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Nago man, Urasoe woman win 20th Naha marathon

Date Posted: 2004-12-09

Okinawans claimed the top spots in both the men’s and women’s divisions of Sunday’s Naha Marathon.

Ryuji Suematsu of Nago City captured the men’s title with a time of 2:30:49. He led the record field of 20,973 participants. Natsu Aniya, an Urasoe City woman, took the ladies’ title in 3:00:28.

Theme for this year’s 42.192 kilometer marathon was “The Festival of the Sun, Ocean and Joggers.” Some 15,137 who started the race finished it, 72.12%. The race began at Asahibashi Intersection at Highway 58 in Naha. Amateur golfer Mika Miyazato joined with Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga to start the race.

Race organizers extended the allowable time to finish the race by 15 minutes this year, because many joggers had signed up to run. The time limit was six hours, 15 minutes. Still, as the race clock ticked down to zero, there were still many runners shut out from crossing the finish line. A gate with an iron bar was closed, and organizers disregarded the “Hey! I’m here, let me in” cries.

One woman cried she’d run the first time 15 years ago, and now wanted to finish. She missed the deadline by two seconds. “Oh, what a cold-hearted gatekeeper”, she cried.

The oldest participant was an 80-year-old Sashiki Town man, Seiei Yamashiro. He’s completed the race each of the past 14 years, beginning with his 66th birthday year. The oldest woman to run was a 69-year-old Fukuoka woman who says she loves running.

The full marathon is a challenge, and some 1,000 of the runners are veterans. Yoshikazu Kojima of Saitama Prefecture says he goes to at least one marathon a year. He’s run 112 marathons, sometimes racing once a week.

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