Chanson singer makes his mark by running 3,058 km in a month

Courtesy of Yuri Matsumoto
Katsuyuki Kurai nears the finish line of a running event that started in Hiroshima and ended in Nagasaki on Aug. 9.

Chanson singer Katsuyuki Kurai ran an amazing 3,000-plus kilometers in a single month in May. The singer from Ota Ward, Tokyo, was also the only successful participant in a running event covering 423 kilometers between Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 74 hours on Aug. 6-9.

“Chanson singer runs 3,058 kilometers in a month!”

This headline appeared in the August issue of monthly magazine Runners, praising Kurai’s achievement in the Satsuki Run & Walk event in May, in which participants compete by measuring the distance they run or walk across the month using GPS.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Katsuyuki Kurai sings on Aug. 16, beside the magazine issue featuring his running.

Kurai, 39, performed the feat by making a round trip through Honshu from Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, up to Aomori.

His distance is extraordinary when compared to the second-place runner in this year’s Satsuki Run event, who traveled 1,323 kilometers, and the winner in last year’s event, who covered 2,257 kilometers.

The magazine’s September issue included a 10-page feature story focusing on his unparalleled performance.

When Kurai is not in running shoes, he is a chanson singer with an enchanting voice who goes by the stage name Catsu. On Aug. 16, he appeared at a live music club in Shimbashi, Tokyo, to sing “La Vie en Rose” and other songs while playing the guitar.

Between songs, he made the audience laugh by connecting France, where chanson originates, with marathons.

“I have run the Medoc Marathon in Bordeaux eight times,” he said. “I ran the full marathon in 3 hours 2 minutes while drinking about 20 glasses of local wine.”

Some people in the audience visited the club after learning about his performance as a runner.

Kurai won a chanson competition in 2007, while a student at the University of Tsukuba.

Soon after he began his singing career, his mentor Yoshiko Ishii, president of the Japan Chanson Association, died.

“I was totally at a loss, as I suddenly lost my supporter,” Kurai said.

With the popularity of chanson losing momentum, he looked for another way to express himself to the public and eventually chose running.

Kurai has a personal best of running a marathon in 2 hours 50 minutes. He is also enthusiastic about ultramarathon running, which is longer than the 42.195 kilometers of the traditional marathon.

“Any error in water supply during a marathon can be devastating,” he said. “Ultramarathons are interesting because they’re like life. Accidents can happen. But even if you fail at some point, you later have a chance to make up for it.”

Despite his increasing enthusiasm for marathon running, Kurai won a chanson competition in 2018.

“My life as a singer has been full of twists and turns, similar to running an ultramarathon,” Kurai said.

He says that his current goal is to bring about an event titled “Sanson Chanson Marathon,” a rhyming pun combining sanson, which means “remote mountain village” in Japanese, with chanson and marathon.

“I want to sing chanson on the eve of a marathon event held in a mountain village and also win the marathon, all to contribute to the area’s revitalization,” he said.