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Oldest Competitor: Yoshiaki Ishihara

This year’s RacingThePlanet: Madagascar Roving Race drew many veteran 4 Deserts racers and perhaps among the greatest veterans in the field is Yoshiaki Ishihara. At the age of 69, he is the eldest competitor who has completed more than 200 ultramarathons and was one of the very first 4 Deserts Club members. He’s also competed in all seven of the Roving Races.

Sitting at a small, round wooden table at the fourth campsite, Ishihara tells us ¬how he came to be drawn to these races in the first place. “The fact that the fastest runners don’t always win is something that attracted me to RacingThePlanet,” he says. “In addition, we visit places that no ordinary tourist visits.”

He explains that he began running fairly late in his life. “I started running by chance at age 51 and I gradually started extending the distance. My motivation was a growing sense of achievement. In my 50s, in one year I used to run 30 to 40 races of 100-kilometers or more. In my busiest year, I ran an aggregate of 7,500 kilometers. In my sixties, I reduced the distance on the doctor’s orders.”

Ishihara remains healthy despite those doctor’s warnings and attributes his glowing health to, “nothing in particular. I do a little swimming, bike riding and jogging. I eat almost no meat and prefer to eat fish.” When offering his advice to those younger than him, Ishihara says that getting out of one’s comfort zone — and into new landscapes — can do great things to the body and mind. “My advice to young people would be to begin to enjoy running by learning to manage stress in an unfamiliar or even primitive environment.”

When asked about his training regimen, Saito leaves us with wonderfully original answer. “I have a 100-square meter field which I cultivate with a Japanese pick,” he tells us. “This is my training. I grow things such as cucumbers, eggplants, leeks, potatoes, okras, melons, spinach and so on. Right after I return from this race I’ll plant seeds for ‘Daikon’ (Japanese radish).”

By Clare Morin

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