The following post was published in a local Thailand newspaper:
That a man joins 630 running races including 96 marathon distances (42 km or longer) would be enough to surprise anyone. However, it would be more intriguing and surprising to learn that he achieved that in the span of 20 years and that he started running at the age of 45.
“I quit playing basketball at the age of 45 and switched to running,” said the 65-year-old Karl Kunz who has been living in Thailand for more than four decades
Realizing that many older basketball players had injured knees, Karl stopped playing basketball and then took up running which he found a wonderful sport, requiring a healthy lifestyle and providing many intense challenges, physical and mental.
“I find that sweating every day helps flush toxins from the body,” said the American.
“However, running done inefficiently can damage the joints so avoiding injury is important.
Karl also recommended googling the Pose Method by Dr Romanov or Chi Running by Danny Dreyer.
Like many runners, Karl, who speaks Thai fluently, added that running opened up a whole new world of running friends and venues in every corner of Thailand, Asia and the U.S. Runners everywhere are very friendly, probably partly because of all the endorphins in the body at the end of a race. He loves keeping a race log, noting lessons learned, and also collecting photos to recall ambiance and friends.
“Running has indeed shown me that strangers everywhere in the world are just best friends I haven’t met yet.”
The most memorable for him was his 86th marathon in sunny Townsville, Australia.
“I had been trying for 15 years to master the marathon, tinkering with tactics and running form.” said he.
“My personal best of 3 hours 21 minutes had been set at age 47 but at age 62 in Townsville I ran 3:15 hrs.”
“That is equivalent to a 2:36 marathon for a young man.”
However, Karl recalled the bad time in Hawaii where he was forced to withdraw from a race. When he was 10 hours into a 100 km (a hundred) race, and reached the top of a mountain and started the long downhill, his new shoe inserts injured his foot and he could not take another step, even downhill.
“The lesson is ‘don’t do something new before a race’.”
Karl came to Thailand in 1969 as a volunteer in the American Peace Corps programme.
His work was promoting pigs and chickens in the villages in Buriram where he met his wife Noi. After two years as a volunteer, he worked in many diverse agricultural projects involving small farmers in every region of Thailand.
Karl said that the final L in his name is difficult to pronounce in Thai.
When he first came to Buriram, no one could speak English so his name was changed to be Karn. Now everyone just calls him Khun Karn.
Living for 42 years in Buriram, Karl has seen health awareness increase over the last decade among the northeastern people. For example, in the past many husbands did not really support their wives to join group aerobics, but now it is part of the culture.
Many communities have central, daily exercise venues that are quite popular. Buriram town is now completing an extensive central park around its ancient moat for walking, jogging and other exercise. Many road races are staged throughout the northeast, and in Buriram there are 3-4 road races every year.
He has himself organizes an annual race in Buriram to get people, especially young people, to enjoy the running.
“I want to them to see how much fun running can be”, said he.
“Running is just controlled falling, harvesting the free energy of gravity. Racing is just a child’s game that adults also enjoy.”
There are about 2,000 participants every year and the sixth annual run is set for Sunday, Feb 19, 2012. The event includes 3 km, 5 km and 10 km distances and also collects funds for small continuous scholarships to over 100 needy kids. For information google Wiwat Run.
Karl trains twice daily, at roughly 5 am and 5 pm, for an hour or so each session.
For him, that means twice a day he plants himself firmly in his body and takes a rest from thinking. This centers him in moment-to-moment mindfulness of body movement.
“I did not appreciate the benefits of this fully until I started doing vipassana meditation retreats in the Thai forest tradition. Meditation is a very similar activity”
“My wife Noi and I do the retreats together.”
“We used to race together too but she retired from racing but still jogs 5 km every morning.”
Karl still enjoys racing nowadays, running 2-3 races a month. However, to avoid burnout, he will take a break for a month or two every year. He hopes to be able to do continue for another 20 years and after that try something new.
“I plan to continue until I am 85 when I will take up swimming!”
The 14th Annual Big Island International Marathon scheduled for March 20, 2011 is many months away, but the deadline to save 50 percent off anyone of their three races is only days away.
