translated by Brett Larner
Professional runner Kurao Umeki (Team Chugoku Denryoku) will run his final marathon this weekend at the Dec. 19 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon. Having decided to retire at the end of the season next spring, the 35 year-old Umeki chose Hofu so he could wrap up his career on his home ground in Yamaguchi prefecture.
A graduate of Yamaguchi's Ubekojo High School, Umeki attended Waseda University before joining Team Chugoku Denryoku. With a long list of accomplishments in ekidens and marathons, Umeki said of Hofu, "This is the race that made me want to be a marathoner."
At Waseda Umeki took stage best titles twice at the Hakone Ekiden, winning the First Stage his junior year and the ace Second Stage as a senior. After joining Chugoku Denryoku he anchored the team in its first-ever New Year Ekiden national title in 2004.
Umeki's marathon debut came at the 2000 Tokyo International Marathon, but in his next four marathons he struggled with the stamina demands of the second half. Thinking, "This is my last chance to become a marathoner," he had a successful run at the 2002 Hofu Yomiuri Marathon, finishing 7th in 2:14:50.
The next year he dramatically improved his performance, running his PB of 2:09:52 to finish 7th in the Berlin Marathon. He never made an Olympic or World Championships team, but Umeki finished 3rd at the 2006 Berlin Marathon.
In August Umeki began having back trouble and experiencing chronic fatigue. At October's Beijing International Marathon he was 9th in 2:18:41. Disappointed with the outcome, he settled his retirement at the end of the season. "Before I go I want to show everyone at home one more gutsy run," he said decisively of his plans for Hofu. In his 19th marathon this veteran will be giving it everything he has left.
Translator's note: Umeki also won Hofu's 10 km division in 1999.