translated by Brett Larner
"I think for me the marathon starts right here," says Ryuji Ono (Team Asahi Kasei) of his 30 km debut at the Feb. 22 Kumanichi 30 km Road Race. "I want to see how close I can get to my target, to run the kind of time I'm shooting for." The race is a test run for his marathon debut next season, a long-term preview of his plans to run the marathon at the 2012 London Olympics.
Ono's goal in Kumanichi is the course and world record of 1:28:00, held by Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta). "Last year at the Olympic Trials 10000 m I lost to Matsumiya and didn't get to go to Beijing. If I can break his record then it'll be worth as much as beating the guy himself," he grins, his youth showing in his brash words.
After starting the year off strong by winning the New Year Ekiden's first stage Ono's condition went downhill, but since then he has recovered and even improved his fitness. "I've got it in hand," he says, revealing his self-assurance.
Ono has gotten advice about the Kumanichi 30 km and how to attack the course from older Team Asahi Kasei runners. "I've heard a lot of things," he nods. "The first 5 km are flat and cruisy, from what I hear, and you have to control yourself there or forget about a time goal. I might take off early on or in the middle, but finishing hard is my kind of race. I'm going to go all out in the last 5 km."
The chance to run against his sam-age rival Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) gives Ono extra incentive. "I think we're both targeting a time goal," he says, his blood beginning to flow more quickly at the thought. He sizes up the race against Mitsuya, who won the Feb. 8 Karatsu 10-Miler, confidently smiling, "It's a great chance to test myself and I'm not worried. I think it's going to be an interesting battle."
Translator's note: Ono and Mitsuya are, along with graduating student runners Kensuke Takezawa (Waseda Univ.), Yuki Sato (Tokai Univ.) and Masato Kihara (Chuo Gakuin Univ.), and, further down the road, Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.) and Akinobu Murasawa (Saku Chosei H.S.), part of an exceptional group of runners in the next generation who may bring Japanese men's marathoning out of its recent slump.