Each year the marathon (26.2 miles), half marathon (13.1 miles) and 5K (3.1 miles) afford participants half off the entry fee by signing up early.
To receive the discount participants must mail in their entries and have it postmarked no later than Nov 1st, according to BIIM treasurer David Hammes.
Hammes, also known as the “tortoise” because of his high level of perseverance and lack of speed finishing, is one of only four people who have done the 13 previous full marathon races.
“I may be slow, but I finish whatever I start,” Hammes said.
Along with Hammes are Hilo’s D.J. Blinn and Kona’s Ken “Cowman” Shirk along with the only woman, Hilo’s Marie Kuramoto, who have completed all the previous BIIM races.
Kuramoto, a cancer survivor and in her mid 60’s, has for a number of years, been donating the entry fees for two high school kids in need.
“Hilo is my favorite marathon course in the state,” Kuramoto said. “My providing entry fee for two kids each year is just my way of giving back to the sport that I love.”
The original Hilo Marathon went from 1975 to 1987 before disappearing until 1997 when businessmen Roland Higashi of Creative Arts and George Miyashiro of Jack’s Tours recruited the help of Karl Kunz and the Big Dog to design and host another 26.2 mile race for East Hawaii.
Kunz was partially responsible for designing the new marathon course which takes runners and walkers from Pepeekeo, along the 4 mile scenic drive, and follows along Hilo Bayfront until heading out to the National Guard Armory, out to Keaukaha and Kings Landing before returning to Bayfront.
Instrumental in measuring and certifying the course is HELCO engineer, Curt Beck, who meticulously measured every inch in order to have the course certified as a Boston Marathon qualifier.
Three years ago BIIM added a half marathon and it was Beck who again went out and measured the course to have the half certified as well.
“The half marathon has turned out to be our most popular race which has sold out in each of the previous two years,” Beck said.
Adding to the morning of events is a 3.1 mile walk or run which takes participants along Hilo Bay out to the Ice Ponds and back to Bayfront.
The full marathon entry cost is $80, the half is $60 and the 5K is $25, but anyone who signs up between now and Nov 1st that mails in their entries can take 50 percent off that entry fee.
Of course nothing can ever be accomplished without the hundreds of volunteers that continue to support the BIIM event.
Since 2004 Waiakea’s Kari Sato has been providing the ‘student’ power that number just a few Key Clubbers in the early years to over a hundred in recent times.
The Waiakea Key Club managed eight of the fourteen aid station during the 2010 race and have once again agreed to provide support.
Other school groups that have volunteered to help along with the Waiakea Key Club and Interact Club are Hilo High Key Club, Hilo Intermediate Builders and the Waiakea Intermediate Builders.
”We keep helping because we know the need for community service is there and because the runners are always so appreciative,” Sato said.
Sato also enjoys having her members get up close to seeing a marathon and the effort put forth in those that participate.
“Many in our group will probably never see a marathon because they are not runners,” she said. “This is a good project for us because it is different from most of our other projects. This one involves more than just direct manpower and supervisory assistance as we get to interact with the running participants, up-close and personal.”
More than 900 runners are expected in the March 20, 2011 race with over 300 people behind the scenes making it possible to put on a quality event.
If you’d like to take part in this event remember, you can save half off the price of admission by filling out your entry application now and mailing it in prior to the Nov. 1st deadline.
Last year the full marathon and half marathon sold out three weeks prior to the race.
Coming up on Thursday, Nov 11, is Big Dog’s Veterans Day 5K run/walk starting at 7:30 am from the parking area of Coconut Island in Hilo.
Big Dog Productions will commemorate Veteran’s Day and honor those that served our country with a fitness walk or run with the price of admission being a canned good to be donated to the Hawaii Island Food Basket.
According to Food Basket Director, Alton Nosaka, the Food Basket is in need of fruit and vegetable canned goods.
Post race refreshments will be provided by Jerry Chang and Vidration sports drinks provided by Keith Aoki of Anheuser-Busch, while supplies last.
For more information on the Vet Day event call 969-7400.
