The True Reason Why Kawauchi, Who Has Won 50 Full Marathons, Keeps Running | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The True Reason Why Kawauchi, Who Has Won 50 Full Marathons, Keeps Running

Five years have passed since Kawauchi turned professional after working as a civil servant for the Saitama Prefectural Government. An iron man who competes in races all over the world, he is still growing as a "wall of young talent.

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Kawauchi gives an interview at a park where he practices. He sometimes runs with his wife, Yuko, 38, who is also a runner.

I am motivated by rebelliousness. When I was young, I didn’t want to be beaten by the paid runners in the business world, and I’ve been running with that feeling in mind.

It was the Tokyo Marathon in 2011 that made Kawauchi Yuhki, 36, a household name. The “civil servant runner,” who has won marathons nationwide while working as a civil servant for the Saitama Prefectural Government, broke the entry standard for the World Championships in Athletics and placed third, causing a media frenzy that swept into his workplace.

After establishing himself as one of the strongest citizen runners in the world as an amateur, including three appearances in the World Championships in Athletics, he turned professional in 1919. He won the Mie Matsusaka Marathon on December 17 last year, bringing his total number of full marathon victories to 50.

Most of the athletes I compete against in races have gone on to prestigious industrial companies such as Honda and Fujitsu, as well as strong schools in the Hakone Ekiden. On the other hand, I think I have a strange career path from Gakushuin University, which is not a powerhouse, to the Saitama Prefectural Government…… (laughs). Even so, I was able to break 2 hours and 20 minutes nearly 120 times and was recognized by Guinness World Records.”

At the Marathon Grand Championship (MGC), the preliminary selection race for the Paris Olympics held last October, he jumped out at the start and ran solo. Although he eventually finished in fourth place, he continued to lead the race until the 35-kilometer mark and once again attracted attention. Although he narrowly missed out on a spot on Japan’s team for the Paris Olympics, he is still going strong.

I believe that experience made that run possible. It was raining heavily on race day, but not many runners have actually experienced a full marathon in heavy rain. It must have been scary for the other runners because their bodies would be cold and slippery. That’s probably why they had a hard time finding the courage to follow my lead. I had run 129 full marathons before that MGC, including many races in the rain, so I wasn’t scared at all.’ When I won the Boston Marathon in 18 years, it was also raining, so I was rather good at the conditions.
When I was in my 20s, I competed in races every week, to the point that people warned me that I was ‘racing too much. I’ve competed in more than 60 serious races in 30 countries overseas, so I gained experience as well as ‘the courage to jump out first.

Last year, he made an impressive comeback with a run that was both record-breaking and memorable, but he says that his mentality has also changed over the past few years.

I think the time for me to lead the marathon world as the top runner is over. At the press conference held two days before the MGC, I said, ‘I think Japan’s marathons will enter a dark period if they are losing to me. These words also came from that awareness. Even now, I still think, ‘It would have been good if there had been a runner who would have followed me when I jumped out at the MGC.

Although she says she is no longer at the top of her game, Kawauchi’s eyes sparkle as she says, “There is no retirement for a runner.

If I can no longer set records and no longer believe in myself, I will retire from the forefront of racing. But it is not that time yet. I would like to continue running for the rest of my life while continuing to experiment.

I want to beat Osako!

Kawauchi continues to believe in his own potential because he feels that he is still growing.

He says, “The year I turned pro, I moved to Wako (Saitama Prefecture) and was practicing on a running course in a nearby park when I happened to see some athletes who belonged to the Commodore Ida team running there. After meeting and greeting them a few times, they asked me, ‘Would you like to join the team’s practice? Until then, I often ran alone, but when I decided to run with other athletes, my …… record improved. Speed slows down after the age of 30, but I set a personal best in the 3000m at the age of 34.

When asked about her goals for the future of her athletic career, she replied with a wry smile, “There are so many.

I would like to improve on my personal best of 2 hours, 7 minutes, and 27 seconds, and win as many competitions as possible. If I keep winning, I can get invitations from other races. And I want to run races on all seven continents. If I run in South America and Antarctica, I can achieve that. In fact, I have been invited to run a half marathon on all seven continents over 14 days this fall. It will be hard to convince my family, but it is a unique opportunity, and I would love to participate.
I also want to beat Suguru Osako (32), whom I have never beaten before! At the MGC, I was 7 seconds behind him at the end, and I thought I might be able to beat him, but I was not so naive. If I am able to compete again, I would like to win in a gung-ho competition without losing in spirit. I am now 40 years old, and it would be great if I could win the next MGC in three years. I still have many goals that I want to achieve, so I can’t stop now.

Kawauchi’s positive attitude will surely continue to inspire those who watch him.

Last year, Kawauchi maintained his good form by training in high altitude training camps three times. Although he has a sponsor, he says that he used the travel support system at COVID-19 crisis to keep his expenses low during the training camps.
Unpublished Cut from the magazine: Yuki Kawauchi continues to run: “There is no retirement for a runner.
Unpublished cut from the magazine Yuki Kawauchi continues to run: “Runners don’t retire, you know.

From the February 16, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Hiroyuki Komatsu

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