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Posted: November 12, 2018:  

Athletics: Yuki Kawauchi - The Man Who Defined Marathon Fundamentals With Great Success

[by Chelsea Ho of Sweat Elite

Most elite distance runners follow Lydiardís training principles.

Some follow Coeís.

And yet others follow Danielsí.

But not Yuki Kawauchi. He makes his own rules. And heís proud of it.

"Compared to a lot of elite athletes, I have freedom. I donít have a coach telling me what Iím trying to do is crazy. If I want to run 10 marathons a year thereís no one telling me not to do it."

This especially true in context of the widespread corporate running system in Japan, characterised by extremely strict coaching and sometimes to the verge of bullying.

In fact, he defends his freedom so aggressively to the extent that he refuses to accept sponsorship, bonuses or appearance fees. He says that these would have otherwise limited his options about where and when he can race.

Itís clear his strategies are working for him, at least to quite an extent. In 2018 Kawauchi won the Boston Marathon, defeating other notables such as Americaís Galen Rupp and Kenyaís Geoffrey Kirui.

Kawauchi is one of the very few elite athletes who is a full-time (40-hour workweek) employee of the Japanese Government. As such heís famously nicknamed the "citizen runner".

Given his restricted schedule, a typical week is shown below:

Monday: 18-20km jog (5min/km)
Tuesday: 18-20km jog (5min/km)
Wednesday: intervals (10x1km or 20x400m) OR tempo runs
Thursday: 18-20km jog
Friday: 18-20km jog
Saturday: easy run
Sunday: race day (either half-marathons, ultras or world marathon majors)

Total weekly mileage averages 130-140km. He runs once daily, which leads to significantly different stress patterns compared to spreading them over the morning and afternoon.

His training group is comprised of working people, university runners and corporate runners.

Racing so frequently is already unconventional, but Kawauchi brings that to the next level by producing exceptional results on a consistent basis. In 2013, he ran 11 marathons, of which 4 were sub 2:10 performances (in contrast, only one American runner (Dathan Ritzenhein) ran a sub 2:10 in 2013. By age 30 he had run 76 marathons under 2:20.

Other unconventionalities include racing in a panda costume and business suit as he wants to "entertain people a bit".

Strength training

This is made possible with homemade weightlifting equipment he buys from the local store. This consists of bench press, latissimus dorsi pulls, adductor & abductor exercises

Nutrition & pre-race meals

  • He prepares his own sports drink, a concoction of water, orange juice, lemon juice, salt & honey.
  • The night before his race, he eats 3 plates of Japanese-style curry
  • He will, at some point, eat a hamburger at most cities in which he races

On rest, recovery and injury prevention

  • "I race nonstop, but of course itís divided into main races and sub-races. Iím not hitting it hard every week."
  • Visits massage & acupuncture therapist once or twice a month
  • Gives and receives massages from training partners on weekends
  • Visits Japanese hot springs (onsen) as part of post-race recovery

Ultimately, Kawauchi enjoys the autonomy in his running career and would not exchange this for anything else.

"Iím running for myself, my own goals and my own freedom. I have my own ambitions."

"If you do everything on your own and have a big success, itís your success, not the coachís success. Iím my own responsibility."

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