translated by Brett Larner
Note: This article repeats that of a few days ago but fleshes out the details significantly.
Led by Team Chugoku Denryoku head coach and Rikuren director of men's marathoning Yasushi Sakaguchi, the athletes in Rikuren's men's marathoning reinforcement training camp depart Mar. 7 for two weeks in New Zealand. Departing from the usual practice, this year's camp is targeting university runners. Among the five student athletes attending the camp is two year-straight Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage record setter Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.). We spoke to Director Sakaguchi about the training camp.
Last year Rikuren revived the overseas training camps which had been a fixture of its calendar in the 1990's. What is the aim this time in focusing on athletes under age 23?
Our goal is to get our most talented young runners looking toward the marathon from the start. We have a lot of runners who can handle 2:08, but right now we're lacking the people who can realistically target 2:06. We want to help them realize that the Hakone Ekiden isn't everything and to look out at the world with higher goals in mind.
Who is attending?
Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.), Takuya Ishikawa (Meiji Univ.), Yo Yazawa (Waseda Univ.), Hiroki Mitsuoka (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) and Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.). Atsushi Sato (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) are also joining.
Why are Sato and Matsumiya going to be there?
Like Sato (finishing last) in Beijing, we want them to learn that a world-class athlete keeps his motivation to compete in the face of tough international competition. A local event like the Hakone Ekiden is different. We want them to feel how tough it is to be internationally competitive.
What kind of training will they be doing?
While focusing on cross-country we'll be building the base for track season. They won't be doing actual marathon training. We don't expect a dramatic change to happen in just two or three weeks, but by experiencing this kind of high-level elite training we hope that the tension will be born within them. In normal group training there are athletes of a variety of levels and the best athletes may have a little room for slack, but on a national-level training camp that is not the case. I listened to what World Championships marathon silver medalist and Team Daiichi Seimei head coach Sachiko Yamashita had to say, and she believes that this sort of opportunity is the gateway to building the motivation to make a national team.
What are you hoping to build toward?
Developing the perseverence to keep going for the long period of time necessary to make a big change is the most important thing. If these young athletes have a high-quality experience and come out of this thinking, "I want to do this again," that feeling will spread to other runners on different teams. If they begin to think, "I want to be part of that too," then being invited to join this program will become fiercely competitive. If we can harness that then the level of our national teams can only improve.