BOSTON — He let out several short gasps when he crossed the finish line, his eyes wide and his smile huge. Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi shocked the world when, with just one mile to go, he pushed past a struggling Geoffrey Kirui to cross the finish line in 2:15:58. He became the first Japanese man to win the Boston Marathon since 1987 (and first Asian since 2001), when Toshihiko Seko won. This is Kawauchi’s first major title.
It was, incidentally, in 1987 that Kawauchi was born. “I can’t help but think fate had something to do with my win today,” said the 31-year-old through an interpreter at the press conference.
Tears poured out of his eyes as he looked up at the Japanese flag, the anthem playing in the background. He said hearing the anthem because of his accomplishment was an emotional feeling.
While the elite men struggled to hold on to their leads because of the rough weather conditions, Kawauchi, who ran 12 marathons in 2017, looked comfortable. When the men’s elite race began, the temperature was 38 Fahrenheit with a wind chill of 35 Fahrenheit. Kawauchi had run a sub-zero race — the Marshfield Marathon in Massachusetts — in January, and after the Boston race, he said, “For me, these are the best conditions possible.”
The rain and wind probably helped him win the title, Kawauchi said. It would have been a tougher competition had the weather been dry and warm, and his comfort level running in low temperatures and rain gave him the edge, he said.
Kenya had a disappointing end to their Boston Marathon campaign. Despite holding the lead for most of the second half of the race, Kirui, who is the New York Marathon champ, was struggling to keep up his pace in the last five miles. His could feel his legs becoming stiff, Kirui said at the press conference. He finished a little less than three minutes after Kawauchi. On a tough day like this, he said he did his best and for that he was happy.
It was a good day for the American contingency on Marathon Monday. Shadrack Biwott had his best marathon finish of his career finishing third, followed by Americans Tyler Pennell, Andrew Bumbalough and Scott Smith in the fourth, fifth and sixth positions respectively. Biwott, a Kenyan-born American runner, was ecstatic at the press conference and pumped his fists on finally making his first ever podium.
“I just told myself to relax and not panic,” said Biwott at the press conference. “This race is unique, you just have to put your head down, keep chipping away and you never know, surprises can happen. For me, I am still in shock.”