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This Super Elite Runner is a Working Stiff By Day

Top Marathoner Yuki Kawauchi beats pros while training around a full-time job

Flickr/METRO GROUP MARATHON

You think it’s tough finding time to work out around a full-time job? Prepare to be humbled by Yuki Kawauchi, a self-coached—and extremely self-disciplined, it would seem—Japanese municipal clerk who runs teeth-gritting 2:08 marathons that are good enough to beat the pros.

Kawauchi, 26, is something of a national hero in marathon-crazy Japan, where his rabid fans and an adoring press call him the “Citizen Runner." An amateur who shells out roughly a million Yen ($12,500) of his salary each year in pursuit of his running career (including travel), some think he's on the verge of revitalizing the sport at its highest ranks with his unadulterated passion.

A lifelong runner who participated in track and field through college, Kawauchi loved the sport but didn't truly blossom until after he graduated. Since he wasn't among the best on his university team, he was passed up by the recruiters who sign talent onto Japan's elite, company-sponsored pro teams. So, he did what any serious athlete would do when told he wasn't good enough—he did it anyway, and by his own rules.

Kawauchi landed a clerk job in the local government, and started using his modest income to fund his training. Rather than stick to a traditional marathon racing schedule of four or five races a year, he started racing nearly every weekend, at distances ranging from half-marathons to 50km ultramarathons.

And since 2008, under his own coaching, he's progressed from a good, sub-2:20 marathoner to a crowd-pleasing, self-made elite racer. Kawauchi trains once a day, maximizing the single-session method, and saves trail running for the weekends, but what matters most to him, he says, is having fun. That's an approach to an active lifestyle we can all get on board with, and one that appears to be working for the intrepid government clerk—just last week he won Austrailia's Gold Coast Marathon.

See Kawauchi in action in this video from the 2013 Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon in Oita, Japan, in which he sets his PR of 2:08:15:

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