translated by Brett Larner
Veteran Seiji Kobayashi (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) has set himself an ambitious goal for the Feb. 28 Tokyo Marathon. Last year Kobayashi celebrated his 33rd birthday. His objective now is to join the sub-2:10 club. Accomplishing this after age 30 is an extremely tough task, and only one Japanese runner over age 33 has ever broken 2:10 for the first time, Sydney Olympian Shinji Kawashima (Team Asahi Kasei) at the 2003 Biwako Mainichi Marathon at age 33 and 9 months. In February last year Kobayashi ran a PB of 2:10:38 at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon. Now this 30-something runner is ready to break the magic barrier in the heart of the big city.
At heart Kobayashi feels free and pure. With 13 marathons to his name he has straightforward feelings about Sunday's race. "I haven't thought about it in terms of my age. I want to run the World Championships next year [in Daegu, Korea]. In order to get there I want to run a fast time this year. That's all I'm thinking about," he said of his goals with conviction. He doesn't think going sub-2:10 over age 33 is an especially big deal, either, considering the fact that he has shown continued growth over his career. Nine years ago he won his marathon debut at the Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon in 2:12:07. Two years ago he was 7th at the Tokyo Marathon in 2:11:02, then last year came his 2:10:38 PB.
Kobayashi's coach at Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki, Jun Kuroki, explained the importance of setting achievable goals on his runner's continued physical and mental development and the satisfaction he has thereby found in his running. "By focusing just on breaking his own times and succeeding Kobayashi has become a more confident athlete. Not just in the marathon, but also in ekidens he has developed into a tough competitor."
When Kobayashi ran his PB at Beppu-Oita last year he was 2nd overall and the top Japanese finisher, putting him into the final list of contenders for the Berlin World Championships team. Although he was not selected, Kobayashi said of the experience, "Coming so close to running with the Rising Sun on my uniform I've become really motivated to get there next time." Having begun specific marathon training in November, Kobayashi has completed five 40 km runs in preparation for Tokyo.
In Tokyo Kobayashi will face two sub-2:10 men who did make the Berlin team, Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Nagasaki native Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon). "This is the first time I'll have raced against Atsushi," said Kobayashi. "I want to see how tough he really is. I've known Fujiwara since high school and I've lost to him twice out of the two marathons we've raced, so I don't want to lose again. Sub-2:10 is another checkpoint along the way." With his ambitions burning strong, this late-blooming runner is ready to tackle the next step toward achieving his dreams.