When I was a kid, I always dreamt of having a super sharp sword that could slice through everything (from watching too many anime and playing too many video games). Now I have not become a hero but  just a runner, and after a long hard run, I like to treat myself with a nice fancy cake. Either from a good pastry shop, or something that I have made.  

A cake I made some time ago with a nice shiny icing: yes I’m showing off

As a passionate cake maker and manga fan, I’ve just come to realize that a cake, a runner and a sword have a lot in common. Usually, the first reaction one has when seeing a cake like this is that they want to have a taste. You might have no idea what’s inside the cake, but you don’t care, you just want to eat it.

But as a cake maker, if I put on my running coach glasses, interesting things happen.


The icing on the cake

The glazing you put on your cake, the thing that makes it shine is what will make it attractive, sexy. You go to a shop, and usually your eyes will be glittering at the one with the best coating. It is almost the main purchase’s catalyst or trigger.

The shinier the better.

Now when you meet a runner, the first thing that tingle your curiosity is, how fast he or she can run. In other words, their personal best times. As a runner, we often identify ourselves by our best times aka PB. Then a runner is nothing more than just… a number. “Oh this guy, he’s a two fifty four full, that one over there is a seventy nine half, that chick over there is a sub ninety half”. Say that to your a I-don’t-care-about-running friend, they will throw you a “what the f*** are you talking about”. Yet, this is often how we look at a runner: a two or three digit number…and that number:

The lower the shinier… and the shinier the better.

Well, when I get the cake with the nice icing, if the inside taste like crap then, no matter how the icing is, that’s just a crappy cake.


Cake making process: the core

When I’m asked to make a cake, the first thing I think about are the flavors, then the ingredients, then the synergy of the flavors, the textures, degree of sweetness, sourness, richness, lightness,  so on so forth. This will make the core of my cake. The core will define the cake, it will define its personality (yes a cake does have a personality). Once the core is decided, I prepare all the parts, then assemble the different pieces which complete the inside core of the cake. It is then easy to imagine that there are infinite number of ways to make a cake.

Inside a multi layer cake

A runner is not a cake (duh ! ). But each runner differ from each other by the way they approach, and view the sport, the way they train, the reason why they train and they run: their personality. We all have our own reasons, but to me, a good runner is the one who will pour its passion into the sport. Runners that have a fast PB because they are just gifted but have not much interest in getting better, are merely a bland cake with a nice icing.  Passionate runners will always find a reason to run, to improve themselves through the sport, to challenge themselves and to become better as a human being, simply by putting one foot in front of the other. The tasty cake will find its way to go out of its comfort zone in order to get better. The bland cake will always stay in its comfort zone. Grit is part of the good runner’s diet.


Cake making process: the icing

Actually, for the icing to hold properly on the cake, the core needs to have a certain texture. And depending on the color and flavor of the glaze, the inside needs to match somehow. The icing is actually one of the most technical part of the cake. It is the part where we have the least control. You have only one shot when you pour the glaze on your cake. Even if you made the core perfect, if your glaze is not poured at the right temperature, the right angle, the right speed, the right height, the right circular move, is too thick, too thin, too sweet etc… then it can rapidly become a mess and your cake will look like crap. But when you succeed, then your sense of satisfaction goes through the roof. I guess this is one of the reason I have been making cakes for years. Pouring the icing is one of the most satisfying moment during the cake making process, it provides me with an intricacy of pleasant feeling that can’t really be explained. The icing is the reason of the cake. The PB, finishing the race, getting a ranking, running 250km through the desert etc you name it… is the icing on the cake. The icing cannot go without a good cake interior.

Pouring the icing

In marathon training, the race itself is like the icing on the cake. The core of the cake, i.e. the training, can go 100% according to plan. But there is absolutely no guarantee that the race will go well. You have a degree of uncertainty that is big enough to be categorized in the zone of “uncontrollable”.


The sword

Running a race is like trying to cut a thick rope with a sword you have crafted. Only that you’re not sure how solid is that rope. You are given a number of weeks, months, to prepare, to design and make your sword.

  • You need a good metal with which you’ll forge the sword: that is your body, which needs to be healthy, having healthy lifestyle.
  • You need a very sturdy and good handle and grip: this is your base training, your volume. You cannot handle a sword without a good grip, no matter how sharp the blade is. It will be useless. Get a good grip, build a good volume of training week after week, months after months
  • You need to sharpen your blade: you need to practice running at your goal pace, like the funnel principle, the closer the race, the more specific the training. If your goal is a marathon, running 400m intervals week after week is not the best strategy. You are not sharpening the right part of the sword.
  • You need to know how to handle the sword: on race day, especially during a marathon, if you start out too fast, you will die. Know how to pace yourself.

After months spent on crafting that sword, you have one trial, one blow, one strike to cut through that rope, that finishing line or rope that you have created. Making a sword is a trial and error process. Making errors is the best way to learn, we fall, we get back up. During that process, most factors and parameters are known and controllable. This is when we do our best and give little or no room to chance. We do our best to create that sword from a lump of metal, and to make it as sharp as possible. Because on race day, we’ve got only one single shot, with many unknown and uncontrollable parameters. So there is no miracle, if your sword is not well crafted the rope will remain unbroken. Luck is the last dying wish of those who want to believe winning can happen by accident. Sweat on the other hand is for those who know it’s a choice.

