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

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …

“The Miracle in Fukuoka” - Real Talk From Yuki Kawauchi on “Taking on the World” (part 1)

http://sports.yahoo.co.jp/column/detail/201701120002-spnavi

translated by Brett Larner

Ahead of his nomination to the London World Championships Marathon team, Sportsnavi published a three-part series of writings by Yuki Kawauchi on what it took for him to make the team, his hopes for London, and his views on the future of Japanese marathoning.  With his place on the London team announced on Mar. 17, JRN will publish an English translation of the complete series over the next three days. See Sportsnavi's original version linked above for more photos. Click here for part two, "Bringing All My Experience Into Play in London," or here for part three, "The Lessons of the Past Are Not 'Outdated.'"


The Fukuoka International Marathon was held on Dec. 4 last year. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) took part despite nursing injuries he had sustained in training. Falling rain contributed to less than ideal conditions during the race, but from the very early stages…