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Kyushu Boys Tomoyuki Sato and Kazuhiro Maeda Tackle Tokyo

translated by Brett Larner

Among the top runners at this year's Tokyo Marathon are two hailing from the Kyushu region, Tomoyuki Sato (Team Asahi Kasei) and Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko).

28 year old Tomoyuki Sato was born in Fukuoka. At the first Tokyo Marathon in 2007 he was the top Japanese finisher and 2nd overall, earning himself a spot on the team for the 2007 Osaka World Championships where he was 13th in the marathon. "I always wanted to do the marathon," Sato says of his decision 10 years ago to join the powerful Team Asahi Kasei straight out of high school. April will mark the start of his eleventh year with the team.

Departing from the 'Kyushu Boy' stereotype, Sato is soft-spoken and comes across as gentle and calm. Throughout the interview he is critical of himself, dropping phrases like "I completely failed," and "I'm not trying hard enough," in passing. His coach Takeshi Soh, however, thinks that everyone who has seen Sato training knows his preparations this season have been perfect. Sato may try to hide it, but beneath his soft exterior is a core of pure strength. Knowing he has trained well gives him unshakeable self-confidence.

Answering many questions and talking at length, Sato never shows his inner emotions, but things change when the subject turns to his teammate Masaya Shimizu having qualified earlier this month for the Berlin World Championships marathon team. "Well, I'm not going to be left behind while he gets to go, now am I," he says firmly. It's the first time in the interview his true feelings have slipped out, an 'Aha! Gotcha!' moment. In 10 years Sato has never truly fully wielded the essential fighting spirit he keeps hidden within so well, but in the Tokyo Marathon this time his accumulated experience and self-confidence will serve as weapons at his disposal as he attacks in the later stages of the race.

The other Kyushu runner in the race is Saga Prefecture's Kazuhiro Maeda, 27. A noteworthy runner since junior high school, Maeda joined Team Kyudenko after graduating from high school. He was the first athlete Kyudenko head coach Kenji Ayabe recruited when Ayabe took over the company's men's team. The dynamic between the two is hillarious, Coach Ayabe laughing and smiling as the talkative Maeda cracks jokes throughout the interview and calls him 'Daddy.' Ayabe believes this unusually casual atmosphere between coach and athlete has played a big role in Maeda's remarkable development during his time as a professional jitsugyodan runner.

The Tokyo Marathon will be Maeda's first time tackling the distance. "I'm about 50-50 nervous and looking forward to it," he laughs with a little bit of almost childlike excitement. It's a selection race so of course thoughts of a fast time and even of winning have crossed his mind, but when he speaks of his personal goal Maeda says he wants the Tokyo Marathon to be something he can look back at and say, "That was a good race."

These two Kyushu Boys may be almost the same age and may have had similar career paths, going straight from high school to jitsugyodan teams, but they could not be more different in character. Both are also equally different from the stereotypical Kyushu Boy, but when it comes to holding inner traits like 'Power,' 'Solidity,' and 'Perseverence,' each scores full marks. When it's time for race day both Sato and Maeda are sure to be seen giving it their all up front in the lead pack.

Translator's note: Tomoyuki Sato was the alternate for the 2007 World Championships and ran after team leader Wataru Okutani (Team Subaru) withdrew due to emergency surgery. Sato set his PB of 2:09:43 at the 2004 Tokyo International Marathon and ran 2:09:59 in both of his marathons last year, finishing 7th in Biwako and 4th in Fukuoka. He was the 3rd Japanese finisher in Fukuoka, giving him little chance of being selected for the Berlin team unless he marks a significant improvement in Tokyo.


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