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

Kanazawa Marathon to Stop Runners at 21 Locations Due to Election

Due to be held the same day as voting in the upcoming election for the House of Representatives, runners at the Kanazawa Marathon can expect to be stopped at over 20 intersections on the course in order to allow voters on their way to the polls to pass without interference.  Scheduled to be held Oct. 31 after last year's race was canceled, the Kanazawa Marathon will take place while voting polls for the House of Representatives election are open. On race day, road closures for the marathon will be in place for up to 6 hours, but the locations of 14 polling stations on the course mean that voters will need to be able to cross through intersections. 50,000 voters are expected to use these locations, and while city officials are calling for people to utilize early voting or polling stations not affected by road closures then have made the decision to place security personnel at 21 intersections to stop runners when necessary. The Kanazawa Marathon already has this policy in place at

Weekend Overseas Marathon Results

With the Tokyo Marathon having canceled due to guidelines written in the pre-vaccine era some of Japan's top marathoners have had to go overseas this season. Men's national record holder Kengo Suzuki  (Fujitsu) was at Sunday's Chicago Marathon . Suzuki seemed to be staying calm in the lead group, but when the real move came he didn't have the same kind of closing speed he had at March's Lake Biwa Marathon and was left behind by the lead true. Suzuki ended up 4th in 2:08:50, the fastest time by a Japanese outside Japan so far this year. Seifu Tura Abdiwak  (Ethiopia) took 1st in 2:06:12. The next day at the Boston Marathon , Tokyo Paralympics women's gold medalist Misato Michishita  (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) had a quick turnaround to win Boston's first-ever T11/T12 division race. In the elite women's race Shiho Kaneshige  (GRlab Kanto) tailed the lead pack with America Elaina Tabb through the first half of the race according to plan on sub-2:30 pace. But

February's Ome 30 km Road Race Canceled Due to Pandemic

On Oct. 14 the organizers of Tokyo's Ome 30 km Road Race announced that the popular event's 55th running, scheduled for Feb. 20, 2022, will not go ahead and will instead be postponed a year. Organizers said that due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic they had concerns about being able to stage the event in a way safe for runners, local residents, race staff and volunteers. The Ome 30 km's 55th running was originally scheduled for February, 2021 but was postponed to 2022, meaning the new decision will in effect be a two-year postponement.  The Ome 30 km Road Race was founded in 1967. Starting in the western Tokyo suburb of Ome, the race follows a mountainous route along the upper Tama River gorge and back. Featuring both 30 km and 10 km races, the race seen wins from Olympic gold medalists like Naoko Takahashi  and Mizuki Noguchi , and is one of Japan's most popular races for amateur runners, with over 12,000 finishers every year. In place of the 2022 event, organizers