Skip to main content

Back on the Track, A New Ekiden and No Rest for Kawauchi - Weekend Preview

by Brett Larner

Earlier this year when Oregon-training then-future 3000 m national record holder Suguru Osako (Team Nissin Shokuhin) ran in a U.S. track meet its webcast announcer, talking about Osako's PBs, said in a mocking tone of voice, "Who runs track in November?"  The answer, of course, is just about every elite Japan-based runner.

November is full of track time trial meets that coaches use to assess fitness within their rosters ahead of the mid-December to mid-January national championship ekiden season.  One of the biggest happens on Saturday, the Hachioji Long Distance time trials meet in Tokyo's western suburbs featuring seven men's 10000 m heats packed with much of the top talent in the country.  The A-heat features 18 of the best Japan-based Africans paced by sub-27 man Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC), young sub-28 Japanese athletes Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota), Keita Shitara (Team Konica Minolta), Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) and Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei) plus nine others hoping to join them.  The other 6 heats, staggered in 10-second target time increments, all feature Japan-based Kenyan pacers like 2013 World XC junior silver medalist Leonard Barsoton (Team Nissin Shokuhin) leading mixed pro and collegiate fields.  Quality track time trial meets are scheduled far to the west in Nagasaki, mid-country at Chukyo University, and northwest of Tokyo at Heisei Kokusai University in Saitama.  If you consider yourself a serious runner here, there's a pretty good chance you'll be running track in November.

Many college-aged women who aren't will instead be north of Tokyo in Tochigi at the Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden, a brand-new event and welcome addition to the university women's calendar.  14 teams are entered for the one-way, uphill race that is looking to build up some of the buzz that surrounds the Hakone Ekiden's legendary uphill Fifth Stage.  With 6 stages totalling only 23.4 km it'll be over in a relative flash, but at 875 m of climb it's a tough course, especially on its own Fifth Stage which climbs roughly 400 m in 3.5 km.  The #1 women's university team in eastern Japan, Daito Bunka University, is fielding a lineup featuring A-listers Mari Tayama and Eri Utsunomiya, and national-level Osaka Geidai University and Chuo University likewise have some of their big names on their entry list, so in its first running the Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden looks set for a good race.

The weekend's other main event comes in Saitama at the newish Koedo Kawagoe Half Marathon.  A week after a 2:12:59 course record at the Fukuchiyama Marathon, two weeks after a career third-best 1:02:55 at the Ageo City Half Marathon and four weeks after a disappointing turn at the TCS New York City Marathon, Kawagoe course record holder Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returns to give his 1:04:44 record from last year a go in a tuneup for a shot at a 2:07 marathon next month.  Look for coverage of these and other events throughout the weekend here on JRN.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …

Guinness Certifies Kawauchi's World Record 78 Career Sub-2:20 Marathons After Half Marathon in Panda Costume

Known as the Civil Servant Runner, Saitama Prefectural Government employee Yuki Kawauchi's career record of 78 sub-2:20 marathons was officially recognized as the Guinness World Record at a ceremony in his hometown of Kuki, Saitama on Mar. 25.  Raised in Kuki, Kawauchi began working for the Saitama Prefectural Government after graduating from university. Running while working full-time as a civil servant, he has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic trial race.

Earlier this month on the 18th Kawauchi ran Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon, winning in 2:14:12. His 78th time running faster than 2 hours and 20 minutes, his achievement was certified as the official Guinness World Record. He actually broke the previous record on Jan. 1 at the Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon in the U.S.A. with his 76th sub-2:20 but followed up with two performances, one in February and the other last week, before Guinness could ratify the record.

The official recognition ceremony took place Mar. 2…