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Hyogo Scores First National Women's Ekiden Title in Fourteen Years

Hyogo Prefecture dominated the second half of Sunday’s National Women’s Ekiden, moving up through the field with three straight stage wins to take its first national title in 14 years.

In a repeat of her performance at last month’s National High School Ekiden, Hyogo’s Nozomi Tanaka went out front early before getting run down late in the opening stage, leading Hyogo off in 5th. Over the first half of the race the perpetually strong Osaka and Nagano emerged as the frontrunners before a brilliant Fourth Stage course record by Ririka Hironaka brought Nagasaki into the picture.

Nagasaki’s fifth runner Chikako Mori extended the lead Hironaka built to 37 seconds with a stage win, but behind her Hyogo’s Mai Ota brought a big run to pass Osaka and Nagano and move into 2nd. A stage win from sixth runner Yume Goto put Hyogo just 2 seconds behind Nagasaki, and with another pair of stage wins from its next two runners Chinatsu Tarumoto and Asuka Ishimatsu Nagasaki was over a minute up going into the 10 km final stage.

Barring disaster there was little chance that Hyogo anchor Yui Fukuda would be caught, and with a solid 31:51 she brought the team to a surprise national title. Further back Mao Ichiyama and Rei Ohara, two of the stars of last month’s Sanyo Ladies Half Marathon, shook up the top five with the two fastest times on the anchor leg, Ichiyama outkicking Nagasaki’s Keiko Nogami in the home straight to move hosts Kyoto into 2nd and Ohara delivering a stage-winning 31:38 to overtake Osaka for 4th. Early contender Nagano fell to 9th by race’s end, just 3 seconds outside the eight-deep podium.

36th National Women’s Ekiden

Kyoto, 1/14/18
47 teams, 9 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (6.0 km) – Rina Nabeshima (Kochi) – 19:29
Second Stage (4.0 km) – Yuna Wada (Nagano) – 12:25
Third Stage (3.0 km) – Seira Fuwa (Gunma) – 9:14
Fourth Stage (4.0 km) – Ririka Hironaka (Nagasaki) – 12:32 – CR
Fifth Stage (4.1075 km) – Chikako Mori (Nagasaki) / Reimi Yoshimura (Kanagawa) – 13:04
Sixth Stage (4.0875 km) – Yume Goto (Hyogo) – 12:56
Seventh Stage (4.0 km) – Chinatsu Tarumoto (Hyogo) – 12:27
Eighth Stage (3.0 km) – Asuka Ishimatsu (Hyogo) – 9:42
Ninth Stage (10.0 km) – Rei Ohara (Okayama) – 31:38

Top Team Results
1. Hyogo – 2:15:28
2. Kyoto – 2:16:41
3. Nagasaki – 2:16:42
4. Okayama – 2:17:00
5. Osaka – 2:17:15
6. Kanagawa – 2:17:23
7. Fukuoka – 2:17:40
8. Aichi – 2:17:44
9. Nagano – 2:17:47
10. Shizuoka – 2:17:59

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved


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Kawauchi Breaks Nobeyama Ultra Course Record

2018 Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) won the longest race of his career to date Sunday in Nagano, taking over six minutes off the Yatsugatake Nobeyama Kogen 71 km Ultramarathon in 4:41:55.

A training run for next month’s Stockholm Marathon, Kawauchi set off solo at a steady pace around 3:45/km. Climbing from 1355 m to 1908 m as he approached 20 km he naturally slowed, but with over 1000 m of descent over the next 30 km he was soon back on track. Hitting the marathon split around 2:39, he was so far ahead of the 2nd placer that the announcer initially forget Kawauchi had already gone by and announced the next runner as the leader.

At 58 km Kawauchi was on track to clear 4:30:00, but hitting the uphills in the final 10 km and feeling the effects of the unfamiliar distance he slowed to almost 5:00/km. But with so much leeway to work with there was never any danger of the 4:48:13 course record slipping out of reach. Kawauchi stopped the clock in 4:41:55, please…

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…

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