Skip to main content

Kawauchi Challenges Kashiwabara to Race Him Next Year in Ome

http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/news/20130218-OHT1T00017.htm
http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/news/20130218-OHT1T00024.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner
Kashiwabara photo by Mika Tokairin



Will the two biggest stars of Japanese long distance clash in Ome?  After winning Kumamoto's Feb. 17 Kumanichi 30 km in a course-record 1:29:31, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) said that he hopes to run Tokyo's Ome 30 km next year, setting up a potential duel with the Hakone Ekiden's most famous runner, uphill specialist Ryuji Kashiwabara (Team Fujitsu). Kashiwabara, who won the nearly 900 m-uphill Fifth Stage at Hakone four times, three in course records, made his debut at this year's Ome 30 km just after Kawauchi's win at Kumanichi, finishing 3rd in 1:31:49 after leading through 22 km.  "I want to try again next year," Kashiwabara said.  "I can't wait," said Kawauchi.  The God of Mountain vs. the Civil Servant Runner bringing the thrills to the hills.

Kumanichi was proof of Kawauchi's star status.  Launching his fourth surge at 28 km with bared and gritting teeth he was the first man across the line.  In complete control of a four-way battle and emerging victorious, he lived up to pre-race goals and expectations.  And the fans along the course loved it.  "You're #1 in Japan!" people shouted, their jaws dropping when they saw him and the crowds pressing onto the course to get closer, young and old, men and women, boys and girls alike.  There was no doubt Kawauchi fever had hit Kumamoto.

"You used to be able to say that I didn't have any speed, but having broken 3:00/km pace here I think I've cracked that nut," Kawauchi said with a wide smile.  "2:06 is in sight."  Just two weeks after setting a 2:08:15 course record at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon he became the all-time sixth-fastest Japanese man over 30 km, and having broken the legendary Toshihiko Seko's marathon best in Beppu-Oita, here at Kumanichi Kawauchi took Seko's 30 km best by 1 second.  It's well-known that he operates at the outer limits of common sense, but there is no denying that his strength is now the greatest on the circuit.

But it's not just about his strength.  At Kumanichi 180,000 fans packed the course, 30,000 more than last year.  "It's all because Yuki ran here," said one of the race organizers.  His popularity made such an impact that Kumanichi organizers are already planning to put in an offer to get him back next year.  "I have invitations from over 100 races," Kawauchi says.  "Many of them say that if I can't run this year then next year is OK too."  His schedule for the next year is already all but full.

Among his goals for next year is a head-to-head showdown in Ome with the God of the Mountain, Kashiwabara.  Along the crowded street leading to the Ome finish line, the noise of the crowd and camera shutters swelled to its greatest peak when Kashiwabara came through in 3rd.  He was unusually quick to say he plans to return to Ome.  At the post-race press-conference he matter-of-factly told the media corps of over thirty that he intends to run Ome again next year.  "Today wasn't a matter of the course not suiting me," he said.  "I want to come back next year and go for the win again if I can.  There were so many people cheering along the course.  It was a lot of fun to run here."

Before the Ome start Kashiwabara heard news that Kawauchi had just won Kumanichi. He and eventual Ome winner Masaki Ito (Team Konica Minolta), both the same class year in college, talked about it before the start.  Their motivation going up a notch, all they could say was, "Unbelievable."  Kashiwabara led Ome on course record pace through 22 km, but, he said afterward, "my legs turned into sticks after 22 km."  Ito and his teammate Tomohiro Tanigawa (Team Konica Minolta) pulled away on the downhill and flat of the final 8 km to leave Kashiwabara in 3rd.  "I'm pretty unhappy to get beaten by somebody the same age as me," Kashiwabara told reporters.

Kashiwabara hopes to run the marathon at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.  Aiming to clear the first checkpoint toward that goal, "going at 3:00/km pace," he entered the 30 km at Ome, the longest distance of his career so far.  But just past the halfway point of the marathon distance he could no longer hold on to the pace.  "I couldn't push the second half like Kawauchi can.  I don't have that kind of toughness," he said, feeling the sting of disappointment at not living up to his own expectations.

