When we arrive in our Hilo hotel room, we’re greeted by a huge fruit basket sent by an ace Amarillo marathoner, our friend Mark White!
Wayne “Big Dog” Joseph, the race director, gave me number 50 for the race which he said was Hawaii Five-O. Big Dog made sure that everyone knew Sandy and I were running our 50th. Even the mayor calls Wayne by his Big Dog nickname. Wayne used to play a lot of competitive basketball and whenever he made a real good shot the guy guarding him would yell “Dog” meaning lucky shot. Then, in a game-ending play, Wayne hit a tough shot to win the game and his man yelled out “BIG DOG!!” and the moniker (always wanted to use that word!!) stuck!!
Bang – they’re off!!! And with that Sandy and Kami are long gone!! The first 11 miles are beautiful – tremendous ocean vistas and running through a rainforest. Hmm, what does running through a rainforest tell you about the humidity? There are more up-hills than I had anticipated, but, in the glass is more than half full category, those up-hills balance the ol’ legs during an overall net downhill elevation drop of 500 feet. Fearing another downhill quad disaster like Albuquerque I run the down-hills very slowly – very slowly I said – I remember what “fly and die” feels like!!!
At mile 12, my son Kevin’s friend, Annie, dashes out of the crowd to hug me (sorry Kevin, even at mile 12 of a marathon I can’t turn it off!) – Kevin runs along with me for awhile and tells me that he finished first in age group in the ultra mini (5K) and that Annie was top overall female!!!
The last half of the course is relatively flat. My overall race strategy to reach my goal of finishing one-step ahead of Sandy was to have her race with Kami, go out to fast in an effort to stay with Kami and then lose it somewhere around mile 20 with me sleestacking past the roadkill remains! Alas, on and out-and-back portion at about mile 20 I see Sandy coming by herself and realize that she’s wasted Kami – BTW, it takes me 20 more minutes to hit the point at which I saw Sandy – what does that tell you??
Somewhere around mile 22 I am really hurting, but accurately guessing that the Shipmates over/under betting line on how much Sandy will beat me by is 26.2 minutes, I bravely push on – no one has passed me for the last six miles and no one will for the final 4.2 miles – go Al!!!
Have I mentioned that it’s rained on us (hey, Hilo gets 140 inches of rain/year – remember we ran through a rain forest!!) and that it’s extremely humid??
I pass a guy who seems to be a local favorite and on the back of his shirt it says “Cowman”. As I pass I ask how he got the name Cowman. He says “I used to be a Cowboy and then I grew up!”
Sandy finishes in a blazing 4:11 on a tough, hilly course (have I mentioned the rain and humidity?) for first place age group. Kevin almost gets in a fist fight with the official race photographer when he takes Sandy’s finish line photo. Kami finishes in 4:16. Meanwhile, out on the course I’m toughing it out and passing a couple of geezers to finish in 4:31, good enough for a third place age group and winning for those few remaining loyal Shipmates (I like you!!) who bet on the UNDER 26.2 minutes!!!
Hey, WHEN WE CROSS THE FINISH LINE, we’re handed a results postcard with our race time and age group and overall place – WOW!! When our awards are presented, Big Dog makes sure that it’s mentioned that it’s our 50th state. We get to shake hands with the mayor and stand on an actual awards platform!
Listen to what I’m about to tell you – do whatever it takes (including having your wife work a second job!!) to fly first class from Houston to Honolulu (of course, our tickets were FREE, thanks to the Ship!!) – I think I ate for all eight hours of the flight (it’s legal to get both hot fudge and caramel topping on your ice cream sundae!) and even though it seemed like I was constantly sipping my wine, every time I opened my eyes, somehow – my glass was still full – is this a dream or a most pleasant reality? I will now be expecting Sandy to bring me a hot washcloth before each meal!!
Let me be honest with you about this – if you’re going to Hilo, you’ll get rain, but you’ll also get a super well-done marathon with a smooth packet pickup, beautiful course, frequent aide stations, easy-to-see mile markers, volunteers with directional arrow signs at each turn (BTW, they couldn’t be bribed to turn Sandy the long way!), one of the best shirts ever and, if not for Kevin and Annie, there would have been cookies left when I finished!! You get a volcano that’s been erupting with a lava flow every day for the last 25 years. At the Volcanoes National Park, we hiked through a lava tube and hiked to the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs which are rock carvings done by prehistoric man – they have a special display case that holds the original chisel used by Jack Wilkinson!! You’ll get a beach with black sand, one with green sand (I don’t want to say it’s isolated, but it’s a three and a half mile hike, yes hike, each way!), spectacular waterfalls all over the place, and Kona Coffee. Also, you’ll get Macadamia Nut farms galore!! Do NOT go the Tsunami Museum!! Hilo has been obliterated multiple times in the past – imagine my shock and fear to learn that the hotel we’re in is on the most susceptible ground – instead of sleeping, I spent the night wondering how to body surf a 35 foot wave!!
