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Showing posts from 2020

How Do Locals Feel About a Hakone Ekiden Without Fans? Thoughts of a Community Leader in a Town on Hakone Course

by Mika Tokairin Held every Jan. 2 and 3, the Hakone Ekiden has become a bona fide New Year's tradition. The town of Miyanoshita on the steepest part of the winding mountain roads that make up the legendary Fifth and Sixth Stages has become famous for its massive crowds cheering "Miyanoshita style," chanting individual athletes' names in call-and-response form instead of their university's name. With organizers asking the public to help combat the coronavirus crisis by staying home and watching Hakone on TV, how are the people of Miyanoshita looking at this year's race? We talked to Koji Shima , owner of the Shima Photo Shop, a fixture on Miyanoshita's main street for four generations, and head of the Miyanoshita business association's Hakone Ekiden celebration event committee. What's the history of "Miyanoshita Style" cheering? Shima:  I think it's been going on for about 25 years. There was a movement to try to reinvigorate the to

Meijo University Breaks Own CR to Win 3rd-Straight Mt. Fuji Women's Ekiden National Title

Meijo University  ran up to expectations, breaking its own course record to win a third-straight Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden national title. Head coach Katsuro Yoneda  had confidently predicted a perfect win, Meijo runners taking all seven stage titles and the overall win for the hilly 43.4 km course, but on the very first stage Karin Akahori  (Nittai Univ.) shot that down, beating Meijo's Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu  by 6 seconds to win the stage. But the setback didn't last long, as second runner Yuna Wada  tied her stage's record to put Meijo out front.  From there Meijo stretched its lead out to 1:26 by the start of the 10.5 km Fifth Stage, the longest of the day. There Yuka Suzuki  (Daito Bunka Univ.), the 2019 World University Games half marathon gold medalist, gave Meijo's Rika Kaseda , the silver medalist in the same race, a scare as she cut Meijo's lead down by 42 seconds. But record-breaking runs on the last two uphill stages from Yuka Masubuchi  and Naru

Kanebo Scratches from New Year Ekiden After Two Members Test Positive for Coronavirus

On Dec. 29 the Japan Industrial Track and Field Association announced that the Kanebo  team has withdrawn from the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships. Two members of the team returned positive tests for the coronavirus. The race will go ahead with only 36 teams. Translator's note: Kanebo finished 9th at the last New Year Ekiden.  Osaka Geijutsu University  also withdrew from today's Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden , presumably for the same reason. As of right now no teams have withdrawn from the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden . source article: translated by Brett Larner

2021 Hakone Ekiden Preview

As I'm writing this we're waiting to see if this is the day Tokyo goes over 1000 new cases a day for the first time. Against that backdrop, assuming it still happens the biggest race of the year is set to go down Jan. 2 and 3 in Tokyo and Kanagawa, the 97th running of the Hakone Ekiden . NTV will be broadcasting the race live starting at 7:00 a.m. local time both days. It's the best broadcast of any sporting event in the world, and as you'd expect it doesn't look like there's any official live stream outside Japan. If you're not in Japan options like ,  iTVer , and  TVJapanLive  might work. Unofficial streams tend to pop up on Youtube once the race gets underway. We'll be doing English commentary on  @JRNLive  as usual, and will tweet Youtube links if streams turn up. If you're new to ekidens or Hakone,  here's an oldie I wrote in 2012  that explains the basics, especially the white sash starts that factor heavily into understanding Da

2021 New Year Ekiden Preview (updated)

Ekiden week rolls on with the first major race of 2021 worldwide, the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships. Asahi Kasei  is going for a fifth-straight national title, something they've managed twice before with six-packs of wins in 1978-1983 and 1990-1995. And really, who's going to stop them?  In September Asahi Kasei took delivery of the world's largest low-pressure altitude training facility so that they didn't have to deal with traveling to get to altitude, and just look at the results. At the National Championships earlier this month they had five guys under 28 minutes for 10000 m including a 27:18.75 national record from rookie Akira Aizawa , and a sixth man, Shuho Dairokuno , across the line in 28:01.29. And both of their Kenyan runners Robert Mwei  and Benuel Mogeni  are sub-28. And they have other guys like Hiroshi Ichida  who aren't quite up to that level but always deliver come ekiden day.  Asahi Kasei broke the New Year E

Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden Preview

Wednesday is the first day of the best five-day stretch of racing in Japan, the top women's university teams in the country racing in the foothills of Mt. Fuji at the season-ending Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden national championships. After that it's a day off for New Year's Eve, then 2021 kicks off with the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships and hits its peak with the year's biggest race, the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden . It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that two-time defending Mount Fuji champ Meijo University  is going to make it three in a row. In October Meijo broke its own record for the 38.1 km course to win the national-level Morinomiyako Ekiden by almost three minutes over Daito Bunka University . Since then it's only gotten stronger, with 3rd-year  Yuna Wada  running the fastest collegiate 5000 m time of the year, 15:25.14, and 4th-year  Rika Kaseda clocking both the second-fastest 5000 m time, 15:32.77, and the fas

Lake Biwa Marathon to be Subsumed Into Osaka Marathon

On Dec. 25 it was learned that the longest-running marathon in Japan, the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, will become a part of the Osaka Marathon beginning in 2022. Following Lake Biwa's 76th edition on Feb. 28, 2021, it will next take place under the tentative title of the 10th Osaka Marathon and 77th Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Combined Competition.  The Osaka Marathon executive committee finalized the plan at a meeting in Osaka on Dec. 25. Plans call for the 2022 race to take place on Feb. 27 utilizing the existing Osaka course. With an eye toward World Athletics' preference for large-scale races that combine elite and mass participation marathons, the plan will combine Lake Biwa's history of attracting top-level international and domestic athletes with Osaka's status as the second-largest mass-participation marathon behind only the Tokyo Marathon. Organizers are aiming to go one level higher than Lake Biwa's current World Athletics ranking of gold to achieve the

Rio Olympians Takamizawa and Sekine Retire at Age 24

  A 2016 Rio Olympian in the women's 3000 m steeplechase while still in university, Anju Takamizawa , 24, has announced her retirement through a statement issued by her corporate team Shiseido  on Dec. 24. While at Matsuyama University  Takamizawa won the steeplechase at the 2015 and 2016 National Championships. In Rio she was eliminated in the qualifying round. Since then Takamizawa has struggled with injury. On the Shiseido team site Takamizawa commented, "Thank you to everyone who kept supporting me even though I couldn't produce the results I wanted to. I hope that my experiences as an athlete will help inform my future life."  A day later on the 25th, the Japan Post  corporate team announced that Takamizawa's Rio Olympics teammate Hanami Sekine , 24, was also retiring. A native of Tokyo, Sekine ran for Toyokawa H.S.  before joining the brand-new Japan Post team in 2014 as one of its star athletes. She ran the 10000 m in Rio, and in 2018 she made her debut at

New Mixed Gender National University Ekiden Announced for February

At a press conference in Osaka on Dec. 22 the Kansai Region University Athletics Association announced the launch of the new National Mixed Gender University Invitational Ekiden Feb. 21 on a road loop course in Osaka's Nagai Park. Run on a 3 km loop, the course will consist of six stages, 3 km, 2 km, 4 km, 3 km, 2 km and 5 km, totaling 20 km, with three men and three women from making up each school's team. 19 universities have committed to taking part. From the Kansai region, participating teams are Osaka Gakuin University, Osaka Taiiku University, Kansai University, Kansai Gaikokugo University, Kwansei Gakuin University, Kyoto Sangyo University, Kobe University, Kobe Gakuin University, Bukkyo University, Ritsumeikan University, and a Kansai Region University Select Team. From the Kanto region, Juntendo University, Josai University, Takushoku University, Chuo University, Tsukuba University, Tokai University, Toyo University and Nittai University are scheduled to run. Four nat

Olympic Team Members Ichiyama and Maeda Lead Osaka International Women's Marathon Field

On Dec. 22 the Osaka International Women's Marathon announced the elite field for its 40th running on Jan. 31, 2021 at a live streamed press conference. Like Fukuoka, Osaka is going ahead with a reduced domestic field of just 99 entrants and no international athletes. Tokyo Olympics marathon team members Mao Ichiyama  (Wacoal), winner of this year's Nagoya Women's Marathon in a women-only national record of 2:20:29, and trials winner and 30 km national record holder Honami Maeda  (Tenmaya) lead the entry list. With none of Osaka's usual international pacers, Osaka will use male pacers to try to set things up for a shot at Mizuki Noguchi 's 2:19:12 national record. The unsponsored Reia Iwade  is the only other athlete who could realistically try to go with them, and for the rest of the field, which includes last year's 2nd-place Japanese woman Haruka Yamaguchi  (AC Kita), there will be other men to pace at around 2:25. With ten women from 2:25 to 2:29 on the l

