Skip to main content

Fujiwara Announces Retirement and New Role as Chuo University Head Coach

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/athletics/news/1614520.html
http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/feature/hakone/20160309-OHT1T50065.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Historical Hakone Ekiden powerhouse Chuo University held a press conference on Mar. 9 to announce the retirement of three-time World Championships marathon team member and Chuo alumnus Masakazu Fujiwara, 35, from competition and his naming as new head coach of its ekiden team.  Chuo holds multiple Hakone records including 6-straight wins, 14 wins overall, 87-straight and 90 total Hakone appearances, but under former head coach Haruo Urata, 54, for the last four years it failed to make the seeded top ten.  Fujiwara commented, "I want to get us back into the seeded bracket within two or three years," showing his enthusiasm for returning Chuo to its glory days.

As a first-year at Chuo Fujiwara won the Hakone Ekiden's famed uphill Fifth Stage, placing 2nd and 3rd on the same stage as a second-year and third-year.  As a third-year he also won the gold medal in the 2001 World University Games half marathon, and as a fourth-year he won Hakone's most competitive stage, the Second Stage.  Just before his graduation he set the still-standing debut and collegiate marathon national records of 2:08:12 at the 2003 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, qualifying for the 2003 Paris World Championships team.

Fujiwara and Honda teammate Suehiro Ishikawa at the 2013 Great Manchester Run.

After graduating he joined the Honda corporate team.  Injuries prevented him from running in Paris and continued to hamper his pro career, but in 2010 he became the only Japanese man to win the Tokyo Marathon, following up with marathon national team appearances at the 2013 Moscow and 2015 Beijing World Championships.  He planned to run last weekend's Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon to try to make his Olympic debut but suffered a stress fracture in his right shin that forced him to withdraw.  Missing out on his Olympic dream, he decided to retire. 

Fujiwara will leave Honda at the end of March to take over at his alma mater Chuo University in a new leadership capacity at the start of the 2016-17 academic year in April.  He departs with lifetime bests of 13:49.33 for 5000 m, 28:17.38 for 10000 m, 1:02:23 for the half marathon and 2:08:12 for the marathon.  "The Rio Olympics were my goal," he said.  "It's a shame that my dream as an athlete ended with just the World Championships, but now I want to help rebuild a powerful Chuo University and someday take the overall Hakone win."


Translator's note: JRN supported Fujiwara at the 2013 Great Manchester Run where he set his road 10 km PB of 29:32.  Among his many accomplishments, Fujiwara holds the world record for the longest time between consecutive sub-2:09, and probably sub-2:10, marathons, 10 years and 1 day, with his 2:08:12 debut at Lake Biwa on March 2, 2003 and a 2:08:51 at Lake Biwa on March 3, 2013.  It's a testament to what kind of person Fujiwara is that he never gave up hope that entire time, much of it lost to injury, when most other people would have thrown in the towel long before.

These and other articles caused a lot of hilarity on Japanese Twitter due to their use of the phrase "藤原新監督," literally "New Head Coach Fujiwara."  "新監督," new head coach, is the normal way to refer to someone in Fujiwara's position, but the character for new, 新, "shin," also has the alternate reading "arata."  This means the characters 藤原新監督 can be read as "Head Coach Arata Fujiwara."  藤原新, Arata Fujiwara, is a 2:07 Olympian still active as an athlete.  Reached for comment, Arata Fujiwara told JRN dryly, "I'll do my best."  The first article has since been edited to refer to Masakazu Fujiwara simply as "藤原," Fujiwara. 

photos © 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kazami Breaks 100 km World Record at Lake Saroma

Running on the same course where Japan's Takahiro Sunada set the road 100 km world record of 6:13:33 twenty years ago, 2:17:23 marathoner Nao Kazamibested a deep and competitive field to win the Lake Saroma 100 km Ultramarathon in a world record 6:09:14.

Part of a front group of at least five that went through the marathon split in 2:33:36, on pace for 6:04:01, Kazami lost touch with the lead as rivals Koji Hayasaka and Takehiko Gyoba surged just before halfway to open a roughly 30 second lead that lasted until nearly 75 km. But in the last quarter of the race Kazami, a graduate of Hakone Ekiden powerhouse Komazawa University, was the only one who could sustain anything close to the early pace, overtaking Hayasaka and Gyoba before pulling away to open a lead of over 11 minutes. Kazami's mark took more than 4 minutes off the world record, and he also bettered the 100 km track world record of 6:10:20 set in 1978 well before he was born by the late Don Ritchie.
Trying to stay wi…

Boston Marathon Champion Yuki Kawauchi and Olympian Suguru Osako Join 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Elite Field

A Bank of America Chicago Marathon press release

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon announced today that reigning Boston Marathon champion and “citizen runner” Yuki Kawauchi and 2016 Olympian and Nike Oregon Project runner Suguru Osako will join the elite competition as they both seek to become the first Chicago Marathon champion from Japan since Toshihiko Seko took the crown in 1986.

"I'm really happy to have the chance to race in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the Abbott World Marathon Majors," Kawauchi said. "I'm looking forward to running the same race where Toshinari Takaoka set the former national record and so many other great Japanese athletes have run well. My results in the other American Abbott World Marathon Majors races, Boston and New York, were pretty good, and I'll do everything I can to line up in Chicago ready to produce good results there too."

“Yuki and Suguru are exciting additions to our elite field,” said Executive Rac…

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