by Brett Larner
Running marathons on back-to-back weekends for the first time, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) improved on his 2:15:16 8th-place finish at last weekend's Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon with a 2:15:06 win at the 69th edition of the Kochi Ryoma Marathon.
Still recovering the fitness lost to a month off serious training after spraining his ankle in late December, Kawauchi found an unexpected challenge from Tatsuya Itagaki (Team JP Post), a 2:22:19 marathoner who went through halfway right next to him on 2:12 marathon pace. Things slowed down in the uphill second half, Itagaki lasting until 27 km before a surge from Kawauchi put him away. From there Kawauchi was free all the way to the end, his 2:15:06 missing the course record by 42 seconds. Itagaki was rewarded for a brave first half with a new best of 2:18:56.
Kawauchi's win marked his 35th career sub-2:16 marathon and 37th sub-2:17. Both marks surpassed the world records held by Ethiopian great Abebe Mekonnen, who over the course of 14 years ran 34 sub-2:16s and 36 sub-2:17s. In Kawauchi's case it took just under 5 years. With fast overseas marathons planned in Seoul next month and Zurich in April Kawauchi is only one run away from tying Swede Kjell-Erik Stahl's record of 41 sub-2:18 marathons and two races from Mekonnen's sub-2:13, 2:14 and 2:15 records. At this rate he's on track to truly go where no one ever has, or will again.
(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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