translated and edited by Brett Larner
Their ace is leading the way to the crown. Aiming for their first Hakone Ekiden win in five years at the 89th running of the race on Jan. 1-2, national champions Komazawa University held a public training session on Dec. 14 in Tokyo. Having turned heads in November by running down leader Toyo University on the anchor stage to bring Komazawa its tenth National University Ekiden title and giving Beijing Olympics 5000 m bronze medalist Edwin Soi a run for it at the International Chiba Ekiden, junior Shinobu Kubota is now aiming for his second-straight Hakone stage win. "Last time we weren't even close to being able to compete with Toyo," he says. "The disappointment hasn't faded a year later. If you're not #1 in Hakone then you can't really be called the best. That's what I want to become."
He has further ambitions to appear in Moscow next year. "I want to run the World Championships," he nods, confirming that after Hakone he plans to make his marathon debut at March's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Facing off against the likes of Yuki Kawauchi, Kubota hopes to do the exceptional and qualify for the Japanese World Championships marathon team as a student. His goal time is a sub-2:10 clocking, a mark which would better the former national collegiate record of 2:10:07 set by Komazawa's Atsushi Fujita as a senior. Fujita later went on to run a then-national record 2:06:51. "I'm already doing longer runs in training," says Kubota, "but for the time being the focus is Hakone. We are going to win."
Shinobu Kubota - Third-year, Komazawa University. Born 12/12/91 in Fukui.
5000 m: 13:49.53 10000 m: 28:07.01 half-marathon: 1:01:38
Translator's note: Aoyama Gakuin University junior Takehiro Deki and Waseda University junior Shota Hiraga debuted at the 2012 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Deki ran 2:10:02 for 9th, with Hiraga running 2:16:30 for 32nd.