translated by Brett Larner
A member of Komazawa University's Hakone Ekiden team during 3 straight years of victory, Shingo Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) will be trying to make the Beijing Olympics on the Japanese men's marathon team when he runs his debut marathon at the Feb. 17 Tokyo Marathon, sponsored in part by the Yomiuri Newspapers Group.
It has been 2 years since Sato, 24, joined the jitsugyodan running world. He went to Komazawa with the intent to run hard in the Hakone Ekiden and then to move up to the marathon. As a high school student he saw Komazawa alumnus Atsushi Fujita (Team Fujitsu) set the then-national record in the marathon. Watching this electrifying performance, Sato became fixed on attending the same university as Fujita and then following the older runner into the marathon.
While at Komazawa, Sato ran in the Hakone Ekiden all 4 of his student years. He earned stage best honors on the 3rd leg as a 2nd-year student and ran the highly competitive ace 2nd leg during his 3rd and 4th years. Komazawa didn't win in his 4th year, so, as Sato says with regret, "I didn't graduate with a perfect record." After becoming a jitsugyodan runner he continued to develop into one of the most promising of Japan's next generation of runners.
"He can handle long distances without getting injured," said Team Nissin coach Teruoki Shirouzu, adding that Sato's training has been exceptional. In his 2 years since joining Nissin, Sato has recorded new PBs in 5000 m, 10,000 m and 1/2 marathon. His coaches planned for him to run his debut marathon in his 3rd year of professional running but decided to move the schedule up by a year to give Sato a chance to run in this Olympic selection race.
When a student at Komazawa, Sato ran 1100 km in one month during summer training. "Training like that for 4 years laid the foundation for me to run a marathon as a professional," says Sato. Although he has done a lot of slower running in preparation for this race, sometimes in the 2 hour, 30 minutes to 3 hour range for 40 km, he has carefully built up the strength necessary to run well the first time he tackles 42.195 km. "Even if it gets tough and I fall off the lead pack, I will focus on catching whoever is ahead of me near the end." Having studied the race carefully, Sato will run hard and never give up.