Skip to main content

Kawauchi Breaks Sub-2:20 World Record in Sub-Zero Temperatures


Battling freezing temperatures and wind chill that took things down to -23C, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) ran a 2018 world-leading 2:18:59 at the Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, taking 30 minutes off the course record and breaking American Doug Kurtis' historic sub-2:20 world record with his 76th career sub-2:20.

Kawauchi spent Dec. 29 to 31 training on the Boston Marathon course ahead of his upcoming appearance as part of the John Hancock Elite Athlete Team and planned to run Marshfield at the tail end of his trip. The Marshfield Road Runners club, organizers of the marathon, had their longstanding race USATF certified ahead of his appearance.


Wearing full-length tights in a marathon for the first time, in Marshfield Kawauchi planned to run the first of the hilly course's two laps in 1:09 flat to give himself room to work with in breaking 2:20. But in the wind and cold he struggled to stay on pace, ice crystals coating his face as he hit halfway in 1:10:29. "At 5 km I was already all alone and so cold that I couldn't move my legs," he said post-race. "When I saw my 5 km split it was the first time in a race I've ever thought, 'Why am I doing this?'"

Temperatures warmed slightly as the morning went on, and, aware that he was behind, Kawauchi began to push the pace harder to try to make it up. "It was sunny enough that I warmed up a bit and could get into my stride," he said. With at least two clear changes of gear Kawauchi's finish time projection moved just under 2:20:00 by the time he got to 40 km, where he dropped his usual closing surge to fly into the track finish. Almost slipping on ice on the very last corner, Kawauchi crossed the line in the middle of a pack of cheering supporters to stop the clock in 2:18:59, a two-minute negative split.


After recovering from the cold inside the nearby high school, Kawauchi told reporters, "At halfway I didn't think I could do it and it seemed like it was going to end up being my slowest marathon ever. But I came all the way to the U.S.A. to do this and the people of Marshfield put in a lot of work to organize everything for me, so I had to do everything I could to live up to my word. These were definitely the coldest conditions I've ever run in. After this I think I could do pretty well going after the Antarctica record."

His 76th career sub-2:20, Kawauchi's run in Marshfield surpassed Kurtis' record of 75 that he equalled two weeks ago in Hofu. He now owns the sub-X records for everything from sub-2:12 to sub-2:20. He may well also hold the record for the coldest sub-2:20 ever.


After five marathons in the last eight weeks Kawauchi now has some down time before launching his spring marathon season at the Feb. 18 Kitayushu Marathon. In mid-March he will return to Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon in a tuneup for Boston in April. From here on out every one of these marathons and beyond takes him into uncharted territory where no one has set foot before. It's safe to say none are likely to ever deliver conditions like today's.

Post-race Kawauchi told JRN, "Doug Kurtis' record was a big source of motivation for me. I hope that other runners, people who feel like they could never make a national team or run a world record time, will look at my record and say, 'I could do that.' But," he added with a laugh, "the problem for them is I'm going to take it even further first."


text and photos © 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Buy Me A Coffee



Comments

Bob F. said…
Very inspiring run by Yuki in quite adverse conditions. Looking forward to his appearance at Boston. The People's Champion!
Jim Mather said…
Incredible... was worried when he slipped on the ice!
André Roukema said…
For the first time I was really worried. Can Yuki recover from a marathon that must surely be an assault on his health.

Then a week later he runs 1:03 for the half. This is all so far beyond my comprehension, he is a true superhero.

Most-Read This Week

Aoyama Gakuin Back on Top of Izumo Ekiden

Leading start to finish, 2015-2016 Izumo Ekiden champ Aoyama Gakuin University overcame last year's winner Tokai University and a tough challenge from Toyo University to win Izumo's 30th anniversary edition.

In hot and sunny conditions that followed the passing of Typhoon #25 AGU's Taisei Hashizume got things rolling, opening a six-second lead over Toyo's Akira Aizawa on the 8.0 km First Stage. Tokai's Yuichiro Nishikawa was 20 seconds back in 6th.

Takato Suzuki increased AGU's lead on the 5.8 km Second Stage with a 16:26 stage win. Indoor mile national record holder Ryoji Tatezawa was next-fastest in 16:29, running down four teams including Toyo to put the defending champs into 2nd. The lone crack in Toyo's armor, Kazuya Nishiyama ran only 16:54 to drop Toyo back to 3rd some 34 seconds off the lead.

Back in 4th place, Takushoku University captain Workneh Derese ran a 25:17stage best on the 8.5 km Third Stage to overtake both Toyo and Tokai, but with AGU…

Kisaisa Wins Second-Straight Yosenkai Half Marathon in 1:00:44, Komazawa University Averages Ten Men Under 1:03

The Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai is the qualifying race for Japan's most prestigious road race, the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden. University men's teams in the Tokyo area that didn't make the top ten at Hakone the year before square off in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park with teams of up to twelve. The top ten score, their cumulative times determining the team's placing with the top eleven teams advancing and high-placing individuals from schools that don't make the cut rounded up to form a select team.

The Yosenkai has long been the world's #1 20 km road race by a wide margin, with winning times among the fastest in the world for the distance and the same kind of incredible depth seen at November's Ageo City Half Marathon and March's National University Men's Half Marathon. In light of changes in the IAAF's ranking system and the level of performance at the Yosenkai, this year organizers took the historic step of changing it from its traditional distance to …

Osako Brings Japanese National Record Back to Chicago

Just over seven months since Yuta Shitara broke Toshinari Takaoka's longstanding 2:06:16 national record from the 2002 Chicago Marathon with a 2:06:11 in Tokyo in February, U.S.-based Suguru Osako brought the record back home to Chicago with a 3rd-place finish in 2:05:50.

Running the same pattern as in his first two marathons, Osako sat back in the lead men's pack, never exerting himself as it whittled down to the core members. Just past the turn into Chinatown near 35 km his Nike Oregon Project teammate and 2017 Chicago winner Galen Rupp fell off the front group to leave Osako in contention with former NOP member Mo Farah, 2:04 Ethiopian Mosinet Gemerew, former Asahi Kasei runner Kenneth Kipkemoi and 2017 world champion Geoffrey Kirui.

As in Boston and Fukuoka last year, when the real move came, this time in the form of a surge by Farah and Gemerew, Osako was left behind to battle it out for 3rd. While Farah kicked away for the win by 13 seconds in a European record 2:05:11,…