Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

From Wrestler to Ultra Marathon Runner – Hilo’s Rick Otani

Over the years, covering prep sports for the Trib, I’ve come to realize that wrestlers are one of the best conditioned athletes around.

In my writing for this column I’ve never highlighted a former prep wrestler, at least, until now.

I actually met Richard Otani a few years ago, but never realized he was a four year high school wrestler at 112 pounds and he wrestled in college at 118.

“My normal weight was 145 and I had to jog extra miles and diet completely to make weight,” he said.  “It took a lot of self discipline so I ran during dinner hours after school.”

From wrestling Otani learned to control his primal urge of hunger and thirst and the like.

“It helps deal with pain and discomfort, knowing that it is all temporary,” he said.  “There is a finite amount of hurt during any event and we just need to condition our minds to accept it.”

The sport of wrestling had taken a toll on his upper body as Otani had a torn rotator cuff and in January of2003 had surgery to repair it.

“I needed a goal to keep from gaining weight after the injury,” Otani said.  “My buddy told me to start some cardio and I decided to run a marathon.”

Otani had never run any race prior to his injury, let alone a marathon distance of 26.2 miles, but here he was at the inaugural Akron Marathon in October 2003.

“I trained for a marathon with the idea of only doing it one time,” Otani said.  “But since I already had a new pair of shoes I decided to just keep running marathons until it got boring.”

For Otani that first marathon became a life changing experience. 

“I hadn’t run a step in over 20 years and when I first started training I couldn’t run around my block which was only 7 tenths of a mile,” Otani said.

To train for his first marathon Otani downloaded the “Fall Beginners Training Plan” from Runners World and followed it exactly.

Otani started training in February and had lots of time to prepare as the race was 8 months away.

“I finished in a time of 4 hours and 44 minutes and I felt great afterwards,” he said.  “When I saw that finish line an overwhelming sense of joy and pride welled inside and I shed a tear knowing I’d accomplished my goal.”

In 2007 Otani ran the Cleveland Marathon and he inadvertently made a wrong turn which became a marathon changing experience.

The marathon course co mingled with the half marathon course and Otani ended up running the full 26.2 miles with a few extra miles for good measure.

“There was no one directing runners and only 8 inch cones marking the course,” he said.  “I then realized that I’d gone off course and ended up running around 30 miles in a time of 4:52.”

A friend later told Otani that he had run close to 50K, which is considered an Ultra Marathon distance and the rest is history.

“I had no idea there were longer distance races than a marathon and that inadvertent mistake eventually got me into ultra running,” Otani said.

While living in Ohio, Otani also met his running wife, Lee Collins, who was visiting and participating in a running forum.

Otani came to visit the Big Island in 2009 and moved permanently in September of the same year.

 “I typically run six days a week,” Otani said.  “My low weekly mileage would be 30 miles and my high mileage would be 100 miles during the week.”

As for diet Otani has gotten hooked on salads for dinner.

“My wife Lee always makes sure there are lots of green veggies on my plate,” he said.  “We also get banana, papaya, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes from the Hilo Farmers Market.”

Otani has also switched from pastries in the morning for breakfast to the more healthful and satisfying oatmeal.

Otani has since graduated from the marathon to doing ultra marathons and considers his favorite race the Burning River 100 mile run.  He finished the race in 28 hours, 48 minutes and 39 seconds.

“I completed Burning River in August 2009 and it changed me forever, just like my first marathon did,” he said.

 “My running week is Tuesday to Sunday with Monday being my day of rest,” he said.  “I like to get in a long run of at least 15 miles and one hill workout.”

Otani now has his sights set on doing the Tahoe 100 mile ultra.

“The average elevation is 8,200 feet and has some of the most beautiful trails and views in the world,” Otani said.  “I couldn’t finish last year as my lungs became too congested from all the dust and I couldn’t breathe at night during my second loop.”

“I firmly believe that if world leaders had to train together to run a marathon there would be no wars,” Otani said.  “You never feel worse after a run than before.”

And someday should you happen to see a happy father having his daughter home for the summer remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

July 2, 2012 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wineglass Marathon & Hilo Marathon Directors Meet

Wineglass director, Mark Landin, exchages t-shirts with Hilo Marathon director

CORNING, NEW YORK – One of the most challenging distances in racing is being able to finish a full marathon, 26.2-miles.

   In 1986 it became the crown jewel in my running accomplishments when I finished my first 26.2-mile race, the Honolulu Marathon.  During the months of preparation I continued to tell myself that this would be my first and the last marathon, as the preparation was taking its toll.

   When I crossed the finish line on that beautiful Honolulu December morning I realized that this marathon was going to be the first of many more to come.

