Meet Ken Nakayama
Chuo University fourth-year Ken Nakayama is working Sunday’s United Airlines NYC Half Marathon, the 8th yr that the New York Road Runners have invited peak Japanese college males from November’s Ageo City Half Marathon to run their part. You would possibly have noticed his coaching spouse Kensuke Horio end fifth within the Tokyo Marathon in his debut a few weeks in the past. Nakayama is likely one of the very peak graduating seniors in Japan this yr, however his path to that stage has been probably the most unconventional.
Japanese distance working is extremely systematically arranged, with peak top faculties feeding into peak universities the place the most productive runners will run the Hakone Ekiden and get recruited to peak company groups after which pass directly to develop into the rustic’s peak marathoners. Scouting on the college stage is intense, and for probably the most phase it is beautiful transparent early on in highschool who the cream of the crop are going to be.
Nakayama was once no person in highschool. He performed football in junior top, however heading into highschool, he stated, “I realized I didn’t have any talent.” Attending the native Ina Gakuen H.S. in Saitama, he ended up becoming a member of the monitor staff for enjoyment. Late in his senior yr he ran 15:08.11 for 5000 m, his first time breaking 15:10. For comparability, the megastar Hakone runners are guys who beautiful generally ran below 14 mins in highschool, with the rank-and-file staff participants having been below 14:15 or below 14:30 at weaker methods.
Attracting 0 passion from any college scouts, Nakayama opted to wait Chuo University, one of the vital oldest Hakone powerhouses, for its teachers. He walked directly to Chuo’s ekiden staff, no longer particularly abnormal however nearly unheard-of for a top-tier runner, and nearly instantly were given injured. In November of his first yr the staff had a time trial at which someone who did not smash 15 mins would get lower. Nakayama ran 14:58. Three months later he ran his first part marathon, clocking 1:07:14.
Nakayama spent his complete 2nd yr coaching, fending off accidents however no longer making Chuo’s beginning staff for any of the Big Three college ekidens. He took his part marathon PB down to at least one:04:12, however the larger step forward got here his 3rd yr. In October that yr he ran 59:36 for 20 km on the Hakone Ekiden qualifier, the similar of a 1:02:53 part marathon. Every week later he ran 13:53.07 for 5000 m. In January he made his ekiden debut at Hakone, completing sixth at the extremely aggressive Third Stage in 1:03:42 for 21.five km, similar to a 1:02:31 part marathon. A month later he did it for actual with a 1:02:30 on the Marugame Half Marathon.
Those performances put him within the very best bracket of college ability, and taking into account his background his tale was once already a excellent one. But when he ran 28:22.59 a month into his senior yr it was once transparent that it was once extra than simply excellent. At Ageo in November he completed second in a college report 1:01:32, the Eighth-fastest mark ever via a Japanese collegiate guy, to earn his invitation to New York. At Hakone he led off for Chuo, pushing protecting degree winner Kazuya Nishiyama of Toyo University the entire manner simplest to complete 1 2nd at the back of in second, his 1:02:36 for the 21.three km degree equating to a 1:02:01 part marathon.
That more or less development, beginning his 4 years of college as a walk-on with occasions slower than most colleges’ staff managers and finishing as one of the vital all-time absolute best Japanese collegians, is beautiful neatly remarkable, a mark of each the latent ability he had all alongside and the abilities of Chuo trainer Masakazu Fujiwara. Sunday’s United Airlines NYC Half will likely be Nakayama’s 2nd time racing outdoor Japan. Following the race he heads house for his commencement rite, and then he’s going to sign up for the Honda company staff along part marathon nationwide report holder Yuta Shitara.
“My first year at Honda I want to focus on the 10000 m and breaking 28 minutes, plus the New Year Ekiden,” he stated. “I want to run my first marathon about a year from now, but it depends whether they let me.” Going via PB and up to date efficiency he is ranked within the peak 5 within the NYC box, however without reference to how he does in his ultimate run within the Chuo uniform his outsider background, his unbelievable development and his attainable for extra marks Nakayama as probably the most thrilling runners for Japan post-Tokyo 2020.