| The inaugural 24-hour championship race sanctioned by the IAU in Japan was held in western suburb of Tokyo Metropolitan area. There were 26 participants including 5 women. Although most of top Japanese female 24 hour runners were not in the race, the men's race attracted some of the best 24 hour runners in Japan, such as the Asian record holder Ryoichi Sekiya (36) (266.275km in 2002), Tatsuya Maeda (37), Muneharu Kuroda (53) and Tomohiko Yaegashi (56). All the four represented Japan at 2003 Soochow International 24 Hour Race in Taiwan (recognized as Asian championships) last March.
The race started at 10 a.m. under a hot weather with over 30 degrees Celsius(C) (86 F) and strong sunshine, anticipating a tough race at least for the first half. Sekiya tried to maintain his usual even pace (2 min/lap) from the beginning until 4 hours into the race, then gradually slowed down afterwards because of the heat, but still passed 100km mark just over 8.5 hours. All the other runners were also suffering from heat exhaustion, but Kuroda and Maeda seemed not to be affected very much, and kept their positions (second and third place) within 10-20 laps behind Sekiya during day time.
Temperature dropped quickly as the sun was going down, and eventually decreased as low as 17 degrees C (62 F). Simultaneously, it started raining, the rainy weahter lasted through the rest of the race. During the night time, Sekiya began struggling with severe sleepiness, which forced him off the track to take short naps four or five times by the time of dawn. Kuroda also had to slow down due to his chronic pain derived from sciatica, and Maeda finally took over the second place position before 16 hours into the race. Maeda's run in the second half was just marvelous.
Sekiya was pushed by Maeda's charging later in the race. He miraculously recovered from the nightmare of sleepiness, and established a new best 24 hour performance (252.969km, the former unofficial record was 252km made by Kenji Okiyama in 2000) recorded on the land of Japan. Sekiya, again, proved that he is the best 24 hour runner of Asia. Kuroda's 226.940km would be a new Japanese 50+ track 24 hour record. In the women's race, Sumie Inagaki (37) survived through a urination problem, and covered just over 192 km.
Akiruno 24 Hour Race Japan Cup
Akiruno, Tokyo, Japan - 5-6 July 2003
1. Ryoichi Sekiya (36), Kanagawa 252.969km (157.2 miles)
2. Tatsuya Maeda (37), Kanagawa 241.561km (150.1 miles)
3. Muneharu Kuroda (53), Tottori 226.940km (141.0 miles)
4. Tadashi Shiobara (50), Osaka 206.627km (128.4 miles)
5. Ryuji Takada, (45), Ibaragi 195.646km (121.6 miles)
1. Sumie Inagaki (37), Aichi 192.428km (119.6 miles)
2. Riyoko Motoki, Saitama 159.785km (99.3 miles)
3. Mayumi Aihara (62), Tokyo 151.039km (93.9 miles)
Aki Inoue firstname.lastname@example.org
Coach/Coordinator of 24 Hour Ultrarunnig Team Japan for 2003 Uden, Netherlands