Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Wins 7th-Straight Okinoshima 50 km

Running the Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon on his late father's home island of Oki for the eighth year in a row, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:52:55 to win it for the seventh straight time. Starting strong on the relatively flat first 10 km where he clocked 33:26, low-2:47 pace, Kawauchi slowed to just over 2:50 pace on the course's toughest hills between 10 and 30 km. A sub-2:50 was still in range at that point, but over the last 20 km he faded further to finish in the second-slowest of his Okinoshima wins.



The day before the race Kawauchi paced children in Okinoshima's kids' run. Following that he greeted participants and local supporters at an expo event where he was hailed onstage as the Boston Marathon winner. As per his usual routine, his next race will be the July 1 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Kipchirchir and Chebii Take on Three Gold Coast Winners

The men's race at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon is usually a Kenya-Japan head-to-head, Kenya taking six wins and Japan three in the last ten years. With not a single Ethiopian in the field for this year's 40th edition it looks set for it to happen yet again.

Sub-2:10 Kenyans Victor Kipchirchir, Douglas Chebii, Philip Sanga and the Japan-based Michael Githae will line up to take on three of the race's last four winners, 2017 champ Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), 2015-16 winner and course record holder Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) and 2013 champ and perpetual top three placer Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't). Give the advantage to team Kenya in this bout, but as Noguchi and Kawauchi have proven Gold Coast is a race where Japanese men are legit contenders.

With the window for getting qualifying times for next year's MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials starting to close, the powers that be in Japan have taken note of the success of Noguchi and Kawauchi on the Gold Coast…

Japan's 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon to be Held September 15, 2019

On June 15 the JAAF announced the date and course for the Marathon Grand Championship Race, or MGC Race for short, its new almost-one-shot trials race that will determine at least two of the three members of its men's and women's marathon teams for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The MGC Race will be held 11 months prior to the Olympics on September 15, 2019. The winners of the MGC Race will be named to the 2020 team, with either the 2nd or 3rd placer also named to the team depending on whether either has broken a fast standard, 2:05:30 for men and 2:21:00 for women. The remaining top three placer will have to wait until March, 2020 to find out whether they will be included on the team or passed over in favor of someone who clears another fast standard in one of the big six domestic elite marathons in the winter of 2019-20.

The MGC Race course will closely follow the already announced Olympic course, the only key exception being a start and finish in the Jingu Gaien district nearby …