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Kawauchi Takes Over Three Minutes Off Own 50 km National Record at Okinoshima Ultra

by Brett Larner

Continuing a season that seems to show him returning to his best form, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) took over three minutes off his own national record as he won the hilly Okinoshima Ultramarathon's 50 km division in 2:44:07.  Run on the island where Kawauchi's late father was born, the Okinoshima Ultra is a Father's Day fixture on Kawauchi's calendar.  The course features a relatively flat first 10 km, three 100 m+ tall ups and downs between 10 and 30 km, and an undulating last 20 km capped by one more major hill with 5 km to go.


"The weather conditions were better than usual, so I decided to go for the course record," Kawauchi told JRN post-race.  Where he has typically opened the first 10 km in 33-34 minutes in past years, this year he went out red-hot, splitting 31:07, 2:11 marathon pace, before hitting the hills.  Over the next 20 km he was slightly slower than in the last two years, but even so with a 1:38:21 split at 30 km projecting to a 2:43:55 finish he was just off pace to hit the world record of 2:43:38.  "Mid-race it got sunny and the wind came up, so it got much tougher," Kawauchi said.


The hills and weather kept the world record just out of reach, but Kawauchi's 2:44:07, 2:18:30 marathon pace, still marked a massive improvement on his 2:47:27 national record two years ago in Okinoshima.  Only two people have ever run faster, South Africa's Thompson Magawana with a 2:43:38 split in the 56 km Two Oceans ultra and American Josh Cox with a 2:43:45 at the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon where Cox ran to a local track after finishing the marathon and ran laps until he had covered 50 km, a mark recognized by USATF as a national record but not considered by others to have been run in a bona fide competition.  "To be honest, it would be very hard to get the world record on this course," Kawauchi said.  "I think I'd like to go for it at Lake Saroma."


At last year's Okinoshima Kawauchi's younger brother Yoshiki Kawauchi made his 100 km debut, suffering home mightily in 11:21:52.  A year older and wiser, Yoshiki returned this year to win the 100 km division in 7:20:31.  It's not every day that you get to run a four-hour PB.  Given the toughness of the 100 km course's hills it's a time that puts him close to national team level if he ever decides to run the fast Lake Saroma course where both the current men's and women's 100 km world records were set.

© 2016 Brett Larner
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Kawauchi Breaks Nobeyama Ultra Course Record

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How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

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The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …