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Runner Nearly Hit by Truck During Hakone Ekiden: "I Thought I Was Gonna Die"

translated by Brett Larner

On Jan. 4 news spread that a runner in the 93rd Hakone Ekiden had nearly been hit by a truck.  Video showing the incident was posted on Twitter, raising a public outcry about the police's handling of road closure and course safety. The Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto (KGRR), organizers of the Hakone Ekiden, were contacted for comment.

The incident occurred on Jan. 3 during the five-stage, 109.6 km Day Two of the Hakone Ekiden from Ashinoko in Kanagawa to the Yomiuri Newspaper Building in central Tokyo.  At Hibiya Crossing late in the Tenth Stage, Kanagawa University anchor Koya Nakagami, running in 5th place, was almost struck by a vehicle on the course.  A major intersection with heavy traffic volume, at the time of the incident police were allowing cars at Hibiya Crossing to cross the course while the road on which Nakagami was running had a red light.

As Nakagami approached the intersection police officers on duty did not stop the flow of traffic, resulting in him running out into the path of oncoming cars. Right as he entered the intersection police officers can be heard calling out, "Please stop your vehicles!" but it was too late to prevent the situation.  A truck entered the intersection from Nakagami's left and it appeared that he would be hit, but at the last second he saw it coming, slowed, and stayed out of its path.  The evening of the 3rd Nakagami wrote about the incident on his Twitter feed, saying, "This was the first time I've nearly gotten in an accident during a race," and "I thought I was gonna die."

With regard to an athlete in one of their competitions nearly being struck by a car, the KGRR commented, "We can confirm the fact that this incident took place, but as the circumstances and causes are still under investigation we can make no further comment."  But, noting that no incident of this sort had ever occurred before, the spokesperson added, "The safety of the athletes is our primary concern and we cannot have this happen."  Regarding what is to come next, the KGRR is considering how to deal with Nakagami and what discussions need to be held with police concerning their road closure and course safety procedures.

Online public opinion was quick to condemn the police's role, questioning their methods and expressing fears for the athletes' safety in the police's hands:
"If the roads aren't closed 50 m in advance then it's meaningless."
"The problem is that the police were too slow in doing their job." 
 "I can't help but be scared to think that it's just a question of when an accident is going to happen."
"This incident was extremely dangerous to the athlete's life." 


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London Olympics Marathoner Ryo Yamamoto to Join Chuo University Coaching Staff

On Mar. 22 Chuo University, 15th place at the 2018 Hakone Ekiden, announced that 2012 London Olympics marathoner and Chuo alumnus Ryo Yamamoto, 33, has been invited to join the Chuo long distance coaching staff.

Yamamoto ran Hakone three times while at Chuo. Joining the SGH Group corporate team after his graduation, Yamamoto ran a PB 2:08:44 to finish 4th at the 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon and earning a place on the London Olympic team.

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translated and edited by Brett Larner
photo © 2012 Dr. Helmut Winter, all rights reserved