Taipei, Sanyo, Hofu and More - Weekend Road Racing Review

The National High School Ekiden Championships were the weekend's main event, but across Japan there were at least three other high-level road races. And one abroad. Benefitting from the Taiwanese government's early steps to get control of the COVID-19 situation and its population's responsibility in sticking to the protocols, the Taipei Marathon achieved what no other large-scale race could: a full-sized mass-participation field with 9,000 marathoners and 19,000 half-marathoners, and an international elite field, all within the 2020 calendar year. Not a reduced field, not a micro race, but a big city marathon the way we used to know them.  International athletes had to undergo a two-week quarantine in their hotel rooms, which organizers had fitted out with treadmills, but while most of them including Japan's Hiroko Baino  (Memolead) reported negative effects from the treadmill running on their performances there was still a new men's course record of 2:09:18 from

World-Class Runs By Kenyan Duo Help Sera H.S. Sweep Girls' and Boys' Titles at National High School Ekiden

video highlights by NHK For the second time in the last 6 years, Hiroshima's Sera H.S.  swept the girls' and boys' titles at the National High School Ekiden , both performances driven by world-class runs by Kenyan student athletes.  In the girls' race, 21.0975 km divided in five stages, #3-ranked Kitakyushu Municipal H.S.  led the first three stages thanks in large part to an incredibly brave opening leg by 3rd-year Miku Sakai , who led start to finish to open a 22-second lead over the course of 6.0 km. Kitskyushu fell to 3rd on the Fourth Stage behind Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.  and Suma Gakuen H.S. , but with favorite Kamimura Gakuen H.S.  in 5th just 19 seconds out of the lead and set to hand off to Kenyan 3rd-year anchor Cynthia Baire  it seemed like it was over. Baire said pre-race that her goal was to break the 15:04 course record for the 5.0 km anchor leg, and she wasted no time in going to the front. But as fast as she was, from behind Sera 3rd-year  Theresa Muthoni  

Athlete Entered in Tomorrow's National High School Ekiden Tests Positive for Coronavirus

On Dec. 19 the organizers of the National High School Ekiden scheduled for Dec. 20 in Kyoto announced that an athlete on one of the teams entered in the race has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. As of this writing, the school's name has not been revealed. According to the announcement, the athlete took an antigen test earlier in December and tested positive despite showing no symptoms. Health authorities said nobody involved with the athlete has tested positive or come down with symptoms of the disease. As per the event guidelines, the athlete who tested positive will not be allowed to compete, but the athlete's team will not otherwise be restricted from competing. source article: translated by Brett Larner

National High School Ekiden, Sanyo Half, Taipei Marathon and More - Weekend Preview

It's the last big racing weekend of the year in Japan, with three big road races at home and one marathon abroad featuring a familiar face under a new name. Biggest of the big is the National High School Ekiden Sunday in Kyoto. Despite rapidly rising COVID-19 numbers across the country organizers have managed to pull off staging the race, which brings together five-runner girls' teams and seven-runner boys' teams from the top high school in each of Japan's 47 prefectures. The whole thing is broadcast live nationwide commercial-free on NHK , with the girls' race broadcast starting at 10:05 and the boys' at 12:15. JRN will also be covering it on @JRNLive . We'll tweet live stream info as it becomes available. With weather conditions looking good serious shots at the course records are expected in both races. In the girls' race, a half marathon distance in five stages, Kagoshima's Kamimura Gakuen H.S.  is the favorite, running 1:06:04 in its prefectur

Lake Biwa Marathon to be Discontinued After 2021 Race

In an interview with a source involved in the decision, it was learned on Dec. 17 that the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon will be discontinued after next year's 76th edition on Feb. 28, 2021. One of Japan's three major men's marathons, Lake Biwa's position on the calendar as the last chance to qualify for Olympic and World Championships teams meant it has had a long history of being the place where Japan's best marathoners earned to right to compete against the best in the world. But in recent years Lake Biwa has felt increasing pressure from the rise of the Tokyo Marathon, where national records and other fast times have been run almost every year, and Lake Biwa's relevance and value began to come into question. The Osaka Marathon is likely to replace Lake Biwa as a national team selection race in the future. Having begun in 1946, Lake Biwa is the oldest existing marathon in Japan. Along with the Fukuoka International Marathon and the Tokyo Marathon it is counte