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Forced to Do Federation 40 km Run Nine Days After Perth Marathon, Kawauchi Furious as Half of National Team Skips it

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Incheon Asian Games men's marathon team member and civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (27, Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran in a 40 km time trial and biometric measurement run in Shibetsu, Hokkaido on Sept. 9 as part of the Marathon National Team's official training camp.  The Japanese Federation launched the National Team project in April, naming twelve men to the team.  The 40 km run, designed so that Federation officials could measure each member's biometric data before and after a race and examine the changes, was the climax of the National Team's first group training camp which has gone on since late August in Hokkaido. 

On Aug. 31 Kawauchi ran the Perth Marathon in Australia, winning in a course record 2:12:55 before returning to Japan and joining the National Team training camp on Sept. 6.  "The Federation people told me, 'You're damn well going to run this 40 km, whether you just ran Perth or anywhere else!'" he said.  Despite it being only nine days since he ran a full marathon, Kawauchi finished 2nd in the 40 km run in 2:14:52, running with the others in the lead group through 35 km before dropping his 5 km split 1:40~1:50 for the final 5 km.  His fellow Asian Games marathoner Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) ran 2:15:32, saying, "There's less than a month left, so I'd like to use the momentum from this run to pick up the pace."

However, of the twelve members of the National Team, only seven ran.  Kawauchi expected the elite members of the team to be honored to have been chosen and to work hard while coping with the pressure of selection, but he was shocked and disappointed to see nearly half of them skip the 40 km run because they weren't feeling good or had recently run marathons.  "I want to see the media really hit these shameless people hard.  'Is that really good enough?  Is that all you've got?'  'Next year your neck should be on the chopping block,' that sort of thing." Kawauchi said, calling for directly critical articles unusual in the Japanese media and urging greater overall awareness.  "Please, question this, bring the power of the pen into play to prod our athletes into becoming stronger.  If only half can coordinate their training to be ready for an important measurement race like this then there is a major problem.  People like that will have disappeared by next year."

At the 2011 and 2013 World Championships Kawauchi struggled to deal with the pressure of running under the weight of the Rising Sun.  "There was a lot of attention, and the criticism of me was very direct," he said.  "I had problems with depression, but in the end it toughened me mentally.  The pressure of being on the National Team is just a little bit less than that, but I know it will end up being a positive, stimulating experience."


patrick voo said…
man - i cannot believe that the Federation officials would lean so heavily into Yuki and then let other national team runners beg off using lesser excuses. if anything, the Federation should have gathered that with Yuki's unreal commitment to the sport he would have at least made more than a half-hearted attempt to attend the time trial - then they could have played the heavy with some of the other runners who are not pushing as hard to comply with the team expectations.

just another vote for Yuki as standout world-class competitor.

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