photo courtesy of STITCHrunner
On May 28 the JAAF announced that it is cancelling the International Chiba Ekiden, scheduled for Nov. 23 this year, and will no longer stage it. The event's organizing committee at the Federation made the decision today, citing difficulty in recruiting top-level athletes in the midst of a calendar already crowded with marathons and other ekidens and a decreasing significance in staging Chiba as both Japanese and international athletes focus on other international races.
The International Chiba Ekiden was first held in 1988. Beginning in 2007 it featured mixed teams alternating men's and women's legs over a six-stage, 42.195 km course. At last year's 26th running 13 teams from 11 countries took place including a team of top Japanese university students, with the Japanese national team winning for the first time in 5 years. Federation officials summarized Chiba's legacy by saying, "It played a large role in developing our athletes as well as in providing opportunities for international exchange." Marathon great Toshihiko Seko, who ran the first International Chiba Ekiden as the final race of his career, commented, "It's really sad news."
Translator's note: With the cancellation of the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden in 2009 in favor of the now-defunct Yokohama International Women's Marathon, the elimination of the International Chiba Ekiden means that the last vestige of internationalism in Japan's ekiden circuit is the Ivy League alumni team at October's Izumo Ekiden. Combined with the announcement a few months ago of the corporate federation's million dollar bonus for a new marathon national record and concomitant bonuses for other quality time performances in the marathon it seems clear where priorities lie in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.