The first big race of the year worldwide every year is the New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships, 100 km in 7 stages through Gunma northwest of Tokyo. TBS broadcasts it live domestically starting at 8:30 a.m. local on Jan. 1, with the broadcast to be streamed live on TVer. TBS will also be streaming live, unedited feeds from three different camera trucks too starting at 9:00 a.m. You'll probably need a VPN to get around geoblocking for both TVer and the unedited feed above. Live results will be here, and JRN will be covering the race live on @JRNLive and Instagram to help you make sense of what's going on, and on the ground from the course. Buy us a coffee to help make the first of three straight days of live ekiden coverage possible.
Last year the Honda team won for the first time in the race's 66-year history. Anchor Hidekazu Hijikata promptly jumped ship for CR holder Asahi Kasei, a product of 2020 rule changes around restrictions on team transfers that came about after the Japan Fair Trade Commission investigated the national corporate federation for violation of national antitrust laws over those restrictions. Hijikata's loss hurt Honda's chances, but at the East Japan regional qualifier in November they still took 2nd, only 40 seconds behind 2021 New Year champ Fujitsu. That was without one of the other key players in its New Year win, the highly talented but fragile sixth leg winner Ken Nakayama. With stage CRs from Tatsuhiko Ito and Naoki Koyama in East Japan and a sub-28 PB from Shoya Kawase in Hachioji at the end of November, a fully operational Nakayama would mean Honda should be in it for top 3 at least.
Gunma local heroes Subaru were a surprise 2nd last year, its best-ever placing, but despite two stage wins at East Japan including a CR 21:17 for 8.0 km from 2022 New Year 2nd stage winner Benson Kiplangat it was only 7th at the qualifier, over three and a half minutes behind winner Fujitsu. That doesn't necessarily mean much as some teams will do the minimum at the regional qualifying races and prioritize peaking at the New Year, but it's a lot of ground to make up for Subaru to be up front again.
Old-school powerhouse Asahi Kasei was 3rd last year by just 2 seconds over Kyushu region rival Mitsubishi Juko. At the Kyushu regional regional qualifier neither team was impressive, finishing 5th and 6th and well over a kilometer behind winner Kurosaki Harima. Hijikata ran passably well, 3rd on the anchor stage almost a minute ahead of Mitsubishi Juko anchor and fellow 2:06 marathoner Hiroto Inoue, but most of its other top-tier people ran the same way they have throughout the fall season. Poorly. But Asahi Kasei hasn't finished outside the top 3 since 2016, including 4-straight wins from 2017 to 2020, so it's hard to count them out. It doesn't look like they have the momentum to make it happen this time, but figure on Asahi Kasei being a top 5 placer.
Likewise for Mitsubishi Juko. But everything seems to be going right for Kurosaki Harima, 6th at the New Year Ekiden last year. Its runners had stage wins on 4 of the 7 legs at the Kyushu qualifier, including big runs from its top talents Yusuke Tamura and Kyohei Hosoya and another from Tamura's younger brother Tomonobu Tamura. Kurosaki Harima has never made the top 3, but this could be its year.
5th last year after top 3 New Year Ekiden finishes every year from 2015 to 2021, Toyota won the Chubu/Hokuriku regional qualifier by almost 2 minutes. Its 5th-place finish last time was preceded by a rare Chubu loss to Toyota Boshoku, so its margin of victory there this time looks like an indication that Toyota is back in form this time. East Japan winner Fujitsu should improve on its 12th-place finish last time, one of the worst performances ever by a defending New Year champ. Likewise for Kansai region winner NTT Nishi Nihon, 15th last year, which has also benefitted from the relaxation of team transfer rules with the recruitment of Hazuma Hattori. Doubly likewise for Chugoku region winner Chugoku Denryoku, now under the leadership of former half marathon NR holder Atsushi Sato after placing only 16th last time.
The "international stage," the New Year Ekiden's shortest at 8.3 km and where all non-Japanese citizens are restricted, should be better than ever. Subaru's Kiplangat will face Kyudenko's Benard Koech, who just soloed the fastest-ever 10-miler in Kosa this month after running 26:55.04 for 10000 m in October, 26:54.76 man Richard Kimunyan of Hitachi Butsuryu, Mitsubishi Juko's Hachioji meet record setter Emmanuel Kiplagat, and many more.
Also interesting is the return of 5000 m NR holder Suguru Osako to the corporate leagues after signing with last year's 9th-placer GMO. Osako didn't run East Japan, where GMO was 6th. How much difference can one guy make, especially given the departure of founding head coach Katsuhiko Hanada to take over at his alma mater Waseda University? We'll find out early on Jan. 1.
67th New Year Ekiden Field and Bib Numbers
3. Asahi Kasei
4. Mitsubishi Juko
6. Kurosaki Harima
7. SG Holdings Group
8. Toyota Kyushu
9. GMO Internet Group
10. Hitachi Butsuryu
11. Toyota Boshoku
15. NTT Nishi Nihon
16. Chugoku Denryoku
19. JR Higashi Nihon
21. Konica Minolta
22. Aisan Kogyo
23. Sumitomo Denko
25. Yasukawa Denki - scratch due to COVID-19
27. Otsuka Seiyaku
28. Chuo Hatsujo
31. Togami Denki
32. Comodi Iida
34. JFE Steel
35. Saitama Ika Daigaku Group
36. Aichi Seiko
37. Osaka Gas
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