News: Kintai Marathon builds American, Japanese ties through common sport
Story by Cpl. Benjamin Pryer
IWAKUNI, Japan - Station residents and Japanese runners laced up their running shoes and competed in the 2014 Kintai Marathon aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, April 13.
The marathon is one of the few events which allows Japanese citizens aboard station and provides a great opportunity for MCAS Iwakuni personnel to show support of their host nation. Japanese and Americans interacting together strengthen ties between the two countries through the universal activity of running.
Mai Tajima, SemperFit recreation specialist, said approximately 800 athletes participated in the marathon; some traveling from Tokyo, Gifu Prefecture and even Kyushu, the southernmost main island of Japan. Tajima mentioned an old couple who said they took a night shuttle bus to get to Iwakuni because they wanted to run and see Americans.
“I love being the bridge between two different countries; just look at them,” Tajima commented during the race. “They’re just running and smiling and having a good time cheering on others.”
Even with dreary weather and cloudy skies plaguing the day, no one’s spirit seemed too hindered.
“The rain this morning was miserable,” said Staff Sgt. Charlie G. Poag, station combat camera staff noncommissioned officer in charge and Kintai Marathon participant. “I saw it and said, ‘you know what? You signed up and you paid for it, you might as well go and do it.’ The rain gets you physically and mentally drained, but you make that promise to yourself, so you have to go out and do it.”
Poag mentioned running nearby a Japanese participant for a good stretch of the course. Poag and his new friend would pass back and forth by each other, sharing a common bond that needed no words; not that a constant pace of running would permit much to be said through winded breaths.
“It was kind of interesting; we are worlds apart, yet if we have at least one common interest, that’s all it takes to make a connection,” said Poag.
Poag also took time to give his thanks to all those who volunteered their time for the event; the some 70 volunteers, Americans and local Japanese, who cared for, fed and motivated hundreds of runners.
“With both the Americans and the Japanese volunteers out there rushing out snacks and water; it may seem like something little, but it helps out a lot,” said Poag.