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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Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ted Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment. He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, he had a pair of top-five results.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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