Sunday’s Okinawa Marathon issues challenges

Over 11,000 runners take part in the annual Okinawa Marathon this Sunday.

Sunday’s Okinawa Marathon is a wide open event, as more than 11,000 runners toe the Okinawa City starting line for the kick off of the 26.2-mile event.

The days of well-known favorites have disappeared, with dozens of young runners putting pressure on the veterans in this, as well as other marathons.  Even the different running clubs around Okinawa and mainland Japan are reluctant to pick favorites for Sunday’s full marathon and 10km road race.

Supporters welcome a runner at the finishing line.

The Okinawa Marathon is the best known of the island prefecture’s marathons, offering a grueling, challenging 42.195-kilometer course that takes runners through central Okinawa. The Association of Okinawa Central Local Governments expects the event to be an inter-cultural exchange as well as an international road race. Organizers have also plotted a 10km road race that kicks off after the 9:00 marathon start, at 9:40. Registration has been closed for weeks, with an expected 11,000+ runners ready to hit the street from the Comprehensive Park starting line.

The weather’s expected to be fine for a Sunday run, with meteorologists predicting an almost  zero chance of precipitation.  Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-60’s (18C~19C).  Temperatures will vary across the 26.4 mile race route, as elevations shift from flatlands in the first eight kilometers to before moving a bit higher around Yokatsu and Kawata, then to areas more than 10 meters above sea level in the Kadena area.

The course works its way through Kadena Air Base, and the Air Force’s 18th Wing will provide support.  Runners will enter the base through Gate 2 on Kuter Boulevard, turn left onto Vincent Avenue at Chapel 2, then left on Schreiber Boulevard at Kadena High School, and exit through Gate 5.  Gates 2 and 5 will be closed to vehicles from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.  A public affairs spokesman says pedestrians will still be able to enter both gates Sunday with authorized base passes.

Drivers should expect delays on Kadena, as marathon runners will have priority over vehicle traffic.  Officials say pedestrians will be allowed to cross the marathon route at the Main Street Food Court crosswalk, the crosswalk at the USO, and at a temporary crosswalk that will be set up behind the Officers Club to cross Kuter Blvd.  Traffic will be controlled by Security Forces.

The Okinawa Marathon begins at Awase, then carries runners through Takahara, near Koza, to Yonashiro Town, north to Kawata and then Agena Intersection, and on to the midway point near Camp McTureous.  The race continues to the northernmost checkpoint at Enobi, then turns southwest through Kariyushien, Chibana and Ikentou before moving onto Kadena Air Base, then out through Chatan town.  The final 10 kilometers travel through Yamauchi, alongside Camp Foster and into the home stretch to Comprehensive Athletic Park finish line.

An awards ceremony for the 10km road race is set for about 10:30 a.m., honoring the top six male and female finishers.  A full marathon awards ceremony begins about noon, and a third ceremony in early afternoon will honor top finishers in categories including oldest male and oldest female finishers, and year-group finishers.

There are nine designated parking lots along the course: AEON (JUSCO) Gushikawa, Awase Fishing Port, Okinawa Biotech Industry Center, Nakagusuku Port East Wharf, Okinawa City Hall, Okinawa Naritasan, Okinawa Health Biotechnology Research Centre, Okinawa Shinryo IT Park, or Nakagusuku Port Atta Area.  Parking is prohibited at Okinawa Comprehensive Park on race day.  Parking Lots are available from 07:00 a.m. on the race day .  To take public transportation: Buses, Taxies, and Carpools are highly recommended. Tow trucks will remove any illegally parked car around Okinawa Comprehensive Park.

Shuttle buses will be running on race day, and buses, taxis, and carpools are highly recommended.