translated by Brett Larner
One more domestic selection race for August's World Championships in Berlin remains, the Mar. 22 Tokyo Marathon. Team Chugoku Denryoku Olympian Tsuyoshi Ogata may be bathing in the spotlight, but his teammate Kurao Umeki, who finished 6th last year in Tokyo, will also be lining up for his 15th marathon. At age 33 Umeki is trying to capture the prize which has thus far eluded his grasp, a place on the national team.
Umeki debuted at the 2000 Tokyo International Marathon. In 2003 he set his PB of 2:09:52 at the Berlin Marathon and was 3rd in Berlin in 2006, but he has never been able to put together a good performance in a national team selection race. In the 2007 Biwako Mainichi Marathon he dropped out of the race. "I think I've been too focused..." he trails off. At last year's Tokyo Marathon he ran his best-ever time within Japan, 2:11:00, but he fell behind the leaders in the later stages of the race, finishing as the 4th Japanese runner and missing his chance for the Olympic team.
Assessing himself, Umeki is critical. "Up until now I've always just trained to be able to cover 42.195 km. This time I wanted to practice racing too." With this in mind, Umeki ran February's Ome Marathon 30 km road race. He finished 2nd with a strong time and a sharpened sense of racing, feeling that everything is in order as he looks toward Tokyo. "If it comes down to the last 5 km [and the lead pack is still together], I'll be able to clock a good time this year," he says.
In Tokyo Umeki will be against not only Ogata but also the last two national record holders, Toshinari Takaoka (Team Kanebo) and Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu), along with countless other talented runners domestic and foreign. It's been ten years since he became a professional runner, and last summer he also became a father. As this veteran tries again to take a place on the world stage, he reaffirms, "The only way I know how to live my life is through the marathon."