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Kanagawa University Upsets Favorites to Win First National University Ekiden Title in 20 Years



Riding a wave of rapid improvement since the start of the season, Kanagawa University pulled off a perfect race to beat favorites Tokai University and Aoyama Gakuin University and win its first National University Men's Ekiden Championships title since 1997 in one of the fastest times in event history.

Tokai beat defending national champion AGU at last month's Izumo Ekiden, and today's race was expected to be another head-to-head. But on the opening stage both were far from the front-end action. Likewise for #3-ranked Yamanashi Gakuin University, still on the mend from injuries to many of its best runners. In the absence of the three favorites, #4 through #7-ranked teams Komazawa University, Kanagawa, Waseda University and Toyo University formed a leading group from which 2015 national champion Toyo emerged as the front runner.

Tokai and AGU spent the next three stages working up to the lead group before both lost ground on the Fifth Stage and had to try to regain their footing over the final three stages. Despite a solid lead at halfway Toyo's lack of depth caused by the absence of all of its fourth-years with injury was clear as it dropped back over the second half to ultimately end up 5th. Likewise for Waseda which fell to 7th, knocked off the six-deep podium by #9-ranked Chuo Gakuin University.

2011-2014 national champion Komazawa University looked like it might have a turn back on top, but  a brilliant stage winning run from second year Kenta Koshikawa brought Kanagawa into 2nd just before Tokai's Reo Kuniyuki put his team into 1st. Tokai occupied that position by a slim margin over Kanagawa for the next two stages, its hopes of winning its second of this season's Big Three university ekidens resting on anchor Kazuto Kawabata, winner of last month's Takashimadaira 20 km over London World Championships marathon 9th-placer Yuki Kawauchi.

But with 19.7 km ahead of him Kawabata had to contend with Kanagawa anchor Kengo Suzuki, the 2017 National University Half Marathon champion. And Suzuki showed what he was made of, running one of the fastest times ever by a Japanese athlete on the Nationals anchor stage, 57:24 for 19.7 km, equivalent to a 1:01:28 half marathon. Kawabata was no match as Suzuki blew by to bring Kanagawa home in 1st by a margin of well over a minute, just 4 seconds off the overall course record.

The last time Kanagawa won the national title was 1997, before many of its team members had even been born. Along with Tokai's first-in-a-decade Izumo Ekiden victory and Meijo University's first National University Women's Ekiden title in 12 years this season, Kanagawa's unexpected win was a welcome antidote to the kind of dynasties and Big Three domination that have been the norm over the last ten years. Likewise for the rare royal flush of individual stage wins, with each stage won by a runner from a different school. Combined with the overall steady rise in quality since 2013 it's a sign that things are alive and kicking on a widespread scale and not just the product of one or two good coaches.

Tokai and especially AGU both ran less than perfect races, their chances for the most prestigious of titles, the Hakone Ekiden overall win, now facing a threat from an unexpected quarter. Traditionally powerful Komazawa, Toyo and Waseda will need to patch the holes in their sails to keep up with the three newcomers who have passed them by. The talented YGU squad faces an even harder journey on the road to realizing its potential at Hakone, only managing to claw its way up to 9th today at Nationals. The next stop on that road comes in two weeks at Saitama's Ageo City Half Marathon.

49th National University Men's Ekiden Championships

Nagoya-Ise, 11/5/17
27 teams, 8 stages, 106.8 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results - top six seeded for 2018
1. Kanagawa University - 5:12:49
2. Tokai University - 5:14:07
3. Aoyama Gakuin University - 5:15:22
4. Komazawa University - 5:15:59
5. Toyo University - 5:16:29
6. Chuo Gakuin University - 5:17:59
-----
7. Waseda University - 5:19:08
8. Teikyo University - 5:19:39
9. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 5:20:32
10. Hosei University - 5:20:59

Top Individual Stage Performances
First Stage (14.6 km) - Akira Aizawa (Toyo Univ.) - 43:24
Second Stage (13.2 km) - Kazuki Tamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 38:04
Third Stage (9.5 km) - Ryoji Tatezawa (Tokai Univ.) - 27:02
Fourth Stage (14.0 km) - Masahiro Kan (Josai Univ.) - 40:09
Fifth Stage (11.6 km) - Kenta Koshikawa (Kanagawa Univ.) - 33:52
Sixth Stage (12.3 km) - Daisuke Horiai (Komazawa Univ.) - 35:57
Seventh Stage (11.9 km) - Hiroki Abe (Meiji Univ.) - 34:08 - CR
Eighth Stage (19.7 km) - Dominic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 57:06

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
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Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …

Guinness Certifies Kawauchi's World Record 78 Career Sub-2:20 Marathons After Half Marathon in Panda Costume

Known as the Civil Servant Runner, Saitama Prefectural Government employee Yuki Kawauchi's career record of 78 sub-2:20 marathons was officially recognized as the Guinness World Record at a ceremony in his hometown of Kuki, Saitama on Mar. 25.  Raised in Kuki, Kawauchi began working for the Saitama Prefectural Government after graduating from university. Running while working full-time as a civil servant, he has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic trial race.

Earlier this month on the 18th Kawauchi ran Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon, winning in 2:14:12. His 78th time running faster than 2 hours and 20 minutes, his achievement was certified as the official Guinness World Record. He actually broke the previous record on Jan. 1 at the Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon in the U.S.A. with his 76th sub-2:20 but followed up with two performances, one in February and the other last week, before Guinness could ratify the record.

The official recognition ceremony took place Mar. 2…

“The Miracle in Fukuoka” - Real Talk From Yuki Kawauchi on “Taking on the World” (part 1)

http://sports.yahoo.co.jp/column/detail/201701120002-spnavi

translated by Brett Larner

Ahead of his nomination to the London World Championships Marathon team, Sportsnavi published a three-part series of writings by Yuki Kawauchi on what it took for him to make the team, his hopes for London, and his views on the future of Japanese marathoning.  With his place on the London team announced on Mar. 17, JRN will publish an English translation of the complete series over the next three days. See Sportsnavi's original version linked above for more photos. Click here for part two, "Bringing All My Experience Into Play in London," or here for part three, "The Lessons of the Past Are Not 'Outdated.'"


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