Skip to main content

Ekiden Season Hits Peak With National Women's and Men's Ekidens

by Brett Larner

Ekiden season never really ends, but championship season hits its peak this weekend and next with the Jan. 11 National Women's Ekiden in Kyoto and Jan. 18 National Men's Ekiden in Hiroshima.  Both races feature teams from each of Japan's 47 prefectures, made up of the best pro, collegiate, high school and junior high school runners from each region, and both are broadcast live and commercial-free nationwide by NHK.  Follow @JRNLive for live coverage of both starting at 12:30 each day.

At the 33rd running of the National Women's Ekiden defending champion Kyoto comes in with seven wins in the last ten years and home ground advantage on the nine-stage, 42.195 km course.  Its team is missing its magic ingredient, last year's Fourth Stage course record setter Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), but features veteran Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz) and 2011 Tokyo Marathon winner Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) along with 2014 National University Ekiden winner Ritsumeikan University's Nanako Kanno and four members of 2014 National High School Ekiden runner-up Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. including stage winners Fukiko Ando and Maako Konishi.

The last team to beat Kyoto, Kanagawa, had to run a course record 2:14:55 to do it in 2013.  This year's Kanagawa team is a good one, led by pros Rui Aoyama (Team Univ. Ent.) and Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) supported by top-level collegiate Maki Izumida (Rikkyo Univ.) and several strong high school and junior runners, but it doesn't look like it has the potential to outrun Kyoto or the other top competition.

Chief among those is 2012 national champion Osaka.  Led by Sayuri Oka of 2014 National Corporate Women's Ekiden runner-up Daihatsu and Ritsumeikan University's Natsuki Omori, Osaka's lineup includes six members of 2014 National High School Ekiden champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. including 2014 Youth Olympics 3000 m gold medalist Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu, and her younger sister, last year's Third Stage winner Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin J.H.S.).  With a combination like this Osaka looks like the favorite to stop a Kyoto repeat.

The other big competition comes from last year's runner-up Gunma, which features four members of 2014 National Corporate Women's Ekiden 3rd-placer Yamada Denki including stage winners Yuika Mori and Sakiho Tsutsui, and five members of 2014 National High School Ekiden 3rd-placer Tokiwa H.S. including prestigious First Stage winner Harumi Okamoto.

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Japanese National Track and Field Championships Preview

The 101st edition of Japan's National Track and Field Championships takes place Friday through Sunday at Osaka's Yanmar Stadium Nagai. It's a strange time in some ways. Despite the overall upward trend spurred on by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the count of athletes who might make the London World Championships off their performances at Nationals is low. The marathon, walks, combined events and relays aside, based on current qualifying times only the men's 100 m, women's 5000 m and women's 10000 m could field full three-member squads, and not many events look set to join that list. The progress over the last few years in men's distance on the track seems to have stalled, with nobody qualified for London in the 5000 m and the only man qualified in the 10000 m already a scratch. Is it a just a hiccup or a sign of problems in the buildup to 2020?

Visit the JAAF's National Track and Field Championships website for entry and start lists, live results, photos an…

Ageo City Half Marathon Leads Weekend Action - Preview

by Brett Larner

Rainy weather lies ahead for a busy weekend of racing across the country.  Track is a part of the calender from April through December, and this weekend features several large time trial meets including the Shizuoka Long Distance Time Trials Meet and, closer to Tokyo, the Nittai University Time Trials Meet.  Men's 5000 m is the focus at Nittai with 37 separate heats in one day, the fastest heat led by 12 Japan-based Africans including Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC), Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.) and Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta).

The main action this weekend, however, happens on the roads, and there's no question that the Ageo City Half Marathon is the main event.  Ageo, the race that university coaches use to thin their rosters ahead of deciding their lineups for January's Hakone Ekiden, is one of two Japanese half marathons vying for the title of world's greatest half, locked in a duel with March's National University Half Marathon to produce the d…

JAAF Announces Preliminary Team for London World Championships

A day after the end of the 2017 Japanese National Track and Field Championships, the JAAF announced its preliminary team for August's London World Championships. No men made the team in long distance, while no women were named in any event except long distance. Top-placing athletes at the National Championships have until July 23 to chase standards in hope of being added to the team, but excluding the marathon and race walk, the team as announced on June 26:

Women's Long Distance
Rina Nabeshima (Japan Post) - 5000 m
Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post) - 5000 m / 10000 m
Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) - 10000 m
Miyuki Uehara (Daiichi Seimei) - 10000 m

Men's Sprints
Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 100 m / 200 m
Shuhei Tada (Kwansei Gakuin Univ.) - 100 m
Aska Cambridge (Nike) - 100 m
Shota Iizuka (Mizuno) - 200 m
Takamasa Kitagawa (Juntendo Univ.) - 400 m

Additional Relay Members
Yoshihide Kiryu (Toyo Univ.) - 4x100 m
Kenji Fujimitsu (Zenrin) - 4x100 m
Kentaro Sato (Fujitsu) -…