Kawauchi ran Ome in 2007, finishing only 10th in 1:36:27, but its course remains one of his favorites.  "There's no chance I could beat Kashiwabara on the uphills, but on the downhills I can take him," he said, already laying out his strategy for the difficult undulations of the Ome course.  Of Kashiwabara's performance Kawauchi said, "He got too caught up in trying to lead and blew it.  I think it was a good experience for him.  I can't wait to race him next year."  Kashiwabara modestly said, "I don't really deserve to be compared to him.  I'm really flattered that somebody as great as him would say something like that about me."  With a glint of competitive spirit flashing in his eyes he added, "But I'd like to see how much I can take him by.  If I don't have any injuries over the next year then I want to come back stronger next time.  My job will be to get the win and to give everyone who comes to watch something to remember."

At the Hakone Ekiden Kashiwabara was the biggest star the event has seen thanks to his uphill heroics.  Kawauchi ran Hakone twice on the Kanto Region Select Team while a student at Gakushuin University, both times on the ~900 m downhill Sixth Stage where he was 6th in 2007 and a strong 3rd in 2009.  The Ome course has a maximum elevation difference of 85.8 m, with an abundance of rolling ups and downs.  The uphill specialist vs. the downhill specialist on a celebrated and hilly course.  Bound to pull in the fans, it should be one of the biggest showdowns in Japanese racing history.  And one that will give them both the confidence to take on the best in the world.

photo (c) 2013 Mika Tokairin
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Laimoi and Yoshida Break CR, Nilsson Breaks Swedish NR, Shitara, Kamino and Kawauchi Set Up for Fukuoka at Ageo City Half Marathon

Every year it seems like the question is how much further can Ageo go? The answer still seems to be more. More further.

The Ageo City Half Marathon is the world's greatest half marathon, the place where Hakone Ekiden-bound universities line up most of their rosters to help coaches whittle down the contenders for the final sixteen-man Hakone lineup. Perfect conditions at this year's race meant something special.

Four runners from Chuo Gakuin University led by Takumi Yokokawa took it out hard, splitting 5:47 at 2 km, 1:01:00 pace, well ahead of last year's CR with the entire field in tow. A field that included national record holder Yuta Shitara (Honda), Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), Hakone uphill hero Daichi Kamino (New Balance), 2017 London World Championships marathoner David Nilsson (Sweden), Kenyans Michael Githae (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), Vincent Laimoi (Kokushikan Univ.) and Paul Gitonga (Kokushikan Univ.) and Ethiopian Workneh Derese (…

18-Year-Old Waithaka Runs 10000 m World Leading Time at Nittai - Weekend Roundup

photo by @tsutsugo55225

For the second time in the last three weeks, a Japan-based Kenyan ran the fastest time in the world this year for 10000 m at Yokohama's Nittai University Time Trials series. On October 20th it was 2015 World U18 Championships 3000 m gold medalist Richard Kimunyan (Hitachi Butsuryu), 20, with a 27:14.70  that surpassed Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei's world-leading mark by almost five seconds. This time it was 2018 World U20 Championships 5000 m silver medalist Stanley Waithaka (Yakult), 18, taking almost two minutes off his PB to break Kimunyan's mark with a 27:13.01 win.

Both winners received support from 2014 Commonwealth Games steeplechase gold medalist Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu), who ran season bests for 2nd place each time, 27:50.38 three weeks ago and 27:28.27 on Saturday. 2013 World U18 Championships 3000 m bronze medalist Alexander Mutiso (ND Software) was also under 28 minutes, running just off his PB at 27:42.16 for 3rd. Kazuma Taira (Kan…

Yoshitomi Breaks Fukuoka Marathon Course Record by Over 7 Minutes

The 2018 Fukuoka Marathon took place Nov. 11 on a course from downtown Fukuoka to Itoshima. In the women's race winner Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) ran 2:30:09, taking 7:01 off the course record and 7 seconds off her PB. Surprised and elated, she told reporters, "I never thought I'd run this kind of time here!"
Coming in the early part of the marathon season, Yoshitomi said, "This race was mostly about confirming my condition. I wasn't thinking about running a PB." Until 5 km she was running slower than the kind of pace that would make her tired in training. Mid-race she came across one of her regular training partners, Hiroaki Iwanaga (GGRC Kumamoto) and thought to herself, "If you run with him you might be able to just break 2:30." Never slowing down all the way until the end, Yoshitomi's run turned out what she called "unexpectedly" well.
Yoshitomi will run the 4th Saitama International Marathon on Dec. 9 as part of its invite…