IWAKUNI, Japan - A bitter wind howls in the air, chilling flesh and bone. Runners stand ready, determination showing in their faces.
The silence is broken by the pop of the starting gun, a flurry of motion erupts forth as the athletes begin their run.
This was the sight at the Marine Corps Community Services Iwakuni Gokukan five kilometer fun run, which took place on the seawall behind the IronWorks Gym here Feb. 17.
While some competitors raced to see who was the fastest, the
fun run itself took place in order to give station residents an opportunity to meet someone new or just have an enjoyable run with others around.
“We want the servicemembers to be happy while they’re out here, to have a little taste of America,” said John Iwaniec, MCCS Iwakuni director. “We’re a community providing services to our fellow servicemembers and that’s what it’s all about.”
Gokukan, literally translated as “extreme cold” in Japanese, is given to this run, which takes place here annually and always during February, ensuring the coldest temperature.
Participants may run at their top speed, or take a leisurely pace.
“MCCS does its best to provide events for the station to help people stay in shape, and also to offer entertaining activities throughout the year,” said Iwaniec. “As a prior servicemember, it makes me feel good knowing I can help keep the residents here happy and content with events like this.”
The race had five overall winners, three for males and two for both females who competed.
The first place male was Nobuhisa Tanigawa with a 5k run time of 16:49. Behind him was Isaku Yamamori with 17:42. With a time of 19:27, Nicholas Rhoades crossed the finish line for third place.
Female winners were Kyle Langan with 27:16 and Vera Savage with 28:02.
“I practiced every day for this run,” said Tanigawa, “I’m proud of my results. The atmosphere was the best part though, getting to run with everyone else on the station.”
After the race, competitors were offered water and snacks. Those who ran could be seen talking about the recent race, possibly with someone they had just met.
“This was a great opportunity for people from all over the station to meet each other,” said Mai Tajima, MCCS Iwakuni SemperFit athletics recreation specialist. “There was an American and a Japanese who were racing each other at the goal line and shook hands after. That’s what I want to see. We’re in a base were we have American and Japanese working together, military and civilian. I had to take a picture of them.”