race favourites, won the Inter-Prefectural Women’s Ekiden in Kyoto on Sunday (15).
It was their second victory at this nine-stage Marathon distance ekiden, the first in 19 years for Osaka in this, the 30th edition of the Ekiden. Although Ryoko Kizaki started well for Osaka by winning the first stage, none of their next eight runners recorded the fastest stage. However, their winning time of 2:16:37 was nearly two minutes faster than their fastest time in this ekiden. Thus, it was the real team effort for Osaka that brought victory over defending champion Kyoto.
With a superb anchor leg, Chiba moved up from seventh to third in the ninth and final stage, followed by Hyogo, who was only 30th after stage one.
This is a unique ekiden where the team consists of runners in all age groups from junior high school, high school as well as collegiate and professionals runners. Thus it is a great opportunity for young runners to learn from their idols, the best professional runners in Japan.
Kizaki, who won the Yokohama Women’s Marathon last November and is waiting for the results of upcoming Osaka and Nagaoya Marathon to see if she is on the 2012 Olympic team, put her team in the lead at the end of the first stage. Although Osaka lost their lead to Aichi briefly at the end of second stage, they remained in front albeit only by 9 to 19 seconds until stage 7 when they opened the gap to 35 seconds and then to 43 seconds at the stage 8. At the end Osaka won by 56 seconds.
“The team ran as I expected, so I am very happy,” said Akira Okamoto, Osaka’s coach. “I am happy with my results because it was my first run in this ekiden,” said Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu, who took over the lead for good for Osaka. “I was little nervous because my competitions are some of the most famous runners in Japan, but my coach calm me down, and I ran well. I am not famous like Nishihara (who was chasing me), but I was hoping to run well so people will remember my name,” said Yuka Tokuda, Osaka’s anchor.
How the race unfolded:
Stage 1 – 6Km
The race started cautiously. The first kilometre was covered in 3:13 while 3Km took 9:38. Yurika Nakamura, a 2008 Olympic marathon runner for Okayama, lost contact with the leader early and thus Okayama was in trouble. The real racing started with a kilometre to go and the lead pack gradually reduced to three runners. With 100m to go in the stage, Ryoko Kizaki, 2011 Yokohama Marathon champion, started to pull away from her competition and won the opening stage in 19:21. The defending champion Kyoto was fifth, three seconds behind Osaka. “I was thinking of making my move in the final 100 metres, so I was praying that nobody else will make their move any earlier,” said Kizaki.
Stage 2 - 4Km
Osaka continued to lead followed by Aichi and then the defending champion Kyoto. The stage record holder Yuriko Kobayashi, medalist at both World Youth and World Junior Championships, started the stage in 30th place, and was expected to pass lots of runners. However, she does not seem to be in top shape, and at the end passed only four. In the last 100 metres of the stage Aichi caught Osaka and they were together at the end of second stage.
Stage 3 – 3Km (the stage reserved for junior high school runners)
Nozomi Musembi Takahashi, daughter of former Nagano Marathon champion Maxwell Musembi of Kenya, pulled away from Aichi and put her team in the lead. At the end Osaka lead Aichi by 13 seconds.
Stage 4 – 4Km
Osaka extended their lead over Aichi initially but at the end Aichi worked their way back to 9 second behind the leader Osaka. The defending champion Kyoto moved up to third from sixth at the start of the stage, 36 seconds behind the leader.
Stage 5 – 4.1075Km
Osaka continued to lead, but with little more than a kilometre to go Kyoto moved up to second. At the end of the stage, Osaka led Kyoto by 18 seconds.
Stage 6 – 4.0875Km
Haruka Kyuma of Kyoto, 12th at 3000m in both World Youth and World Junior Championships, closed on the leader Osaka. At the end Kyuma cut Osaka’s leads to 15 seconds.
Stage 7 – 4Km
Mizuki Matsuda of Osaka started fast and initially extended her lead over Moe Kyuma of Kyoto, 5th at 3000m in 2009 World Youth Championships. At the end Kyuma worked her way back to 17 seconds behind Osaka.
