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Boston marathon champion Hideo Hamamura has passed away

Boston marathon champion Hideo Hamamura has passed away
K. Ken Nakamura

10 May 2000 - Hideo Hamamura passed away on May 7 in his hometown Hofu, situated in the Yamaguchi prefecture in western Japan. Born on 20 July 1928, he was 71 years old and was suffering from a malignant tumour. As one of the top Japanese distance runners of the fifties, he represented his country in the marathon at the Olympics and the Asian Games. He was 16th in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne and fifth in the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo.

In the United States, he is best known as the winner of the 1955 Boston marathon. His winning time, 2:18.22 was a course record and one of the fastest times in history (unfortunately the course was found to be short in 1957). Benefiting from a light rain and a soft tail wind, Hamamura, then 26, was never challenged over the final four miles of the race to become the third of seven Japanese champions in the 104-year history of the Boston marathon.

Hamamura won all the major Japanese marathons of the time. In 1952, he won the inaugural Beppu-Oita Mainichi marathon, a 35km road race. In 1953, he won the Asahi marathon, predecessor to the now prestigious Fukuoka International marathon, and in 1954, he was triumphant at the Mainichi marathon, currently known as the Lake Biwa Mainichi marathon.

Recalling the peak of his career on the occasion of the Fukuoka International marathon’s 50th anniversary he said, "Since the top finishers of the Asahi marathon were sent to the Boston marathon, I trained especially hard for the race. I was very happy when I won the Asahi marathon."

Like most elite runners in Japan, upon retiring from competition he took up coaching. He also held various administrative positions in the JAAF (Japanese Amateur Athletic Federation). At the time of his death, he was a consultant for the UniQlo track team.