As always for the past 83 years, the first Sunday of December saw the running of the Okutama Ekiden. This year we had five men’s teams (6 on a team) and five women’s teams (3 on a team), plus a team from the American School. It was a perfect day for running, apart from a headwind against the men’s 4th, 5th and 6th legs, and the women.
The men’s A team was awesome, finishing 17th out of 142 in a field of strong corporate and club teams. Gary Wilberforce finished in 12th place on the first leg, breaking his own Namban Rengo record for the leg with a time of 23:21 for 7.4k (3:09/k). Yuta Suda also broke his own record for the tough 2nd leg with a 27:25 for 8.4k. Phil English ran the second fastest club time ever on the 3rd leg with 23:26 for 6.6k. 2nd and 3rd legs have quite a bit of uphill. Graham McAlister almost broke the 4th leg record (held by a fast US college runner) with 22:03 for 6.6k. Harrisson Uk ranks 4th in 5th leg history with 28:47 for 8.4k. And Kengo Torigoe brought the team home with a Namban record of 24:13 for the 7.4k 6th leg. Their total time of 2:29:15 was also a club record for the 44.8km course. The other teams finished 50th, 80th, 94th and 126th. These were not “slow” teams, proving how strong the field is for this historic ekiden (especially so this year, as fast runners had almost no other races to run).
The Namban Rengo ladies also had good showings, finishing 25th, 28th, 31st, 37th and 45th, plus the American School girls in 30th (total of 54 teams). Good team competition! The star of the day was Yukiko Tsukada, who ran the first leg of 3.7k in 14:22 (3:52/k), the second fastest ever Namban Rengo time. Rieko Trees and Yuuka Yonemura, 5th and 6th fastest ever, also deserve praise. And Chika Kanai ran her fastest ever time — she’s aging in reverse!