Country: Japan

Profession: Athlete – Marathon

Career highlights:

  • 2018 Boston Marathon champion
  • 4x World Athletics Championships finalist
  • 2014 Asian Games bronze medallist
  • recognised by Guinness World Records for having completed over 100 sub 2:20 marathons

You have run over 100 sub 2:20 marathons. Which marathon was your favourite and why?

My favourite marathon is the Fukuoka International Open Marathon championships held in December. I love the flat course and the enthusiastic cheers of Fukuoka city. I have run this race eleven times and I have finished in 3rd place three times. In addition, this race can only be run by elite runners who have achieved a standard time, so all runners in the race are serious elite athletes.

The race has a unique and long history too, having started in 1947. World Athletics recognized this race as Heritage Plaque in 2020, and twice a World Record has been set here. This year’s race will be the last due to financial difficulties. I am sorry about it.

Can you describe what goes through your mind in that last 10kms of a marathon? 

When I am confident, I will think about my finishing time and rank. When I am not, I will think about time left until I finish. For example, If I see the board with “Last 3km”, I will think “Last 9 minutes…Last 9 minutes…9 minutes is easy…I am OK!”.

You turned pro in 2020 after quitting your government job. How would you describe your transition from social runner to a professional athlete?

I get freedom to run and be part of events now that I am a professional athlete. Whereas before 8 hours a day was taken up with office work, now I can use those 8 hours for event work, lectures, self-care…and more.

When I turned professional, I preferred freedom more than money and so I didn’t contract with sponsors that were going to limit my freedom. For this reason, I also I don’t have a contract with an athlete represent or agent as I thought I would be able to do some things myself without an AR.  I think I was right – and will always choose freedom to do what I like over big money. My life is more enjoyable now than when I was amateur.

What kind of music do you listen to before you race?

I often listen to hard rock, heavy metal, and eurobeat while doing my warm up.

What is the most interesting thing that has happened during your travels while competing?

It was when my sweat was frozen even though I was running! This happened at the 2018 Marshfield Road Runners New Year’s Day Marathon in the U.S.A. This race was very cold, it was between -13°C and -17°C.  When I was running tailwind, I was sweating. But, when running headwind, my sweat began to freeze.

We have read you are a bit of a hamburger connoisseur, so for you, what would be the perfect hamburger?

The Mitchell’s Suicide Burger

I want to eat “The Mitchell’s Suicide Burger” from Mitchell’s Scottish Ale House in Cape Town, South Africa. That burger is so big and very delicious! I have eaten it before but couldn’t really enjoy and appreciate the taste properly because I was doing the Burger Challenge (see if you can eat the burger within 10 minutes – yes, it is that big). I would like to eat that burger without the Burger Challenge.

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