The B.A.A. has learned that Keizo Yamada, the 1953 Boston Marathon champion from Japan, passed away on April 2 of natural causes at the age of 92. At the 57th Boston Marathon, Yamada set a new course record by claiming victory in a time of 2 hours, 18 minutes and 51 seconds, becoming the race’s second champion from Japan.
At just 5 feet, 2 inches tall, Yamada showed determination on his way to victory, taking the lead on Heartbreak Hill and ultimately claiming victory by 28 seconds. Among Boston Marathon champions’ legacies, Yamada’s 1953 win is often viewed as a catalyst for the string of success athletes from Japan have achieved on the roads leading to Boston, beginning with Shigeki Tanaka (1951) and continuing after Yamada with Hideo Hamamura (1955), Morio Shigematsu (1965), Kenji Kimihara (1966), Yoshiaki Unetani (1969), Toshihiko Seko (1981, 1987), Yuki Kawauchi (2018), as well as Wakako Tsuchida (2007-2011), Masazumi Soejima (2007, 2011), and Hiroyuki Yamamoto (2013) in the wheelchair division.
Yamada was a frequent finisher of the Boston Marathon, completing the race a total of 19 times including 15 in a row from 1995 through 2009. His most recent finish came at the age of 81 in 2009, when he timed 6:16:56. Yamada often wore bib number 1953, representing the year of his Boston victory. He would frequently finish toward the top of his age group, winning the 70-74 division in 2001 and placing runner-up in the 75-79 division in 2004.
“Keizo Yamada was an inspirational Boston Marathon champion and a man who was extremely proud to have won our race, just as we are to count him as one of our champions,” said Tom Grilk, B.A.A. CEO. “Keizo exemplified the spirit of Boston, returning year in and year out to give his best along the course and reuniting with the many friends he made in Boston. We offer our sincere condolences to his many friends and family.”