translated by Brett Larner
2012 Hakone Ekiden course record-setters Toyo University arrived in Nanao, Ishikawa prefecture Sept. 19 for an intensive training camp. Having lost Fifth Stage record setter Ryuji Kashiwabara and three other members of this year's superb winning team to graduation, the remaining members are focused on bringing newfound strength to this year's university ekiden season and show their competitive spirit as they run fast workouts around the Nanao waterfront and on Noto Island.
This year marks the eighth time that Toyo have trained in Nanao. As the team's last major training camp before the start of the three major university ekidens this season, running repeatedly on the flatlands around the waterfront and the steep slopes of Noto Island is key in tempering their strength. Asked about the candidates for the spot as the team's new ace member, head coach Toshiyuki Sakai raised the names two of the runners crucial to Toyo's Hakone win this past January, juniors Keita Shitara and his twin brother Yuta Shitara. "Our theme for this season is, 'Defining Competitive Spirit,'" Sakai said. "We want to build a different kind of strength than we had last year, showing our thanks to all our supporters through our running."
Translator's note: The big three university ekiden season starts Oct. 8 with the Izumo Ekiden. The second race, the National University Ekiden Championships, is a month later, with the season wrapping up Jan. 2-3 at the Hakone Ekiden, Japan's biggest sporting event.