photo by rikujouove
In preparation for his marathon debut at the Feb. 22 Tokyo Marathon, the third selection race for August's Beijing World Championships, Toyo University third-year Yuma Hattori, 21, held an open practice session for members of the media at the Toyo campus in Kawagoe, Saitama. In anticipation of the Tokyo Olympics still five years distant, last February at the Kumanichi 30 km Hattori, then 20, set the Japanese collegiate national record of 1:28:52, the third-best time ever over 30 km by a Japanese man. "My ultimate goal is to medal in the marathon at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics," Hattori said. "Working backwards from that goal, this is the year for me to take up the challenge."
In November Hattori scored a win on the Second Stage at the National University Men's Ekiden. At last month's Hakone Ekiden he won a spectacular race over Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) and other rival universities' ace runners on Hakone's most competitive stage, the Second Stage, but although that victory crowned him as the best university runner in Japan it cost him a strain to his left thigh. Since then he has run two 40 km training runs at Toyo's training camp in Futsu, Chiba, but following those he has experienced pain in his right achilles tendon that is currently preventing him from fulfilling his original training plan. Nevertheless, his enthusiasm for his debut remains the same. "This is one of the few races where I can experience running against a top-class international field, not just other Japanese people," he said. "My goal is sub-2:10. I want to run in a selection race for the Rio Olympics next year, so this marathon will be the first step." The Japanese collegiate record and debut marathon record are 2:08:12 set by Masakazu Fujiwara (then Chuo Univ.) at the 2003 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon.
Supporting Hattori's desire for an early marathon debut and optimistic about his star athlete's chances, Toyo University head coach Toshiyuki Sakai, 38, commented, "The foundation for running a marathon is already laid, so we don't want things to stop just with Hakone. We want to take it back to the original concept of Hakone as a springboard to the world level. I think he has the mindset to become internationally competitive and I want this marathon to be a stepping stone that will help lead him to the Olympics."
photo (c) 2015 M. Kawaguchi, all rights reserved