MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- The year was 490 B.C., the Greeks had just defeated the Persians and Pheidippiedes, a courier, began his trek from the battlefield, approximately 25 miles, to the city of Athens. When he arrived, he rushed to tell of the victory, dying soon after. The battle in this story is Marathon, and while the tale is rumored to be just a fable, the marathon race owes its existence to this fabled telling.
While the name is no longer used in relation to a bloody battle or a man running himself to death, a marathon is no easy feat.
“Everybody comes out to run, it’s a phenomenal thing to watch runners flow down the road, it looks like a sea of people, moving around on the road,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Kevin W. Layne, the maintenance chief of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12. “It’s the best feeling in the world, because you did something today that only a small percentage of the world can say they did, you started and completed a half marathon.”
The Marine Corps also hosts its own marathon. The Marine Corps Marathon, which started in 1976, challenges competitors to race from Arlington, VA., to the Marine Corps War Memorial.
While athletes in the states would have easy access to the Marine Corps Marathon, service members stationed on Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, may find it difficult to locate and participate in races out in town, especially given how the language barrier may hinder the sign-up process. Luckily, the SemperFit division of IronWorks Gym, Marine Corps Community Services here provides ample opportunities for residents to experience marathons on Japanese soil.
“People probably wouldn’t want to do this if they had to drive their own vehicle over here,” said Mai Tajima, a recreation specialist with SemperFit.
“Some of the young Marines don’t have a vehicle, and even if they did, how many of them would know how to get here? We’re on the other side of Japan, over there is the Sea of China.”
Preparing for a marathon is a continual process, even after years of running. Taking too long of a break can devastate a runner’s performance.
“I’ve ran half marathons in Thailand, Korea, Bahrain, Egypt, Athens, I’ve ran all over the world,” said Layne. “This has identified some weaknesses, some diets issues I’ve been having -- I like to drink beer and eat hot wings, so I need to focus on getting back to my normal self and paying more attention to my running and my cycling. I took some time off during my move over, took about a month and a half off from running, so I’m just getting back into it and getting miles under my legs again.”
According to Layne, while running marathons in different countries may change the scenery, it doesn’t change the meaning behind the race.
“A race is a race, I’ve done many races in my time and the one thing about them is that there are different shapes, different sizes, colors and ages,” said Layne. “All kinds of people come to races. There were younger people who outran me today, older ladies who outran me today, bigger people who outran me today, but it’s all good because it’s a race. At the end of the day, it’s not about what everybody else does, it’s about you and racing yourself.”
Tajima mentioned that the only on-base marathon is the Kintai Marathon, but local events happen almost weekly.
For three years now, Tajima has acted as the link between station residents and the Japanese world of athletics.
“It’s natural, it’s just me I guess,” said Tajima. “Starting from getting the flyers and then advertising, emailing and calling people, registering and taking everyone out here – I just love being the bridge between two different countries. It’s just me.”
While Tajima normally just helps runners in signing up and transport, in a recent marathon, the Hagi Iwami Airport Marathon, she participated as well.
“This was my very first time running a 10k,” said Tajima. “A half marathon is a lot, I don’t know how you guys do that.”
Tajima said that the Hagi Castle Marathon, another race that will take place in Hagi city, is scheduled for Dec. 8. For more information, contact Mai Tajima at 253-5654.