And someday should you happen to see a happy veteran jogging through the streets of East Hawaii remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”
Preparations are underway for the 13th Annual Big Island International Marathon, Half-Marathon, and 5K scheduled for Sunday, March 21.
The event was the brainchild of Roland Higashi, former owner of Creative Arts, and George Miyashiro who owned Jack’s Tours. The two businessmen elicited the help of running Guru Karl Kunz and the Big Dog to help make their vision happen.
“We wanted to help stimulate the visitor industry for Hilo and thought that runners from Japan and elsewhere would find us an attractive place to visit,” Higashi said.
The inaugural Big Island International Marathon (26.2-miles) race was held in 1997 and the winner was Michael Georgi of Honolulu.
Georgi, a Punahou Social Studies Teacher and longtime track and cross-country coach, ran the certified marathon course in 2 hours, 41 minutes and 15 seconds at age 45 and returned the following year for his second consecutive victory.
Georgi became a regular fixture in the Hilo race running eight of the first nine BIIM’s while finishing first three times, a BIIM record, third three times and fifth twice.
“The first eight miles of the course took its toll on me during my last two appearances (2006 and ’07),” Georgi said. “After the 2007 race I decided to take a hiatus from doing this course.”
Now at age 57, after taking a two year break from the BIIM, Georgi has decided to challenge the course once again.
“I like doing the BIIM because of the beauty of the first eight miles,” he said. “I much prefer the BIIM to the Honolulu Marathon due to the scenery and lack of crowds.”
The Honolulu Marathon will typically have more than 20,000 runners at the starting line compared to the BIIM which has 250 marathoners and another 350 half-marathoners beginning at the 6 am start in Pepeekeo.
During the 1980’s Hilo hosted a smaller marathon that ran totally within the Hilo district which saw Georgi win in 1985.
“I ran the original Hilo Marathon twice during the 1980’s,” Georgi said. “I finished second in 1982 to Ruben Chappins with a time of 2:29:55 and returned in 1985 to win in 2:32:04.”
The original Hilo Marathon course was a double, out and back loop that went from Bayfront out to Richardson Beach Park twice. The course was relatively flat and was never certified and some say it may have been a tad bit short of the 26.2-mile requirement.
Since 1997 the BIIM has been measured precisely by HELCO engineer, Curt Beck, and the race has obtained a USATF certificate making it a legitimate qualifier for the prestigious Boston Marathon in April.
Add in a bunch of rolling hills from Pepeekeo to Honolii and the BIIM is a challenging marathon that takes runners through some of the most beautiful areas in paradise.
Georgi currently owns two age group records when, at age 45, he ran 2:41.15 (45-49 age group record) and at age 52 he finished in 2:56:58 (50-54 age record) to go with his three overall BIIM victories.
Now, at age 57, Georgi has his sights on breaking the 55 to 59 age group record currently held by Texan, Larry Linchovsky, with a time of 3:16:48.
“My realistic goal is to finish the marathon respectably and uninjured,” Georgi said.
When Georgi laces up his shoes for the start of this year’s marathon he will be joined by 250 other 26.2-mile enthusiast plus another 350 half-marathon runners. Both races sold out three weeks ago and has made BIIM one of the most attractive small marathons around.
“We’re going to have to see if we can increase the participants’ spots for the 2011 race,” Higashi said. “We will try to increase at a slow, reasonable rate, as to minimize the impact to our community.”
In conjunction with the three races hosted by BIIM on Sunday there will be a Carbo Load Dinner Party at the Moku Ola room of the Hilo Hawaiian on Friday starting at 6 pm. The all you can eat pasta party cost $21 at the door and includes a hula show and lucky number giveaways.
Then on Saturday the BIIM will host a Health and Fitness Expo from noon to 6 pm at the Hilo Hawaiian. Vendors from around the island will be on hand with free samples.
Ki Mana Academy Massage will be giving free massages, Island Naturals free samples, and more.
For more information on any of the events hosted by the BIIM call 969-7400.
One of my favorite quotes on running in a 26.2-mile marathon comes from Martine Costello when he said, “You’re running on guts. On fumes. Your muscles twitch. You throw up. You’re delirious. But you keep running because there’s no way out of this hell you’re in, because there’s no way you’re not crossing the finish line. It’s a misery that non-runners don’t understand.”
