Skip to main content

Saitama Scores First-Ever National Title at 20th National Men's Ekiden

by Brett Larner
video highlights courtesy of race broadcaster NHK

Championship ekiden season wrapped up with Sunday's 20th running of the National Men's Ekiden starting and finishing at Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Museum.  Strong start to finish, the Saitama team outran Japan's 46 other prefectures to take its first national title in 2:19:14, the third-fastest time in race history.

Saitama was right there from the start, opening runner Ryoji Tatezawa up against five sub-14 athletes but taking 6th on the 7.0 km H.S.-only First Stage in 20:14 just 10 seconds behind leader Shota Onitsuka (Fukuoka).  Many of the pre-race favorites had trouble on the opening stage, defending champion Nagano 17th, 2012-13 winner Hyogo 18th, hosts Hiroshima just 32nd and powerhouse Aichi disqualified after its first runner Atsushi Yamato threw the tasuki across the line to second runner Shota Ezomori after falling repeatedly in the final 50 m while struggling to finish, a rare disqualification for an illegal handoff.  Fukui was scored as a DNF when its opening runner Yu Agehara collapsed mid-stage, second runner Seiya Hyoda starting with the first white sash in Nationals history.  Both Aichi and Fukui's remaining runners were allowed to run but their results were not counted in stage or overall standings, a major blow to Aichi whose team included Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage course record-setter Daichi Kamino of Hakone champion Aoyama Gakuin University.

Saitama's Ryu Hashimoto took the lead on the 3.0 km J.H.S. Second Stage with an 8:39 stage win, forming a trio with Shizuoka and Fukuoka that stayed close for most of the rest of the race.  Saitama's 8.5 km Third Stage runner Yuta Shitara set the course record on the New Year Ekiden's 22.0 km Fourth Stage earlier this month and came in to the National Men's Ekiden saying he was in the hunt for the 23:26 course record, but although he quickly dispatched Fukuoka's Kazuharu Takai he couldn't shake Shizuoka's Shin Kimura, a collegiate replacement for 5000 m and 10000 m national champion Yuki Sato who sat out with a case of the flu that is sweeping Japan.  Kimura challenged Shitara all the way, the pair trading the lead and looking on track to run stage-winning times.

But behind them, Kumamoto's Kazuma Kubota, 2nd on Hakone's First Stage for winner Aoyama Gakuin University, hauled past the chase group to make contact late in the stage.  Shitara and Kimura responded, but on the second-to-last corner Kubota surged and handed off to the 5.0 km H.S. Fourth Stage with a one-second lead.

Which promptly disappeared as Saitama's fourth man Naoki Koyama ran away with a 14:13 stage win to put Saitama 15 seconds ahead of Kumamoto.  Its fifth man Ryo Kozasa was second-fastest on the 8.5 km H.S. Fifth Stage in 24:46, stretching Saitama's lead to 31 seconds.  J.H.S. runner Ryunosuke Saito was 12th on time for the 3.0 km Sixth Stage, cutting Saitama's lead to 26 seconds, but anchor Shota Hattori was solid and controlled, keeping the lead at 24 seconds with a strong finish after Miyagi anchor Kenta Murayama closed to within 15 seconds with just over a kilometer to go.

Hattori crossed the line in 2:19:14, the third-fastest time ever at the National Men's Ekiden, to give Saitama its first national title.  Murayama appeared in pain in the last kilometer with a hitch in his stride but held on to break 2:20:00, giving Miyagi 2nd in 2:19:38.  Perpetual top 3 finisher Tokyo returned from a bad run last year for 3rd in 2:20:19 off a good run from anchor Keita Shitara.

Enigmatic ekiden specialist Takehiro Deki ran big again, winning the stage on time in 37:28 to move Nagasaki up from 15th to take the final podium position in 8th and surprisingly outrunning Hiroshima's anchor Tetsuya Yoroizaka, a 27:38 runner on the track, who likewise picked up 7 spots in moving from 20th to 13th in 37:33.  Aichi's Hakone star Daichi Kamino ran the third-fastest time on the stage, 37:36, but his results were not counted in official standings due to Aichi's First Stage disqualification.  Kamino and many of the other top runners in the National Men's Ekiden will next line up Feb. 1 at the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon before parting ways again to pursue separate collegiate and corporate agenda.

