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"The Rocky of the Marathon World" - Saitama Governor Praises Kawauchi (updated)

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/news/20110228-OYT1T00190.htm?from=y10
http://www.daily.co.jp/general/2011/02/28/0003832907.shtml
http://mytown.asahi.com/areanews/saitama/TKY201102270461.html
"Amateur Kawauchi 3rd" by Daisuke Yamaguchi, Nikkei Newspaper 2/28/11

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Update: Reader vilagoiberia sent me a link to this video of the last 6.5 km of Kawauchi's run.



Kawauchi with his bronze medal, after regaining consciousness. Click photo to enlarge.

He did it, he's on the national team. At the Feb. 27 Tokyo Marathon, Yuki Kawauchi, 23, an administrative worker at Saitama Prefectural Kasukabe High School, ran 2:08:37 to finish as the top Japanese man and 3rd overall. In so doing he secured a place on the Japanese national team for this summer's World Championships in Daegu, Korea, earning joyful respect and praise from those connected to him.

Kawauchi began working for the Saitama Prefectural Government in April, 2009, taking a job as an administrator at Kasukabe High School, a special government-run school for those wishing to complete a high school degree while working. On a normal day he works from lunchtime to 9 p.m., meaning that he does all of his training in a two-hour block in the morning before leaving for work. He runs 600 km a month, roughly half the workload of a corporate team runner. Due to the time and location restrictions his schedule imposes on him Kawauchi is unable to have regular training partners and does almost all his training alone, but, he adds, "I chose this lifestyle, and the discipline helps me keep focused. It suits me."

After finishing 4th at last year's Tokyo Marathon he was approached by a number of corporate teams with offers, but he turned them all down. He hasn't yet thought about the implications and logistics of having made the World Championships but says he has no intention of changing anything about his lifestyle. "Even in high school," he says, "I couldn't keep up with the workouts, so I dropped out of the Japanese system. I want to do things the way I like, and it works for me. I showed them that even as an amateur you can still get it done."

Of the pivotal moment in this year's Tokyo, just before the 39 km point when he caught up to national champion corporate team ace Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) and 2010 Hokkaido Marathon winner Cyrus Njui (Kenya/Team Hitachi Cable), Kawauchi says, "I didn't want to be sneaky and just ride along behind them when I caught them, so I told myself, 'If you've come this far you've got to keep going. There's no other choice.'" His stunning surge away from the better-credentialed pair, both sub-28 and sub-62 runners, drew gasps from the race announcers and a slow-motion replay. It also left him receiving medical attention after he crossed the finish line. "This was my sixth marathon, and the fifth time I've ended up in the medical area," he smiles. "Every time I run it's with the mindset that if I die at this race it's OK."

The students at Kasukabe High School call Kawauchi "clerk" like they would anyone else. Feb. 28 is entry application day, meaning that Kawauchi is due back at work 8:15 Monday morning to handle the applications. "I brought a suit with me so that I can go straight there. It's important work that only comes once a year."

Toshio Matsuda, 59, principal of the school, said that Kawauchi was very unhappy after running badly on the Saitama team at January's National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden. Despite being known as the guy who was "too good to be an amateur" thanks to an excellent university career and finishing 4th at last year's Tokyo Marathon, Matsuda said Kawauchi told him, "I'm not good enough to make the national team." When he heard the good news about Kawauchi's 3rd place finish, Matsuda said, "I was astounded. I'm so happy. I recorded the video and I can't wait to watch it when I get home," as happy as if it were his own accomplishment.

Kawauchi also earned high praise from Saitama Governor Kiyoshi Ueda, who commented, "He is improving through his own hard work, without the blessings of a corporate team or anyone else. Kawauchi is the Rocky of the marathon world."

During this year's Tokyo Kawauchi used a drink made for him by Kasukabe High School's cafeteria nutritionist, Koji Nakayama, 28. "I couldn't be happier," Nakayama said. "It's the deepest satisfaction I've ever had." At last December's Fukuoka International Marathon Kawauchi became fatigued partway through the race. "It's because you didn't have a special drink," Nakayama told him. "I'll make you one." In his New Year's card to Nakayama Kawauchi wrote, "I'd like to take you up on that." Nakayama began working on the drink, the final result of which made use of orange juice, honey and lemon juice. Kawauchi reacted positively to the drink, saying, "It's great. It goes down so easily that I never get thirsty." While Kawauchi was training for Tokyo Nakayama gave him the recipe so that he could make it himself whenever he needed it. "Every time I drank it during the race I got some life back," he said.

Kawauchi's younger brother Koki, a high school senior, came down to Tokyo with Yuki to watch the race. "I didn't think he could go this far," he said with excitement. "I want him to give it all at Worlds."

Comments

Scott Brown said…
Only last week a blogging friend of mine "Ewen" asked his readers had they ever put in a full on, do or die effort in a race?

Most of said "no" but were all aware that this is what it takes to run beyond ourselves!

Such great life lessons to taken from Mr. Kawauchi. Just off the top of my head.

If you want to do something special you have to risk a lot.

And..

What are distractions and obstacles to some are opportunities to others!

Tonnes of other lessons to come out of this great story. It should serve to shake up a lot of people!

Thanks Brett.
Brett Larner said…
Yes indeed.

I think there is symbolic beauty in the fact that the Japanese athlete he ran down, Oda, is one of the stars of the 2011 New Year Ekiden national corporate champions Toyota.

I feel a little bad for Oda, whose 2:09:03 was the all-time #3 Japanese debut but is already largely in the shadows, and hope he gets picked for the WC team as well.

Likewise, it's a shame that winner Mekonnen has been overshadowed as he had an interesting story beyond his PB win. From what I've been told he ran for Honda for a year but didn't like being overshadowed by the younger Yakob Jarso and being relegated to the backup African slot on the team, and left. From his post-race comments it sounded like he took special satisfaction at his first marathon win happening back in Japan. Like Kawauchi, sending a message.
Vincent Au Young said…
Kawauchi showed me the true Japanese spirit, which, sadly I think, has been missing from the Japanese runners of late. Kawauchi is an inspiration for amateur runners all over the world. I love his post-race comment, "If I die in this race, it's OK". I personally love this. It's total, 100% dedication to the sport.

Thanks Brett for your good work.
Frank Invernoz said…
Good job, congratulations.
Lance said…
This article implies that corporate runners hit around 180 miles a week. Is that accurate?
Brett Larner said…
Counting a month as 4 1/2 weeks it implies closer to 160 miles a week, but in peak marathon training it is fairly typical for top corporate runners to be running close to that, say the 140-160 range.

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