Behind the Bruin: Keita Suzuki ties for second in 50-mile Nashville Ultramarathon
Belmont senior Keita Suzuki ran 50 miles in 7 hours, 21 minutes, but that’s not quite fast enough for him.
“I wanted to break the course record, which is 6 hours and 32 minutes,” said Suzuki. Maintaining an average pace of 8 minutes, 30 seconds per mile to tie for second place, the music business senior merely cracked the top-20 male Nashville Ultramarathon finishers — of all time.
Suzuki’s dedication to the sport only really kicked off in 2018 when he graduated high school. Despite having an athletic background, it wasn’t until he quit baseball that he discovered his true passion for running, and he hasn’t stopped since.
“I think it takes a different kind of person,” said Lydia Camp, Suzuki’s running partner, who he met while working at Belmont’s FitRec. “He genuinely enjoys the sport, which is something I even struggle with a lot. He’s told me before: ‘The farther I run, the happier I feel.’ I feel like that’s just a certain kind of passion.”
The 23-year-old was born and raised in Kamakura, Japan, and he’s made a lot of moves in his life — to Los Angeles for community college, and now to Nashville to finish up his studies. But throughout all the changes in scenery, he’s been able to run.
“Even if the location is different, my constant doesn’t change because of running.” said Suzuki.
Suzuki spent the majority of 2020 at home in Japan due to the pandemic, and because of the time difference, he had to get up early to take Belmont classes online — sometimes at 5 a.m. Finding himself with an abundance of free time in those early mornings, he chose to devote it to running.
He continues to get up and run a minimum of 10 miles every morning.
“For me, running is a great opportunity to appreciate the things we already have,” said Suzuki. “Every time I run, I see my limitations, and every time I see my limitations, I see what I really need,” said Suzuki.
The Nashville Ultra course, which starts and ends at Cornelia Fort Airpark, consists of two out-and-back routes. Runners first make their way out of the city via the Cumberland Pedestrian bridge to Percy Priest Dam, then return via downtown. Their next stop is the outreaches of North Nashville, reversing course at Ted Rhodes Golf Course to return to the airport and finish the race.
Along the course, there are aid stations where runners can stop, nab a snack, drink some water or rest. Throughout his entire 50-mile run, Suzuki only stopped once
In 2019, Suzuki ran the Nashville Marathon, his first marathon, which he says was the “worst experience ever.” He finished in 3 hours, 38 minutes, compared to the global average of 4 1/2 hours.
In June 2020, while back home in Japan, Suzuki completed a 100-mile race. In August of this year, he ran a 40-mile Caney Fork Ultra in 6 hours, 55 minutes, followed by his most recent 50-miler in Nashville.
Many runners will rest anywhere from 3-10 days after running a marathon. Camp took a week off after running a marathon of her own and still didn’t feel recovered, she said.
But Suzuki was back out just a few days after placing in the Ultra.
“Easy runs this week,” said Suzuki, who ran 3 miles on the Monday morning following his Saturday race.
Suzuki is currently raising money to join Camp in registering for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon on Nov. 20, which has a $130 entrance fee.
Provided he raises enough money, he hopes to run the race in 3 hours or less.
PHOTO: Keita Suzuki before the race the morning of Oct. 30. Lydia Camp.
This article was written by Connor Daryani.