Skip to main content

Weekend Racing Roundup - University Ekiden Season Gets Going

by Brett Larner

Along with the Berlin Marathon, where Moscow World Championships bronze medalist Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) turned in the fastest Japanese women's performance overseas so far this year at 2:26:25 for 6th and 2014 Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon winner Kazuki Tomaru (Team Toyota) cracked the top ten with a 2:11:25 PB, the fall season got underway for real all across Japan.

The university ekiden circuit kicked off with the Kansai Region University Women's Ekiden on Saturday, where for the second year in a row Osaka Gakuin University beat national champion Ritsumeikan University.  The two schools traded the lead for the first four of the race's six stages before Osaka Gakuin got free on the Fifth Stage, ultimately winning by 7 seconds in 1:38:53.  The Kanto Region University Women's Ekiden followed on Sunday, with Daito Bunka University taking the lead on the Second Stage to run unchallenged all the way to the finish in a course record 1:38:22.  Early leader Tokyo Nogyo University and Nittai University ran the entire way within 7 seconds of each other before Nittai anchor Hiromi Hikida outkicked Tokyo Nogyo's Natsuno Furuya by 2 seconds for 2nd place in 1:41:46.

In preparation for next month's Izumo Ekiden the Daito Bunka University men were in action on the track, hosting the Saitama Jitsugyodan Long Distance Time Trials meet.  DBU's star twins Takashi Ichida and Hiroshi Ichida took the top two spots in the 10000 m, Takashi running 28:57.69 and Hiroshi 2nd in 29:14.99.  Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University had its Izumo lineup focus on 5000 m, where junior Kazuma Watanabe led in 14:01.81.

A half dozen other areas had minor meets at about the same level as Saitama's but the biggest track results of the weekend came at the season's first edition of the Nittai University Time Trials meet.  In her first pro season, Ayuko Suzuki (Team Japan Post) got things started in a big way with the first Japanese women's sub-9 minute 3000 m in over six years as she soloed an 8:58.08 PB to win the A-heat.  Ritsumeikan grad Michi Numata turned in a good 15:32.41 to top the 5000 m A-heat, while in the men's races Kenyans Leonard Barsoton (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Bernard Kimanyi (Team Yakult) won the 5000 m and 10000 m in 13:25.39 and 27:50.66.

Back on the roads, another Japan-based Kenyan, John Maina (Team Toho Refine) won the Ichinoseki International Half Marathon in 1:03:29, with Hawaiian resident Polina Carlson (Russia) winning the women's race in 1:16:48.  Maina told reporters, "I'm very happy to win a race here in my hometown."  A little further north, Tomohiro Tanigawa of 2014 New Year Ekiden winner Team Konica Minolta won the Hakodate Half Marathon in 1:03:20.  Much further south, Toyo grad Hisanori Kitajima (Team Yasukawa Denki) was a surprise winner in the Fukuoka Prefecture 10-Mile Championships, outrunning defending champion Ryuji Watanabe and marathoner Masato Imai (both Team Team Toyota Kyushu) by over a minute for the win in 48:24.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

60-Year-Old Hiromi Nakata Wins Tottori Marathon Overall Women's Race

The Tottori Marathon held its 12th running on March 10. In light rain and 11˚C temperatures 3717 people ran Tottori's one-way course that passes local historic sites such as the Tottori Sand Dunes and the Tottori Castle ruins. Running 3:12:44 for the overall women's win was 60-year-old Hiromi Nakata.
"I was as surprised as anyone that I won," said Tanaka. "I had to stop at the toilets early on and lost some time, but I tried using the double inhale, double exhale breathing method that the actor Kankuro Nakamura uses on the Idaten TV show and got into a good rhythm. Thanks to that I could just keep going and going. I had no idea I was in 1st, and when they put up the finish tape as I was coming in I thought, 'No way!'""
Nakata is a resident of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka. In 2017 she ran the fastest time of the year in Japan by a 58-year-old, 3:05:02. In the mornings she does housework and works in her garden for an hour, fitting in 30 to 60-minute run…

Meet Ken Nakayama

Chuo University fourth-year Ken Nakayama is running Sunday's United Airlines NYC Half Marathon, the eighth year that the New York Road Runners have invited top Japanese university men from November's Ageo City Half Marathon to run their half. You might have seen his training partner Kensuke Horio finish 5th in the Tokyo Marathon in his debut a couple of weeks ago. Nakayama is one of the very top graduating seniors in Japan this year, but his route to that level has been one of the most unconventional.

Japanese distance running is highly systematically organized, with top high schools feeding into top universities where the best runners will run the Hakone Ekiden and get recruited to top corporate teams and then go on to become the country's top marathoners. Scouting at the university level is intense, and for the most part it's pretty clear early on in high school who the cream of the crop are going to be.

Nakayama was nobody in high school. He played soccer in junior…

The 2020 Olympic Trials Qualifiers and the New Olympic Standards

Sunday's Nagoya Women's Marathon and Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon pretty much wrapped up qualification for the Sept. 15 MGC Race, Japan's new 2020 Olympic trials in the marathon. There's still a chance for people who haven't qualified yet to get in if they can clear the wildcard standards, 2:24:00 or a two-race 2:28:00 average for women and 2:08:30 or a 2:11:00 average for men, by the end of April. At least two men with good chances of making it, Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei) and Asuka Tanaka (Hiramatsu Byoin), are planning to race again in April to try to go that route, and there will probably be others. But realistically the numbers of qualifiers probably won't change too much from what they are now.

As of the end of Sunday's races, 14 women and 30 men have qualified. On the women's side, the Tenmaya corporate team, the most successful at putting women on national teams in the marathon, has produced the most qualifiers with three, Honami Maeda, Mizuki …