translated and edited by Brett Larner
Due to heavy snowfall on Feb. 14, the organizers of the 48th Ome Road Race were unable to complete their preparations for the race and were forced to cancel it on Feb. 15. Ome had previously been cancelled in 1996 and 2008, but this was the first time it was cancelled the day before the race. With no substitute date on the schedule, the 49th running will take place next year on Feb. 15. Invited elite athlete Daniel Tapia, 27, a member of the U.S.A. national team in the 2013 Moscow World Championships marathon, couldn't hide his surprise at how much snow fell.
Tapia was scheduled to run the 30 km at Ome. In response to hearing that the news of the race's cancellation at around 9 a.m., he said, "And I came all the way to Japan to run...," his shoulders dropping in disappointment. Tapia arrived in Japan on Feb. 13 and did a test run on the Ome course as snow fell on the 14th. He ate his favorite Japanese food, tempura, two days in a row, simply enjoying his first taste of life in Japan as he got ready to run. "I never would have expected something like this to happen the first time I came to Japan," he said with a rueful smile. "I'll never forget what happened today." In order to get his training in, on the 15th he went to a fitness club.
Tapia's goal in Ome had been to get some "revenge" on Japanese athletes. An occasional snowboarder, Tapia watched the Sochi Olympics men's half pipe on TV. Two Japanese athletes won medals, beating American star Shaun White, 27, in his quest for a third-straight Olympic gold medal. "The two Japanese guys were great, but I was more surprised that White didn't win," he said. "I understood how much fear is a part of sport." Their chosen sports may be different, but in the disappointment of his nation's hero Tapia found plenty of motivation for his run.
Asked about what Japanese people he knows about, Tapia immediately answered "Kawauchi." While training, the aspiring lawyer Tapia studies 6-7 hours a day, but even he is amazed by civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi, 26 (Saitama Pref. Gov't). "It's incredible that he can train while working in the government," he said. "His schedule is crazy." Having finished 2:57 behind him at the Moscow World Championships, Tapia showed great curiosity about Kawauchi.
Tapia has plenty of experience training in snow in the U.S., but, he said, resigning himself to the race's cancellation, "It's pretty hard to run when this much piles up." He is scheduled to go back home on the 18th, but even as he enjoys all his favorite Japanese food he will continue on with his training and studying.