Hey, do you want to change your life – well, then have a double chocolate truffle pie at Pescatore!!! Ken’s restaurant is rated one of the top ten breakfast places in the country – I recommend the sweet bread French toast with cherry syrup – Sandy had the Loco Moco (a local comfort food that is a mountainous meal consisting of a heap of white rice topped with a hamburger patty and a Sunnyside-up egg and then smothered in gravy – a Cholesterol Hall of Fame candidate!), but Kevin refused to order the Sumo Loco (when they bring it to your table all the wait staff yell out, SUMO)!! Café Pesto has a toasted coconut bar that will go down quite easily. On your drive over to Kona make sure you stop at Punalu’u Bake Shop, the southernmost bakery in the USA for a cherry/pineapple turnover. Get to Kona early for a cup of 100% Kona fresh brew and a cinnamon roll as big as a flotation device at Island Lava Java.
Hilo has a lot of “drive-ins”. These “drive-ins” aren’t places like Sonic, where you drive up and order through a squawk box. The “drive-ins” are window-service joints with large open air patios. Sandy and I hung with about 20 locals (who we organized into a running group) at K’s Drive-in on our last morning and had two full breakfasts for under $7 total – a real Ship of Fools kinda place!!!
Girls today have a lot to be thankful for in our Title IX program where they are not only encouraged to participate in sports, but are given an equal footing gaining recognition and scholarships.
Most mature women today will tell you that things were a lot different for them when they were growing up.
“When we were young, hardly any girls played sports,” Netlie Yokoyama said. “It wasn’t until I went to college that I got exposed to a variety of sports.”
Yokoyama was lucky because as an education major in college she was required to take four activity physical education courses as part of the curriculum.
“I took tennis, bowling, badminton and dancing, and I really loved it!” Yokoyama said.
Yokoyama went on to teach her first ten years at Hilo High, then twenty-four more years at Waiakea High School where she retired in 2002.
“I was a science teacher for more than half my career and spent the last 15 years as Waiakea’s Student Activities Coordinator, which I loved,” she said.
Along the way Yokoyama found time to raise two daughters, Jill and Kim, and a son, Don. “I would follow my three children along in their sporting activities, the girls in tennis and my son in baseball,” Yokoyama said.
“I had absolutely no time to exercise when working afternoons, weekends, just so busy. I started to play a little bit of tennis just as my last child was graduating from high school, but not much until I retired,” she said.
Now, six years after her retirement, this 62 year old has improved her lifestyle by maintaining a regular physical exercise routine coupled with improved eating habits.
“I get up early and walk for about an hour everyday as I look forward to it. I even walk when I travel,” she said. “I also play tennis two to three times per week, sometimes even four. Tennis is not only exercise but great fun and fellowship,” Yokoyama said.
Her tennis has evolved into playing in four different leagues throughout the year, adult women, mixed-doubles, seniors (over 50) and super seniors (over 60).
And for the past seven years Yokoyama has discovered the value of eating healthy along with a regular exercise routine.
“I’ve always battled with a weight problem, ever since I was young,” she said. “I tried many fad diets, but they never seemed to work. Somehow I knew that the fad diets wouldn’t work, as whatever I would lose I’d gain it back and more.”
Then Yokoyama listened to Oprah one day and began to take her advice. “It was something Oprah said on her show soon after I retired that really got me going in the right direction,” Yokoyama said.
“Oprah talked about how we owe it to ourselves to live a healthy life. She said that we are often so busy doing things for others that we don’t make time for ourselves,” Yokoyama said.
Oprah’s advice really hit home with Yokoyama as most of her life was spent dedicated to family and school.
“It wasn’t easy learning to do for myself, but I did. Now I eat healthy and exercise regularly and I’ve been doing it for about seven years, and it feels great,” she said.
Yokoyama has lost between 15 and 20 pounds since retirement and would still like to lose another 10 pounds, but says that isn’t as important to her anymore.
What Yokoyama has learned in the past several years is now transferring to her family as she has become an advocate for healthy living.
“My granddaughter, who is in kindergarten, has a teacher who teaches her about healthy living and I try to re-enforce it at home and help her to be active and select healthy snacks. She already swims, plays tennis, soccer and basketball and enjoys being active,” Yokoyama said.
Yokoyama is also hoping that part of her healthy lifestyle rubs off on her husband. “My husband plays tennis, which is great,” she said. “But I’d love for him to join me on my walks and especially eat healthier.”
