Time stops for no one. But Japan’s Yoshihisa Hosaka is doing his best to push the clock back. At age 59 at the 2008 Fukuoka International Marathon he became the oldest man to ever run Japan’s most celebrated marathon, clocking an age-59 world record 2:34:23. Less than two months later, now 60, he ran 2:36:30 at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, the best ever by a man 60 or older, and became a national celebrity. Yes, that’s right, 2:36:30 at age 60. Think about that one for a minute. Charismatic and bursting with energy and love of life, a former national masters surfing champion who took up marathons at age 42, Hosaka lives at the tip of the mountainous Izu peninsula southwest of Tokyo where he built his own house, grows fruit and vegetables and runs the Natural Foods company.
Like his home, orchards and company, Hosaka developed an idiosyncratic training program from the ground up, one of identical interval workouts twice a day, totaling 30 km every day, that has led him to his big achievements. And others. Alongside his own running he now coaches the Natural Foods athletics club made up of local Izu runners who follow his training principles and have seen growing success. “Anybody can be successful, even as a masters runner,” he says, “if they have the right training principles and follow them every day.”
The club’s red-and-white is a more and more common sight at races across Japan, and even internationally. At July’s Gold Coast Airport Marathon in Australia Hosaka ran 2:46:17, the second-fastest time ever by a 64-year-old. Now he has his sights on the 2:42:44 record at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. “Gold Coast went way better than I expected and I think I can get the age 64 record in Toronto,” he says with a wide smile. “It’s a hard record to crack, but I’ve heard that the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon’s course is fast so it’s the perfect place to go for it. And I’ve always wanted to visit Toronto.”
But there’s more. Hosaka is just four years away from going up against the youngest marathon record held by a familiar face around Toronto, the legendary Ed Whitlock’s 2:51:02 at age 68. “Ed-san is someone I’ve always wanted to meet and talk to, and this might be my only chance,” says Hosaka. “There are so many questions I want to ask him, about his training, his longevity, his advice for a youngster like me.” When the two meet in Toronto next month it will be a moment in history, the fastest marathoner ever for age 59 and up and the fastest ever for age 68 and up, with fourteen marathon world records between them. They may be far behind the winners, but their achievements put them miles ahead.