Top of the Charts

By Mario Fraioli

Kawauchi notching his 23rd career sub-2:12 earlier this month in Australia. Photo: Gold Coast Marathon

If Yuki Kawauchi were a rock star, the Japanese long-distance runner would go down in history as one of Billboard’s most reliable Hot 100 artists—never at the top of the charts, but consistently in the top-100 based on performance and popularity.

“There’s nothing wrong with writing hits and I’m sure he wouldn’t object if he scored one, but is that the only reason people play music?” Brett Larner writes for Japan Running News. “Maybe he knows he’s not fast enough to be Taylor Swift. Maybe he’s not out to write the summer’s hot track or something people will be dancing to at their high school reunions ten years down the road. Maybe he’s out to write something larger, a life’s work, a symphony that will still move people generations from now. Something nobody will ever surpass.

Kawauchi recently ran his 23rd career sub-2:12 marathon at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, breaking Ethiopian Abebe Mekonnen’s previous record. He’s also has 72 career sub-66 minute half marathons and, perhaps even more impressively, also holds records for most sub-2:50, sub-2:49 and sub-2:48 50Ks in history. How does the 30-year-old “citizen runner” do it? “He knows exactly what he wants,” Kumiko Makihara wrote for Runner’s World a couple years back, “and that hard work is required to get there.”

A version of this post first appeared in the morning shakeout, my weekly email newsletter covering running, writing, media and other topics that interest me. If you’d like for it to land in your inbox first thing on Tuesday mornings, subscribe here.