Kayoko Fukushi of Japan in the women's 10,000m final (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Kyoto takes women’s Inter-Prefectural Ekiden title in Kyoto

Taking the lead just before the end of the sixth stage, pre-face favorite Kyoto won the Inter-Prefectural Women’s Ekiden, a nine-stage Marathon distance Ekiden, in Kyoto on Sunday (16). 

Kyoto was fourth after stage 1, dropped to seventh after stage 2 and then to 16th after stage 3, but then came back with a vengeance. Ryoko Kizaki moved her team up to sixth after the fourth stage and Kyoto continued to move up. Third after stage 5, they took over the lead just before the end of stage 6.  Kyoto extended their lead over second place to 27 seconds after stage 7 but then the gap narrowed to just three seconds after stage 8.

However, with Kayoko Fukushi, the national 3000m, 5000m and Half Marathon record holder, anchoring for Kyoto, the race was practically over. As expected, Fukushi was superb. With each step Fukushi extended her lead over her pursuers and gave Kyoto the comfortable win. It was the 14th victory overall and sixth in the last seven years for Kyoto, having won five in a row from 2005 to 2009. Minori Hayakari, the national 3000m Steeplechase record holder and coach of Kyoto, said “I was nervous throughout the race, so I am very happy.” 

As for the individual performances, two runners set new stage records.  Yuriko Kobayashi, who medaled in both the World Youth Championships as well as World Junior Championships, recorded the stage best of 12:41 in the 4Km stage 4, thus breaking the previous best of 12:43 recorded by Mari Ozaki in 2006. Kobayashi also holds the 4Km stage 2 best of 12:07, but stage 4 is much tougher because of its hills. Nanako Kanno set the new stage record of 12:39 at 4.0875Km stage 6, thus breaking the previous record of 12:42 set last year. 

How the race unfolded:

Stage 1 - 6Km
Miho Notagashira of Aomori lead the runners out of the stadium. The 1Km split was a slow 3:22, and 3Km was covered in 9:54. At 3.9Km into the stage, Shimokado of Tochigi began to pick up the pace and the pack started to stretch out. Around 4.7Km Yurika Nakamura of Okayama along with Risa Takenaka of Shiga started to push the pace. With 500m to go, Takenaka hit the front followed by Yurika Nakamura, but with 200m to go Hanae Tanaka of Fukuoka started her sprint and gave Fukuoka a one second lead over Okayama. The pre-race favorite Kyoto was 4 seconds behind the leader. “My goal was to be within ten seconds of the leader at the end of stage one, so I was determined to stay with the leaders,” said Tanaka.

Stage 2 – 4Km
Kimura of Fukuoka, a 16-year-old high school student, started to stretch her lead over Okayama. At the end of the stage Fukuoka led the defending champion Okayama by 17 seconds. The pre-race favorite Kyoto was 30 seconds behind the leader.

Stage 3 – 3Km (reserved for junior high school runners)
Shizuka Nakao continued to lead for Fukuoka. The gap closed initially, but Nakao maintained her lead in the middle part of the stage. But then Yuka Kobayashi of Tochigi started to close fast in the final kilometre and caught and passed Fukuoka nearing the end of the stage. Tochigi led Fukuoka by 2 seconds. Kyoto is now 43 seconds behind the leader.

Stage 4  - 4Km
At 750m into the stage, Kazuka Wakatsuki of Fukuoka took over the lead from Tochigi. But the stage belonged to Yuriko Kobayashi, medalist at both the World Youth and World Junior Championships, running for Hyogo.  At 1.6Km into the stage Kobayashi moved up to second, and after 2.4Km in the stage took over the lead.  Behind them Ryoko Kizaki of Kyoto was quickly making up ground and passed 10 runners in 4Km.  Kobayashi finished the stage in 12:41, a new stage record, and Hyogo led by 3 seconds.  “I know the course is really hilly but I really wanted to run around 12:20. So although I got the stage record, I am far from satisfied,” said Kobayashi. 

Stage 5 - 4.1075Km
While snow flurries returned to the course, Hyogo continued to lead over Fukuoka. At the end of stage 5 Hyogo lead over Fukuoka by 23 seconds, who in turn lead over Kyoto by 20 seconds.

Stage 6 - 4.0875Km
After 3.2Km into the stage, Kyoto moved into second behind the leader Hyogo, and then just before the end of the stage, Nanako Kanno of Kyoto took over the lead. Kanno covered the stage in record 12:39.

Stage 7 – 4Km
Ayano Ikeuchi of Kyoto build up a commanding lead, and after the end of the stage, Kyoto’s lead over Hyogo grew to 27 seconds.

Stage 8 – 3Km (reserved for junior high school runners)
Nearing the end of the stage, Hyogo and Fukuoka made a dramatic gain on Kyoto.  At the end of the stage, Kyoto led by only three seconds over Hyogo, with Fukuoka only one second behind Hyogo.

Stage 9 – 10Km
With each stride Fukushi extended her lead over Hyogo and Fukuoka and by 5Km into the stage, her lead over Okayama, who moved up to second around 4Km grew to 49 seconds, and the race was essentially over.

