translated and edited by Brett Larner
Having won the January 2-3 Hakone Ekiden with an unprecedented “double triple,” victories at all three Big Three University Ekidens in a single season and three-straight Hakone titles, Aoyama Gakuin University’s marathon training camp featuring under-20 marathon national record holder Yuta Shimoda (2:11:34, age 19) wrapped up Jan. 15 with a full marathon-length run in Futtsu, Chiba.
The 42.195 km run was the last workout on the schedule of the three day, two night training camp. Two days earlier on the 13th the camp’s participants ran 32.195 km, a tough schedule coming just two weeks after Hakone. Shimoda ran the first 40 km of the final workout in 2:21:18, roughly 3:32 per km, before accelerating to 2:52 per km for the final 2.195 km. His total time for the run was 2:27:35.
Aoyama Gakuin head coach Susumu Hara views the key to success as the last 2.195 km of the race. Both of the training camp’s main workouts, Friday’s 32.195 km run and Sunday’s 42.195 km run, were centered around picking up the pace to under 2:55 per km after running conservatively for the first part of the run. “It is critical to get your mind and body used to running one gear faster after 40 km,” said Hara. “That was the main purpose of this camp, to prime the mind and body to be ready to go for the last 2.195 km. It was excellent training.”
Along with Shimoda, other Aoyama Gakuin runners who did the 42.195 km included third-year Yuki Nakamura who is training for the Feb. 26 Tokyo Marathon along with Shimoda, and third-year Shunpei Oda, who will run the Mar. 5 Shizuoka Marathon. Joining the Aoyama Gakuin trio, independent runner Aritaka Kajiwara, 28, who ran Hakone all four years at Shoin University as part of the Kanto Region Select Team, also completed the camp. Star Aoyama Gakuin fourth-year Tadashi Isshiki, training for the Mar. 5 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, developed a sore throat after the 32.195 km session and sat out the main workout. “It’ll take three or four days to fully recover,” he said. “Once I’m healthy again we’ll pick up where I left off.”
Having targeted the Hakone “double triple” as a thank-you to the country’s ekiden fans, Hara views Aoyama Gakuin’s pursuit of the marathon as an extension of that mission. “We want to deliver results that will show our gratitude to marathon fans as well,” said Hara. “Our goal is to raise the level of Team Japan’s results in the buildup to the Tokyo Olympics.” A long surge may be Japanese athletes’ best hope at competing seriously with overseas runners, but Hara hopes to bring out the speed needed to stand on equal ground with foreign athletes with kicks of their own. “Our rivals are Kenya and Ethiopia,” he said.