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The Way of the Runner A Journey Into the Fabled World of Japanese Running By Adharanand Finn

Release date: 17th November, 2017
Publisher: WW Norton

List Price: £13.99
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While researching his latest book, The Way of the Runner, author Adharanand Finn found that in 2013, not one British male completed a marathon in under 2 hours 15 minutes. In the USA over the same period, a dozen men ran under this time, while in Japan, a staggering 52 Japanese men clocked under 2:15.

Over the past three or four decades, Kenyans and Ethiopians have taken full advantage of their physical and environmental attributes to dominate long distance running, yet Japan comes a very close third. Even so, we know little of Japanese techniques or enthusiasm for long distance running, an omission which Finn seeks to remedy following the success of his last book, Running with the Kenyans

Clearly not a man to do things by halves, Finn took his family to Japan for six months to discover why running is so popular; he also used the time to train with an amateur team coached by a former professional runner Kenji Takao.

Japanís love of long-distance running has echoes of ancient Greece. Long before the marathon and other events were codified, Japan was a nation where couriers would run enormous distances, carrying messages between cities; from this has grown a series of unique relay competitions, underpinned by another Japanese tradition: doryoku, the ability to persevere in the pursuit of success.

Japan is home to more than 1,500 professional runners who compete in teams sponsored by corporations such as Honda and Toyota.

Most train for and compete in three major 'ediken' (marathon relays), of which the 'Hakone Ekiden' in early January is the most prodigious. Relay teams run a hundred kilometres a day between Tokyo and Hakone and back, a race which can be relied upon to draw Japanís largest television audience of the year.

Though Japan produces an impressive number of excellent long distance runners, Finn highlights how sporting dedication and hard work can soon slip into over training, often caused by the fear of failure. Many indigenous runners train so hard, theyíre burnt out by the time they reach their mid-twenties.

Nevertheless, this is a fascinating study into one aspect of Japanese society about which few of us had any idea. Clearly, itís fair to say that running is integral to the Japanese character and while this book will be enjoyed by social and serious runners alike, its insight into Japanese tradition and dedication will appeal to the general reader too.


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