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

Kipsang Talking Loud and Aga Mumbling Bold - Tokyo Marathon Preview

After stepping up to the big leagues last year with course records in the 2:03 and 2:19 range, the Tokyo Marathon hopes to go one better this year. Men's course record setter Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) is back, stepping up from a 2:03:50 prediction for Tokyo in January to a 2:02:50 world record prediction at Friday's pre-race press conference. In the unmentioned absence of women's course record breaker Sarah Chepchirchir the top-ranked woman is Ruti Aga (Ethiopia), coming in hot off a 1:06:39 win last month in Houston and turning heads at the press conference with a boldly mumbled 2:18:00 prediction.

Management for both Kipsang and Aga were skeptical to JRN of their athletes' predictions, people from each camp saying times two minutes slower would be more likely, one minute slower in a best-case scenario. But whatever the prediction, Kipsang was clear to fellow past champs Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) and Dickson Chumba (Kenya) about one thing: he wants a more conservative fi…

The Greatest Day in Japanese Men's Marathoning History

This isn't going to be a race recap. Past Tokyo Marathon champs Dickson Chumba of Kenya and Birhane Dibaba of Ethiopia running smart races, working hard after 30 km to each score a second Tokyo title, Dibaba negative splitting her way to a 2:19:51 PB just 4 seconds off the course record and Chumba running away to win in 2:05:30. London World Championships bronze medalist Amy Cragg living up to her pre-race vow to make the top three in PB time, taking 3rd in 2:21:42. Cancer survivor Satoru Kasuya delivering his best performance since almost dying five years ago, an emotional 2:14:37 for 30th.

What this is about is today, the day, the one that's been coming. Yuta Shitara getting it right, strong, unafraid, in control when he needed to be, finding what he needed when it counted, breaking the 16-year-old Japanese national record in 2:06:11 and winning a million dollar bonus for it. But not just him. Hiroto Inoue, just as strong, just as in control, never giving up even when Shita…

Kenyans Kabuu, Jemeli and Cheyech Lead Nagoya Women's Marathon Field

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, one with a long history as an elite race and adapting to the times with a mass-participation field of 20,000. The last few years it has seen a series of dynamic, high-level performances by top Japanese women, from Sairi Maeda's 2:22:48 in 2015 to the 2:23:19 to 2:23:20 sprint finish battle between Tomomi Tanaka and Rei Ohara in 2016 to Yuka Ando's stellar 2:21:36 debut and teammate Mao Kiyota's 2:23:47 breakthrough last year.

Maeda, Ohara and Kiyota all return this year to face the Kenyan trio of Lucy Kabuu, Valary Jemeli and Flomena Cheyech Daniel. Kabuu went to high school in Japan before moving on to the big leagues, but she hasn't finished a marathon since her 2:20:21 in Dubai 2015. Cheyech also used to be based in Japan as is a familiar face here, winning the last two Saitama International Marathons. Jemeli is making her Japanese debut, and with a 2:21:57 win in Prague and a 2:20:53 …