• Kyodo

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An 18-year-old high school sprinter gearing up for university entrance exams won the annual “Lucky Man Run” early Wednesday morning at Nishinomiya Shrine in Hyogo Prefecture.

Kurosu Sato, a third-year student from nearby Ashiya, beat out 107 other first-group runners to reach the main hall of Nishinomiya Shrine after bolting from the shrine gate 230 meters away.

The first group of runners were selected through a lottery. Altogether, some 5,000 people took part in the race, and despite the name, women can also take part.

Sato said he was studying for exams even as he waited for the gate to open at 6 a.m.

“I was able to run as I envisioned,” said Sato, a 200-meter sprinter at his school, after winning in what was his fifth attempt. “I want to study hard this year and hope I can brighten up Japan by sharing my luck with others.”

The shrine, dedicated to the Ebisu god of business prosperity, has been holding the race for centuries and names the first three runners arriving at the main hall as the lucky men of the year.

This year’s second-place finisher was Koki Takeuchi, an 18-year-old high school student from Akashi, who was followed by Ryo Watabe, a 25-year-old firefighter from Kawanishi, who came second the year before.

The prize includes a bale of rice and a wooden sculpture of the god, commonly referred to by locals as Ebessan.

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