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11,000 to run weekend Okinawa Marathon

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2010-03-04

The names to watch are Noboru Kubooka and Mariko Asato as Okinawa’s premier marathon with upwards of 11,000 runners Sunday winds its way through streets of nine cities, towns and villages.

The 2010 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 one-half hour after the marathon, at 9:30 a.m.

Kubooka, a veteran runner from Hiroshima Prefecture who won last year’s marathon with a time of 2 hours 24 minutes 5 seconds, a full minute and seven seconds ahead of his 2008 Okinawa Marathon victory, wants to make it a three-peat this year. So would Okinawa’s Mariko Asato, who won the ladies title in both 2008 and 2009. The Tomishiro City gal took last year’s title with a time of 2 hours 49 minutes 22 seconds.

Organizers were ecstatic with last year’s turnout, a record 9,010 for the full 42.196 kilometer marathon, and another 2,083 for the 10 kilometer road race. Officials say 77.4% of the runners last year, 6,971, completed the full marathon, while only seven of those in the 10km race failed to finish.

The weather’s a bit iffy for Sunday, with meteorologists predicting a 20% chance of rain showers at race time, increasing to a 30% chance as the morning progresses. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 70’s (25C). Temperatures will vary across the 26.4 mile race route, as elevations vary from flatlands in the first eight kilometers to before moving a bit higher around Yokatsu and Kawata, than 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.

A 75-year-old runner who’s completed his 100th full marathon at last year’s Okinawa Marathon, is expected to do so again this year, alongside his 68-year-old wife. Yoshio Nishiwaki says “I practice for marathons every day, and healthy life makes the complete runs for me.” He finished the Okinawa Marathon last year with a time of 5 hours 56 minutes 36 seconds, while his wife, running in her 24th full marathon, crossed the finish line in 6 hours 4 minutes and 30 seconds. He says “because my wife runs with me, it gives me power and encouragement.”

There are four designated parking lots along the course: JUSCO Gushikawa, Tropical Technology Center (T.T.C), Kitanakagusuku Fisherman’s Association and Awase Fishing Port, which are about five kilometers away. Parking is prohibited at Okinawa Comprehensive Park on race day. Shuttle buses will be running on race day, and buses, taxis, and carpools are highly recommended.

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