Tyler McCandless, 24, of Boulder, Colo., won Japan’s Iwaki Sunshine Marathon during his first participation in an international running competition on Feb. 12.
McCandless earned the trip to the Iwaki marathon by winning the 2011 Kaua‘i Marathon and was supported by the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau and the County of Kaua‘i in the field of 3,860 race participants.
The race came down to the final kilometer with McCandless overtaking and edging out the second-place finisher by just nine seconds, crossing the line with a time of 2:27:32, states a news release by the Kaua‘i Marathon.
“The pace was slow (in the final stages of the race), and I was slow,” McCandless reported on his website. “The energy from fighting the wind had us both zapped. I could see the finish line banner in the distance, so I gave it everything I had.”
McCandless said he broke away relatively easily.
“Coming down the finish straight, I started giving the shaka, or ‘hang loose,’ sign since I was representing the Kaua‘i Marathon,” the lead runner said. “I crossed the finish line with the shaka sign in the air and stopped right in front of about two dozen camera guys from the press, turning around to clap for the second-place guy.
“A few steps after he crossed, we both bowed and shook hands with each other, smiling. It was a surreal experience to celebrate each other’s culture moments after running two hours and 27 minutes together, separated by nine seconds at the finish. Crossing the finish line, giving the shaka sign to represent Kaua‘i, was a moment in time I will never forget.”
Masakazu Takahashi of Tokyo was the second place finisher, crossing at 2:27:42 over the course, which spanned the Iwaki Civic Track & Field Grounds, to Onohama Port and crossing portions that still bear signs of the devastation from the 2011 tsunami.
“It was an honor to represent Kaua‘i in Iwaki, and I am very proud I could win the Iwaki City Sunshine Marathon,” McCandless said in the news release. “The Iwaki community has done a remarkable job in the past 10 months to rebuild and recover from the tsunami.”
Rumi Otani represented the Iwaki Marathon at the 2011 Kaua‘i Marathon, where she finished as the first female (3:10:05.9). Otani finished as the second overall female in the Iwaki Marathon, stopping the clock at 3:00:10 after relinquishing the lead spot to Yuki Sato of Aomori Prefecture, who clocked 2:54:27.
McCandless, as the winner of the 2011 Kaua‘i Marathon, was joined by challenger Michael Wardian of Arlington, Va., in taking down the Kaua‘i Marathon $15,000 Speed Challenge when both runners crossed the line with a sub-2:30 time — McCandless stopping the clock at 2:23:21 followed by Wardian, the 2010 Kaua‘i Marathon winner, clocking 2:26:19 to share the purse.
“There was no prize money for the winners (of the Iwaki Marathon), but I did receive a Japanese Alpine car navigation system (which was later changed to an American-compatible system), hotel coupon certificates, a giant stuffed Aflak duck, Hello Kitty towels, a glass trophy presented by the head of Japanese tourism, a gold medal and a gift basket of Kaua‘i Marathon goodies,” McCandless said on his website. “I was honored to represent the Kaua‘i Marathon, and the lack of prize money was not going to stop me from having the experience of a lifetime.”
McCandless said the winner of the Iwaki race received a trip back to the Kaua‘i Marathon. But since he has already committed to return to Kaua‘i, he felt it was best the paid trip to Kaua‘i be given to someone from Japan to further improve the sister city relationship, he said.
The Iwaki mayor bowed at the announcement of McCandless’ decision, naming Takahashi, the second male finisher, and Sato, the first woman finisher, as recipients of the trip to the Kaua‘i Marathon. The marathon is scheduled Sept. 2 in Po‘ipu.
Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and Kazuichi Ishii, director of the Iwaki City, Tokyo, office, signed a formal sister city agreement in Lihu’e in September.
“Sister city relationships promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation,” Carvalho said during the signing. “It offers communities the opportunity to develop partnerships on many levels — educational, professional, technical, municipal, and, of course, cultural.”
Visit www.thekauaimarathon.com for more information or to register for the 2012 Kaua‘i Marathon.