Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi surges to win Bos­ton Marathon

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - SPORTS - By Kyle High­tower

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 (SHAD-rack BE-watt) 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 en­cour­aged him to run Bos­ton.

The last time a Ja­panese run­ner fin­ished on top of the podium at 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 that way,” he said.

Though he had never won a ma­jor marathon crown, the 31-year-old had cap­tured more than 30 marathon ti­tles in ca­reer. He ran 12 marathons in 2017 alone, win­ning five. He says he runs so many marathons mostly as a train­ing de­vice, with so few races in his na­tive Kuki, Saitama, Japan.

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 on Tues­day. “Maybe one hour,” he said. And how long is that, ex­actly? “Maybe 10K.”

••• De­siree Lin­den splashed her way through icy rain and a near-gale head­wind to win the Bos­ton Marathon on Mon­day, the first vic­tory for an Amer­i­can woman since 1985.

The two-time Olympian and 2011 Bos­ton run­ner-up pulled away at the end of Heart­break Hill to win in 2 hours, 39 min­utes, 54 sec­onds. That was more than four min­utes bet­ter than sec­ond-place fin­isher Sarah Sell­ers — one of seven Amer­i­cans in the top 10 — but the slow­est time for a women’s win­ner in Bos­ton since 1978.

“It’s sup­posed to be hard,” said Lin­den, who wiped the spray of rain from her eyes as she made her way down Boyl­ston Street alone. “It’s good to get it done.”

Yuki Kawauchi passed de­fend­ing cham­pion Ge­of­frey Kirui as they passed through Ken­more Square with a mile to go to win the men’s race in 2:15:58 and earn Japan’s first Bos­ton Marathon ti­tle since 1987. Kirui slowed and stum­bled across the Co­p­ley Square fin­ish line 2:25 later, fol­lowed by Shadrack Bi­wott and three other U.S. men.

“For me, it’s the best con­di­tions pos­si­ble,” Kawauchi said with a wide smile through an in­ter­preter.

On the fifth an­niver­sary of the fin­ish line ex­plo­sions that killed three and wounded hun­dreds more, Lin­den and Kawauchi led a field of 30,000 run­ners through a drench­ing rain, tem­per­a­tures in the mid-30s and gusts of up to 32 mph on the 26.2-mile trek from Hop­kin­ton.

In Co­p­ley Square, Crowds only partly thinned and muf­fled by the weather greeted Lin­den with chants of “U-SA!”

Lisa Larsen Wei­den­bach’s 1985 vic­tory was the last for an Amer­i­can woman — be­fore the race be­gan of­fer­ing prize money that lured the top in­ter­na­tional com­peti­tors to the world’s old­est and most pres­ti­gious an­nual marathon. Lin­den, a Cal­i­for­nia na­tive who lives in Michi­gan, nearly ended the drought in 2011 when she was out­kicked down Boyl­ston Street and fin­ished sec­ond by 2 sec­onds dur­ing yet an­other Kenyan sweep.

But the East Africans who have dom­i­nated the pro­fes­sional era of the race had their worst per­for­mance in decades. Kirui was the only Kenyan in the top ten for the men’s race; de­fend­ing cham­pion Edna Ki­pla­gat, who was ninth, helped pre­vent a shutout in the distaff divi­sion.

Home­town fa­vorite Sha­lane Flana­gan, a four-time Olympian and the reign­ing New York City Marathon cham­pion, fin­ished sixth af­ter pop­ping into a cours­eside por­ta­ble toi­let be­fore the half­way point and fall­ing be­hind the lead pack.

Mar­cel Hug of Switzer­land earned his fifth wheel­chair vic­tory, push­ing though pud­dles that sent the spray from their wheels into his eyes. Amer­i­can Tatyana Mc­Fad­den, won the women’s wheel­chair race for the fifth time, wore two jack­ets, with a layer of plas­tic be­tween them and hand warm­ers against her chest.

“It was just tough, it was so freez­ing,” Hug said through chat­ter­ing teeth as a vol­un­teer draped a sec­ond towel around his shoul­ders. “I’m just very glad that I made it.”

STEVEN SENNE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Yuki Kawauchi, of Japan, leads the pack of elite run­ners in the sec­ond mile of the 122nd Bos­ton Marathon on Mon­day in Hop­kin­ton, Mass. Kawauchi won the race, and be­came the first Ja­panese man to win the race since 1987.

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