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Team Asahi Kasei's Fumiyuki Watanabe Ready for Great Leap Forward at Nobeoka Nishi Nihon Marathon

translated by Brett Larner

His heart races when he thinks about his long-delayed first time at 42.195 km. "I've got nothing to lose. I'm going to run aggressively." Fumiyuki Watanabe is finally set for his big run.

With this decision, the strength of the rivalries inside Team Asahi Kasei has weakened. At 24 it has been 2 years since Watanabe entered Team Asahi Kasei, but this month he has lost out to his juniors. On Feb. 3, Tomoya Adachi, 2 years Watanabe's junior, won the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in 2:11:59. On Feb. 17, Hiroyuki Horibata, 3 years younger than Watanabe, ran 2:11:47 to finish 9th at the Tokyo Marathon. Both were debut marathons. "I can't give in either," he says.

Watanabe was scheduled to run Nobeoka last year but had to withdraw 1 month before the race due to injuries to his left leg. Nevertheless, his motivation remained. "I really underestimated what marathon training would do to me. I didn't care about what the right thing to do was on weekends when we weren't training and didn't think about taking care of myself." He learned from these mistakes and has come back strong.

Watanabe did many of his 40 km runs and other marathon training together with Mitsuru Kubota, 2 years his senior when both were students at Kochi Kogyo High School and Toyo University. They ran the All-Japan High School Ekiden and Hakone Ekiden together, then Watanabe watched Kubota run the Biwako Mainichi Marathon in March last year to qualify for the Osaka World Championships and a chance for the Beijing Olympics. "There is nothing more inspiring than seeing someone close to you reach the world level. Kubota really motivated me to work hard and to stay close to him in training." Watanabe ran 40 km training runs 9 times, most of the time right on the planned training pace.

Beyond just "The World," in Nobeoka Watanabe wants to show his great mentor that he has matured. The source of Watanabe's inspiration for this race is Sydney Olympics marathon finisher and Toyo University coach Shinji Kawashima, who always told his runners, "Look higher," and encouraged Watanabe to join Team Asahi Kasei. "I want run a race which will make my coach who never, ever gave up say, 'You gave it everything.'"

Watanabe will stand on the start line full of thanks to the coaches and older runners who helped get him there. "I'm not ready to say that I will make the Olympics or World Championships yet, but I want to run the kind of race which will give me the right to say that." One more runner is set to fly from the streets of Nobeoka to join the ranks of the famous runners who got their start here.


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2020 Japanese Distance Rankings

2020 Japanese track and road distance running rankings. Overall rankings are calculated using runners' times and placings in races over 5000 m, 10000 m, half-marathon and marathon and the strength of these performances relative to others in the top ten in each category. Distances will be added as the season progresses. Click any image to enlarge.

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