Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) became an international name when he finished 3rd at February's Tokyo Marathon, qualifying for the Daegu World Championships marathon with a time of 2:08:37 which made him the top man on the Japanese team despite an existence completely outside the corporate running leagues. At the recent Nittai Time Trials meet Kawauchi ran his last track race of the season before getting into the brunt of his marathon training, running 14:10.32 for 7th in the 5000 m in the midst of a typhoon. Before the race Kawauchi sat down with JRN to talk about his planned World Championships preparations. First up on his schedule is the Okinoshima 50 km ultramarathon this Sunday, June 19.
After Tokyo you said that you need to improve your race between 30 and 35 km. At the press conference announcing the World Championships team you indicated that you are planning to run a 50 km ultra in June. Are you doing the 50 km in order to work on your stamina after 30 km?
No, it's just to try a completely different distance, something I've never done before. Oki, the island in Shimane where the ultra is, has a lot of hills. Some of them on the course are 200 or 300 m high. I think if I try something harder than a marathon then the marathon will become more comfortable. It's not a certified course, but it's a 50 km, at any rate.
That's an unusual choice. Athletes your level don't usually run ultras.
That's true, but you can't get faster if you don't try new things that other people haven't tried. In that respect I think I should do whatever it seems to me like I should do.
It's only two months or so before the World Championships. Are you going to be racing it or doing it as a training run?
No, it's just for practice, not a serious race effort! (laughs) More than a race I'm looking at it as a pace run. Instead of doing my usual 43 km training run in Komazawa Park I'm doing it on an island. My time probably won't be very good, but rather than a time goal I'm looking to cover the whole 50 km distance running solidly. It'll give me confidence, and when it gets tough in the marathon, if I compare it with the 50 km it will seem easier. I think it's vitally important to get that experience.
The World Championships will be your third race outside Japan. Both of your previous races, your win at the New Caledonia Half Marathon and your course record at the Guam Half Marathon, were in relatively hot places. I read somewhere recently that you said you think you are weak in the heat.
That's right. Last summer I had problems running in the heat and my condition kind of broke down for a while. I talked to a lot of people for advice but just kept feeling terrible and was only running about 100 km a week. I stopped working with my coach from university and really thought about taking some time off. I had a lot of problems. But, I went and did a lot of trail running up in the mountains and got a good base back together.
So, yes, I'm not that strong in the heat, but I think the problem last year was that I was doing all my running in the heat. This year I'm planning to travel on weekends to do more training in cooler places. The World Championships marathon is just one run, so I think I can cope with it. Humans are capable of doing the impossible if they focus on one particular moment, but they can't do it every day. I think you can run beyond your ability if you really concentrate on that one run.
Wanjiru and Kirui won the Beijing Olympics and Berlin World Championships in 2:06. I don't think the Ethiopian team for Daegu has been announced yet, but the Kenyan team is solid gold, all top guys. Looking at a team like that, do you feel confident in your own running?
I think I can run a competitive race. A medal might not be feasible even if I give it 100%, but if you look at top six, top eight, the performances fall off. I think it's completely realistic to believe I can get in at that level.
Since Tokyo you've gotten financial support from the federation to help with your training for the World Championships. Are you doing anything differently?
No, my training and my work haven't changed at all. Economically it's a little easier to manage thanks to the money from the federation. Well, a lot easier, actually (laughs). But apart from that I don't really want to change anything. At the Gifu Half Marathon I talked to Naoko Takahashi and she told me that the most important thing is just to stay calm, not get carried away, and take things at my own speed.
At the World Championships team lineup announcement press conference you talked a little about your summer training plans. Can you say anything more about them?
I'll be doing a training camp at Mount Zao in Yamagata. I'm also doing a lot of races as training runs. In Hokkaido, apart from the Sapporo International Half Marathon [July 3] I've also entered the Shibetsu Half Marathon [July 24] and the Kushiro 30 km [July 31]. Apart from that, like I said on the weekends I'll be going places where the temperatures are cooler for training and some other races. That's different from last year. Last summer every weekend I ran in hot Komazawa Park and it really took a toll on me. As I said, this time I want to build up a good distance base running in cooler places.
Are you taking time off work for the Yamagata training camp?
I'm trying not to miss any work. There's a long weekend in July, a national holiday, so I'm taking a paid vacation day on the Friday so that I can have four days in Yamagata.
(c) 2011 Brett Larner
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