Skip to main content

18-Year-Old Fuwa 31:29 to Anchor Gunma to East Japan Women's Ekiden Win


Two weeks after her public coming out as Japan's next big hope, 18-year-old Seira Fuwa anchored the Gunma team to a come-from-behind win at the East Japan Women's Ekiden. A smaller version of January's National Women's Ekiden with teams representing the 18 prefectures in northeastern Japan, each team made up of the best junior high school, high school, collegiate, club team and corporate league runners from that prefecture, East Japan returned this year after the first cancelation in its 36-year history last year. Two weeks ago Fuwa, a first-year at Tokyo's Takushoku University, set an incredible 28:00 course record for her 9.2 km stage at the National University Women's Ekiden. With her name on the list for the 10.0 km anchor stage at East Japan the entire race was about other teams trying to get as far ahead of Gunma as possible before the last of the marathon-length race's nine stages.

Gunma didn't make it easy for them. Its leading runner Harumi Okamoto ran an 18:44 stage record for the 6.0 km First Stage to give Gunma a 15-second lead right off the bat. It held that through the Fifth Stage, when it fell to 3rd behind 2019 winner Chiba and Miyagi, then to 4th on the Seventh Stage behind Nagano. At that point Gunma was 40 seconds behind leader Chiba. Anything more and Fuwa's chances of catching 1st would be diminished unless she got close to the 30:52 stage record. 

Gunma's eighth runner Sana Koizumi had just what they needed, winning her 3.0 km JHS-only stage in 9:27 and cutting the team's deficit down to 38 seconds. Fuwa closed that up at exactly 5 km into the 10.0 km anchor stage, the longest distance she has ever raced so far, then seemed to back off a bit. Behind her, Nagano's Yuna Wada, winner of the Third Stage at the National University Women's Ekiden, moved up to 2nd and started to close the gap to Fuwa. But when Wada got within 5 seconds Fuwa changed gears and hammered the final kilometers to being Gunma home to the win by 23 seconds in 2:17:10. 

Fuwa's time for the 10.0 km stage was 31:29, the third-fastest ever behind only the current and previous track 10,000 m national record holders. Wada, a 4th-year at national champion Meijo University, ran an impressive 31:40, making them only the fourth and fifth women ever to break 32 minutes on the stage. Wada has been working her way up the ladder through her high school and college careers and should be one of the leaders of the next corporate league generation after her graduation next spring, but let's hope that Fuwa backs off a bit on the double digit distances until she has a bit more development in her.

2019 winner Chiba was 3rd in 2:18:19, 37 seconds faster than its previous winning time but over a minute behind Gunma. Miyagi and hosts Fukushima both cleared 2:20 for 4th and 5th, with 2018 winner Tokyo only 6th after struggling to recover from a weak opening leg from marathoner Shiho Kaneshige.

36th East Japan Women's Ekiden

Fukushima, 14 Nov. 2021
18 teams, 9 stages, 42.195 km

Top Individual Stage Performances
First Stage (6.0 km) - Harumi Okamoto (Gunma) - 18:44 - CR
Second Stage (4.0 km) - Haruko Hosaka (Tokyo) - 12:57
Third Stage (3.0 km) - Kanoko Nawa (Nagano) - 9:59
Fourth Stage (3.0 km) - Sayo Imanishi (Chiba) - 9:27
Fifth Stage (5.0875 km) - Nanaka Yonezawa (Miyagi) - 16:09
Sixth Stage (4.1075 km) - Minami Ito (Kanagawa) - 13:23
Seventh Stage (4.0 km) - Yuka Sato (Nagano) - 13:17
Eighth Stage (3.0 km) - Sana Koizumi (Gunma) - 9:27
Ninth Stage (10.0 km) - Seira Fuwa (Gunma) - 31:29

Top Team Performances
1. Gunma - 2:17:10
2. Nagano - 2:17:33
3. Chiba - 2:18:19
4. Miyagi - 2:19:32
5. Fukushima - 2:19:34
6. Tokyo - 2:20:01
7. Tochigi - 2:20:19
8. Kanagawa - 2:20:39
9. Shizuoka - 2:21:55
10. Hokkaido - 2:22:10

© 2021 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Buy Me A Coffee

Comments

Stefan said…
Another great Exiden to watch. That final leg was exciting. When Yuna Wada closed on Seira Fuwa I did not know what to think other than Wada is a consistent runner who always competes well. Fuwa was very clever in keeping a bit in reserve and she really put things into over drive when she needed to. She is something special and like yourself, I do hope they wrap her up in cotton wool and keep her fresh for shorter distances whilst she is still so young. The worst thing that could happen is that she suffers an injury from over training. Thanks for your twitter post about it being on Fuji tv as I was able to find a streaming site to watch it live. Thanks Brett.

Most-Read This Week

NR Holders Maeda and Ogura Lead Hokkaido Marathon Elite Field

Corona numbers in Japan are at record-breaking levels right now, some of the highest in the world, but at least a few races are throwing caution to the wind, in their own highly controlled way, and trying to go ahead. The Hokkaido Marathon is one of them, an end-of-summer regular making a comeback this year in order to give a shortcut to 2024 MGC Race olympic trials qualification to anyone who can handle hot conditions. It announced its elite field today. Honami Maeda , was the first woman to qualify for the pre-Tokyo Olympics MGC, winning Hokkaido back in 2017 and going on to win the trials. She broke the 30 km NR without wearing super shoes after that, but things haven't been great for her for a long time. But while every other good marathoner from the Tenmaya team has never pulled back up once they start the downward spiral, Maeda has re-emerged this spring with two good half marathons, the better a 1:08:28 PB and CR win in nearby Hakodate a month ago.  That's all good, bu

Takigahara SDF Base Wins Mt. Fuji Ekiden Again

Along with Akita's Towada Hachimantai Ekiden another midsummer classic returned Sunday after cancelations in 2020 and 2021, the 47th edition of the  Mt. Fuji Ekiden . An eleven-stage race featuring 82 teams of six, the Mt. Fuji Ekiden sees the first five runners on each team work their way up the slopes of Mt. Fuji, first on roads and then on trails. The sixth runners climbs the final few kilometers to the summit 3258 m above the race's starting point, has his tasuki sash stamped by a priest at the shrine waiting there, then begins the descent. The first five runners then have to each a second time, downhill this time. Some of the downhill stages are wild, with powdery gravel covering steep slopes, and scenes like this one from 2014 at the exchange from the Seventh to Eighth Stage, are legendary. Spectators make the climb to the exchange zones just to see it happen. Doesn't it look like fun? The video up top is from the last edition in 2019 , when the Takigahara SDF Base

Cali 22 World U20 Championships Day 2 Japanese Results

The next big talent coming up through the ranks of Japanese sprinting, Toyo University 1st-year Hiroki Yanagita ran a PB 10.15 +0.7 for 2nd in his semi-final on Day 2 of the Cali 22 World U20 Championships . Building on that in the final would have put him in range of bronze, but in the final Yanagita couldn't quite replicate it, 6th overall in 10.24 +0.8 behind a 9.91 U20 WR from gold medalist Letsile Tebogo of Botswana, silver medalist Bouwahjgie Nkrumie of Jamaica's 10.02 U20 NR, and a 10.12 for bronze from South African Benjamin Richardson . The final featured 8 athletes from 8 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas, the best kind of international field for a global championships final. Momoko Tsuji almost perfectly mirrored Yanagita's performances in the women's javelin throw. 2nd in the qualification round at 56.07 m, in the final she could only manage a 53.82 m for 6th. In the gold medal spot, Serbian Adriana Vilagos threw a championships record 63.52 m