Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

Japanese Runners: Why Are They So Good?

Japanese runners

The Japanese runners have had my attention in this sport since I began back in 2002.

They are just as committed to success as the Kenyans and other top runners.

What makes them different?

What are the japanese runners doing on a continual basis that makes them so consistent?

They have a goal and have an undeniable, resolute attitude to run great times. Their coaches are heavily involved in their development and most of the professional Japanese runners are on corporate teams.

Running upwards of 200 miles per week is not anything outside of the realm of possibility for the Japanese long distance runners.

Working hard for the sake of working hard won’t lead to results. You have to be careful of injury, train efficiently, and remember that you are training because you love to run.  I think that an athlete discovers the joy of track when he or she is able to stay injury-free and perform in ways that the athlete wants to. -Yuki Kawauchi (2.08 marathoner)

Brian Larsen over at Japan Running News did a great interview with 2.08 marathoner, Takayuki Nishida

I thoroughly enjoyed the part where he mentioned one of his workouts was 5000m of intervals one day and a 40 kilometer run scheduled the next day.

Higher level training

Folks, that is 3.1 miles of speed one day and a hard 24 mile run the next.

You don't have to be an elite runner to appreciate that type of workload.

Japanese runners, like their Kenyan counterparts, are simply willing to make the enormous sacrifice needed to produce outstanding running performances.

The Japanese National Record Holders

You Probably

 Never Heard Of

Japanese National Marathon Records

Men: 2.05:50

Women: 2.19.12

Suguru Osaka

* Men's National Record Holder (2.05:50) -Set at Chicago Marathon (2018)

Mizuki Noguchi

*Women's National Record Holder (2.19.12) – Set at Berlin Marathon

* 2004 Athens Olympic Marathon Champion

The Japanese Runners You Can Learn From

Yuki Kawauchi

Yuki is a 2.08 ‘amateur' marathoner in Japan who works a full-time job. He has had to work incredibly hard to work his way to the top of elite marathoning.

The majority of elite athletes have everything provided for them. Yuki chooses to work full-time while still competing at a world-class level.

If a male was to run a 2.08 marathoner here in the United States he would be in the top 3 best marathoners in the country.

Few marathoners with his ability would make a choice to not run full-time for a corporate team.

Instead of thinking you have to be either a corporate runner or quit, I want young runners to figure out what works for them, and work hard. -Yuki Kawauchi

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Toshihiko Seko

The first Japanese marathon runner I heard of when I began running back in 1992 was  Toshihiko Seko. Seko was the two-time winner of the Boston Marathon


PR: 2.08.27

Winner of 1981 (2.09.26) and 1987 (2.11.50) Boston Marathon

Held the World Record for 25,000 (1.13.55) and 30,000 meters (1.29.18).

These records stood for the past 30 years until Mose Mosop broke his records at the 2011 Prefontaine Classic. Moses ran an astounding 1.12.25 for the 25,000 meter distance and 1.26.47 for the 30,000 meter distance, respectively.

Japanese runners have always had my attention. They have consistently run times comparable to any other top runner in the world. Their National record is now 2:05:50.

To be a champion long-distance runner you have to run on the edge of death. –Toshihiko Seko


The majority of the public think of Kenya in long distance running dominance. This is a misconception by uninformed people. There are great runners everywhere. They simply need to be nurtured to become great.

The majority of Japanese runners do not train at high altitude and repeatedly compete and outrun the world's top marathoners year after year.

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