Skip to main content

Olympic Marathoner Eri Yamaguchi Building a New Ekiden Team

http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/sports/201505/0008049840.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

A former marathon great is working hard in her position as head coach.  International Pacific University in Okayama has named 2000 Sydney Olympics marathon 7th-placer Eri Yamaguchi, 42, to lead its new women's ekiden team.  Returning to the field of competition for the first time in four years, Yamaguchi was full of a sense of mission as she said, "I want to pass to them everything that I learned and accomplished."

In March, 2011 Yamaguchi left her job as assistant coach at the Tenmaya women's corporate team to get married, afterward focusing on developing juniors.  When the knock on the door came from IPU she was conflicted, asking herself, "Can you go back to the competitive world?  You won't be able to take care of your family any more."  But after talking with IPU president Hiroshi Ohashi, she said, "I got a strong desire to help develop a strong ekiden team."  "She is one of the people who helped shape Japan's long distance world," President Ohashi commented.  "We have been considering this move for the last three years," he added, smiling at seeing his plans come to realization.

At the moment the team includes just four students, all first and second-years, but plans do not call for them to enter the ekiden circuit until after next season.  As the ability levels of their incoming first-years will shape the team's development, Yamaguchi is busy with doing her first-ever recruiting.  "First we have to build the team," she said, calmly assessing the team's prospects.  "If we get off on the right track then we will be able to think about winning."  She has already begun planting the seeds of competitiveness and development in the minds of inexperienced athletes in what is now a "friendly club."  With morning practice at 6:00 a.m. and another session in the evening there is little free time.  "I'm like a substitute mom for all the athletes," she said.  With a busy day-to-day schedule she added,  "When I go home all I can do is sleep."  But her smile betrayed the sense of fulfillment her new work brings her.

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Breaks Nobeyama Ultra Course Record

2018 Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) won the longest race of his career to date Sunday in Nagano, taking over six minutes off the Yatsugatake Nobeyama Kogen 71 km Ultramarathon in 4:41:55.

A training run for next month’s Stockholm Marathon, Kawauchi set off solo at a steady pace around 3:45/km. Climbing from 1355 m to 1908 m as he approached 20 km he naturally slowed, but with over 1000 m of descent over the next 30 km he was soon back on track. Hitting the marathon split around 2:39, he was so far ahead of the 2nd placer that the announcer initially forget Kawauchi had already gone by and announced the next runner as the leader.

At 58 km Kawauchi was on track to clear 4:30:00, but hitting the uphills in the final 10 km and feeling the effects of the unfamiliar distance he slowed to almost 5:00/km. But with so much leeway to work with there was never any danger of the 4:48:13 course record slipping out of reach. Kawauchi stopped the clock in 4:41:55, please…

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …