Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2:11 Marathoner Satoru Kasuya Overcomes Cancer to Run New Year Ekiden Star Stage

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Having overcome serious illness, one runner has made a comeback to the top levels of the corporate leagues after almost three years away.  On Jan. 1 32-year-old Satoru Kasuya (Team Toyota Boshoku) ran the New Year Ekiden national corporate men's championships having survived a diagnosis of malignant lymphoma blood cancer two and a half years ago.  At the New Year Ekiden he ran strongly on its longest stage, the 22.0 km Fourth Stage against other teams' best runners, saying, "I want people to know that you can still come back even after suffering a disease as serious as this."

At Komazawa University Kasuya ran the Hakone Ekiden during his 2nd through 4th years in 2003-05.  In 2006 he joined the Toyota Boshoku team where he excelled as a star athlete.  But in June, 2013, he said, "Something starting to feel wrong, like the way you feel when you run when you have a cold."  He was diagnosed with malignant lymphoma and underwent surgery.  As a consequence of anti-cancer treatment following the surgery he couldn't eat, and all his hair fell out.  Face to face with death every day, Kasuya's only thought was, "I want to run again."

In the hospital Kasuya found inspiration while watching the 2013 World Championships in the story of a Jamaican athlete who had overcome breast cancer to make the final of the women's 400 m.  At the absolute depths of his despair he was deeply motivated, telling himself, "If you hang on then you'll be able to show people something too.  It's your turn next."  After half a year of treatment and recovery Kasuya went to cheer his teammates on at the 2014 New Year Ekiden, setting the Jan. 1 date as his re-starting point.  Starting with light jogging, by last summer he was able to get back into serious training bit by bit.  In September, 2015 he ran his lifetime 5000 m best.  "Being able to show that I'm fit and healthy is the best form of gratitude I can show the people who helped me get better," he said.  "To do that I want to produce results that everyone can feel proud of."

Toyota Boshoku finished 27th out of 43 teams.  Kasuya was 28th on his stage, his face blank after he finished.  Greeted by one of his teammates he choked on his words as he said, "I didn't want to just make a comeback here, I wanted to perform.  I'm incredibly disappointed."  His joy at simply being able to run again was balanced by disappointment at not being able to live up to his own expectations.  Even though he knew he wasn't at full fitness the strictness with which Kasuya holds himself to high standards meant he couldn't help but feel that way.  But having survived the worst, Kasuya's sight is already fixed on the future, his goal being to run in the next Rio de Janeiro Olympic Team selection race at February's Tokyo Marathon.

Satoru Kasuya - born July 8, 1983 in Aichi
5000 m: 14:11.62 (2015)
10000 m: 28:55.88 (2004)
half marathon: 1:02:40 (2011)
marathon: 2:11:17 (2011)

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