Runners began the route on Hopkinton Street in 38-degree weather underneath pouring rain. For many, the cold and wind proved to be too much and reports of runners suffering from hypothermia began coming in early on.
An estimated 2,795 participants were treated across all medical locations including 25 elites. Among the latter group, 23 athletes failed to complete the course including Americans Galen Rupp, Ryan Vail, Kellyn Taylor and Deena Kastor; 2014 Boston champion Buzunesh Deba; and Ethiopian Mamitu Daska who was leading the elite women until mile 20.
But for one athlete, the weather was a welcomed adversary and one that wouldn’t keep him from clinching the win. Coming in at 2:15:58, Yuki Kawauchi (YOO-kee KA-wa-oo-chee) ended a drought in the men’s race as he broke the tape and became the first Japanese male to win Boston since 1987.
“Well I think there is probably not a single person in Boston who thought I would win this today,” said Kawauchi in a post-race interview. “I’ve always been strong in cold weather, I’ve always run well in cold weather. I think the conditions were instrumental in being able to win.”
Kawauchi is no stranger to severe weather conditions. The 31-year-old has run over 80 marathons in his career and has earned 30 titles from races across the globe. In 2017 alone he ran 12 and won five, one of those being the Marshfield, MA marathon in one-degree weather where he was the only finisher. It was races such as that which Kawauchi felt gave him an edge over the competition this year.
“In particular, when I ran the 2013 Nagano Marathon, the 2016 Zurich Marathon and the Marshville marathon on January 1 of this year, those kinds of tough conditions were valuable experience for this,” he stated following his win. “That’s experience maybe I had that other athletes didn’t have.”
Although his official winning time was the slowest since 1976, Kawauchi had a more than three minute lead in front of second place finisher and last year’s champion Geoffrey Kirui. But his breakout moment was only one mile out from the finish, and as he inched his way toward the tape, he still wasn’t sure if he had won.
“At the technical meeting they had told us that the volunteers would flag the winners to right and everybody else to the left,” remarked Kawauchi. “They all started flagging me to the right so I was like, ‘Ok, got it.’” With the Japanese anthem playing at the finish line, the golden laurel wreath was placed upon Kawauchi’s head as tears streamed down his face. “I’m really happy, it feels like a dream,” he shared the following day.
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That same evening, the new champion clutched onto his admission ticket to the awards ceremony as he made his way to the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel. “I think you’re good,” T.K. Skenderian, Communications Director of the Boston Marathon and B.A.A. laughed as they headed into the event.
On Tuesday, we learned that the humble winner wasn’t planning to stay the extra day following the race for press events. “I was supposed to leave this morning because I had to be at work on Wednesday morning,” laughed Kawauchi. “But I called the principal where I work and got permission to stay for the press conference.”
And just like that, Boston has a new victor; and like the rest of us, Kawauchi will walk into work on Monday morning and go about business as usual. Of course, for him, there will be one small difference: he’s $150,000 richer and a new household name in the running world.
Here are a few more quick facts about the 2018 Boston Marathon Men’s Open division champion:
- Four-time Boston winner Bill Rodgers encouraged Kawauchi to compete for a title in Boston last April via video. Thirty-minutes later Kawauchi agreed to do it.
- Nicknamed the “citizen runner,” the Japanese native doesn’t run professionally but has a full-time job at a high school administration office.
- In majors, he finished fourth and third in Tokyo in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
- 79 of his marathons have been run under 2:20 and 26 under 2:12.
- His goal is to run 100 sub-2:20 marathons before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
- He currently holds the world record for sub-2:20 marathons.
- He enjoys singing songs by X Japan (a Japanese heavy metal band) during karaoke and has been getting more into baby metal music.
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