Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Izumo Ekiden Preview


Taisha Shrine, an important Shinto site in Izumo

The Japanese take road relay races, locally called Ekiden (駅伝, or "station" and "transmit"), very seriously. A number of Ekiden relays attract international-caliber teams from across the world, most notably the Chiba Ekiden. For the last ten years, a foundation has selected and sponsored a team of Ivy League alumni in the Izumo Ekiden, which is run by the Inter-University Athletic Union of Japan. A team selected by Japan's University Athletic Union comes to the United States every year, as well, usually to race in the CVS Downtown 5k in Providence.


The race map, broken down into each leg

The Izumo Ekiden is 44k, divided into six legs: 8k, 5.8k, 8.5k, 6.5k, 5k, 10.2k. The race tends to be very competitive, particularly up front--the record for the 8k leg is 22:30 and for the 10.2k leg is 28:33. The overall course record for this course, used for the last 7 years, is 2:07:14 set last year (that's a 2:53 per kilometer average across all legs). The Ivy League team has finished in the back half of the field, ranging from 12th to 20th out of 21 or 22 teams.


Max King hands off near the lead after the first leg of the 2007 Izumo Ekiden

This year's Ivy League team will have a total of nine members, though three will be managers/assistant coaches/alternates. There were seven runners selected from the CVS Downtown 5k: Emory Mort (Cornell '05), Ari Zamir (Brown '08), Mark Olivier (Columbia '07), Jon-Paul Mandelburg (Columbia '07), Andrew Pitts (Yale '07), and Jimmy Wyner (Cornell '08) and me (Brown '06). In addition, Sage Canaday (Cornell '08, who ran very well at the New Haven 20k on September 1) and Jeff Gaudette (Brown '05) were chosen for the team.

This year's race will be October 13th, and our trip to Japan will be from October 8th through the 15th. For more about the race and the trip, see Jordan's log from the trip last year, Max King's videos from last year, and try to decipher the official race site.

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