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



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!

Most-Read This Week

Kiplagat, Ichiyama, Tadese and Shitara Lead Marugame Half Elite Field

The Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon is always one of Japan's deepest races of the year on the men's side, its 2012 running setting a world record for the most men under 64 minutes in a single half marathon in history. On the women's side the field is always smaller but still home to the 1:07:26 Japanese national record set by Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal) back in 2006.

Edna Kiplagat (Kenya), Sara Hall (U.S.A.) and Betsy Saina (Kenya) lead the women's international field, two-time defending champ Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) giving Marugame a miss this year. Fresh off a 1:09:14 PB at last month's Sanyo Ladies Half, Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) leads a trio of Japanese women with recent sub-1:10 times, something that has become a puzzling rarity lately. Fukushi is also back, her recent best of 1:12:04 a long way from her best days.

Speaking of which, world record holder Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea) will be looking to break 60 minutes for the first time since 2015. His toughest…

Toyo University Leads Defending Champ Aoyama Gakuin on Hakone Ekiden Day One

The team that brought Japan's greatest race into the modern era with its historic 2012 sub-3 min/km win, Toyo University came out swinging to win Day One of the 2018 Hakone Ekiden.

Intensely popular with fans, Toyo has struggled this season with its entire senior class out with injury. With its fate in the hands of its younger members Toyo 1st-year Kazuya Nishiyama, freshly 19 in November, stepped up and took control of the race with both hands. Midway through the fast First Stage Nishiyama surged hard to go out front alone, 2017 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Kei Katanishi (Komazawa Univ.) and relative unknown Yuhei Urano (Koku Gakuin Univ.) the only ones to try to go with him. Nishiyama covered the 21.3 km stage in 1:02:16, equivalent to a 1:01:40 half marathon, with Urano and Katanishi around 15 seconds back. 3-time defending champ Aoyama Gakuin University was 25 seconds behind in 5th at the first exchange, 2017 Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University another …

Cheboitibin, Kiprono and Sonoda Top Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon Elite Entries

With just over two weeks to go the organizers of the Feb. 4 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon have released their elite field for this year's race. With its history as an elite men-only race Beppu-Oita's women's field is still tiny given its status as an IAAF silver label race, but this year promises a good race between two local 2:32 women, 2016 winner Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) and Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu), that should see the 2:39:57 course record fall. Defending champ Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) also returns with a 2:38:43 PB from last fall that puts her range of the course record as well.

The men's race is heavier-duty, with a spot in the MGC Race Tokyo Olympic Trials available to the top Japanese man under 2:11:00 and to up to five others if they clear 2:10. Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima) and Taiga Ito (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) are the only Japanese men in the field to have run those kinds of times in the last couple of years, and with support from 2:09~2:10 men