20th National Men's Ekiden
Hiroshima, 1/18/15
47 teams, 7 stages, 48.0 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Saitama - 2:19:14
2. Miyagi - 2:19:38
3. Tokyo - 2:20:19
4. Gunma - 2:20:25
5. Kagoshima - 2:20:27
6. Fukuoka - 2:20:41
7. Hyogo - 2:20:45
8. Nagasaki - 2:20:48
9. Shizuoka - 2:20:59
10. Tochigi - 2:21:00
-----
DNF - Fukui
DQ - Aichi

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (7.0 km) - H.S. stage
1. Shota Onitsuka (Fukuoka) - 20:04
2. Fuminori Shimo (Mie) - 20:07
3. Hiroyuki Sakaguchi (Nagasaki) - 20:08

Second Stage (3.0 km) - J.H.S. stage
1. Ryu Hashimoto (Saitama) - 8:39
2. Yusuke Mukai (Kagawa) - 8:44
3. Shogo Matsushima (Shizuoka) - 8:45
3. Koshi Takagi (Nagano) - 8:45

Third Stage (8.5 km)
1. Masato Kikuchi (Hokkaido) - 24:04
2. Ken Yokote (Tochigi) - 24:07
3. Kazuma Kubota (Kumamoto) - 24:10
4. Shuho Dairokuno (Kagoshima) - 24:15
5. Yuta Takahashi (Tokyo) - 24:17
6. Hazuma Hattori (Niigata) - 24:24
7. Kota Murayama (Miyagi) - 24:26
8. Yuta Shitara (Saitama) - 24:27
9. Shin Kimura (Shizuoka) - 24:29
9. Shinichiro Nakamura (Kagawa) - 24:29
9. Ryohei Yamasaki (Tottori) - 24:29

Fourth Stage (5.0 km) - H.S. stage
1. Naoki Koyama (Saitama) - 14:13
2. Kazuya Nishiyama (Gunma) - 14:24
3. Tomoya Nakamura (Osaka) - 14:25

Fifth Stage (8.5 km) - H.S. stage
1. Hiroki Miura (Miyagi) - 24:32
2. Ryo Kozasa (Saitama) - 24:46
2. Kanta Shimizu (Gunma) - 24:46

Sixth Stage (3.0 km) - J.H.S. stage
1. Yuki Sakamoto (Hyogo) - 8:41
2. Yusuke Osawa (Gunma) - 8:48
2. Daichi Watanabe (Shizuoka) - 8:48

Seventh Stage (13.0 km)
1. Takehiro Deki (Nagasaki) - 37:28
2. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Hiroshima) - 37:33
3. Daichi Kamino (Aichi) - 37:36
4. Kenta Murayama (Miyagi) - 37:48
5. Shota Hattori (Saitama) - 37:59
6. Yuki Matsuoka (Tokushima) - 38:04
7. Keita Shitara (Tokyo) - 38:07
7. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Tochigi) - 38:07
7. Yusuke Ogura (Hokkaido) - 38:07
7. Chihiro Miyawaki (Gifu) - 38:07

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Tokyo Marathon Cancels Mass Participation Race, To Go Ahead as Elite-Only Event (updated)

Update: The Mar. 8 Nagoya Women's Marathon, the world's largest women-only marathon, is now also looking at canceling its mass-participation division.

In response to the spread of the coronavirus within Japan, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation has decided to cancel the Mar. 1 Tokyo Marathon's 38,000-runner mass-participation race. Founded in 2007, the Tokyo Marathon is Japan's largest mass-participation marathon, with more than a million spectators along its course every year. A men's Olympic marathon team selection race, this year's Tokyo Marathon will be an unusual spectacle with only 200 elite runners including national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike) and previous record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda).

The Tokyo Marathon Foundation is also looking at significantly cutting back the activities of the 11,000 volunteers involved in the event's operations. On Feb. 1 the Foundation already asked roughly 1,800 participants living in China to refrain from taking part…

Tokyo Marathon Looking at Cutting General Division in Response to Coronavirus (updated)

Update: The Tokyo Marathon's mass-participation race has been canceled. More information here.

It has been learned that the Tokyo Marathon Foundation is considering cutting back on the number of runners in the Mar. 1 Tokyo Marathon in response to the continued spread of the coronavirus. According to a spokesperson, the Foundation is said to be considering options including reducing the number of participants and completely canceling the mass participation race.

The Tokyo Marathon has the largest number of participants of any marathon in Japan, with around 40,000 people entered for this year's race. As an Olympic selection race for men, the elite field in Tokyo this year includes national record holder Suguru Osako and previous national record holder Yuta Shitara.

The Foundation and metropolitan government had previously announced plans to distribute masks to runners who wished to use them. But in light of the continued spread of the coronavirus after that announcement, discuss…

Nagoya Women's Marathon Considering Canceling Mass Participation Race

In the wake of the Tokyo Marathon's cancelation of its mass-participation race, on Feb. 17 it was learned that the Mar. 8 Nagoya Women's Marathon, which like Tokyo features a format combining an elite selection race for the 2020 Olympic team with a mass-participation race, is examining whether it will be possible to still stage the mass-participation component of its event.

Following the Tokyo Marathon's announcement earlier in the day that it was canceling its mass-participation race over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, Nagoya's organizers were inundated with inquiries from the media and amateur runners entered in the race. The organizers say that they hope to reach a decision and make an announcement as soon as possible.

The largest women-only marathon in the world, as of Feb. 13 Nagoya has 24,002 entrants total this year, 137 in its elite division and 23,865 in its general division. Along with Nagoya, organizers are also examining the feasibility of s…