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From Ekiden to Trail Running [Copy link]

zhanglin | 2018-03-05 21:26 762 0
Japan has a very strong and proud running culture – Japanese runners used to dominate marathons in the 1960s and amateur running is hugely popular in Japan. The most famous race in Japan is a long-distance relay called Ekiden - teams from all over the country compete in this remarkable race – cities against cities, universities against universities, schools against schools. These races are often televised live, attracting huge audiences.

The young Japanese runner Ruy Ueda, who competed in Ekiden at the highest level, has the best result at UTMB of any Asian runner – he was second at CCC in 2016. Ruy-san is very ambitious and a great talent – he is the winner and record holder of Japan’s most important mountain race – Hasetsune Cup.

At Gaoligong he will face very strong opposition, but Ruy-san is looking forward to the challenge.

Ruy-san, I read that you used to compete in Ekiden, the famous Japanese relay race, as a high school student. Please tell us about what Ekiden is, and how popular it is? What were your personal results etc?

EKIDEN is long distance relay race on road.  There are many kinds of Ekiden, between cities, between prefectures. For kids and for adults. The most famous Ekiden race is Hakone Ekiden. This race is held on January 2nd and 3rd. Total distance is about 200km. 10 people in each team. This Ekiden is televised live and has very high audience rankings. “Tasuki” a sash made of thin cloth, is the most important thing in Ekiden. (Note: tasuki is passed on to the next runner like a baton, who then wears it over his shoulders).

I participated The Inter Prefectural Men’s Ekiden for Nagano prefecture team when I was junior high school student. This team consisted of two adults, three high school students and two junior high school students. My team won the race and set the course record. 

I read you were an “aggressive” runner, is it true? Do you like to attack and run as hard as possible?

Yes. This is my running style. Because I always aim to win! And I'm looking forward to run with strong runners in the race in Gaoligong!


I also read that you like “technical” trails.

Yes. I like to feel thrill of technical terrain, and I like to see magnificent scenery. I want to be a champion of skyrunning! This is my current goal. In the future, I want to win a major ultra-trail race. For example, UTMB, Western States, Hard Rock, etc…


Tell us a little about the trail racing scene in Japan, Non-Japanese people do not know very much about it. 

There are over 200 races a year in Japan, about ten of them are over 100km in distance. The most famous trail race in Japan is a mountain race called Hasetsune – over 2000 people take part. The distance is 71.5km. I won this race twice, and I'm the course record holder. 


What is your job now?

I work for Columbia Sportswear Japan but my first priority is training! 


What are your goals and aims in running?

As far as competition is concerned, I want to be a mountain running champion! Next, I want to challenge in a 100 mile race and win.

I also want to make my life richer through running!


Tell us about your typical training week.

I do interval and tempo running once or twice a week. Once a week I go to the mountains to train. The rest of the time, I run depending on how I feel.


What do you know about Gaoligong and Yunnan?

I heard this place name, Gaoligong, for the first time when I received your invitation. I have read up on Yunnan and Gaoligong then on-line!


What are the differences between Western (like UTMB) and Japanese trail races?

The course marking in Japan is more than in Western races. I think that there is too much marking! Also, there are many stairs in Japanese races. 


What is your aim for Gaoligong?

I’ll run the RCE - 125km, but I haven't experienced this distance so far. First, finish, second, I want to be on the podium.


Why do you think Japanese runners do not travel that much outside Japan to race? For example, in China we have many races, but almost no Japanese come to race. Why do you think it is that?

First, trail race information of China doesn't get to Japan. Second, there is a language problem – many races in China have no English information. Finally, the running apps we use in Japan are not used in China and do not have Chinese races on them. 


What are your hobbies and interests (other than running)?

Mountaineering.


Do you have a running idol? (or maybe an athlete from a different sport)

I very much respect Suguru Osako. He's a top marathon runner in Japan. He is part of Nike Oregon Project and lives in Oregon, USA. He moved there to get a gold medal at the Olympics. I like his determination. I lived with him when we were both high school students. He's my senior, and he has been my idol ever since.


Which running result are you most proud of?

Second place at UTMB CCC 2nd in 2016 and winning SKYRUNNING Youth World Championship, also in 2016.


What is your strength as a runner?

Uphill running, and my self-belief. I never give up.

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