraga (Waseda Univ.) ran steadily on the 23.2 Second Stage, Hakone's most competitive, while behind him Keita Shitara (Toyo Univ.), Kenta Murayama (Waseda Univ.), Takumi Honda (Nittai Univ.) and Takamitsu Hashimoto (Josai Univ.) formed a four-man chase pack.  All went well until 17 km, when Hiraga began to tie up and hold his right side.  Shitara, timing his move well, surged away from the others in the chase pack, running down to Hiraga to put Toyo into the lead, a fatal move for the other teams' ambitions.  Shitara finished 2nd on time, outrun only by the most enigmatic runner in the Japanese university scene, Takehiro Deki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.).  Despite a 10000 m PB of only 29:02.10 and a 1:04:16 half marathon best Deki has a history of superb ekiden runs, and this was no exception.  Moving up from 12th to 3rd, Deki clocked a stage-best 1:07:26 to make the all-time top ten on Hakone's fastest stage.


12 seconds down on Toyo at the start of the 21.5 km Third Stage, 28:45.56 Waseda senior Yo Yazawa made a quick job of catching up to 29:29.56 Toyo senior Kenji Yamamoto, but Yamamoto did not lie down.  Running Hakone for the first time as a junior, Yamamoto won the anchor stage last year in one of the fastest times ever while trying to run Waseda down, and again this year he brought his best.  The Third Stage is a series of steady undulations, and when Yazawa advanced on every downhill Yamamoto would hit back hard on the next uphill.  Yazawa's face began to turn red and he kept looking over at Yamamoto, who looked straight ahead in focused determination.  Heading into the second half Yamamoto began to edge away, and without warning he had a lead.  He never looked back.  Yamamoto handed off a full 1:03 ahead of Yazawa, and at that point it was clear that it was over for Waseda.  Further back, last year's stage winner Cosmas Ondiba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) had a great final run to cap off his university career, running 1:01:38 to break the stage record by two seconds.

At 18.5 km the Fourth Stage is Hakone's shortest and is usually populated by first-years and middle-distance runners.  Toyo first-year Masaya Taguchi was a total unknown, but he delivered in a big way as he won the stage in an all-time second-best 54:45, putting another 51 seconds onto Toyo's lead.  Meiji University first-year Genki Yagisawa, a high school star making his debut, also had a great run as he ran all-time #3 54:53 to pass Komazawa's Kazuhiro Kuga for 3rd.

Kashiwabara had never started the Fifth Stage in the lead, and as he waited for Taguchi he was relaxed and smiling.  Taking over with a lead of 1:54 over Waseda first-year Shuhei Yamamoto, he stayed calm as he ran the relatively flat first 5 km, but when the hills started at 6 km he was all business.  With nobody to chase down it was just him, the mountain and the clock.  As the incline steepened he went back and forth, just ahead and just behind the record pace he ran two years ago, but after peaking out at 874 m he hit the downhill hard, far outshining his past downhill ability as he stretched it out to finish in 1:16:39, 29 seconds better than his previous best.  A native of Iwaki, Fukushima, a city partially within the nuclear exclusion zone, in his post-race interview Kashiwabara said, "This was very tough, but it was nothing compared to what the people of Fukushima have had to go through."

Behind him, far behind him, last year's Fifth Stage runner-up Hiroki Oe (Meiji Univ.) quickly overtook 3rd-place Shota Inoue (Komazawa Univ.), then caught Yamamoto in 2nd.  The pair battled all the way to the peak just before 20 km, but while Yamamoto pulled back away to keep Waseda in 2nd Oe beat him on time by 18 seconds.  In all, only seven schools managed to finish within 10 minutes of Toyo despite nine setting Day One school records.  All thirteen schools finishing further back must start together on Day Two with a time handicap, the second-biggest number in Hakone's 88-year history.

Looking at tomorrow, it would take one of its runners collapsing for Toyo not to take the overall win.  It has happened before, as with Juntendo University in 2006, but it's not likely.  Toyo's five remaining runners have a margin of 1 minute apiece, so they may opt to play it safe and cruise in to the win with ease.  Equally likely, Toyo may try to go for the total win, taking the Day One, Day Two and overall titles.  With a 3:00/km average for Day One, in a perfect world they would go for the Holy Grail, an average of 3:00/km for the entire ten-stage, 217.9 course.

