Reia Iwade is one of Japan’s most accomplished young runners, finishing third in her first marathon at age 19. Now, Iwade, 24, continues to train, running all over the world to prepare for the 2020 Olympics, which take place in her home country next summer.
We sat down with Iwade to learn more about her motivation and how she never quits, but rather pushes past limits to keep going further.
Q: You made your marathon debut as a teenager. How did you motivate yourself to work so hard at such an early age?
Iwade: I started running marathons as a teenager because I already knew I wanted to become a marathon runner when I first began track and field in junior high school. So, I wanted to start running marathons as soon as I graduated high school.
Q: How does it feel when you find yourself in a leading group of a marathon?
Iwade: Marathon is a sport where only the strong survive. The longer you stay in the leading group, the less people you see around — and that increases your motivation and makes you feel good. In the Nagoya race last year, I was in the leading group up to around the 26-kilometer point. Eventually, the only Japanese runners left in the group were me and another person. It was thrilling to see which one of us would fall behind first.
Q: What about the opposite, when you’re in the back of the group?
Iwade: In races, I rarely progress from the rear group. Normally, I always try to stay in the leading group so the race develops pleasantly.
Q: When you feel you’re approaching your limit, how do you overcome that and keep moving forward?
Iwade: When you have a barrier to overcome, you hear a voice inside that tells you that you won’t make it. I try to overcome that voice through a strong sense of assurance that I can keep going further.
Q: You’ve been training in Kenya and Japan with Under Armour. How has this experience impacted your growth as a runner?
Iwade: I visited Kenya for the first time in June. Seeing many runners from the country and how they train, I clearly understood the reasons why they are so strong as athletes. They are extremely motivated and eager to grow.
Q: What goals do you have for the future?
Iwade: The Tokyo Olympics will be held in my home country in 2020, so I wish to win a medal.
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