Elite Athletes Stories in the Chicago Marathon
Three elite athletes and seven wheelchair elite athletes from Japan participated in the 40th Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 8. The 10 Japanese elites were among 44,000 participants from 140 countries.
The wheelchair athletes started at 7:20 a.m., then marathon
elites started at 7:30 a.m. A little after all runners started, wheelchair
athletes began to cross the finish line.
About 50 minutes after most wheelchair athletes finished
the race, American marathon runner Galen Rupp first crossed the finish
line with the time of 2:09:20. An American runner won the race for the
first time in 15 years.
Kohei Matsumura (30) finished in eighth place in 2014
Tokyo marathon with the time of 2:08:09. He was expected to have the potential
to compete with the best athletes in Chicago. “I was in the lead group,
and the race pace was slow at first, so I was ready to speed up,” he said.
When Matsumura came near the 30-kilometer point, Miyawaki came up behind him, so the two could run together for a while. “The lead group didn’t increase speed, so I ran with Miyawaki. It was a good relief for me,” he said.
Matsumura expected to finish the race around 2 hours and 10-something minutes. If he didn’t trip over, he might have been able to clear his goal. He said, “Although Chicago’s course had many turns and rough surface, I have to have more room to breathe. Chicago’s experience will help me at the next race.”
Chihiro Miyawaki (26) had his best record of 2:11:50 at 2014 Tokyo marathon. Chicago was his third challenge to participate in full marathon. “At first, the race speed was slow, so my body got accustomed to the slow pace. When the lead group increased its speed later, I couldn’t follow them. I wish the race speed could be faster from the beginning,” he said. “If I make a race pace, I need a regular record of 2 hours and seven or eight minutes; otherwise, it is impossible to do that,” he added.
Participating in Chicago Marathon for the second time
is Ryoichi Matsu (26). Although he was 18th place, which was four points
behind last year’s, he ran 3 minutes faster than a year ago.
The three Japanese elites belong to different teams in Japan. Matsuo said, “It’s a rare opportunity to talk with other athletes from different teams, and I heard that Mr. Matsumura trained himself very hard and always repeated basics. I was inspired by him and was going to run more and train myself to win the next race.”
Interview with Wheelchair Athletes
Sho Watanabe participated in Chicago Marathon for the first time and grabbed the fourth place.
Q: How was the race today?
Watanabe: My condition was not perfect, I couldn’t be aggressive enough, and ran for the goal with patience. At last I used my weapon of sprint, so I was the third place in the second group. Marcel was way ahead of us.
Q: Is it difficult to compete when you are in a group?
Watanabe: There is a difficulty, but air resistance greatly affects us. So if you put yourself at the end of the group, you can take advantage of it.
Q: How was the course of Chicago?
Q: Did you have strategies to win?
Watanabe: Everybody uses strategies in a race. After we start, we usually form a horizontal group. When someone speeds up, we line up in a row. In this occasion, everybody is resting, then someone speeds up, and others compete in a row.
Q: How did you start to wheelchair race?
Watanabe: Mr. Hokinoue recommended it me five years ago.
Q: What did happen to your legs?
Watanabe: Car accident. It happened in January, 2011.
Q: How did you overcome your situation? It must have been a great shock to you.
Watanabe: I believed that my legs would be cured, so
I didn’t worry about it, but I was informed that my legs couldn’t be cured.
Yes, I felt a great shock at that time.
Q: How was today’s race?
Hokinoue: I was the worst place among Japanese athletes. Before Chicago, I competed in a race in Berlin, then participated in training at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and joined a 10-kirometer road race in Ottawa on October 5, three days before Chicago Marathon. I think that I’ve been exhausted from those races.
Q: What does training at Champaign look like?
Hokinoue: Wheelchair athletic sports such as basketball are very active there. There are many strong athletes, and we can practice with them.
Q: How did you start to wheelchair race?
Hokinoue: I was in a hospital for long time after a motorbike accident. I wanted to do exercise, so I played tennis and basketball at first. One day, my friend invited me to a wheelchair race, then I was attracted to it. Speed, strategies, power, everything was attractive to me.
Q: How long have you been doing wheelchair races?
Hokinoue: 15 years. I had accident in 2000 and started racing in 2002.
Q: How did you overcome your life changing accident?
Hokinoue: Well… I was working hard on my job, but I had
to quit it. It was a hard time for me, but I encountered this race, and
it gave me a dream and goal. I think that my life has become more meaningful
than before I had the accident. So I greatly appreciate this race.
Q: Thank you very much.