translated by Brett Larner - published by Nikkei 8/22/12
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For men's marathoner Arata Fujiwara (Miki House), the London Olympics ended with a 45th-place finish in 2:19:11, 11 minutes and 10 seconds slower that winner Stephen Kiprotich (Uganda). Defeated by the sudden dissolution of his speed after 30 km, how does Fujiwara now analyze his performance?
Beginning July 5, I trained for a month at 1700 m elevation in St. Moritz (Switzerland) before travelling to London on Aug. 4. There was no need for any more hard workouts, so all I had to do was just wait for the big race on the 12th without worrying about it. I think now that I should have been more careful about the process of coming down from altitude and re-acclimatizing to sea level.
If you train at altitude one product is that your cardiovascular system and whatnot get stronger. When you come down to sea level it feels great to run even if your form is inefficient and there's a lot of wasted movement. To be honest I think I may have been guilty of that. You could probably say that my training in St. Moritz was so good that I was really confident and not as maniacally obsessed with my running form as I could have been. You could say I was negligent.
If you want to judge what kind of shape you're in, times are the best way to do it. After I got to London the times I was running in intervals and the like were good, so I thought from that that everything was OK. But the good interval splits were just a byproduct of my altitude training and, if I had to speculate, maybe I was just running off the extra power, maybe my motion itself wasn't any good. I can't really say for sure but there's a good chance that was the case. That kind of problem doesn't have much of an impact over short distances, but in the marathon you have to run with clean, beautiful movement in a good rhythm. If your form is off then it's not going to go well.
Regardless of that, before the race I had told myself, "You've done everything you needed to do," and "Your body is up to its level." Maybe that's where the tension got broken. Usually in training I focus on making small corrections to my form, repeating them over and over until the race, but for whatever reason this time I was telling myself, "I'll be OK like this." Needless to say, I was also under some pressure. I didn't try to overcome the pressure, rather to forget about it and keep it off my mind. I tried to stay relaxed and not worry. My workouts were done in an hour or an hour and a half, and after that I just watched the Olympics on TV, just keeping it normal.
After I was the top Japanese finisher at the Tokyo Marathon in February and made the Olympic team I had a lot of interest from sponsors and the circle of people and environment around me changed completely. Those were the circumstances I was in as I tried to get ready for the race with all my ability. The time came for me to give the only answer I had to everything, and when I ran the race I was thinking that this was when I was supposed to give my answer.
The morning of the race I was strangely relaxed, and if I think about it now that was probably not a good thing. Normally on the morning of the race the blood goes to my head and I feel a kind of rage. It would have been better if I'd been that way in London, with the bloodlust blocking out all thoughts.
As far as the details of the race, I didn't set any target time. The only thing I was expecting was that at some point the pace was suddenly going to go bang and people would take off, so it was hard to read the development of the race and even if I'd set a target time it wouldn't have helped. I set off behind [Ryan] Hall (U.S.A.) and [Viktor] Rothlin (Switzerland) and was just focusing on breaking 2:10.
I thought I was feeling good, but when the real running got started it felt hard. If I'd been able to maintain 15:20 pace per 5 km I think I would have ended up in a good position, but I didn't end up having that kind of margin to maneuver with. My form must have been really off. I didn't worry at all when [Wilson] Kipsang (Kenya) took off early. I figured he was going to win, so I just thought, "Go ahead, have a good run." I was struggling but just told myself that the only thing to do was to keep going the same way.
I think the spot where I really crashed and slowed down was around 32 km. Both of my legs were cramping and I couldn't move the way I expected. If you get into that kind of situation there's nothing you can do about it. It took me 20:21 to run the 5 km after 35 km. All the curves and corners on that course were probably what killed me. I'm the kind of runner who races based on rhythm, cruising the second half in a good stride. If the second half is fast I run with an image of just going on smoothly all the way. But on the London course the curves just kept coming and coming and I couldn't get into that kind of rhythm. I don't know how many times I did simulation runs to get ready for that in training, but in the actual race I just couldn't do it well.
The first thought that came into my head when I crossed the finish line in 45th was, "Oh man, now I'm in trouble." I put everything I had into getting ready for the Olympics, but when that was the result all I could think was, "So....what's going to happen to me now?" I was really worried about how the world was going to view me. I quit the corporate system to focus on the marathon and train without a coach. For a while I was living with no income, and after that, once I got a big result the sponsors came calling. I've chosen to walk a different road, so even when I do something that's not worth noticing it's now something that everybody takes notice of.
Since I made the Olympic team I've been lifted up by the media higher and higher. All that time down in the bottom of my heart I've been worried about what would happen if I blew it at the Olympics. I have a kind of outlaw existence in the Japanese athletics world, so I imagined that if I screwed up I'd be pretty widely attacked. I knew they'd be saying, "See? That's what happens." Once you start thinking that way it becomes really stressful.
I've always been someone who wanted to follow a road I chose, someone who likes running by himself. But maybe at some point I've taken that step without being on firm enough footing. If you wanted to analyze me psychologically you would no doubt say that my fear that "If I don't get the results then it's going to be a disaster," made exactly that come true. When things are going well I never want to look back that way, just taking things at my own pace and doing what I want to do. Unfortunately before the Olympics I couldn't have that kind of feeling. Right after I finished, too, the first thought in my mind was, "This has turned into a nightmare," with the knowledge that the whole world's eyes had seen it happen.
The London Olympics ended up feeling like the fire didn't burn everything away, like I hadn't been able to give everything. I still can't help feeling like, "[Stephen] Kiprotich (Uganda) won the gold medal, but I beat him fair and square in Tokyo. If he can win gold, then I should be a....." Even so, the Olympics are an incredible experience. Some old man who wasn't the type who would normally care anything about the marathon or someone like me told me, "Please give it your best," with total sincerity, almost as if he was praying, just because I was an Olympian. I'm nothing special, it's the Olympics that are something special. Maybe it's a strange thing to say, but the Olympics seem like something that belongs to the gods.
I'm not in a position to proudly say that I'm glad I could run in the Olympics. But still, I'm glad I did it. My feeling now is that I have to make use of this experience. It's hard to think about four years from now. To begin with, I'm thinking about the next race. I can't say anything certain yet, but I want to go for a time goal in a winter race. I think it's safer if I stick to domestic races. That's the way I'm leaning right now.