Mizuki Noguchi claims the course record in Tokyo (Kazutaka Eguchi/Agence Shot) © Copyright
General News

Kyoto dominates Inter-Prefectural Women's Ekiden

Having taken the lead in stage two and recorded five straight stage best from stage four to eight, Kyoto prefecture completely dominated the 26th annual Inter-Prefectural Women's Ekiden on Sunday (13).

The Ekiden was contested on a nine stage course over the Marathon distance. Two of the stages, the third and eighth, both 3Km, are reserved for a runner born before April 1992 (essentially junior high school runners). The team must include three other runners born before April 1989 (essentially high school runners).

Home team Kyoto prefecture set a course record of 2:14:58, breaking the old record, 2:15:19, set by Kumamoto prefecture in 1997.  It was fourth straight victory for Kyoto, the longest winning streak since Kyoto won five in a row from 1988 to 1992.  It was also twelfth victory for Kyoto. 

Hyogo and Okayama battled it out for second place from stages four to nine. In the end, Akane Wakita of Hyogo pulled away from Mika Hikichi of Okayama midway through the ninth stage and finishing second, two minutes and 32 seconds behind Kyoto.  They were followed by Okayama in 2:17:56 and Miyazaki in 2:18:56.

The star of the event was the reigning Olympic Marathon champion Mizuki Noguchi, who recorded a stage best of 31:53 in the 10Km ninth stage. "It was an auspicious start of the Olympic year," said Noguchi, who passed seven runners in the process.   

How the race unfolded: 

Stage 1 (6Km) -
The race started with a good pace. A huge pack of runners passed 1Km in 3:08 and 3Km in 9:30. With Yurika Nakamura doing most of the leading, by 4Km the lead pack was reduced to eight runners.  A Km later the pack was down to three - Nakamura, Ryoko Kizaki and Noriko Matsuoka. Nakamura of Okayama prefecture surged with 300m to go and left Kizaki of Kyoto and Matsuoka of Shizuoka behind. After the 6Km first stage Okayama led the race with Shizuoka two seconds behind in second and Kyoto another second back.

Stage 2 (4Km) -
One Km into the second stage, Tomomi Yuda of Kyoto caught the front running Kaori Urata of Okayama. They ran together exchanging the lead for the next two and half Km, but with 500m to go, Yuda pulled away from Urata and finished the stage four seconds in front. Meanwhile, Yuriko Kobayashi of Hyogo prefecture, the stage record holder and World Junior bronze medalist at 1500m, run brilliantly as expected. Although she did not improve her own stage record, Kobayashi passed nine runners and moved her team into third place.    

Stage 3 (3Km) reserved for junior high school runners (under 15 years old) -
From stage three to eight, Kyoto kept on extending their lead. By the end of third stage, Kyoto extended their lead over the second place to 28 seconds, while Shizuoka, with a stage best run by Saeko Yuda moved into second. Okayama and Hyogo was battling it out for the third place.   

Stage 4 (4Km) -
Mari Ozaki of Kyoto, the stage record holder and 14th at the Marathon in the 2007 World Championships, continued to extend her lead over the 4Km fourth stage. Around half way, she was 41 seconds ahead of second place Shizuoka. Late in the fourth stage, with about 400m to go in the stage, Hyogo and Okayama caught Shizuoka in second place. When the final sprint started, it was Ayumi Sakaida of Hyogo who pulled away from Okayama and Shizuoka.  Kyoto led by 54 seconds from Hyogo at the end of the stage.  

Stage 5 (4.1075Km) -
For the three stages, stage five, six and seven, runners from Ritsumeikan Uji high school, who won the national inter-high school ekiden championships on the same course, were superb. First in stage five, Ikumi Nasuhara of Ritsumeikan Uji High school and Kyoto further extend the team's lead to a minute and two seconds. With half way into the Ekiden, Kyoto was on a record pace (1:07:48 for 21.075Km, previous record was 1:08:46). Okayama was second with Hyogo only a step behind. 

Stage 6 (4.0875Km) -
Risa Takenaka of Ritsumeikan High School and Kyoto further extend Kyoto's lead to minute and 28 seconds. Kyoto was still on the record pace.  At the end of the sixth stage, Kyoto was over a minute ahead of the record pace (1:20:33 for 25.195Km, previous record was 1:21:40). Okayama pulled away from Hyogo and by the end of the stage, Okayama was eight seconds ahead of Hyogo in second place.   

Stage 7 (4Km) -
In stage seven, Aya Ito of Ritsumeikan High School also extended the Kyoto's lead to minute and 48 seconds. Their brilliant ran continued, as Kyoto covered 29.195Km in record 1:32:55 (previous record was 1:34:13).  Okayama was six seconds ahead of third place Hyogo.

Stage 8 (3Km) for junior high school runners (under 15 years old) -
Less than a Km into the stage, Hyogo caught Okayama in second place. They ran together until 1Km to go, when Okayama pulled away from Hyogo. With 10Km to go in the Ekiden, Kyoto was 1:42:54, nearly minute and half ahead of record (1:44:18) pace. Kyoto was two minutes and 17 second ahead of second place Okayama. 

