Yuki Kawauchi didn’t win yesterday’s (December 1) 67th Fukuoka International Marathon, and he narrowly missed out on second, but in this case, there’s something quite nice about the number three.
Kawauchi finished third with a time of 2:09:05, and in doing so, he became the first Japanese man to run three sub-2:10 marathons in a single year. Not surprisingly, he’s making headlines alongside winner Martin Mathathi of Kenya, who finished in 2:07:16, and his countryman Joseph Gitau, who took second in 2:09:00.
As Japan Running News reports, Kawauchi’s third-place finish followed a “stunning move” near the course’s midpoint, where he passed Mathathi and Gitau and established a 10-second lead.
Kawauchi—who has now competed in 10 marathons this year—spent the next kilometer battling Mexico’s Juan Luis Barrios, but the pair weren’t in front long. By kilometer 31, Mathathi had regained the lead, and Kawauchi had drifted back into the middle of the elite pack, his “face locked tight in a grimace.”
He made another move in the final kilometer, dropping the pack and giving chase to Gitau, who beat him by less than 50 meters. Speaking with the press afterward, Kawauchi said that his bold first move probably cost him a better finish.
“I shouldn't have taken off like that," Kawauchi said. "I was shooting for time so I wanted to shave the pack down to five or six people, but I ended up spending everything there.”
Marathon midpoints have proved tricky for the distance star, who also has the distinction of being the sixth Japanese marathoner to have broken 2:10 five times in his career. Last month at the ING New York City Marathon, he fell back from the lead group at roughly the same point in the race.
Still, Kawauchi has come away from Fukuoka with valuable experience.
"That was a truly painful race,” he said. “I have to try harder in the future."
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg