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Marathons offer fun for serious, casual runners

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2007-01-12

Exhilaration. Excitement. Exercise. Challenge.

Marathons mean different things to different people. Marathons, a run stretching 26.2 miles (42.185 kilometers), are the only athletic discipline that has transformed into a popular participation sport involving literally millions each year. From world famous marathons in New York, London and Boston, to dozens of local marathons and other road races dotting the Okinawa landscape each year, participants and spectators are quickly involved in the local atmosphere and excitement.

Marathons are not for the faint hearted; they require intense training before undertaking the grueling run. Medical specialists recommend that those wanting to run a marathon be in sufficiently good training they can easily run 15 miles three weeks before the desired race. It helps to have inherited slow twitch muscle fibers, which exercise specialists say are best for marathons because of the fibers¹ ability to contract slowly but which can go for a long time. The alternative, fast twitch muscle fibers, are best suited for sprint runners.

Training for marathons involves not only running, but integration of a blend of two hard training days and three easy run days per week. Race specialists recommend marathon runners develop a good system of exercise, rest and high carbohydrate diets. Altitude training is an option, although not possible on Okinawa. Training at high altitudes, then running at near sea level, increases the oxygen in red blood cells, affording better performance.

Some run marathons for fun, while others run Ewell Ebecause they¹re there.

The world¹s bestE2 of the world¹s top 20 distance runners hail from the Kalajin tribe in northwest Kenya‹participate in multiple marathons each year, pushing themselves to new performance heights each outing.

The marathon inadvertently came into being after a 490BC incident when a Greek runner was sent from Marathon to Athens, a distance of 26 miles, to tell the Athenians to have courage and not surrender to the Persian fleet threatening at the southern coast of Greece. With the dawn of the modern Olympics in 1896, a 25-mile race from Marathon, Greece to Athens was staged to commemorate Pheidippides. The distance was moved to 26 miles in 1900 and 1904.

The London Olympics in 1908 modified the race distance, as Queen Alexendra ordered the marathon starting line moved back 385 yards to allow the royal party a better view of the proceedings. The marathon has been 26 miles, 385 yards, ever since.

On Okinawa, the opportunities are nearly endless to participate in marathons, half marathons and a smattering of shorter road races. Sixteen marathons and mixed runs are scheduled in the Prefecture between now and mid-April alone. Three race events are on tap this weekend, and it¹s not too late to get involved.

The All Japan Trim Marathon takes place Sunday at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu Town. The fun begins at 8am with a variety of race courses ranging from 3.5 to 19.2 kilometers. Expect to be one of about 5,000 runners in the races.

Entry fees are „2,000 for adults and „1,000 for children.

Miyako Island is the Sunday site for the 100k Ultra Marathon, which caters to the distance runners. In addition to the half and full marathons, a 100 kilometer race is also open for the 700+ runners expected. Entry fees are „15,000.

A third running opportunity Sunday is in Uruma City, site of the Uruma City Spring Trim Marathon. No marathon distances here though; runs are 3k, 5k and 10k. Sign up at 8am Sunday at Gushikawa Sports Park in Uruma City.

Entry fee is „2,000 for adults and „1,000 for children. It¹s a good place to begin the training process for marathons scheduled in coming weeks.

Ishigaki¹s Island Marathon attracts about 1,500 runners each year for its half marathon, marathon and 10k run. It takes place January 28th this year with an 8:30am start at Ishigaki Central Sports Park. Entry fees are „4,000 for adults, and „3,000 for high school age and younger runners.

The Tamagusuku Youth Marathon is also the 28th, at Tamagusuku Central Sports Park. The 10am event costs „1,000 for those 16 and older, and „500 for runners 15 and younger.

It keeps getting better in February, with the Yamaneko Marathon on Iriomoto Island on the 10th, and the Taketomi Mountain Marathon starting at 9am the 10th on Taketomi Island. There are 3k, 10k and 23k runs at Taketomi, with entry fees „3,500 for adults and high school age participants, and „1,500 for youngsters junior high school age and younger.

The Nago Half Marathon will attract 5,000 runners Feb. 11. Entry is „3,000.

The inaugural Whale Straits Tokashiki Marathon is also the 11th, with 3, 5k, 10k and 20.901k runs offered. The Tokashiki Island organizers expect about 600 runners. Entry is „4,000. Irabu Island Marathon is the 18th. Entry is „2,000.

The most publicized event of the year is Feb. 25, with more than 10,000 runners flocking to the Okinawa Marathon. A short 10k run is on tap, as well as the full marathon. Entry fees are „4,000.

Japan Update tracked more than 30 race events in 2006, and more fun is anticipated this year, including the new Whale Straits Tokashiki Marathon.

Get involved as either a runner or spectator. It¹s great family fun.

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