Skip to main content

Ekiden Weekend Roundup

by Brett Larner

National championship ekiden season may be through, but across the country smaller regional and local ekidens continue.  Biggest among the dozen or so noteworthy ekidens this weekend was the 77th running of the Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden.  A moderate-length event at 7 stages and 84.4 km, Chugoku Yamaguchi featured six top corporate league teams from the central Japan region along with local universities and clubs.  Despite a one-two punch of 2012 Fukuoka International Marathon winner Joseph Gitau (Kenya) and former Sera H.S. star Charles Ndirangu (Kenya) the JFE Steel team could not hold off rivals Mazda, the lead turning over twice during the course of the race before Mazda anchor Kenji Yamamoto, a member of Toyo University's 2012 Hakone Ekiden course record-setting team, ran down JFE Steel's Yuki Moriwaki to give Mazda the win by 20 seconds in 4:08:54.  Chugoku Denryoku, the top-ranked team in the region after finishing 5th at the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden, was only 3rd.  Despite a strong run on the 11.3 km Second Stage by London Olympics marathoner Ryo Yamamoto, the SGH Group Sagawa team struggled and finished 6th among the six major corporate teams.

Southwest of Tokyo, six Hakone Ekiden universities and several smaller schools raced their JV teams at the 60th Atsugi Ekiden.  The relatively minor Koku Gakuin University had an upset win over Hakone runner-up Komazawa University, taking two seconds off Komazawa's two-year-old record of 2:05:13 for the six-stage, 42.195 km course.  One second behind Kanagawa University at the end of the 10.3 km First Stage, Koku Gakuin's Masanori Ikeda took the lead on 3.6 km Second Stage and from there the team never looked back, its lead over Komazawa and Kanagawa growing on each stage.   Despite breaking the overall course record no individual stage records were broken, showing the quality of Koku Gakuin's team performance.

To the northwest of Tokyo, the Okumusashi Ekiden's news value took a hit when the Hakone all-star Morinokuma-san (A bear in the woods) fun run team featuring twins Keita and Yuta Shitara of Toyo and 2013 Hakone winner Nittai University's captain Shota Hattori was a last-minute cancellation.  Tokai University bounced back from a disappointing 13th-place finish at Hakone to win, covering the six-stage, 38.792 km course in 1:56:33.  Despite a 14:42 win on the 5.294 km Fifth Stage by ace Yuki Kawauchi, equivalent to 13:53 for 5 km, the Saitama Prefectural Government team was only 73rd.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Toyo University Leads Defending Champ Aoyama Gakuin on Hakone Ekiden Day One

The team that brought Japan's greatest race into the modern era with its historic 2012 sub-3 min/km win, Toyo University came out swinging to win Day One of the 2018 Hakone Ekiden.

Intensely popular with fans, Toyo has struggled this season with its entire senior class out with injury. With its fate in the hands of its younger members Toyo 1st-year Kazuya Nishiyama, freshly 19 in November, stepped up and took control of the race with both hands. Midway through the fast First Stage Nishiyama surged hard to go out front alone, 2017 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Kei Katanishi (Komazawa Univ.) and relative unknown Yuhei Urano (Koku Gakuin Univ.) the only ones to try to go with him. Nishiyama covered the 21.3 km stage in 1:02:16, equivalent to a 1:01:40 half marathon, with Urano and Katanishi around 15 seconds back. 3-time defending champ Aoyama Gakuin University was 25 seconds behind in 5th at the first exchange, 2017 Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University another …

Kawauchi Breaks Sub-2:20 World Record in Sub-Zero Temperatures

Battling freezing temperatures and wind chill that took things down to -23C, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran a 2018 world-leading 2:18:59 at the Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, taking 30 minutes off the course record and breaking American Doug Kurtis' historic sub-2:20 world record with his 76th career sub-2:20.

Kawauchi spent Dec. 29 to 31 training on the Boston Marathon course ahead of his upcoming appearance as part of the John Hancock Elite Athlete Team and planned to run Marshfield at the tail end of his trip. The Marshfield Road Runners club, organizers of the marathon, had their longstanding race USATF certified ahead of his appearance.


Wearing full-length tights in a marathon for the first time, in Marshfield Kawauchi planned to run the first of the hilly course's two laps in 1:09 flat to give himself room to work with in breaking 2:20. But in the wind and cold he struggled to stay on pace, ice crystals coating his face as he hit halfway in 1:10:29…

Aoyama Gakuin Runs Down Toyo for Fourth-Straight Hakone Ekiden Title

In a rare reversal of Day One standings, Aoyama Gakuin University ran down Toyo University early in on Day Two to win its fourth-straight Hakone Ekiden title. At both the Izumo Ekiden and National University Men's Ekiden this season, Toyo struggled to cope with the absence of its entire senior class due to injury, running up front much of the way but lacking the depth to keep the lead in the final stages. Hakone played out like an opera-scale version of the same familiar story, its brilliant Day One win backlit by the headlights of rapidly approaching fate.

Second on Day Two's opening stage, the 20.8 km Sixth Stage with around 800 m elevation loss, both of the last two years, AGU 3rd-year Yuji Onoda just missed the course record en route as he ran down Toyo's Shunsuke Imanishi and put AGU almost a minute ahead by the time he handed off. AGU's next two runners Keisuke Hayashi and Yuta Shimoda both won their stages, Hayashi, a relative unknown on the roster, running 1:0…