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

Chebii Returns - Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Elite Field

Defending champ Ezekiel Chebii (Kenya) returns to lead the field for the Mar. 4 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Chebii is one of three men in the field with recent 2:06 times, his 2:06:07 in Amsterdam two years ago leading Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland) and Abera Kuma (Ethiopia) to form a clear trio of favorites.

Making up the second pack are four current sub-2:10 Japanese men, 2017 Gold Coast winner Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), Rio Olympian Satoru Sasaki (Asahi Kasei), and Sasaki's teammates Takuya Fukatsu and Fumihiro Maruyama. The addition of sub-61 half marathoner Kenta Murayama in his second shot at the marathon after a failed debut in Tokyo two years ago makes for a formidable quartet of men from 2017 and 2018 New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei all aligned in training and talent.

With Japan's depth it's never surprising to see a relatively anonymous runner make a breakthrough and factor into the action. Yoshiki Takenouchi (NTT Nishi Nihon) was one of the …

Kawauchi Takes Six Minutes Off Kitakyushu Marathon Course Record to Lead Weekend Results

After a seven-week break from the marathon, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored his third-straight marathon win, second-straight course record and came just shy of a third-straight negative split as he ran a completely solo 2:11:46 to take almost six minutes off the Kitakyushu Marathon course record. Following up on negative split wins at December's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon and January's Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, the latter a course record by half an hour, Kawauchi was on his own in the first 100 m in Kitakyushu and never looked back.

In the hilly first 10 km his pace fluctuated from high-2:12 to high-2:10, but once Kawauchi got into the flatter section of the course he settled out on track for a high-2:11 to low-2:12 time. After a 1:05:51 split at halfway he slowed slightly on the outbound trip to the turnaround near 31 km, but picking it up again after 35 km he marked a 6:34 from 40 km to the finish to stop the clock at 2:11:46,  a 1:05:55 second half …

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
Upcoming race schedule: Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan
Mar. 25: Kuki Half Marathon, Saitama
Apr. 16: Boston Marathon, U.S.A.
June 2: ASICS Stockholm Marathon, Sweden
July 1: Gold Coast Airport Marathon, Australia
Aug. 26: New Caledonia International Marathon, New Caledonia
Sept. 2: Wakkanai Heiwa Marathon, Hokk…