The Daily Manila Shimbun


Road to Tokyo 2020: Track athletes train for blistering heat

July 12, 2019

Tokyo--With just over a year to go until the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, marathon and racewalking athletes are entering the final stages of training with a focus on coping with the scorching summer heat.

The Japan Association of Athletics Federations is looking at "heat adaptation," or the gradual familiarization of the body to higher temperatures, as a way to deal with Japan's hot and humid summer.

"What happens before the day of the race may take up more than half of the necessary steps to deal with the heat," Masaaki Sugita, the head of the JAAF's science committee, said, adding that one study found that it takes about two weeks for the human body to acclimate itself to hot environments.

He pointed to an example of an Olympic long-distance runner who won a medal at the 2008 Beijing Games after intentionally training in a hot environment in the days leading up to the race.

"It's important to get used to (the heat) through the application of heat stress, instead of only practicing in cool places," Sugita said.

The JAAF has led efforts to use data analysis in arranging the best training regime for each athlete.

Several years ago, the association started collecting data such as body weight, water intake and sweat composition from prospective marathon and racewalking athletes before, during and after training sessions in summertime. It used the data to advise athletes on how to train in a way that best matches their physiological traits.

"We've been able to provide information on how to deal with the heat in a more holistic way, as opposed to in a fragmented way" as was the case in the lead-up to the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016, Sugita said.

Racewalking athletes and trainers have declared 2019 "the year for deciding anti-heat measures," aiming to prepare for and conduct simulations of the actual race in the summer to collect data.

For the marathon, trainers will measure the temperature, humidity, amount of shade, wind speed and direction, and the surface temperature of the race course exactly one year before the race, at the event's planned start time of 6 a.m.

Marathon athletes selected to represent Japan at the Tokyo Games will be handed a report analyzing the data, along with a video of the course. The Japanese marathon delegation will be decided at the Marathon Grand Championship, a qualifying race slated for September.

The marathon and 50-kilometer racewalking events, which are likely to be held in hot and humid weather, are expected to take over two hours and three and a half hours, respectively.

"Dealing with the heat is more than just preparing on the day of the race," Sugita said. "At the end of the day, whoever goes into the race in a good condition will get the best results."

In other words, whether Japanese athletes can clinch medals hinges on how well they can prepare for and perform under the scorching heat. Jiji Press