translated by Brett Larner
At the 43rd Hofu Yomiuri Marathon on Dec. 16, Noriaki Takahashi, 30, will be making his last appearance in the legendary S&B uniform before the team's dissolution in March. Takahashi hopes his race will join the long and illustrious list of S&B athletes' achievements capped by Toshihiko Seko's ten marathon wins in fifteen starts. "This is my last chance to do something big in the S&B uniform," he says with decision.
Takahashi was born in Hokota, Ibaraki. Under the coaching of S&B alumnus Hiroshi Tako since his second year at Chuo University Takahashi's talent bloomed. His senior year he finished 3rd on the Hakone Ekiden's ace stage, but after joining the Subaru corporate team he went through a long period of serial injuries. Day by day he watched his dream of becoming a top-class marathoner slip away.
In 2009 Takahashi transferred to the S&B team, to which Tako had returned as a coach. The small size of the team, too small to run ekidens, freed its members to pursue other goals, and with a dream of becoming a marathoner it was an appealing environment to Takahashi. He continued to have injury problems post-transfer, but he finally made a good showing in the marathon at the July, 2011 Gold Coast Marathon, finishing 5th in 2:14:13.
Takahashi learned of the S&B team's disbanding just before the official press announcment last August. "It's a team I've wanted to be part of since I was in school, so it's really too bad," he says. "The suddenness of it left my future a complete blank, and that was hard to deal with." Seko, now the director of S&B' Sports Promotion department, has undertaken the difficult task of finding a new sponsor for the team's complete lineup of twelve athletes, coaches and staff, but despite his anxieties about what comes next Takahashi went ahead with his training for Hofu. "I still have an environment in which I can train, so I wanted to take full advantage of it and not waste any time," he says.
Hofu will be Takahashi's second marathon. Coach Tako is optimistic of his chances, saying, "If he can stay with the pacemakers until 30 km he has the strength to be competitive over the last stage of the race." "To me this race is a way out of an unhappy situation," says Takahashi. "I can win it."