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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 9, 2004

For Hayakawa, everyone's fair game in race

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Eri Hayakawa struggles with balancing traditional Japanese culture that says she must walk three steps behind a man — and racing past him during competition.

Eri Hayakawa of Japan packs a lot of determination and talent into a 5-foot-1, 86-pound body.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

"I'm competing, so I don't care," Hayakawa said, through translator Kimiko Quan, about adhering to Japanese tradition. "In a marathon, I want to win."

And she has. She's in Hawai'i to defend her title in Sunday's Honolulu Marathon.

Hayakawa isn't one to abandon all that is Japanese. She still eats onigiri (a bowl of rice) the night before the race, and has kasutera, a sponge cake she buys from Shirokiya, for dessert.

But she must eat them at 1 a.m. for the carbs to take effect by race-time.

She rewards herself the week after the race by eating anything she wants. She's devoured a whole cake, without bothering to cut it into pieces, with a large spoon the night of the race.

Hayakawa wears a gold Tiffany & Co. ring on the middle finger of her left hand, a present to herself for winning last year's race, when she became the first woman from Japan to win in the Honolulu Marathon's 31 years.

Her coach, Susumu Nakajima, said he saw her ability to win a race. "She's very strong-minded, and very determined," he said.

Honolulu Marathon Events

• Honolulu Marathon Living Aloha Expo, Hawai'i Convention Center.

Through Saturday

9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily

• Bryan Clay and fellow Olympians autograph sessions.

With Olympic decathlon silver medalist Bryan Clay, long jump gold medalist Dwight Phillips, two-time shot put silver medalist Adam Nelson, U.S. high jump champ Jamie Nieto.

Today, tomorrow, 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

• "Legends of Running" autograph sessions, including Finland's Lasse Viren.

Also with former marathon world record-holders Steve Jones and Alberto Salazar, four-time Honolulu Marathon women's champion Patti Catalano Dillion, former middle distance great Mary Slaney, and Greg Meyer, the last American man to win theÊ Boston Marathon.

Today, tomorrow, 10 a.m. to noon

• Honolulu Marathon Bryan Clay Clinic.

With eight world-class athletes as instructors. Free T-shirts, Bubbies ice cream and Menehune water.

Features Clay, Phillips,ÊNelson, Nieto, 100-meter hurdler Danielle Carruthers, and three top Irish athletes: 400-meter hurdler Karen Shinkins, 110-meter high hurdler Peter Coghlan and long jumper Ciaran McDonagh.

Saturday, Kaiser High School, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Hayakawa says if she wins again Sunday, she will buy herself another gift.

"I haven't decided what exactly I want, but something Cartier," she said.

In 2002, she finished fourth, and bought herself a small Coach bag with her prize money.

It was the first time she bought anything for herself with money she earned.

"I felt that, this is mine, my Coach bag," she said. "Before that, my parents bought it for me and it was just a bag.

"This is really mine. It was a tickling feeling."

Hayakawa deposits the rest of her winnings in a bank account, something she learned through her college studies. She went after her studies the same way she tracks down a competitor, finishing a four-year program in three years.

She graduated in March with a degree in economics, and planned to become a certified public accountant before her marathon career took off. Now, she is concentrating on competing in marathons.

Hawai'i holds a special place in Hayakawa's heart because it provided her many first-time experiences.

In 2002, when she competed in the Honolulu Marathon, it was the first time she ran in a marathon, the first time she visited in a foreign country, and the first time she earned her own money.

She never had a passport before coming to Hawai'i. Now, she plans on making it an annual stop.

"I love Hawai'i, and any chance I can come back, I will take it," Hayakawa said. "I have such great memories of Honolulu. People are very warm, very kind, very welcoming."

She spoke of the course, and said Diamond Head Road is "especially tough," and "it really depends on the wind."

And for Hayakawa, who is about 5 feet 1 and 86 pounds, that can be very draining. She has been training for the past month in Albuquerque, N.M., running in high altitude.

Hayakawa lists bicycling and swimming as some of her hobbies, and said that triathlons are gaining in popularity in Japan.

"I am interested in it, but it might be too much for me," she said.

Coach Nakajima disagrees: "There's potential. It's a possibility."

For now, she's focusing entirely on Sunday's marathon. She said she doesn't feel any pressure to defend her title, because her "marathon life has just begun.

"Last year I felt I was lucky to win," she said. "I'm still a beginner, and the feeling is that I'm a challenger."

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2457.