translated and edited by Brett Larner
On Feb. 4 the Ome 30 km Road Race organizing committee released the elite field for the event's 47th running, to be held Feb. 17. The star of the Hakone Ekiden from 2009 to 2012, Ryuji Kashiwabara (23, Team Fujitsu) is targeting an ambitious time of 1:30:30 in his 30 km debut. The guest starter for the race will be 2012 London Olympics men's 200 m butterfly bronze medalist Takeshi Matsuda (28, Cosmos Pharmaceuticals).
The center of the excitement at Hakone and earning the nickname "the God of the Mountain" through his heroics on its uphill Fifth Stage, Kashiwabara is now ready to take on the next stage of his career. Until now he has never run as far as 30 km in a race. "I want to take some chances in the race and try different things," he said. "I want to make it something that is going to help me build toward bigger things. Coach says I should go for 1:30:30, so that's the time I'll be shooting for."
With 85.8 m elevation difference and constant, rolling ups and downs the Ome course is a difficult one. Running it as a training run before his win at the 1981 Boston Marathon, Toshihiko Seko ran the fastest time ever in Ome, 1:29:32. Next in the record books is 1980 winner Randy Thomas' 1:30:44. If Kashiwabara runs as planned it will be the biggest men's result in over 30 years.
Kashiwabara's coach at the Fujitsu team, Tadashi Fukushima, 48, says that they have established a long-term plan to prepare Kashiwabara to run the marathon at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. "His first year [with Fujitsu] he will run 30 km. He will make his marathon debut in or after his second year. The tough ups and downs in Ome are made for Kashiwabara." His run in two weeks will be the first step in that plan.
At the New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships Kashiwabara finished only 4th on the 12.5 km Sixth Stage, but he showed great strength in starting out fast right from the beginning of the stage. As a student at Toyo University he won Hakone's Fifth Stage, 23.4 km with 864 m of climb, all four years, three in course records. If he can bring the same talent and power that commanded the attention of the entire nation to Ome there is no doubt that the world-class level will have drawn one step closer. "I'm not right on the edge of making my marathon debut yet," Kashiwabara said, "but I plan to get there before Rio. I have to find the secret of being competitive in flat races." Looking to upgrade from his "God of the Mountain" moniker, the Ome 30 km will be Kashiwabara's runway to the stars.