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Weekend Preview

by Brett Larner

It's a big weekend of racing across Japan.  The 70th Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon leads the way with a shot at the Japanese men's national record as Konica Minolta teammates Masato Kikuchi, Keita Shitara and Tsuyoshi Ugachi, all 1:00:32 to 1:01:12 for the half marathon, line up with support from past winner Collis Birmingham (Australia), Goitom Kifle (Eritrea), track star Yuki Sato (Nissin Shokuhin) in his serious half marathon debut, and more.  2014 Asian Games marathon gold medalist Eunice Kirwa (Bahrain) leads a women's field that includes 2015's top Japanese woman Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya), last year's winner Eloise Wellings (Australia), Canadian record hopeful Natasha Wodak and many more.

Likewise celebrating an anniversary year is the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in its 65th running.  Not counting in the qualifying for the Rio Olympic team the home field is weaker than usual, Kenichi Shiraishi (Team Asahi Kasei) topping the list at 2:10:36 in Beppu two years ago.  Ahead of Shiraishi are three solid sub-2:10 internationals, Evans Ruto (Kenya), Hailu Shume (Ethiopia) and Anthony Maritim (Kenya).  One potentially interesting name in is marathon debut is Hiroto Kanamori (Takushoku Univ.), one of the stars of the ultracompetitive First Stage at January's Hakone Ekiden.  With a 2:31:28 best amateur Hiroko Yoshitomi (First Dream AC) leads the women's race fresh off three marathon wins in the last three months.

Yokohama's Kanagawa Half Marathon also goes down Sunday, as always featuring a field packed with Hakone runners.  Two-time Hakone champion Aoyama Gakuin University has two of its best, 2015 National University Half Marathon Tadashi Isshiki and 2016 Hakone Ekiden Eighth Stage winner Yuta Shimoda, on its entry list.  Both Isshiki and Shimoda are set to make their marathon debuts at the end of the month at the Tokyo Marathon, Shimoda at the age of 19.  Other university runners will line up further north at the Moriya Half Marathon.  Northwest of Tokyo, Yuki Kawauchi will run his second ekiden of 2016, representing the Saitama Prefectural Government at the home ground Saitama Ekiden.

© 2016 Brett Larner
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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
           …

Guinness Certifies Kawauchi's World Record 78 Career Sub-2:20 Marathons After Half Marathon in Panda Costume

Known as the Civil Servant Runner, Saitama Prefectural Government employee Yuki Kawauchi's career record of 78 sub-2:20 marathons was officially recognized as the Guinness World Record at a ceremony in his hometown of Kuki, Saitama on Mar. 25.  Raised in Kuki, Kawauchi began working for the Saitama Prefectural Government after graduating from university. Running while working full-time as a civil servant, he has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic trial race.

Earlier this month on the 18th Kawauchi ran Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon, winning in 2:14:12. His 78th time running faster than 2 hours and 20 minutes, his achievement was certified as the official Guinness World Record. He actually broke the previous record on Jan. 1 at the Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon in the U.S.A. with his 76th sub-2:20 but followed up with two performances, one in February and the other last week, before Guinness could ratify the record.

The official recognition ceremony took place Mar. 2…