Translation by: Yuichi Takahashi

© Copyright – 2014 – Athletics Illustrated

Yuki Kawauchi is known as the “citizen runner,” for training and racing at a world-class level in the marathon and other long-distance events while holding down a full-time job and it is the way he finishes them. Often putting everything into a race, sometimes collapsing, even dropping out due to heat exhaustion at one event. Never to be deterred, he races the marathon often, competing in several races in a few short weeks. If he has a performance he is not happy with, he simply races again, sometimes he wins.

The running world first became aware of Kawauchi in 2011, when he finished third and was the first Japanese resident at the Tokyo Marathon. He finished in 2:08:37.

In early 2012 he ran a half-marathon personal best of 1:02:18. In February he ran just 2:12:51 at  the Tokyo Marathon. He referred to that performance as “disgraceful” and promptly shaved his head as an apology to his fans and supporters. Also, in response to his 2:12 performance, he entered nine marathons and won five of them, during the remainder of 2012. Although he maintains being very independent and an amateur, he has represented his country. He works full-time at a school.

Personal bests (updated Sept, 2015).

  • 5 000m: 13:58.62 (2012)
  • 1 0000m: 29:02.33 (2010)
  • Half-marathon: 1:02:18 (2012)
  • Marathon: 2:08:14 (2013)
  • 50 km: 2:47:27 – NR (2014)

Christopher Kelsall: I understand that with the unfortunate and premature passing of your father, your serious training was delayed. Also, with the rejection by corporate teams and your focus on education – were you extra motivated to take training with even greater seriousness, once you were able to train full-time?

Yuki Kawauchi: At that time when my dad passed away, I was running with anguish both physically and mentally due to struggling intermittent injuries, and not breaking personal bests for more than for a year. Then my dad’s sudden passing was a huge additional impact on me.

While I lost my dad, fortunately I was able to go to Gakusyuin University. Then what I saw at that university was completely different from what I had done at high school. There was a totally different style of coaching and training, and especially more flexible and freedom in training. At high school age, there was no space and time for me to think about training. Because my coach provided the entire training menu and we had no chance to know what we would do before the day that we train.

On the other hand, at my university, what my coach provided us with was the scheduled plan aiming for a race several months away. But it was composed of only a set of two point trainings in a week (two-day-per-week), so that I was able to have my own training for the remaining five days in the week. With this new attempt at university age, my injuries were all healed and I successfully kept improving myself. Then the more PB I broke, the more motivation I gained to win against runners from powerful universities that didn’t call me to join their team before my graduation from high school.

Since I got FREE five days for training in a week, I had my own concept, ”I should train to strengthen myself in different way from the powerful and elite university”. As an example of my implementation I have done trail-running twice-a-week (at maximal rate), and it led me to break PBs further and further.

Therefore, I think as a result of the growth of concentration with lesser point training, I was able to more appropriately handle my concentration at the race. In any case, I had a huge gratitude for this as I was able to go to university and continue running there even with the loss of my father.

CK: You have mentioned that you follow the Arthur Lydiard method of training, forsaking speed training for distance. Do you actually not include any speed training?

YK: Usually I don’t do any speed training. Even with the two point sessions per week, mostly I don’t run faster than three minute kilometres, except the final speed-up part in final 1-2km. I tend to cut the recovery time off in the interval training. Also, my basic five jogging days in a week, I don’t do even any wind-sprint after jogging. It is composed of jogging and simple strength training for 15 minutes.

Actually I use the Lydiard training principle, but I don’t do all of them in practice. In fact, Lydiard has stated “It is more effective to have continuous run than dividing into small amounts and run little by little”, but not ”It is enough good to have one run in a day” like my style.  As I know, he also stated it is better to have a supplemental run in the morning.

But, I need to focus on a “single session” in a day in order to have a long continuous run with my full-time working context. In fact, I think I can build and maintain “a base of volume” with this “single session” training. Therefore, I do (still small amount of) speed training only right before speed-racing like 1500m and 5000m, and its aim is just to remember the rhythm and sense of race-speed. In fact, I ran with 3’50 for 1500m, and 13’58 for 5000m a week after marathon race.

CK: Is it the fact that because you do not do speed work you are able to race so frequently?

YK: I think it is more correlative between my frequent participation and rather having only one or two intense training sessions including speed work in a week than not running speed work.

Actually most of my racing is a part of my training. I have been having high-quality training in the races than training alone. I believe that there are a large amount of advantages that never happen when I train alone and help me a lot, such as traffic control, timing by official, water station, cheering, and spectators.

