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11,000+ to run weekend Okinawa Marathon

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2012-02-17

The names to watch are Koudai Nakama, Ryuto Narita 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 2012 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.

Nakama, a Tomishiro resident who rolled to victory with a 2 hour-25 minute-53 seconds time, bested Ryoma Kokubu of Fukuoka Prefecture by 2:13. Okinawa City resident Ryuto Narita finished third at 2 hours-33 minutes-17 seconds in a race that drew 9,163 runners. Of the starters, 7,321, 79.9% finished the 42.195 kilometer course across central Okinawa.

Mariko Asato pulled in the winning ladies time at 2 hours-46 minutes-55 seconds. It was her fourth straight victory, bringing cheering and clapping spectators to their feet as she approached the finish line. She finished 1:25 slower than a year previous when she rolled to her third consecutive win. Yuka Esaki of Fukuoka Prefecture was second and Yasuko Nomura of Hyogo Prefecture finished third.

In the full marathon civilian class, Yoshinobu Sunagawa of Saitama Prefecture crossed the finish line first, with Hiroshi Nanchi of Aichi Prefecture second. On the women’s side, Sakura Kawabata of Urasoe City took top honors, while Junko Sakima of Osaka Prefecture was second.

All winners in last year’s 10 kilometer road race were Okinawans. Naha International High School’s Ryou Takahara had the best time with 32:21, more than a minute ahead of his adult competitors. Miu Hirade of Yomitan had the best ladies time with 35:31.

The weather’s just fine for a Sunday run, with meteorologists predicting a no chance of rain showers at race time. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-60’s (18C). 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.

Kiyomasa Kinjo was back in action at last year’s Okinawa Marathon. At 80 years of age, Kinjo was the oldest person to complete the grueling 26 miles.

There are five designated parking lots along the course: JUSCO Gushikawa, Shopper’s Awase,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.

Applicants can confirm their number cards on the Okinawa Marathon official website. Runners may pick up their number cards and either a T-shirt or a towel at the Okinawa Comprehensive Park gymnasium in Awase from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday the 18th, or starting at 7 a.m. on race day.

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