Skip to main content

Nagano Wins Record Seventh National Men's Ekiden

by Brett Larner
video courtesy of NHK

Six-time national champion Nagano extended its dynasty to seven, fighting off a tough challenge by Fukuoka on the anchor stage to win the 22nd edition of the National Men's Ekiden in Hiroshima. The counterpart to last weekend's National Women's Ekiden, the men's race features 47 seven-man teams made up from the best junior high school, high school, university and corporate league runners from each prefecture, all competing over a total of 48.0 km.

Nagano got off to a strong start as its lead runner Yuhi Nakaya took 2nd on the 7.0 km high school boys' First Stage, 3 seconds behind leader Kiseki Shiozawa of Mie.  Defending national champion Aichi and Fukuoka were more than 20 seconds back in 19th and 20th, but with solid runs by their 3.0 km junior high school Second Stage runners both advanced into the top 10. Behind them, Nagasaki's Hiroto Hayashida went from 41st to 27th as he broke the course record by 9 seconds in 8:20.

The 8.5 km Third Stage featured a mix of university and corporate league talent.  A chase group of seven formed behind leaders Kyoto and Gunma, with Aichi's Kosei Yamaguchi emerging to put the defending champs into 1st by 3 seconds over Fukuoka with Mie and Nagano within 2 more seconds and another five teams close behind.

Over the next two high school stages Nagano and Fukuoka developed into the clear leaders, 12 seconds apart and a margin of nearly 45 seconds over the rest of the field by the handoff to the 3.0 km  junior high school Sixth Stage.  There Fukuoka's Safumi Sugi ran down Nagano's Ryosei Sanada and putting Fukuoka 2 seconds ahead at the start of the anchor stage.  Mid-field, Kazuki Matsuyama of Tochigi ran a course record 8:29, meaning new sub-8:30 CRs on both of the day's junior high school student stages.

The 13.0 km anchor stage featured most of the big-name university and corporate league talent.  Anchoring Fukuoka was Yuki Oshikawa, runner-up on the New Year Ekiden's Fifth Stage.  For Nagano, Yuichiro Ueno, runner-up on the Third Stage at the New Year and with multiple winning anchor runs for Nagano behind him at the National Men's Ekiden.  Oshikawa started strong and it took several kilometers for Ueno to catch him, but when he did Ueno threw in a surge to get ahead without argument.  Oshikawa did his best to hang on, but as the kilometers clicked by Ueno used his experience on the course to take full advantage of the undulations on the many bridges around Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park, edging away a second at a time.  In the end he opened 19 seconds on Oshikawa to give Nagano a record seventh national title in 2:19:09, Fukuoka still ending up with its best performance in years.

Behind them, fans got what they wanted with a four-way battle for 3rd between four popular young Hakone Ekiden stars.  2016 Aoyama Gakuin University graduate Daichi Kamino ran for Aichi, AGU 4h-year Tadashi Isshiki for Kyoto, AGU 3rd-year Yuta Shimoda for Shizuoka and Juntendo University 2nd-year and Rio Olympian Kazuya Shiojiri for Gunma.  For the first 10 km all four ran together, all but Kamino taking turns leading.  On a small bridge near 10 km Kamino suddenly attacked with a surge that dropped Shiojiri and Shimoda.  Isshiki hung on for over 2 km, but in the last km Kamino was too strong, pulling away to take 3rd in 2:20:31 to Kyoto's 2:20:37.  Not showing much sign of the 42.195 km training run he did in 2:27:35 last Sunday, Shimoda likewise dropped Shiojiri to give Shizuoka 5th in 2:20:51.

With championship ekiden season a wrap many of the top university and corporate league runners now turn to the half marathon and marathon.  Many will line up at the Feb. 5 Marugame Half Marathon.  Shimoda, the under-20 marathon national record with a 2:11:34 debut at age 19 in Tokyo last year, will run Tokyo again next month in a bid to make the London World Championships team.  Isshiki, who likewise debuted in Tokyo last year, will do the same a week later at the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.  Joining Shimoda in Tokyo will be this year's National Men's Ekiden anchor stage winner, Yuta Shitara of the Honda corporate team in his debut.

