Yukiko Akaba of Japan brings home the victory in Chiba (Kazutaka Eguchi/Agence SHOT) © Copyright
General News

Japan comes from behind to win the Chiba International Ekiden

The Japanese national team came from behind in the sixth and the final stage to win today’s Chiba International Ekiden in 2:05:56, more than a minute ahead of Kenyan team, who finished second in 2:07:06. They were followed by Russia, who covered the marathon distance in 2:08:00, in third. The US team was in fourth with 2:09:05, followed by Japanese Collegiate team in 2:09:22.    

For the first time in its history, the teams consisted of three men and three women running total of 42.195Km. The men ran the odd numbered stage totalling 25Km (5Km, 10Km, 10Km), while women ran the even numbered stages totalling 17.195Km (5Km, 5Km, 7.195Km).

The race, as expected, was contested among Kenya, Japan, and Russia. The Kenyan team with sub 27 minutes 10,000m runner Mosses Masai leading off, took the control of the race in the early stage. Japan, which was running second in stage 1 and 2, dropped as low as fourth in the third stage, but came back strongly in fourth and especially in the fifth stage. They won comfortably after taking over the lead 1Km into the six and the final stage.  

Stage 1
Soon after the start Kenya, Japan, US, Australia and Russia formed the lead group.  Soon, Russia and Australia lost contact with the leaders leaving Moses Masai of Kenya, Ed Moran of the US and Yuichiro Ueno of Japan in front. By 3Km into the stage, Masai left Ueno and Moran behind and soon he was running alone in front. Masai passed 4Km point in 10:43 and covered the 5Km stage in 13:22, seven second ahead of Ueno of Japan. “I wanted to challenge the sub 27 minute 10,000m runner (Moses Masai of Kenya) today, so finishing only second seconds behind him was a big confidence builder for me,” said Ueno during the winning team interview. 

Stage 2
Although Emily Chebet of Kenya pulled away from Kayoko Fukushi of Japan in the first part of the 5Km second stage, Fukushi, national 3000m and 5000m record holder, steadily cut the Kenyan’s lead in the second half. Chebet led by 11 seconds at 2.5Km into the race, but her lead was cut to 9 second at 3Km, 6 seconds at 4.2Km and finally to 3 seconds at the relay point. 

Stage 3
Around 2Km into the stage 3, Evgeny Rybakov of the Russian team joined Kenji Noguchi of Japan to form two-men chase group, while Kenya again extended their lead in the first part of the stage. Barnabas Sigei led Japan and Russia by as much as 20 seconds 2.6Km into the 10Km third stage. Meanwhile Scott Bauhs of the US team joined Japan and Russia around 7.5Km into the stage. Three teams ran together only briefly before Noguchi lost contact with Rybakov and Bauhs. At the end of the stage, Kenya led Russia by 41 seconds, while the US was another two seconds behind. The Japanese team was 53 seconds behind the Kenyans.  

Stage 4
Eighteen years old Megumi Kinukawa of Japan and Sendai Ikue high school steadily gained the ground on the leaders and moved into second place around 2Km into the stage. Running the fastest fourth stage, Kinukawa, who has a 10,000m personal best of 31:35.27, cut the Kenyan’s lead to 36 seconds at the relay point.  

Stage 5
Kensuke Takezawa of Japan may be the most valuable runner for Japan. He steadily cut the Kenyan lead during the 10Km fifth stage.  The gap between Takezawa and Joseph Birech of Kenya was reduced to 20 seconds by 4Km, 14 seconds by 6.3Km, 10 seconds by 7Km, and 6 seconds by 8.5Km into the race. It was finally reduced to 4 seconds at the relay point

Stage 6
Seven hundred metres into the sixth and the final stage, Yukiko Akaba of Japan caught Catherine Ndereba of Kenya. “I was not too far behind, so I was determined to win the race,” said Akaba, one of the few elite runners who is raising a baby and training at the top level at the same time. Ndereba and Akaba run together for only 300m before Akaba left Ndreba behind. She was never challenged and won by more than a minute.  

Ken Nakamura assisted by Akihiro Onishi for the IAAF

Weather at the start:  temperature 12.3C, humidity 27%; wind 5.8m/s North North West

1. JPN   2:05:56  (Yuichiro Ueno, K Fukushi, Kenji Noguchi, Megumi Kinukawa, Kensuke Takezawa, Yukiko Akaba)
2. KEN  2:07:06  (Moses Masai, Emily Chebet, Barnabas Sigei, Catherine Kirui, Joseph Birech, Catherine Ndereba)
3. RUS  2:08:00
4. USA  2:09:05
5. JPN Collegiate  2:09:22
6. GBR  2:10:11
7. AUS  2:11:56
8. Chiba Prefecture 2:11:57

Best Stage:
1 5Km 13:22  Moses Ndiema Masai (KEN)
  13:29 Yuichiro Ueno (JPN)
  13:33 Ed Moran (USA)
2 5Km 15:24 Kate Reed (GBR)
  15:34 Kayoko Fukushi (JPN)
  15:37 Yelena Zadorozhnaya (RUS)
3 10Km 28:31 Scott Bauhs  (USA)
  28:32 Barnabas Sigei (KEN)
  29:00 Evgeny Rybakov (RUS)
4 5Km 16:03 Megumi Kinukawa (JPN)
  16:04 Alina Gherasim (ROM)
  16:20 Catherine Kirui (KEN)
5 10KM 28:49 Kensuke Takezawa (JPN)
  29:21 Joseph Birech (KEN)
  29:31 Ryan Sheehan (USA)
6 7.195Km 22:39 Yukiko Akaba (JPN)
  23:15 Liliya Shobukhova (RUS)
  23:32 Ryoko Kizaki (JPN Collegiate team)
  23:53 Catherine Ndereba (KEN)