by Brett Larner
Update: It appears that the IAAF's World Running website has lifted the content of this article and the linked Kawauchi Counter without permission or credit for their own piece on Kawauchi's unofficial NR published a day after this article. I've contacted them asking for clarification of their authorship and sources.
Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) capped sixteen straight weeks of racing with another shot at the longest distance in his repertoire. For the fourth-straight year Kawauchi returned to his late father’s home island of Okinoshima to pay his respects by running the Father’s Day Okinoshima 50 km Ultramarathon. Two years ago Kawauchi honored him by running 2:51:45, the fastest time ever by a Japanese man over a distance for which the Japanese Federation does not have an official national record. This year Kawauchi himself was honored by the residents of Okinoshima, who held a new children’s race the day before the ultra with the winner presented with the first edition of the Kawauchi Cup trophy.
Of his own race on a hot and hilly course that put him in the hospital 300 m from the finish three years ago Kawauchi spoke cautiously beforehand, saying that his goal was, “to finish feeling good,” and telling JRN, “Okinoshima is a little dangerous [to my upcoming race plans] so I’m going to take it conservatively.” All that seemed to go out the window once he started running. Despite the heat maximized by the 11:30 a.m. start time and the three 150 m - 200 m tall hills and with only his father’s memory for company, Kawauchi blazed a new 2:47:27 Japanese record, officially called so or not, four minutes better than the old record he set in 2012 and the seventh-fastest time ever run, one that positioned him as the sixth-fastest man ever over 50 km. “It was a tough race,” he said, “but I’m glad I made it to all-time #7.”
It’s worth noting that the linked list does not accept two fast times run by American Josh Cox and recognized by USATF, both marathons followed by running to a local track and doing some laps to make up the distance, as legit race performances and that including them would put Kawauchi’s mark at all-time #9. But Cox or no Cox, getting into the all-time top ten on a hard course without focusing or planning for a record shot has put up a new target for Kawauchi. “I’d like to run Lake Saroma [Japan’s premier ultra] and go for the 50 km world record,” he told JRN. Kawauchi already holds world records for the shortest time ever between sub-2:09 marathons, between sub-2:10 marathons, and for most sub-2:10 marathons in one year, but the chance to get a straight-up world record, to become the fastest person ever over one distance, has to be a powerful motivation for things to come.
But in the short term Kawauchi will take a weekend off racing for the first time since February before going to the other end of his spectrum for a 1500 m at the Saitama Track and Field Championships. A week later he returns to Australia’s Gold Coast Airport Marathon to try to become the sixth Japanese man to win a marathon outside Japan sub-2:10. Trying to stop him will be the fifth man to do it, 2010 Ottawa Marathon course record-setter Arata Fujiwara (Miki House).
(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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