translated by Brett Larner
The elite field for the first of the Beijing Olympic marathon qualifying races, December`s Fukuoka International Marathon, was announced yesterday. Domestic contenders include the 2:06:16 Japanese national record holder Toshinari Takaoka (Team Kanebo), the 2000 Fukuoka winner Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu) who set the then-national and still course record of 2:06:51, Atsushi Sato and Shigeru Aburaya (both of Team Chugoku Denryoku) and 6 other invited runners. Identical twins Takayuki and Muneyuki Kojima and Masaya Shimizu (all of Team Asahi Kasei) are also slated to run. Overseas entrants include Paul Tergat of Kenya, the all-time second-fastest marathoner with a personal best of 2:04:55. Japanese resident Kenyan Samuel Wanjiru (Team Toyota Jidosha Kyushu) will be running his first marathon. Although this will be Wanjiru`s first time covering the 42.195 km distance, the half-marathon world record holder intends to win.
Moving up from being the fastest man in the world over the half-marathon to his first 42.195 km might suggest that Wanjiru will go out hard. Wanjiru says otherwise; he chose Fukuoka for his debut because it is an area he knows well and it will help him to gain confidence for his future career in the marathon. "This will be the foundation. I want to run the marathon in the Olympics and so I want to take a good first step toward making that a reality." Next April`s London Marathon will be the Kenyan Olympic selection race and Wanjiru intends to compete. "This time I only plan to win in a 2:06. With the experience I gain in Fukuoka I will go much harder next time."
Wanjiru first set the half-marathon world record at age 18. In February this year Wanjiru took back the world record from "Emperor" Gebrselassie of Ethiopia, then the next month lowered it again to the current mark of 58:33. Popular speculation is that he will next target Gebrselassie`s marathon world record of 2:04:26. Wanjiru`s own words on the subject were a cautious, "A record? I can`t know without trying first," but the idea seems to be there nevertheless. When asked how he felt about fellow Kenyan Fukuoka competitor Tergat losing his marathon world record, Wanjiru grinned and said only, "It will be coming back to Kenya soon."
Barcelona Olympic silver medallist Koichi Morishita, who is coaching 6 Fukuoka athletes, has disciplined Wanjiru to go no faster than 3 minute per km pace. "This isn`t just a half times 2," Morishita cautioned. To give Wanjiru a sense of the marathon`s impact Morishita had him run 2 separate 40 km training runs.
"I want to race with the patience of a Japanese runner," says Wanjiru. From his days as a student at Sendai Ikuei High School in Miyagi Prefecture to being coached by Morishita, the marathon represents the culmination of the 3 years since Wanjiru moved to Fukuoka. It may also prove to be the first step toward the Olympic marathon.