Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Marathon Finishers Tee Shirt a merit badge for Kuwana

Honolulu Marathon finisher Cindy Kuwana

Sometimes in life it takes a lot of pain and ill health before people get motivated enough to make changes to their lifestyle.

Such was the case for Cindy Kuwana who, after years of smoking, realized that making necessary changes would enhance her quality of life.

After 15 years of smoking cigarettes Kuwana found herself having horrible sinus infections and bronchitis occurring in her body every three months.

“I was in my late 20’s and I was so tired of being sick so often,” she said.  “With Doctor Melanie Arakaki telling me I should quit smoking I finally decided to listen and try since she said it would probably help my sinus problems.”

For the past 2.5 years Kuwana has been smoke free, but her quitting has been a tough and difficult process.

“I must admit that it was hard and I fell off the wagon a couple of times,” she said.  “But it didn’t discourage me as I was determined to kick the habit and improve my health.”

Born and raised in Hilo, Kuwana started playing sports in elementary school where she tried her hand at tennis before switching sports in high school. She is a 1994 graduate of Waiakea High School where she ran cross country for two years.

Currently Kuwana works as the office manager for Ululani Pharmacy and got involved with the running community since quitting smoking.

“I started walking on the treadmill just to get some exercise which led to running a couple of 5K (3.1 mile) races,” Kuwana said.

With the encouragement of Dr. Arakaki and her physical therapist, Guy Nakao, Kuwana decided to join a regular Sunday running group made up primarily of health care professionals in Hilo which did long distance training in preparation for the Honolulu Marathon.

“Guy and Melanie encouraged me and my Uncle Charles Sakoda inspired me to train for the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles),” Kuwana said.

“I give much credit to Guy from Nakao Physical Therapy who kept on telling me to get fit,” she said.  “Uncle Charles inspired me as he is a regular marathon finisher who keeps at it even with his injuries.  Dr. Arakaki and the Sunday running gang had given me the confidence and inner strength to take on something that big.”

Kuwana started training with the Sunday group in 2009 and was preparing to do her first marathon when she came down with a serious injury.

“I was doing too much too soon,” Kuwana said of her injury.  “I ended up with plantar fasciitis and tendonitis in my foot and could barely walk.”

But Kuwana, with her new found level of confidence, never gave up and trained again in 2010 by doing two short runs of 2 to 3 miles during the week and then added a long run on 7 to 8 miles with her running group on Sunday.

“I’ll do the Elliptical trainer and Bowflex weight training on other days and I also try to give myself at least one day of complete rest to allow myself and muscles a break and time to recover,” Kuwana said.

In June of 2010 Kuwana had another set back in trying to achieve her goal of running her first marathon when she got into an automobile accident that put a strain on her body.

“The car accident set me back on my training as my body needed time to heal from the injuries. The marathon training has been tough both mentally and physically,” she said.

Kuwana took an entire month off from running following the car accident to recuperate from her injuries.

“Taking a month off to recover from my injuries had to be the most frustrating, but humbling experience,” she said.

Kuwana never fully recovered from her car accident injuries and continues to see a physical therapist twice a week.

A few weeks prior to this past December’s Honolulu Marathon Kuwana was able to do her longest training run with her Sunday running group of 17 miles.

“With all that I had to deal with the past two years in trying to run my first marathon my only goal going into the December race was just to finish,” Kuwana said.  “I was hoping to finish around six hours or a little over, but just finishing was my main goal.”

And finish she did, in 8 hours and three minutes covering the 26.2 mile course in Honolulu.

“Call me crazy, but I took a huge gamble taking on marathon training only to have my body fail me on the big day.  None the less I’m happy that I got my finishers shirt, even though I needed to walk at the very end,” she said.

“I’m glad I could finish this race and am proud of my finisher tee shirt and medal,” Kuwana said.  “It was a good experience and I have lots of people to thank for their enormous amount of encouragement.

Kuwana is a great example of someone who, despite many obstacles, maintained a goal and worked at it until it was achieved.

Of course, her biggest achievement to all of her accomplishments was in quitting smoking, which was then followed by having a positive network of helpful and encouraging people.

Dr. Arakaki, Guy Nakao and Uncle Charles Sakoda, along with her Sunday running group all played an important role in her success to leading a more healthy and productive lifestyle.

Congratulations Cindy Kuwana and hopefully your story will inspire others to raise the bar on their health and fitness needs.

PAW PRINTS:

Coming up on Sunday, Feb 6 is Big Dogs Lovers Day 5K run/walk.  The event is a benefit for the Hawaii Island Food Basket and participants are encouraged to bring a non perishable food item to serve as their entry fee.

The 5K (3.1-mile) Run or Walk begins at 7:30 am from the parking area of Coconut Island in Hilo.

