This story was first published in Issue #3 of Like the Wind Magazine
Words by Brett Larner – Illustration by Julie Freeman
“He was just a kid down at the local track. There always seemed to be something about him, but who could have guessed what he’d become? One of his country’s all-time greatest, an impetus for the rebirth of the rest of his nation’s men, recognised worldwide for his compelling realness.
A paradox: a diligent, principled government worker, anti-establishment to the core – an agent of change who seemed to represent long-lost values, unafraid to speak his mind or to criticise authority in a culture of indirectness where deference and respect are vital, and embraced for it all by the general public in a land that hammers down the nail that sticks up.
People grow and change, and so do relationships and perspectives. But what will always remain is that moment.
I don’t know how many times I’ve watched it. Dozens? 100? It still gives me goosebumps. I still cry.
In the Tokyo marathon in 2011 just before 39 km, when he catches Yoshinori Oda and Cyrus Njui, the newly crowned national champion and the prestigious marathon winner. That moment right after Oda and Njui react and pick up the pace to drop him. You can see it. Head down, eyes wrenched shut. A nobody. A nothing. You can see him wrestling with it. The moment. The fear. The question. You, mortal: what do you choose for yourself? Mediocrity or eternity? You can see him wrestle with it.
And you can see the moment he reaches into the fire and grabs hold of forever.
To me it seems to express something fundamental, something about the classical archetype of the hero. At the time I wrote that he had become a legend, and I’ve come to see that as true in a very direct way. I think that in that moment you can see a flash of insight into how the legends handed down through time and tradition came to be. The real people who faced the question: what do you choose for yourself?
People whose choices left their names written across the sky. I’ve been privileged to get to know Yuki Kawauchi on a personal level, and it is as hard to reconcile the figure with the relatively normal person as it is any of the contradictions about him. But regardless of what else he becomes, of what else becomes of him; that moment will always resonate as a glimpse of the something higher, that to which we all aspire.”
‘Yuki Kawauchi, Citizen Marathon Runner’ was first published in Issue #3 of Like the Wind Magazine
Brett Larner is the editor of the Japan Running News website. In 2011 Yuki Kawauchi contacted him for help getting into an international race
and continues to do so from time to time. www.japanrunningnews.blogspot.com
Illustration by Julie Freeman