Running dad’s race

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of features on Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon participants leading up to the Sept. 6 race.

Runner Mark Nagaoka had no feeling left in his hands and the bottom of his feet. The only way he could gauge his progress was by the sound of his feet shuffling through the gravel on the road, said his daughter, Ashley Nagaoka.

Mark loved running. He ran the inaugural Kauai Marathon in 2009, finishing the full marathon course in 5 hours, 37 minutes and 58 seconds (12:53 pace).

In the Kauai Marathon 2014, Mark was slowed by the effects of his battle with cancer to just walking the half marathon course.

“He walked in the Kauai Marathon last year,” Ashley said. “Stage 4 cancer and all! He did it. He crossed that finish line in under four hours (3:49:23) with a big smile on his face. Seeing him cross that finish line was unreal!”

In December, three months after that marathon, he made a wish list on Post-Its, listing goals he wanted to accomplish this year, and tacked them on the refrigerator.

“As the cancer progressed, when Dad could no longer run, he would walk,” Ashley said. “When he could no longer walk six miles, he would walk one. When he could no longer walk, I would run for him.”

Following a long battle with cancer — stage 4 prostate cancer and stage 3 colorectal cancer — Mark passed away in April.

“One of his goals was to again run the Kauai Marathon,” Ashley said. “This year, I will be running the race with a group of my friends in honor of my dad. For everyone in the group but me, this will be their first half marathon. Many of them never thought they would be able to run a half marathon before, but after seeing my dad complete the race with stage 4 cancer, they know there are no excuses. I am so proud of all of them.”

Ashley said the group, Team Uncle Mark, is running the Kauai Half Marathon and raising money for cancer research through the V Foundation. Her group of friends include Ashley Kawaihalau, Erin (Garlie) Adams, Kandice (Cummings) Poloa, Marissa (Bonilla) Purcell, Haku Milles, Eddie Adams, Jason Poloa and Diandra Melchor.

“To run in a marathon is definitely one of those things on my bucket list that I’ve always wanted to cross off, but never really had the motivation nor mindset to do so, until now,” said Melchor, who was recently crowned Miss Kauai USA. “It is because of Uncle Mark Nagaoka and his passion for running that gives me that willpower. What better way to give back in respect to him and to fundraise for his favorite charity. He was truly the most down-to-earth, friendliest and caring man that would always put others before himself. Thank you for everything, Uncle Mark. This run is for you!”

Ashley said the goal of Team Uncle Mark is to raise $10,000 for cancer research.

“We are close to goal with the race coming up in just a couple of weeks,” she said. “If there are other people who want to remember Uncle Mark, or want to help his cause, the fundraising website is www.crowdrise.com/UncleMarksRunAgainstCancer/fundraiser/ashleynagaoka.”

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