Ekiden season rolls on. Sunday in Fukushima is the 34th running of the East Japan Women's Ekiden, a miniature version of January's National Women's Ekiden featuring teams made up of the best J.H.S., H.S., university, corporate and club runners from each of the 18 prefectures in eastern Japan. Most notable on the entry list is Tokyo's Hitomi Niiya, all-time Japanese #3 for 10000 m and working her way back from a five-year retirement in hopes of making the Tokyo 2020 team. Fuji TV will broadcast the race live from noon to 2:30 p.m. Japan time.
Following last weekend's East Japan and Kyushu corporate men's regional New Year Ekiden national championships qualifiers, the Kansai and Chugoku regions hold their qualifiers Sunday in Wakayama and Hiroshima. Top-placing teams from each region will go on to the New Year Ekiden on January 1st, with Sumitomo Denko and Chugoku Denryoku, featuring 2018 Hokkaido Marathon winner Naoki Okamoto, the favorites. The Kansei Corporate Ekiden will be streamed live on Youtube at the link below starting at 9:10 a.m. Japan time.
For East Japan university and corporate men it's a weekend off from actual ekiden racing, but there's never a weekend fully off. After adding the 2018 National University Ekiden title to its collection last week, Aoyama Gakuin University tunes up for a shot at a fifth-straight Hakone Ekiden win at Tokyo's Setagaya 246 Half Marathon, AGU's half marathon of choice over next weekend's Ageo City Half Marathon where most other Hakone-bound schools line up.
Many of those programs and a range of high school and corporate teams will have people on the track at Yokohama's Nittai University Time Trials as a workout geared toward the different upcoming national championship ekidens. Notables include 2018 World U20 Championships 3000 m gold medalist Nozomi Tanaka (ND28 AC), Harumi Okamoto (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), who blacked out while leading last month's National Corporate Women's Ekiden Qualifier, National University Ekiden standout Yuhi Nakaya (Waseda Univ.) and world-level medalist Kenyans William Malel (Honda) and Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu).
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