If you didn’t know the name Yuki Kawauchi before, you probably do now. The Japanese marathoner bested a stacked men’s field and wet conditions to take the win at the 122nd Boston Marathon.
Kawauchi, who has long been respected in marathon racing for his ability to not only race fast, but often, has largely flown under the radar in running popular culture. The 31-year-old, nicknamed the “Citizen Runner,” works full-time as an administrator in a high school while running more than 70 sub-2:20 marathons, including a 2:08 PR.
At Boston, however, Kawauchi was the talk of the men’s race from mile 1, as he shot out to the front with a 4:37 mile, or 2:01 marathon pace and opened up a six-second lead over a pack that included defending champion Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya and American favorites Galen Rupp and Shadrack Biwott.
The majority of the men did not bite at Kawauchi’s bold move, instead preferring to stay in the pack of 14 runners for protection from the intense weather, which included 30-degree temperatures, heavy rain, and 25 mile-per-hour headwinds. But by mile 5, Kawauchi fell back and let himself be absorbed by this pack as Kirui took the lead.
After going through the 10k mark in 30:15, the pack began to spread out, with Evans Chebet and Felix Kandle of Kenya taking turns in the lead. But seemingly out of nowhere, Kawauchi surged once again at mile 11, pushing the pace once more and again being caught by the pack once more.
Though it looked foolhardy, the move proved to be smart – with these short surges, Kawauchi could test the legs of his competition to respond in such cold conditions. When returning to the pack, he could bide his time to make a final surge.
After passing through the halfway point in 1:05:59, the lead pack splintered further as Kirui pulled away from the competition leading into the infamous Newton hills. As he pulled away, he motioned with his hand for someone to come up beside him; when no one responded, he confidently built a lead of more than 90 seconds on the competition. However, his early move backfired, and at mile 21, his pace slowed significantly.
Kawauchi, who was running alone in second place, saw Kirui with less than one mile to go. He surged once more, this time dropping Kirui for good.
With a finishing time of 2:15:54, Kawauchi recorded the slowest Boston Marathon winning time since 1976.
“I’ve been running for 26 years & this is by far the best day of my life,” said Kawauchi at the finish line. I never gave up. I knew he was up there. I could see him. I ran my own race and I ran him down.”
Boston Marathon 2018
- Yuki Kawauchi (JPN) (2:15:58)
- Geoffrey Kirui (KEN) (2:18:21)
- Shadrack Biwott (USA) (2:18:32)
- Tyler Pennel (USA) (2:18:57)
- Andrew Bumbalough (USA) (2:19:52)
- Scott Smith (USA) (2:21:47)
- Abdi Nageeye (NED) (2:23:16)
- Elkanah Kibet (USA) (2:23:37)
- Reid Coolsaet (CAN) (2:25:02)
- Daniel Vassallo (USA) (2:27:50)
Updates will be made to this story throughout the day. Visit Competitor.com’s Boston Coverage 2018 page for on-the-ground coverage of the race.