Stage 9 (10Km) -
With the victory almost sealed up for Kyoto, the focus of the race turned to whether Kyoto can set the course record. At the start of the ninth and final stage, Kazue Kojima had a minute and 24 seconds cushion. She had to run 32:25 for the 10Km stage for the record. Although it was her first 10K, Kojima did much better. Kojima, 2006 Asian Junior silver medalist, covered the 10Km stage in 32:04 for the third fastest stage, and Kyoto broke the record by 21 seconds.

Several world class runners ran this stage. Akane Wakita, 15th at 10000m in the World Championships, started for Hyogo in third place, nine seconds behind the second place Okayama. Two Km into the stage, Wakita caught Mika Hikichi of Okayama. They ran together for about 4Km.  "I am not very fast at the end of the race, so I wanted to pull away early," said Wakita, who pulled away from Hikichi with 4Km to go. Hyogo finished second. Mizuki Noguchi, who runs for Mie, started in sixteenth place and passed seven runners. Yukiko Akaba, 31:23 10000m runner, started for Tochigi in 29th place.  She passed nine runners. 

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Results:  Weather: Cloudy, temperature 7C; humidity 71%; wind 2.5m/s North east

1) Kyoto  2:14:58   new record
2) Hyogo  2:17:30
3) Okayama 2:17:56
4) Miyazaki   2:18:56   
5) Kanagawa  2:19:09
6) Fukuoka  2:19:34
7) Kumamoto  2:19:39
8) Shizuoka   2:19:51
9) Mie   2:20:00
10) Ehime  2:20:24      

Best Stages:

1 6Km
19:18 Yurika Nakamura Okayama
19:20 Noriko Matsuoka Shizuoka
19:21 Ryoko Kizaki Kyoto
19:27 Harumi Hiroyama Tokushima
19:31 Megumi Seike Ehime
19:35 Misaki Katsumata Tokyo

2 4Km
12:33 Yuriko Kobayashi Hyogo
12:40 Tomomi Yuda Kyoto
12:46 Aya Nagata Miyazaki
12:47 Kaori Urata Okayama

3 3Km
9:22 Saeko Yuda Shizuoka

4 4Km
13:03 Mari Ozaki Kyoto
13:22 Ayumi Sakaida Hyogo
13:24 Mariko Nakao Miyazaki
13:25 Aki Odagiri Nagano
13:25 Erika Ikeda Kumamoto
13:26 Tomo Morimoto Okayama

5 4.1075Km
13:16 Ikumi Natsukawa Kyoto

6 4.0875Km
12:45 Risa Takenaka Kyoto

7 4Km
12:22 Aya Ito Kyoto

8 3Km
9:59 Moe Kyuma Kyoto

9 10Km
31:53 Mizuki Noguchi Mie
32:02 Yukiko Akaba Tochigi
32:04 Kazue Kojima Kyoto
32:08 Akane Wakita Hyogo
32:21 Madoka Ogi Nagasaki
32:21 Hiroko Miyauchi Miyazaki
32:25 Marie Imada Fukuoka
32:29 Aya Manome Fukushima
32:30 Hiromi Ominami Aichi
32:31 Kiyomi Ogawa Saga
32:37 Chika Horie Chiba
32:40 Akane Taira Kanagawa
32:40 Yumi Hirata Shizuoka
32:40 Ikuyo Yamashita Ehime
32:43 Yui Sakai Fukui
32:43 Mika Hikichi Okayama
32:44 Mizuho Nasukawa Iwate
32:46 Seika Nishikawa Kumamoto
32:50 Ikumi Wakamatsu Kagoshima
33:01 Yuko Shimizu Gifu
33:05 Aimi Horikoshi Gunma
33:10 Yuko Machida Miyagi
33:10 Kayo Sugihara Shimane
33:16 Akemi Ozaki Tokyo

After Stage 1
Okayama 19:18
Shizuoka 19:20
Kyoto 19:21
Tokushima 19:27
Ehime 19:31

After Stage 2
Kyoto 32:01
Okayama 32:05
Hyogo 32:28
Shizuoka 32:35
Miyazaki 32:44

After Stage 3
Kyoto 41:29
Shizuoka 41:57
Okayama 42:04
Hyogo 42:04
Ehime 42:22

After Stage 4
Kyoto 54:32
Hyogo 55:26
Okayama 55:30
Shizuoka 55:31
Miyazaki 56:02

After Stage 5
Kyoto 1:07:48
Okayama 1:08:50
Hyogo 1:08:50
Shizuoka 1:09:57
Kanagawa 1:10:00 

After Stage 6
Kyoto 1:20:33
Okayama 1:22:01
Hyogo 1:22:08
Kangawa 1:23:18
Nagano 1:23:28 

After Stage 7
Kyoto 1:32:55
Okayama 1:34:43
Hyogo 1:34:49
Kumamoto 1:36:07
Miyazaki 1:36:09

After Stage 8
Kyoto 1:42:54
Okayama 1:45:13
Hyogo 1:45:22
Kanagawa 1:46:29
Miyazaki 1:46:35