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Four Days of Championship Ekidens Ahead - Mt. Fuji, New Year and Hakone Previews



The 100th anniversary year of the ekiden as a race format wraps up Saturday at the Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden, the season-ending national championships for university women. Run on a scenic but tough course in the foothills of Mt. Fuji, it has been dominated for the last four years by ten-time national champion Ritsumeikan University. Last year Ritsumeikan was beaten by Matsuyama University at October's Morinomiyako Ekiden but returned to win a fourth-straight national title. This year it fell to 3rd at Morinomiyako, with last year's Mount Fuji runner-up Meijo University and #1 Kanto Region program Daito Bunka University taking the top two spots. All four schools will square off again at Mount Fuji this year, with Morinomiyako 4th-placer Osaka Gakuin University and Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden winner Osaka Geijutsu University in the mix. The Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden will be broadcast live on Fuji TV starting at 10:00 a.m. local time on Dec. 30.



The ekiden's second century wastes no time kicking off bright and early Jan. 1 with the New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships. Last time Asahi Kasei scored a rare win by an all-Japanese team, one of only 7 in the field of 37 not to field an African runner on the so-called international stage. After the race it promptly brought in two Kenyans to bolster a roster that already included five men with 10000 m bests under 28 minutes, but that didn't stop it from getting beaten by regional rival MHPS at November's Kyushu Corporate Ekiden. 2nd at the New Year Ekiden last year, Toyota comes in hot off a course record win at the Chubu/Hokuriku Corporate Ekiden. SGH Group and Mazda won the Kansai and Chugoku Corporate Ekidens to lead their regions, but the toughest competition for an Asahi Kasei repeat looks to be East Japan Corporate Ekiden winner Honda.



Honda took the title in Japan's most competitive region without running newly crowned half marathon national record holder Yuta Shitara. As the course record holder on the New Year Ekiden's longest stage, Shitara's addition to the winning East Japan lineup could make for a team capable of scoring Honda's first-ever national title. TBS will broadcast the race starting live at 8:30 a.m. local time on Jan. 1, with a free webcast scheduled to start at 8:50 a.m.


The peak of the year comes Jan. 2 and 3 with Japan's biggest sporting and television event, the 94th running of the legendary Hakone Ekiden university men's championships. JRN has already published a detailed Hakone preview, but in summary this could be the year that sees the end of three-time winner Aoyama Gakuin University's stranglehold on the top spot. Last year AGU became the first school in history to both win Hakone three years in a row and win the Big Three, October's Izumo Ekiden, November's National University Championships, and Hakone, in a single season. This year it has struggled to live up to past success, finishing 2nd at Izumo and 3rd at Nationals.

Tokai University beat AGU at both races, and coming in to Hakone Tokai looks like the heavy favorite. Based on the average 5000 m, 10000 m, and half marathon bests of its entry list members, Tokai's lineup for Hakone is better than AGU's was last year, while AGU's has fallen off, especially over the half marathon distance crucial to Hakone success. Perpetual top three finisher Komazawa University is close behind AGU on half marathon credentials, featuring 2017 World University Games gold and silver medalists Kei Katanishi and Naoki Kudo on its roster. If AGU falters at all Komazawa should be there to pick up 2nd.

The surprise winner at Nationals, Kanagawa University lacks the half marathon credentials of any of the top three favorites and will need another big jump in quality to factor in. Last year's 2nd and 3rd placers Toyo University and Waseda University are down on strength, Toyo in particular lacking all but one of its seniors, and will be competing to finish on the ten-deep podium and secure themselves places at Hakone's 95th running in 2019.

NTV will deliver the best sports broadcast in the business live nationwide on Jan. 2 and 3 from 7:00 a.m. to just past 2:00 p.m. local time both days. There's no official webcast, but sites like these or this may make it possible to watch Hakone live overseas. JRN will live tweet all the above races @JRNLive. Join us in celebrating the second century of the most-watched road races in the world.

© 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
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
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.'"


The Fukuoka International Marathon was held on Dec. 4 last year. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) took part despite nursing injuries he had sustained in training. Falling rain contributed to less than ideal conditions during the race, but from the very early stages…