   While the world has seen a fluctuation in the infatuation of marathon running we don’t have to look hard to find a 26.2-mile race somewhere on the planet today.

   According to Marathon Guide writer, John Elliot, there are 800 marathon races in the world in 2010 and half of them are found here in the U.S.A.

   It didn’t take me long while on vacation in upstate New York to bump into the race director of the Wineglass Marathon in Corning.

  Mark Landin is an avid runner himself and has spent years on the road either running in races or in hosting them.

   When I met Landin he was just recovering from putting together a first time race for the City of Corning, an 8K (just short of 5-miles) that coincided with a Glass Festival.

   “First time events are always difficult to coordinate,” Landin said.  “The City wanted to find something to replace the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) which had their final event last year due to financial reason.  That’s why they came up with the idea to host a Glass Festival and have a road race to go along with it.”

Mark Landin

Landin, like most race organizers around the country, is relied upon by the community to use his knowledge and expertise to put on events that attract outside residents and promote tourism.

   Coming up later this year is the 29th Annual Wineglass Marathon which attract close to 800 marathoners each year.  If you’re wondering why the Corning Marathon is called the “Wine Glass” it’s because Corning Ware and Corning Glass come from this part of the country.

   Corning also host the world largest glass museum and is famous worldwide for its elegant work.

   Recently voters in a Runners World survey selected the Wineglass Marathon as the “speediest” 26.2-mile race in the nation.

  “Our cool fall temperatures, and relatively flat course, makes for fast times by most people,” Landin said.  The event is held during the first week in October (Oct. 3, this year) and is considered one of the most spectacular as all the trees leaves are turning colors.

   Landin was the director of the Wineglass Marathon from 1993 to ’97 before moving to Asia.  “My job with Corning, Inc sent me to Seoul, Tokyo and Shanghai from 1998 to 2001,” Landin said.

   Once Landin got back from Asia he was quickly recruited back to organizing the Wineglass event.  It was Landin who redesigned the course to its “speediest” status.  “We had previously had a course that started at the bottom of a long hill, about 4-miles from where we start today,” he said.

   By changing the course Landin was able to get the finish line moved to downtown Corning which made it relatively flat with a slight downhill net elevation drop making for a super fast qualifying course for those interested in trying to make the Boston Marathon.

   “I expect that with the positive articles from Runner’s World over the past few years we will continue to grow as we are considered by many to be a “best kept secret” in terms of a race in this part of the country,” Landin said.

   Hilo’s own, David Hammes, a professor of Economics at the University of Hawaii – Hilo was in Corning this past October and had rave reviews for the fast course and the many amenities that went with finishing the race.

  “I found the mementos quite unique in that finishers were given a half split bottle of champagne, a nice finisher’s shirt with Wineglass motif and a glass finisher’s medal,” Hammes said.  “If I’m ever in the area again I would definitely do this race a second time.”

   “We usually get one or two marathoners from Hawaii each year,” Landin said.  “Most of our runners come from states where the driving time to Corning is five hours or less.”

   Landin is the type of race director that most runners appreciate having, as he is a runner himself.  Runners make the best race directors as they know what other runners like and appreciate about doing their event.  Landin can even brag about having a sub-par 3 hour marathon time under his belt.

   “I’ve been a runner since high school, so I have 35 plus years and an estimated 30,000 plus miles on my legs,” Landin said. 

   If you’re looking to do a fast, well organized 26.2-mile marathon, that is certified and a Boston qualifier, then take a look at making a trip to upstate New York in October.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Marathon Running | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What is the best Running Temperature?

Running in Rainbow Paradise

Optimum Temperature for Exercising

With the Big Island International Marathon taking place this weekend questions abound about our heat and humidity.  Depending on our morning conditions temperature at race time can vary from 60 degrees to 70 degrees and is almost certain to climb with each passing hour.

I always suggest that runners and walkers in the full marathon and half marathon drink at every water station, which are placed two miles apart along the scenic course.

But what is the best temperature to run your optimal race?

More than 70% of the energy that powers our muscles is lost as heat, causing our body temperature to rise during exercise. To keep our body temperature from rising too high, our heart pumps the heat in our blood from our muscles to our skin, we sweat and it evaporates to cool our body.

A survey in RunnersWorld.com of marathon finish times suggests that 55°F is the ideal temperature to run long distances (such as a marathon). A temperature of 35°F or 75°F adds 7% to our time, and an 85°F day adds 10%.

So I guess we can deduct seven to ten percent of our overall finishers time this weekend to determine what we would have done if we raced in ideal conditions.  But then again, isn’t racing in Hawaii, worth it all?

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Marathon Running, Running on the Big Island | , | 1 Comment