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Kawauchi Leads Weekend Road Results With Solo Saga Sakura Marathon Course Record

by Brett Larner

As is his tendency, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) led the way on a busy weekend that saw Japanese athletes in at least four competitive overseas races. Running the second edition of the Saga Sakura Marathon in scenic southwesternmost Kyushu despite having changed his workplace this week, Kawauchi took almost nine minutes off the course record and beat last year's winner Tomonori Onitsuka (Team Kyudenko) by more than ten minutes in 2:13:02 CR, his third marathon of the year and second soloing a massive CR in an amateur-level race.  "I haven't been feeling well since the Incheon Half last week and have just been jogging 60 minutes a day, so I'm glad I could at least run passably," he told JRN post-race. "If there hadn't been a strong headwind between 25 and 35 km I would have been a minute faster." Like Onitsuka, women's course record holder Hiroko Yoshitomi (First Dream AC) was knocked back to 2nd as 20-year-old Hua Yang (China) took the win in 2:38:23.

While Kawauchi raced in a far corner of home, three other elite Japanese men ran overseas marathons.  2013 Ohtawara Marathon winner Tadashi Suzuki (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) and runner-up Yasuaki Kojima (Team Subaru) ran the Paris Marathon as part of a relationship between the two races, Kojima three minutes off his best in 2:18:46 for 12th and getting screen time as the subject of some racial commentary by Britsh Eurosport announcers Martin Gillingham and Geoff Wightman, and 2:16 man Suzuki sightseeing his way to a 26th-place finish in 2:28:26. Ohtawara's 2nd and 3rd-place women Yumi Sato (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) and Ayano Kondo (Team Noritz) also lined up in Paris, Kondo running a five-minute PB of 2:43:54 and Sato jogging a 2:55:42.  Directly across the channel, Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo), all-time #4 on the Japanese debut lists with a 2:09:12 best at Lake Biwa in 2012, failed to make any impression at the Brighton Marathon, the first elite to fall out of the lead pack and shuffling home in 2:22:03 for 7th.

Aspiring indy Azusa Nojiri (Hiratsuka Lease) was not much better at the Prague Half Marathon, almost seven minutes off her best as she ran 1:17:19 for 13th place. On the other side of the Atlantic, 2011 Tokyo Marathon winner Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) had what might have been the best Japanese women's run of the weekend on the roads, making her ten mile debut at Washington D.C.'s Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run in 55:21 as a tuneup for the Boston Marathon two weeks from now.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Metts said…
Regarding Kawauchi and the Incheon half marathon, it was very warm on that day. I saw him in 6th or 7th place on the way back and he didn't look good.

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A training run for next month’s Stockholm Marathon, Kawauchi set off solo at a steady pace around 3:45/km. Climbing from 1355 m to 1908 m as he approached 20 km he naturally slowed, but with over 1000 m of descent over the next 30 km he was soon back on track. Hitting the marathon split around 2:39, he was so far ahead of the 2nd placer that the announcer initially forget Kawauchi had already gone by and announced the next runner as the leader.

At 58 km Kawauchi was on track to clear 4:30:00, but hitting the uphills in the final 10 km and feeling the effects of the unfamiliar distance he slowed to almost 5:00/km. But with so much leeway to work with there was never any danger of the 4:48:13 course record slipping out of reach. Kawauchi stopped the clock in 4:41:55, please…

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
           …