Visiting Japanese runners race for cause

LIHUE — Eiichiro Kimura’s introduction to Hawaii was less than pleasant in February.

“We had an incident aboard a cruise ship where a passenger was stricken with a seizure in late January,” said Art Umezu of the Office of the Mayor, translator for this interview. “She was taken to the hospital where she stayed for several weeks. In the meantime, Kimura, the patient’s son-in-law, arrived with other family members to help tend to the patient.”

Unfortunately, the patient did not make it.

During his stay here, Kimura found out about the Kauai Marathon, and decided he would run the full marathon, dedicating the run to his mother-in-law.

He arrived Thursday night and, on Friday, independently met other Kauai Marathon runners, Shinya Ohashi of Ishinomaki City, Japan, and Yukie Nagata of Shibuya — both winners of the Iwaki Marathon.

Kimura will join Ohashi and Nagata in driving the actual marathon course with Umezu before picking up their race materials at the fitness expo for the Sunday race.

“I saw the course on YouTube,” Kimura said. “But there is a difference between seeing the course on social media and actually driving the course to see what it looks like.”

Ohashi and Nagata had just landed at Lihue Airport with their chaperone, Hidenori Senzaki, an Iwaki City sports official, and were enjoying lunch at the Tip Top Cafe, a site suggested in a guidebook penned for Japanese visitors.

“Marathon food,” said Nagata, enjoying a side of pancakes in addition to the oxtail soup. “Very delicious.”

Nagata, a runner since she was 12 years old, said she earned the Kauai Marathon spot by winning the Iwaki Sunshine Marathon, a 10k and 5k event held in February in Japan. Under recipricol agreement as part of the Kauai-Iwaki City sister city collaboration, winners of the Kauai Marathon are provided with an opportunity to participate in the Iwaki Sunshine Marathon, and the winners of the Iwaki event are afforded the chance to run in the Kauai Marathon.

“This was the first time I did the Iwaki Sunshine Marathon,” Nagata said. “And, I won first place. Yuko Nakai from Oahu, the top female finisher from the 2016 Kauai Marathon, finished 10th overall.”

Nagata, whose job is to register people to run the 5k moat circling the emperor’s residence in Tokyo, said there are a lot of people who like to run around the moat — nearly 20,000 in a month.

She said the Iwaki Sunshine Marathon is run during a cold time of the year.

“It’s really cold,” Nagata said. “The Kauai Marathon is run in very hot time. I get ready by running in Tokyo during the hot times.”

Ohashi hails from Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, where 10,000 people lost their lives during the 2011 tsunami disaster, one of the places suffering the largest number of casualties.

“He’ll be doing the half Kauai Marathon,” Umezu said. “He won the Iwaki Sunshine Marathon during his second year running the event. But he is not feeling 100 percent — he has some pain — so, he’ll take on the half marathon. He said he’s running for the spirit of all those who didn’t make it through the disaster.”

Kimura said he’s lost count of how many marathons he’s run.

“Mostly, I run in the Naha Marathon,” Kimura said. “I did the Tokyo Marathon once, and to do the full Kauai Marathon is going to be tough. But I’m getting good sleep (after arriving Thursday) and eating the delicious food.”

Umezu said during Kimura’s stay to help care for his mother-in-law, he would run on Ke Ala Hele Makalae, the Eastside coastal multi-use path.

“He tripped on the path,” Umezu said. “They had to bring him to the hospital, but he was there anyway. He ended his trip in a cast, but now, he’s ready to take on the full 26 miles.”

Kimura also said Sept. 1 is the opening date for registration into the Iwaki Sunshine Marathon, and would take care of that before checking out the Kauai Marathon.

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