"I Want to Send a Message" - Tsutomu Nagata to Make European Debut at This Weekend's 100 Meilen Berlin
In the fall of 2010 Tsutomu Nagata was in his mid-20's, a nearly-elite runner who had done 14:16 and 29:44 on the track before leaving the Self-Defense Forces team to join the ranks of the world's countless full-time working amateur runners. On November 28, 2010, he raced the Tsukuba Marathon, running down four people in the last 5 km to take 3rd in a PB 2:27:36. Nine days later Nagata's right arm was caught in the conveyor belt of a can-pressing machine at the factory where he worked, causing serious damage that left him hospitalized for almost two months. Reconstructive surgery was unsuccessful, leaving his right arm permanently in a brace with limited use of his hand and fingers.
Lake Saroma, the course where both the men's and women's 100 km world records were set. Just two and a half years after his accident, at the 2013 Lake Saroma 100 km Nagata had a major breakthrough, finishing 3rd in 6:44:33. His time put him 6th in the world for the year. "I felt like it was the real start to my career as an ultra runner," he says. "As far as the quality of the time, there were faster people out there so I knew I still had work to do."
run the Coldwater Rumble 100 mile trail race in the U.S. in January, 2014, his first time taking on that kind of distance. After leading early at an extremely ambitious pace he crashed on the last of the course's five laps, literally crashing into cacti and to the ground in the dark before finishing a bruised 2nd in 16:14:21. But despite the disappointing result the race proved another life-changing moment for Nagata. "Running that 100 mile race in the U.S. had a major impact on my way of thinking," he says. "It took someone like me who was only conscious of Japan and turned me toward the world overseas. It got me excited about going out there and searching out interesting races."
Medalist, New Hale and Shields are supplying me with gear, but I'm looking for others interested in supporting what I want to do." His first opportunity came with a message from Berlin Marathon founder Horst Milde inviting him to run the August 16-17 100 Meilen Berlin along the former border of the Berlin Wall. "In Berlin I want to run a race that demonstrates the ability and strength I couldn't show at the Coldwater 100," he says.
interview and text (c) 2014 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
Coldwater Rumble photo (c) 2014 Aravaipa Running, all rights reserved
other photos c/o Tsutomu Nagata