Wataru Iino is Talking Trail Running

Last weekend at UT Unseen Koh Chang, aka UTKC, we had the pleasure of welcoming one of Japan's better known trail runners on the international circuit. Wataru Iino made his debut in the Thailand SuperTrail of the 2017 Asia Trail Master series and he did it in great fashion. Not only because of his charming smile and seemingly eternal good mood, but also because of his grabbing-the-bull-by-the-horn race tactics. After checking out his main rivals for the race in the early sections, pre-race favourite Wataru Iino just went for it and attacked already with over 70k still to go. A winner and podium placer of several big ultras on various continents, it looked like the UTKC 100k race was his. However, the extreme heat on Koh Chang last weekend, with temperatures rising well above 40 degrees, caused its toll on the Tokyo resident. Wataru Iino began to suffer from dehydration and had to accept the return of Malaysia's Steven Oong, who by nature is of course more adapted to those climatic conditions. They crossed the finish line together, helped by the fact that Oong has no championship ambitions due to his unpredictable international work schedule. Wataru Iino showed his sportsmanship and gratitude giving hommage to Oong, and looks set to become an exciting contender for this year's Asia Trail Master championship title. Time to get to know the man a bit more. 

By. K. Van de Velde

Q: Where were you born and did you grow up ?

WI: I was born in Tokyo, Japan,  and grew up there as well.
What do you do for a living?
I'm an engineer in a car company.
What made you become an ultrarunner?
I just developed into it, also by focusing on my diet. 
How did you get involved with running at all? 
I used to go to work by train and one day I changed by running the route for 18 km one way.
What has been your biggest achievement as a runner yourself?
I once ran for 55 hours without sleeping in a trail race.
What are you favourite sports other than long distance running?
Judo and cycling
Running, and. especially marathon, is very popular in Japan. What is your explanation for this?
There are 4 distinct climate seasons in Japan. That means running never gets boring as the landscape keeps changing.
Is the Tokyo Marathon the biggest running event in the country?
I don't think so. Plenty of other marathon/trail races are huge as well inside the country.
How do people feel about the upcoming Olympic Games in 2020?
It depends. Some people are looking forward to seeing world famous athletes, but some people also worry about incidents and other potential disturbances.
Haruki Murakami wrote a book entitled "what I talk about when I talk about running". So, what are you talking about? 
There is no other sports than marathon in which “effort” counts more than “talent”.
If we may say so, Japan is still a little bit of a closed society and many mass sports events only cater for domestic participation. Is this deliberate, or would many organisers actually like more international exposure?
I guess Japanese organisers welcome foreigners anytime, but they cannot fully support them due to language and cultural issues.

Mr Hiroaki Matsunage is opening his trail events, such as the Echigo Country Trail and Kushigata Wind Trail, to Asia and the world. How important would you argue his work is, and will we see you running in one of those two races, which are also part of the Asia Trail Master series? 
I don't know his races so well,  but it's a good opportunity for Japanese trail running to welcome foreigners. On the other hand, the locations in Niigata take some time to get to
from Tokyo as they are really in the Japanese countryside. 
What should a good trail event look like in your view? 
Trail races depend heavily on volunteers. Therefore organisers should always communicate extensively with local people. The races that have all volunteers and local crowd cheering for runners are the best. It is all about the atmosphere. 
How do you see the future development of trail running in Japan? Recently, there have been some conflicts with local authorities in the Kansai region.
Again, an event cannot be successful without an agreement with local people. We need strong cooperation from them.
You are one of the top favourites for the Thailand SuperTrail UTKC, will we see you challenging for the Asia Trail Master championship this year (the interview took place a few days before UTKC, kvdv)
Maybe, currently there is no fixed plan yet. It will depend on how UTKC goes, I guess. 
What is your favourite piece of running music?
I tend to listen the music of "Sister's act".