Friday, January 11, 2008

Hiroyuki Ono, Hakone Ekiden 5-Ku (updated)

I was very touched by the video of Juntendo's Hiroyuki Ono on the Hakone 5-区. Today I came across another video of a news segment which includes home video of Ono going down, an interview with him, and highlights of Hakone. The first section is on the three stage records set this year by Mekubo Mogusu, Yuki Sato and Jun Shinoto (2008 Hakone Ekiden MVP). The second is on the three schools which DNF'd, showing Tokai's Takehiro Arakawa, Daito Bunka's Naoki Sumida, and Juntendo's Ono. I'll try to put up a translation of the audio track shortly. The text printed across the bottom of the still below is Ono saying, "I want to apologize to everybody."

Someone put up a video of Juntendo University's Day One anchor Hiroyuki Ono collapsing 460 m from the finish, eliminating the defending champions from the Hakone Ekiden. Two other schools, Tokai University and Daito Bunka University, also did not finish, the first time in Hakone's 84 year history that three schools failed to finish. Several other schools also had runners almost collapse, leading to a small wave of media speculation in Japan about problems with coaches pushing their student runners too hard in the current era of mass Hakone Ekiden popularity.


by7 said...

Hi Brett,

but how can they destroy themselves like that ??
Dehydratation ? in winter ?
It is really surprising to see a almost pro-runner in those conditions + so many other cases of DNF

oldsprinter said...

Yes, I'd second that. What is going so badly wrong with these guys' preparation? Why are highly trained athletes, who run further than their ekiden legs most days unable to finish without getting dehydrated in the middle of a Japanese winter?

I took some photos of the Juntedo guys after the finish on day two - here:

Brett Larner said...

Sorry to be slow responding to these. I don't think the problem is necessary with the university runner's training. As I said elsewhere, in Ono's case, at least, I think the problem was the difficulty of the stage and the pressure he felt to get Juntendo back into the game.

I ran the 5-ku 3 days before the race both this year and last year. The stage is very, very hard. This year it was also very warm; even at my comfortable effort level (4:15/km average) I was soaked by the time I finished. Same goes for Mika. Neither of us had any trouble believing dehydration could have been an issue. It's also come out since this year's Hakone that the organizers do not allow runners to use the sports drinks they use in training, only water, so electrolyte loss may have been a problem. Daito Bunka's runner having dehydration problems on the 9th stage was more surprising, but that's how it goes.

But essentially, I don't think you can underestimate how hard these student runners try. They are near-professional in training and ability but have entirely different passion and motivation and often try far too hard. There has been some criticism that Hakone is getting too big and too popular and that it is putting too much pressure on the runners to perform, resulting in more meltdowns.