Skip to main content

Serious Marathon Training in Urugimura

http://minamishinshu.jp/news/sports/%E5%A3%B2%E6%9C%A8%E6%9D%91%E3%81%AE%E3%83%9E%E3%83%A9%E3%82%BD%E3%83%B3%E5%90%88%E5%AE%BF%E3%81%8C%E6%9C%AC%E6%A0%BC%E5%8C%96.html

translated by Brett Larner

This is a very unique story about one of Japan's countless small country towns struggling with population and economic decline, one, faced with the question of how to survive, that somehow came up with the idea of sponsoring a pro ultramarathoner in hopes of promoting itself.  The story has caught on nationally and the town, its people, and sponsored runner Takayoshi Shigemi have been featured on TV on more than one occasion.

Welcoming in the summer, the town of Urugimura's marathon training camps are underway in earnest.  On weekends large numbers of amateur runners, clubs, university and high school teams come to the village from across Nagano and outside the prefecture, refreshing themselves with runs in the cool mornings and evenings and enjoying the beautiful local scenery as they train.

On the July 26-27 weekend more than 50 people from around the Aichi prefecture area were in Urugimura for marathon training.  Mayor Hideki Shimizu was busy visiting the various accommodations hosting the group to greet them and welcome them to the village.  Paying his respects to one amateur running club of 20 from Obu, Aichi, Mayor Shimizu said, "I am very glad to deepen the friendship we began at last year's Obu City Marathon and I hope that you will come back to our village again."  Club leader Koichi Fukaya commented, "If our being here helps your village then we are very glad.  I would like to introduce our friends in other clubs to you as well."

According to Takayoshi Shigemi of the Urugi village area economic development volunteer committee working to attract athletes to the area for training camps, between April and September roughly 1400 people come to the village to train and to get a taste of the local natural environment.  Reservations have more than doubled this year, including one women-only club with more than 50 members.  The town is also planning a friendship walk on Aug. 5 to help enliven the camps.

One of the most popular features of the Urugimura training camps is the chance to take a lesson with Shigemi.  "Other places are also promoting their marathon training facilities, so our challenge for the future will be to bring back repeaters," says Shigemi.  "Thanks to the many people who have come, our village has blossomed," added Mayor Shimizu.  "I hope that we can continue to widen our circle of friends."

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawabata Over Kawauchi at Takashimadaira 20 km

Like a distant echo of the thunder of yesterday's Yosenkai 20 km reverberating across the city, Tokyo's other major 20 km road race took place this morning in the northwestern suburb of Takashimadaira. Narrowly surviving the loss of its main sponsor last year, the Takashimadaira Road Race offers a unique 5 km loop course that delivers fast times. Now in its 42nd year, Takashimadaira is a favorite for upper-tier universities that don't have to run the Yosenkai to requalify for the Hakone Ekiden, for other schools' second-stringers, and for top-level independents and amateurs.

This year's race was fronted by a group of runners from Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University who didn't make Tokai's final Izumo roster, by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and others from yesterday's Yosenkai winner Teikyo University and the Hakone-qualified Juntendo University and Komazawa University. In the same cool and lightly rainy…

Kawauchi and Kanematsu Win Rainy Shimantogawa 100 km

The 23rd edition of the Shimantogawa Ultramarathon took place Oct. 15 in Shimanto, Kochi. 1822 runners started the 100 km division, where Yoshiki Kawauchi (26, Saitama T&F Assoc.) and Aiko Kanematsu (37, Team RxL) took the men's and women's titles for the first time.

The 100 km division started under a heavy downpour at 5:30 a.m. in front of Warabioka J.H.S. The 576 participants in the 60 km division got off 4 1/2 hours later from Koinobori Park, with both races finishing at Nakamura H.S.

Kawauchi, the younger brother of "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi, ran Shimantogawa for the second time, improving dramatically on last year's run to win in 6:42:06. "Last time I was 21st, a total disaster," Kawauchi said afterward. "My brother told me, 'Don't overdo it on the uphills,' and his advie helped me get through it. The scenery around Iwama Chinkabashi was really beautiful."

Kanematsu began running with her husband around age 30…

Osaka Marathon Elite Field

One of the world's ten biggest marathons, in its six runnings to date the Osaka Marathon has continued to avoid the addition of a world-class elite field of the same caliber as at equivalently-sized races like Tokyo, Berlin and Boston. In place of doling out cash to pros, Osaka's women's field has developed into a sort of national championship race for amateur women.

In the field this year are six, probably all six, of the amateur Japan women to have broken 2:40 in the last three years. Last year's top three, Yoshiko Sakamoto (F.O.R.), Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) and Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) lead the way at the 2:36 +/- level, with a second trio of Marie Imada (Iwatani Sangyo), Mitsuko Ino (R2 Nishin Nihon) and Chika Tawara (RxL) all around the 2:39 level.

Last year's winner Sakamoto and 3rd placer Yoshimatsu squared off in September at Germany's Volksbank Muenster Marathon, Yoshimatsu tying Sakamoto's Osaka winning time of 2:36:02 to take 3rd over …