Japanese Runners: Why They Are So Good And How You Can Duplicate Their Habits

Why are the Japanese runners so good?
The Japanese national record for the men is now 2:05:50 and 2.19 for women, respectfully.
I have been fascinated with these two countries since I began running at the age of 15. Japan and Kenya have dominated the marathon for years.
Furthermore, I had a discussion with an online poster yesterday which made me want to dig into the differences between the two running powerhouses.
We all have heard about the Kenyans. Additionally, we know they are good but what about Japan? The Japanese runners are every bit as good as any top Kenyan in the world.


Ken Young of the Association of Road Racing statiscians did a study that showed 719 Kenyan men broke 2.20.00 for the marathon distance in 2011.

Not bad.

They Kenyans broke 2.08.00  47 times. In addition to that, they broke 2.07.00 31 times and 2.06.00 15 times. Luka Kipkemboi Chelimo, a 34-year old Kenyan broke 2.20, 7 times this year, more than any other Kenyan.

This is staggering.

Dave Monti of Race Results Weekly went into further detail in his article, Kenyan Marathoner Show Impressive Depth for 2011.

I am speaking on elite marathoners in these countries but there are countless others, I am sure, who have not been shown, who have under 2.20 or better for the marathon distance. It is, I believe, especially when you are extremely fit already, more of a psychological barrier to run under 2.20.00 than it is physical.

Why are they so good? They are focused. I don’t think runners at this level are any different any other athlete around the world.

The similarities are the same.

They have an extreme will to get better. In addition to that, an unstoppable focus on their end goal. These are the types of people, military members, business personnel that I like to be around.

I came across a great write up written by Coach Wei who talks about how many marathoners out there are business-minded. The Kenyans I have trained with are no different than any other success entrepreneur in another area.

They are determined and focused. Robert prepared me to run my 2.19.35 best than any other runner I have ever trained with.

He is the brother of Bernard Lagat, a multiple time Olympian for the United States. I had to be determined and extremely focused to train with these guys.


Weldon Johnson, co-founder of LetsRun.com wrote a great article about the Japanese runners. He discusses their commitment to be successful for their country and designated teams in Training Japanese Style.

He states that some of the Japanese coaches had mentioned that some of their runners run as high as 185 miles a week (300 kilometers). That is dedication.

The highest week I ever did was 142 miles and that was only once. I am a firm believe in quality over quantity. You do not have to be running over 100 miles a week to run at a high level.

Yuki Kawauchi, one of Japan’s best marathoners, works full time. In addition, due to his work schedule, can only run 90-95 miles per week. That being said, he is running faster than most of the big Japanese corporate running teams.

Furthermore, I broke 2.20 while running 95 miles a week while I was as a staff Soldier within the Army World Class Athlete Program. Structure isn’t always a bad thing

“This is completely individual. One may feel that running 150 miles a week makes you more prepared to run a fast time, whereas someone else may work better on 80 miles a week. If you work full time, which the majority of us do, trying to fit in that amount of mileage on top of other responsibilities could be quite daunting to say the least. Kawauchi is the perfect example of will, determination and how structure in our lives can, in most cases, work out the best for us.

Brett Larsen, who heads up a great blog called Japan Running News is the go-to source for all Japanese road racing within the country. I have always appreciated the level of information he brings from the United States.

Closing Thoughts

Yuki Kawauchi made a short but effective video clip trying to motivate other runners who are working full time to keep running. Track him down on youtube.

Motivation helps a lot and hearing from someone who is getting world attention in Japan for not following the crowd is what I wanted to end this post with.

Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new videos each week to help runners such as yourself get to the next level. There are also running courses and monthly, online coaching available here at rundreamachieve. You can view these options by looking at the navigation menu at the top of this website. I hope this post on Japanese runners has been helpful to you.

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