By YUKA FUJIWARA
Photo by author
Walking around Komaba Campus, have you ever stopped your feet at the athletic field near the back gate? The University of Tokyo Track and Field (UTTF) club members spend hours on that athletic field devote their time to be stronger and faster for themselves and for the team.
Approximately 160 members belong to UTTF, including myself, which is one of the biggest clubs at UTokyo. We belong to the second league of the Kanto intercollegiate now, practicing hard to be in the top league. Each member belongs to a particular section, which focuses on a particular event, depending on their ability and preference. The sport “track-and-field”, is one word literally, though it contains several events based on human basic movements, running, walking, jumping and throwing.
Established on those skills, UTTF has six sections:
1) Sprinting: 100m, 200m, 400m, hurdles and relays
2) Jumping: Long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault.
3) Throwing: Shot put, discus throw, javelin throw, and hammer throw
4) Race walking: They compete through walking, a movement we cannot live without. The rules on how you walk are very strict. For example, one foot always must be on the ground. A member of the walking section mentions that "it is a very tough event. You need a strong mentality to win."
5) Middle distance running: 800m and 1500m. Karube Satoshi, the chief of UTTF-middle distance claims that 800m is attractive to him because you can compete with people throughout the whole race. “Sprint events are too short, you never move from your lane, and long distances are too long for me,” he says.
6) Long distance running: Those competing in this section run more than 5000m. Ekiden is something that is very special to this part, especially the very famous Hakone Ekiden, which is held every New Year. In October, selected members run 20km at the Hakone-Ekiden qualifying race, which is a qualifying match for the real race. The chance to compete in this event is based on the total time of the ten fastest runners in each university team, and only ten universities ultimately make it to the real race. The aim of UTTF-long distance is to participate in the race. Kondo Shuichi, who was selected to be in the gakurensenbatsu-team (a team for those who ran at a good time, but whose university wasn’t able to make to the top 10) says , “I’m obsessed with Hakone Ekiden, it’s my dream.”
The main activities of UTTF
Practice happens every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (some parts have practices on Sunday, too) at the athletic field in Komaba campus. Though practice schedules are largely decided by the upperclass students, everyone on the team thinks about the purpose of the practice, how to make it better, discuss their opinions and finally come up with a completed practise schedule. The schedule is literally made by the “team”. What to do on non-practice days is completely up to individual members. Karube says coming up with one’s individual schedule is very enjoyable and is a nice feature of UTTF.
Track and Field is a sport marked by individual records
Members endure hard practices to run or walk faster, jump or throw further. To show this they take part in track and field meets. Because these events are about personal bests, one might think it’s all about the individual at UTTF. But this is a big mistake. In the Interscholastic games, we fight for the team.
The Interscholastic games are competed by the total points of each universities and points are given to the high placed athlete’s team. Who will participate in which event is decided by analyzing athletes on other school teams and understanding the strengths of our own team athletes, and is all about strategizing to get most points.
In the middle distance section which I belong to, we think of how to run, what pace to run or how to control the race. Shall we lead the race right from the start, or let other teams lead and take over later? We consider not only the way one can win, but also how to make our teammates win as well. And of course, we never know what will happen on the day, so we need to change our strategy at real time.
Interscholastic games are special for the team. “I get nervous, but I love the match,” says Karube. He went on to say that good records are meaningful because that means his win contributes to the team. And the joy achieved by playing an active part of the team makes him want to run as fast as he can. Indeed, it is all about “all for one, one for all”.
For me, UTTF is my family. I run and wish to become much more competitive because I want to share the joy with them. I can endure hard practices and enjoy running because I’m not alone; UTTF members are with me, cheering me on. Karube states, “If one has something they can devote themselves to other than studying, one’s life will become much richer. I would be happy if that thing is track and field.”