The “Final Four” are back! I know when you hear that term, Final Four, your mind must go directly to college basketball, but for us marathoners the Final Four refers to DJ Blinn, David Hammes, Marie Kuramoto and Ken Shirk (Cowman).
Those four marathoners are the only ones that have done all 12 previous Big Island International Marathons and they have already sent in their entry fees to run in number 13 to be held on March 21, 2010.
Why did they sign up so early, with the race nearly five months away? All four marathoners have taken advantage of the fifty percent discount “Early Bird” entry that is offered each year to people that mail in their applications prior to November 1st.
The BIIM (or Hilo Marathon as it is affectionately called) was established in 1997 when businessmen Roland Higashi of Creative Arts and George Miyashiro of Jack’s Tours recruited the help of Karl Kunz and the Big Dog to design and put on a 26.2-mile marathon race.
Miyashiro has long since retired and Kunz returned to Thailand to resume an agricultural consultant business leaving Higashi and Big Dog to continue the event into its 13th year.
Higashi serves on the BIIM board of directors as its president and the Big Dog, who had ran in the first 8 BII marathons, has been the race director for the past four races.
“We’ve seen many changes over the years as we continue to look for ways to improve and enhance one of the most beautiful marathon courses in the world,” Higashi said.
Many runners agree with Higashi’s assessment, that this marathon course is one of the most scenic in the world.
The marathon, along with a certified half-marathon, begins in Pepeekeo at 6 a.m. The course uses the Scenic 4-mile Route and winds through Papaikou, Honolii, and Wainaku as it makes its way back into Hilo.
The half-marathoners will run to the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel and return back to the Bayfront finish line. The marathoners continue out to the Airport, National Guard Armory, and then head out to Richardson Beach Park before heading back to Bayfront while following along the beautiful Hilo coastline.
Don’t feel like running a full or half marathon, the BIIM also offers a 5K (3.1-mile) run/walk that starts and ends at Hilo Bayfront. The 5K runners head out to the Ice Ponds, going over the Suisan Bridge before returning to Bayfront.
The regular entry fee for the marathon, $80; the half-marathon, $60; and the 5K $25 is for the next six days discounted by 50 percent if mailed and postmarked by November 1st.
The “Final Four” marathoners are excited to be entered in the 13th annual event. “This is my favorite marathon course in the state,” Kuramoto said.
Kuramoto enjoys sharing the aloha spirit with others and has made numerous friends while doing the race. “My greatest feeling of accomplishment lately hasn’t been in crossing the finish line but rather who I have been training with that matters,” she said.
“I love to see people return to Hilo to do the BIIM. It’s great that we have a beautiful course and that it is right in my backyard. The volunteers, behind the scenes, and the many people that come out to cheer us on has been wonderful,” Kuramoto said.
Kuramoto completed her 65th marathon while on Kauai where she placed in her 60 to 64 age division. For both the Kona and BIIM Kuramoto holds the age group records as she continues to demonstrate that when it comes to running marathons, age doesn’t matter.
Besides being a good distance runner Kuramoto also supports the sport for younger runners as she is sponsoring the entry fees for two University of Hawaii runners and continues to pay the entry fees for two Waiakea High School student runners.
Hammes, an Economics Professor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, just completed his 36 marathon when he traveled to Corning, New York to do the Wineglass Marathon.
Hammes, who sits on the BIIM Board of Directors and serves as their treasurer, enjoys running the 26.2 mile race in Hilo each year.
“It’s our hometown marathon and it is a very nice course for most of the miles,” he said. “I used to finish near-last and now I’m starting to move up just a bit.”
One thing the “final four” runners all have in common is their love for the sport of running as they share their aloha with others.
“It is always fun to run it (BIIM) and then speak with the first timers who bring fresh eyes and experiences to the run,” Hammes said.
Time is running out on getting 50 percent off on any of the three races hosted by BIIM on March 21, 2010. For more information go to www.hilomarathon.org or call 969-7400.