Post race refreshments provided by Marlene and Archie Hapai.   Just show up, sign in and have some fun.  Keith Aoki from Anheuser-Bush will give a Vidration sports drink to each finisher while supplies last.

There will be a special award recognition to couples that holds hands while running or walking the entire 3.1 mile distance. 

For more information contact Wayne “Big Dog” Joseph at 969-7400.

And someday should you happen to see a happy and healthy senior citizen jogging around Hilo remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

Email the Big Dog at waiakeabigdog@aol.com.

February 1, 2011 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dr. Arakaki continues to give back

Dr. Melanie Arakaki with daughters Jade (7) and Jenna (4)

Dr. Melanie Arakaki with daughters Jade (7) and Jenna (4)

     Everyone knows that regular exercise is a great ticket to living a long, productive life.  Aerobic exercise strengths the heart and helps avoid the many problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

    For many people staying on a regular fitness program can be challenging, especially with a busy career and family demands.

   For family physician, Melanie Arakaki, running has become a time to de-stress with the high demands made of her in her profession.

   “My schedule is pretty hectic, so exercising is one of the few times I have completely to myself.  It is my treat to myself,” Arakaki said.

     Arakaki is married and has two daughters, Jade age 7 and Jenna age 4 and she has made exercise a priority in her life.  “I was in the marching band and managed the soccer and cross-country teams in high school.  I didn’t actually play any sports as I couldn’t even run a mile back then,” she said.

    Arakaki was born and raised in Hilo and graduated from Hilo High in 1989.  “I got started in running in college at UH Manoa mostly to keep my roommate company,” she said.

  Doctor Arakaki has become an accomplished runner having done several EMS 5K’s (3.1-miles) and the Great Aloha Run (8-miles), but her favorite race was when she ran in and finished the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles).

   “I ran my first Honolulu Marathon in 2006 (5 hours 16 minutes) mostly because of peer pressure from Dr’s Morita and Nakamura.  Then I got pregnant in 2007 and therefore missed the race that year, only to lose the baby when I was five months along,” Arakaki said.

   When she got the okay from her doctor Arakaki began training for her second marathon which she finished in 2008.  “I ran the 2008 race (4:56) about 20 minutes faster than my first Honolulu Marathon,” she said.

   Current she is training on doing her third Honolulu Marathon, scheduled for December of this year, and she is doing it for a cause.

   “I had debated about running for a cause for a while and it just so happened that a postcard for Team in Training arrived in my mailbox on one of those days that I had been thinking about it.  So I signed up,” Arakaki said.

Dr. Mel & kids at Hilo track
Dr. Mel & kids at Hilo track

Money raised for “Team in Training” goes to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as it provides funds for valuable research which can save lives.

    “The Leukemia and Lymphoma society strikes a cord with me because I have a cousin and an aunt who are lymphoma survivors.  I also lost a dear patient and friend to the disease and recently one of my college friends lost his wife to leukemia, leaving him to raise his two children alone,” she said.

      Arakaki has even set up a web page to help bring awareness to the group.  “Blood-related cancers can affect everyone, our children in particular.  As a parent of two healthy daughters, I can only imagine how frightening it must be to see a child going through rounds of chemotherapy, or how devastating it would be to actually lose a child or love one to these cancers,” her web site explains.

    To train for her marathon Arakaki will do a couple of short runs during the week and once per week she will head to Spencer’s Gym to work on the elliptical or stationary bike.

    “On Sunday’s I run do a long run (8 to 9 miles) with Dr. Morita, Dave Adachi, Dr. Nakamura and Cindy Fuke.  One of the newer members to our group is Dr. Sara Chiu, a child psychiatrist, who will be running her first marathon this December,” Arakaki said.

    Arakaki will increase her Sunday mileage by one to two miles every week until the marathon, capping out at about 22 to 24 miles in November.

   “I try to exercise at least six times a week, even it’s only for 20 to 30 minutes,” she said.

    Arakaki will also try to watch what she eats, but admits to having a sweet tooth.  “I’m working on it, but I love sweets.  Uh, this is another reason why exercise is important, gotta burn off those calories,” she said.

     Come December Arakaki will toe the line at the start of the Honolulu Marathon and will dedicate her race to her Aunty Else Agena and cousin Fay Castillo, who have survived lymphoma.

    “I also want to dedicate my run to the late Doreen Tao, beloved teacher and friend, and the late coach Wade Ishibashi, who lost their hard-fought battles to lymphoma and leukemia, respectively.

   I have also dedicated this marathon to Jennifer Villanueva, wife of our college friend, Mike, who passed away from leukemia a few weeks ago.  For all the courage and strength and lessons of hope and love, running a marathon seems pale in comparison,” Arakaki said.

   To visit Dr. Melanie Arakaki’s, “Team in Training” site go to http://pages.teamintraining.org/hi/honolulu09/marakaki.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Health and Fitness, Marathon Running, Profiles, Running on the Big Island | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment