He had a coveted spot as a runner for a corporate team, but celebrated Japanese marathoner Arata Fujiwara had bigger dreams.
So a few months ago, the 28-year-old made an unprecedented move that created a buzz in his native Japan. Because the time constraints of competing on a corporate team prevent many athletes from racing overseas, he gave up his spot to race internationally, becoming the first Japanese male marathoner to do so.
“My goal as a marathon runner is to be successful internationally,” Fujiwara told Metro through his agent and translator Brett Larner.
On Sunday, the elite athlete takes the first big step towards that goal as he competes in the Ottawa Marathon.
One of the top contenders for the marathon win, Fujiwara is also aiming to break the record of 2:08:32 for the fastest marathon run on Canadian soil.
Fujiwara, who arrived in Canada for the first time earlier this week, ran a personal best of 2:08:40 at the 2008 Tokyo Marathon. He placed second again at the Tokyo Marathon this year despite freezing rain, heavy winds and snow.
One of several elite athletes invited to Ottawa Race Weekend by elite athlete co-ordinator Manny Rodrigues, Fujiwara will be up against four-time Ottawa winner Kenyan David Cheriuyot, Ethiopians Bazu Worku and Teferi Wodajo, Kenyan Philip Manyim and Canadian Danny Kassap.
“We have a fabulous field of athletes this year,” said Rodrigues. “We’ve scaled it down, but the quality is a lot higher, particularly in the men’s marathon. We have a phenomenal, world-class field that should see us set a new Canadian soil record if the weather holds out well.”