On the Run – Kaori Niwa

Kaori explained to me that her name is best pronounced like ‘curry’ but with an ‘o’. This humble and polite lady then went on to place 8th at UTMB in 2016. She doesn’t stuff around, which being true to her Japanese origins. Never shying away from a tough event, Kaori is rarely out of the top ten in events such as UTMF, BUFF Epic Trail and Transvulcania. We wanted to find out how she does it.

How do you recovery from training and racing?

For recovery, I focus on resting my body and soul well and taking in good nutrition.

Sleeping well, acupuncture treatments, stretching and walking or jogging with my dogs are essential for resting my body and soul.

Eating a balanced diet especially taking in enough iron, helps me quickly recover.

The Tanzawa area in Kanagawa, Japan, with Mt.Fuji in the background

What do you eat in your Ultra Running Races?

I mainly use energy gels made of natural things and don’t contain sugar.

The one I use is made of NZ honey and viburnum fruits which is high in antioxidants. I also eat Japanese rice crackers which have a soy souse flavour when I’m bored with sweet tasting gels.

How would you describe the Japanese Trail Running Community?

The Japanese trail running community is growing rapidly and because of this, it’s facing many difficulties. Some top runners have organised an association to try and solve the problems arising by educating people on the rules of trail running and dealing with people opposing trail runners on trails.

What is the most important session you do all week?

Running on trails is the most important, but also stretching and massaging my body is very important as well.

What is your go to for a pre-race dinner and breakfast?

For a pre-race dinner, I usually eat brown rice, liver and some yoghurt. For breakfast, it’s just brown rice and a bit of fruit. I try not to have too much fibre.

I tried eating sweet potatoes instead of brown rice for the last race I had and my stomach was more stable, so I will experiment more with this to find out what is the most suitable for me and doesn’t upset my stomach.

How would you describe your everyday nutrition? Do you stick to a specific nutrition plan?

During the racing season, I try to eat less carbohydrates, more protein and a lot of vegetables and fruits. I try not to take white sugar. I eat a lot of foods containing iron and foods which help the absorption of iron. Tofu and Soy milk are very Japanese and a good source of protein.

Why trail running, why ultra running?

I’m not originally a runner. I started trail running as a training method for SKIMO during summer.

I love mountains and going as far as I can. Trail running expands the limit more than hiking. I can travel really far in a day. That’s why I love trail running.

I travelling on my feet and ultra running is just like a long journey. I also found that ultra running gives me very important time to be alone and face my inner world. When you are pushed to the limits you will see the weakest part of yourself. Facing my mental agony is very interesting and a rare opportunity.

What are your other passions outside of running?

Ski mountaineering and camping. Well anything, if I can be a part of big nature.

Kaori can be found on Facebook at @demochan0505 and Instagram @demochan0809