Skip to main content

Hakone Ekiden Course Change Means the End for Current Course Records

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/07/29/kiji/K20140729008649490.html
http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20140728-OHT1T50194.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto (KGRR) announced on July 28 that changes to the Hakone Ekiden's 23.4 km Fifth Stage and 20.8 km Sixth Stage mean that the existing records for those two stages along with the current Day One, Day Two and overall course records will be replaced at the 91st running of Japan's biggest sporting event on Jan. 2-3, 2015.  The entire course will also be remeasured, meaning additional changes to other stages are possible.

The uphill Fifth Stage was lengthened in 2006 at the 82nd running to become the longest of the race at 23.4 km with 864 m of climb.  Since then, every university that has won the Fifth Stage has also taken the Hakone Day One title, earning it the reputation of being the most dramatic and exciting part of the Hakone Ekiden.  From 2009 to 2012 Toyo University's "God of the Mountain" Ryuji Kashiwabara (now Team Fujitsu) won the Fifth Stage four straight years, breaking the stage record three times and earning national celebrity. 

On Feb. 6 the Kanrei Domon tunnel through which the Fifth and Sixth Stages pass was closed to traffic, meaning that the 91st Hakone Ekiden must use a newly-built bypass instead.  The change in distance from the traditional course is relatively minor, the bypass at 6.2 km on the Fifth Stage and 17.1 km on the Sixth Stage adding roughly 20 meters to each stage, but it means that Kashiwabara's 2012 record of 1:16:39, revered as a superhuman feat in Japanese athletics, will now be consigned to the history books.  The Sixth Stage's 58:11 record set by Komazawa University's Kenta Chiba (now Team Fujitsu) in 2011 will also share the same fate, along with Toyo's Day One and Day Two records and its epoch-making 10:51:36 record for the complete 217.9 km Hakone course.

The 170 m Kanrei Domon tunnel, a popular part of the Hakone broadcast, has aged in the more than 80 years since its construction in 1931.  Only 5.8 m wide, the tunnel was a source of congestion, leading to the construction of the 7.25 m-wide bypass to improve the flow of traffic and safety.  The nation's top university runners will now travel via the bypass on their way to the Day One finish line at Lake Ashi and the handoff to the Seventh Stage in Odawara.

Because a pedestrian path through Kanrei Domon remains, the KGRR looked at the possibility of having runners follow the traditional course while TV broadcast trucks and other race vehicles took the bypass.  However, a KGRR spokesperson explained, "It's just a university event so there is no need to go that far, and vehicles and athletes separating and then rejoining each other on the roads would also create additional danger.  We shelved the proposal that running through Kanrei Domon was a must and went with the course change."

Opinions on the decision are divided.  With the 20 m addition to the course expected to create a difference of only 3~4 seconds many universities' head coaches called for the old records to remain as the official records, but in the end the principles of "precision in time and distance" inherent to track and field won out.  Toshiyuki Sakai (38), head coach of Toyo University which will lose its Fifth Stage, Day One, Day Two and overall course records, commented, "The complete out-and-back course is 217.9 km, so if the course changes due to road construction it's inevitable that the records are going to be erased.  However, our drive to break our 2012 overall course record and Kashiwabara's Fifth Stage record still remains and will not disappear along with them." 

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Wins 7th-Straight Okinoshima 50 km

Running the Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon on his late father's home island of Oki for the eighth year in a row, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:52:55 to win it for the seventh straight time. Starting strong on the relatively flat first 10 km where he clocked 33:26, low-2:47 pace, Kawauchi slowed to just over 2:50 pace on the course's toughest hills between 10 and 30 km. A sub-2:50 was still in range at that point, but over the last 20 km he faded further to finish in the second-slowest of his Okinoshima wins.



The day before the race Kawauchi paced children in Okinoshima's kids' run. Following that he greeted participants and local supporters at an expo event where he was hailed onstage as the Boston Marathon winner. As per his usual routine, his next race will be the July 1 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Kipchirchir and Chebii Take on Three Gold Coast Winners

The men's race at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon is usually a Kenya-Japan head-to-head, Kenya taking six wins and Japan three in the last ten years. With not a single Ethiopian in the field for this year's 40th edition it looks set for it to happen yet again.

Sub-2:10 Kenyans Victor Kipchirchir, Douglas Chebii, Philip Sanga and the Japan-based Michael Githae will line up to take on three of the race's last four winners, 2017 champ Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), 2015-16 winner and course record holder Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) and 2013 champ and perpetual top three placer Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't). With a 1:01:20 at last year's Prague Half debuting Kenyan Eliud Mwangi should also factor into the front end. Give the advantage to team Kenya in this bout, but as Noguchi and Kawauchi have proven Gold Coast is a race where Japanese men are legit contenders.

With the window for getting qualifying times for next year's MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials start…

Japan's 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon to be Held September 15, 2019

On June 15 the JAAF announced the date and course for the Marathon Grand Championship Race, or MGC Race for short, its new almost-one-shot trials race that will determine at least two of the three members of its men's and women's marathon teams for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The MGC Race will be held 11 months prior to the Olympics on September 15, 2019. The winners of the MGC Race will be named to the 2020 team, with either the 2nd or 3rd placer also named to the team depending on whether either has broken a fast standard, 2:05:30 for men and 2:21:00 for women. The remaining top three placer will have to wait until March, 2020 to find out whether they will be included on the team or passed over in favor of someone who clears another fast standard in one of the big six domestic elite marathons in the winter of 2019-20.

The MGC Race course will closely follow the already announced Olympic course, the only key exception being a start and finish in the Jingu Gaien district nearby …