Skip to main content

60 Years of Beppu-Oita: Koichi Morishita's 2:08 Debut in '91

http://mainichi.jp/enta/sports/general/news/20110202dde035050042000c.html

translated by Brett Larner

It was the race that made him famous. He wanted to show everyone in the world what he could do. That meant one thing: making the Olympics and getting a medal. "I think that was the moment that changed my life," says Koichi Morishita, now 43 and head coach of Team Toyota Kyushu, of his marathon debut at age 23 at the 1991 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon.

The race went out at nearly 3:00 / km. By 30 km Morishita's face showed the strain of the fast pace, but still he desperately clung to the leader, the best marathoner of his day, Takeyuki Nakayama. By 35 km they were back side by side. Then, at 38 km, Nakayama turned and said, "Go on! Leave me behind! You can do it!" with an encouraging pat on Morishita's shoulder. It was the changing of the guard, the moment when one era passed on to another. Morishita surged away to a 2:08:53 finish, the Japanese debut marathon national record at the time. "After 30 km it was like I was naked, tearing off what I'd done in training piece by piece," recalls Morishita. From that strong first step, the next year he went on to win the silver medal in the cruel survival race that was the 1992 Barcelona Olympic marathon.

Morishita began the marathon from a track background, winning the gold medal in the 10000 m at the 1990 Beijing Asian Games. His 10000 m PB was 28:01. The number of current Japanese athletes who have surpassed Morishita's marks is not small. Rikuren director of men's marathoning Yasushi Sakaguchi commented, "If we talk about Japanese men who have run 28 minutes, there are currently over 100. Every one of them has the potential to break 2:10."

So why aren't they? Although Morishita admits that the basic speed of Japanese runners has improved, he says they need to get tougher to succeed. "Gritty marathoners are the ones who are going to get the results. I want to see people who are tougher in spirit. That is Japanese people's greatest strength."

Nevertheless, the fact that the marathon has become a race of speed is evident to all. Morishita himself coached Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru (Kenya) for three years, and has a real and firsthand sense of the difference in pure speed. But he believes that what sets Wanjiru apart from the other Kenyans, what has allowed him to stand atop the world, is his fundamental toughness of character, his mental and spiritual strength. If Japanese runners can regain this trait to supplement their speed then they will still be able to compete at the world level. "Talking about breaking 2:10 is a very low goal," says Morishita. "If our strongest athletes had the ambition they could be breaking 2:05."

Translator's note: The 60th edition of the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon takes place this Sunday, Feb. 6. Look for JRN's race preview and details on watching online tomorrow.

Morishita's splits at the 1991 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
5 km: 15:05
10 km: 30:07 (15:02)
15 km: 45:17 (15:10)
20 km: 1:00:17 (15:00)
25 km: 1:15:26 (15:09)
30 km: 1:30:41 (15:15)
35 km: 1:46:12 (15:31)
40 km: 2:02:05 (15:53)
finish: 2:08:53

Comments

TokyoRacer said…
Yes, he was a gutsy runner, like many back in the day (the Soh brothers). Thanks for that.

Most-Read This Week

Tokai University Outruns Defending Champ Aoyama Gakuin to Win First Izumo Ekiden Title in Ten Years

Kanagawa's Tokai University outran two-time defending champion Aoyama Gakuin University to win the 2017 Izumo Ekiden, its first win at one of the Big Three university men's ekidens under head coach Hayashi Morozumi and Tokai's first Izumo title since 2007.

Formerly head coach at Nagano's Saku Chosei H.S. where he produced the fastest-ever all-Japanese high school team and standout Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) on a cross-country based training regimen, since taking over at Tokai in 2011 Morozumi has set about systematically developing the Tokai program into one with the greatest depth in Japanese university running. On paper AGU had a slight advantage over Tokai over the first half of Izumo's six stages, but with Tokai's second half runners, including its top two men Shota Onizuka and Hayato Seki, ranked at the top of their stages AGU needed a decent lead by halfway to stand a chance.

From the start it wasn't to be. In hot and sunny conditions Tokai&#…

From Madarao to the World - Tokai University's Hayato Seki

Long-awaited by university ekiden fans, the 2017 ekiden season is underway. The Izumo Ekiden was held Monday, with Tokai University living up to expectations to score the win. The athlete who broke the finish line tape as Tokai's anchor was second-year Hayato Seki. This year Seki has run PBs of 13:35.81 for 5000 m and 28:23.37 for 10000 m, marking his growth into one of the unquestionable stars of the university ekiden scene.

A week earlier, the Madarao Forest Trails race was held on Oct. 1. Flashback to the 2012 edition of the race five years ago. The winner in the 16 km Beginner Class men's race was none other than Seki, then in his third year of junior high school. The picture below is of his win at the 2012 Madarao Forest Trails race. Even though he was only a junior high school student Seki ran brilliantly, opening up a huge lead of well over four minutes over the 2nd-placer.


After that Seki entereed Nagano's ekiden powerhouse Saku Chosei H.S. and has now grown into …

Kawauchi and Kanematsu Win Rainy Shimantogawa 100 km

The 23rd edition of the Shimantogawa Ultramarathon took place Oct. 15 in Shimanto, Kochi. 1822 runners started the 100 km division, where Yoshiki Kawauchi (26, Saitama T&F Assoc.) and Aiko Kanematsu (37, Team RxL) took the men's and women's titles for the first time.

The 100 km division started under a heavy downpour at 5:30 a.m. in front of Warabioka J.H.S. The 576 participants in the 60 km division got off 4 1/2 hours later from Koinobori Park, with both races finishing at Nakamura H.S.

Kawauchi, the younger brother of "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi, ran Shimantogawa for the second time, improving dramatically on last year's run to win in 6:42:06. "Last time I was 21st, a total disaster," Kawauchi said afterward. "My brother told me, 'Don't overdo it on the uphills,' and his advie helped me get through it. The scenery around Iwama Chinkabashi was really beautiful."

Kanematsu began running with her husband around age 30…