Organisers of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon have announced that Boston Marathon champion Yuki Kawauchi and Japanese 5000m record-holder Suguru Osako will join the elite field for the IAAF Gold Label road race on 7 October.
They will both seek to become the first Chicago Marathon champion from Japan since Toshihiko Seko took the crown in 1986.
“Yuki and Suguru are exciting additions to our elite field,” said executive race director Carey Pinkowski. “Yuki has taken an unconventional path to marathon stardom; there’s no other elite runner competing today like him. And Suguru is young in his marathon career with a real chance at breaking the Japanese record in Chicago.”
Before becoming the Boston Marathon champion earlier this year amid freezing temperatures and pouring rain (where he said, “for me, these are the best conditions possible”), Kawauchi gained global recognition for his prolific racing schedule. He holds the record for the most marathons run within 2:20 (79), he boasts a PB of 2:08:14, he has won more than 30 career marathons and he finished 12 marathons in 2017 alone.
He has raced more than 20 times so far in 2018, including running the Kuki Half Marathon dressed in a panda suit and setting a course record at the Yatsugatake Nobeyama 71km ultramarathon in May.
Compatriot Osako, who is based in Oregon, is the Japanese record-holder in the 3000m and 5000m. He competed in the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and made his marathon debut at the 2017 Boston Marathon, finishing third in 2:10:28. At the time, he was the first Japanese man to make it on to the podium in Boston since Seko’s 1987 victory. He ended 2017 with a 2:07:19 PB to finish third at the Fukuoka Marathon.
Osako hopes to secure an additional bonus in Chicago by breaking the Japanese marathon record of 2:06:11. If he manages that feat, the Japanese Corporate Track and Field Federation will pay him a 100-million-yen bonus.
“I want to try to break the national record, but the most important thing to me is to be competitive with the other runners,” said Osako. “I’m really excited and proud to run with Mo and Galen. I’m going to enjoy the challenge.”
Japan has a long history of producing some of the world’s best marathon runners, stretching back to the post-war era of the 1940s and 1950s. Japan dominated the global scene in the 1960s (in 1966 alone, 15 of the top 17 marathon times belonged to Japanese runners). As Tokyo looks ahead to hosting the 2020 Olympics, it hopes to see its marathon runners – like Osako – back in the medal count.
Kawauchi and Osako will be joined in Chicago by fellow Japanese runners Ryo Kiname, Chihiro Miyawaki, Tsukasa Koyama, Taku Fujimoto and Yohei Suzuki.