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Weather: Sunny, but snow earlier; Temperature: 4C, Humidity: 67%
 
Results:
1)  Kyoto  2:17:16
2)  Okayama 2:18:07
3)  Fukuoka  2:19:00
4)  Chiba 2:19:21
5)  Nagasaki 2:19:38
6)  Aichi  2:19:48
7)  Kanagawa  2:19:49
8)  Kumamoto  2:19:52
9)  Hyogo  2:20:03
10)  Osaka 2:21:08

After stage 1
1) Fukuoka  19:41
2) Okayama 19:42
3) Shiga 19:43
4) Kyoto 19:45
5) Hyogo 19:48

After stage 2
1) Fukuoka  32:03
2)  Okayama  32:20
3) Shiga 32:27
4) Hyogo 32:27
5) Nagasaki 32:29
6) Mie 32:31
7) Kyoto  32:33

After stage 3
1) Tochigi 42:01
2) Fukuoka 42:03
3) Hyogo  42:12
4) Kanagawa 42:18
5) Mie 42:22

After stage 4
1) Hyogo 54:53
2) Fukuoka 54:56
3) Kanagawa 55:25
4) Tochigi 55:27
5) Aichi 55:36
6) Kyoto 55:36 
7) Okayama 55:38

After stage 5
1) Hyogo 1:08:19
2) Fukuoka 1:08:42
3) Kyoto  1:09:02
4) Aichi 1;09:08
5) Tochigi 1:09:11
6) Kanagawa 1:09:13
7) Okayama 1:09:26

After stage 6
1) Kyoto 1:21:41
2) Hyogo 1:21:45
3) Okayama 1:22:06
4) Fukuoka 1:22:10
5) Kanagawa 1:22:19

After stage 7 
1) Kyoto   1:34:16
2) Hyogo  1:34:43
3) Okayama 1:34:57
4) Fukuoka 1:35:02
5) Aichi 1:35:47

After stage 8
1) Kyoto 1:45:23
2) Hyogo 1:45:26
3) Fukuoka 1:45:27
4) Okayama 1:45:54
5) Kanagawa 1:46:26

Stage Best
Stage  1  -  6Km
1)  Hanae Tanaka (Fukuoka)  19:41
2)  Yurika Nakamura (Okayama) 19:42
3)  Risa Takenaka (Shiga) 19:43
4)  Kazue Kojima (Kyoto) 19:45
5) Akane Yabushita  (Hyogo) 19:48
6)  Ayuko Suzuki (Aichi) 19:49

Stage 2 – 4Km
1) Yuka Kimura  (Fukuoka) 12:22
2) Chikako Mori  (Nagasaki) 12:32
3) Kaori Urata  (Okayama) 12:38 
4) Risa Yokoe (Hyogo) 12:39
5) Hiromi Koga (Mie)  12:39

Stage 3 – 3Km  (reserved for junior high runner)
1)  Hanami Sekine (Tokyo)  9:21
2)  Yuka Kobayashi  (Tochigi) 9:23

Stage 4  - 4Km
1)  Yuriko Kobayashi  (Hyogo) 12:41     New stage record  (old record 12:43)
2)  Ryoko Kizaki  (Kyoto) 12:52
3)  Kazuka Wakatsuki (Fukuoka) 12:53
4)  Rei Ohara  (Okayama) 13:01

Stage 5  -  4.1075Km
1)  Mutsumi Ikeda  (Hyogo) 13:26
2)  Erina Maki   (Kyoto) 13:26 

Stage 6  -  4.0875Km
1)  Nanako Kanno  (Kyoto) 12:39  New stage record (old record 12:42)
2)  Natsuki Suga  (Okayama) 12:40

Stage 7  - 4Km 
1) Ayano Ikeuchi (Kyoto)  12:35
2) Mahiro Akamatsu (Akamatsu)12:51

Stage 8 -  3Km   (reserved for junior high school runner)
1) Ayaka Nakagawa  (Saitama) 10:02
2) Yoshie Inoue (Fukuoka)  10:25

Stage 9 – 10Km
1)  Kayoko Fukushi  (Kyoto) 31:53 
2)  Risa Shigetomo  (Okayama) 32:13
3) Hitomi Niiya (Chiba) 32:22
4) Hikari Yoshimoto  (Kumamoto) 32:51
5) Yoshiko Fujinaga  (Nagasaki) 32:54
6) Kumi Ogura  (Aichi)  33:07
7) Mai Ito  (Tokushima) 33:07
8) Kayoko Sugihara  (Shimane) 33:16
9) Ayumi Sakaida  (Osaka)  33:18
10) Sayo Nomura  (Gifu)  33:22
11) Hitomi Nakamura (Kanagawa) 33:23
12) Yuri Kano (Tokyo) 33:29
13) Tomoka Inadomi (Fukuoka) 3:33
14) Nanae Kuwashiro  (Shiga) 33:45
15) Remi Nakazato  (Gunma) 33:50