Look for Komazawa to advance to 2nd early in day on the strength of Sixth Stage record holder Kenta Chiba and its remaining ringers.  Meiji has used most of its talent except injured 27:44 collegiate record holder Tetsuya Yoroizaka and should fade into a battle against Waseda, which has used all but one of its best uninjured runners and will be hoping for the best with second-stringers and the less-than-fit.  Josai, Yamanashi Gakuin and Aoyama Gakuin all look safe for making the seeded top ten, but at the back end of the handicap start at least five schools will be in contention for the final three places of honor.  Nihon TV's broadcast of Day Two kicks off at 7 a.m. Japan time, with the race beginning at 8:00.  Watch online via Keyhole TV, and check back for possible higher-resolution streaming on Justin TV.  Follow @JRNLive for ongoing English commentary on Twitter.

2012 Hakone Ekiden Day One
Tokyo-Hakone, 1/2/12
five stages, 108.0 km
click here for complete results

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (21.4 km) 
1. Suguru Osako (2nd yr., Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:03 (all-time #5)
2. Shota Hattori (2nd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 1:02:26 (all-time #7)
3. Hiromitsu Kakuage (3rd yr., Komazawa Univ.) - 1:02:27 (all-time #8)
4. Hiroyuki Uno (4th yr., Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:34 (all-time #10)

Second Stage (23.2 km) 
1. Takehiro Deki (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:07:26 (all-time #8)
2. Keita Shitara (2nd yr., Toyo Univ.) - 1:08:04
3. Akinobu Murasawa (3rd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 1:08:14

Third Stage (21.5 km) 
1. Cosmas Ondiba (4th yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:38 - CR
2. Kenji Yamamoto (4th yr., Toyo Univ.) - 1:02:43 (all-time #4)
3. Taku Fujimoto (4th yr., Kokushikan Univ.) - 1:03:08 (all-time #8)
4. Hideyuki Tanaka (3rd yr., Juntendo Univ.) - 1:03:10 (all-time #10)

Fourth Stage (18.5 km) 
1. Masaya Taguchi (1st yr., Toyo Univ.) - 54:45 (all-time #2)
2. Genki Yagisawa (1st yr., Meiji Univ.) - 54:53 (all-time #3)
3. Kazuhiro Kuga (3rd yr., Komazawa Univ.) - 54:59 (all-time #4)
4. Kosei Yamaguchi (2nd yr., Josai Univ.) - 55:17 (all-time #8)

Fifth Stage (23.4 km) 
1. Ryuji Kashiwabara (4th yr., Toyo Univ.) - 1:16:39 - CR
2. Hiroki Oe (3rd yr., Meiji Univ.) - 1:19:34 (all-time #5)
3. Shuhei Yamamoto (1st yr., Waseda Univ.) - 1:19:52 (all-time #7)

Team Results
1. Toyo University - 5:24:45 - CR
2. Waseda University - 5:29:52 (school record, all-time #2)
3. Meiji University - 5:30:06 (school record, all-time #3)
4. Komazawa University - 5:31:28 (school record, all-time #5)
5. Josai University - 5:32:17 (school record, all-time #7)
6. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 5:33:11
7. Aoyama Gakuin University - 5:33:58 (school record all-time #9)
-----Teams more than 10 minutes behind the leader at the end of Day One start together on Day Two with a time handicap.
8. Tokai University - 5:34:54
9. Koku Gakuin University - 5:35:02
10. Kanto Regional University Select Team - 5:35:08 (school record)
11. Nittai University - 5:36:48
12. Chuo University - 5:37:06
13. Juntendo University - 5:37:13
14. Kokushikan University - 5:37:54 (school record)
15. Kanagawa University - 5:38:25
16. Jobu University - 5:39:33 (school record)
17. Teikyo University - 5:41:54
18. Chuo Gakuin University - 5:41:56
19. Takushoku University - 5:42:49
20. Tokyo Nogyo University - 6:06:02

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photos (c) 2012 Kazuyuki Sugimatsu
all rights reserved

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