Having run in Daegu in 2011 and Moscow in 2013 this will be Kawauchi's third time at the World Championships. In both of his previous appearances he was 18th. For the last four months he has trained seriously, doing over 600 km a month and going over 700 km in July. His final preparations have gone well. Kawauchi trained in Nikko up until the day before departure, running his best times ever there. "My racing, training and times are all better than for Moscow," he said. His sunburned and somewhat weathered face testified to the truth of his words.
Now 30, Kawauchi faces this marathon with unprecedented determination. "The marathon transcends like or dislike. It is my life. If I didn't run marathons it would be the same as dying. What I live for is the marathon, and as long as I am alive, that's what I'm going to do." The starting gun for the biggest race of his life goes off Aug. 6.
【#世界選手権 ロンドンに出発します！】— JAAF（日本陸上競技連盟） (@jaaf_official) July 30, 2017
応援よろしくお願いします！#陸上 #サンライズレッド #jaaf #世界陸上https://t.co/2QwAVEkqX3 pic.twitter.com/aD7QxAM9X9
Official pre-departure comments from Japanese men's marathon team
Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - qualifying race: 2:09:11 (3rd, Fukuoka Int'l 2016) / PB: 2:08:14 (4th, Seoul 2013)Now that the day of departure has arrived it feels like it was a long time coming. It feels like it's almost time to do battle in London. I've felt all along that I want to bring everything that I've learned and achieved into play in London, and all of my preparations have been geared toward that. Right now everything feels extremely good. I want to keep that feeling right up until the race, and in the end I want to be able to smile and say, "I did it, I gave it all for Japan," when I return home.
In terms of a time goal, as I've said all along, I haven't set one. I think that the race will get faster and slower in its natural flow, and what's more important than the final time is the finishing place. A medal, somehow.....If all three of perform as a team at a level where we're running for top eight then there is a very good chance one of us will be up in the medals. As the Japanese team we intend for all three of us to be top eight, and as I am one of those three myself I have to perform seriously.
In both of my previous World Championships I blew it by falling too far behind in the first half. This time I want to completely avoid wasting energy responding to surges up front, at least through halfway. I hope to keep things relaxed and hit halfway with energy to spare, and after halfway depending on the way the race has shaped up I want to take some initiative so that it doesn't come down to a race over the last 2 or 3 km.
Hiroto Inoue (MHPS) - qualifying race / PB: 2:08:22 (8th, Tokyo 2017)After the Tokyo Marathon I had a little time to take it slow, and from there it's been pretty much business as usual, just straightforwardly training toward London. I was especially aware on the ups and downs on the London course and hard road surfaces, so I've focused on strengthening my legs to handle that. In terms of my condition I'd say I'm pretty much at 100%. The training is done, so I think the most important thing now is just to get myself on the starting line in the best shape mentally and emotionally.
This is the first time I've gotten to wear the Rising Sun uniform and team suit, and standing here now wearing the suit it reaffirms to me that I'm a representative of Japan, and that raises the tension. But more than that there's a feeling of curiosity, of, "What's it going to feel like to be [at the World Championships]." Watching it on TV and actually experiencing it are probably totally different. I'm really excited to feel it for myself and can't wait.
The other two guys I'll be running with have experience and achievements that I don't. I want to learn everything I can from them about how to spend the last days before the race and whatnot and emulate them where I can. On race day they'll be my teammates, but also my rivals, and I have no intention of being beaten. I'm ready to take them on. This time I'm thinking about place more than time. If I go for a medal or even top eight then I think the time will come with it. To medal or made top eight you'll probably need to go sub-2:10 or even 2:08 in a summer race. I want to make that happen.
Kentaro Nakamoto (Yasukawa Denki) - qualifying race: 2:09:32 (1st, Beppu-Oita 2017) / PB: 2:08:35 (2nd, Beppu-Oita 2013)I'm very, very happy to have made it back to the World Championships for the first time in four years. At the same time as a representative of Japan there's a lot of pressure, so even as I enjoy myself I want to run a serious race in London. I haven't set a clear time goal for this race, instead focusing on running in a way that will get me inside the top eight. I plan on the upper end of that range. [After finishing 6th at the London Olympics and 5th at the Moscow World Championships] there's a lot of expectation that I'll deliver results like in the past. I think that being here as a national representative means I have to do even better.
This is the third time I've run the World Championships together with Kawauchi. Having him around gives me peace of mind. [laughs] The media jumps all over whatever he says. I'm not very good at speaking, so in that sense the fact that he's here really saves me. Inoue is young but he's a solid athlete. I think he's going to be one of the leaders of the next generation of Japanese marathoning and I hope that he makes good use of what he learns from this experience.
Comparing my training this time to before Moscow I've held back on speedwork a bit, but I haven't had any injuries for over a year and have been doing solid training without any interruption, so I can take confidence from that and stand on the starting line knowing that I'm in perfect condition.
translated and edited by Brett Larner
photo © 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved