Takayuki Inubushi at the 1999 Berlin Marathon (Getty Images) © Copyright

Takayuki Inubushi - a Profile

Takayuki Inubushi, in the Berlin marathon, became the sixth fastest (at the time) marathon runner all-time. In the process he became the Japanese National, and an Asian record holder. In addition - his clocking of 2:06:57 was the fastest non-winning time (since bettered by Moses Tanui in Chicago with 2:06:16) - he also became the fastest marathon runner who has yet to win a marathon race (for those who have run more than one marathon).

He was born on August 11, 1972 in Tokushima prefecture in an island of Shikoku. In his youth, soccer was his sport, and although Seko and Soh brothers were at their prime in the early eighties when Inubushi was growing up, he could not remember being impressed by them. Despite spending most of his time with soccer, he was able to finish 6th at the 1500m in the Japanese national Junior high school championships when he was in 7th grade. A year later, he was 10th. Encouraged by this success without proper training, he decided to join the track team in high school. But his record at the Japanese high school championships is far from spectacular. His best showing was 17th in the 5000m when he was a senior; Nobuyuki Sato, a world marathon bronze medallist was 8th in the same race. On hindsight, it was because his training in the high school was very light compared to his peers. In high school, his running hero was Koichi Morishita. What he liked about Morishita was that he competed well in track (won the 10,000m at the 1990 Asian Games, and was 10th at the 1991 World Championships) and successfully moved up to the marathon (won a silver medal at the 1992 Olympic marathon).

After high school graduation, in 1991, hoping to make an Olympic team in the marathon like his hero Morishita, he joined Otsuka pharmaceutical track team, a local corporate track team which started in 1990. Recalling the time Inubushi joined his team, the head coach Tadasu Kawano (1982 Asian Champion at the 3000m SC) said, "I thought he can make an Olympic team, and I want to help him with that goal. In high school, his training was relatively light, yet he raced well. With proper training, I thought, he could be a top runner in Japan. Like his hero Koichi Morishita, he has an extraordinary ability to concentrate, and it is reflected on the race results; he has ability to race better than his training indicated."

After joining the Otsuka team, his training increased both in quantity and quality, and this was immediately reflected in the results. He improved his 5000m PR from 14:21.9 to 13:56.91 during the first year out of school. In 1992, he placed third in the Beppu half marathon in 1:03:23, and set a course record at Himeji 10 miles (47:02), but soon after he was injured. In 1994, after running a 30Km race in 1:30:29, he felt that he was ready for a marathon. His debut, however, at the Lake Biwa marathon in 1995 (59th place with 2:25:16), was not an auspicious one. Undaunted, he started to train for the second marathon which went extremely well. He did two 50Km runs in addition to periodic 40Km runs, the fastest of which was completed around 2:12. As speed training, he ran in the Japanese corporate track & field championships. In the meet, he was second at the 10000m in 28:40.87 (PR) and won the 5000m in 13:46.74 (PR) the next day. But in the 1995 Fukuoka marathon, which was an Olympic-qualifying race, he injured himself (when he went for the aid station) during the race and dropped out at 30Km. Two years later, again in the Fukuoka marathon, in spite of running very conservatively he still slowed down after half way, and dropped out of the race again.

After three failures at the marathon, he decided to try the 30Km race again. After finishing 3rd at the Ome 30Km in 1:33:41, he went to the Boston marathon with renewed interest in the marathon. Because of his failure in the 1997 Fukuoka marathon while running very conservatively in the second pack, he went out with the lead pack in Boston. Despite the fast early pace, he hung on to the 10th place with 2:13:15. His next marathon was in the 1999 Tokyo marathon. He was hoping to break 2:10, and went out with the leaders passing a half marathon in 1:03:21. But because of the cold he caught just before the race, he hit the wall and could only finish with 2:12:20 for the 7th place. Since his goal of sub 2:10 was not realised in the 1999 Tokyo marathon, he felt that he needed to run another marathon before the Olympic qualifying race. He explains that even if he wins the Olympic-qualifying race, if his PR is only 2:12, he won’t be a serious contender for the Olympic team. He selected the fast Berlin course in hope of cracking the 2:10 barrier. He started training for the marathon in the end of June in Hokkaido. He ran approximately 240Km per week in July and 220Km per week in August. He did six 40Km runs in 2 hours 17-18minutes range during this period (slower than what he did before the 1995 Fukuoka marathon). In addition, he also did slow long distance of 3 hours run and 2 ½ hours run (the distance was shorter than the marathon; he did no 50Km run). As for the speed work, they were mostly 1000m intervals done at 3:00/Km pace (2:06:35 marathon pace). Because of the intense summer heat, these speed works were done at the pace slower than before last February’s Tokyo marathon. But he realized that it was also important to get his body used to the intended marathon pace.

Running with the leader in Berlin and passing the half in 1:03:45, he refrained from chasing Kiprono when he surged at 25Km. At 28Km when the chase pack slowed down, he started to chase Kiprono as if it was an ekiden race, but was not able to catch him. Unlike other marathons, he did not slow down near the end. In fact he ran 14:57 for 35Km to 40Km, and finished with 2:06:57 to break the 13 years old national record time of 2:07:35 by Taisuke Kodama. But since the Berlin marathon was not an Olympic-qualifying race designated by the JAAF, he must run one of the qualifying races to make the Olympic team. He is planning to run the Tokyo marathon next February. He must prove that his 2:06 marathon is not a fluke.

K. Ken Nakamura for IAAF