Yuki Kawauchi’s new personal best and working with Professor Tanaka


Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon held on Feb. 28 in Shiga Prefecture, Japan was a great race with 5 men finishing sub-2:08 and 42 sub 2:10. The winner, Kengo Suzuki won with a new national record of 2 hours, 4 minutes and 56 seconds becoming the first Japanese to complete a marathon race in less than 2:05.

It was also a huge day for Yuki Kawauchi, who used to be known as the “citizen runner” working full-time for the government and training in his time off without any sponsorship. Kawauchi ran in 2:07:27 establishing his new personal best for the first time in 8 years.

In an interview for Nikkan Sports News, he recalled working with the late Professor Hiroaki Tanaka at Fukuoka University. He explained to Kawauchi what his strenght was: “It’s simple. You don’t run out of gasoline. While you keep running at the same pace, other runners slow down. Marathon is the sport of the brain and the key is to know how not to slow down after 30km.” Professor Tanaka also mentioned that such an experienced runner as Kawauchi probably instinctively knows his pace and doesn’t overpace.

We know from Exercise Physiology that the decline in pace comes from lactic acid accumulation. Runners often refer to it as “hitting the wall”. “Main sources of energy for running are carbohydrates (glycogen) and fat. If you use mainly glycogen, sooner or later you are going to run out of it at hit the wall. It works just like gasoline for cars. World top class runners save the glycogen and run on fat.”

Professor Tanaka used to say that one has to be clever to be successful at long-distance running. His advice for Kawauchi was to start with carbo-loading before the race to stock up on glycogen. “Your body weight changes a lot too. Just like with Formula 1 races, a light body (just like a light car) is essential. If you work on that you will be able to run in 2:07, maybe even 2:06. ”

Kawauchi admits that after getting married he changed his eating habits and recalls the words of the late Professor Tanaka.

Parts of the interview and photos come from the original article in Japanese:

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