translated and edited by Brett Larner
At February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Olympian Shigeru Aburuya (Team Chugoku Denryoku) ran a disappointing 2:19, leading him to make the decision to hang up his shoes at the end of this season. In his 17th year as a professional runner, Aburuya has chosen Yamaguchi prefecture's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon as the site of his final pro race. "I'm from Yamaguchi, so I feel like it's on home ground," he said. "I want people to see that I haven't given up."
Aburuya was 5th in the 2004 Athens Olympics and 5th again in two World Championships marathons. Two years ago he shifted his emphasis to coaching at [Chugoku Denryoku]. With new responsibilities for athlete recruitment and other obligations of coaching, his own day-to-day training routine became difficult to sustain. "My position [as a runner] is just an ordinary one, so it got difficult to keep it," he said. Aburuya began his serious training for Hofu in early September. Fighting off a body that has become easily fatigued and a spirit that has grown afraid of injury, Aburuya has roused himself for one more challenge.
Along with 2005 World Championships marathon bronze medalist Tsuyoshi Ogata and half-marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato, Aburuya was one of the three pillars that supported the Chugoku Denryoku team through its heyday. Taking pride, motivation and confidence from his training, the quantity and intensity of his workouts increased over time. One of the products of this increased training was the 2003 World Championships. Aburuya, Ogata and Sato all made the five-man marathon team, but they each trained in different places in the lead-up to the championships. Their coach Yasushi Sakaguchi made the arrangement because he felt that if they were all training together it could too easily affect their psychological readiness by causing them to make subtle adjustments to each other during workouts.
In contrast to Sato, who was captain of the elite Waseda University ekiden team, Aburuya did not become a serious runner, "until it I had almost graduated from high school." He played youth baseball until junior high school. Running in an ekiden on the off-season mileage he was doing to stay fit for baseball, he excelled and showed results far out of the ordinary for someone in his situation. As a third-year he won his stage, helping his team take the overall win. Entering Mine Kogyo High School, he joined the track and field team and began to run seriously.
Facing his last run, Aburuya feels that he has one piece of unfinished business left. In thirteen tries so far he has never won a marathon. "I think it would be really cool to retire with a win," he smiles.
The 42nd Hofu Yomiuri Marathon takes place this Sunday, Dec. 18.