Good for: Racing news from Japan.
Written by: Brett Larner, a Canadian ex-pat living in Tokyo.
Japan has produced a surprising number of world-class marathoners. Why? A robust racing scene that revolves around ekidens, massive relays that pit runners from high schools, colleges, and professional teams against each other in races that sometimes take days to unfold and get exposure on national TV. (Imagine that in the United States!)
Ekidens provide some of the most exciting racing in the world, but they’re rarely covered abroad. Larner, who has lived in Tokyo since 1997, is immersed in the scene and posts English-language coverage of major marathons, plus athlete interviews and translations of news stories. Without Larner’s blog, much of the Japanese running culture would be inaccessible to U.S. fans—and that culture could be the most exciting in the world.
Sample post: Larner breaks down the 2011 Hakone Ekiden, a two-day, 135-mile race between Tokyo and Hakone, Japan. Most DI cross-country teams would get their butts kicked.
They were the two best university teams ever assembled and they ran like it. After two-time defending Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University and 2010 National University Ekiden champion Waseda University both broke the Day One Hakone course record, Waseda hammered Toyo on the first two stages of Day Two to retake the lead and then held on to take the overall win in a course-record 10:59:50, the first school to ever break 11 hours on the celebrated 10-stage, 217.9 km course. Toyo nearly ran Waseda down on the final stage, finish 22 seconds back in the closest margin of victory in Hakone's 87 year history and likewise breaking the course record by over 3 minutes. It was a classic duel between the elite Waseda, symbolic of the privilege, connections and money at the top of Japanese society, and the underdog Toyo, a minor school with a young coach with an eye for hidden talent and a group of guys who worked their way up together to become champions. …