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Japan's London World Championships Marathon Squad Arrives Back Home

The six members of Japan's men's and women's marathon teams at the ongoing London World Championships returned to Tokyo's Haneda Airport on Aug. 9. Decked out in the official team suit, Japanese team captain and at 9th the top-placing Japanese marathoner in London Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) spoke to the media.

Having declared pre-race his intention to withdraw from consideration for future Japanese National Team positions, post-race Kawauchi showed no change in that intent. With regard to his future plans, his motivation as a competitor likewise remaining unchanged, Kawauchi indicated that he will run Decmeber's Fukuoka International Marathon,where his 3rd-place overall finish last year earned him his place in London. "In Fukuoka I want to break my PB and run 2:07," he said. "There are things I want to accomplish besides being on the National Team."

Kawauchi revealed that his next marathon will be September's Oslo Marathon, where he hopes to break the Norwegian all-comers record, followed by France's Nice-Cannes Marathon in November where he plans to join the small group of six Japanese men to have ever won overseas marathons with a sub-2:10 time.

Asked about the possibility of his joining the JAAF marathon development project under the leadership of Toshihiko Seko in the leadup to the Tokyo Olympics, Kawauchi answered, "I only met Seko briefly before the race, but as a member of the Japanese National Team I have a six-year debt that I feel must be repaid." With a laugh he added, "Not that any young athletes have come to me for advice or anything."

Still a government employee, Kawauchi said, "Tomorrow I'll be back at work." With regard to his training he said, "I'm going to take it a bit easy this week, but next week I'll be back at it [in training for Oslo]." His inherent toughness remains undimmed.

Official comments from Japan's London 2017 marathon team

Yuki Kawauchi, men's marathon, 9th in 2:12:19
I hit something on the side of the road and also fell on an uphill, but neither was really a problem. There was no bleeding. Even when I missed my special drink I took the general drinks and told myself it would be fine. Even though I had this problems I was able to keep giving it my best thanks in part to all my past experience.

A lot of the people I overtook in the second half were athletes I'd run against in the past. Every time I caught one of them I'd surge past to make sure that they wouldn't come with me. It was my own fault that I didn't make top eight since I fell and whatnot, but even though I didn't finish in the top eight I think that I brought all of my ability. Compared to how I did in Daegu and Moscow, in my heart I feel that I finally ran with everything I had on the day. I'm really happy to have done everything that I could have.

Kentaro Nakamoto, men's marathon, 10th in 2:12:41
Top eight was my minimum goal, so not making that was disappointing. Although not everything was perfect I thought that the situation was basically the same as in Moscow and that I'd be able to be competitive again. What was unexpected was how slow the first part of the race was. When I started thinking about where things were going it suddenly sped up, and I really had to burn my legs to try to catch up.

It was scary to go to the front of the group so I stayed near the back, but having to push to try to catch back up ended up with me getting dropped in the second half. I think that being able to push through the second half represented what I can do, but at the same time falling apart when I got passed by Kawauchi after 40 km was pretty characteristic of me too. I feel pretty disappointed, but part of me feels like I did what I could. I'm not sure what the future holds for me as an athlete, but once I get back to Japan I want to give it a lot of thought.

Hiroto Inoue, men's marathon, 26th in 2:16:54
I had decided beforehand to go with the leaders, and I don't think I overdid it. I wanted to see how far I could go against them. I figured that if I just targeted top eight it wouldn't be enough to help me medal in the future. To win a medal, you have to run to be competitive.

I wanted to go until 30 km and then be in the race after that. When the big move came I went as hard as I could, but I could only stay with them for a kilometer. There's no way to handle that kind of speed without improving my PBs. I thought that if you can't run 2:04 or 2:05 you can't compete.

I could tell that even when the pace was going back and forth the other athletes were obviously running with the feeling that the race wasn't happening in its early stages. I really felt the difference in ability between them and me. I don't want to ever forget this disappointment. In the future I want to become stronger so that I can say that I ran my own race.

Mao Kiyota, women's marathon, 16th in 2:30:36
Even if the plan is to hang on, the best thing to do is to go with it from the first half. But as it turned out, when the leaders made their move at 35 km I couldn't respond and go with them at all. I had trained to be ready for that and I really regret that I was totally unable to move.

I'd seen the course a million times and my coach had told me that even if the pace sped up every lap it would definitely slow down again on the city center part. I didn't do anything hasty and I was relaxed enough to be able to tell who was cheering for me, so I thought that I had enough of a margin to be able to keep it together.

I think I dealt with the back and forth in the first half pretty well. But if I had to pick something that I did wrong, maybe I was too emotional and impatient. Every time, I keep on doing things that make it impossible to deal with the move in the second half. I have to get control of that, and from that to develop the confidence to be able to lead it myself and deliver a hard-edged race. I have to reevaluate my training approach so that I can gain that kind of confidence.

Yuka Ando, women's marathon, 17th in 2:31:31
Frankly, I'm totally disappointed. The fact that I couldn't up after 20 km shows how weak I am inside. You have to be stronger if you want to compete with the best in the world. All I showed was how fragile I am. The instability in the pace scared me a bit. It was a given that it was going to happen, but actually experiencing it for myself and being pulled one way and another threw me off, and that's why I couldn't keep up.

I had planned to target place more than time, but looking back now at the way the race played out I can't help but feel that couldn't run up to that goal even though I'd been chosen for the Japanese National Team. I couldn't run the way I can, and that's unforgivable.

More than it just being due to it being my second marathon, I felt strongly that I need to raise my game mentally, not just in terms of my running ability. I found a lot of things that need to be improved and that I'm farther from being internationally competitive than I thought. I hope that this disappointment will be a springboard for me to grow and to come back stronger for the Tokyo Olympics.

Risa Shigetomo, women's marathon, 27th, 2:36:03
Things got away from me early and I wasn't able to come back in the second half the way I expected. During the race I told myself not to change pace. After the drink tables the pace always slowed down, so I was able to keep on catching up even if I didn't go with the surges beforehand. I think I kept my head OK, but after 25 km my legs started tightening up. The streets were narrow and there was a lot of bumping. I think the stress built up on my nerves.

It's been five years since I ran badly at the London Olympics. You don't get many chances to come back to run in such a major race in the same place. In the sense that I was able to make it back here five years later it showed that I had grown, and even though my results were bad again it meant a lot to me. I feel disappointed, but I'm really glad I got to run. I want to think long and hard about what comes after this.

source articles:
translated and edited by Brett Larner
group and Nakamoto photos © 2017 Kazuyuki Sugimatsu, all rights reserved
Kawauchi photo © 2017 Mike Trees, all rights reserved
Inoue, Kiyota and Ando photos © 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
Shigetomo photo © 2017 Noel Thatcher, all rights reserved


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