Sumie Inagaki Japan

Sumie Inagaki is a runner representing Japan. Let's take a look at her amazing achievements. She is a dedicated runner who also works as an aerobics and yoga instructor. In addition to her daily running routine, she is an accomplished ultramarathon runner and winning numerous races worldwide. Notably, she has achieved victory in the Spartathlon twice, the IAU 24-hour World Championships twice, and the Badwater Ultramarathon twice. Furthermore, she has set new world records three times in 48-hour races (397.103 km) and has a long list of impressive accomplishments throughout her 29-year running career.

We are excited to present an exclusive interview featuring Sumie Inagaki (SI) conducted by Yuzuru Takazu (YT) meber of IAU Communication Committee. 

YT. How and when did you start running?

SI. I started running in 1994 when my older colleague at my part-time job at a sports club invited me to run in the Honolulu Marathon.


YT. What was your first race?

SI. The 1994 Honolulu Marathon (4:55:38) was my first race. In the following year (1995), I participated in the Honolulu Marathon (4:30:52) again. The previous year in 1994, I walked in the middle of the race. Thus, this time, I entered the race with the intent of crossing the finish line without walking. The year after that (1996), I participated in the New York City Marathon (4:09:27). In 1997, I participated in the Paris Marathon (3:42:08). I could go on overseas trips at the time, so I entered overseas races. Among other overseas full marathons, I entered those in Lausanne (Switzerland), Berlin (Germany), and Rotterdam (Netherlands). Also, in Japan, I have participated in the Tokyo Marathon, Osaka International Ladies Marathon, and Nagoya International Women's Marathon.


YT. Why did you decide to run ultramarathons? When is your first ultramarathon?

SI. A friend of mine from a sports club I used invited me. Therefore, in 1997 I participated in a 50km race (4:44:01). I participated in my first 100km race the following year (1998) at the LAKE SAROMA 100km race. But due to hypothermia, I withdrew from the race at 87km.


YT. What were the main ultramarathons that you participated in? What is your winning race?

SI. Races in which I have participated include Spartathlon, Badwater Ultramarathon, Comrades, IAU 24-hour WC, Soochow International Ultramarathon, Taipei Ultramarathon, and 48-hour Surgeres. Races that I have won include Spartathlon (2006 and 2009), Badwater Ultramarathon (2011 and 2012), IAU 24-hour World Championships (2004 and 2006), and All-American Championships in San Diego (2005). At the 48-hour Surgeres, I set new women's world records at the time for the 48-hour race on three occasions (2006, 2008, and 2010). Also, at a 24-hour race in Finland in 2011, I set a new women's indoor world record (240.631 km) at the time. Moreover, the previous year in 2010, I ran 241.426 km at the same competition, but that is an unofficial record. I won six consecutive championships at this competition in Finland.


YT. Which do you prefer, Ultramarathons in Road Ultra Trails, or Loop Ultramarathons?

SI. I like any kinds of ultramarathons except for those on trails. When running in the trails, the risk of injury is high. If I get injured it will have bad effect on my work, so I don't run on trails.


YT. What is your strategy for 24 or 48-Hours Races?

SI. I am not a fast runner, so my racing strategy is to keep on staying in the running course and run as much as possible without taking a break.


YT. How many ultra-races did you finish?

SI. During my life of running for the past 29 years, I have participated in about 150 races. I withdrew from three races. I have crossed the finish line for all other races.

  • Full marathons: 45 races
  • 100km races: 24 races
  • Races longer than 200km: 14 races
  • 24-hour races: 23 races
  • 48-hour races: 9 races
  • 6-day races: 5 races

Thus, I think I have finished running ultramarathons more than 80 times.


YT. How do you start the preparation for an ultramarathon?

SI. My running distance in a month is about 500km. However, I gradually shorten my running distance before a race. Also, beginning one month before a race, I try to take medicine and supplements to replenish iron. Two weeks before a race, I increase my hours of sleep. Also, I consider the height and temperature differences in a racecourse and then change my practice course to match the racecourse.


YT. Do you play any sports other than running?

SI. I am an instructor for aerobics, yoga, and conditioning. I think due to these exercises, I can tone up physically.


YT. What will be your objectives or plans for the future?

SI. I want to spread the information about CONDITIONING to more runners so that they can continue to run as long as they like.


YT. What races do you plan to attend in the near future?

SI. I want to participate in the Okinawa Survival Run (which has a time limit of 72 hours for 400 km). I haven't been able to enter it since there were other races or events to participate in at the same time. Also, I want to enter the Honshu Run-Through (1,550 km).


YT. Do you have any anecdotes/interesting stories from your run/races?

SI. Many times after a race, I collapsed and was given an intravenous drip. Also, I didn't know where the award ceremony venue was for the Spartathlon once, so I wasn't in time for its award ceremony. At that time, a representative received the medal for me.


YT. What do you do to enhance your recovery after races?

SI. My body always becomes swollen after a race, so I get a lymphatic massage. After a race, I don't run for a while. I make an effort to care for my body, like soaking in a hot bath.


YT. What is the best running advice you have ever received?

SI. "If you want to quit running, why don't you quit? It is you who runs after all."


YT. What do you like about running?

SI. By doing running I participate in races and can meet with many people from all over the world.


YT. What is your motto?

SI. Not to strain and damage my body. Not to be weak physically.


YT. What kinds of running shoes do you use depending on the speed and the length of the run?

SI. I only use one type and don't wear different shoes depending on the race styles. As for shoemakers, I almost always wear Mizuno. However, when there is a model change and the shoes don't match with me, I wear another company's shoes.


YT. Do you prefer to train alone or run in a group? 

SI. During the day time, I generally run by myself. However, at night I always run together with my running friends. During the day if you get into an accident, there is a strong likelihood that someone will find you. But at night, it is dangerous. If you get into an accident at night it will be difficult for someone to find you immediately, so I run together with my friends.


YT. How many ultramarathons do you run in one year?

SI. I run a total of about four races a year, two 200 km races and two 100 km races.


YT. Did you do any other sports before you started running?

SI. I have been doing aerobics since I was 20 years old. By the way, I started aerobics with the intention of dieting.


YT. How popular are ultramarathons in your country?

SI. Ultramarathons are popular among a limited number of people. However, I think the level of familiarity with ultramarathons is still generally low.


YT. What would you do to make this sport more popular?

SI. As for an ultramarathon the race time and practice time are long. Thus, first of all I think it is necessary to prepare and adjust the environmental aspects. For example, a day nursery is set up for the Nagoya Women's Marathon, and I think providing this kind of environmental aspects will increase the numbers of participants.


YT. Has anything changed in your running due to the coronavirus?

SI. Due to the coronavirus crisis, I can no longer go to race venues. However, I now run a lot in the neighborhood instead to keep the running distance.


Yuzuru Takazu

IAU Communication Committee

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