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"Where Runners With the Highest Ambitions Come Together" - Fujiwara in Iten Ahead of Tokyo Marathon

text and photos by Tsukasa Kawarai
translated and edited by Brett Larner

2012 London Olympian Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) has had some of his greatest races at the Tokyo Marathon, finishing 2nd three times: an explosive 2:08:40 breakthrough there in 2008, 2:12:34 in sleet and strong wind in 2010, and his 2:07:48 PB in 2012 to make the London team. He has also done some of his worst marathons there, running 2:29:21 in 2011, dropping out in 2013, 2:30:58 in 2014, 2:19:40 in 2015 and 2:20:23 last year. The blindfolded-shot-in-the-dark quality of Fujiwara’s history in Tokyo has always made him unpredictable but entertaining. In preparation for this year’s Tokyo Marathon Fujiwara trained in Kenya for nearly two months. Tsukasa Kawarai spent time at Fujiwara’s training camp in January, and ahead of Sunday’s race he wrote a report for JRN on what he saw of Fujiwara’s preparations.

Starting in mid-December last year Arata Fujiwara trained in Iten, Kenya for about two months. It was his second time to train in Iten, his goal this time to build up a solid base in preparation for the Tokyo Marathon. Fujiwara injured his knee in June last year while training for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. The injury that kept him from doing the kind of running he wanted for several months, but he came to Iten to make a full recovery from that setback.

It takes several weeks to adapt to high altitude training at 2400 m. Being the dry season it hardly ever rained in Iten, meaning very dry conditions. In the rough terrain around Iten, a passing car leaves you completely covered with dust. Amid this kind of tough environment, Fujiwara worked hard alongside the Kenyans.

In Iten Fujiwara chose locals Edwin Kiprop and Benerd Koech, a different athlete from Tokyo Marathon invited elite Bernard Koech, as his training partners. He ran together with them and in a larger training group during interval workouts at Kamariny Stadium and for long runs.

I accompanied Fujiwara to Kamariny Stadium for a high-quality interval session of 600 m x 15 led by Kenyan runners. With weeks of that kind of training behind him in Iten he looked to me like the Fujiwara of old, when he was in his best shape.

Fujiwara wasn’t the only one training at Kamariny Stadium. Many Olympians regularly do tough workouts there, a daily fact of life that makes Iten “The Home of Champions.” At the same time that Fujiwara was doing his interval workout, Wilson Kipsang was also training with a group in prep for Tokyo. Paul Chelimo was there from the U.S.A. too with a group of his own. “This is where runners with the highest ambitions from here and abroad come together,” Fujiwara said.

After the workout Fujiwara chatted with Kipsang. They both ran the London Olympics marathon. Both of them will run the Tokyo Marathon deadly focused on making this year’s London World Championships. To run again in the city of London.

The Tokyo Marathon has changed its course this year to what is being called a “high-speed course.” The late-stage hills of the old course are gone, and the expectation is that people will be slowing down less in the second half. With highly-developed racing intuition born from long experience I expect to see Fujiwara run an aggressive race and a long-overdue sub-2:10.

text and photos © 2017 Tsukasa Kawarai
all rights reserved


TokyoRacer said…
You've got to give him a lot of credit for consistently working hard and aiming high. I hope he has a good race.

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