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Thousands lacing running shoes for Sunday’s Naha Marathon

Date Posted: 2007-11-30

An estimated 20,000 runners are expected to wind their ways through central Okinawa streets and roadways Sunday in the 23rd annual Naha Marathon.

The race begins at 9 am Sunday from the Highway 58 Asahibashi Intersection. This year’s them is ‘You are the Hero’, and the marathon organizing committee made it easy for entrants to get involved, establishing registration points not only on Okinawa’s main island, but in outlying areas as well.

A 23-year-old Kagoshima man scored a near-record victory in the last year’s Naha City Marathon, dubbed ‘Carnival of the Sun Ocean Joggers’. Nobusaku Sakanaka took the win in the 22nd annual event with a time of 2:27:05. Makiko Kawagae, 30, from Chiba Prefecture took the women’s win in 2:50:28. More than 21,000 runners entered the 2006 marathon, and a record 71.79%, 15,108, finished the grueling run from Asahibashi along Highway 58, then winding around the island before finishing at Onoyama Park.

An 82-year-old Okinawa man, Seiei Yamashiro, and Hideaki Kouchi of Koto, were the oldest competitors last year, and both are expected to run as 83-year-olds Sunday. The race course for this festival of the sun, the ocean and the runner will track from Asahibashi intersection in Naha through the cities and countryside before winding up at Onayama Park on the capital city’s southwest side.

Masanori Iwaki won the 21st annual Naha Marathon in 2005 with a time of 2 hours, 29 minutes, 23 seconds. The 19-year-old from Chiba Prefecture was crowned champion in his first ever marathon. He defeated 14,882 runners on a brisk, windy morning to claim the title. Hitomi Koike of Niigata captured the ladies trophy with a time of 2 hours, 48 minutes, 24 seconds.

Organizers will run booster buses Sunday, permitting fans to cheer their favorite runners. The buses travel from the start line on Highway 58 to a location halfway through the course. The bus fare is ¥1,000 for adults and ¥500 for children under 12. Reservations must be made at the Budokan entry hall by Saturday, December 1st.

Fukuichi Kinjo, Track and Field Club Manager of SOLA Okinawa School of Japan Sports & Health Welfare Special School has been counseling runners on how to make it through the 42.195km marathon. He’s been teaching and preaching a four-day menu for joggers to use starting today, along with an hour daily run and series of stretches, runs, walking, exercising and again stretching.

Kinjo cautions runners against consuming a lot of meat or fish during these last days before the marathon, encouraging them to eat a lot of energy foods like breads, pasta and cakes, which boosts sugar intake.

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