Yokoyama believes that her exercise and eating habits has helped her maintain great blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and believes that her husband could reduce his need for medications if he would eat healthier and exercise more.
“I’d like to travel with him for many years to come, and I know we’ll be able to continue only if we remain healthy,” she said. “I will continue to get up and walk everyday and play tennis as long as my body will allow me to, and I will eat healthy by eating cooked oats for breakfast, whole wheat bread, brown rice, lots of vegetables and healthy snacks.”
Netlie Yokoyama is well on her way to taking good care of her body through regular exercise and a diet rich in healthy foods.
“Life is precious! I do what I enjoy and it makes me happy with my family and dear friends.” she said.
Here are some video clips from the 2009 Big Island International Marathon courtesy of Hawaii247.org:
There is nothing better then crossing the finish line of a long race on the Big Island.
Video Courtesy of Hawaii247.org:
Sunday saw the running of the Big Island International Marathon as more than 800 runners, walkers and joggers enjoyed the beauty of East Hawaii while getting in a good morning workout.
Behind the scenes more than 250 volunteers worked to ensure that the races would run smoothly and efficiently.
University of Hawaii at Hilo cross-country coach, Jaime Guerpo, got an early start on setting up the course by picking up nearly 400 cones from both the county and state transportation departments on Friday afternoon.
Guerpo, along with several of his cross-country runners, loaded two trucks in preparation for their early Sunday morning workout.
The group started at 2 am Sunday morning, with one truck taking the first 13-miles of the course and the other the second half of the race.
“Our team wanted to get involved in a community project and thought that helping in the marathon would be a good thing to do,” Guerpo said.
After all the cones and barricades were put out by the UHH team the group took a short break before heading out to Pepeekeo at 9 am to start picking everything up. This morning they were back at the county and state transportation facilities returning everything they had borrow three days earlier.
Clarita Corpuz and her workers from RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) started helping on Thursday when a large group came to the BIIM office to help put runner’s packets together.
On Saturday, RSVP volunteers working in two shifts, helped distribute race materials to the runners and walkers at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. And on Sunday another two groups came to the finish line to distribute T-shirts and to cut oranges and papayas that went to help feed the participants.
“We’ve helped the marathon for all 12 years,” Corpuz said. “It’s something that we look forward to doing every year.”
Firefighter Joe Wedemann got off work at 7 am Saturday morning then spent the rest of the day loading all the finish line equipment. Wedemann, with the help of Waiakea Kiwanis then assembled the tents, tables, chairs and race chute in preparation for Sunday’s event.
Wedemann and another group of WHS Kiwanis returned Sunday to take everything down and needed to return the materials back into storage.
More than 80 members of the Waiakea Key Club were on hand to help with eight of the 12 aid stations that covered the 26.2-mile marathon course. Adviser Kari Sato has made the BIIM a major project for the key clubbers for the past four years and the group has been instrumental is aiding in the success of the event.
“We really started preparing for this event several months in advance and the students and adult advisors put in a good number of hours in making this a successful project each year,” she said.
Roy Kagawa, Kiwanis, has been the Director of Course Marshals for the past four years and during the race drives the entire 26.2-mile course to insure that all his volunteers are in the right place at the right time.
Course designer and HELCO engineer, Curt Beck, placed all the mile and kilometer markers out on the roads at a very early hour, then went to the starting line to provide the opening remarks to the marathon and half-marathon runners at Pepeekeo.
“This was the first year we had the half-marathon and the runners loved the course as we got a lot of compliments after the race,” Beck said.
Several other community groups helped with aid stations during the first half of the course and their leaders included Susan Munro, Lorraine Mendoza, May Navarro and G.A. Rock.
Three major sponsors of the event have been supportive of the marathon since its inception in 1997 and have made large contributions to insure its success. The County of Hawaii, Research & Development, KTA Super Stores, and Big Island Candies have all been a part of BIIM and have watched the race grow by leaps and bounds over the past four years.
Coming up on Good Friday, April 10, is the annual Emily Wedeman Memorial 5-mile run.
Wedeman was a “super volunteer” for running events and spent many weekends provided the behind the scenes support that is so valuable to a successful event.
Wedeman lost her battle with cancer and died three years ago on Good Friday and the 5-miler is named in her honor.
The event begins at 7:30 a.m. in the parking area of Moku Ola, Coconut Island, and participants are charged $2 with proceeds being donated to the American Cancer Society.
For questions call 969-7400 or go to http://www.waynejoseph.wordpress.com…..
Volunteers are the key to any successful organization and BIIM would like to extend their sincere appreciation to the many people who worked behind the scenes to make this year’s event a memorable one.
And someday should you happen to see a happy and appreciative race director come running through the streets of East Hawaii remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”
Email the Big Dog at email@example.com.