by Brett Larner
National championship ekiden season winds down over the next two weekends with the National Women's Ekiden this Sunday in Kyoto, followed a week later in Hiroshima by the National Men's Ekiden. Both races feature teams from each of Japan's 47 prefectures made up of top talent all the way from junior high school runners to Olympians competing to determine the true geographic center of Japanese distance running.
Sunday's 32nd running of the National Women's Ekiden features Moscow World Championships marathon bronze medalist Kayoko Fukushi (Aomori) and 4th-placer Ryoko Kizaki (Kyoto), 2013 5000 m national champion Misaki Onishi (Mie), 2013 London Marathon 3rd placer Yukiko Akaba (Tochigi), 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Hyogo), Mutsumi Ikeda (Shiga) and Nanako Kanno (Kyoto) of 2013 National University Women's Ekiden champion Ritsumeikan University, Azusa Sumi (Aichi), Hanami Sekine (Aichi) and three other members of 2013 National High School Girls Ekiden winner Toyokawa H.S., Wakana Kabasawa (Gunma) and Ema Hayashi (Gunma) of 2013 National Junior High School Girls Ekiden champion Fujimi J.H.S. and many more competing over 42.195 km subdivided into 9 stages. The race will be broadcast nationwide live and commercial-free on NHK beginning at 12:30 p.m. Japan time on Sunday, Jan. 12. Overseas viewers should be able to watch live on Keyhole TV; upgrade to the premium version results in a significantly more reliable stream. JRN will also cover the race live via Twitter @JRNLive.
Three decent half marathons also add to the weekend's action, with Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) getting his year moving as usual at the 15th edition of Tokyo's Tanigawa Mari Half Marathon. Far to the south on Kyushu, Nagasaki hosts the 43rd running of the Unzen Obama Half Marathon, while locals tune up for next month's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon at the 54th Oita City Half Marathon on the Monday public holiday.
(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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