5 nonagenarians break their own world records in 2 relay events

HIROSAKI, Aomori Prefecture — Mitsuzo Mitsuya and his four teammates, all in their 90s, are not ready for retirement after breaking their own world records in two relays.

They set records in the 4×100 meter and 4×400 meter races for men aged 90 to 94 at the Aomori Masters Athletics Championship held here on September 19.

The five athletes, who reside in Aomori Prefecture, aim to one day compete in the 95-99 age group.

“We will definitely stay alive and set an unprecedented record together,” said Mitsuya, 91, who lives in Ajigasawa in the prefecture.

His teammates are Yuzo Kudo, 94, and Matashiro Tsuruga, 93, both from Goshogawara; Hiroo Tanaka, 91, from Aomori; and Nobuo Miura, 90, of Hirosaki.

They come from different backgrounds, including a sprinter who started running as a hobby after retirement and an amateur marathon runner.

Nonagenarians usually train where they live and only meet to practice relay exchanges twice before a meet. Yet they can pass the baton smoothly.

Tsuruga, Kudo, Miura and Tanaka won the 4×100 meters event in 1 minute and 33.52 seconds, bettering the record set in 2021 by 10 seconds.

Miura, a sprinter who joined the team earlier this year, has helped improve the team’s speed. Mitsuya ran the rematch last year.

Third runner Mitsuzo Mitsuya, right, takes over from second runner Yuzo Kudo in a 4×400 meters relay event at the Aomori Masters Athletics Championship in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture on September 19. (Kohei Watanabe)

Tsuruga, Kudo, Mitsuya and Tanaka finished the 4×400 meters event in 9 minutes and 23.29 seconds, slashing 33 seconds from the record set last year when the team competed with the same formation.

Each of the foursome said they made sure they took it easy in the first half and were strong in the second half to set new records.

“It’s good. I got off to the best start of my life,” said first runner Tsuruga.

Miura said, “I did my best. I can only say that it was a miracle to set a new record.

Kudo said modestly, “It’s just another day,” but he was smiling and forming a circle with his hands.

Tanaka said he hopes the five can be role models for other seniors.

“It will be satisfying if we can inspire others to persevere, showing how we run,” he said.