The sun was out to warm the grounds of Marshfield HS to 1˚ F for the 9:00 am start of the Marshfield Road Runners 37th New Year’s Day Marathon. (Yuki at 10-miles, all photos by FitzFoto/NERunner)
The no frills club event started in 1981 with 3 runners and was called the Nothing for Nothing Marathon. For the 2018 event there were once again 3 runners signed up for the full distance with another 25 in the half for the two-loop route.
Two of the marathon enrollees opted out of the brutal conditions but the one marathoner who did show, was The Show.
Peripatetic Japanese marathoner Yuki Kawauchi, a blue collar fan favorite who works 40 hours a week, was attempting to break the world record of 75 sub-2:20:00 marathons that he co-held with US runner Doug Kurtis.
Kawauchi was in the area to train over parts of the Boston Marathon. As manager and translator Brett Larner pointed out, with Yuki’s work schedule, when he travels overseas he likes to pick a race to run.
John Hancock Senior Director of Sponsorship & Endurance Marketing, Mary Kate Shea (a member of the Marshfield RR) suggested the club’s New Year’s marathon.
As part of his bargaining chip to appear as a member of the John Hancock Elite Team for this year’s Boston Marathon, Yuki asked if the Marshfield course could be certified so he could make a record attempt. Yes and yes.
So Yuki set off with a police escort and lead vehicle up front and MRR club member Kim Ionta’s truck driving hubby, Chris, guarding the flank in his truck.
The course is a hilly affair to begin with but the weather was a real detriment. The wind was 5mph at the start but was whipping for the final 1.5-lap of the Marshfield HS track ending at the 35-yard line (as measured by RI certifier supreme Ray Nelson).
At the halfway mark back at the school, Kawauchi was clocked at 1:10:29. It was now 4˚.
“When I saw the time I thought it’s not happening today,” said Kawauchi who said that he found it hard to move during the first loop. “I couldn’t get warm, but I loosened up on the second loop. The weather also seemed to warm a little.”
With 50 fans and club member waiting on the track, Kawauchi appeared blowing fumes of frost and running in the 7th lane before switching to the 1st lane on the second lap (as required by certification).
Almost going down after slipping on ice on the final turn, Kawauchi remained upright to break the (paper) tape in 2:18:59 after negative splitting 1:08:30 for the second loop.
It took Kawauchi a goodly amount of time to get some warmth back in his body as pain and grimaces were evident.
“I have run a lot of marathons and so it’s tough to compare the weather, but I can say this is the coldest weather I have ever run a marathon in. This was good training for the Antarctica Marathon,” laughed Kawauchi who is looking forward to Boston, stating his goals are to “run in the lead pack and finish among the top-3.”
To that end, despite his self-coached amateur status, Kawauchi has a best of 2:08:14. A winner of over 30 marathons, Kawauchi has competed on several Japanese national teams, including three IAAF World Marathon Championship teams.
He holds the Japanese record in the 50K and world records for running the most sub-2:12 marathons (25), sub-2:13 (40), sub-2:14 (48), sub-2:15 (53), sub-2:16 (62), sub-2:17 (67), sub-2:18 (71) and sub-2:19 (74). —Bob FitzgeraldYuki with Marshfield Road Runners Sean Burns and Kim Ionta at Marshfield HS.