As every year, this race was held in Gunma north of Tokyo. As opposed to the more famous Hakone Ekiden it is only a one day event featuring corporate teams, promising a bit of drama this year as favourites Konica-Minolta had been beaten by Honda in the preliminaries. The course has seven legs and is 100k long.
The first leg has 12.3k. Asahi Kasei's Ono beat favourite Matsumiya of Konica by 3sec to take the win. The second, 8,3k, leg was dominated by international runners, and Nissin's Gideon took the lead within meters from the start, running a 2.36 first k - and never looked back. Second was Komori, followed by Honda. Konica was 7th, 1:08 back. Honda passed Nissin, and Konika's Ota managed to get his team up to third, followed by Fujitsu and Asahi Chemicals. Nissin was leading until 21.3 of the 22.3k fourth leg, but was passed by Fujitsu and a surprising Komori Corporation, whose Akiba managed to take the lead at the hand-off. Favorites Konica were one minute back at seventh and Honda fell back to eight. At the end of leg five a group of three runners was leading, Fujitsu beat Nissin by a split second, followed by Asahi Chemicals. Surprisingly, not much changed on the next leg, except Konica getting closer to the leaders putting itself into a promising position for the anchor leg. Fujitsu came in one second ahead of Nissin, with Asahi seven seconds back, and Konica another 51 seconds behind in fourth.
Asahi caught up to the first two to form a group of three teams which passed the mark for the last kilometer without change! Fujitsu won with less than a second over Asahi and Nissin! Favorites Konica came fourth followed by Toyota.
A race to remember!