That rope can be a PB, finishing the race, getting a ranking, fill in the blank. That rope is the reason of the sword. In a way runners are strange animals who are willing to spend months of their lifetimes to experience a few minutes, hours, maybe a few days of non-guaranteed self satisfaction. Runners are the ones who have chosen a path with many ropes to cut along the way; they don’t really know where the road ends, nor what exactly they’re chasing after. It is the pursuit of an elusive idea, concept, feeling.



As a coach, I value training much more than the race itself. I see my padawans as the swords, or another way to see it, I help my padawans crafting their swords. They are not ropes, they are not icing, they are not… numbers. On their quest of finding the fanciest icing and cutting the thickest rope, it is my duty to accompany them and help them crafting that sword. Like in a cake, I know what ingredients, spice and flavors composes each of my padawans. But because they are not simple cakes, the number of ingredients from which they are made of are infinite. When I work with a padawan, I get very curious and excited to know what kind of ingredients they are made of. I want to know as much as possible so that I can help them reconstruct themselves. If I add lemon to hot milk, curdling will happen. If I add a hard tempo to a padawan’s schedule, they might not be able to do it. My job is to help them going out of their comfort zone, to expand that zone so that unknown territories become familiar.

As human being we tend to get extremely emotional over things we don’t have control. Many of us are result oriented. Unfortunately, the results are not under our control, it is everything leading  to it that is.

As a coach, for the better or worse, I tend to get emotionally involved into my padawans training. I share their success, but I also share their pain and their disappointment. I really do. They are more than a dot on an excel spreadsheet. When a padawan finishes a race under their target time, when they were not able to cut that rope, I often receive a message such as “sorry coach, hope you’re not disappointed, sorry I could not make it” along these lines. I am not disappointed. I am not because I know what that sword is made of! I know all the intricate ingredients that compose the cake. They were just not able to cut the rope despite doing his best. How can I be disappointed. But I am sad because I feel their frustration, because I have also been there myself and we’ll go there again and again, all of us. I am sad because they are sad themselves, I just share their feelings.

Recently I had the privilege of witnessing an amazing feat of one of my best Padawans, Rika. After almost a year of struggling through injury, overtraining and other issues. She never gave up. She confessed to me that she had a dream, the rope was big. She wanted to qualify for Osaka International women’s marathon. Running under 3:10 was the prerequisite. When she came to see me, she was about 8 minutes off that target, on a sort of plateau. Then we managed to lower that time to 3:16. But then the wheels started to fall off and it was the start of a long dark tunnel. Niggles here and there, multiple minor injuries etc. Long story short, through patience and perseverance, she finally made it. She was not holding a sword, she was holding a lightsaber ! The padawan had turned into a Jedi. She didn’t cut the rope, she burnt it to ashes, finishing in a negative split of 3:08. Seeing her smiling face a full of happiness and tears of joy at the finish line is one the best moment one can have as a coach.

Rika’s lightsaber

The road was a roller coster of emotions though. She took the training very seriously, given her best shot at every single session. Making sure to sharpen the blade as much as she possibly could.  So much that when she could not hit the target split on some training sessions, I could see some tears of disappointment coming out of her eyes. I felt very bad. I certainly don’t want my padawans to get hurt physically nor emotionally. She came to me and said “Sorry Harrisson, I failed tonight’s workout”. To that sentence, today, I would like to say the following to all my padawans:

This is not failing. Not trying and not giving your best, that is failing. Not hitting the pace despite trying hard is NOT failing, this is called Learning !

Also I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all my former and current padawans. Thank you for the continuous life experience you are sharing with me. Thank you for the trust you are giving me. I am learning more with you than with any books. Because you share with me your success, your joy, your excitement but also your fears, your sadness, your anxiety, it makes my path into the athletic world much more inspiring. It’s an honor to be part of your journey.

I will end this already too long blogpost by a quote from Rocky Balboa:

It’s not about how hard you hit,  how fast you run …. it’s about how hard you can get hit,  and still moving forward. How much you can take, and still keep moving… Forward !










  • アイシングはピカピカならピカピカなほどいいんです。


  • 低ければ低いほどピカピカです。。。ピカピカなほどいいんです。













  • 金属を鍛造して刀を作っているために、高品質の金属が必要です:精神を鍛えるために、健康な体が必要で、生活習慣は良くなければならないんです。
  • グリップは丈夫でなければなりません:ベーストレーニングというのは週あたり走る距離。グリップは丈夫でなければ、どんなに鋭い刃でも、刀は価値がなくなってしまいます。ベーストレーニング量は十分にすること。
  • 刃を研ぐこと:ゴールペースで練習しなきゃいけないんです。レース当日が近いほど、トレーニングは具体的にする必要があります。目標はマラソンだったら、スピードインターバルだけを練習するのはは最善のプランだとは限りません。適切の刃の部分を研ぐべきです。
  • 刀の扱い方を知ること:レース当日には、特にマラソンの時に、スタートでペースを速めにしすぎると、死にたいほど辛くなります。ペーシングの仕方を知ること。


















ロッキー・バルボア (Rocky Balboa)


Otaku Ultramarathoner - Strength & Conditioning NASM Certified Personal Trainer - NAASFP certified Running Coach - Pn1 Nutrition Coach

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Runner, Cake, Sword (ランナーの魂、ケーキ、刀)
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