This fall, Boston Marathon champion Yuki Kawauchi will be heading to the Chicago Marathon’s starting line and will be joined by fellow Japanese runner and Nike Oregon Project team member Suguru Osako. If either win, it’ll be the first time since 1986 that a champion from Japan took home the crown. But the pair will first have to beat out Mo Farah and Galen Rupp who will also be vying for the top podium spot.
This past April, Kawauchi broke the rope in Boston and won over the nation with his guy-next-door charm and of-the-people story. But don’t let his quiet demeanor fool you, the Japanese native is a beast of a marathoner. He has a PR of 2:08:14 in the distance and holds the record for the most marathons (79) run under 2:20. Not to mention he competed in 30 career marathons and ran 12 in 2017 alone (he’s up to 20 in 2018).
During the 2011 Tokyo Marathon, the unsponsored athlete placed third and said in a post-race interview, “Every time I run, it’s with the mindset that if I die at this race, it’s ok.” This past May, Kawauchi set a course record at the Yatsugatake Nobeyama 71K ultramarathon, winning by 30 minutes. “Yuki has taken an unconventional path to marathon stardom; there’s no other elite runner competing today like him,” said Executive Race Director of the Chicago Marathon Carey Pinkowski.
For Osako, his marathon debut was in Boston in 2017 where he placed third with a time of 2:10:28. Previously, Osako was known for his track and field races, holding records in the 3000m and 5000m. In 2016, the runner competed at the Rio Olympics in the 5000m and 10,000m and placed 28th and 17th, respectively.
Along with hoping for a podium finish, if Osako breaks Japanese national record (2:06:11), the Japanese Corporate Track and Field Federation will pay him a 100-million-yen (around one million U.S. dollars) as a bonus. “I want to try to break the national record, but the most important thing to me is to be competitive with the other runners,” said Osako in a release. “I’m really excited and proud to run with Mo and Galen. I’m going to enjoy the challenge.”
The 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon takes places on Sunday, October 7 and begins at 7:30 a.m. The annual event attracts a world-class lineup of elite and Master runners along with more than 40,000 competitors from 100 countries across the globe.