12 May 2014

on the run ... with yuki kawauchi

he is the toast of japanese popular running culture.  somewhat of an enigmatic competitor, yuki kawauchi is a non-corporate athlete who works a full-time job as a high-school administrator while entering more races than just about any elite-level runner of any nationality or descent.

known as the "citizen runner", yuki has brought his gut-it-out/hold-nothing-back approach to distances from 1500m to 50km in events across the globe.  most recently he placed ninth in the 2014 hamburg marathon to become the first japanese man to clear 2:10 in seven different marathons as well as tying the record for most sub-2:20 marathons (with 34) by a japanese runner.  his PB of 2:08:14 may not threaten the PBs of other world-class elite marathoners, but having achieved the status of folk hero well beyond japan means that he is a hot commodity in the eyes of many race organizers.

as my own personal running hero, it's an honour to have yuki take some time out from his busy 2014 schedule of 25 planned race events to share some stories and reflections with the rendezvoo point.
. . . . .

1.  A lot has been said and written about your schedule as a civil servant, working from 12:45pm-9:45pm.  What advantages do you find by not being a corporate runner? 

(a) Being able to enter as many races as you want to, as frequently as you want to 
(b) I love my job! 
(c) Inspiring people by showing them that you don't need to be a professional runner to succeed in racing 
(d) I can avoid overtraining by only running once per day 
(e) Other 

YK:  "A" - My dream is not only to compete in the Olympics or World Marathon Championships, but also to keep racing for the rest of my life, and to run in races in Japan and all over the world.  This is my biggest motivation to keep training.  I'd also like to choose the races I participate in without being influenced or restricted by sponsors or coaches.  Therefore, I have decided not to belong to any corporate teams.

2.  Many people were excited to have you running in the 2013 New York City Marathon.  Now that you have run two of the World Marathon Major events (Tokyo and New York), what international race would you most like to tackle next? 

(a) The Boston Marathon, because it's a point-to-point net downhill course 
(b) The London Marathon, because the last few years they have had the fastest and most competitive elite fields 
(c) The Berlin Marathon, because that's where the marathon world record is most often broken 
(d) The Paris Marathon, because the field there is competitive and I could finish as top Japanese runner there 
(e) Other 

YK:  "D" - Among the many international races, the race I'd like to be in the most is the Paris Marathon.  Unfortunately, I haven't made it yet because April, the month the Paris Marathon takes place, is the beginning of the Japanese government's fiscal year, and I have always been very busy at this time.  However, I'd like to try to run in the race while my ability is at its best.

The London Marathon is one of the best races in the world as well.  I'm very interested in running in the London Marathon since I couldn't represent Japan at the London Olympics.  I'd love to take part in the London Marathon race as well as the one in Paris.

3.  Racing as often as you do your must have some interesting stories from races - which is your most memorable moment from a race? 

(a) Participating in the World Marathon Championships in Daegu and Moscow 
(b) Having to buy a new plane ticket to get to the 2013 Egyptian Marathon because you'd accidentally forgotten to pack your passport 
(c) Becoming the record holder for shortest time between two sub-2:10 marathons after the races in Fukuoka and Hofu in 2013 
(d) Collapsing from heat exhaustion at the 2011 Okinoshima 50k ultramarathon 
(e) Other 

YK:  "A" - I was very proud of my achievement at the team event in the World Marathon Championships in Daegu, Korea.  It was the proudest moment of my life.  I won't be able to race as a member of a team at this event again, since the team event has been discontinued.  However, I'd like to keep training to be selected for either the Olympics or the World Championships again, but as an individual runner.  The race in Oki in Japan (D) was very memorable as well.  I lost consciousness 300m from the finish line.   It was the only race that I have not finished in my marathon career of over 350 races.  Also, the NYCM was the most exciting and inspiring race in my life.  It was a great competition.

4.  Everyone likes to run a race differently - for me I find that I race best/enjoy it the most when I run: 

(a) With a pacer to keep me on target 
(b) With a large group of Japanese runners because I am familiar with them 
(c) With a large group of Kenyan or Ethiopan runners because they are some of the fastest pack runners 
(d) Out in front on my own 
(e) Other

YK:  "A" and "C" - In order to get the best result, running with a pacer is the best race tactic for me.  However, running with large groups of the fastest pack runners is the most enjoyable type of race for me.

*** for more on yuki kawauchi's accomplishments we recommend following "the kawauchi counter" on brett larner's japan running news blog.

*** many thanks go to brett larner as well as to ichiro ando (of the Saitama Prefectural Government sports division) for establishing a liaison with yuki kawauchi, as well as to yukiko nogawa for translation work.


  1. excellent excellent post Patrick. How in the world can anyone not like this answer... "Unfortunately, I haven't made it yet because April, the month the Paris Marathon takes place, is the beginning of the Japanese government's fiscal year, and I have always been very busy at this time. "....wow.

    thanks for this. He just officially made my "people to meet" bucket list.

    1. thanks stan - you can't imagine how amped i was that he agreed to correspond with me! he is certainly astounding - both in terms of what he's accomplished as a world-class runner but also at his incredible humility and 'earthiness'. if you get to meet him before i do, please make sure to tell him that i'm one of his biggest fans!