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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 13, 2004

Making all those miles count

Afghan version was showcase for a different kind of sacrifice
Hawai'i receiver sets own course
Run to perfection
Schabort wins 7th in a row
Photo gallery
Video of finishers

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

Gabe Irono ran yesterday's Honolulu Marathon in honor of a dead man he had never met.

As the sun rises over Hawai'i Kai, Hideo Koda from Saga-Gun in Japan gets a cup of water at an aid station. Runners from Japan outnumbered all other entrants combined and the race's title sponsor is Japan Airlines.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Two days ago, one of Irono's best friends left to visit a cancer-stricken friend on the Mainland. But before Irono's friend could get there, 45-year-old Sean Stewart died.

"So I told him, 'Tell me his name and I'll run the marathon for him,' " said Irono, who didn't officially register for yesterday's race but was planning on pacing a friend. "I never met the guy."

With "In Memoriam of Sean Stewart, 1959-2004" scrawled in black marker across his bare back, Irono, a 34-year-old gymnastics instructor from Kane'ohe, ran a 4-hour, 25-minute marathon.

"You feel lucky, just to be able to do this," said Irono. "There are people who would love to be able to just walk this course."

Irono was an unofficial addition to the list of 22,388 finishers in the 2004 Honolulu Marathon. The race began at 5 a.m. on the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and the Queen Street extension, looped through Hawai'i Kai and finished at Kapi'olani Park.

The runners who finished represented a multinational collage of personalities, who cited a range of reasons for tackling 26.2 miles of road.

Experienced runners said that a marathon actually starts months before the opening fireworks, during the long hours of training.

"What you enjoy is not the race itself, it's the process of training for the race," said Javier Del Carpio, a 35-year-old Mililani man who was running his 10th marathon yesterday. "It's (running the race) part of enjoying all the rewards of your training."

Others, like 45-year-old Tom Williams, have run so many marathons that nothing, not a broken finger, a bloody knee, or a twisted ankle could keep them from finishing.

Williams, a business training consultant from Annapolis, Md., suffered all three injuries yesterday but powered through to finish his 26th marathon.

"If the bone was sticking out, obviously I wouldn't have finished. I said, 'broken finger? I'm not running on my finger,' " said an exhausted and bleeding Williams. "This is the best marathon I've found in the world."

While the gutty performance by Williams was impressive, it did not outshine Glady Burrill of Medford, Ore.

Despite an injured heel, the 86-year-old Burrill completed her first marathon in 9 hours, 9 minutes and 33 seconds.

Burrill, who was featured in an Advertiser story last month, did the race with her son Michael, and grandson Michael Jr. and his wife, Carolyn. The four crossed the finish line at Kapi'olani Park together.

Runners heading east on Kalaniana'ole Highway, near the turn at Hawai'i Kai Drive, face the sunrise. On the other side of the road, other runners are looping back toward Diamond Head.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

"I remember seeing the fireworks last year and thinking that I had to try it (the marathon). And then being out there at the start today and seeing those fireworks again, it made me cry," said Burrill. "It was exhilarating. I felt so good crossing the finish line I thought I could have gone on forever."

Burrill, who trained for the race by walking up to 20 miles at a time, had hoped to finish the race in about seven hours, but had been hampered by an injury to her heel suffered when she stepped on a rock during her training.

Some 15,723 runners, or about 60 percent of the 25,671 runners who had registered for the race yesterday, were from Japan, where the event's title sponsor, Japan Airlines, is headquartered. There were 5,032 runners from Hawai'i, 4,035 from the Mainland, and 881 from other foreign countries.

As the morning wore on, runners crossed the finish line with clear skies and a slight breeze. Some threw their hands in the air, excited by their grueling accomplishment. Others slowed to a weary limp, quickly looking for water and food.

"Our assistant Matt (Mahar) has run four of them so he talked me into it," said Chaminade head basketball coach and athletic director Aaron Griess, 34, who was noticeably limping after the race. "It was good, I enjoyed it. At 20 miles, it started to go downhill."

Griess was one of 13,231 first-time marathoners who ran yesterday.

"It's fun. I like it," said Mahar, 33, who seemed less winded than Greiss. "It's a reason for me to work out."

Some ran the race to focus attention on an issue or to raise cultural awareness. A few runners wore anti-war slogans on T-shirts or painted onto their bodies.

Others, like 39-year-old Robert Rose, known as Lopaka Loke while he's running, used the marathon to bring attention to the island's cultural heritage. Rose, a Navy SEAL, runs the marathon every year barefoot, dressed in traditional Hawaiian attire.

Rose, a Pearl City resident who ran his fifth barefoot marathon in 3 hours and 52 seconds yesterday, carried a wooden paddle for all 26.2 miles.

"Gotta represent, brah, you know us Hawaiians," said Rose, smiling alongside his wife, Cathy, after the race. "It's all willpower. I feed off the locals and the culture."

Advertiser staff writer Leila Wai contributed to this report.

Reach Peter Boylan at 535-8110 or pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.