2 November 2000 - Two Japanese men - Koji Shimizu and Yasuaki Yamamoto - will be running in the New York City Marathon this coming Sunday.
Like many of the runners of his generation, Koji Shimizu (born on Oct 17, 1969) started running in junior high school with a hope of emulating a national hero, Toshihiko Seko. A mediocre runner during his junior high school (3000m PR 9:48), and high school (1500m PR 4:01.8, and 5000m PR 15:00.3) he never competed in the Japanese high school championships. At Daito Bunka University, he showed his talent in road races, winning a 30Km road race (1:32:59) in his senior year. He also ran a prestigious Hakone Ekiden - ten stages two day ekiden race covering more than 200Km - in his senior year, where he ran the most prestigious stage two (23.00Km) in 1:11:06.
He finished 2nd in the Ome 30Km in 1993 and 4th in the 1993 Japanese corporate half marathon championships. It was natural for him to move up to the marathon, which he did in 1993. However, his marathon debut in the 1993 Amsterdam marathon was not a successful one. Moreover, after his marathon debut, he was plagued with injury, and had to wait until 1997 to attempt his second marathon; but it was a spectacular breakthrough. He won the 1997 Tokyo marathon in 2:10:09.
Selected to represent Japan in the World Championships in Athens, he over trained in the training camp before Athens and finished a dismal 58th. Undaunted, in the following spring he ran his first sub 2:10 marathon (2:09:57) in the Lake Biwa marathon. Although he could not follow it up with a good result in the 1998 Chicago marathon, in the 1999 Tokyo marathon he again improved his PR to 2:09:00 and was selected for the 1999 World Championships team.
Learning from his failure to perform to his potential in abroad, before the World Championships he claimed that he had finally figured out what he was doing wrong in those races abroad. He proved his point in Sevilla at the World Championships. In spite of falling at 15Km and hitting the pavement hard, he finished a respectable 7th.
With making an Olympic marathon team in mind, Shimizu ran in the 2000 Tokyo marathon in February. He was in contention until 33Km, but a side stitch at the crucial moment of the race slowed him down. He placed 8th with 2:10:41 and missed making the Olympic team. In April of 2000, Koji Shimizu married Midori Fumoto, a 2:27 marathon runner. They share a dream of making the World Championships marathon.
Complete Marathon record of Koji Shimizu
2:20:00 Amsterdam 6th Sept 26, 1993
2:10:09 Tokyo 1st Feb 9, 1997
2:37:11 Athens (WC) 58th Aug 10, 1997
2:09:57 Lake Biwa 3rd Mar 1, 1998
2:19:58 Chicago 23rd Oct 11, 1998
2:09:00 Tokyo 3rd Feb 14, 1999
2:15:50 Sevilla (WC) 7th Aug 28, 1999
2:10:41 Tokyo 8th Feb 13, 2000
Unlike Shimizu, Yasuaki Yamamoto (born on Aug 5, 1972) was a precocious talent, having run 4:05.07 for the 1500m and 8:44.17 for the 3000m in 1987 while he was in junior high school. He became the sixth best performer in the all-time Japanese junior high school list in both events. However, injury upset his training during his high school days, and he could not even run in the final of the national high school championships.
Although he continued to run in Tsukuba University, he soon dropped out of sight. However, he continued to run road races and eventually ventured into the marathon. He ran many mass marathons (as opposed to elite marathons like Tokyo and Fukuoka), but his personal best was only 2:20:55 (in 1996).
Although he recorded good half marathon performance (1:03:53 in 1996 Tokyo half marathon) the real breakthrough came after he joined Eidan subway track team in 1997 when Naganuma, Tsukuba graduate started to coach him. Less than year after joining the Eidan team in the 1998 Tokyo marathon, in the tenth marathon of his career, he finished 8th in 2:12:51.
Since 1997 he has been a very consistent marathon runner and improved his PR in three of his next four marathons culminating with 2:10:44 in the 2000 Lade Biwa marathon.
Yasuaki Yamamotos marathon record since his
2:12:51 8th Tokyo Feb 8, 1998
2:11:24 10th Fukuoka Dec 6, 1998
2:11:13 10th London Apr 18, 1999
2:12:45 13th Fukuoka Dec 5, 1999
2:10:44 6th Lake Biwa Mar 5, 2000