Monday, July 27, 2015

Get Paced By Your 5000 m National Champion, Only At Time Trials for Grown-Ups

by Brett Larner
photos by Ekiden News, Reiko.K and STITCHrunner
click here for more photos by Ekiden News

For the third year in a row, the staff of the Ekiden News website brought the experience of the elite time trial meet to the average runner, putting on the Otona no Time Trial meet, Time Trials for Grown-Ups, at Kinuta Park Field in Tokyo's western-central suburb of Setagaya on July 26.  Despite extreme heat over 500 amateur runners from back-of-the-packers to sub-15 seekers, kids to adults, took part in 1000 m, 1500 m and finely-graded 5000 m races, mirroring the experience of elite time trial meets like the Nittai University Time Trials and Golden Games in Nobeoka. 

London Paralympics 5000 m bronze medalist Shinya Wada

Each heat featured pacing from top-tier Japanese elite athletes, including sub-62 half marathoners Takuya Fukatsu, Tomoya Onishi and Yuki Yagi from the Asahi Kasei corporate team, London Paralympics men's 5000 m bronze medalist Shinya Wada and Yuki Kawauchi's middle brother Yoshiki Kawauchi, giving amateurs not only the experience of running in an elite-style race but the chance to actually run with and talk to some of their favorite athletes, as well giving many of the pros, isolated inside the system since high school, their first real interactions with ordinary runners.

Yuki Yagi and Ekiden News founder Takeshi Nishimoto

After a great popular response to last year's Time Trials where Sydney Olympics women's marathon gold medalist and former world record holder Naoko Takahashi featured on pacing duty, other elites simply turned up to check out the fresh atmosphere at the meet, another step forward in Ekiden News' mission to bridge the gap between elite and amateur and help popularize and share their love of another side of Japan's incredible elite racing world with the booming domestic amateur market, and vice versa.

Prominent among the people to just turn up was this year's 5000 m national champion Kota Murayama, a 13:19 runner and member of the Beijing World Championships team.  Murayama was so into the meet's format that he asked if he could pace a heat, jumping in unplanned to pace the I-Heat to break 20 minutes with one of the OTT's customized bib numbers.  I-Heat runner Yu Mito got the treat of a lifetime as Murayama took him out front alone ahead of the rest of the field, and Murayama got the entire track including Mito laughing with a self-parody of his much-criticized showboating win over then-future 5000 m national record holder Suguru Osako last month at the National Championships, sprinting away from Mito in the last 50 m, pumping his fists and shouting, "Oh yeah!"

Murayama stayed at the finish line to cheer on incoming runners, even helping out one struggling with the effects of the heat the way he would one of his own teammates.  You know Mito, the other runners, and all the fans crowding into lane 5 were loving every minute of it.  Murayama and the other pros were loving it just as much, all of them there without appearance fees and just because they liked the vibe of a group of outsiders doing it themselves, doing what they think needs to be done to both share and benefit what they love and doing it with total professionalism.  You have all the right ideals and an idea about what needs to happen to make things better, you find a way to put it into action, and people respond.  If only there were more grown-ups like that.

text (c) 2015 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
photos (c) 2015 their respective photographers, all rights reserved

No comments: