translated and edited by Brett Larner
Three late-season ekidens took place this weekend. Amid light snow in Yamaguchi, 48 teams took part in the 76th running of the Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden on a 7-stage, 84.4 km course from Ube City Hall to Shunan City Hall. In the elite division, after an exciting Sixth Stage that saw 2012 Fukuoka International Marathon winner Joseph Gitau (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) cover the 15.9 km stage in 46:11 to move his team up into 1st, Team Chugoku Denryoku retook the lead on the anchor stage and claimed its eleventh Chugoku Yamaguchi title and first in two years in a time of 4:06:44. Saikyo High School's A team won the high school division in 4:18:58 after leading all the way from the Second Stage, also claiming its eleventh win and first in two years. Defending local division winner Hiroshima T&F Association picked up a second-straight division win in 4:23:18. The Chugoku Denryoku team received a banner of victory at the award ceremony, with each of the division winners receiving a trophy from sponsor Chugoku Newspaper Co.
At the 59th Atsugi Ekiden, 2013 Hakone Ekiden 3rd-place Komazawa University took its fourth-straight win, just of its own record from last year as it covered the six-stage, 42.195 km course in 2:05:28. Up to Fourth Stage there was some turnover in the lead, but when Shota Baba took over from Kenya Sonota Komazawa got into its rhythm. Fifth Stage man Koki Takahashi started well but faded over the second half of his stage to lose ground, leaving it up to anchor Koji Someya to hold on to the overall win. Despite running conservatively Someya clocked the fastest time on the anchor stage, joining Baba and First Stage runner Yoshihiro Nishizawa in picking up stage wins.
At the 59th Okumusashi Ekiden, Tokai University beat defending champion Chuo University, winning the open division in 1:56:20 for the six-stage, 38.792 km course. Tokyo Nogyo Prep #3 H.S. won the high school division in 1:58:46, putting an end to Saitama Sakae H.S.'s hopes of an eleventh-straight Okumusashi win. 205 teams altogether ran Okumusashi, where the biggest news came via Saitama Prefectural Government team Fourth Stage runner Yuki Kawauchi who clipped 1 second off the existing record to set a new mark of 13:00 for the 4.679 km stage. It was Kawauchi's fourth race, third win and second-straight ekiden run of 2013. "Including high schoolers, I passed about twenty people today," said Kawauchi. He will next race the Feb. 3 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, one of the domestic selection races for August's Moscow World Championships. "Everything's going smoothly so far," he said. "I just have to be careful about fatigue and losing my edge." At the first domestic selection race, December's Fukuoka International Marathon, Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) ran 2:08:24. That time is Kawauchi's target in Beppu-Oita. "If I run faster than Horibata did then I might not do Lake Biwa in March," he revealed, hoping to get the job done in one take.