Skip to main content

Officer Shibata Takes Step Toward Olympic Dream With Breakthrough Win at Osaka Half

http://www.sankei.com/west/news/170202/wst1702020048-n1.html

translated by Brett Larner

At the Jan. 29 Osaka Half Marathon, Osaka Prefecture police officer Shunsaku Shibata, 23, won the men's division in a course record 1:03:05.  Breaking his PB by more than 3 minutes, Shibata now turns his attention to making his marathon debut.  Interviewed after the race he expressed a strong desire "to make the Tokyo Olympics."

Shibata graduated from Hotoku H.S. and Senshu University, enrolling with the police in April, 2015.  After studying at the Police Academy and undergoing training at the Miyoshima Police Station he was assigned to the Riot Police Company #1 in October last year.  Shibata had run long distance seriously since high school and his third year of university he had the chance to realize his dream of running the Hakone Ekiden, but shortly before the race he strained a ligament and was cut from the team.  Even as a police officer he felt that he "wanted to keep running competitively," and in July last year he joined the police track and field team.  For the first time since university he resumed full-on training, ramping up his monthly mileage to 800~900 km.

The Osaka Half Marathon was his competitive debut for the Police Department.  Amid top-level corporate league competitors who had run as fast as 1:01 for the half marathon, Shibata's best was only 1:06:12 dating back to his university days.  Even so, as he stood on the starting line in Osaka Castle Park, Shibata said, "I was feeling good and had nothing to worry about."  From the side of the course Police Department head coach Naoki Kirikuri repeatedly called out to him to "stay in the race," so Shibata fought to hold on to the lead group.

With 5 km to go he was still there, and, he said, "Starting to think about when to make a break for it was both fun and stressful."  Shibata waited until just before the entrance to Nagai Stadium and the finish line to make his move, kicking away from those behind him to break the tape in 1st, shouting "Aw yeah!" almost by instinct.  Analyzing his winning run post-race he said, "Well, if you're even just 1 second faster than 2nd place then it's a success.  Coach told me to find my competitiveness and to take control of the situation myself, and I was able to put that into play."

Shibata plans to improve his speed on the track and then to tackle the marathon.  With a three-minute improvement to his PB off just a half year's worth of training coach Kirikuri was full of hope for Shibata, saying, "He still has plenty of headroom."  With polite words Shibata was also optimistic, saying, "Step by step, I want to get ready for the marathon.  Someday I will be Japan's top marathoner and run in the Olympics."  A new 'civil servant runner' may be on the way.

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kiplagat, Ichiyama, Tadese and Shitara Lead Marugame Half Elite Field

The Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon is always one of Japan's deepest races of the year on the men's side, its 2012 running setting a world record for the most men under 64 minutes in a single half marathon in history. On the women's side the field is always smaller but still home to the 1:07:26 Japanese national record set by Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal) back in 2006.

Edna Kiplagat (Kenya), Sara Hall (U.S.A.) and Betsy Saina (Kenya) lead the women's international field, two-time defending champ Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) giving Marugame a miss this year. Fresh off a 1:09:14 PB at last month's Sanyo Ladies Half, Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) leads a trio of Japanese women with recent sub-1:10 times, something that has become a puzzling rarity lately. Fukushi is also back, her recent best of 1:12:04 a long way from her best days.

Speaking of which, world record holder Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea) will be looking to break 60 minutes for the first time since 2015. His toughest…

Cheboitibin, Kiprono and Sonoda Top Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Elite Entries

With just over two weeks to go the organizers of the Feb. 4 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon have released their elite field for this year's race. With its history as an elite men-only race Beppu-Oita's women's field is still tiny given its status as an IAAF silver label race, but this year promises a good race between two local 2:32 women, 2016 winner Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) and Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu), that should see the 2:39:57 course record fall. Defending champ Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) also returns with a 2:38:43 PB from last fall that puts her range of the course record as well.

The men's race is heavier-duty, with a spot in the MGC Race Tokyo Olympic Trials available to the top Japanese man under 2:11:00 and to up to five others if they clear 2:10. Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima) and Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) are the only Japanese men in the field to have run those kinds of times in the last couple of years, and with support from 2:09~2:10 men

Tokyo Marathon to Move to March Date Beginning in 2019

At a press conference in Tokyo on Dec. 12, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation announced that beginning in 2019, the Tokyo Marathon will move from its current date on the last Sunday of February to the first Sunday of March. The next Imperial succession is set to take place in 2019, meaning that February 23 will become the Emperor's Birthday national holiday starting in 2020. The race date is being preemptively moved to avoid any potential overlap.

According to the Foundation, setting up and breaking down the facilities necessary to hold the Tokyo Marathon takes several days. With the finish area being positioned in front of the Imperial Palace there were concerns that problems would arise due to the large number of people who would gather in the area to celebrate the Emperor's birthday.

Translator's note: The Tokyo Marathon previously experimented with a March race date in 2009 but abandoned it to return to February the next year. Since 1994 the first Sunday of March has been t…