Boston Marathon winner has run 80 marathons, half marathon as panda

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They call him “Citizen Runner.”

Yuki Kawauchi, the shock winner of the Boston Marathon and first Japanese to do so since 1987, was best known before Monday for owning the world record of 78 marathons run under 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Now that record is 79. Kawauchi overcame 2017 Boston winner Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya in the final two miles, clocking 2:15:58 and winning by 2:25 in a downpour, temperatures in the 30s and a headwind.

“For me, it’s the best conditions possible [today],” Kawauchi said through a translator, who added that Kawauchi was on the verge of blacking out and needed to get to the medical tent.

It was the slowest winning time since 1976, but Kawauchi beat a field that included the last three Boston winners, plus Olympic marathon bronze medalist Galen Rupp.

Rupp dropped out before the 20th mile and was treated in a medical tent for more than an hour for symptoms of asthma and hypothermia, a member of his agency said, according to the Oregonian.

BOSTON MARATHON: Results | Finish-Line Camera

Kawauchi has run four marathons this year, including one in 2:18:59 on New Year’s Day in Marshfield, Mass., in single-digit temperatures, believed to be the fastest marathon in weather that cold.

The 31-year-old ran 12 marathons in 2017, winning five of them. Records show he has run at least 81 marathons since his debut in 2009.

“I run a lot of races because I love to run races,” said Kawauchi, who trains by himself. “Racing a lot gives me the opportunity to travel the world.”

Kawauchi was dubbed Japan’s “Citizen Runner” several years ago because he competed while holding a full-time job in his local government. He is now a high school administrator kept busy by writing its 100th anniversary commemorative magazine.

Though Kawauchi has won more than 30 marathons, his best finish in a major before Monday was third in Tokyo in 2011.

In a Boston warm-up race, Kawauchi finished second in a half marathon while wearing a full-length panda costume on March 25, according to Japan Running News.

“I think there’s probably not a single person in Boston who thought I was going to win,” he said.

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