Restaurateur Atsuyuki Katsuyama is about to embark on a trek that few have ever tried, let alone finished. The Japanese-born Bangkok resident better known as ‘K’ will run over 5000 kilometres across the United States in just 80 days, starting in Santa Monica, California, and ending in New York. During his epic journey, which kicks off on April 25, he will be raising money for two Thai charities.
How long has “K’s Run Across the USA” been in the works?
I’ve been running for 30 years. In that time, I’ve done 101 full or ultra marathons. The more races I ran and the more devoted to the sport I became, the more the idea of running the ultimate distance [across a continent] came to me. At first, it was just a vague idea. But, at the end of 2013, my dream became real. I chose April 25, my 48th birthday, to start my run across North America.
Where do you run in Bangkok – especially during your incredible 70k runs every Tuesday?
In preparation for my journey, I’ve started to run 20 kilometres each day, Wednesday through Monday, and 70 kilometres on Tuesdays. Most of the time I run in the two big parks – Lumpini and Benjakiti. I live nearby, and there is a connecting path between them, so it’s easy. When I do my long runs, I branch out. There are three parks near BTS Mo Chit that I can connect to make a big 10-kilometre loop. I always run in the parks. Runners shouldn’t venture into the streets, as it’s very dangerous with all those cars and motorcycles, which seem to love to mess with pedestrians, especially runners.
How long have you been here, and what brought you to Bangkok in the first place?
I’ve been living in Bangkok for five years. I’m originally from Japan, but my wife is Thai. I was working in a Japanese company for 20 years, and Bangkok was my last foreign assignment. Finally, after 20 years, enough was enough. When I resigned, my wife and I did something we’ve always wanted to do – we started a vegan café on Pan Road called Bonita Café and Social Club.
How do you find time and energy to manage a business?
This may sound strange, but I try not to get tired when I’m running. And I don’t feel tired. I run “light,” not wasting energy with heavy, plodding steps. When I’m in training mode, I
cut out all unnecessary activities in my daily life. I focus on sleeping, eating, running, working, and getting ready for the major task ahead of me. And I stay disciplined. I can’t say, “Oh, I’m tired because of my training, so I don’t have energy to work.” It’s my sense of responsibility. No excuses.
When and why did you decide to go vegan?
It was six years ago, and it was a sudden change. Before then, I ate everything. I thought animal-based products gave me energy. Then, one day, when I was living in California, I had a chance to talk to an American couple, both vegan runners. I loved the way they explained veganism. They said we can actually gain energy by avoiding heavy animal-based foods, and this energy would improve our performance. I always love to try something new. If I don’t like it, I can go back to what I was doing before. So I immediately went vegan. That American couple changed my life. Without them, Bonita Café wouldn’t exist. And now I feel so full of energy, so light, physically and ethically, because I know that my choices aren’t causing animals to suffer.
How does that affect where you go to eat in Bangkok?
Non-vegans might think that I have a small choice in what I can eat. But I eat a lot. I’ve never had a problem finding food. If we are creative, we can come up with lots of choices. I go
to all kinds of restaurants and simply pick items that are not animal-based.
How did you choose the charities you are supporting?
My friends introduced me to them. Both organizations make dreams come true, no matter how big or small. (Hug and Smile supports people living with HIV, and Wishing Well Thailand helps people with cancer.) Some are simple dreams, like “I want to see the ocean.” We all have dreams, and they’re all important. Their size doesn’t matter. So many people are helping make my dream come true. Now, I want to help make dreams come true for other people.
To follow Atsuyuki’s run across America and to donate to the worthy causes he is supporting, visit krunusa.wordpress.com