Japan’s Ruy Ueda has high hopes going into the 2019 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. In our first interview with Ruy, he talks about his background in sports including soccer and running, how he first tried road running as a young adult but switched to trail running about six years ago, the two times he’s raced trail ultramarathons in the USA, and his goals for Transvulcania.
Ruy Ueda Pre-2019 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Ruy Ueda. It’s a couple days before the 2019 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. Hi Ruy. How are you?
Ruy Ueda: Hi, I’m fine, but I’m still a little tired because it’s a long trip.
iRunFar: It’s a really long trip from Japan and you just arrived today?
iRunFar: Can you tell me about your travels? How did you get here? Did you fly from Tokyo to Heathrow?
Ueda: [Laughs] Yes. First I went to Heathrow. Then I went to Madrid. So, last night I stayed in Madrid, so today I arrived here.
iRunFar: You’ve been here for a couple of hours. You’ve gone on a run. How did your first run on La Palma feel?
Ueda: Today is a very beautiful day, so it was comfortable. It was good for me.
iRunFar: You felt good? After such a long trip, the run went okay?
Ueda: Yes, very good. My legs are a little… heavy. But, by the time of the race, maybe my legs are good, or better.
iRunFar: Excellent! This is our first interview with you, so I’d love to start by asking a little about who you are. I read you grew up in Nagano, is that right?
Ueda: Yes, Nagano.
iRunFar: Americans and a lot of people around the world know of Nagano because it hosted the Winter Olympics. You’re from an Olympics town.
Ueda: No, but nearby. About 20 minutes away by car. My town is very… it gets a lot of snow in the winter.
iRunFar: Did you grow up playing any sports? Any winter sports or summer sports?
Ueda: So, I played soccer for nine years in elementary school and junior-high school. Then I started track and field at 13 years old. Then one of the most famous high schools in Japan for ekiden. Ekiden is a long-distance relay.
iRunFar: You participated in ekiden?
Ueda: Yes, at this famous high school.
iRunFar: Very cool. All of the focus you had was on shorter and flatter running. Now you’re a mountain runner, mostly. When did you convert to running in the mountains?
Ueda: About six years ago. When I was 19 years old, I tried 100k on the roads.
iRunFar: At age 19?
iRunFar: Which race was that?
Ueda: Its name was Tokyo Shibamata 100k.
iRunFar: At age 19, no kidding. How did you do?
Ueda: It was amazing. I was very tired, I had pain. That race [met some people when] I participated that race. Amy Sproston [who runs for Columbia Montrail, and] Columbia staff. The Columbia sponsor found me and he said, “Are you interested in trail running?” My answer is, “Yes.” So I tried trail running.
iRunFar: Was that the Columbia Japan people who contacted you?
iRunFar: Very interesting. So, ever since then you have been focused on mountains and trails?
iRunFar: Now, in mountain and trail running, you have varied in distance. You’ve done some shorter races and also some very long ones. You’ve done the CCC. You’ve come to America and done a couple of our long races, too. Then you do things like very short sky races that are over in just two hours.
iRunFar: Do you have a preferred distance? Do you just like to run in the mountains?
Ueda: Long races are very damaging.
iRunFar: You got an injury?
Ueda: No, but I get very tired from long races. So, I want to participate in more races, so I choose shorter races. But I also like long races [laughs].
iRunFar: So, you chose shorter races because they did less damage to your body and you could do more of them?
iRunFar: Okay. I wanted to ask you about your American races. You’ve come over to do American trail races twice?
Ueda: Yes. First was Sean O’Brien 100k in 2015. Next was Gorge Waterfalls 100k in 2016.
iRunFar: You actually won Gorge Waterfalls in 2016, beating some famous American runners there. Both of those races were Golden Ticket races for the Western States 100. Were you trying to get entry into Western States as well?
Ueda: [Laughs] Well, I wanted to, but that year I decided to do the Skyrunning World Championships. That race and Western States are very near [close together on the calendar].
iRunFar: You had to choose, and you chose the Skyrunning World Championships.
Ueda: Yes. But someday I want to run Western States.
iRunFar: It’s kind of a thing that many runners dream of, is running Western States.
Ueda: I know!
iRunFar: And you had your chance!
Ueda: Some Japanese runners said the same thing, “Why don’t you run Western States?”
iRunFar: Well, here we are on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands. You’re getting to run 46 miles, 74 kilometers. It’s kind of a long race. You were here last year, though, I realized. You raced the half marathon here last year?
Ueda: Yes. Last year I ran the half marathon here.
iRunFar: So you had a test of the course and the weather and the scenery.
Ueda: Yes. So, last year I felt this course is a fit for me. Last year my result was good, so I try the ultra distance here. I want to try ultra.
iRunFar: There’s a big difference between a half marathon and 74k. How have you been preparing mentally for going so much longer on Saturday?
Ueda: It’s not different usually, so I prepare [by doing] the same things for these races.
iRunFar: You’ve already done some shorter races this year. Three weeks ago you did the Mt. Awa Skyrace, where you beat one person that you’re going to race, Jonathan Albon from the U.K. I guess he’s from there, but he lives in Norway.
Ueda: Yes, he is very strong. That was the first time at this distance that I ran with him, so I don’t know his running style in La Palma. I’m very excited. I want to try… I want to win again [laughs].
iRunFar: Of course you do!
Ueda: Always, I want to win. I’m motivated, I want to win.
iRunFar: Well, best of luck to you at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon on Saturday. We look forward to chasing you around the course. Good luck!
Ueda: Thank you. Gracias.