Skip to main content

Jobu University's Five-Year Road From Zero to Hakone Began With a Single Email Message

http://mainichi.jp/area/gunma/news/20081113ddlk10050045000c.html

translated by Mika Tokairin and Brett Larner

"I want to nurture athletes who can compete on the national level." --Jobu University Head Coach Katsuhiko Hanada
In qualifying for the ultimate stage in university distance running, the Hakone Ekiden, Jobu University's ekiden team, the first from Gunma Prefecture to make Hakone, has become an inspiration for high school and junior high school distance runners who hope to make it to the national level. This incredible achievement, coming less than five years since the team's establishment in 2004, is due to the leadership provided by head coach Katsuhiko Hanada (37) and to the dedication of Jobu's athletes. "I want to nurture athletes who can compete in the top class of national races," says Hanada. His team shares this dream.

"Would you coach us?"

In 2004, Daisuke Ono (24), the first captain of Jobu's ekiden team, send an email to Hanada, a message which was the beginning point for everything to come. Coach Hanada had been a member of Waseda University's Hakone Ekiden winning team during his student days, afterwards going on to the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics in the long-distance track events. He retired in 2004 and began looking for a way to become a coach. Around this time, he received a simple, honest, email message from Ono, saying, "I want to run the Hakone Ekiden. Would you coach us?"

Although Hanada initially said no, his mentor, legendary marathoner Toshihiko Seko, pushed him to accept, telling Hanada, "Nothing is impossible if your students want it, you are motivated, and there is support from the school." Hanada listened to Seko's advice and accepted the position at Jobu.

Initially Hanada had problems gathering enough good runners. "Even if runners didn't have great achievements at the national level in high school, if I felt that they had the right enthusiasm I took them on," he recalls. "By treating their first two years as a base-building period, we can nurture runners who will be very strong in their third and fourth years."

At the Oct. 18 Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai [qualifying road race], Jobu finished 3rd, defeating two of the top teams in the country, Nittai University and 2007 Hakone winners Juntendo University. In their first Hakone Ekiden, Jobu's runners intend to run at or beyond their potential. Team captain Yoshiki Otsuka says, "Our main goal in Hakone is to make the seeded positions [top 10]. We want to show our gratitude to everyone who supported us in getting there."

Its first appearance in Hakone has not even happened yet, but the simple fact of its qualifying has made the school instantly famous throughout Japan. Coach Hanada says, "In the future we hope to be the place the best high school runners in the prefecture will come to move up in the distance running world." Some Jobu runners have already been hired by professional jitsugyodan teams. Senior Yuichi Goto secured a position with Team Komori Corp. in Ibaraki Prefecture, and fellow senior Takahiro Yanagi is going on to Team Sekino Kosan of Toyama Prefecture. Coach Hanada hopes, "These runners will go on from Jobu to the jitsugyodan world, then return to Gunma in the New Year Ekiden."

The 85th Hakone Ekiden takes place Jan. 2-3, starting in Tokyo's Otemachi district, travelling to Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture, then returning to Otemachi. For the first time, Gunma's runners will share the Hakone Ekiden's legendary roads.

Translator's note: Jobu's qualification for Hakone and the incredible depth it showed at the Yosenkai, where its top ten runners finished the 20 km race within 40 seconds of each other with another two runners just seconds behind, are one of the most fascinating developments in recent Hakone Ekiden history. A finish within the top ten seeded positions would make the school worthy of portrayal in a classic American sports team movie.

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Breaking Down the Best-Ever Japanese Marathon Times By Country

Japanese marathoners these days have the reputation of rarely racing abroad, and of rarely racing well when they do. Back in the day that wasn't true; Japanese marathoners have won all the World Marathon Majors-to-be except New York, and two of the three Japanese men to have run 2:06 and all three women to have run 2:19 did it outside Japan. Whatever the extent to which things did turn inward along the way, the last few years have seen an uptick in Japanese runners going farther afield and running better there than any others before them.

The lists above and below show the fastest times run by Japanese athletes in different countries to 2:20:00 for men and 2:45:00 for women. Japanese men have run sub-2:20 marathons in 37 countries around the world including Japan, with Japanese women having cleared 2:45 in 33 countries including at home. Breaking it down by IAAF label times, more Japanese men have run label standard times abroad, but women have typically performed at a higher label…

Kariuki Cracks Course Record at 30th Anniversary Ageo City Half Marathon

2017 Kanto Regionals 10000 m and half marathon D2 champion Simon Kariuki (Nihon Yakka Univ.)  overcame windy conditions at the 30th edition of the Ageo City Half Marathon to shave one second off the course record, winning in a PB 1:01:25.

Kariuki and 2017 Kanto Regionals D1 5000 m and 10000 m champ Patrick Mathenge Wambui (Nihon Univ.) took it out in the first km, setting up a fascinating duel between Kanto's top two collegiate men on the track.


Led by Hayato Seki, star runner of this year's Izumo Ekiden champ Tokai University in his half marathon debut, the main body of the Japanese pack gradually relinquished the lead to the Kenyan pair, down 50 seconds by 10 km and continuing to drift back from then. Ageo has typically seen its lead Japanese collegiate men running between high-61 and mid-62, but nobody in the field seemed willing to go ahead of Seki and the runner on his shoulder, 2017 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Kei Katanishi (Komazawa Univ.).


Near …

Daniel and Kawauchi Win Saitama International Marathon

After missing a medal by 3 seconds at August's London World Championships, defending champ Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) made it two in a row as she won a tight battle against Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) to win the Saitama International Marathon in 2:28:39.

With the onus on Japanese women Reia Iwada (Dome) and Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) to break 2:29:00 in order to qualify for Japan's new-format 2020 Olympic trials race, the pair of them did most of the heavy lifting for the first two-thirds of the race. Yoshida led the early kilometers before Iwade took over, and through strong head and tailwinds, over rolling hills and around sharp turns Iwade kept things moving just under target pace, shaking the pack down to just her, Daniel, Habtegebrel and relative unknown Bekelech Daba (Ethiopia) by 15 km.

Little changed up front until after the lead group hit the start of the hilliest 10 km on the course after 25 km. For the first time Iwade slipped to the rear of the pack, and on a …