News: Japanese, US soldiers run in annual race
Story by Staff Sgt. Mark Miranda
YAKIMA, Wash. – Hundreds of runners, including more than 50 Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers, took part in the third annual Howard’s Medical Army Base Race during a break in Operation Rising Thunder exercises, Sept. 21.
The race featured a five-kilometer walk, run and half marathon, which started and ended at Carlon Park in Selah, Wash. A portion of the half-marathon route took participants through parts of Yakima Training Center.
“This event has grown steadily, from 50 participants our first year to several hundred runners this time,” said Judy Jacobson, a Morale, Welfare and Recreation director from YTC. “Some changes we made this year, we now use chip timing to get a more accurate time for all participants and immediate on site results.”
Overall winners received trophies made from fired artillery shells from Yakima Training Center. Age division winners also received medals.
Sgt. Yuki Takafuji of the JGSDF finished the half marathon first, with a time of one hour, 16 minutes. Takafuji said he trained for events like this one by running every day for 50 minutes, “without fail.”
“I was absolutely thrilled to get out in the Yakima community and for the opportunity to run today,” Takafuji said. “I was pleased to come in first place, and to see such good results from my training.”
Takafuji, an indirect fire infantryman, added that aside from running as part of JGSDF training, he prepares for races in Japan such as the Fukuoka National Competition.
“It was a good run, I felt good through most of it and I love taking part in challenging fitness events,” said Capt. Charles Smith, an intelligence officer from Columbia, Md., who isassigned to 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division.
Smith, who finished the half-marathon portion in one hour, 28 minutes, was among a handful of 7th Inf. Div. soldiers who were looking for an enjoyable event to participate alongside their Japanese partners outside of military exercises.
“I was competing against a few of the Japanese runners, and there’s a great camaraderie there,” said Smith. “Even though we don’t speak the same language, we learned a lot from each other from weeks of training together. This was one of the culminating events I was proud to represent for the U.S. side of [the] partnership.”