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Record numbers run in Naha Marathon

Date Posted: 2008-12-11

Nearly 27,000 runners took to the streets of Naha City and southern Okinawa Sunday for the 24th annual Naha Marathon, a new record for the islandís premiere running event.

New champions were crowned on both the menís and womenís slates, with Korean Chon Un-san taking the menís prize and Chihiro Tanaka the womenís. The 29-year-old Chon led 18,654 racers across the finish line in a time of 2 hours 28 minutes 24 seconds. Hoygo Prefectureís Tanaka scored the ladiesí title in 2 hours 43 minutes 57 seconds.

A record 26,973 runners stepped off the Asahibashi Intersection starting line as Naha City Mayor Takashi Onaga rang the starting bell. There were so many runners, it took nearly 25 minutes to get everyone out of the starting blocks. A record 69.16% of the entrants completed the grueling 42.195 kilometer run across southern Okinawa, pleased with pleasant 20.7C temperatures and moderate sunshine.

A 75-year-old making his 24th appearance in Japanís largest city marathon made his way across the finish line nine minutes under the 6 hours 30 minutes time limit. Hiroshi Sunagawa of Naha City has not missed a festival race, and had been sick the past three months, but decided to run anyway.

Ten visually handicapped runners participated, aided by escorts and 60 volunteer groups. A visually disabled runner praised organizers, saying ďNahaís marathon course is fun to run, and there were a lot of supporters on the streets and everywhere, giving joggers food and drink, and lots of cheers too. Even though we canít see them, we felt their warm hearts.Ē

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