Skip to main content

Japan in Wanjiru

photo © 2007 Dr. Helmut Winter
all rights reserved

by Brett Larner

Last week I was asked to write a dedication to the late Samuel Wanjiru for a forthcoming book on Kenyan distance running achievements.  Working on it, I felt that it's time to bring completion to another project related to Wanjiru.

In the weeks following Wanjiru's death, in response to my article "Wanjiru in the Words of Those Who Knew Him" I was contacted by someone claiming to be a Kenyan journalist proposing to work together on interviewing key people in Wanjiru's life for a feature article in a specific major publication, possibly leading to a book.  The person's credentials seemed to check out and, caring a great deal about the topic, I agreed.  Most of the people who knew Wanjiru best during his days in Japan were gracious enough to agree to interviews with me at a time when their grief was still fresh.  Being pressured to complete my interviews by a deadline I sent transcripts of the interviews for the other writer to read and abruptly stopped hearing from him.  Weeks went by without word, then months.  My periodic inquiries as to the status of the work on his end were met with one-sentence replies if at all.  I was very regrettably finally forced to withdraw my material from the project, which I still have no evidence even exists beyond my own work.

Re-reading the interviews last week as I thought about what I wanted to say in my book dedication I could see that here at the end of the year I have an obligation to the people close to Wanjiru who shared their grief with me to publish the transcripts.  Particularly towards his coach Koichi Morishita, parts of whose interview I still have difficulty reading.  Although they do not add up to the full picture I had hoped from the overall concept of the original project, I hope that reading them helps you as it has me to better understand some parts of what happened in the development, dissolution and tremendous loss of Samuel Wanjiru.

I will publish the interviews this week in the order I conducted them, followed by a conclusion.  The interviews are long but will reward time spent with them.

Tuesday: Stephen Mayaka, Wanjiru's friend and mentor during his days in Japan.
Wednesday: Koichi Morishita, Wanjiru's coach at Toyota Kyushu and the Barcelona Olympics marathon silver medalist.
Thursday: Yu Mitsuya and Masato Imai, Wanjiru's teammates at Toyota Kyushu.
Friday: Yasuto Kimura, Wanjiru's companion at overseas races following his departure from Japan.
Saturday: In conclusion..... (delayed until Monday)

I am indebted to Jonathan Beverley, Richard Finn, Yusuke Inoue, Daiji Kitamura and Mika Tokairin for their assistance in these interviews and to Imai, Kimura, Mayaka, Mitsuya, Morishita and Mary Wittenberg for their time and words.

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi and Kiyara Live Up to Expectations With Wan Jin Shi Wins

Returning to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon after having first run it in 2016, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:14:12 to score his fourth-straight marathon win in a third-straight wire-to-wire solo performance. Choosing the hilly Wan Jin Shi Marathon as his final main tuneup for next month's Boston Marathon, Kawauchi came out swinging, leading an all-African pack of seven by almost 10 seconds after the tough uphill opening 5 km and stretching that out to over two minutes by the turnaround point at halfway.

On track to break the 2:13:05 course record by more than two minutes. under sunny skies with temperatures climbing to 22C and nearly 80% humidity Kawauchi began to slow incrementally. Behind him, Johnstone Kibet Maiyo (Kenya) and Aredome Tiuyay Degefa (Ethiopia) separated from the chase pack and began to push each other in pursuit of the top spot. With every 5 km split the gap to Kawauchi narrowed. At 40 km Maiyo threw down to get rid of Degefa, blasting the dow…

Kawauchi and Kiyara Headline Wan Jin Shi Marathon

Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) returns to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon this Sunday for his marathon of the post-Yuta Shitara era. The runner-up in Wan Jin Shi in 2016, Kawauchi is ranked #1 in the field and comes to Wan Jin Shi with wins in his last three marathons but faces a solid field including fellow sub-2:10 man Peter Kiplagat Sitenei, last year's runner-up Tsegaye Debele (Ethiopia), and the only man to beat him last time around, 2016 winner and course record holder William Chebon Chebor (Kenya). Kawauchi plans to use the hilly race as a tune-up for his main marathon of the spring season, April's Boston Marathon.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rael Kiyara Nguriatukei (Kenya), winner of the 2012 Hamburg Marathon before being stripped of her title and suspended for a positive post-race test for norandrosterone, has the fastest recent time in the women's field with a 2:26:22 winning time at last year's Chongqing Marathon. Close behind is Chemtai …

1500 m Olympian Assefa Wins Nagoya, 22-Year-Old Sekine 2:23:07 Debut

Two-time 1500 m Olympian Meskerem Assefa (Ethiopia) ran down favorite Valary Jemeli (Kenya) with 4 km to go to win the 2018 Nagoya Women's Marathon, with the home town crowd wowed by the debut of the latest next big thing, 22-year-old Hanami Sekine (Japan Post).

Supported by three pacers, a lead pack of seven including Assefa, Jemeli, Sekine, Ethiopian Bahraini Merima Mohamed, Saitama International Marathon winner Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) and top-ranked Japanese women Reia Iwade (Dome) and Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) went through halfway in a decent 1:11:32. This proved too hot for a few of the past next big things to have run well in Nagoya the last few years, as Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu), 2:22:48 in Nagoya three years ago, and Mao Kiyota (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), 2:23:47 last year, were off the back of the pack in the first 10 km.

By 25 km Cheyech, Ohara and Iwade joined them off the back, leaving only Sekine in contention with the African trio of Jemeli, Assefa and Mohammed. Sekine, a…