This is the main event on the Japanese relay scene, even more important than yesterday's corporate ekiden. official website
As every year, the runners started in the central business district of Otemachi in Tokyo and set off to run about 110k to the hot-spring resort of Hakone. Not much excitement on the first 15k. At about 17k, Waseda University's Yasawa went ahead and build a 50m lead over a group of five runners which included favourites Komazawa and Yamanashi. Yamanashi's Kenian superstar Mekubo Mogus was waiting in a good position at the hand-off, but his compatriot, Nihon University's star Daniel Kitao got his sash 1:46 back at 22. out of 23 teams. Mogus, who has a 10k pb of 27:26, quickly took the lead running a 2:51 first kilometer, passing Waseda at the 2k mark. Daniel, being so far back, ran a 2:43 first kilometer! Mogus went through the first 5k in 14:03, with Chuo Gakuin and Waseda following. At 10k Daniel had passed about ten runners, and Komazawa's Ugachi had to abort a try to hang in behind him after being passed. At the front, Mogus opened up a big lead on Chuo Gakuin's Kihara, with a group of four runners following. Chuo Gakuin's Kihara gradually faded, being passed by Tokyo University of Agriculture at about 15.4k, but surprisingly being able to break away again and, for the time being, return to second. But Daniel was threatening from the back! Daniel actually reached second before the 20k mark, passing 20 runners in the process! Mogus, though, was still faster and on track to break his own leg-record, which he did by 19 seconds. Daniel and Chuo Gakuin's Kihara competed for second place. Daniel prevailed, keeping his new record of 20 runners passed intact.
Expectations were high for Tokai University's Yuki Sato, one of Japan's fastest collegians, whose team was far at 18th at the second hand off. HIs main competitor for the fastest leg was Olympian Kensuke Takezawa of Waseda, who quickly moved up to second, with both runners constantly staying ahead of the leg record in their splits. Takezawa cut Yamanashi's lead to 16sec. winning the leg, Satoh managed to get his team up to third, but fell back to fifth at the hand-off and failed to get his fourth leg-record in a row. Waseda soon caught up with Yamanashi, with both about three minutes ahead of the third placed Nihon University. Struggling favourites Komazawa came in at 17, 6:30 behind the leaders.
Waseda moved into the sole lead at about 10k, and Meiji came from behind to move up to third at the end of leg four. The fifth leg is all uphill, and always good for surprises. Komazawa, nine minutes back, needed exactly that to defend their title. In a scenario exactly opposite to last year’s, Yamanashi passed Waseda at about the half-way-point of the 23k leg, just to fall back again right away. Commentators speculated about some possible injury or accident. Toyo University’s highly regarded rookie Kashiwabara threatened from behind, moving into third after 13k.The biggest surprise was still to come, with Kashiwabara passing the leader at about the highest point around 20k, leading into the downhill towards Lake Ashinoko. But Waseda’s Miwa didn’t give up, coming back on Kashiwabara at 21k, with Miwa obviously coping better with the downhill.
In the end, after an epic struggle, the runner with the faster pb prevailed, giving Toyo its first win on the outbound portion of this race. Waseda, however, just 20sec back in second, seems to be the favourites for tomorrow's return leg.