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A top student runner takes on his last Hakone Ekiden!
His goal lies far beyond the Hakone road

Suguru Osako

Just one week remains before the Tokyo-Hakone Round-Trip College Ekiden Race (hereafter referred to as the “Hakone Ekiden”), a New Year’s tradition. Suguru Osako, expected to serve as the ace of the Waseda University Track & Field Club, is one of Japan’s top student runners and has had many remarkable achievements, including contributing to Waseda achieving the ekiden Triple Crown in his first year and later receiving the single stage prize in the Hakone Ekiden two years in a row. As morale in the Track & Field Club rises with the big event just around the corner, Osako’s gaze is focused far beyond the Hakone road. He aims to compete with the world’s top athletes in the 10,000 meter race at the Olympics. Already this year in August Osako appeared in the 10,000 meter event at the World Championships in Athletics in Moscow. Although Osako only placed 21st, his goal at the event was not so much to win as to experience first-hand the difference between his own abilities and those of athletes from around the world. As part of his search for issues as an athlete to tackle going forward, he learned much from this race.

The closing ceremony of the 87th Hakone Ekiden where Waseda achieved the ekiden relay race Triple Crown. Osako (middle row, far left) was awarded the prize for the first stage of the relay. He was still a first year student at this time.

Osako has thus gained experience in world-class events even though he is still a university student. He also frequently trains on his own and in international training camps away from the Track & Field Club. “The abilities of each club member are different and the events we are aiming for also differ, so it might actually be more unnatural for us to do the same training. In my case, I’m setting my sights on winning at track, so I’m doing almost no training for the ekiden. But I’m not worried. I’m confident that as long as I fully follow the training I’ve set for myself, I will also naturally be able to run a good ekiden.” Although the amount of time Osako spends training with other club members is small, Osako says that he wants to give his teammates a good sense of tension and stimulate them by maintaining his distance.

It is natural for a university student to focus on the next upcoming event and rejoice or despair with the results of the race. It is all the more understandable that a student would naturally put their efforts into the famous Hakone Ekiden. Talking with Osako, however, one does not feel a sense of fervor over the event at all. He excels at holding a long-term view, engaging in straightforward training each day, and looking at things from an objective perspective. In other words, he thinks for himself, acts accordingly, and takes responsibility for it. Although these may be essential for success as a runner, Osako gives the impression of being a head above other athletes his age. Perhaps it is his natural disposition. “No, no, that’s not it at all; it’s just that I’ve used what I was given in high school. However, the independence of each member is stressed in the Track & Field Club, so it’s important to think things through and take on challenges yourself. I think this is the part of me which has changed the most since I entered Waseda.”

At his last Hakone Ekiden, Osako will bear a heavy responsibility as the captain in charge of one of the school teams which has traditionally lead the event. The team’s only goal is victory. “Some of the team members have trained for four years just for the Hakone Ekiden. Although the goal is different, that seriousness of intention is no different from my own. Because there is a possibility that we could lose the race due to a failure on my part, I want to run my best more than anything. I will pass on the baton for the team that has supported me.” After graduation Osako will enter the Nisshin Foods Group, a corporate sponsored veteran track team. He will give his all at Hakone as a parting gift and then run the road to the Rio 2016 Olympics at full strength.

At the 97th All Japan Championship 10,000 meters event, Osako took second and earned a ticket to the World Championships in Athletics in Moscow.

Running at a training camp. Looking rather more relaxed than during a race.

For Osako, who spends much of his training alone, coordination training with other relay team members is an enjoyable experience.

Photo credit: Waseda University Track & Field Club


Suguru Osako
Four Year, School of Sport Sciences

Originally from Tokyo, Suguru Osako graduated from Saku Chosei Senior High School. He began track and field in junior high school, with his abilities suddenly flowering in high school. Since that time he has set a record for the fastest 10,000 meters by a student in Japan and also participated in the World Championships in Athletics in 2013. He is attracting attentions as a new star in athletics.