10 January, 2011
Hajime Nishi
Long distance runner embraces nature on the trail

At the surface, Hajime Nishi of Japan isn’t that unusual. He likes to run in marathons, and many others do that. But one thing does make him unique: he approaches marathons in slightly different way. For him, it isn’t about running fastest or being number one, it’s about appreciating nature and interacting with it. Nishi still follows the tenets of each marathon, whether it is walking or running it, but as he does so he captures images of nature, records its live beauty, converses with its animals, and one thing which is perhaps the most unusual trait for a runner, he sends his support out to those against whom he is competing.

Even though Nishi now takes an unusual approach to partaking in them, he is noted for being a top runner in many marathons. He is recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first person to run seven marathons on each of the seven continents in seven months, in 1997. Eventually, he found that while he liked the idea of the sport, he didn’t like the way it fostered conceit and competitiveness. In Nishi’s view, the marathon races served to make people care more about how to beat each other and be “number one” than about personal wellbeing or community, or the beauty of the places in which many of the races took place. Hence was born the idea of an Ecomarathon. He wanted to combine marathon running with a more organic experience, taking in nature, appreciating it and respecting it along the trek.

Though Nishi knows that he comes in last and so won’t be rewarded by race organizers, for him the fulfillment happens throughout the race, by allowing himself to be touched by nature and to interact with it. He also feels that he benefits from this practice more than just spiritually. Because he doesn’t stress himself focusing on trying to be first, and doesn’t push his body beyond what it can accomplish, he finishes the race with a far stronger immune system. And while he might still have to recover from his physical ordeal, it will likely be nowhere near as painful or tiring as the runners whose sole focus was on beating the pack. Nishi’s way of running doesn’t just benefit himself. On a run in 2007 in Dubai, his eco activities helped to measure Dubai’s environmental standards and contributed to an “Ecomarathon International Evaluation.”

The next time any of us go for a run or walk, instead of measuring how long left until it’s finished, perhaps we should take a cue from Nishi and consider instead a slower pace, a deep breath… embracing the physical world, understanding what it offers us and respecting its wonders.

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By: Ecozine Staff


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