MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Station residents and Japanese participants stretched and began preparing themselves for the mental and physical challenges ahead before competing in the 49th Kintai Marathon on Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan April 17, 2016.
With more than 500 athletes, the marathon is one of the few events that invites Japanese citizens on the air station and provides a great opportunity for MCAS Iwakuni personnel to show support of their host nation through running, said Mai Tajima, Semper Fit recreation specialist.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, runners are getting together to come on base to see what’s going on and getting to know one another,” said Tajima. “I always get feedback from the local communities saying thank you so much for letting us experience the American atmosphere.”
There were three categories for the competitors: a full marathon, a half marathon and a 5K walk opened to anyone. The marathon was broken down into age groups: 29-years-old and younger, 30-39, 40-49 and over 50.
Running side-by-side helped Japanese and Americans come together and build a unique friendship with one another. Although this event help Japanese and Americans bond, Tijima said running in general unites people from various backgrounds. For one competitor, running is now a passion forged through such friendship.
“I was in Iraq and my friend and I just started running on our off time,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jeffery Eichler, quality assurance representative with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12. “We started doing more and more miles and then we decided to do a half marathon together. The camaraderie between him and I got us both running and I found out I was good.”
This being his third full marathon, with multiple half marathons under his belt, Eichler said building upon his fitness and helping others in their own pursuit is what brought him to compete.
“I enjoy running and I enjoy supporting anyone who does too,” said Eichler. “I’ve been here three years and this was something I wanted to do before I leave the Iwakuni community.”
The half marathon first place for the men was Nobuhisa Tanigawa, 35, completing at 1 hour, 13 minutes, 37 seconds, and for the women was Yukiko Kobayakawa, 43, completing at 1:32:26. The full marathon first place for the men was Yoshihisa Nagashita, 34, completing at 2:40:21 and for the women was Hitomi Matsubara, 45, completing at 3:27:25.
Tijima said despite the competitive nature of the marathon, participants laughed throughout the event and built memories that are sure to last a lifetime.
“It’s a lot of work to make an event like this happen but you’re talking about more than 500 people coming on base to unite as one through a single activity,” said Tijima. “I stopped and looked around and saw nothing but smiling faces, families and volunteers laughing and cheering on the runners. It’s seeing these moments that make all the hard work worth it because we’re truly building a friendship with this event.”
To sign-up for events like this one contact Semper Fit recreation at 253-5654.