By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) - Yuki Kawauchi's improbable victory at the Boston Marathon on Monday is the crowning glory in the career of an amateur Japanese runner who has defied every convention in modern athletics and taken the road less traveled to make his mark.
The 31-year-old from Saitama, who becomes the first Japanese man to win the Boston Marathon since Toshihiko Seko in 1987, holds down a full-time job working at a local school, and trains without the aid of a coach or sponsorship.
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And he has competed in more than 80 marathons.
After splashing across the finish line through wind and rain ahead of defending champion Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya on Monday, Kawauchi was in no doubt he surprised a few people.
"I don't think there was a single person in Boston who thought I would win this today,” he said with a smile.
“In the marathon you never know what could happen.”
Many of Kawauchi's marathon wins have come in awful weather and he said being battered by wind and rain in Boston played right into his hands.
"I think the conditions were instrumental in being able to win ..." he added.
He has won his last five marathons, including four in 2018 alone, and ran 12 last year. Kenya's reigning Olympic champion Eluid Kipchoge by comparison ran only two.
“I love to run races,” said Kawauchi.
“Races gives me the opportunity to travel and in a more practical sense, because I train by myself if I didn’t put in a lot of races I wouldn’t be able to put in the same quality.”
Kawauchi has not fared so well at the major events, however, finishing 18th at the 2011 and 2013 IAAF World Championships and ninth at London last year. He has never been selected for the Japanese Olympic team.
After failing to record a qualifying time for the 2012 London Games at the Tokyo Marathon, Kawauchi shaved his head to apologize.
“I felt that I had to give everyone who supported me a sign of my remorse,” Nikkan Sports quoted him as saying at the time.
“It is better that my shame be exposed for everyone to see.”
Kawauchi’s personal best of 2:08:14, recorded in Seoul in 2013, would have been enough to win gold at a rainy Rio Games but it is more than five minutes outside the world record. He has only once run under 2:10:00 since July 2016.
In an interview with SpotsNavi last year, Kawauchi, who holds the record for the most sub-2.20 marathons, said that being able to fit in only one training session a day had actually helped him.
“When you consider that runners belonging to teams are doing 12km a day on average in their morning runs, my monthly mileage is going to be at least 360km less since I don’t do them,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure the human body has a mileage limit.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)