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Dec 16, 2013 11:56 AM EST

'Citizen Runner' Yuki Kawauchi First Ever To Run Two Sub 2:10 Marathons In Two Weeks

Yuki Kawauchi
(Photo : wikicommons) Japanese marathon folk hero Yuki Kawauchi isn't an ultra marathoner per se, but he has run ultra races before.

Japanese distance running legend Yuki Kawauchui became the first runner ever to clock two sub 2:10 marathons in two weeks after finishing third at Sunday's Hofu Yomiuri Marathon in 2:09:05, japanrunningnews.blogspot reported.

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As marathon runners throughout Africa redefine the sport through death-defying racing strategies and record times, Yuki Kawauchui has made his mark by also ignoring what was previously thought possibly. Kawachui has never broken 2:08 (still an elite time, but not quite fast enough anymore to compete for a major marathon), but that's sort of the point. If he was closer to the 2:05 and 2:06 range, he'd be Japan's quickest marathoner (putting him in contention to break the country's all-time mark of 2:06:16 set in 2000) and might not continue his full time work as a high school administrator.

Yet, the 5-foot-9, 140-pounder might be crazy enough to keep his high school job and run among the world's best. He believes his work balances his running and, perhaps counterintuitive to his frequent racing schedule (see opening line to this article), affords him less intensive training than professionals who typically run twice per day, according to Runner's World.

Nearly all of Japan's elite distance runners compete for the country's corporate system, essentially a full time job. Based off undistinguished times in high school and college, Kawachui didn't receive much interest following his graduation from Gakushuin University. He kept running anyway and improved his times at a torrid post-graduation rate. His 2:08:14 PR ranks among Japan's greatest performances of all time.

Because of his unusual methods and his propensity to collapse from exhaustion at the end of races (leading letsrun.com to once wonder if he had a rare genetic condition preventing him from feeling pain, or the same affliction the blonde-haired enforcer had  from "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"), Kawachui is an international hero. Of course, his greatest fan base is in Japan. Domestic races in which he competes benefit from a noticeable increase in fan attendance, according to Runner's World.

Kawachui isn't the type of athlete to perform unusual feats and later appear unable to understand their significance. Rather, he seems like he's the one who best understands how his unusual methods have helped him succeed. He wanted to win Sunday's race, but he was mainly going for the record, as evidenced in this postgame quote from japanrunningnews.blogspot.

"It was disappointing to lose, but more than competing I was here to run the time.  I'm really happy that I broke 2:10 again.  Next year I'll be back to win!"

"Citizen runner," as he is called in the United States, told Runner's World his next goal will be besting his PR and finishing sixth or better in a major marathon, but one really never knows with an athlete like Kawauchi, who also competed in November's New York City Marathon (finishing 11th in 2:12:29). His high school and college self may have lacked confidence in his abilities, but his current 26-year old safe seems to shrug off self-imposed limits, much like American distance hero Steve Prefontaine once did.

"In Chicago and Berlin, Japanese men got seventh place," he told Runner's World. "I want to be better."

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