Name: Noriko Satou
Age: 37 years old
Running history: 25 years
Marathon personal best: 2:38:50 (Tokyo Marathon, 2014)
Recent marathon time: 2:48:51 (Hofu Yomiuri Marathon, 2016)
M: Can you tell me a bit about your running background?
N: I have been running all my life. I remember enjoying short distance running as early as in my elementary school days. It was in high school that I started experimenting with longer distances and I ran my first full marathon at 22. Back then I was a student at Fukuoka University and my coach was Professor Tanaka.
M: Professor Tanaka? The Japanese running guru advocating running slow?
N: Yes, slow jogging.
M: Is it how you train as well?
N: Slow jogging has always been and will be the base of my training.
M: And why would a sub-elite runner like you chose slow jogging as her training of choice?
It’s by far the best way to learn the running technique and rhythm without risking overtraining. Forefoot landing, correct posture and rhythm should be learnt as early as possible – speed is something you can always work on later on. I also simply enjoy running in all its forms – I chose slow jogging when I run for fun, with friends or when I need a break or time to think. When I don’t have time for proper trainings, I use slow jogging in my everyday life. Everything is an opportunity for a couple of slow jogging steps: ironing, drying my hair or watching TV. At work it would be going to the restroom or parking.
M: Really? It’s hard to imagine. Are many people doing so in Japan?
There are many runners who start with slow jogging and gradually improve their performance. Even very slow speed at the beginning (4-5km/h) before you know it naturally becomes 7-8km/h and feels equally easy. That’s also one of the great things about slow jogging.
M: So you are telling me that this training based on slow jogging with occasional extra steps on the parking lot are effective in marathon training at your level?
N: Well, I have been running marathons around 2:40 as a university student and ran my personal best (2:38:50) in my 30s. My technique hasn’t changed and is the same whether I jog or race. I believe that improving marathon results at any level requires improving running skills and weight reduction. And slow jogging is enough to get you there. Especially the skills part – running slowly makes it much easier to concentrate on running technique. Another important factor is improving your “running engine” and that’s why I add additional elements to my training twice a week when preparing for a race, such as intervals at 1km x3~5, 300m x10, sprints. I also do longer runs of 30km or so.
M: At your marathon pace?
N: No, below my marathon pace. I actually like to wait with running longer distances at my marathon pace to the very day of race.
M: And how many kilometers per month does it all amount to?
N: Now I usually run 200-300km a month. At the time when I ran my personal best it was around 400km.
M: Impressive! There is another thing I would like to ask you about. Actually you are not only a great athlete yourself, but also a Guinness World Record holder for the fastest marathon run by a married couple with the aggregate time of 5 h 28 min 23 sec ran with your husband, Kenta Satou in Tokyo Marathon 2014. Congratulations! Are usually spending your time together training?
N: Not really. Kenta is really busy at work and doesn’t have much time to run. And when he does, it’s speed training most of the time. We usually jog together only on the way to and back from the training.
M: So unlike you, he isn’t really a slow jogger, is he? Is his marathon time much faster than yours?
N: Well, he trains much faster on everyday basis, but actually I was the fastest one in our team until last year.
M: Wow! And now?
N: He got his new personal record of 2:37:32 at Hofu Yomiuri Marathon 2016. That makes him one minute faster 😉 Actually I also participated in the race and at that time we improved our personal best together, but haven’t applied for official Guinness recognition.
M: Congratulations to both of you and thank you so much for sharing your story with us!