translated and edited by Brett Larner
With Sunday's Tokyo Marathon serving as the second selection race for the Japanese men's Rio de Janeiro Olympic team, general elite division entrant Yuki Takamiya (28, Team Yakult) ran a smart and punchy race to finish 8th overall in a PB of 2:10:57 as the top Japanese man. Running down Beijing World Championships team member Masato Imai (31, Team Toyota Kyushu), Hakone Ekiden ace Tadashi Isshiki (21, Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and other famous star athletes, Takamiya put himself into contention for the Rio team. Feyisa Lilesa (26, Ethiopia) won Tokyo for the first time in 2:06:56.
Takamiya was already more than 15 seconds behind the main Japanese pack by 10 km and was over 40 seconds behind at 35 km. It all came down to the last 2 km, Takamiya's legs turning over with great drive straight from his soul. Flying past leading Japanese man Yuma Hattori (22, Toyo Univ.), Takamiya punched the air and then broke the tape with both hands raised. His bib number just #138, Takamiya's time beat his previous best by 4 1/2 minutes and abruptly launched him onto the Rio contender platform. "I'm honestly as stunned as anyone. It doesn't seem real," he said. "I had no idea I was the top Japanese man until I finished. Don't even mention Rio, that scares the hell out of me!"
At Fukushima's Nihonmatsu Kogyo H.S. Takamiya was a no-name. At Josai University as well he finished 14th of 20 on the Ninth Stage at the 2008 Hakone Ekiden and a lowly 21st of 23 on the Fifth Stage a year later. "I couldn't even touch the best guys," he said of his school days. But after entering the Yakult corporate team he began to improve after starting to spend a lot of time on a road bike to build more stable leg strength. With temperatures climbing to an unseasonably warm 16.7 degrees in the final kilometers Takamiya took down one after another Hakone star, Imai, Isshiki, Hattori, Kenta Murayama (Team Asahi Kasei), Yuta Shimoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.). "If you want to compare me to an animal, I was the tortoise," he said of a race that played out just like Aesop's "The Tortoise and the Hare" predicted.
Takamiya blossomed thanks to his wife. Since university he had suffered one injury after another. "Over the course of a single year I hurt pretty much everywhere," he said, having suffered sole and ankle problems, shin splints and sciatic nerve pain that stopped him from being able to exert himself. On January 3 last year he married his wife Aya, 28, who has a Junior Athlete Food Meister nutrition certification. With a new diet based on her recommendations his overall condition began to improve. An entire year passed without a single major injury, and for the first time he was able to focus on putting in quality training. "I've become almost fanatical about not eating things that are bad for you," he said. Asked about his favorite foods he laughed, "There are too many to list!"
After the final men's Olympic selection race, the Mar. 6 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, the JAAF executive council is expected to announce the Olympic marathon team lineup on Mar. 17. Takamiya is not letting his post-race happiness give him unrealistic hopes. "I wouldn't expect them to pick me unless I had run 2:07 or 2:08. I'll be lucky if they do." From outside the stars' circles, one runner will be waiting for good news from Rio.
Yuki Takamiya – born Dec. 2, 1987 in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima. 173 cm, 59 kg. Lives with his wife Aya.
Athletics history: After a friend invited him, began running track and field at Nihonmatsu Daisan J.H.S. Ran Hakone Ekiden twice for Josai University.
Hobby: Road cycling. Owns a bike produced by the popular maker De Rosa. Frequently rides a 100 km circuit from his home in Toda, Saitama around Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, Chiba and back.
Favorite thing: coffee
5000 m: 13:55.38
10000 m: 29:06.71
half marathon: 1:02:31