22nd National Men's Ekiden
Hiroshima, 1/22/17
47 teams, 7 stages, 48.0 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Nagano - 2:19:09
2. Fukuoka - 2:19:28
3. Aichi - 2:20:31
4. Kyoto - 2:20:37
5. Shizuoka - 2:20:51
6. Gunma - 2:21:03
7. Tokyo - 2:21:18
8. Niigata - 2:21:29
9. Chiba - 2:21:32
10. Akita - 2:21:34

Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (7.0 km, H.S.)
1. Kiseki Shiozawa (Mie) - 20:14
2. Yuhi Nakaya (Nagano) - 20:17
3. Sodai Shimizu (Kyoto) - 20:17

Second Stage (3.0 km, J.H.S.)
1. Hiroto Hayashida (Nagasaki) - 8:20 - CR
2. Kaishin Hattori (Aichi) - 8:31
3. Kosuke Ishida (Fukuoka) - 8:34

Third Stage (8.5 km, univ/pro)
1. Shota Onizuka (Fukuoka) - 24:23
2. Kosei Yamaguchi (Aichi) - 24:24
2. Ryoji Tatezawa (Kanagawa) - 24:24

Fourth Stage (5.0 km, H.S.)
1. Keita Honma (Nagano) - 14:25
2. Hiroyasu Morikawa (Fukuoka) - 14:28
3. Jundai Murakami (Chiba) - 14:33

Fifth Stage (8.5 km, H.S.)
1. Ryota Natori (Nagano) - 24:19
1. Ryo Saito (Akita) - 24:19
3. Ryota Takemoto (Fukuoka) - 24:29

Sixth Stage (3.0 km, J.H.S.)
1. Kazuki Matsuyama (Tochigi) - 8:29 - CR
2. Yuichiro Baba (Aichi) - 8:41
3. Kyosuke Hanao (Nagasaki) - 8:42

Seventh Stage (13.0 km, univ/pro)
1. Yuta Shitara (Saitama) - 37:43
2. Yuichiro Ueno (Nagano) - 37:49
3. Daichi Kamino (Aichi) - 38:01

© 2017 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Weekend Overseas Japanese Results

Lost in the luminosity of Eliud Kipchoge's world record and Gladys Cherono's women's course record at the Berlin Marathon were a score of Japanese results there and elsewhere overseas, ranging from the sparkling to the dull. Cherono and 2nd and 3rd placers Ruti Aga and Tirunesh Dibaba all broke Mizuki Noguchi's Berlin Marathon course record of 2:19:12 which has stood since she set that national record mark in 2005.

A kilometer behind Dibaba, Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) followed up her 2:22:44 debut in Osaka in January with a 2:22:23 PB for 5th, making her just the fourth Japanese woman ever to break 2:23 twice in her career. 2:23:46 woman Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) ran 2:25:23 for 7th, beating Tenmaya teammate Rei Ohara whose 2:27:28 put her only 10th but qualified her for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics marathon trials, only the second athlete after 2018 Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) to qualify for the trials under the two-race average wildcard opt…

Nittai University Head Coach Masaaki Watanabe Fired Over Abuse Scandal

On Sept. 12 Nittai University announced that it will fire ekiden team head coach Masaaki Watanabe, 55, over the current power harassment scandal surrounding him. According to the university's public relations office, interviews by the alumni association with five current and one former team member reported multiple acts of violence by Watanabe including kicking athletes' legs and grabbing them by the chest.

The interviews also reported that Watanabe verbally abused and threatened student athletes and attacked their character. When runners fell off pace during workouts he was reported to have shouted, "Get the hell out of this university!" and, following the runners in a car, "I am going to f*cking run you over and kill you." Injured team members were also reported to have been subject to verbal humiliation by Watanabe, including, "Look at this f*cking cripple," and "You f*cking deserve it." Watanabe admitted the accusations but said tha…

Kazami Breaks 100 km World Record at Lake Saroma

Running on the same course where Japan's Takahiro Sunada set the road 100 km world record of 6:13:33 twenty years ago, 2:17:23 marathoner Nao Kazamibested a deep and competitive field to win the Lake Saroma 100 km Ultramarathon in a world record 6:09:14.

Part of a front group of at least five that went through the marathon split in 2:33:36, on pace for 6:04:01, Kazami lost touch with the lead as rivals Koji Hayasaka and Takehiko Gyoba surged just before halfway to open a roughly 30 second lead that lasted until nearly 75 km. But in the last quarter of the race Kazami, a graduate of Hakone Ekiden powerhouse Komazawa University, was the only one who could sustain anything close to the early pace, overtaking Hayasaka and Gyoba before pulling away to open a lead of over 11 minutes. Kazami's mark took more than 4 minutes off the world record, and he also bettered the 100 km track world record of 6:10:20 set in 1978 well before he was born by the late Don Ritchie.
Trying to stay wi…