Skip to main content

Oita Fire Department on Trying to Become First FD Team to Make the New Year Ekiden: "This is Our Big Chance"

http://www.oita-press.co.jp/1010000000/2017/04/11/JD0055648052

translated by Brett Larner

The Oita Fire Department ekiden team is targeting the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships.  Thanks to the Miyazaki-based Asahi Kasei team's win at the 2017 New Year Ekiden, the number of spots available at the 2018 race to Kyushu region teams will increase by one to eight teams.  "This is our big chance," said OFD head coach Masakazu Mishiro, 40.  Police Department and Self-Defense Force teams have made the New Year Ekiden in the past, but to date no Fire Department team has ever qualified.

To make it to the biggest stage in Japan it's a constant struggle to balance a busy work schedule and training.  The OFD team has around 20 members, half of them full-on serious runners who competed in university, and with the addition of three new members at the start of the fiscal year in April its strength has only grown.  Forming the team's core are star runner Tsuyoshi Miyamoto, 27,  track runner Tomoya Watanabe, 23, endurance king Yuki Kojina, 26, and veteran Toshiya Uto, 31.

Together they have led the OFD team to win the Kyushu Region Fire Department Championships four years in a row.  At February's National Championships, in just its third appearance OFD defeated the Tokyo Fire Department for the first time to take the top spot.  "Due to our work we have limited time in which to train," said Miyamoto.  "We have to improve the quality of both our individual runs and group workouts, and every team member needs to get faster."  Ryota Uchida, 22, one of April's new additions, added, "Looking at the strong older guys on the team, I want to train seriously."

The New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships features 37 teams from different regions across the country competing over 100 km divided into seven stages.  The Kyushu Corporate Ekiden, the qualifying event for the Kyushu region, will take place in mid-November in Kita-Kyushu, with the top eight teams going on to the New Year Ekiden.  Looking ahead, coach Mishiro commented, "The top seven teams [in the Kyushu region] including Asahi Kasei are in a different class in terms of ability.  The race will be for the last spot.  With young runners having come on board we have momentum and headroom for improvement.  Can we make it?  Absolutely."

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kiplagat, Ichiyama, Tadese and Shitara Lead Marugame Half Elite Field

The Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon is always one of Japan's deepest races of the year on the men's side, its 2012 running setting a world record for the most men under 64 minutes in a single half marathon in history. On the women's side the field is always smaller but still home to the 1:07:26 Japanese national record set by Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal) back in 2006.

Edna Kiplagat (Kenya), Sara Hall (U.S.A.) and Betsy Saina (Kenya) lead the women's international field, two-time defending champ Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) giving Marugame a miss this year. Fresh off a 1:09:14 PB at last month's Sanyo Ladies Half, Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) leads a trio of Japanese women with recent sub-1:10 times, something that has become a puzzling rarity lately. Fukushi is also back, her recent best of 1:12:04 a long way from her best days.

Speaking of which, world record holder Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea) will be looking to break 60 minutes for the first time since 2015. His toughest…

Cheboitibin, Kiprono and Sonoda Top Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Elite Entries

With just over two weeks to go the organizers of the Feb. 4 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon have released their elite field for this year's race. With its history as an elite men-only race Beppu-Oita's women's field is still tiny given its status as an IAAF silver label race, but this year promises a good race between two local 2:32 women, 2016 winner Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) and Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu), that should see the 2:39:57 course record fall. Defending champ Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) also returns with a 2:38:43 PB from last fall that puts her range of the course record as well.

The men's race is heavier-duty, with a spot in the MGC Race Tokyo Olympic Trials available to the top Japanese man under 2:11:00 and to up to five others if they clear 2:10. Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima) and Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) are the only Japanese men in the field to have run those kinds of times in the last couple of years, and with support from 2:09~2:10 men

Tokyo Marathon to Move to March Date Beginning in 2019

At a press conference in Tokyo on Dec. 12, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation announced that beginning in 2019, the Tokyo Marathon will move from its current date on the last Sunday of February to the first Sunday of March. The next Imperial succession is set to take place in 2019, meaning that February 23 will become the Emperor's Birthday national holiday starting in 2020. The race date is being preemptively moved to avoid any potential overlap.

According to the Foundation, setting up and breaking down the facilities necessary to hold the Tokyo Marathon takes several days. With the finish area being positioned in front of the Imperial Palace there were concerns that problems would arise due to the large number of people who would gather in the area to celebrate the Emperor's birthday.

Translator's note: The Tokyo Marathon previously experimented with a March race date in 2009 but abandoned it to return to February the next year. Since 1994 the first Sunday of March has been t…