Also, one of the reasons why I continue to competitively run is my dream of touring and participating in all kinds of marathon races all around Japan and the world. I love running as well as travelling. I think it significantly encourages me to participate in so many races.

Since I am not allowed to train at high altitude place for a certain period, the key for me is how much I can strengthen myself at sea-level, and it (what I chose) is frequent participation in races for my case. I think this attempt further improves my experience as a runner.

I have already completed a full-marathon 30 times by my age 26. I believe that I have gained much higher advantage on experience than other runners in same generation. It is common that most of Japanese top runner would be retired before they have 30 marathons completed, so I think I have already exceeded pre-retired (quite experienced) veteran runners with marathon experience. Also, in my early career, I believe that I have learnt a lot of skills like a veteran because of my high rate of participation in marathons.  I think it happens that the veterans have excellent and experienced skills, but physical strength is not equal to them due to decreasing physical ability. But, in my case, I am still young, so that my physical strength can follow and collaborate with the skills.

CK: How much weekly volume do you typically run?

Usually my weekly volume is about 80-100 miles.

CK: Do you get the opportunity to nap at work?

I have a 45 minutes break during my work time; usually I only have dinner then go back to my desk.

CK: Having raced 12 marathons in three years, three times in 2:08 and one 2:09; which of the twelve do you think is your best performance?

YK: In fact, I have raced 25 marathons in three years, three times in each 2:08 and 2:09 (2011.1~2013.12). I think my best marathon is Beppu-Oita Mainichi marathon in 2013. Because I won against Kentarou Nakamoto in a head-to-head race, who finished in sixth place in 2012 London Olympic Games as well as finished fifth in 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

But, my best race in my running career is not marathon race. It was Kumanichi 30km race in 2013.

At that race, being in my best shape, having comfortable temperature, many young top competitors, and I was very comfortably racing despite quite a high pace. It was quality winning as I made a spurt at the place with 1.2km remaining and won the race with 1:29’31”(3 second gap to the second finisher). I still believe that if that race would be 42.195km race, my finish time could be 2’06-something. Therefore, that 1:29’31” race makes me believe in that I can still further develop my PB in the marathon event.

CK: Who are your running heroes?

YK: Although I cannot pick just one, I respect all runners who successfully manage the balance between running, work, and family.

CK: Will you run another 50k ultra-marathon again?

YK: Yes, I will. Actually I will run it this year. If I could annually run Okinosima 50km race without any problem in several years, I want to challenge even a 100km race.

CK: How do you feel about the label that you have as “Citizen Runner” or “Blue Collar Runner” – to do with your working full-time and racing so well?

YK: I think there is a very small percentage of pro-runner in the world. Most of runners have a job besides running as a Citizen Runner or Blue Collar Runner. I assume they all have some difficulties and challenges, especially limitation of time and its management.

Therefore, I want to give them (the majority of runners with limitation of time) a message that you can run several sub-10, or you can achieve your goals with an efficient, continuous, and suitable style for you even if it is only two hours in a day.

CK: What was the significance of shaving your head after your marathon performance that you were not happy with?

YK: As I missed to qualify for the London Olympics, it was an (Japanese style) apology to everyone who has supported and cheered me. Also, for myself, it meant to refresh my mind and step forward into new challenges.

CK: Do you now have corporate teams calling you to join them?

YK: There used to be some corporate team asking me, but no team for now. I think they might have realized I would say no, so they might think it is useless.

CK: Do you get satisfaction saying no to them and then performing at a world-class level?

YK: Actually I have satisfaction and pleasure as a pioneer who have been providing young athletes a new optional way with the proof, which you can develop yourself and compete with different system from Japanese traditional elite development structure (such as powerful high school – regular participant University in Hakone Ekiden – Corporate team)

Also, I had an opportunity to meet many training methods, which I had never known, and I have dramatically grown up to a national level athlete because I had dropped out from the Japanese elite system. Without knowing these training methods, I think I would still be in trouble with injuries due to over-training. Moreover it is impossible to have continuous training which is the most important factor for athletes, and I would not have been enjoying running. I think I was quite lucky because I had met those series of training methods.

CK: Are you aware of your similarity to Emil Zatopek, as a tough, blue-collar runner?

YK: Although it is first time to be mentioned about the similarity between Emil Zatopek and me, I personally think that I am, of course, far behind from him.

I have never created any revolutionary training like “Interval-training”. What I have been doing as my training is just like simply gathering and uniting a variety of old training method which seem to be forgot in these days.

