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Izumo Ekiden Preview



It's almost time for the weekend's biggest race, as university men's ekiden season kicks off at Monday's Izumo Ekiden. 21 university teams face off over 45.1 km split into six stages, the short stage lengths rewarding the teams with the best speed credentials. For the last few years that's been Aoyama Gakuin University, a program that rose from nearly zero to juggernaut status under talented head coach Susumu Hara, but this year AGU's time in the spotlight may be up.

Over the six years since taking over as head coach in 2011 Hayashi Morozumi has turned Tokai University into a program that can challenge AGU's depth and quality. With Morozumi having spent track season focusing his team on 1500 m speed Tokai now has fifteen men with 5000 m bests under 14 minutes, and ten of them make up Tokai's roster for Izumo. Led by second-year Hayato Seki with bests of 13:35.81 and 28:23.37, all of Tokai's best six made the cut, giving it six-man averages over 5000 m, 10000 m and half marathon that all surpass AGU's.

AGU has thirteen men under 14 minutes this season, but the absence of fourth-year Yuki Nakamura and second-year Takato Suzuki, both under 28:35 for 10000 m, from its Izumo roster hurts its chances. Last year Tokai and AGU went back and forth over the course of the race, Tokai building a lead but now-graduated AGU anchor Tadashi Isshiki running them down for the win. This year AGU is down in strength, but it will face a Tokai on the way up. Tokai is better, but the two teams are close enough that you can expect another head-to-header.

Toyo University should be the #3 seed, but with three of its best six out with injury it's going to have competition. Toyo does have five men with sub-29 bests for 10000 m on its entry list, more than Tokai, AGU or any other school in the field, but the missing members hurt its 5000 m credentials and put it in range of Juntendo University. Overall a weaker program, Juntendo is heavily dependent on Rio Olympian Kazuya Shiojiri and 28:19.89 fourth-year Wataru Tochigi for success, but on paper its Izumo roster is slightly ahead of Toyo's and should make for another close race for 3rd.

Last weekend in a single track race Kanagawa University put four men under 13:50 and another under 14:00, all for the first time, to suddenly shoot into the top tier. But with its best runner, 2017 National University Half Marathon champion Kengo Suzuki, missing from its Izumo lineup Kanagawa looks likely to be one of four teams competing for 5th place.

Waseda University, Nittai University and Chuo Gakuin University round out that group, Nittai in particular hurting from key members out with injury. In 2013 and 2014 Komazawa University had what were probably the best teams ever assembled for Izumo, but although its 2017 team is strong over 5000 m and half marathon its lack of proven 10000 m ability puts it back in 9th, from where it will be fighting to make the eight-deep podium.

Hosei University lucked into an Izumo spot when last year's runner-up Yamanashi Gakuin University blew up at the Hakone Ekiden, and will be fighting to hold off Kyoto's Ritsumeikan University for 10th. With ten schools in the field from the Tokyo-area Kanto Region it's always a mark of distinction when any non-Kanto team can crack the top ten, and if anyone can do it this year it should be the 11th-ranked Ritsumeikan.

In the last few years the American Ivy League Select Team has had some success in achieving that distinction, making the top ten and even top eight a few times. This year's lineup is in a similar position to Komazawa, solid over 5000 m with the 8th-best six-man average in the field but dragged down by a lack of experience over 10000 m. Beating Hosei and Ritsumeikan to make 10th would be a perfect day, and given history it's more likely that the Ivies will spend the race trying to fight off 13th-ranked Kwansei Gakuin University.

The Izumo Ekiden starts at 1:05 p.m. local time on Monday, Oct. 9 with a live nationwide TV broadcast on Fuji TV. JRN will cover the race live on @JRNLive. International viewers can try mov3.co for streaming, with other options to be found here.

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Comments

Blaise Sevier said…
My name is Blaise Sevier and I am a student at the University
of Virginia. During this upcoming fall and winter, I will be studying
at Hitotsubashi University. Three of my friends and peers - Chandler
Collins, Gabriel Aguto and Keelyn McCabe - will also be studying at
Hitotsubashi over the same time period.

Throughout the semester, we will be working on a documentary for our
Forum, a special liberal arts program at UVA in which we use various
disciplines (Social Psychology, Economics, Sociology, etc.) to explore
the themes of mobility and community.

Our hope is to produce a documentary that will focus on Japanese
Ekidens and the dynamics of long distance running in Japan. We would
love to meet with you to discuss any thoughts you may have on our
project or to simply have a conversation and introduce ourselves.
Additionally, if you have any other contacts who may have more
experience with the subject matter, I’d be very grateful if you could
help put us in touch with them or provide their contact information.

Thank you very much for your time and have a wonderful weekend. Please feel free to contact me at obs3je@virginia.edu for more information, or reference our website www.runningjapanfilm.com.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,
Blaise Sevier
Brett Larner said…
Happy to help if I can. Feel free to contact me at larner [at] kaigaimarathon.com

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In one of the wildest elite-level ekidens in memory, half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi ran her best race in almost 3 years to anchor the Wacoal team to the win at the Princess Ekiden, the qualifying race for next month's National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships.

The field of 27 teams raced 6 stages totaling 42.195 km for one of 14 spots at Nationals alongside last year's top 8. Things were complicated by the disqualification of 2017 national champion Universal Entertainment, which found itself back at the Princess Ekiden to requalify. Sayaka Sato got things off to a good start for Sekisui Kagaku, winning the 7.0 km First Stage in 22:36 just off the CR. 4 seconds back was Shiori Yano, whose Canon AC Kyushu team missed Nationals by a minute last year. and another 5 seconds behind was Miku Daido of the debuting Iwatani Sangyo team.



Coached by marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi's former coach Hisakazu Hirose, Iwatani Sangyo's next …

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …

Weekend Road Race Roundup

Saturday's Hakone Ekiden Qualifier half marathon was the main event of the weekend, but between that and early ekiden season track time trials across the country there were a few other notable results at home and abroad.

In Sendai, the second running of the Tohoku Miyagi Fukko Marathon took place, an event launched last year to commemorate those lost in the 2011 tsunami and to show the area's recovery. In its first running organizers brought in then-future 2:06 man Hiroto Inoue to lead the field. This year it was 2017 Gold Coast Marathon winnerTakuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), who took more than 5 minutes off the course record with a workout-effort 2:18:37 for the win. Aki Odagiri (Takemura Seisakusho) won the women's race in 2:46:07.

In Toyama, 2018 Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran the Namerikawa Hotaruika Half Marathon a week after a disappointing run at the Chicago Marathon. Running completely solo he won in 1:05:18, beating 2nd place b…