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Jan. 23 National Men's Ekiden Canceled Amid Resurgent COVID-19 Numbers


The JAAF has announced that due to the rapid increase in coronavirus infections in Hiroshima, the National Men's Ekiden scheduled to take place there on Jan. 23 has been canceled. It is the second year in a row for the event to be canceled because of the pandemic.

The National Men's Ekiden starts and finishes at Hiroshima's Peace Park, with teams from each of Japan's 47 prefectures made up of 7 athletes ranging from junior high school students to top pros covering a 48.0 km course through the city and neighboring Hatsukaichi. Including coaches and team staff, roughly 600 people from across the country had been scheduled to take part. Athletes entered this year represented the best of multiple generations, including 6 members of the Tokyo Olympic team, 9 members of Aoyama Gakuin University's 2022 Hakone Ekiden champion team, and many of the top people from December's National High School Ekiden.

But since the start of the new year COVID-19 infections have spread rapidly in the Hiroshima area, and on Jan. 9 both Hiroshima and Hatsukaichi were declared areas of high risk by the national government. As a result of the declaration, the JAAF made the announcement of the race's second-straight cancelation at a press conference in Hiroshima on Jan. 12. They cited the difficulty of executing effective counter-measures against the virus given the race's format which brings together athletes and coaches who are usually on different teams in separate areas all over the country. 

Participating remotely in the press conference, JAAF executive Akira Kazama commented, "Given the change in the circumstances in Hiroshima since the start of the month, we were forced to make this difficult decision with a view to protecting the safety of local residents. This will be a great disappointment for all those who had been looking forward to the race, but we ask for your understanding."

In reaction to news of the cancelation, on his personal Twitter account former Waseda University star runner Fuminori Shikata talked about the importance of the National Men's Ekiden for young athletes, saying, "If there hadn't been a National Men's Ekiden I would never have gotten into Waseda. Maybe it's saying too much, but I think it's a really major event that has a huge impact on the direction people's lives go. Especially for junior high school and high school students, it's one of the few chances to run at the national level and it gives them a chance to meet top university and corporate people they'd otherwise never get the chance to."

Despite canceling the National Men's Ekiden, the JAAF still plans to go ahead with the National Women's Ekiden this Sunday, Jan. 16 in Kyoto and the Kitakyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden Jan. 23 in Fukuoka.

source articles:
translated and edited by Brett Larner

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Comments

Rigajags said…
I was really looking forward to this race, damn.
Is there an entry list available somewhere? Just to read which hakone guys were taking part in that.
Some familiar names ran this Ekiden in recent past... Miura, ishida, Aizawa, Yoshii and so on

Hope they wont cancel marugame...

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