The 2020 Hakone Ekiden saw a complete rewrite of event record boards. Japan Running News called the event a “wholesale demolition” of the course records and they weren’t exaggerating. The event hosted 21 university teams, 10 stages and over 200K of running.
Day one started off with a bang when Rei Yonemitsu broke favourites in the final 300m to finish seven seconds off of the course record and tie the number two all-time performance for leg one at 1:01:13 for 21.3K.
In stage two action, Akira Aikawa of Toyo ran his way to a 1:05:57 course record for 23.1K. Stage three also produced a new course record, but stage four had the most stunning performance of the day. Vincent Yegon, 19, took 2:01 off the course record, finishing the 21.4K stage in 59:25. That’s the equivalent of a 58:35 half-marathon.
Day two saw similarly impressive results with both the first and second place teams breaking the course records. Aoyama Gakuin University was the winner with a total time of 10:45:23, a new course record. They were followed so closely (only two seconds separated the teams) by Tokai University in 10:48:25, also under the old course record. Third place went to Koku Gakuin University in 10:54:20.
By the end of the two-day competition, course records had been broken 15 times.
What are Ekiden relays?
The word ekiden comes from the combination of the Japanese characters for “station” and “transmit.” In the Edo period of Japanese history (1603-1867), couriers traversed the Tokaido road between Edo (the historic name for Tokyo) and the imperial capital city of Kyoto, a distance of approximately 508K, to deliver messages.
Nowadays, ekidens are a popular type of relay race. There is no specific ekiden distance or number of team members. One of the most renowned is the Chiba ekiden, an international event in which countries send co-ed teams of six to complete a marathon distance, relay-style.