Stage 8 – 3Km (reserved for junior high school runners)
Yumi Oe of Kyoto started fast and closed the gap on Osaka initially to 14 seconds, but as Yuko Arimori, two-time Olympic Marathon medalist who was commentating for TV, pointed out, Oe may have made rookie’s mistake of going out too fast. Soon after half way, the gap started to widen. At the end, Osaka was 35 second ahead of Kyoto.
Stage 9 – 10Km
This is the stage where many of the best distance runners in Japan are scheduled to run. The anchor for Kyoto Kasumi Nishihara, 2009 World University Games’ champion at 10,000m, is a much faster runner than Yuka Tokuda the anchor of Osaka, and thus Nishihara was expected to close the gap on Tokuda. However, at the half way, the gap between Osaka and Kyoto increased to 43 seconds. At the end Tokuda was able to extend the lead over Nishihara to nearly a minute. Behind them Hitomi Niiya, 3rd at 3000m in the 2005 World Youth Championships, who started at 7th at the start of the stage, has moved up to third by the 5Km check point. Two runners who competed in the 2011 World Championships, Hikari Yoshimoto and Kayo Sugihara passed 12 and 10 runners, respectively, in the 10Km final stage.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
1. Osaka 2:16:37
2. Kyoto 2:17:33
3. Chiba 2:17:49
4. Hyogo 2:17:53
5. Fukuoka 2:17:55
6. Aichi 2:18:10
7. Shizuoka 2:18:32
8. Okayama 2:18:52
1 - 6Km 19:21 - Ryoko Kizaki - Osaka
19:23 Misaki Onishi Mie
19:23 Sayo Nomura Gifu
19:23 Ayuko Suzuki Aichi
19:24 Mai Ishibashi Kyoto
2 - 4Km 12:26 - Yuka Ando - Aichi
12:28 Chizuru Ideta Osaka
12:32 Yuki Mitsunebu Saga
3 - 3Km 9:17 - Fumika Nakagawa - Saitama
9:22 Nozomi Musembi Takahashi Osaka
9:25 Yuka Kobayashi Tochigi
4 - 4Km 12:48 - Risa Takenaka - higa
12:50 Nanako Kanno Kyoto
12:52 Yuko Shimizu Gifu
12:56 Megumi Kinukawa Gunma
5 - 4.1095Km - 12:57 - Nanami Aoki - Kyoto
13:02 Katsuki Suga Oakayama
13:11 Rui Aoyama Kanagawa
6 - 4.0875Km - 12:58 - Mika Kobayashi - Hyogo
13:01 Fumiko Hashimoto Saitama
13:08 Miki Yamamoto Aichi
13:09 Haruka Kyuma Kyoto
7 - 4Km 12:33 - Risa Yokoe - Hyogo
12:46 Mizuki Matsuda Osaka
12:48 Moe Kyuma Kyoto
12:59 Kaori Urata Okayama
8 - 3Km 9:53 - Kokoro Sawairi - Shizuoka
9:55 Fumiko Ando Hyogo
9:59 Yurina Kinoshita Kanagawa
9 - 10Km - 32:06 - Hitomi Niiya - Chiba
32:17 Hikari Yoshimoto Kumamoto
32:18 Hanae Tanaka Fukuoka
32:29 Kayo Sugihara Shimane
32:40 Rei Ohara Okayama
32:46 Yuka Tokuda Osaka
32:46 Hitomi Nakamura Shizuoka
At the end of Stage:
1 - 6Km 19:21 Osaka
2 - 10Km 31:49 Aichi
3 - 13Km 41:11 Osaka
4 - 17Km 54:26 Osaka
5 - 21.1075Km 1:07:40 Osaka
6 - 25.195Km 1:20:53 Osaka
7 - 29.195Km 1:33:39 Osaka
8 - 32.195Km 1:43:51 Osaka