Also, I regard myself just as more a runner to enrich (not mean money) my life through running than as a tough runner.

My running life is based on my principle: ”whether it is worth to dedicate my life to running or not”, in other words “it is fun or not”. So I pick races up with this principle and train hard for them as one of the devotees of running.

CK: What are your long-term running goals?

YK: My long-term goal is, as a never retire runner, to continue participating in marathon races all around Japan as well as all around the world.

Christopher Kelsall: お父様を早くになくされた事、実業団チームとは異なる形で競技活動されている事、また学業への専念など、トレーニング行うにあたってこれらの経験・出来事がトレーニングをより真剣に、より集中して行うようなモチベーションになっていましたか? お父様をなくされた事に関しましては、当時トレーニングのみならず、川内選手ご自身に大きなショック・影響があったことお察しいたします。

Yuki Kawauchi: 父を亡くしたころ、私は1年以上の間、断続的な怪我に悩まされ、PBも更新できず、痛みを感じながら走るような日々が続いていました。そのような状況で父を突然なくしたことは大きな衝撃でした。





CK: 川内選手は以前、かのアーサー・リディアードのトレーニング理論を活用している、具体的には距離や量にトレーニングの重きを置くためにスピードトレーニングをしないとおっしゃっていましたが、実際にスピードトレーニングはしていないのですか?


YK: 私は普段はスピードトレーニングをほとんどしていません。週に2回のポイント練習ではラストの1~2kmのペースアップを除いて、3分/kmを切る練習もほとんどしていません。インターバルトレーニングの際にもリカバリーの時間を短くするようにしています。また、週5日のジョギングの日にはウィンドスプリントさえもしません。ジョギングと簡単な15分程度の補強トレーニングのみです。



CK: (もし、前の質問でスピードトレーニングをしていないという答えでしたら、) 川内選手は非常に頻繁にレースに参加していますが、スピード練習をさけること、またはおさえることがそれを可能にしているのでしょうか?


YK: 頻繁なレース参加はスピード練習を抑えることよりも、スピード練習を含む強度の高い練習が週に1~2回しかない、ということとの相関関係の方が高いと思います。







CK: 就業中、昼寝ができる(または体を休めるための)時間はありますか?


CK: 3年間で2時間8分台を3度、2時間9分台を1度を含む12回のマラソンを走られていますが、この中で川内選手が一番の出来だったと思うのはどのレースになりますか?また、その理由もお聞かせ下さい。

YK: 3年間で2時間8分台3度、2時間9分台3度を含む25回(2011.1~2013.12)のマラソンを走っていますが、一番の出来であったのは2013年の別府大分毎日マラソンであったと思います。それはロンドンオリンピック6位、モスクワ世界選手権5位の中本選手に競り勝ったからです。




YK: 具体的な名前を挙げることはできませんが、競技と仕事と家庭の全てを上手くこなしている全てのランナーを尊敬します。


YK: 今年も走る予定です。隠岐の島の50kmを問題なく何年も続けて完走できるようになったら100kmにも挑戦してみたいと思っています。

CK: 川内選手が持つ“市民ランナー”や”ブルーカラーランナー”という肩書き(フルタイムで働きながら競技者として結果を残していること)についてどう思いますか?

YK: 世界中でプロランナーは圧倒的少数にすぎません。ランナーの多くは市民ランナーあるいはブルーカラーランナーであり、マラソンとは別に仕事を持っています。そうした多くのランナーは多くの困難・・・特に時間的制約を抱えながら走っていると思います。


CK: 2012年の東京マラソンのあとに頭を刈り上げたのはどんな意味・意図があったのですか?

YK: ロンドンオリンピック出場を応援してくださった方々に(日本式の方法で)謝罪の意を示すとともに、自分自身も気持ちを切り替えて新たな一歩を踏み出そうという想いがありました。


YK: 昔はいくつかありましたが今は全くありません。私を誘っても「Yes」とは言わないので誘うことが無駄だと思うようになったのだと思います。

CK: もし、これまでに実業団チームから誘われたことがある(または誘われている)場合、その勧誘を断りながらも世界レベルの成績を残している事に対して満足感や喜びを感じますか?


YK: 今までの常識的な日本型エリート育成システム(強豪高校→箱根駅伝常連校→実業団)とは違う方法で強くなれるということを証明しつつあることは、次世代のランナーに新たな選択肢を提示することになっていると思いますので、パイオニアとしての満足感や喜びはあります。







CK: 川内選手が描く長期的な大きな目標はなんですか?






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