translated by Brett Larner
At the first edition of the Himeji Castle World Heritage Site Marathon on Feb. 22, senior patrol officer Makoto Yukitomo, 33, of Suma Police Station Department 3 will run as an invited elite athlete. In his student days at Senshu University Officer Yukitomo ran the most competitive stage at the prestigious Hakone Ekiden, the Second Stage, two years in a row. As a rookie police officer living in the Himeji police dormitory his regular running course was around Himeji Castle. "It's fun to run on familiar old ground," he said in anticipation of the starting gun.
Officer Yukitomo was born in Yanai, Yamaguchi. A member of his junior high school's kendo club, at a school sports day running event he caught the eye of the track coach who convinced him to become a long distance runner. With a good track record of results in hard training he was recommended to and accepted by the sports powerhouse Ube Kojo H.S. in Ube, Yamaguchi. At Ube he didn't make it to the National High School Championships, but nevertheless he attracted interest from the Tokyo-area Senshu University, a past Hakone Ekiden winner. His second and third years at Senshu he ran the Second Stage against the best runners from every university in the field. After graduation he joined the corporate leagues as a pro but after a series of injuries he was let go.
From his time as an athlete Yukitomo had been interested in the police officers who were responsible for traffic safety during the race, and in 2008 he joined the Hyogo Prefecture Police Department. With no friends of family in Hyogo he was completely on his own, but, he said, "I had always hoped to find myself in the capitol of Japanese athletics, Hyogo." Initially placed at the Tatsuno Police Station, he was transferred to the Suma Police Station in September, 2012. In January, 2013 he was involved in questioning suspects in the theft of a bat autographed by major leaguer Ichiro Suzuki, contributing to their arrest. He is currently responsible for the Tainohata Police Box in Kobe's Suma Ward, conducting regular patrols and cracking down on traffic violations. "This work lets me take advantage of the patience and stamina I developed as a distance runner," he said.
Sunday will be Officer Yukitomo's first full marathon in eight years, his best time as a corporate runner having been around 2:26. Also on the invited athlete list in Himeji is his junior high school era rival Masato Ando (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko, Hotoku H.S.). "While it would be great if we could run together, I am just an amateur hobby runner," Officer Yukitomo said modestly. But, he admitted, he does have ambitions for the race. "My boss and colleagues will be there working and cheering, so I will be trying to make the podium."
Translator's note: The Himeji Castle World Heritage Site Marathon replaces the Himeji Castle 10-Miler, a race with more than 50 years of history.