Japanese marathoner Arata Fujiwara owes a lot to his friend and pace setter.
“Without him, I would not have been in the Olympics,” said Fujiwara, 30, who has his sights set on a strong finish in the Olympic men’s marathon on Aug. 12.
He hopes to be among the top eight who cross the line, but clearly has his eyes set on gold.
Fujiwara is a rarity in this event as he does not belong to a corporate team and coaches himself. Yet, he has a personal best time of 2 hours 7 minutes and 48 seconds.
Hiroshi Domon, the pace setter, is a 45-year-old sports shop owner in Tokyo.
He has been accompanying Fujiwara’s training by riding his road racing bicycle, carrying a speed meter and wearing a GPS global positioning system-equipped watch.
The two friends were reunited at a Tokyo restaurant last October after a long hiatus.
Domon had found Fujiwara’s page on the Facebook social networking service site and invited him to dinner.
Over “unadon” (broiled eel rice bowl), Domon listened to Fujiwara’s tale of woe for two hours.
Fujiwara confided that he was not paid a salary from the company with which he had made a contract after quitting a corporate team and that he had been coaching himself and training alone.
“I was angry that he did not have a proper environment to win and achieve his goal, despite his great potential to win a medal,” Domon said.
Domon volunteered to accompany him and keep time while pedaling a bicycle.
Watching a speed meter, Domon keeps time precisely.
Fujiwara calls him “the god of pace setting.”
Domon even accompanied Fujiwara at his own expense when he trained overseas.
“Our shared dream is becoming a reality,” Domon said. “I am grateful that I have had experience money cannot buy.”
The runner and the pace setter ate “unadon” for dinner in early July, before leaving for overseas for a last spurt of training ahead of the Olympics.
Now, the two friends are back to square one, recalling where they started running together for the same goal.
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