Ja­panese vet­eran saves best for last to take men’s race

The Detroit News - - Sports - BY KYLE HIGH­TOWER As­so­ci­ated Press

Bos­ton — Yuki Kawauchi seemed like just an­other spot­light-seek­ing, early front-run­ner when he darted out to take the lead at the start of Mon­day’s Bos­ton Marathon.

It turns out the vet­eran Ja­panese marathoner saved plenty for the fin­ish, as well.

Kawauchi bat­tled a steady head­wind and blind­ing wet con­di­tions to surge with a mile to go, over­tak­ing Ge­of­frey Kirui to win his first Bos­ton Marathon.

“I’ve been run­ning for 26 years, and in 26 years this is by far the best day of my life,” Kawauchi said af­ter­ward through an in­ter­preter.

Kawauchi crossed the fin­ish line in a time of 2:15:58. He be­comes the first Ja­panese man to win Bos­ton since Seko Toshi­hiko took the ti­tle in 1987. He is the first Asian run­ner to win the race since Korea’s Lee Bong-Ju in 2001.

Kawauchi joked that the wind and cold were the “best con­di­tions pos­si­ble.”

Kenya’s Ge­of­frey Kirui was sec­ond in 2:18:23, fol­lowed by Amer­i­can Shadrack Bi­wott in 2:18:35. Bi­wott’s re­sult marked a huge day for the Amer­i­can men which placed three run­ners in the top 5. It marks the sec­ond straight year that six Amer­i­can men placed in the top 10. Tyler Pen­nel was fourth (2:18:57) and An­drew Bum­balough fin­ished fifth (2:19:52).

Mean­while, the usu­ally strong Kenyan team had only Kirui in the top 10. It is the first ma­jor ti­tle for Kawauchi, who lists Bill “Bos­ton Billy” Rodgers — a four-time win­ner of the race — as one of his men­tors. It was also the per­son who Kawauchi says 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 1. Yuki Kawauchi, Japan, 2:15:58

2. Ge­of­frey Kirui, Kenya, 2:18:23

3. Shadrack Bi­wott, U.S., 2:18:35

4. Tyler Pen­nel, U.S., 2:18:57

5. An­drew Bum­balough, U.S., 2:19:52 en­cour­aged him to run Bos­ton.

The last time a Ja­panese run­ner won the Bos­ton Marathon was the same year Kawauchi was born.

“I can’t help but feel the hand of fate in this,” he said.

He’s also hop­ing this can be a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for a new gen­er­a­tion of run­ners on a con­ti­nent that is not known for its marathon­ers.

“It’s been a long time since an Asian has won here,” Kawauchi said. “The level of the sport in Asia is not at its peak right now. I hope this this will help to turn it around.”

Kawauchi sprinted out to an early lead be­fore fall­ing back. He surged sev­eral times dur­ing the soggy, windy race be­fore fi­nally sus­tain­ing it late to pass Kirui.

Front-run­ning was one of “sev­eral sce­nar­ios” Kawauchi said he con­sid­ered be­fore the race.

“It played out said.

Though he had never won a ma­jor marathon crown, the 31year-old had won more than 30 marathon ti­tles in ca­reer. He ran 12 marathons in 2017 alone, win­ning

that

way,” he five.

In ma­jors, he fin­ished fourth in Tokyo in 2010 and third in 2011 in the same race.

Kirui seemed to be headed for the vic­tory when he had passed the tough­est stretch of Heart­break Hill at around the 22-mile mark. He was main­tain­ing about a 90-sec­ond gap.

“At that point I was try­ing to con­trol the race. It was not my plan to push,” Kirui said.

It’s why he said he was not sur­prised that Kawauchi was able to make the move he did in the fi­nal few miles.

“The last mile was very tough,” Kirui said. “The legs be­come stiff so that gave me a chal­lenge.”

Kawauchi

was

in

al­most

a dead sprint when he passed Kirui with just about three miles to go. He was soon all alone as Kirui steadily faded.

Bi­wott nearly got on the podium in last year’s race, fin­ish­ing fourth. He was fifth in New York in 2016.

He’s a na­tive of Kenya, be­com­ing an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen in 2012.

“I can’t be­lieve to­day was the day. But I knew it was go­ing to hap­pen some­day,” Bi­wott said of break­ing through with his first ma­jor top 3 fin­ish.

Kawauchi said he doesn’t plan to change his train­ing reg­i­men, even vow­ing to un­der­take a pre­planned run to­day. “Maybe one hour,” he said. And how long is that, ex­actly? “Maybe 10K.”

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