Qualification for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men’s national championships wrapped up Sunday with the last four regional corporate ekidens. In the highly competitive Chubu Region race, Toyota, the winner the last 7 years, struggled when Bedan Karoki finished only 8th on the Second Stage. Despite Toyota’s fourth runner Tomoki Ota making up a lot of the ground with a sensational 43:48 CR on his 15.5 km stage, almost a minute under the old record and 45:18 pace for 10 miles, Toyota faced pressure throughout the race from Toyota Boshoku. A 34:07 course record for the 11.8 km Seventh Stage by anchor Yuji Onoda was enough to seal the win for Toyota Boshoku, finishing the 80.5 km race 39 seconds up on Toyota in 3:54:15.
Aichi Seiko was the top team to miss the qualifying cutoff, almost two minutes behind the last qualifier, Chuo Hatsujo, in 3:59:13. Held simultaneously with the Chubu Region race, the Hokuriku Region saw an even closer margin of victory, with perpetual Hokuriku leader YKK holding off Sekino Kosan by just 26 seconds in 3:59:10.
In the Kansai Region race, SGH runners won four of the seven stages including a 26:41 CR on the 9.5 km Fourth Stage by Naoki Chiba. That was enough to give SGH the overall win in a course record 3:55:00 for 80.45 km. The Osaka Police outran Osaka Gas by 30 seconds for the final qualifying spot in 3:58:48, thanks in part to a win on the opening leg by officer Akihito Eishin.
In the Chugoku Region, Chudenko had a strong overall team performance to win in 4:01:43 for 80.8 km, only one of its runners, Amos Kurgat, winning his stage but all but one of the rest finishing in the top 3. The minor Hoshizaki team gave Takeda Yakuhin a scare in the race for the final qualifying spot, but ultimately Takeda emerged the stronger, finishing 5th in 4:19:46 by just over 2 minutes over Hoshizaki.
With the field now set for the New Year Ekiden the attention turns to the major tuneup events. For many that will be the Nov. 27 Hachioji Long Distance meet focusing on 10000 m. The Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler, originally scheduled for Dec. 5, would normally be another major tuneup, but this year it’s again among the events canceled due to pandemic fears. Some will line up in the final Fukuoka International Marathon on Dec. 5, attempting a quick turnaround in time for the New Year just under four weeks later.