A wet and windy 2018 Boston Marathon saw surprising, but popular runners, Des Linden and Yuki Kawauchi take the honours.
Both champions fought the coldest start to the Patriots Day marathon in years, along with the winds and downpour of rain, and while Linden will rightly gain widespread adulation as the first American female winner in 33 years, Kawauchi equally made history as the first Japanese champion since 1987.
That’s not it all though. And while today was “by far the best day” of his life, Kawauchi’s story and list of achievements didn’t start on 16th April 2018.
Here’s what you should know about the marathon cult hero.
Kawauchi is a world record holder, holding the record for the most sub 2:20 marathons ever completed. His 2018 Boston Marathon victory in 2:15:58 brings his tally up to 79.
Most club marathoners would chop their arm off for just one of those.
The citizen runner
In Japan, Kawauchi is known as the ‘citizen runner’ as he refuses to run professionally. He works full-time in a government job and pays for training and racing out of his own pocket.
In a nation that has a huge amount of professional athletes running Ekidens (Japanese relay races) for businesses like Honda and Toyota, the ‘citizen runner’ wants to retain the freedom running gives him.
He has no coach, no training groups. He does it all his own way and with a smile.
The 31-year-old has a personal best of 2:08:14, at the Seoul International Marathon in 2013 and he has run 25 marathons under 2:12.
He has also represented Japan at a World Championships and has a 62:18 half marathon PB. For a ‘part-time runner’, those times are legit.
Suits you sir
It’s not just the multitude of marathons that places the Japanese runner in the public’s heart, it’s the joker within him too.
Setting records for the fastest half marathon in a business suit, a play on his ‘citizen runner’ title – it’s brilliant to see such a character at the front of an event, alongside professional athletes in shorts and singlets.
Earlier this year, Kawauchi also ran his hometown half marathon in a Panda suit, just because he wanted to, and yet finished second in 70:03.
That’s another reason to love this guy.
— 幸手人 (@ap745301) March 25, 2018
He’s also a pure racer and he runs hard. It’s probably why he was able to win in Boston, while so many big names decided a bit of rain was too much for them and dropped out.
Men’s dnf rate worse than women- pic.twitter.com/oBGUWIqruI
— Jon Brown (@jon_brown_) April 16, 2018
Boston aside, highlights already this year include racing a 20km Ekiden in January solo, beating all 103 teams of six.
At the Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, he ran three separate heats of the 5000m, with times of 14:53.96, 14:36.58 and 14:37.78.
In a few days time, the Boston winner will be back in the office, just like the rest of us. That’s what endears him to the Japanese public. In a world of big bucks sponsorships and full-time athletes, people still want the underdog to win.
The 5ft 7″ runner hit the front early on in Boston, but was written off by commentators. Twitter ‘experts’ joined in the mocking and everyone expected another Kenyan win. This all came not long after we celebrated Callum Hawkins for giving it his best shot at the Commonwealth Games.
However, the late turnaround on the hills of Boston, where Kawauchi rapidly closed in on defending champion Geoffrey Kirui, before going on to take the race with no reply, must surely bring smiles to the faces of all running fans.
He showed no mercy, and we thank you (and Liden) for turning a wet and gloomy day in Boston into something special.
Just what will the Boston champion do next? Whatever he wants to do. Not tied to sponsors or team schedules, it is great to see a runner forging his own path – around his office job of course.
You can read all about the race performance here.