Skip to main content

What to Do When the Dream Comes True? Federation Officials Push Management Role as Kawauchi Fever Sweeps Japan

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Yuki Kawauchi at work a day after the Tokyo Marathon as media look on. Click here to enlarge.

Rikuren director Keisuke Sawaki, 67, Long Distance and Road Racing Special Committee chief Toshio Kiuchi and other executive members of the Japanese athletics federation traveled to Kasukabe, Saitama on Mar. 2 to pay a formal visit to Yuki Kawauchi, 23, the amateur runner who qualified for August's World Championships marathon team by placing 3rd overall and top Japanese at the Feb. 27 Tokyo Marathon. "Since he is not affiliated with a corporate team, we had to talk about what the future holds," said Kiuchi. The federation dignitaries asked administration officials at Kasukabe High School, where Kawauchi is employed as an administrative assistant, for their help and support in getting Kawauchi to the World Championships.

In order to minimize the strain caused by the sudden rush of media attention upon Kawauchi, one of the main topics under discussion was the hiring of a personal manager. Rikuren officials feel the move is necessary in order to protect the Cinderella Boy. In conversation with Kawauchi and school administration officials, the Rikuren executives voiced concern, saying, "Since the morning after the race Mr. Kawauchi has been working at his job and doing interviews virutally continuously and has taken absolutely no rest. Of course we believe that he should continue to train the way he always has, but he is in need of someone to handle his daily schedule and training arrangements." The group strongly stressed the absolute necessity of a full-time manager and suggested that the federation would be the best party to fulfill this role.

With his 2:08:37 result from the Tokyo Marathon Kawauchi is now classified as a federation-sanctioned B-class athlete. Considering that this is only one rank below A-class half marathon national record holder and Berlin World Championships 6th placer Atsushi Sato (32, Team Chugoku Denryoku), the ranking is a mark of how important an athlete Kawauchi is to the federation. As a B-class athlete he will receive an annual stipend of 1,500,000 yen [~$18,000] to support his training along with a World Championships preparation supplement of 1,000,000 yen [~$12,000] pending confirmation of the results of post-race blood testing and ratification at the Rikuren general meeting on Mar. 15. In that respect, Rikuren executives' biggest fear is Kawauchi not having anyone to look after his interests.

With no team and no coach to support him on race day, Kawauchi's younger brother Koki, 18, wore the credentials for Kawauchi's coach and was in charge of his baggage. The morning after the race, Kawauchi went for a 30 minute jog at 5:30 a.m. before catching the train to begin work at 8:30, four hours earlier than usual due to the extra paperwork from incoming school entry applications. During breaks in his workday Kawauchi dealt with media interviews in his office and met with the Governor and other prefectural officials, a dizzying schedule. With no one in place to handle the media, phones at the school and Kawauchi's own cell phone have been overloaded with calls ever since the race. Kiuchi commented, "For the first two days Kawauchi received so many calls that he had to set his phone to accept them only from numbers he registered. He didn't know Rikuren's number, so he didn't register us and we had no way to contact him. I came here to present him with my business card. Since he is completely on his own it's important that he be able to answer calls, and this is something we at the (Rikuren) office can do for him."

To deal with the unworkably hectic situation in which Kawauchi now finds himself, Rikuren representatives strongly urged school administration officials to allow them to take care of all media requests. If Kawauchi indicates that he wants to run a race or take part in a training camp, Rikuren will assist with preparations. "We will do everything possible to help him be ready for the World Championships," said the federation officials. To protect the newfound treasure of the men's marathoning world, Rikuren's executives said their main goal is to help preserve an environment in which Kawauchi can maintain his focus upon his training.

With an apparent green light from the very top of the federation to continue training as he always has, Kawauchi is now looking toward the World Championships. "If I can be tougher over the second half than I was in Tokyo," he said, "I think at least top eight is realistic. I want to go for top six." He indicated that he plans to use the drink designed for him by Kasukabe High School cafeteria head Koji Nakayama, a mixture of orange juice, honey and lemon juice, at the World Championships. Vice principal Akio Hayashi commented, "Cutting back on his work hours to make time for training would be against Kawauchi's principles. We want to respect his wishes in every way."

Comments

Brett Larner said…
Somebody out there make a movie about all of this someday. I'll write the book.
Desert Dirt said…
Yuki superstar. Love this guy.
Daniel Hocking said…
"If I can be tougher over the second half than I was in Tokyo," he said, "I think at least top eight is realistic. I want to go for top six."

I'm not sure it is possible to run harder for the second half. I love this guy!
Brett Larner said…
I think my favorite thing in this story apart from the quotes in the last paragraph is that the very top people in the federation came to him in person cap in hand to talk.

I'm very glad to hear that it sounds as though they want to leave him in peace to do whatever it is he is doing to get where he did.

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Wins 7th-Straight Okinoshima 50 km

Running the Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon on his late father's home island of Oki for the eighth year in a row, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran 2:52:55 to win it for the seventh straight time. Starting strong on the relatively flat first 10 km where he clocked 33:26, low-2:47 pace, Kawauchi slowed to just over 2:50 pace on the course's toughest hills between 10 and 30 km. A sub-2:50 was still in range at that point, but over the last 20 km he faded further to finish in the second-slowest of his Okinoshima wins.



The day before the race Kawauchi paced children in Okinoshima's kids' run. Following that he greeted participants and local supporters at an expo event where he was hailed onstage as the Boston Marathon winner. As per his usual routine, his next race will be the July 1 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Kipchirchir and Chebii Take on Three Gold Coast Winners

The men's race at Australia's Gold Coast Marathon is usually a Kenya-Japan head-to-head, Kenya taking six wins and Japan three in the last ten years. With not a single Ethiopian in the field for this year's 40th edition it looks set for it to happen yet again.

Sub-2:10 Kenyans Victor Kipchirchir, Douglas Chebii, Philip Sanga and the Japan-based Michael Githae will line up to take on three of the race's last four winners, 2017 champ Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), 2015-16 winner and course record holder Kenneth Mungara (Kenya) and 2013 champ and perpetual top three placer Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't). With a 1:01:20 at last year's Prague Half debuting Kenyan Eliud Mwangi should also factor into the front end. Give the advantage to team Kenya in this bout, but as Noguchi and Kawauchi have proven Gold Coast is a race where Japanese men are legit contenders.

With the window for getting qualifying times for next year's MGC Race 2020 Olympic trials start…

Japan's 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon to be Held September 15, 2019

On June 15 the JAAF announced the date and course for the Marathon Grand Championship Race, or MGC Race for short, its new almost-one-shot trials race that will determine at least two of the three members of its men's and women's marathon teams for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The MGC Race will be held 11 months prior to the Olympics on September 15, 2019. The winners of the MGC Race will be named to the 2020 team, with either the 2nd or 3rd placer also named to the team depending on whether either has broken a fast standard, 2:05:30 for men and 2:21:00 for women. The remaining top three placer will have to wait until March, 2020 to find out whether they will be included on the team or passed over in favor of someone who clears another fast standard in one of the big six domestic elite marathons in the winter of 2019-20.

The MGC Race course will closely follow the already announced Olympic course, the only key exception being a start and finish in the Jingu Gaien district nearby …