By: Junko Kazukawa
I ran my very first 100-mile race in Leadville, 2010. This race, for me was to have closure with breast cancer. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 times, in 2005 and 2009. Back then, I was running marathons 3-5 times per year before my cancer episodes. When I was crewing a mountain bike race for friend, I found out that people would run 100 miles in Leadville. I thought this is crazy!! Since then, I’ve always wanted to run the Leadville 100 race.
Cancer came back in 2009, this was the second time and I had no choice but a mastectomy and chemo therapy. While I was going through the major surgery and recovery, I decided to just sign up and do the Leadville 100. Why wait? Life is short and precious! I had nothing to lose, but trying to see if I can do this! I made the announcement to all of my friends, and received lots of support from them. I made this huge life time athletic commitment as a charity event for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. That is how I started my Ultra 100 mile races.
I am now age 52 years old. I have been making my own challenges every year. I love to challenge my own athletic limitations. The most recent challenge was that I completed 2 ultra series in same season – Grandslam of ultra running (4 hundreds mile races every few weeks apart) and Leadwoman (marathon, 50 mile mountain bike, 100 mile mountain bike, 10K run, and 100 mile run in Leadville) Apparently, I was the first person to complete both series in a single season! I feel blessed to have the health and mind to do the challenges, and all the support from my teammates, Team Junko, and others. I’ve learned and gained mental toughness from every race I’ve completed.
As I mentioned, I am 52 years old, and my body probably would not take many miles like other ultra runners. I am not a winning elite runner by any means, maybe an age group winner if I get lucky! I love to make it happen by creating my own training plan, and working hard at it. I focus on cross training by riding my bike, teaching cardio/strength class during week days, and doing 2 long distance runs back to back on weekends. I used to stress about not being able to run many miles due to my work as trainer, which requires many hours of physical working in a day. However, I found this training method works very well for my body. I assess my weaknesses on my performance for running, and try to make it strong. With determination, rest, and passion, I feel alive to run and to challenge my athletic goals. And I will continue to do so for as long as I can!
Through running, I’ve met incredible people from the running community. I am so lucky to have opportunities to get to know super nice people who share similar passions, running in many races, joining the Runners Roost race team, and off course, getting involving with Trail Sisters. It has been a wonderful life experience that I can learn from veteran runners and make lots of friends and connections that make me feel alive.
One of my passions along with my own running is that I would like to help others accomplish their goals. If I can pay it back to whoever needs a little guidance, or inspiration, especially people who are coming back from cancer or any horrible illness, I would be more than happy to coach them in their individual pursuits.
I would love to send a message to the community that “we are not alone, don’t give up, stay positive, and let’s work together!.”
Bio: Junko Kazukawa
From: Sapporo Japan
- Personal Trainer at Colorado Athletic Club, Tabor Center
- Running coach
- M.A. Exercise Physiology
- Runners Roost Mountain Ultra Team
- Colorado Sportswomen of Colorado: Inspiration/Ultra-running 2015
- Grand Slam of Ultra Running, 1st Female, 2015
- 2x Leadwoman 2014, 2015
- 3x Silver Queen
- and marathons, mountain bike races.
- Denver Post, December 2015
- ultrarunning.com January 28, 2016
- Runners World, July 2016