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Unable to Achieve Olympic Dream, Track Star Mitsuya Finds New Life as Paralympic Pacer

http://www.nishinippon.co.jp/nnp/f_toshiken/article/203976

translated and edited by Brett Larner

A former Japanese national representative at the World Championships is getting ready to take on his second marathon.  Injuries having forced him into retirement at just age 30, this time he will be running in a new role.  With two World Championships appearances on the track behind him, Yu Mitsuya will run the Nov. 8 Fukuoka Marathon as a guide runner for blind marathoner Misato Michishita, 38, already named as a member of the women's marathon team for next year's Rio de Janeiro Paralympics.  "I want to be a source of strength that will help Michishita on her road to Rio," Mitsuya said.

A native of Kagawa prefecture, Mitsuya emerged as a star in high school before joining the Toyota Kyushu corporate team after graduating in 2003.  At Toyota Kyushu he was coached by Barcelona Olympics marathon silver medalist Koichi Morishita and trained alongside future Beijing Olympics marathon gold medalist Samuel Wanjiru, with whom he became close friends.  In 2005, paced by Wanjiru, he ran the then-fastest-ever 10000 m on Japanese soil by a Japanese man, 27:41.10, before running at the Helsinki World Championships.  Two years later he ran 13:18.32 for 5000 m, still the fastest-ever time by a Japanese man inside Japan, before his second national team appearance at the Osaka World Championships.

But in his debut marathon at the 2010 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, aiming to win, Mitsuya faded late in the race and fell to 9th place in 2:12:59.  "It wasn't so easy," he said.  Achilles tendon pain he experienced from overuse increased year by year and, unable to achieve his dream of making this Olympics, he retired in February this year just after his 30th birthday.

Mitsuya's involvement with with Michishita as a pacer came about in late March when a member of the Toyota Kyushu booster club asked him to run with her.  Having worked with blind children during his career to share the joy of running with them, he didn't hesitate to say yes.  His first meeting with Michishita came a month later.  "I want to go to Rio," she told him bluntly, her straightforwardness about her dreams resonating with Mitsuya and stirring within him memories of his old self.

The pair began training for the Fukuoka Marathon together in October in Fukuoka's Ohori Park, united by a 45 cm loop of red rope.  Mitsuya found the job full of unexpected challenges and questions.  "Is my arm swing getting in her way?  Am I properly communicating with her?"  With an offer to run Fukuoka as a special guest Michishita chose to use it as a stepping stone in her preparations for Rio, and Mitsuya fully dedicated himself to making sure she would be able to give it her utmost.  "He's a perfect guide runner," said Michishita.  "I don't sense his presence at all and it feels like I am running alone.  When I'm getting tired and my form is breaking down he gives me accurate advice.  I trust him completely."

Mitsuya hasn't neglected the training he himself needs to do to finish the 42.195 km distance.  "This is my guide runner debut," he said.  "I want to do an impeccable job."  The Olympic dreams of a champion still burning inside him, he is looking forward to next weekend's starting gun.

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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
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Guinness Certifies Kawauchi's World Record 78 Career Sub-2:20 Marathons After Half Marathon in Panda Costume

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http://sports.yahoo.co.jp/column/detail/201701120002-spnavi

translated by Brett Larner

Ahead of his nomination to the London World Championships Marathon team, Sportsnavi published a three-part series of writings by Yuki Kawauchi on what it took for him to make the team, his hopes for London, and his views on the future of Japanese marathoning.  With his place on the London team announced on Mar. 17, JRN will publish an English translation of the complete series over the next three days. See Sportsnavi's original version linked above for more photos. Click here for part two, "Bringing All My Experience Into Play in London," or here for part three, "The Lessons of the Past Are Not 'Outdated.'"


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