Skip to main content

Loaded Dice - International Chiba Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner

The 2009 International Chiba Ekiden takes place on Monday, Nov. 23. As economic times have continued to grow harder Japan's once-thriving international ekiden circuit has dwindled dramatically. When the Yokohama International Women's Ekiden took a bow in February this year it left Chiba as the lone representative of the format, and even it was scaled back in 2007 from separate men's and women's races to a single, six-stage 42.195 km race featuring mixed men's and women's teams. This wasn't necessarily a bad move, the mixed teams having proved to be popular and interesting.

Being the host country, Japan has tended to stack the deck in recent years. This year is no exception as the Japanese national team far outweighs any other in star power: men's half marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and women's 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki), 2009 men's 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B), 2009 women's 10000 m national champion Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), 2009 women's 5000 m national champion Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya), Olympian and, as a university runner, 13:19 5000 m man Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) and the lesser-known Yusei Nakao (Team Toyota Boshoku) and Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku). With two official alternates in the lineup it has become traditional for the two senior members not to run, but even without Sato and Akaba the Japanese team will be tough to challenge.

It goes without saying that the Kenyan team should be their strongest competition, but the relatively junior squad features only two well-known runners: marathon legend Catherine Ndereba and 2009 World Championships men's marathon champion Abel Kirui. Ndereba is a perpetual presence in Chiba, but fresh from last Sunday's Yokohama International Women's Marathon she seems unlikely to run or to factor in the action if she does. Kirui, on the other hand, should be one of Kenya's biggest weapons. His presence in Japan for the race strongly suggests he will headline the as-yet unannounced Fukuoka International Marathon field on Dec. 6. Whether the pair can rally the Kenyans to stay ahead of the hosts is a good question: a similar team in 2007 could not top the all-star Japanese lineup.

The Russians are always a factor in Chiba, and their team this year features ekiden regulars and 2009 national champions Maria Konovalova and Evgeny Rybakov. Rybakov's identical twin Anatoly will also be a solid component. Canada, the United States and Australia also have excellent teams lined up, the latter headlined by the return of 12:55 5000 m man Craig Mottram.

The best contender for 3rd, however, may be the Japanese University Select Team. Like the national team, the select team is stacked with top talent: Hakone Ekiden star Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.), women's university 10000 m national champion and unbeaten ekiden ace Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.), and three members of #1-ranked women's team Bukkyo University including 2009 World University Games 10000 m gold medalist and 5000 m silver medalist Kasumi Nishihara.

Even the team representing hosts Chiba Prefecture is full of the first-rate, including 2009 and 2007 Tokyo Marathon winners Mizuho Nasukawa (Team Universal Entertainment) and Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidosoki) and Niiya's teammate on national champions Toyota Jidoshoki Aya Nagata.

Other notable individuals in the field include 2008 Beijing Olympics women's marathon gold medalist Constantina Dita (Romania), like Ndereba and Kirui likely on the airfare-economizing tip following her Yokohama International Women's Marathon run, and 2004 Athens Olympics men's marathon gold medalist Stefano Baldini (Italy).

The 2009 International Chiba Ekiden will be broadcast live on Fuji TV from 1:00 p.m. to 3:25 p.m. Japan time on Nov. 23. International viewers should be able to watch online for free using the Keyhole TV software available here. JRN will be offering live English commentary on the broadcast -- check back for more details. Click here for a complete entry list. For a course map click here.

2009 International Chiba Ekiden - Team Entries
Japan
Japanese University Select Team
Chiba Prefecture
Australia
Belarus
Canada
China
Finland
Italy
Kenya
Poland
Romania
Russia
Sweden
U.S.A.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Simon said…
Brett - Why is it traditional for the two senior members of Japan's team to not run? I could understand giving an upcoming runner a shot but why put oneself up for selection in the first place if there's no real intention of racing?
Brett Larner said…
Not sure why, but that's how it's been the last few years. They enter 4 men and 4 women for a 3/3 team and the oldest, most well-known among them tend not to run, just to show 'leadership' and mentor the younger runners.
shibuyaboy said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
shibuyaboy said…
I don't quite understand how the team system works, but did Team Aruze change their name to Universal Entertainment? Or did 那須川瑞穂 change teams?

Most-Read This Week

Morita Goes Sub-32 in 10000 m Debut

Running her track 10000 m debut of a 32:27 road 10 km in the spring, Kaori Morita (Panasonic) closed hard off a slow opening pace to win the National Corporate Federation Women's Long Distance Time Trials 10000 m Friday afternoon in Yamaguchi.

A new filler meet to take up space on the calendar following the National Corporate Women's Ekiden's move to November, the Corporate Time Trials meet featured one heat of 3000 m and three 5000 m heats before its main focus, the 10000 m. After a 3:19 first 1000 m Morita's teammate Yuka Hori, winner of the 10.9 km Third Stage at Nationals, took over, leading the field at 3:12 to 3:14 / km pace through 7000 m. Morita, who won the 7.0 km First Stage, went to the front at that point with a 3:14 to 8000 m before taking off.

Clocking her fastest split up to that point with a 3:07 between 8 and 9000 m, Morita closed impressively with a 3:01 final km to dip under 32 minutes as she won in 31:59.94. Steepler Chikako Mori (Sekisui Kagaku) w…

Saitama International Marathon Top Two's Times Annulled Due to Last-Minute Misdirection by Race Officials

At the Nov. 12 Saitama International Marathon, Kenyan Flomena Cheyech Daniel won a sprint finish over Bahraini Shitaye Habtegebrel by 3 seconds to take her second-straight Saitama title in 2:28:39. On Dec. 11 race organizers announced that both runners' times had been annulled.

In the midst of the pair's battle for the win, race officials misdirected the pair into the righthand lane on the final corner instead of the lefthand lane in which the finish line was located. Both ran over the curb dividing the two lanes and returned to the original course before finishing.

At the time JAAF executive director Mitsugi Ogata said, "This was a mistake by the organizers and the athletes did nothing wrong. There was no effect on the finishing order and no advantage gained in terms of the distance run." After later consultation with JAAF officials, race organizers decided that Cheyech and Habtegebrel had not covered the complete distance and that their times should be annulled. N…

Tokyo Marathon to Move to March Date Beginning in 2019

At a press conference in Tokyo on Dec. 12, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation announced that beginning in 2019, the Tokyo Marathon will move from its current date on the last Sunday of February to the first Sunday of March. The next Imperial succession is set to take place in 2019, meaning that February 23 will become the Emperor's Birthday national holiday starting in 2020. The race date is being preemptively moved to avoid any potential overlap.

According to the Foundation, setting up and breaking down the facilities necessary to hold the Tokyo Marathon takes several days. With the finish area being positioned in front of the Imperial Palace there were concerns that problems would arise due to the large number of people who would gather in the area to celebrate the Emperor's birthday.

Translator's note: The Tokyo Marathon previously experimented with a March race date in 2009 but abandoned it to return to February the next year. Since 1994 the first Sunday of March has been t…