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Toyota and Tanaka Drop New Course Records - Ekiden Weekend Roundup



Qualifying action for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships continued Sunday with the combined Chubu and Hokuriku regional ekidens. Running both an A and a B team with only the A team having a chance of going on to race on New Year's Day, Toyota destroyed the field as it took 1st and 3rd overall.

After a slow start the A-team's Chihiro Miyawaki broke the course record on the 11.5 km Third Stage, covering it in 32:55 to move into the lead. Toyota A-team runners won the last three of the race's seven stages, winning by more than three minutes over closest competition Aisan Kogyo as they broke the overall course record with a new mark of 4:05:35 for the 83.5 km event. Toyota's B-team finished just 16 seconds behind Aisan Kogyo, showing just how much of a stranglehold Toyota has on the Chubu Region. YKK was the top team from the tiny Hokuriku Region, finishing 9th overall in 4:13:34 but moving on to the New Year Ekiden.

In Kyoto, Kwansei Gakuin University beat regional favorite Ritsumeikan University to win the Tango University Ekiden, the 79th edition of the Osaka-area Kansai Region University Men's Ekiden Championships. Kwansei Gakuin's Naoki Nakamura took the lead on the first of the 84.4 km race's eight stages, and from there to the finish the team was never seriously challenged for the lead despite a Fourth Stage course record by Ritsumeikan's Tsuyoshi Masumoto and wins on the last two stages by Ritsumeikan men. Nearly three minutes down at the start of his run with 11.7 km to make it up, Ritsumeikan anchor Shinji Koiwa got as close as 37 seconds back Kwansei Gakuin's Ikkai Kojima but simply didn't have the ground ahead of him in which to make it all up. Kwansei Gakuin won in 4:18:09, Ritsumeikan next across the line in 4:18:46.

All across the country top high schools continued the buildup to next month's National High School Ekiden Championships with dozens of prefectural and regional championship ekidens. There were simply too many high-level races to cover, but bearing special mention was the 33rd Kinki Region High School Girls Ekiden. On the 6.0 km First Stage Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. senior Nozomi Tanaka, who ran 8:54.27 to win last month's National Sports Festival Women's 3000 m, blasted a new course record of 18:51 for the opening leg, leaving Chinatsu Tarumoto of Suma Gakuen H.S. and other competition over 40 seconds behind. 

Nishiwaki Kogyo finished only 4th overall in the end over a minute and a half behind 2016 national champions Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S., but her powerful stage win meant Tanaka picked up her sixth-straight win since finishing 2nd in the 3000 m at the summer's National High School Track and Field Championships. Tanaka has at least three more ekiden runs before her graduation in March, and if she can go her last ekiden season undefeated it will be a fitting end before she goes to the non-ekiden-oriented Doshisha University in April.

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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2018 Japanese Distance Rankings - Updated 11/11/18

JRN's 2018 Japanese track and road distance running rankings. Overall rankings are calculated using runners' times and placings in races over 5000 m, 10000 m, half-marathon and marathon and the strength of these performances relative to others in the top ten in each category. Click any image to enlarge.


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© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

18-Year-Old Waithaka Runs 10000 m World Leading Time at Nittai - Weekend Roundup

photo by @tsutsugo55225

For the second time in the last three weeks, a Japan-based Kenyan ran the fastest time in the world this year for 10000 m at Yokohama's Nittai University Time Trials series. On October 20th it was 2015 World U18 Championships 3000 m gold medalist Richard Kimunyan (Hitachi Butsuryu), 20, with a 27:14.70  that surpassed Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei's world-leading mark by almost five seconds. This time it was 2018 World U20 Championships 5000 m silver medalist Stanley Waithaka (Yakult), 18, taking almost two minutes off his PB to break Kimunyan's mark with a 27:13.01 win.

Both winners received support from 2014 Commonwealth Games steeplechase gold medalist Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu), who ran season bests for 2nd place each time, 27:50.38 three weeks ago and 27:28.27 on Saturday. 2013 World U18 Championships 3000 m bronze medalist Alexander Mutiso (ND Software) was also under 28 minutes, running just off his PB at 27:42.16 for 3rd. Kazuma Taira (Kan…

Go Ahead and Call It a Comeback - Niiya Breaks Shibui's Course Record in Return to Road Racing

Ladies and gentlemen, Hitomi Niiya is back.

You might remember Hitomi Niiya from the 2013 Moscow World Championships 10000 m, where she led the entire way only to get destroyed over the last lap and finish 5th in 30:56.70. That made her the third-fastest Japanese woman ever over that distance, but not long after that race she quit the sport entirely, getting an office job as far away from athletics as she could and not running for almost five years.

But the pull of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is strong, and, now 30, early this year she made the decision to try to make a comeback. Under the eye of former men's 800 m national record holder Masato Yokota she ran a 3000 m and two 5000 m time trials on the track between April and October before choosing the East Japan Women's Ekiden for her return to the roads and the longer distances.

The East Japan Women's Ekiden celebrated its 34th running Sunday, 9 stages totaling 42.195 km through the Fukushima countryside with teams from eac…