Japan’s Nao Kazami is the 100k world-record holder, and now he’s racing the 2018 IAU 100k World Championships. In the following interview, our first with him, Nao talks about what went into his world-record-setting run at the Lake Saroma 100k earlier this year, his quick rise to the top of the road-ultrarunning scene, and what he thinks about Team Japan’s potential in the team competition.
Be sure to read our men’s and women’s previews, and then follow our live race-day coverage!
Nao Kazami Pre-2018 IAU 100k World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Nao Kazami before the 2018 IAU 100k World Championships. Welcome, Nao.
Nao Kazami: Yes, thank you.
iRunFar: You are the new world record holder. Please tell me about your incredible day.
Kazami: The Lake Saroma was a great course, and it was a good day. I was very lucky to break the world record that day. Hopefully, I’ll be able to convert that and perform great at this world championships.
iRunFar: What were the weather conditions like during that race? There were so many fast times, I’d think it was good conditions.
Kazami: The conditions were good ones and similar to the weather we have here. At Saroma, the temperature at the start was 17 degrees Celsius. When I finished it was only 23 degrees Celsius, so it was cool weather conditions that day. Of course, Saroma is famous for having a flat course, so that helped me out.
iRunFar: Did the strength of the Japanese competition help you with the record?
Kazami: Yes, exactly. We have a lot of good runners, so that helps.
iRunFar: It’s incredible to have the world champion from two years ago have a very good race at Saroma and be fourth.
Kazami: I think it’s not just the four national team representatives that we have here, but we have about ten others that had best performances. The ten or so guys really helped me push and attain a very high level of performance for everybody. Everybody had a great day that day.
iRunFar: For instance, what was your personal best before that race?
Kazami: 6:33 was my best time before going into Saroma.
iRunFar: That’s what I thought. That’s incredible to go from 6:33 to 6:09 from one race to another.
Kazami: Yes, I think at this year’s Saroma’s race, we were lucky to have a group of runners rather than running by myself. We had a pack of runners going at a high pace which really helped me shed 20+ minutes from my PB.
iRunFar: What’s incredible is how did you have the confidence to do that? I think your personal best for 50k was a slower pace than now your 100k best.
Kazami: Before going into the race, I didn’t expect myself to break the record, but my goal was to make sure I finished in the top four so I made the world championship team. The time just came along with it.
iRunFar: You’ve had so many great performances to make the Japanese team of the four members. The South Africans have a great team. It’s the Saroma stars and the Comrades stars on Saturday. Do you feel good about Team Japan?
Kazami: We realize that South Africans have a great squad, as well. My hat’s off to them. We also have a great team, and I think as Japan, we want to run as a team and finish well in the team competition as Team Japan. We want to perform and run as Team Japan so we can help each other out to push each other, and, hopefully, we come out on top at the end. We want to do our best as a team.
iRunFar: Do you think after all of those great performances at Saroma this year that the team can be all recovered well and run strong again?
Kazami: Before going into Saroma and the World Championships, we all knew that the World Championships happened in September and Saroma, of course, was in June. We knew the period in between. Everyone has rested and trained accordingly with the limited time between Saroma and the World Championships. Everybody is well prepared.
iRunFar: Great. Before we go, one last question. I’d like to know a little about your running history. When did you start running? When did you start running ultramarathons?
Kazami: I started running from 13 years old when I joined the track team in middle school. My first ultra was when I was 28 years old.
iRunFar: How many years? How long ago?
Kazami: Seven years.
iRunFar: Seven years from a first ultramarathon to a world record? Wow! Do you enjoy the ultramarathons? Do you find pleasure? What do you enjoy?
Kazami: Yes. I think what’s great about the ultra category is that the competition happens over a long period of time, weather can change, and so many things during the race can change a lot. That’s what makes the sport very exciting and adds spice to running. The refreshments that you take, the drinks you take, and you have to prepare for that as well—calculating the weather conditions at what time. A lot of things can change a lot over the course of 100k. You have to be very well prepared and have the mental strength. You have to have the experience. Experience helps a lot in this category. There are a lot of factors. It’s not just your ability to run but also your preparation.
iRunFar: Intelligence and mental approach. Thank you very much and good luck.