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Dechasa, Kemboi and Kawauchi Rematch at Stockholm Marathon

Fresh from a men's course record of 2:10:58 at last year's race, the ASICS Stockholm Marathon looks ready for an update to that time on Saturday. Ethiopian-born Shumi Dechasa (Bahrain) leads the field on paper, his best time in the last three years a 2:07:20 at the 2015 Tokyo Marathon followed up by a 5th-place finish at the 2015 Beijing World Championships. He hasn't raced in the two years since then, leaving a question mark by his name. #2-ranked John Kemboi (Kenya) has a 2:08:56 PB from the 2015 Frankfurt Marathon, but in his only race since then, last summer's Gold Coast Airport Marathon, he was a DNF.

In that race Yuki Kawauchi (Japan/ Saitama Pref. Gov't) was 2nd in 2:09:01, putting him at 3rd in the field. Dechasa and Kawauchi have raced twice before, Dechasa beating Kawauchi by over a minute at the 2013 Seoul International Marathon and by more than 3 minutes at the 2014 Hamburg Marathon. A win over Dechasa would be a major boost to Kawauchi's chances for August's London World Championships. Samuel Getachew (Ethiopia) and Samuel Maswai (Kenya) have also both been under the course record within the last three years, increasing the chances of seeing it fall.

In the women's race, Belaynesh Shifera has the fastest recent time at 2:31:08 from the 2015 Barcelona Marathon. Alice Kibor (Kenya) and Sanaa Achahbar (Morocco) are close behind with 2:32 marks from January's Marrakech Marathon, but apart from those performances none of the top three has broken 2:35 any time in the last three years, putting them all in range of 2016 Alpes Martimes Nice-Cannes Marathon winner Konjit Tilahun Biruk (Ethiopia) and 2016 Osaka Marathon winner Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan/Y.W.C.). Sakamoto beat #1-ranked Shifera as last year's Volksbank Muenster Marathon, meaning a wide-open race in the absence of 7-time winner Isabella Andersson (Sweden).

39th ASICS Stockholm Marathon Elite Field Highlights
Stockholm, Sweden
times listed are best within last three years except where noted
Kawauchi and Sakamoto appear with support from JRN

Men
Shumi Dechasa (Bahrain) - 2:07:20 (Tokyo 2015)
John Kemboi (Kenya) - 2:08:56 (Frankfurt 2015)
Yuki Kawauchi (Japan) - 2:09:01 (Gold Coast 2016)
Samuel Getachew (Ethiopia) - 2:09:44 (Rabat 2017)
Samuel Maswai (Kenya) - 2:10:18 (Berlin 2014)
Abdellatif Meftah (France) - 2:11:11 (Paris 2015)
Samuel Kalalel (Kenya) - 2:11:48 (Metz 2016)
Michael Mutai (Kenya) - 2:12:12 (Hong Kong 2016)
Ronny Kiboss (Kenya) - 2:12:18 (Hefei 2014)
Urgesa Kedir (Ethiopia) - 2:12:19 (Pune 2017)
Fikadu Girma (Ethiopia) - 2:12:28 (Beirut 2014)
Gezahegn Alemayehu (Ethiopia) - 2:12:42 (Marrakech 2015)
Alex Chesakit (Uganda) - 2:13:06 (Tours 2015)
Daniel Komen (Kenya) - 2:14:20 (Chongqinq 2015)
Eric Kering (Kenya) - 2:15:42 (Linz 2017)
Japhet Kipkorir (Kenya) - 2:15:49 (Taipei 2016)
Michael Kipyego (Kenya) - 2:16:54 (Toronto Waterfront 2015)

Women
Belaynesh Shifera (Ethiopia) - 2:31:08 (Barcelona 2015)
Alice Kibor (Kenya) - 2:32:28 (Marrakech 2017)
Sanaa Achahbar (Morocco) - 2:32:36 (Marrakech 2017)
Konjit Tilahun Biruk (Ethiopia) - 2:35:35 (Rome 2017)
Yoshiko Sakamoto (Japan) - 2:36:02 (Osaka 2016)

text and photo © 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Kawauchi Breaks Nobeyama Ultra Course Record

2018 Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) won the longest race of his career to date Sunday in Nagano, taking over six minutes off the Yatsugatake Nobeyama Kogen 71 km Ultramarathon in 4:41:55.

A training run for next month’s Stockholm Marathon, Kawauchi set off solo at a steady pace around 3:45/km. Climbing from 1355 m to 1908 m as he approached 20 km he naturally slowed, but with over 1000 m of descent over the next 30 km he was soon back on track. Hitting the marathon split around 2:39, he was so far ahead of the 2nd placer that the announcer initially forget Kawauchi had already gone by and announced the next runner as the leader.

At 58 km Kawauchi was on track to clear 4:30:00, but hitting the uphills in the final 10 km and feeling the effects of the unfamiliar distance he slowed to almost 5:00/km. But with so much leeway to work with there was never any danger of the 4:48:13 course record slipping out of reach. Kawauchi stopped the clock in 4:41:55, please…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…