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Aoyama Gakuin's Isshiki Ready for Tokyo Marathon Debut After Top-Class Double

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20160208-OHT1T50020.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Two-time Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University's star third-year Tadashi Isshiki, last year's National University Half Marathon champion and World University Games half marathon silver medalist, won Sunday's Kanagawa Half Marathon in 1:03:03, just two seconds short of his own course record.  In training to make his marathon debut at age 21 at the February 28 Tokyo Marathon in a shot at the Rio Olympic team, Isshiki ran a full marathon time trial just four days before his Kanagawa win, making his time truly top-class for a university athlete.  Aoyama Gakuin head coach Susumu Hara, 48, was full of optimism post-race, saying, "Rio has come into sight."

The first thing Isshiki said after his solid win was, "That was a nice jog out there today."  On Wednesday, Feb. 3 in Futtsu, Chiba he ran a 42.195 km marathon time trial in 2:31:02.  With a 1:02:09 half marathon best at age 20 his potential in the marathon remains unknown.  His target in Tokyo is the 2:08:12 university national record held by Masakazu Fujiwara (then Chuo Univ., now Team Honda).  "I feel like I can do it, and I feel like I can't," he laughed.  If he succeeds in breaking the 13-year-old record there's not much doubt he'll factor into selection for the Olympic team.  "I've got nothing to lose, so I'm going to run big time," he said.  If he follows through then in three weeks' time Isshiki will stand as a new star of Japanese marathoning.

Along with Isshiki, fourth years Toshinori Watanabe and Ryo Hashimoto, third-year Yasunari Ikeda and second-year Yuta Shimoda will also debut at the Tokyo Marathon.  In Kanagawa Hashimoto was 2nd, Shimoda 4th and Watanabe 5th.  Setting a new of PB 1:03:33, Hashimoto said, "That felt easier than I expected."  The kings of Hakone look set to make their presences felt in Tokyo too.

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