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Fukuoka International Marathon hosts limited field of 70 elites for annual race

The 2018 Boston Marathon champion finished well back of his personal best in the 104th marathon of his career

Yuki Kawauchi Photo by: @CGreeny_11/Twitter

A few hours before Sunday’s Valencia Marathon started in Spain, the 74th Fukuoka International Marathon got underway in Japan. The race featured just 70 runners, all of whom were men and either Japanese or international athletes who live and train in Japan. In the biggest race of his young career, 23-year-old Yuya Yoshida took the win in 2:07:05. This was an 85-second PB for Yoshida, who beat the next-closest runner by more than 30 seconds. Yuki Kawauchi, the 2018 Boston Marathon champion, was also in the race, but he finished seven minutes back of Yoshida in 2:13:59. The run in Fukuoka was the 104th of Kawauchi’s career. 

Yoshida’s big win 

A big pack of 13 runners (which included Yoshida) took the lead from the start and ran the first 5K in 14:56. At 10K, that group was pretty much still in tact, passing through in 29:53, with another chase pack just a few seconds behind them. At the halfway point, the group was down to 10 men, and they recorded 1:02:55 splits. By 30K, there were just four men up front, and at 35K, Yoshida had a lead of almost a minute over second place. 

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Running solo for the final 7K or so, Yoshida slowed considerably. Ahead of the 30K checkpoint, each of his 5K splits had been under 15 minutes, but from 35K onward, he averaged more than three minutes per kilometre. With a second half-marathon of 1:04:10, he ended up running a positive split of more than a minute, but it ultimately didn’t matter, as he wasn’t alone in his late-race fading and none of the runners in the field recorded anywhere close to an even split. 

Shohei Otsuka finished in second place in 2:07:38 and third place went to Natsuki Terada in 2:08:03. Like Yoshida’s result, both Otsuka and Terada ran to PBs in Fukuoka. 

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Number 104 for Kawauchi 

In the 104th marathon of his career, Kawauchi was far off his PB of 2:08:14, which put him in 19th place. This year has been a weird one for runners everywhere, but especially so for Kawauchi, who hasn’t run fewer than five marathons in a single season since 2010. With lockdowns and race cancellations worldwide, he was unable to compete as much as he normally would, and the Fukuoka International Marathon was just his third marathon of the year. 

Yuki Kawauchi
Kawauchi runs a winter marathon in 2018. Photo: Geoffrey Burns/Twitter

Last year, he reached the 100-marathon milestone. This is a noteworthy point in any runner’s career, but to do it like Kawauchi and contend in the majority of those races is truly remarkable. Unless he squeezes another race in before the end of the year (which wouldn’t be out of the question for Kawauchi if there were more races being held right now), this will be the first year since 2011 that he hasn’t won a marathon. 

Full results from the Fukuoka International Marathon can be found here

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