translated and edited by Brett Larner
"Everything I've experienced in Japan has been precious to me," smiles Yamanashi Gakuin University's Mekubo Mogusu, 21, gently. The driving force behind his school's ekiden team, the Kenyan exchange student says, "I love running the ekiden more than anything else." Having chosen university over a professional career in order to compete in the Hakone Ekiden, the senior now awaits his final run on Hakone's legendary roads.
Not liking Japanese food when he first arrived as a high school student, life in Japan was initially hard for Mogusu, but he persevered and with time adapted. Now, even while carrying out incredibly severe training, Mogusu holds down a part-time job in a restaurant in order to be able to send money to his parents back home.
This kind of single-minded dedication has helped the exchange student to hone his cutting edge in Japan. At last year's Kagawa Marugame Half Marathon he ran one of the world's all-time top ten best performances, a mark which showed Mogusu was competitive internationally even though a student. Yamanashi Gakuin head coach Masahito Ueda, 49, commented, "When he graduated from high school he must have thought about the money he could make racing and with a jitsugyodan team." Nevertheless, Mogusu chose the honor of running Hakone.
"With a team, I can run too. Handing off the tasuki one to another and together reaching the goal in first place. That is the ekiden." So says Mogusu, having discovered as a university runner the essential nature of the ekiden. Coach Ueda comments, "In my record book of all the good and bad from the last few years, I have to say that what the team learned from Mogusu about the honor of the ekiden is incalculable."
Mogusu's dream for the future is "Winning the gold medal in the London Olympics marathon." Looking toward next month's Hakone Ekiden, he says, "Right now my condition is no good at all, but in January I'm going to show everyone my absolute best," smiling again with the radiance of youth. After graduation he plans to remain based in Japan, joining the Aidem jitsugyodan team to support his training for London.