Skip to main content

Oita Fire Department on Trying to Become First FD Team to Make the New Year Ekiden: "This is Our Big Chance"

http://www.oita-press.co.jp/1010000000/2017/04/11/JD0055648052

translated by Brett Larner

The Oita Fire Department ekiden team is targeting the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships.  Thanks to the Miyazaki-based Asahi Kasei team's win at the 2017 New Year Ekiden, the number of spots available at the 2018 race to Kyushu region teams will increase by one to eight teams.  "This is our big chance," said OFD head coach Masakazu Mishiro, 40.  Police Department and Self-Defense Force teams have made the New Year Ekiden in the past, but to date no Fire Department team has ever qualified.

To make it to the biggest stage in Japan it's a constant struggle to balance a busy work schedule and training.  The OFD team has around 20 members, half of them full-on serious runners who competed in university, and with the addition of three new members at the start of the fiscal year in April its strength has only grown.  Forming the team's core are star runner Tsuyoshi Miyamoto, 27,  track runner Tomoya Watanabe, 23, endurance king Yuki Kojina, 26, and veteran Toshiya Uto, 31.

Together they have led the OFD team to win the Kyushu Region Fire Department Championships four years in a row.  At February's National Championships, in just its third appearance OFD defeated the Tokyo Fire Department for the first time to take the top spot.  "Due to our work we have limited time in which to train," said Miyamoto.  "We have to improve the quality of both our individual runs and group workouts, and every team member needs to get faster."  Ryota Uchida, 22, one of April's new additions, added, "Looking at the strong older guys on the team, I want to train seriously."

The New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships features 37 teams from different regions across the country competing over 100 km divided into seven stages.  The Kyushu Corporate Ekiden, the qualifying event for the Kyushu region, will take place in mid-November in Kita-Kyushu, with the top eight teams going on to the New Year Ekiden.  Looking ahead, coach Mishiro commented, "The top seven teams [in the Kyushu region] including Asahi Kasei are in a different class in terms of ability.  The race will be for the last spot.  With young runners having come on board we have momentum and headroom for improvement.  Can we make it?  Absolutely."

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Breaks Nobeyama Ultra Course Record

2018 Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) won the longest race of his career to date Sunday in Nagano, taking over six minutes off the Yatsugatake Nobeyama Kogen 71 km Ultramarathon in 4:41:55.

A training run for next month’s Stockholm Marathon, Kawauchi set off solo at a steady pace around 3:45/km. Climbing from 1355 m to 1908 m as he approached 20 km he naturally slowed, but with over 1000 m of descent over the next 30 km he was soon back on track. Hitting the marathon split around 2:39, he was so far ahead of the 2nd placer that the announcer initially forget Kawauchi had already gone by and announced the next runner as the leader.

At 58 km Kawauchi was on track to clear 4:30:00, but hitting the uphills in the final 10 km and feeling the effects of the unfamiliar distance he slowed to almost 5:00/km. But with so much leeway to work with there was never any danger of the 4:48:13 course record slipping out of reach. Kawauchi stopped the clock in 4:41:55, please…

What Value Does Four-Straight Hakone Ekiden Titles Have for Aoyama Gakuin's Athletes and Staff?

An editorial by Nikkan Gendai.

Nothing rings in the New Year like the Hakone Ekiden. With TV viewership ratings around 30% it's one of the most popular sports programs in Japan. The king of that cash cow is Aoyama Gakuin University, winning four-straight Hakone titles since its first victory in 2015. But no matter how well its students perform, every school in Hakone gets the same share of the proceeds, a uniform 2,000,000 yen [~$18,000 USD at current exchange rates].

The AGU team currently includes 44 athletes on its roster. Although athletes can get preferential admission, their tuition is the same as for other students and there are no exemptions or reductions. First year tuition in the Department of Social and Information Studies is around 1,520,000 yen [~$14,000 USD], and with additional fees including dormitory and training camp expenses the burden upon students' parents is considerable.

By comparison, in the United States the NCAA has made its collegiate sports a succes…

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…