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Exclusive Athlete Interview: Junko Kazukawa

Junko finishing the esteemed Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc
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Junko finishing the esteemed Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc
Junko finishing the esteemed Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

There’s a fire that burns deep inside Junko Kazukawa, but you probably wouldn’t realize it upon first glance.  Her small frame, spunky personality and humble nature are the perfect compliment to her fierce tenacity, incredible drive and appetite for challenges on and off the trail.

At the ripe age of 53, Junko is throwing down performances and racking up accomplishments that many younger runners can only dream of.  She finished 1st Leadwoman in the Leadville Race Series in 2014, and slayed the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in 2015 as 1st female (the Grand Slam is a set of four of the most prestigious 100 mile races in the U.S.: Western States 100 in California, Vermont 100, Wasatch Front 100 in Utah, and the Leadville 100 in Colorado).

What’s possibly even more impressive is that Junko is a 2-time breast cancer survivor, and has leaned on running to get her through the rough times.  In 2009, she completed the NYC Marathon in 4:33 just 5 weeks after finishing chemotherapy; a little over a year later, in 2011, she would finish her first 100 mile race – the Leadville 100.

Junko is the epitome of a hero and role model.  Not only does she pursue and conquer her own goals and feats, but she does it with a smile while encouraging others along the way.  Read on to learn more about her journey from Japan to Colorado, affinity for coffee and noodle soup, and how her infectious positivity has helped her throughout life’s ups and downs.

Quick Stats

Name: Junko Kazukawa

Age: 53

Hometown & Current: Born and raised in Sapporo Japan, came to Denver, CO 28 years ago

Professional & Educational background:  M.A. in Kinesiology/Exercise Physiology.  I am currently a running coach, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and Run Club Coordinator at Colorado Athletic Club Tabor, and do some consultant works for international fitness business.

Sports participated in: Basketball in Jr High, High school, Jr College in Japan.  1st marathon (road) was 16 years ago.  I am currently running the trail ultra distance (I still run marathons sometimes!!).

Years in current sport: I should say 16 years since 1st marathon distance

Racing Team:  Runner Roost Mountain Ultra Team

Sponsors/Affiliations: New Balance

The Long Run

What are some of the biggest highlights in your racing career?

  • 1st 100 mile Run 2011 Leadville 100 – after a year and half after my 2nd cancer with mastectomy and chemo, I raised $$ for charity to do my 1st 100 mile race, very emotional.
  • 2014 1st time Leadwoman finish with LT 100 Run PR – next step up challenge to my life that time.
  • 2015 Grandslam (1st female) and Leadwoman (3rd female) to finish in single season – I dedicated this challenge to 4 of my good friends who were suffering cancer, very emotional as well.
  • 2016 UTMB finish. Dream race, and hardest so far, but beautiful run. 

What are your long-term goals?  What do you want to achieve as an athlete?

  • I am 53 years old, I would like to keep running as long as I can…and I would love to see the beautiful places in the world by trail running, and I would be happy if I can inspire anyone who needs a little push by sharing my experience through challenges of my running, biking, or climbing mountains.
  • As a coach/trainer, I would love to help people accomplish their athletic goals!

Why Colorado?

I came to Colorado 28 years ago from Japan, and I love living here since then.  Colorado is now my home.  I love mountains, and the outdoor life style, great races, and great people.  Colorado has 4 seasons which just like Sapporo, Japan, where I am from.  I just love it here.

Middle Distance

Take us through a “day in the life,” what type of training regimen do you follow?

I do cross training during the week by resistance training, teaching interval/plyometrics types of classes, and spinning class. I usually run back to back on Saturday and Sunday depending on race season schedule.  I am active throughout the year by doing these types of training.  Getting into race season, I will make some plans for specific training.

What are one or two things you currently do in