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Hakone Ekiden Last-Placer Kokushikan University Ups Its Game With Addition of Its First-Ever Kenyan Runner

translated by Brett Larner

Having finished last at the 2017 Hakone Ekiden in 20th place, Kokushikan University announced on Mar. 26 that it is bringing in its first-ever foreign student runner.  Kenyan Paul Gitonga, 20, is expected to join the team around April 10.

In the thin oxygen at 2000 m altitude in Kenya Gitonga has run 14:10 for 5000 m and sub-29 for road 10 km, and with an 800 m best of 1:49 he has speed as well.  While in Japan in February to take Kokushikan's entrance examination he ran a 5000 m time trial in 14:20 despite inadequate preparation.  Head coach Masami Soeda, 39, commented, "He's suited to the roads and could run the marathon."  Gitonga is expected to factor heavily into Kokushikan qualifying for Hakone for the second-straight year and could even be what the team needs to make the seeded top-ten bracket for the first time in 28 years.

Translator's note: Kenyan James Mwangi, a 2:08:38 marathoner, has served as assistant coach at Kokushikan University since last year.


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