translated and edited by Brett Larner
Kazuhiro Maeda (31, Team Kyudenko) ran a personal best 2:08:00 at Sunday's Tokyo Marathon to finish 4th overall as the first Japanese man in the race. He missed the federation's sub-2:08 time standard for a guaranteed place on the World Championships team by just one second, but his ticket to August's Championships in Moscow is all but in his hand. The driving force behind his aggressive run: pure anger.
Recently the "anti-corporate runners" Yuki Kawauchi (25, Saitama Pref. Gov't) and Arata Fujiwara (31, Miki House AC) have dominated the Japanese marathon world. Kawauchi's words in particular have been radical to the extreme, such as, "I don't want to lose to ekiden runners who do marathons in their spare time." At the 2011 Fukuoka International Marathon, after beating Maeda in 2:09:57 Kawauchi said, "It's pretty sad that this kind of time was good enough to be the top Japanese man. I shouldn't be selected for the Olympics off a time like this." Winning the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon earlier this month Kawauchi said, "I don't want to run an ugly, boring race, just trying to be the top Japanese man the way people have done for years now." Two years ago in Beppu-Oita Maeda was the top Japanese man after running a relatively passive race.
Each time he read Kawauchi's words in the news, the fire inside Maeda started burning hotter and hotter. "I'm putting everything I have into this too," he said. "Stop making fun of corporate runners and talking about us like we're some kind of joke." Having won Beppu-Oita, Kawauchi is more or less definitely on the World Championships team. In Tokyo Maeda beat Kawauchi's time by 15 seconds. "I don't know whether I'm going to be on the team, but if I am then I'll be running ahead of him," he said, promising a bitter race against his rival on the big stage. "If I don't beat him he'll just go shooting his mouth off again. I want to leave him with nothing to say." At the 2009 Berlin World Championships marathon Maeda finished 39th. "I ran badly that time, but this year I'm going all the way," he said, his pride on the line.