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Foreign athletes have been conspicuous in numerous ekiden long-distance relays since the 1980s.

In the 65th Hakone Ekiden in 1989, Joseph Otwori, a Kenyan student at Yamanashi Gakuin University, and the first foreign runner in the race, overtook seven runners in the second leg, helping to up his team’s finishing position from 11th the previous year to 7th. Then, when Otwori was in his final year in 1992, the team achieved its first-ever victory in the Hakone Ekiden, and since then other Kenyan runners have helped it to the top spot in 1994 and 1995.

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