translated and edited by Brett Larner
On Nov. 13 it was announced that popular civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (26, Saitama Pref. Gov't) will run the third edition of the Kumamoto Castle Marathon Feb. 16 in Kumamoto. In February this year Kawauchi won the event's longstanding Kumanichi 30 km division in a course record 1:29:31. On Nov. 8 Kawauchi contacted race organizers to say that he wanted to run the marathon division next year. Given that the achievements and popularity that have made him Japan's top marathon runner would lead to a surge of interest in the Kumamoto Castle Marathon, organizers were quick to make him the first invited athlete in the short history of the marathon division.
There is no doubt that organizers are banking on the 'Kawauchi Effect.' A race spokesperson commented, "Kawauchi told us, 'Compared to other races, the crowd support in Kumamoto was fantastic.' It seems as though he's motivated to dominate our event with course records in both the 30 km and full marathon divisions. Thanks to his 30 km win this year our name value as an event has skyrocketed. His coming here will no doubt serve to attract other top athletes in the future and to generate excitement among the other amateur runners who will run in the race with him."
The winner of both editions of the Kumamoto Castle Marathon to date, holder of its 2:19:30 course record and an amateur civil servant runner like Kawauchi, defending champion Shota Jige (25, Kumamura City Hall) was happy to hear that Kawauchi would be in the race. "I'll do my best to stay with him," Jige said. "I hope I can learn something from his running."
At the 2011 Tokyo Marathon Kawauchi outran the best of the corporate leagues to finish 3rd overall in 2:08:37 as the top Japanese finisher, immediately becoming a celebrity. He failed to make the 2012 London Olympics team, but in February this year two weeks before his Kumanichi 30 km course record win he won the historic Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in a course record 2:08:15 to qualify for his second-straight World Championships marathon team. Several weeks later he improved his best to 2:08:14 in Seoul, South Korea. In every race he took an assertive approach, supplementing his low-volume training by using other races as speed work in what has become the hallmark of his unique style.